Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: Jake Plans a Heist of His Own in “HalloVeen”

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Well. That’s going to be hard to top next year.

I have a history of loving Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Halloween episodes, mostly because they’re unapologetically fun in a way that’s becoming rare on television. Sure, they make you suspend your disbelief and would probably feel repetitive if you watched them back-to-back, but as the last four seasons of this show have proven, you can’t go wrong with putting this crazy group of characters in an extreme competition and letting them go wild. It also helps that the Halloween episodes 1) let Holt take off his Captain hat and descend into the madness and 2) allow the characters to be both amusingly and unusually mean to one another.

This year’s heist had a lot of specific things working for it, too, including a great cold open that really told a story and an always welcome appearance by Cheddar. Naturally, said appearance was made by Andre Braugher’s delivery of “This bitch? Please!” as well as “You betrayed me. You’ll explain yourself later.” There were also a couple of nice references to Gina that made her feel a part of things; I’m always glad when shows actually acknowledge an actor or actress’ absence instead of hoping the audience won’t notice. Plus, anyone who follows their high school friends on Facebook can appreciate a good pyramid scheme joke.

Of course, there was one very specific thing this episode had going for it and that’s one of Mike Schur’s patented out of the blue relationship moments. If you watched Parks and Rec—and you may want to avert your eyes if you didn’t—then you’ll know that show was pretty well-known for sneak attack proposals and weddings. Ben and Leslie, for example, didn’t get engaged during a sweeps episode or a premiere or finale. Instead, it happened in an otherwise uneventful episodethe show’s Halloween outing, as it were.

I loved this way of approaching big couple moments on Parks, and specifically this way of approaching proposals, because it mirrors the way those moments go in real life. They don’t have to be, but proposals are oftentimes spontaneous and surprising—especially for the person being proposed to—and slipping a TV proposal in at an unexpected time lets the viewer feel the excitement of that.

Ben and Leslie’s is one of my favorite, if not absolute favorite, TV proposals ever. It’s realistic, romantic, both surprising and completely logical, and very, very them. I feel exactly the same way about Jake and Amy’s.

For one, I loved that it happened during a hugely over-the-top competition; competitiveness has always been a big aspect of their relationship, and they both love the Halloween Heist especially. I loved the proposal’s role reversal, with Jake making an elaborate plan in hopes of actually surprising Amy, the planner and predictor of all things. And I loved the proposal itself, with its hilarious and specific references to their relationship, including “title of your sex tape!”, Jake happily calling Amy the best detective, and their eternal disagreement over Die Hard.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Andy Samberg and Melissa Fumero, who made it feel raw and genuine to the point that I started to wonder if any of it was improvised and who have just generally done a fantastic job of making their characters’ relationship feel realistic and well worth rooting for.

What comes after a big moment like a proposal can often feel anti-climatic, but much to my surprise, the last two minutes of the episode packed a sweet punch as well, with Jake’s awesomely feminist way of asking Amy’s dad for permission and his reveal of when he decided to propose: during a wonderfully normal moment where Amy was arguably at her most Amy. I know I already gave him kudos, but Andy Samberg’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reaction there was absolutely perfect.

I’ve buried the lede, though, because we can all agree that Charles, Jake and Amy’s greatest ‘shipper and champion, actually passing out from enthusiasm was the episode’s, nay, season’s greatest moment.

What did you think of “HalloVeen”? Stoked for the Santiago-Peralta union? Hit the comments, and let me know!

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Once Upon a Time Review: Emma Returns in “A Pirate’s Life”

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I went into this episode expecting to feel disappointed once it was over, knowing that it was our last one with Emma, at least for the time being. While I had a few issues with this one, I actually feel more optimistic about this season now.  It gave me a better idea of what a standard episode will look like and also alleviated any concerns I had about Killian and Emma’s long-term happiness.

For me, the biggest problem with this episode was the amount it expected the audience to suspend their disbelief. That’s par for the course with this show, considering the fantasy elements and their habit of breaking previously established rules. However, they’re usually very good at keeping it real on a character level; the more unbelievable aspects of the show work because the characters and relationships feel so grounded.

Here, I didn’t totally buy everyone’s actions, from Emma suggesting that Henry and Wish Realm Hook team up to Regina choosing to stay behind. It’s not that they weren’t believable decisions, just that they happened very quickly. I felt similarly about Hook’s turnaround from leaving Killian for dead to feeling terrible about what he did. It was nice but very fast, which is another reason I was surprised that Emma wanted Henry to stick with him.

This episode also really made you cling to the idea of time moving differently in other realms because there’s no way that Emma and Regina would have let Henry grow up without seeing him once. I would have liked a little more clarity on how long it’s been since Emma and Killian’s wedding, or at least on how long it feels like it’s been for them.

Despite the speed of it, though, I don’t hate this new status quo. You have to give the writers props, really. It’s extremely rare for a show to continue past its natural endpoint without torpedoing the characters and relationships that the audience loves (cough, Castle, cough). Emma and Killian fans (including myself) can’t complain because they’re not only happy and together in Storybrooke, but expecting a baby to boot.

As a Regina fan, I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ll presumably get to see her in the forest flashback scenes, instead of just as Roni. She and Henry were really the only two characters who left last year’s finale not wholly satisfied, so it doesn’t feel like they’re blowing anything up by continuing their stories. Plus, there’s something kind of poetic about starting the next chapter of the show with Henry and Regina the only original characters playing themselves, similar to the way it was in the pilot.

This episode also lent some clarity to Rebecca Mader’s return; Zelena is another character who definitely has more story to tell. I also buy it because Regina’s her only family aside from Robin, and it makes total sense that she’d stick with her. I’m assuming there will be words about Regina up and leaving Storybrooke without telling her, though. I’ll also be curious to see how Rumple got mixed up in Hyperion Heights, but I’m assuming we’ll find out when Belle returns in a couple episodes.

Other thoughts on “A Pirate’s Life”:

We have to talk about Robert Carlyle in head to toe denim, too good!

Female friendship has always been a big part of this show, so I’m enjoying Sabine and Jacinda’s relationship a lot. Looks like we’ll get a taste of Cinderella and Tiana’s next week as well.

I can’t complain about how Emma and Hook’s story ended—let me say for a minute how absolutely lovely it is that two people who have been through so much wound up where they did—but I wish there had been slightly more Emma in this. Probably knowing it was her last episode made me greedy, but I would have loved to see her in a couple more scenes.

Why did Henry keep referring to Emma as “Emma”? She and Regina were always adorably just “mom” and “mom,” and Regina obviously would have known who he was talking about if he’d said “mom.”

I feel like Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parrilla got a taste of what Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas had to do with the “acting like a parent to someone your age” thing. Wonder if they called for tips…

What did you think of “A Pirate’s Life” and the Henry/Regina/Faux Hook teamup? Let me know in comments!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: Jake and Rosa Take Some “Kicks”

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This wasn’t Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s funniest episode by a long shot, but it felt like a necessary transition between the first two prison-centric outings and the rest of the season. This was a big, serious thing that happened to Jake and Rosa, and they needed to show the ramifications of it, for Jake professionally and Rosa personally. It’s true that this show prides itself on making Andre Braugher say ridiculous things with a straight face, but it’s also just as good at making its characters feel like real people, and a real person would absolutely be affected by spending six months wrongly incarcerated.

Jake’s reaction wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was wonderfully in character. A different person would have left jail bitter about a system that failed him. Instead, Jake struggled because now he knows exactly how terrible prison is and feels slightly bad about sending people there. It was very Jake to somehow leave a horrible situation a more empathetic person and, as Holt pointed out, a better detective. There was also a nice maturity in Jake’s decision to take a few weeks off when he didn’t have to. That’s not a choice that season one Jake would have made, and it’s always nice to see characters evolve.

I will say that I would have liked Amy to share Jake’s first case back; I feel like it’s been awhile since they’ve had one together, even looking back at the end of last season. Hopefully, we’ll get one in the next couple weeks. Also, while I’m glad Jake and Amy’s relationship is solid enough that they can act like those six months never happened, I’m still hoping for a conversation about that time apart. We got a moment like that when Jake returned from Florida, and it seems even more necessary in this situation.

Rosa’s breakup with Pimento wasn’t directly related to her time in jail, but I do feel like it played a role. I’ve never loved them together, mostly because Pimento feels more like a caricature to me than a real person. Honestly, if they’d sprinkled in a couple more genuine moments throughout, like the one here where he admitted to learning Spanish, I might have liked the guy more. I also think there’s only so many times you can make the “hey, they’re almost having sex in public!” joke before it stops being funny, and I didn’t find it that funny here. I would love to see Rosa in a relationship again because it’s yet another way of letting Stephanie Beatriz show off her range and add nuance to her character. Hopefully next time it’s someone I connect with a bit more than Pimento.

All told, not the funniest episode of Nine-Nine, but one of the more successful ones emotionally.

What did you think of “Kicks”? Hit the comments, and let me know!

 

Once Upon a Time Kicks Off Season 7 in “Hyperion Heights”

 

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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 heavyit’s just how you establish thingsand 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 Swanor 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!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Finishes Strong in “The Big House Part 2”

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I thought Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s season five premiere was good, if a bit tonally weird. I had no such qualms about this episode, where, at long last, the Nine-Nine freed Jake and Rosa.

It certainly helped that the prison scenes were slightly less dark than they were in the first episode; Tim Meadows’ cannibal hung around, but there were a few less overt references to eating kids, which I appreciated. Jake’s time in solitary, as well as his meth, er, blitz experience, also provided some nice levity. His Lion King impression was the funniest non-Holt thing I’ve seen in awhile, and I honestly would have watched another five to ten minutes of it. DVD bonus feature, perhaps?

I’m impressed by how well they developed the cast of characters at the prison, to the point where I wouldn’t mind seeing some of them pop up in a future case. I feel like they barely scratched the surface with Tank, especially. You know that guy’s got a crazy backstory, and it might be fun to have Jake show Amy or Boyle around the prison, relive his not-so-glory days, etc.

Over at the precinct, the team worked together to get Jake and Rosa out, and I was glad for the references to how intensely the team has worked the case since their conviction. Even Hitchcock and Scully mentioned staking out the farm, which was a good indicator of how seriously everyone was taking it. Boyle, of course, would argue he took it the most seriously, what with his true crime podcast. It was very Boyle of him to have such a specific plan, right down to Debra Messing being his first celebrity listener and Sean Hayes the second (TV is really taking advantage of Will and Grace being topical again).

I’ll admit to getting a little emotional over Amy’s willingness to sacrifice her career to free Jake. When the strictest of rule followers is considering that, you know the relationship means something. Going into the first episode, I actually thought one of them might propose when Jake got out of jail. I do still think it’s coming this season, and, at any rate, their reunion was appropriately sweet. I also wouldn’t be an English major if I didn’t mention how much I felt for Amy when she had to tear a page out of a library book.

Finally, it’s not an episode of Nine-Nine without some great Holt moments. His straight man impression is always a delight, particularly the reference to his “female wife.” However, even better was the great little twist at the end that Holt accepted help from a hilariously mobbed up Paul Adelstein after convincing Amy it would ruin her career if she did so. I loved what a totally in-character Captain move it was, knowing it needed to be done to save Jake and Rosa, but not wanting the rest of the team to take the fall. It’s also just the kind of dangling thread I like on this show: not significant enough to affect every episode, but something that will likely lead to a great story when the time comes.

What did you think of “The Big House Part 2”? Let me know down below!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Takes a Departure in “The Big House Part 1”

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If Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one thing, it’s consistently goofy. It has great characters with good and realistic relationships, and it takes itself seriously enough to comment intelligently on social issues—take the discussion of transgender prisoners in this episode, for example—but, for the most part, it’s very well-done goofy escapism. Even when they explore the more dangerous aspects of being a cop, the tone of the show remains intact.

This premiere had its share of goofy moments, but they couldn’t quite compensate for the realistic danger of Jake, a hated cop, completely unprotected in jail. I still liked the episode overall—it’s nice to see a show stretch its muscles—but it was also more tonally jarring than I’m used to seeing. I think Jake’s child-eating roommate was the main reason why; Tim Meadows was great, but that’s just a hard thing to laugh at, as was one prisoner’s sinister promise that Jake would die in jail.

Still, even with its inconsistent tone, I enjoyed individual aspects of this episode. As I said, there were great, goofy, very Nine-Nine moments, from the Picante Beef of it all to Captain Holt’s stellar “Yas queen!” We also got that fantastic cold open, with hilarious insight into Boyle’s state of mind, as well as—purely superficial comment alert—a beard that Jake should consider making permanent. Many of the other prison scenes were enjoyably tense while still feeling inline with the show’s usual tone; Andy Samberg is at his most hilarious when Jake approaches full-on panic, and there was a whole lot of that this episode.

The prison scenes also allowed for some nice subtle bits of dramatic acting from the cast, particularly in Jake and Amy’s last conversation (“Everything’s fine, I’m talking to you.”), as well as Rosa’s admission to Holt and Sarge. The Rosa scenes were just generally an episode highlight, from Holt writing Rosa’s name on his hand to Sarge’s hilariously horrifying smile.

As I said, it’s nice to see a show push itself a bit, something Brooklyn Nine-Nine does often in its finales and premieres. Even though aspects of this one didn’t quite work, I’m not too concerned. At the very least, we’ll be back to the Nine-Nine I know and love after “The Big House Part 2” next week.

What’d you think of the season five premiere? Hit the comments, and let me know!

Once Upon a Time Review: 6.21 and 6.22

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Hello, all! Before I dive into my review of the truly great Once finale, I’m going to do a couple thoughts on last week’s musical wedding extravaganza, as I didn’t get a chance to after it aired. You’ll also notice that this is an old-fashioned blog post instead of one of my Yahoo reviews, so it’ll be a little less structured than my usual offering.

“The Song in Your Heart” was an ambitious, joyously entertaining hour. My only real complaint was that most of the episode felt like two different episodes, with the juxtaposition of the musical merriment in the Enchanted Forest and the seriousness of what was happening in Storybrooke feeling a bit jarring at times. But honestly, it’s hard to complain about that when it came together so beautifully—with Emma finding the song in her heart—and when the contrast is part of what made that moment so powerful.

I thought the songs were great and paid homage to the show’s most important relationships and rivalries while also making an effort to show how those relationships have changed. I’ll write a bit about each of the songs below, but Zelena’s number, for example, showed how far she and Regina have come by recognizing how fraught their relationship used to be—and a brief aside here to say that the reconciliation of that relationship has been a lovely end-of-season surprise.

The other big component of the hour was, of course, the long-awaited CaptainSwan wedding, and I was completely satisfied on that front. I thought it was wonderful that their vows referenced both their individual character journeys as well as how the other helped them in that journey. I was particularly partial to Hook’s vows, mostly because the pirate references—love being the greatest treasure of all, his heart no longer belonging to his ship—were so romantic and specific to his character. The dip after they said their vows was adorable, and their unbridled happiness in that moment was so, so well-earned. I also weirdly liked that the wedding took place between battles with the Black Fairy; it was very in line with the characters’—and show’s—tendency not to wait for things to be perfect, but rather to make the most of their happiness when they had the chance.

Grading the Songs:

“Powerful Magic”: This was the perfect song to kick things off. It felt the most quintessentially Disney—bluebird included—and made the transition to song feel seamless instead of jarring. It certainly didn’t hurt that Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin leaned into the cheesy romanticness of it all.

“The Queen Sings/Love Doesn’t Stand a Chance”: I love that they gave the Evil Queen a real gritty rock ballad, complete with cleavage and over-gelled hair. This was also a great way to include the background characters, and bringing Sidney back was a fun treat.

“Revenge Is Gonna Be Mine”: I thought everyone did just fine with the singing, but Colin O’Donoghue definitely seemed the most naturally gifted. I feel like you have to give the pirate the bar song, and it was cool that he built his story verse by verse.

“Wicked Always Wins”: This was probably the least necessary to the overall story, but it was so delightful that I didn’t really care. I loved the visual of Zelena tearing through Oz completely oblivious to the Munchkins scattering around her.

“Charmings vs. Evil Queen”: On a pure entertainment level, this was a high point. Hopeful Charmings vs. Annoyed Regina is one of my favorite dynamics, and this took it to a whole other level.

“Emma’s Theme”: I love that this began with the song she sang as a kid and that it expressed her character journey so clearly while still being relatable, as all of the best musical ballads are. This was more emotional than any of the other numbers, and it grounded the episode nicely.

“A Happy Beginning”: This was probably my favorite. I’m a real sucker for group numbers, but this had other things going for it as well: arguably the catchiest song of the bunch, the chance for Hook and Emma to sing (and dance!) together, and the fact that it summed up the show’s theme of hope so perfectly.

Onto the finale…

I know this wasn’t the series finale, but I went in treating it like it was. I watched the pilot on Saturday night because I’m a TV nerd who lives for parallels, and I was definitely rewarded here. The writers knew this was the end for most of the characters even if it wasn’t for the series, and, thankfully, they leaned into the series finale feel. It was lovely and cyclical and pretty much exactly what you want as you say goodbye to a bunch of your favorite characters. Honestly, unless they do something crazy next season (like kill off one of those characters), I’m completely fine with thinking of this as the series finale. Whatever comes next is just gravy.

There were honestly too many series callbacks and pilot references to mention, so I’ll go with my favorites: Emma wearing the red leather jacket; her exchange with Henry about believing something making it true; Snow, Charming, and Co. returning to the location of their wedding; and the reverse True Love’s Kisses for both Snow and Charming and Henry and Emma. Not to mention Mayor Fiona bearing no small resemblance to season one’s Mayor Regina, sensible pantsuit included.

I enjoyed the setup of the final battle, with the vast majority of it waged internally. Not only did the battle for Emma’s belief provide another cool parallel to the pilot, it also showed how much Henry has grown since then, important, since this is probably the last we’ll see of him at this age. And, when Emma left town to go back to Boston, it offered a “what if?” look at how their pilot conversation at his castle could have gone if she had decided to leave.

I absolutely loved that Emma came back on her own, with just Henry’s hand-drawn storybook to encourage her. It proved exactly how far she’s come since the pilot and completed her character journey perfectly. I also thought this episode did a great job of paying homage to the two most important people in her life. As mentioned, she had tons of wonderful moments with Henry, but she and Hook also had a chance to shine, from her flicker of recognition upon spotting him in the storybook, to Hook’s lovely, heartbreaking speech by the beanstalk—“We fought for our love and we won.” Their eventual reunion also gave us the hilarious and appropriate “Some honeymoon!” line.

Another of my favorite relationships on this show is the bro-mance between Hook and Charming, so I was thrilled that they had another adventure together. There was a lot to love there, from the hilarity of them essentially reliving Emma and Hook’s first “date”—Hook’s choice companion to do that with, I’m sure— to the sweetness of Charming trusting Hook and calling him his son-in-law. I’m bummed that we won’t see much of married Hook and Emma onscreen, but they definitely made the most of the new family opportunities; Hook saying he had to get back to his wife made me swoon, and I died when he called Snow “Mommy.”

The beanstalk mission was also interesting because it showed the contrast in how Killian and Regina, another important person in Emma’s life, handle things. Regina immediately went to magic and was completely dismissive of anything else, while Killian favored a more “boots on the ground” approach. I’ve always thought that Regina and Hook make an interesting pair with their similarly villainous backstories, and I’m very curious to see how that relationship develops next season when they make up two-thirds of the returning cast.

I haven’t been shy about how much I love Regina and Emma’s friendship, but I went into this episode expecting that there might not be time for one last heart-to-heart between them. Luckily, they had one just before the Final Battle, in what may end up being one of my favorite scenes for them. It summed up their relationship beautifully, with Regina telling Emma that she taught her about hope by not giving up on her, and the two of them smiling at the thought of how much they used to hate each other. Theirs is another relationship that’s completely, and wonderfully, different from what it was in the pilot, and I’m so glad they paid homage to that.

Regina also had time with her evil alter ego in the Enchanted Forest, though we really can’t call her evil anymore. Upon seeing the Queen, I typed “this is a nice, but unnecessary appearance,” and then, of course, they went and made it necessary. The Queen’s sacrifice provided yet another great parallel to the pilot—I especially loved the shot of the magic cloud swirling around her the way it did after she cast the curse in that first episode—and it was wonderful that the woman who started it all sought to end it. I feel dumb even admitting this, but for a second I thought Regina was the one who had sacrificed herself. Our Regina called the Queen “Regina”, which was a nice moment of “I see you as a person, not an evil being,” but that, coupled with the nearly identical outfits, gave me pause.

Throughout the series, I’ve felt at best ambivalent about and at worse immensely frustrated with Rumple and Belle, both as individual characters and their relationship, so I wasn’t terribly surprised that I felt the same way about them in this episode. I will say that the moment Rumple killed his mother was very well done, from the “All magic comes with a price, and I’m not willing to pay it” line, to the slight tremble in his hand as he lowered the wand. At last, he gave up the chance for both immense power and to have Baelfire back, and I was glad that he both faced his alter ego and referenced his Savior destiny while doing so.

However, he gave up the chance for extra power, not the power he holds now, and he did so to save his own family, not anyone else’s. He’s still going to be on the show, so there’s a chance that complete redemption could come, but Belle won’t be there for it. She’ll never have that moment of him selflessly giving up his power and becoming the hero she so desperately wants him to be, and that definitely makes me sad for her. I’m not saying it wasn’t a huge step for his character, just that I don’t know that it was enough for him to fully earn the montage happy ending, complete with dancing Belle and returned infant Gideon. Contrast that with Regina, for example, who had an unexpectedly sweet moment with the dwarfs in that montage, but whose true love is dead, and who has made far more sacrifices to compensate for her past deeds than Rumple has.

It is pretty hard to complain about that montage though. In this TVLine interview, Adam Horowitz pointed out that it felt like the characters’ lives were continuing rather than ending, and I think that’s one of the main reasons I loved it. We had Charming on the farm and Snow teaching again, finally getting some well-deserved time off from being heroes. We had Emma adorably deputizing Hook, under no threat of being forced into separate worlds. As mentioned, we had the dwarfs sweet gesture to Regina, and her settling into the Mayor’s office again, this time with apples for eating, not poisoning. We had Emma and Regina sending Henry off to school, co-parents in every sense of the word.

We even got to see the realms restored, with Wish Realm Robin proposing to the Evil Queen in the way I’d always hoped our Robin would. And, of course, we had one last dinner at Granny’s. All told, no matter what happens with Henry and Lucy in the future, the montage made clear that, at the very least, these characters finished raising the kid they all loved so much and were very happy doing it. I’ll watch next season, and I hope I’ll like it. But I also would have been extremely satisfied if this had been the end for one of my favorite shows.

What did you guys think of “The Song in Your Heart” and “The Final Battle”? Are you planning on watching next season? Let me know in the comments!