Once Upon a Time “Changelings” Review (Season 6 Episode 9)

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This week’s Once Upon a Time was mostly business as usual for the show, which is to say that it was another lackluster entry in a season that started out with a lot of promise. The familiar sensation of spinning wheels was in full effect, though my viewing of “Changelings” did help me to finally nail down what’s so off about this season.

There are a few major issues, and this episode managed to highlight just about all of them. First, let’s discuss our villains. For all of its faults in recent years, Once has succeeded in at least offering new Big Bads for the heroes to face off with. From intriguing foes like the Snow Queen and the Author to lamer opponents like Hades, there was always a sense of mystery to what exactly drove or motivated the show’s villains.

Conversely, what don’t we know about the Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin at? These foes dominated the show in its early years, and Rumpel’s villainous relapse goes all the way back to the fourth season. The show has almost nothing new left to say about the characters; does finding out Rumpel’s mother was an evil fairy that abandoned him really add a new dimension to his character? That leaves the antagonists with little to do but vamp for the camera and be generally malicious.

Of course, if things were building to a satisfying conclusion, it might be worth the slight struggle, but the showrunners have moved away from the half-season narratives this year, instead structuring the conflict with the Evil Queen and Rumpel as a full twenty-odd episode story. The problem is that going into next week’s midseason finale, there’s almost no tension or excitement built up, and the thought of another dozen episodes plodding about is exhausting.

It’s even more frustrating when it’s clear the show could’ve done a much better job pacing the narrative. It’s been weeks since the Land of Untold Stories narrative was even mentioned, and the way it’s been dropped is frustrating. The promise was there for a season that returned to the first season storytelling style while layering in creative twists; while that’s what we got for the first few weeks, the death of Mr. Hyde seems to have closed the door on that idea. Instead, we’re back to the all of the main characters fighting for screen time while searching out whatever magical McGuffin is next on the list.

All I’m left with is the small hope that Aladdin and Jasmine may actually become relevant to the narrative again. They’ve barely featured in the past few weeks, but Aladdin’s decision to take on the power of a genie is intriguing, even if it looks like that will almost immediately backfire next week. Odds of a Once Upon a Time in Agrabah spin-off are non-existent, so I’ll take what I can with these characters.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!