This hour of Once provided a bit of a breather from the Underworld, exploring Mulan, Ruby, Dorothy, and Zelena’s time in Oz, with Ruby’s arrival connecting it to the heroes’ current adventures. I haven’t found Oz-centric storylines all that compelling in the past, but this one worked very well for me, largely because of how quickly I fell in love with Ruby and Dorothy as a couple.
Their romance was cool for a couple of reasons. One, I went into this episode figuring that it would feature the long-awaited LGBT storyline the writers promised at the beginning of the season, but, like a lot of fans, I assumed it would involve Mulan and Ruby. They had what I thought for sure was a meet-cute in their last episode together, but I ended up liking them a lot as friends, and it was a neat example of subverting audience expectations. It was also fun to watch a couple fall in love without knowing ahead of time if it was true love as that hasn’t been the case with many of the show’s couples.
Once Ruby and Dorothy started talking, it became clear pretty quickly that they had a connection, between their similar abandonment issues and reliance on one sweet, older woman who gave them all the family they’d ever had. That particular connection also explained why Ruby was visibly devastated when Hades melted Auntie Em; she knew how much it would hurt Dorothy to hear that her aunt hadn’t been able to move on because she would feel the same way if it had happened to Granny.
I totally understood why Ruby was hesitant to tell Dorothy how she felt in Oz and to presume that she was her true love, but I was happy that Mulan and Snow convinced her to go for it anyway. Mulan’s advice was a bittersweet nod to her one-sided love for Aurora while Snow’s showed the long-standing friendship between the two women. It was also sweet that both were there to witness that true love’s kiss and express their excitement for their friend. I hope we see more with Ruby and Dorothy, as well as Mulan, because there’s a lot of storytelling potential for that couple and that friendship.
Of course, Snow not only made it to Oz but all the way to Storybrooke, aided by Dorothy’s slippers and a bit of quick thinking on Hook’s part. I love the idea of Snow being the sole hero in Storybrooke; if that’s not a return to form then I don’t know what is. It was also nice that Hook got to save the day all on his own, especially because he’s probably been feeling a bit guilty that everyone came to the Underworld to save him.
Red and Snow were able to use the slippers thanks to a rare bit of helpfulness from Zelena, who was encouraged by an interesting conversation with her sister. Regina showed a compassionate understanding there that Zelena seemed to respond to, telling her “to fight through her instincts”, difficult as it may be. It was another indicator of Regina’s openness about her own struggles with power, as she knows how difficult it is to give that up. It was a nice moment between the two sisters, and Regina at least seems to want a more positive relationship. Zelena is a little harder to read. She gave up the slippers and worried earlier in the episode about destroying the goodwill she’d built with her sister, but she also met up with Hades at the end of the hour. It’s possible that the goodwill line was more about what it would mean for her relationship with her daughter than her own with Regina, so again, hard to know for sure where her loyalty lies.
I also wasn’t sure what Zelena’s intentions were with Belle or Hades. She seemed to genuinely sympathize with Belle’s concern for her child, but again, she did go see Hades at the end of the episode, so it’s possible that the sleeping curse will somehow help him. I’m beyond confused about who is playing whom in Zelena and Hades’ relationship, but I’m definitely excited to see more of their twisted, but weirdly sweet pairing.
Other thoughts on this hour:
I loved Ruby’s acknowledgment of the real Oz story; it’s always fun when the writers get a little meta. Melting Auntie Em, though cruel, was also a cool nod to the Wicked Witch.
And speaking of, so many innocent people have been sent to the River of Lost Souls at this point, I feel like the heroes have to find a way to save them before they leave the Underworld. If it had just happened to Milah, I could write it off as a one-time thing designed to raise the stakes, but with Gaston and Em joining her, leaving them there seems too dark for a show about hope.
Am I the only one who wants to know Claud’s story? How did he end up in the Underworld? Why is he working for Cruella? Inquiring minds want to know!
I think Emma insisting that one of her parents go back to Storybrooke was at least partly about ensuring that Neal wouldn’t experience the same abandonment and resentment that she did, as well as helping her parents avoid more guilt.
That Charming/Hook scene at the loft was great; a nice indication that Charming did come there for Hook, not just Emma. Hook giving David advice about leaving the Underworld was also a nice touch. Bromance for the win!
What are your thoughts on this episode and the Ruby/Dorothy pairing? Let me know in the comments!