So far, the seventh season of Once Upon A Time has been very enjoyable, maintaining the clever writing and characterizations of seasons past. However, the winter finale, “The Eighth Witch”, has a few bumps. I get the impression that the writers knew they had to use this episode to wrap up current storylines and start new ones. But, the pacing is all over the place. We are introduced to new characters and plots with little time to really understand what is going on. The episode is unfortunately crammed with too much stuffing, and it left me scratching my head at times.
In the last episode, Victoria was revealed to be Rapunzel, and managed to awaken Anastasia, knocking the despairing Lucy into a coma. That was handled with fantastic acting and pathos. It is quite the opposite with this episode. In the Enchanted Forest, Henry welcomes baby Lucy into the world. I guess we skipped Henry and Cinderella marrying and such. A couple of awkward episodes of unresolved sexual tension, and Lucy has appeared. Her birth is crashed by Drizella, who boasts that the Dark Curse will be cursed in eight years time. Why not just cast it now? It’ll be more villainous to separate the family when Lucy is just an infant.
However, Drizella’s moment of glory is ruined when Lady Tremaine appears, having apparently now teamed up with Henry’s group to stop Drizella. Hey, whatever happened to the whole Cinderella has been framed for high treason subplot? What happened to Tremaine’s grudge against her? Not that it seems to matter, since Tremaine has now teamed up with Henry and co. Perhaps it is to protect her granddaughter, but that would also be contradictory, considering that she crushed Lucy’s hope.
Drizella gets turned to stone but vows to return in eight years. Hope she didn’t take her smugness for granite! The puns will never end! Anyway, we jump eight years into the future for Lucy’s birthday party. Some things, but not much has changed. For instance, no one has aged in eight years, and Tiana is now queen. However, this is a fairy tale, so naturally, any happy event must be crashed by the villains. Dark clouds herald the arrival of Mother Gothel, and a group of cloaked witches, who free Drizella from her rocky prison. They just had placed Drizella in a corner of the garden for years. Wouldn’t Lucy have been disturbed by that? That her own crazy aunt was turned to stone and just used as a garden ornament for years.
The villains announce that the Dark Curse shall be cast in a matter of days, causing everyone to panic. Henry and Cinderella come up with a plan to protect Lucy – by copying Snow White and Prince Charming’s plan, creating a magic wardrobe which can transport Henry and Lucy to Earth. Lucy objects to this, not wanting to be celebrated from her family. But, it’s not a bad idea. Surely someone knows how to open a portal to another world. Alice seems to have an endless supply of magic beans, so the gang could just jump through a portal, hang out in Storybrooke, and Drizella’s plan goes up in smoke. It would solve a lot of issues. But, then, I suppose we wouldn’t have our little story.
Henry places Lucy in the care of her fairy godmother Tiger Lily (Sara Tomko), who appeared in a supporting role in the sixth season. However, Henry gets captured by the witches, but leaves Lucy with her storybook, so they can reunite in the future. Cinderella learns this, rallying her band of heroes to rescue Henry.
Meanwhile, Hook ventures off to seek Rumplestiltskin for help to evade the curse. Rumple is now, for some reason, back to his giggling, golden scaly self. We’ve had no real focus on Rumple’s search for the Guardian, so there is no real explanation why he looks like this, or why he has Alice as his sidekick. Rumple seems to have no grudge with this version of Hook, and offers him a white elephant, which will allow him and Alice to maintain their relationship whilst cursed. There is also comments that Alice asked her father to deliver a letter to her true love, who we shall meet shortly. Eight years have passed by, so some things likely happened within that time. But, like Hook’s poisoned heart, it comes out of left field quite abruptly.
Regina, however, has gone to get reinforcements. This leads us to the triumphant return of Zelena (Rebecca Mader), the former Wicked Witch of the West, and Regina’s older sister. In the years that have passed, Zelena has moved to the new realm, set up a farm, and lives with her daughter Robin (Tiera Skovbye), now twenty-five years old. For those unfamiliar or forgetful, Robin is the daughter of Zelena and Regina’s dead boyfriend Robin Hood, so she is pretty good with a bow. I am grateful that at least one of the Storybrooke babies has been given a role in the series. Zelena hasn’t aged a day, though she does make a passing comment about magic or something like that being the cause.
Regina recruits Zelena to kick some witch ass, learning Gothel’s group are a coven known as, well, the Coven of the Eight. Not the most intimidating of titles. They offered Zelena a place amongst their group, but she turned them down. While Lucy stays with Tiana, Cinderella leads the others to confront the witches and rescue Henry. Regina and Zelena look like they are gaining the upper hand, when Drizella and Gothel reveal they have Henry, and they have fatally poisoned his heart. The witches then reveal their ace in the hole. In order to save Henry, Regina will have to cast the Dark Curse. Again! Regina tries to stall, but the witches admit they’ve got the curse prepared and all they need is Regina’s blood. Conveniently it works, because the blood of a person who has cast the curse doubles as a substitute ingredient. But, of course.
Tremaine attempts to intervene beforehand, but Drizella knocks her out, revealing that under the curse’s influence, her mother will think she cast it to save Anastasia. I like the scenes where the characters get ready to be taken by the curse, with a couple having experienced it the first time round. Hook surrenders the white elephant to Cinderella so she and Lucy can remain mother and daughter. Rumple makes his own plans to remember his memories, giving Belle’s chipped cup to Alice for safekeeping. They then are joined by Robin, who turns out to be Alice’s girlfriend.
This isn’t the first time the show has introduced a surprise lesbian couple. Season five threw us the strange pairing of Red Riding Hood and Dorothy Gale, who spent even less time on screen than Henry and Cinderella, and become true lovers. Weird stuff. However, this season looks like it will remedy that bizarre move by actually showing how Alice and Robin fell in love. Or at least, I hope it does. The reunion between Alice and Robin is short and bittersweet as the curse consumes the land. Here we go again. Off to Hyperion Heights…or not!
Henry and Regina have gone on a road trip to San Francisco to pick up a former Hyperion Heights resident – the cursed Zelena. She now runs a fitness club, but still has her shaky relationship with her sister. The fact that she uses power bikes could be an extremely vague reference to the character of Ms. Gulch from the 1939 MGM film. Zelena isn’t thrilled to see Regina, claiming that because of her, her daughter ran off to live the life of a party animal. Regina gives her sister a drink fuelled with memory potion, allowing Zelena to awaken from the curse. She wishes to help Lucy, but reveals quite the clanger – her cursed self is getting married.
Henry races back to Seattle upon hearing what happened to Lucy, comforting Jacinda. She suggests he reads Lucy’s storybook to her to bring her around. In a scene mirroring the ending of season one’s finale, Henry admits to Lucy that he wants to be her father and kisses her on the forehead. But, unlike Emma’s act of true love, which broke the original curse, Henry’s does not. Perhaps he doesn’t actually believe at all, and is just copying from his own book. And, reusing the same way to break the curse as before would be repetitive.
Victoria tries to help Anastasia adapt to the new, modern world. However, Weaver comes calling, angered that Lucy was hurt to awaken Anastasia. Adamant that she might be the Guardian, Weaver puts Anastasia through a magical test to prove his theory. He sets out a line of fancy daggers and asks her which one has magic. She picks up a copy of his dagger, but points out it has no magic. She then makes all of the daggers impale a nearby cupboard, revealing the real one is hidden within. That seems to confirm she is the Guardian, and appears pure of heart.
Gothel makes her dramatic entrance, Anastasia recoiling in terror. So much so that she unleashes a blast of magic that sends everyone flying. Weaver gets slammed face first into the ceiling. Anastasia flees, but is found by Drizella, promising to take her to rescue. But, considering how vindictive and petty Drizzy is, she instead plans to absorb her sister’s magic to get revenge upon their mother. She uses a pair of bracelets to do this, only for it to backfire. Gothel arrives, revealing she has been Drizella this whole time, and the bracelets instead absorbed her magic, giving it to Anastasia. This was Gothel’s plan all along, and Drizella is chucked down a well, where her mother has been imprisoned too.
Rogers, and Tilly come across the symbol found in Eloise Gardener’s journal painted on a bridge, Weaver identifying it as the coven’s mark. The Coven of the Eight are in town. Gothel takes Anastasia to a dark room, revealing the lively cloaks of the witches are waiting to find their owners, all of whom are somewhere in Hyperion Heights. Who they are, what they want, and what Anastasia’s role is remain a mystery. Answers which will not be given until the show returns in March.
Despite there being mass concern and complaints that the soft reboot of Once Upon A Time would ruin the show, I feel it has been a moderate success. A fresh new set of characters and stories to tell, in a new setting, allows for a series to grow and change. As much as I love Storybrooke and its characters, some new changes had to be made, and I am glad this series has continued on. The seventh season has allowed us to say goodbye to the old cast, and for the most part, fleshed out the new cast.
The writing remains as great as ever, though it hasn’t been without some flaws. Certain characters have come off as uninteresting or underplayed. Plot points have been dropped, while others have been picked up like they have been pre-established. Luckily, the good parts outweigh those that are bad. I look forward to the rest of this season, but having to wait three months, though now rudimentary, still remains a pain in the ass.
What do you make of “The Eighth Witch”? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!