Once Upon a Time Goes to Oz

Ok, I admit, I’ve been waiting for this ever since the first season, when Once Upon a Time dropped various hints that the Enchanted Forest was someplace near Oz—a green door to another world, hints of flying monkeys. So when ABC announced that Oz would be making an appearance, or at least sorta making an appearance in the final half of the season, I got all excited and started watching the show again.

Which may have been a mistake (SPOILER: I was not fond of the first half of the third season). But I was ready to tune in again. Which may also have been a mistake. We shall see. And since I tuned in specifically for Oz, full warning, I’m mostly only focusing on the Oz stuff. With that out of the way:

SPOILERS AHEAD!

If by any chance you haven’t seen the show, quick summary: Emma Swan, a princess from the Enchanted Forest (a.k.a Fairy Tale Land, a place where everybody curses each other a lot and gets very excited about finding True Love) gets sent into the Real World (in other words, here) where, thanks to highly contrived storytelling, she has a son with the son of Rumplestiltskin (a name spelled in different ways on the show) who, as it turns out, is the son of Peter Pan. Look, I’m not going to try to explain this. In the course of the show, Emma finds out that her son has been adopted by the Evil Queen Regina and that her parents—that is, Emma’s parents—are Snow White and Prince Charming and that despite the tangled family tree all of this cursing has caused, everyone is still really into cursing things. Also, there’s a sexy hot pirate, because of course.

As this particular episode starts, Emma remembers none of this.

Are we all on the same page now? Good. So let’s deal with the first, major issue here: Emma slept with a Flying Monkey?

Ok. Maybe “slept with” is a bit strong. This is, after all, a Disney show. Maybe—just maybe—they’ve been hanging out for eight months, getting close enough to the point where the Flying Monkey can conceivably ask for Emma’s hand in marriage without necessarily sleeping with her. Maybe she told him all about her sad past and getting dumped (that would be by the son of the son of Peter Pan—it can be a complicated show, really.) And maybe that was followed by a little speech about how after that she’s scared of physical intimacy and so the Flying Monkey’s actual motive here was to get into her pants with a wedding ring….

….maybe.

And yes, I realize that he wouldn’t have been a Flying Monkey exactly when they did the deed. And yes, this just confirms that wow, Emma really seriously really has terrible taste in men, so in that sense, character development! And yes, this is hardly the most screwed up relationship on this show (there’s just so many to choose from.) And yet—Emma slept with a Flying Monkey???

It took my little brain a bit of time to process this, mostly because I was boggling at how much the sweet, cute guy now turned into a Flying Monkey did not look in the slightest like a Flying Monkey. I took to Twitter to complain. For the record, when you complain on Twitter about Flying Monkeys, you get a lot of spam about porn. I do not want to think about what this means. But also because, and I apologize in advance for this: my brain, it does not process romantic relationships between people and Flying Monkeys. No matter how terrible Emma’s taste in men is.

That was actually appearance two of the Flying Monkey, and to be honest, if I hadn’t known in advance that the show was going to Oz, I would never have guessed that they were Flying Monkeys: they looked like badly CGIed flying creatures who definitely did not resemble monkeys of any sort, although in its final appearance, the Flying Monkey did look a bit better.

A bit. Because it has feathers on its wings.

Which just led me to start squawking again, “It’s a monkey! A MONKEY! NOT A BIRD!” It then occurred to me that perhaps the writers were referencing something I’d forgotten, so I checked the original text out of curiosity. This is L. Frank Baum’s description:

There was a rushing of many wings, a great chattering and laughing, and the sun came out of the dark sky to show the Wicked Witch surrounded by a crowd of monkeys, each with a pair of immense and powerful wings on his shoulders.

Which I guess could mean wings with feathers, or wings without feathers. My guess is, however, that the feathers were deliberately added in to prevent any potential copyright disputes with the 1939 film.

Anyway.

My cognitive dissonance was not really helped by my realization that, right there, more or less in the same scene, we had: Snow White and Prince Charming; The Evil Queen; A Flying Monkey with Bird Wings; and Robin Hood.

My brain, it MEEEEEELLLLLLLTTTTTTTTED.

Anyway.

After I got my brain back, kinda, and Emma made her way back to Storybrooke (which if I recall correctly was completely gone at the end of the previous episode and now is completely back, I suspect to keep production costs reasonable), finally, the camera shifted, and we saw a green-skinned woman sashaying—it really was a sashay—in a dark green gown to chat with a Winged Monkey and look at herself in the mirror and tell all of us that she was quite, quite Wicked.

In case we couldn’t tell.

She looks magnificent, so far. But it’s definitely too early to tell exactly how this will play out—for Oz or for the show. Though I’ve got my fingers crossed for at least cameo appearances from other Oz characters. The show will remember that Oz has other characters besides the Wizard, Dorothy, and the Wicked Witch, right?

Right?

Reassure me.

For those who aren’t watching the show for Oz, I think the episode had other good moments—the Emma/Captain Hook interactions (my favorite was the Central Park scene); the fact that this time around, Henry knows the truth about his father; and the fact that the show no longer has to hide Ginnifer Goodwin’s pregnancy. (Not that they were exactly hiding it well before this.) I’m… working with the True Love of Robin Hood and Regina, really I am, even if I remain firmly convinced that Robin Hood belongs with Maid Marion, not anyone else. (If you doubt me, I invite you to watch the third season of the BBC Robin Hood. Take appropriate precautions beforehand.) And I loved that Hook finds Photoshop confusing. Many of us do, Hook, many of us do.

Unfortunately, these bits appeared in an episode that for the most part felt like a retread of season one: another curse, another case of various people losing their memories, only this time, Henry’s the main one who still doesn’t remember. Everyone else has just lost a year of memories and gotten pulled back into the Storybooke world again without anyone asking what they thought about this, after getting sent back to the Enchanted Forest again without anyone asking what they thought. Just once I would like everyone in Storybooke to have a vote about these kinda major life-changing decisions.

But at least now our favorite fairy tale characters can enjoy decent lattes and the internet again, at least for a little while. And perhaps a dose of Oz will be just the creative juice this show needs.


Mari Ness has been accused more than once of being overly obsessed with Oz. She lives in central Florida.

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