Saturday , December 2 2023
In this week's much anticipated Once Upon a Time episode "Kansas," we meet Dorothy and learn how Zelena might have changed her destiny by casting off the chains of unbridled wickedness.

TV Review: ‘Once Upon a Time’ – ‘Kansas’

In this week’s much anticipated Once Upon a Time episode “Kansas,” we meet Dorothy and learn how Zelena (Rebecca Mader) might have changed her destiny by casting off the chains of unbridled wickedness. Of course, we know that Dorothy melts the Wicked Witch of the West with a simple bucket of water, but, it appears, rather ineffectively. And then, coming up against Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) white magic (because she has turned away from the Dark Side), she again seems thwarted, but…not so much. Once Upon a Time

As she sits in jail, Rumple (Robert Carlyle) tries to effect revenge for killing Baelfire (and for all the pain she’s caused him), and seems to do in the Wicked Witch (more about that later), but again…no dice. Wicked simply vanishes into another guise and goes back to her rather pagan looking portal-ish thing to prepare to conjure up even more mayhem and menace–and change her destiny.

Phew. This week’s Once Upon a Time plays fast and loose with the Oz story, and with Zelena’s powers. We are set up to believe that Zelena’s powers are concentrated in her emerald pendant (which at one time had been quite white and full of light), but wait! Not so fast. Even without her pendant, she is more powerful than the Dark One? I had always thought that the Dark One was the prince of dark magic–there is none more powerful than he with the dagger. Otherwise, why does Zelena actually need him at all? (Except, perhaps to humiliate him? Or is it to impress him?) I’m confused.

So. Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) finally has her baby. A boy, but within an instant Zelena has him in her clutches, and she’s ready to change her history, kill Ava, and ensure that Regina is never even born. Then–Zelena and Rumple will meet under changed circumstance, and he will choose Zelena to enact the Dark Curse. TaDa.

But if Zelena is so powerful, why on Earth (or whatever realm) does she even need to prove anything to Rumple. She’s clearly more powerful than him. She holds all the cards. Why would she be envious of anyone? Well, I suppose that’s the nature of envy; it often has no basis in reality. At all.

So Dorothy destroys Wicked, and Glinda takes her to the Wizard so he can send her back to Kansas. One problem, though. Why would Glinda take her to a man who she’s just called a fraud? One reason why Glinda admires Wicked is that she has outed the “true nature” of the Wizard: a defrauding trickster. But of course, that doesn’t matter anyway, since the wizard isn’t really a wizard at all, but Zelena, who has for some reason not melted. Guess Dorothy isn’t quite as powerful as Glinda thinks she is!

This week’s episode was as much about the role of destiny in our characters’ lives as anything else. Zelena can change her destiny–if she desires it. She is not destined to be the evilest evil in the realm. Evil, we are reminded, isn’t born, it’s learned.

But Rumple disagrees. “I think destiny is destiny,” and you cannot change the future by changing the past. “No matter what you change of you past, one thing will remain the same: who you are — something you can never escape,” he warns.

The warning might as easily apply to Rumple himself. For in the end, and for however much he wishes to change his destiny, he is still The Dark One, and the episode’s ending sends home that message loud and clear. But it seems not to hold true for Regina, who combats her own dark magic, lacing it with the love of her son, and turning it to light magic.

Here’s where I have to take exception to the bandying about of all the light and dark magic, the changed destinies and being in charge of altering your own future. And it’s with Rumple’s story in this rather complex (yet in some ways far too straightforward) unfolding of this next Wicked vs. Evil chapter.

We are to believe by the end of the hour that Rumple, now reunited with the love of his life–his anchor, Belle, has finally found some peace, and the chance for real happiness. Yes, his son is dead, and he has been through Hell and back at Zelena’s hands. I completely understand his desire for revenge. He must not allow Baelfire to die in vain.

But Baelfire dies to allow Rumple to find a way to destroy the Wicked Witch. But as far as he knows, at the end the battle (which he has very little to do with–and maybe that’s what’s bothering him), Wicked is in jail–powerless. He finally has a chance with her; he proposes and she says yes. He seals it with giving her the dagger–a show of great trust and his love for her. He can finally be free of the curse under which he’s lived for centuries.

Yet, he blatantly tricks Belle, gives her a fake dagger, then confronts Zelena, supposedly destroying her. But Zelena is not dead. After all that?

Unless. Unless it’s a ruse. Rumple doesn’t need the dagger to do magic. But Zelena doesn’t know that. Maybe Rumple realizes that Zelena’s power is not only contained in that emerald, and that jailing her is just not going to do it. Perhaps Rumple’s act is a lure to catch Zelena unawares and pull the trick, the “Watch the Lady” trick he says he’s pulled on Belle. Then it all makes some sense.

Zelena doesn’t die, and instead finds her way back to her portal, where Rumple, Belle…or all the forces of light magic are waiting to destroy her for good. Banish her to a realm where she cannot do them any harm. Make sense?

I hope this is where the Powers That Be are going with this. Rumple has already lied to Belle (last season) when he’d sent the wraiths after Regina. Duping her again would be too much. And that scene in the pawn shop seems far too real to have been an outright lie. How could Rumple believe that Belle would still trust him, much less marry him, if really has tricked her into giving him the real dagger, which he then immediately uses to do exactly what has promised he would not?

I have another theory. What if Rumple’s dagger is fake, and Zelena has never let him from her control. Everything he’s doing is rigged by Zelena to make everyone think she’s powerless? Then, of course, the jail scene doesn’t really make sense, but oh well.

We’ll have to wait for next week to find out.

Tune in tomorrow night for Let’s Talk TV Live on BlogTalk Radio for our weekly Once Upon a Time discussion and let us know what you think!

Random Notes:

Loved that Regina has focused her power on good, but I kind of like her better as a conflicted evil character

Henry has a new baby uncle. Ah, the weird mix of the family gets ever weirder

I’ve really been disappointed that Rumple hasn’t fought harder against Zelena’s control (other than saying “I don’t want to do this” as he does bad things to people). Rumple is a strong character, and he’s just had all the zip zapped out of him, and if it turns out he’s really tricked Belle, I’m going to begin to lose sympathy for him. And since he’s my favorite character, that would be very, very bad.

Love the fact that Emma parallels Dorothy by being the one who “wants to go home,” while Henry is quite adamant about staying “home” in Storybrooke.

I did not like the vast underuse of Dorothy and the undermining of Oz canon.

Clearly Regina’s light magic hasn’t worked on Zelena (a parallel to Dorothy’s water not working on her). So Regina’s turn to the light is what…delusion? Or just wishful thinking?

Stay tuned!

The two-hour Once Upon a Time season finale airs next Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.


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About Barbara Barnett

A Jewish mother and (young 🙃) grandmother, Barbara Barnett is an author and professional Hazzan (Cantor). A member of the Conservative Movement's Cantors Assembly and the Jewish Renewal movement's clergy association OHALAH, the clergy association of the Jewish Renewal movement. In her other life, she is a critically acclaimed fantasy/science fiction author as well as the author of a non-fiction exploration of the TV series House, M.D. and contributor to the book Spiritual Pregnancy. She Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (

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  1. Sadly, I think Rumple did lie to Belle, AGAIN! They have a lot of chemistry, but maybe the writers are going to acknowledge that Rumple has abused Belle as much as Regina did, and break them up? Anyway, I suspect that Zelena will repent, find her innocence and defeat the Great Evil, which is probably Rumple, which sucks, IMHO. I mostly like (okay like isn’t quite right) enjoy Rumple and find him fascinating and compelling. He earned redemption and then Belle and Neal pulled him back. So, I have really mixed feelings about this whole storyline.

    • I really feel that Rumple has been the most complex and layered character on the series. To strip him of that complexity and make him first a prisoner of the dagger and then immediately turn around and go back to such a state that he ignores everything that he and Belle have is completely out of character. Something has to explain it. Or the character is irreedable and worse–he will lack the moral complexity that the writers and Robert Carlyle have given him.

      • I have another theory. I’m not totally convinced that Regina is on the “light side.” She did threaten to crush Zelena’s heart even after she offered her a second chance. I can’t believe she relinquished the dagger so quickly to Belle when she has wanted to control the Dark One for ages. I wonder if Belle had a fake dagger all along and that Regina still has the true dagger and that she commanded Rumple to kill Zelena. I think Regina wanted Zelena dead, but was unwilling to kill her since she is reveling in her new hero status. I’m sure Rumple was only too happy to comply. I sincerely hope that Rumple has not ruined his chances with Belle by lying to her again. Like most of you, he is my absolute favorite character, but this would be hard to forgive. Who knows what is in store. Rumple is a conflicted man to be sure. I thought this episode was well acted, but confusing. I need to watch it again. This is my first time to post, but I follow your column regularly Barbara, and I think you are spot on with your reviews.

  2. “Emma has a new baby uncle. Ah, the weird mix of the family gets ever weirder” Henry has a new uncle. Emma has a new brother, not a new uncle.

  3. Kansas was, for me, one of the worst episodes of OUAT. What were they thinking? Are they that keen on making the Emma/Hook hookup happen that they destroy the “savior” narrative and transfer that responsibility to Regina? What’s up with making Regina “good” all of a sudden? This story is inconsistent with Regina’s narrative. And the overall OUAT narrative. The story was not compelling.

    What were they thinking when they basically rewrote the Oz story? Writing for expediency? What a waste of Dorothy. What a waste of Oz. They could have done away with the whole Oz thing and still retained this Wicked Witch narrative. Instead, they gave nothing but poor lip service to L Frank Baum. Terrible job, OUAT overlords!

    And yet, all these shortcomings pale in comparison with what they did with Rumple. You go through a redemption arc and then make him out to be an untrustworthy, manipulative liar? To Belle? If I were Robert Carlyle, I’d be upset with how I’ve been utilized these last few episodes. It’s a credit to his great talent that we empathize with him so much. Really, though, a guy with a brain should do more than be a pushover to all of Zelena’s schemings. Rumple mistreated Belle in this episode. What are the OUAT overlords trying to do? Ruin the one relationship that people are actually rooting for? Utter rubbish.

    Well acted, but poorly conceived and the writing and story were forgettable. Actually, it’s not forgettable. It’s maddeningly atrociuous.

    Can I give this episode -5 stars?

    • You write that making Regina “good” happens “all of a sudden” but then mentions Rumple’s redemption arc? So these last two season of Regina trying more or less successful to be better for Henry doesn’t matter? well, ok, this is your opinion and you’re entained to it, but at least for me her redemption is much more believable and true than Rumple’s. They could change that in the future but right now I see it that way.

      • No, I am talking about her having the “light” powers. I actually enjoyed how they’ve dealt with Regina’s “redemption.” The solution proferred in this episode, however, is too convenient. And unsatisfactory. For example, one week Regina can’t go through the portal to see Glinda because her heart isn’t pure. Then she says “I love you to Henry” and all of a suddent she is a light magic caster? It’s lazy character and story development.

        The good thing about OUAT redemptions are that the strongest actors, Robert Carlyle and Lana Parilla, are the ones going through the transformation.

        The writers gave the Dorothy story the short end of the stick. And unless they have something really interesting in mind next week, this episode, to me, “jumped the shark.”

        The writers are working too hard to pair Emma and Hook off. Their relationship comes out as forced.

        They are mucking around Rumple too much. Fortunately, RC is a superb actor, but the writing for him in this episode was weak. And his “captivity” via dagger isn’t compelling, unless you find lap dogs compelling. While the Wicked Witch story line is good, they really did Rumple, OUAT’s most interesting character, a great disservice.

        • Well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree about Regina’s light magic. I get what you mean but for me it isn’t that out of nowhere – for example in EF she wanted to destroy Zelena and in SB she slowly changed that (she asked Cora “what did you do to her” so she must have thought Zelena was hurt in some way), she got ultimate proof that Henry loves her just as much as she loves him, she got people to believe in her, help her, try to protect her for her sake, made partial amends with Snow…

          As for Rumple, I was disappointed but not surprised. I get why he killed Zelena even if Neal’s death was ultimately his choice but lying to Belle in such a way… But I think that also happened because she always came back to him, always forgive him without consequences – it’s like he knows that no matter what, she’ll stick with him so he can get away with anything. I’m not saying Belle should leave him forever but this endless circle of “don’t do it, ok, you did, sorry, i’ll forgive but never again” leads nowhere

  4. I have to be quick, but Gold didn’t actually promise Belle anything and she was very wrong to ask him to do the impossible, especially when she was ok with his killing Pan. The dagger he proposed over may very well have been real……..his words certainly were. He loves her so much, he wants to marry her – his words were beautiful.

    • The fact is that he duped her (if he actually did, which I’m not convinced of), and that would be a betrayal of trust. A huge one. Just after he’d proposed to her.

  5. Congrats to Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, after 2 and a half years of stringing rumbelle fans along with barley anything, they might finally have broken the back of the fanbase. A lot of fans are just done after they turned the proposal into a mockery.

  6. Unless they come up with something really good explanation in the finale, they have destroyed the Rumple/Belle relationship beyond repair. He doesn’t respect or trust her, and he his proposal was her being manipulated by the person she loves and trusts the most in the world. And he gloated about how he tricked her with the fake dagger. They just turned this relationship into something very ugly. Why should anyone root for Belle to marry him or stay with him now? Maybe this is what the writers wanted all along, since they seem to prefer not to have to write the relationship hence the constant separations and the lack of screentime.

    • I agree it sounds very bad, but I’ll wait until next week, reserving my judgment until then. The proposal seemed so genuine, and the jail scene so blatant and abrogation of everything that happened in the proposal.

  7. Rumblings of anger and dismay amidst the OUAT fanbase after Rumple’s “supposed” betrayal of Belle. I was already annoyed when they killed Neal off in order to PUSH the Emma/Hook coupling on people. The overlords say otherwise, but it seems that they are enamored with having Emma end up with the swashbuckler. They didn’t use MRJ as well as they could have. And now. They are setting fire to the most beloved coupling in the show. I am MOST SERIOUSLY SERIOUSLY DISPLEASED. They’re turning a show about hope and love into a show of lies and machinations. Definitely a bad move, if this is where OUAT is going. I think the overlords underestimate the anger that a substantial portion of the fan base is currently feeling. Or they failed to anticipate the blowback. Or worse, they don’t really care about their fanbase. OUAT is in danger of losing its soul.

    • I am willing to wait until next week and see what they have in store. A big part of me believes that there is something more to this, otherwise the proposal was simply gratuitous as would have been Rumple’s imprisonment. There is something (hopefully) afoot.

      • The whole Oz thing was gratuitous. They could have done without Dorothy and the other witches, put some actual thought in crafting a story, and would have been better for it. They’ve done this with Rapunzel but they did a horrible job with Oz. The whole Glinda arc isn’t every interesting either. The previous episode to the last (co written by Jane Espenson) was fantastic, easily one of the best episodes in the show. I didn’t recognize the show I was watching last Sunday. To me, it had no redeeming value. For a show about redemption, sacrifice, and love, that is a sad thing to say.

  8. Great discussion guys. Let’s keep it going!

  9. I had zero problems with Rumple killing Zelena, but the rumbelle ship is all but sunk in my mind. Unless
    something big happens in the finale to change my mind, I have jumped
    ship. Which is sad after spending years loving Rumbelle. I just don’t understand why after giving the rumbelle fans a pretty rough season they had to go and ruin the one happy moment we got with the fake dagger, making the whole think dishonest and manipulative. I just don’t see a way out of this, if Belle takes him back and tries to trust him again what does
    that say about her? I feel like his whole admission of being astounded
    by her love and trust (which initially was so gorgeous) was in
    retrospect just a prelude to his decision to exploit those very
    qualities in the woman he loves. If Belle is okay with that, well, what
    kind of relationship is that? It’s not the Belle I fell in love with
    in Skin Deep.

    • While this season has been great (for the most part), some of the decisions made with regards to character development baffles me. What was the reason for killing Bae again? To show that he’s a hero? We already know he’s a hero. And the showrunners are doing their best to shove the Emma/Hook relationship above everything else. And they seem to be hell bent on destroying the relationship Rumple and Belle) that many people have invested their emotions into. If this dissonance with the fans continues, they can almost be sure that season 4 will be their last.

      Frankly, an actor with Carlyle’s abilities deserve better writing and a more interesting role. Something that he had in this show, until the misguided (in my opinion) insistence on Emma and Hook. If you get the idea that I do not “ship” Captain Swann, you are not off the mark.

      Right now, I’m pretty upset with the writing and story development team. Last week’s episode was the nadir of creativity (as far as the show is concerned).

  10. Connie Standish

    OK, I’ve been debating whether I should post a comment or not but I wanted to talk about the Rumbelle proposal. I think the proposal was genuine, but I think what happened is that Rumple reverted back to his old habits. All throughout the second half of the third season Rumple has been through hell; he’s been resurrected only to be used as a slave by Zelena, she basically orchestrated Bae/Neal’s demise. On top of that, he lost his sanity when he melded his son to himself in order to keep him alive, his son (whom he has been searching for centuries) died in his arms, he was kept prisoner in his own home in the Enchanted Forest, then kept in a cage fit for a large dog when they got to Storybrooke, not to mention Zelena repeatedly (3×15 and 3×16) tried to get Rumple to kill Belle, and she was making unwelcome advances towards him. Was it absolutely crappy that he duped Belle, without question yes, it was a great betrayal of her trust, but I think it was understandable. The fact that he made his great sacrifice in 3A only to be used and abused in 3B, I think, has caused him to figure that there’s no point in being good or noble when he and his loved ones are only going to get hurt. All throughout his existence he’s been lead to believe that without power he is weak and unable to protect his loved ones. The manipulation tactics, in his mind, have been the only thing that has worked for him. He’s probably also figured that sparing the people who have wronged him (or his loved ones) will only lead to heartache, for instance, he spared Hook in The Outsider (thanks to Belle’s insistence) only for Hook to come back and shoot Belle in the back; and when he spared Regina she gave Belle fake memories. So the proposal scene, in my opinion, was him going back to his old ways, and to be honest he didn’t look happy about it; at the end of the scene (when he hugged Belle) he looked absolutely guilty, because he knows Belle is not going to like what he’s done once she finds out, and will probably leave him for it, but he has to do it in order to keep her (and himself) safe.

    I don’t like that Rumple deceived Belle this way, but I’m glad they’re finally together and I think this situation is going to be another test for their relationship. Can they really trust each other, and make this relationship work? Belle obviously trusts Rumple, and I think Rumple trusts her as well (more than he trusts himself when he’s with her), but only to an extent. I think Rumbelle is a beautiful relationship, but it also has its flaws, the main one being that they don’t know each other as well as they should (this could be due to their constant separations). Belle knows about Rumple’s past yes, but in Season 2 getting Rumple to open up about his past was almost like pulling teeth for Belle. Even though she knows about his past now, I don’t think she completely comprehends the true extent of Rumple’s fears and anxieties which go back centuries, she’s starting to but she’s not quite there yet. Plus Belle can be a little idealistic (which is both a virtue and a flaw for her) she can see the potential goodness in flawed people, but doesn’t foresee whether they would have the drive or even the desire to change (it was apparent in Season 2). So, I think when Belle asked him not to go after Zelena I don’t think she took into account what was probably going through Rumple’s head (besides the most recent trauma he’s experienced at Zelena’s hands) or what he might do. Rumple needs to open up to Belle and let her in, he’s been through so much physical and mental torture it’s hard to believe that he’s alright, he’s not. If Belle is going to be his anchor, he needs to communicate with her now more than ever since he’s fallen back into his old habits, or else Belle may ultimately leave him for good. I think had Rumple been more open with Belle about what he went through and how he’s feeling things would have gone differently, perhaps Belle would have suggested a different alternative, such as, putting Zelena in Pandora’s Box. One thing is for certain, they really need to sit down and have a serious conversation about trust and communication before they tie the knot.

    Again I’m not condoning Rumple’s actions at all, what he did to Belle (betraying her trust like that) was not cool, however, I’m also looking forward to seeing the fallout. This can open up a new challenge for Rumple and Belle, and this time they get to deal with it as a couple (which is something fans wanted). I am certain that this is not going to be the end of Rumbelle.

  11. I agree that Rumple has been through hell and that this explains his behavior to a large degree. Also, he is still living under the curse of being the Dark One, and he struggles with it constantly. In addition, while he was under Zelena’s control he did not have independent control of his power. He has generally lacked courage when he has been without power and I think this is another reason he appeared weak and did not fight her control as much as he might have.

  12. The Behind The Scenes pictures for episodes 21 and 22 have been released. Meghan Ohry is beautiful! Lots of pictures of Emma and Hook, one picture of Rumple and Belle. Looks like the overlords really don’t want Rumple and Belle to be together. Lots of pictures of Regina. No pictures of Zelena, but she figures to play a prominent role in the finale. The creators penned episode 22, so there is at least hope that the story will be somewhat coherent.

  13. What happened to the previous comments?

  14. Now that Intelligence has been cancelled, Meghan Ory will hopefully resume being a full time cast member for OUAT. Hook her up with Hook and see what happens when the full moon rises. If you get the idea that I am not buying into the OUAT overlords shoving the Hook/Emma relationship over everything else OUAT, then you are correct. I don’t get the Hook/Emma love at all. I am still upset that they killed Neal.

    • I certainly would like to see that as well. I’m not that angry about them killing Neal, except for how it affects Rumple and Henry. Neal did dump Emma based on Pinnochio telling him he needed to and I have no problem with the idea that Emma and Neal might not have been able to work together.

      What really has me annoyed was being told that I must love Regina and Robin Hood. Make me believe a couple belong together, not dump them in my lap as a done deal. Fortunately they have a fair amount of chemistry, but I wish I felt the show would have let it grow naturally, not had Tink announce it.