Once Upon A Time Season 2: It’s Time To Say Goodbye To Storybrooke

Once Upon a Time Season 2 Episode 18 Selfless, Brave and True (5)

At the end of the third season of Lost the entire status quo of the series was upset when the audience realized that the flashback featuring a drug-addled and desolate Jack Shephard was in fact a flashforward. The moment was a game changer and the narrative equivalent of a shot of adrenaline for a fantastic series that was beginning to run out of steam as it continued to rely on a storytelling device that had become tedious. Now barreling toward the end of its second season, Once Upon a Time, a series that is Lost‘s successor in spirit, if not always in quality, is standing at a similar crossroads. The writers can either cling to the town of Storybrooke and continue to churn out convoluted reasons for these magical people to stay in a mundane setting for a few more seasons, or they can set them free and give Once the one thing it has been in desperate need of this year: narrative momentum.

Storybrooke was a necessary and often incredibly useful narrative tool in season one. When the people of Storybrooke were unaware of their fairytale origins having them lead normal lives made sense. It even added a layer of poignancy to the proceedings. However, since the curse was broken having them remain in Storybrooke has left much of the story stagnant.

Where we had an unraveling mystery to follow in season one, the only thing of interest Storybrooke has offered us this season is a valid excuse to give Josh Dallas a sexy gun holster. The best moments of season two have played out beyond Storybrooke’s borders. Snow and Emma’s impromptu trip to the Enchanted Forest allowed us to see the magical world through the eyes of a normal person while also introducing us to some of the best secondary characters Once has ever served up in Aurora, Mulan and Hook. Rumplestiltskin’s trip to New York City reveled in the queasy sensation of putting a powerful man in a situation where he was powerless, and the relatively straightforward love story of the young Emma and Neal gave “Tallahassee” an emotional weight that a thousand breakfast at Granny’s scenes can’t hope to match.

The most recent episode, “Selfless, Brave and True,” is a perfect example of why the Once gang needs to set sail for magical pastures. In it, we were introduced to two plot elements that should have been promising, but both fell flat. The first was the idea that redemption can only come at a cost. August, one of the precious few morally complex characters Once had, had his life decimated by a conditional clause because he used his gift of humanity to be human in the messiest sense of the word. He lied, he made selfish choices and he jettisoned his responsibility to look after Emma. Never mind the fact that he was given the herculean task of being perfect and righteous when he was just a child himself, a child left with no guidance, mind you. In the black and white world of fairy tales this meant he was doomed to revert to his wooden state until he sacrificed himself in an act of redemption that resulted in the Blue Fairy reverting August back into a child, completely erasing the life he had lived.

Having all of this play out in a real world setting only highlighted the horrific nature of August’s fate. Emma, Geppetto and the Blue Fairy may have been grinning when August was “saved”, but Snow, whose heart is getting blacker by the day, understood what August’s salvation cost him, which was, in fact, everything. This sort of morality play would have resonated more in a magical world built on metaphor; in the real world it was just depressing and a stark reminder of how bizarre these characters reactions to things can be when juxtaposed with normal activities like people happily chomping on bagels and discussing meet-cutes.

The second element was the reveal that Tamara was Greg’s elusive Her and the duo are out to steal the magic from Storybrooke. It’s too early to say where the storyline is going for sure, but if Greg and Tamara succeed that would only leave Once back where it started, minus the mystery. Which would mean a lot more breakfasts at Granny’s, a lot more ineffectual snarking between Regina and the townsfolk and a whole lot of nothing to look forward to. So that’s definitely not going to happen.

Instead, as we head into these final four episodes, Once seems poised to follow in Lost‘s footsteps and take a few risks. With any luck those magic beans will come into play and Snow, Emma, Rumple and the rest of the essential characters can jettison Storybrooke in favor of some new digs that come with an endless array of storytelling possibilities for season three (I hear Neverland is lovely this time of year). Barring that, perhaps our magic-seeking Bonnie and Clyde, Tamara and Greg can at least lift that pesky magical hiccup that renders our characters hostages in the town that interesting plot developments forgot?

What do you think Once Upon A Time fans? Has Storybrooke outlived its usefulness or do you think there’s still some story left in the town? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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