Once Upon A Time is a difficult show to pin down. It swings from the delicious dark to the painfully ridiculous, and my reactions similarly swing from "Best. Show. Ever" (the Beauty and the Beast episode) to "why am I watching this??" (the episode with Dreamy). I haven't written about it before, because if you think too hard about this show (or sometimes think at all), the enjoyable illusions come crashing down. That said, this was a brilliant season finale. Epic and fun, it resolved stories, broke hearts and allowed the show to live up to all its dark romp potential.
And, on Mother's Day, it was all about moms.
The episode basically follows the dramatic power of two different kinds of love. In fairytale land, we see the somewhat insipid love of Snow White and Prince Charming, as he escapes from prison, fights a dragon and wakes her up with a kiss so they can all live happily ever after. In Storybrooke, meanwhile, we see the love of two mothers for their son as they overcome their differences to cooperate, slay a dragon, and eventually awaken the boy with a kiss on the forehead.
And that's what I really adore and respect about this episode. It places motherly love -- the love felt between a mother and her child -- on the same level as the kind of romantic love that usually features in fairy tales. Emma saves Henry, and Storybrooke, because she loves him as a mother. And unlike stereotypes of mothers and the ways that they care for (or hinder, in a lot of TV shows) their children, she is badass while doing it. She fought a dragon, first with a gun and then with a sword. And the show even found a sympathetic angle for Regina, after failing on previous attempts, as the mother who does genuinely love her son, and who will do anything to try to protect him. Throw in the idea that she's responsible for his near-death in the first place, and you've got a pretty interesting plot going.
Meanwhile, Belle and Rumpelstiltskin were reunited, which made me squee with delight (what can I say? I'm a fan), although I somehow doubt the happiness will last now that he's unleashed magic (and so power for himself) into the world. Just as I was beginning to lose interest in the show, it pulled out an enjoyable finale that completely changed the status quo, leaving me beyond excited to keep watching next season.
And it did so with a story about fierce, determined, untraditional mothers who will do anything to protect their son.