Once Upon A Time is seriously stalling as it gets into its final weeks, revealing the fact that neither its plot nor its characters have had much direction this season. Sure, things have happened, and people have changed, but it's been more of a long ramble than a plot-arc that is now hurtling towards its conclusion.
The most clear problem in this episode was Regina and Snow White. The writers need to pick: is Regina a sympathetic character with good in her, or is she really just evil? And if it's the latter, why doesn't Snow finally accept that and be the badass she's otherwise capable of being?
It gets stranger and stranger that Snow continues to forgive Regina and believe that she is capable of good. Apart from the idea that Snow is a "good" and "pure-hearted" character, there's no basis for why she would forgive Regina, again and again and again. She stumbles across the bodies of an entire village that Regina murdered, just because Snow stayed there... and a little while later, she still thinks that Regina should be given a second chance. I know a lot of people have been commenting that Regina doesn't get the free pass that other evil characters, like Gold, seem to get, and how this is problematic on the show's part... but Regina's level of evil has always been more direct, and more personal, than most of the other "morally grey" characters we've seen. And although we've spent months seeing her struggle to be a better person for Henry, all of that struggle seems like it's now been thrown aside... for this week at least.
I do appreciate the fact that Snow manages to be both "badass princess" and "kind, caring princess" at the same time. She wants to see the good in people, but she's also smart. Don't try and mess with her, because she will shoot you if she has to. But her clear intelligence in other areas seems to be undermined by her attitude to Regina... at some point, she's not being "good hearted" and is just naive. And a Snow White who never learns her lesson, or grow as a character, isn't very interesting. On the one hand, her "darkened heart" plotline seemed like it would be interesting, and finally explore the nature of "good" versus "evil" and the line in between from her perspective... but it looks like that, along with many other things this season, has been forgotten.
On the bright side, this episode gave us the chance to see Snow talking honestly about Regina, and for Regina to understand exactly how Snow sees her. It's hard to feel sympathy for her, though, considering what she did this episode, both in the past and to Henry and the others.
In other news, Maleficent was wonderfully creepy, and Hook appeared vaguely competent for once! Yet overall, the episode, like this season, didn't really hang together. It had promising elements, but it all feels a little pointless and messy. We swing towards the idea of redemption, but then dart away from it like it never really happened. Enemies come and go, but there's no real urgency to any of it, and no single competent terrifying villain we can get behind. Aurora and Mulan and the Fairy Tale World adventures were fun, but we haven't heard a word about any of that since Christmas.
As excited as I've been for this show over the past year, this season really needs to end. Stop seesawing with Regina. Find a new enemy. Maybe even move everything mostly to the Fairy Tale land and have problems there be the main focus of the plot. Then hopefully next year, things will actually have direction.