Once Upon a Time kicked off season seven with what was dubbed a “requel,” or combination reboot and sequel, of the show we know and love. For me, “Hyperion Heights” felt more like a spinoff: new location, new characters, but with the same tone and themes I’ve come to expect from Once. As a premiere episode, it wasn’t great. It felt pretty overstuffed due to all the new characters, making me wonder why people like Ivy and Sabine, neither of whom played a huge role in this episode, weren’t introduced in the second or third hour instead. That being said, if we’re looking at this as a more of a backdoor spinoff pilot, I get it. Pilots are always setup heavy—it’s just how you establish things—and this show has always required more setup than most.
One good thing about this premiere was that it didn’t make me miss the original incarnation of the show as much as I thought it would. It probably helped that Roni, Rogers, and especially Weaver were more side characters than anything else. This is firmly Henry, Jacinda, and Lucy’s story, to the point where I wonder if it would have been better to completely leave the original characters behind and let this stand on its own. As excited as I am to see Emma next week, for example, that episode probably will make me miss the original version of the show, as will any episodes where old favorites return, or the current cast plays themselves instead of their Hyperion Heights alter egos.
As I said, the tone and themes of this were textbook Once but in a way that felt reassuring instead of repetitive. Henry and Cinderella’s time in the forest, especially, was reminiscent of a lot of things we’ve seen before. Their first meeting wasn’t unlike Snow and Charming’s, the addition of the motorcycle making it a romance for modern times. Plus, how great was it when Henry looked on ruefully as Cinderella stole his bike? The product of two take-charge women—plus Grandma Snow—he can’t have been all that surprised.
In the present-day, Cinderella’s alter ego, Jacinda, bore no small resemblance to Emma Swan, from standing up for herself when her manager treated her like crap to swallowing her pride and apologizing to the same manager, all so she could take care of her kid. Fierce moms are such a hallmark of this show, and it’s another aspect I’m very, very glad made the jump to this season. Though, I do feel like more needed to be done to explain why Victoria is able to take Lucy whenever she wants. She may be powerful, but there are obviously judges and lawyers and all sorts of people who need to be involved in custody issues.
Even with the familiar themes, the most familiar aspect of the premiere was the returning characters: Regina, Hook, and Rumple, here playing completely new versions of themselves. Of the three, Regina’s Roni got the most screentime, and, unsurprisingly, it was a ton of fun to see Lana Parrilla immerse herself in yet another version of this character, though we’ve never seen Regina quite this casually cool. In some ways, Roni is Hyperion Height’s version of Emma Swan—or at least seems like she may become that—, and I love the idea of Regina going from the villain of one town to the savior of another.
One of Roni’s big moments was meeting Henry, though I would have liked that scene to have a bit more warmth. They legitimately felt like strangers, which I guess was the point, but, beyond the winking “Imagine if I walked in here and told you I was your son?”, there wasn’t any indication that either of them felt a connection. A moment similar to Rogers looking at Emma and instantly knowing she was important to him would have been nice.
Killian’s alter ego didn’t make quite the impact that Regina’s did, but I like that Rogers is not only a cop like Emma but also a real “boy scout,” a fun flip on his pirate identity. As mentioned, the look he gave Emma’s picture was nice and also a good way to tee up Jennifer Morrison’s return next week. I also like the idea of Weaver and Hook as partners, particularly because both Rumple and Hook would hate it so much. Weaver was only in a couple of scenes, but he certainly seems like a morally complicated dude, which jives with the Rumple we know.
Other thoughts on “Hyperion Heights”:
At Comic-Con this year, they released the opening scene where teenage Henry says goodbye to Regina, and there was originally a line about Emma and the Charmings knowing that there was no changing Henry’s mind, but it seems to have been cut from the broadcast version. The scene still felt unrealistic without that line—Emma would obviously have been there to say goodbye, even if she approved—but I think cutting it was a mistake.
While explaining the curse to Henry, Lucy started to mention that some of their family was in Hyperion Heights but got cut off before she could say where everyone else was. I’m assuming that’s how they’ll explain the missing members of the cast, saying they remain trapped in Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest.
I loved Alice’s frustration about also being from other places, and it was very in-character of Rumple to use someone else for his dirty work.
Good to see that Killian’s sword fighting lessons paid off for Henry, and he channeled Emma in the best way possible when he told Lucy that Cinderella needed to save herself.
I’ve written some version of that “Poetic opening line goes here” placeholder in pretty much everything I’ve ever written and can guarantee most writers have done the same. Henry finally writing that first line—”Once upon a time,” naturally—was very reminiscent of the end of the original pilot.
What did you think of Once Upon a Time’s “requel”? Let me know in the comments!