Some season finales act as a bridge between two seasons (How I Met Your Mother, 5×24 Dopplegangers). Others seem like a regular episode until a final bombshell in the last five minutes (The Big Bang Theory, 2×23 The Monopolar Expedition). Then there are the ones that send viewers through an emotional tailspin from beginning to end (House, M.D. 4×16 Wilson’s Heart).
The season finale of Once Upon a Time, A Land Without Magic, falls into the latter category.
The show started with a bang. Within the first five minutes, not only did Emma finally believe in the curse, but also Regina admitted to trying to rid the world of Emma and that the curse was real. Emma’s physical raging at Regina was like Katniss’s reaction to Peeta’s love reveal in The Hunger Games. Emma didn’t care about the curse and Regina was so guilty and distraught that she didn’t seem to care either.
What made last night’s finale so incredible wasn’t just that the curse was finally broken or that Henry, for all real world purposes died, it was the dynamic created between the characters. For the first time while in the real world, Regina puts herself aside. At least, that’s how it seems now. We won’t know until next season the story behind what Rumpelstiltskin unleashed onto Storybrooke. Given Regina’s evil grin at the end, it’s something that will go in her favor.
Now that the curse is broken, there’s a question of what now? Had the writers’ drug out the curse, there was a good chance it would become tedious. Forcing Emma to believe because of Henry was the most logical method. Her connection to him is why she is there.
This also provides the theory that Mr. Gold found a way to keep tabs on Emma and chose Henry for Regina to bring her to the town.
The finale ran viewers through a variety of emotions. Joy that Emma accepted the curse. Sadness for Henry and August. Amusement at the return of Maleficent and the nods to Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (will we see Aurora? I hope so). Elation when the curse broke and when Mr. Gold learned Belle was alive. And finally shock at what Rumpelstiltskin chose power over bringing back his son. If the wishing well truly does bring back what someone wants, then he could have brought back Baelfire.
However, that will have to wait for another season.
For the next season, I could see a fight to defeat Regina. This could easily mirror Charming and Snow’s attempt to overthrow the Evil Queen. There are so many questions, but that’s the point of a season finale; to offer viewers a touch of satisfaction but to leave them wanting more.
Once Upon a Time accomplished that and so much more.