The season two Once Upon a Time finale “And Straight on ‘Til Morning” is all about choices and doing the right thing. And in the end, each of the central characters, despite some missteps along the way, do make the right choices. Regina, Emma, Rumple, and even Hook each has a moment to shine as a genuine hero.
It is a satisfying ending, a season-long journey to redemption for some, and an understanding of destiny for others. And as the series prepares for a third season (yes, it has been officially renewed), we again find the fairytale characters split by world, but more unified than they have ever been. Neal and Henry are off to Neverland with the Charmings, Regina, Emma, Hook and Rumple in hot pursuit, while the rest of the Storybrooke townfolk are left on their own with Rumple’s cloaking spell, placed in Belle’s care to protect them from outsiders.
When the penultimate episode ended, Tamara and Greg had triggered Regina’s magical diamond, a fail-safe device intended to set Storybrooke on self-destruct should she ever find the need (and she nearly does when in an earlier episode, the good guys decide to abandon her). With the device counting down, Regina offers herself as the only one capable of stopping the device from destroying the town and returning it to the forest it once had been. She knows she will die, but in the end realizes that it is her curse that has brought them to this juncture, and only by sacrificing herself, and using her powers for good, will she finally prove herself worthy to be Henry’s mother. “Everyone looks at me as the Evil Queen. Let me die as Regina,” she begs Emma.
But even the Evil Queen’s power isn’t enough to slow the device for very long, and when it dawns on Emma that she may have the added power necessary, she steps up, joining Regina. It’s enough to stop it and save Storybrooke. Emma has accepted the yoke of her destiny as a magical being, perhaps unlike any other in Storybrooke.
But this act has a price. For while everyone is concentrating on stopping Regina’s kill-switch, Tamara and Greg swipe the one person everyone seems to love — Henry. Storybrooke is saved, but Henry is gone, snatched and taken through a portal to who-knows-where.
With no other means to go after them, all appears lost until Hook, who has stolen the magic beans to save himself, has a change of heart. Bringing his ship back into the harbor, he offers his help and the last remaining magic bean. But how to find them?
Up steps Rumplestiltskin, still reeling from learning that Baelfire is presumed dead and fallen through a portal after being badly injured by Tamara and Greg. Rumple goes through quite a journey during the episode. At the hour’s start, he is ready to destroy Henry to save himself from the prophecy that the boy will be his undoing.
But as he learns Baelfire might have perished, his entire outlook changes. He is devastated by the news, blaming only himself. Refusing to help avenge Baelfire, he insists, it is not Tamara and Greg who have killed his son. “Magic has a price, and this is it,” he sobs. When confronted with either dying in Storybrooke as the town is destroyed or helping to stop it, Rumple chooses death. “I have made my peace with that,” he says.
Even when faced with the chance to return Belle’s memories courtesy of the Blue Fairy, he initially passes on it. Why wake her up, he wonders, only to have her die? Instead, they drink to their end. That is, until Rumple is reminded of how important Baelfire is to him — and how important it is to him that he have in these final moments a sense of his true self, something only possible with Belle at his side.
Equally important, Rumple realizes that although Henry may be his undoing, he cannot allow him to die without a fight, even if it means giving up his own life for it. And so the reunion between Rumple and Belle is short-lived as Rumple finally steps up, and with Cora’s magic globe, producing the final needed ingredient to find Henry.