Once Upon A Time S06E01 “The Savior” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- MANY YEARS AGO: A horse rider is chased across a plain by a man on a flying carpet lobbing magical bolts at him. He’s either a really bad aim or Carpet Airlines is experiencing severe turbulence.
- The rider makes it to the humble abode of Aladdin, seeking his help, but Aladdin is ill and not taking visitors, says his “nurse” (who’ll appear later in the episode as the Oracle).
- Jafar appears at the door, reduces the poor rider to dust (well, it’s point blank range now) then mocks Aladdin for suffering the inevitable downside of being a “savior”: “That’s why you never hear these words of a savior: they lived happily ever after.”
- NOW, IN STORYBROOKE: Hook is horny but his canoodling with Emma is cut short by the arrival of a dirigible carrying the
season six plot arcsdenizens of the Land Of Untold Stories.
- The dirigible crashes and its occupant scatter into the woods. Snow later locates them and convinces them to trust her (though we don’t actually get to meet any of them up close this episode).
- Emma and Regina combine their powers to try to defeat Hyde, the new owner of Storybrooke (having been bequeathed the place by the Dark One/Rumple in exchange for information about how Belle can be woken up). They fail. Hyde gets all gloaty.
- Instead, following Jekyll’s advice, they defeat Hyde using some gizmo created from leftover bits of The Land Of Untold Tales… or something. It doesn’t make much sense. But it works. He’s carted off to jail.
- So, hurrah! Shortest season ever. Except…
- …Emma has hand tremors and visions of a battle which, of course, she won’t tell anyone about, because making everybody pissed off with her evasive attitude is always the path to lightness and joy, isn’t it? Sigh.
- Hyde knows something about why Emma is having these visions. She visits him in jail, they glower at each other a bit, then he tells he to follow the red bird.
- This may sound like a metaphor but no; pretty soon Emma spots a red bird and follows it.
- It leads her to the Oracle (Aladdin’s nurse) who shows Emma a vision of a battle in which a hooded figure runs her through with a sword. The Oracle tells Emma that her story must end in her death, and while the path can be changed the destination will always be the same (she clearly has a day job writing messages for fortune cookies).
- Elsewhere: Mr Gold goes to the Castle Of Morpheus where he uses sleepy dust to enter Belle’s dreams to try to wake her.
- He meets a guy claiming to be Morpheus, god of dreams, who tells Gold that time is limited.
- Gold tries too woo back Belle and nearly succeeds but then Belle remembers all the lies and says she can never trust Gold again.
- Which is exactly what Morpheus wants to hears because Morpheus isn’t actually Morpheus but Belle’s unborn son; he was sprinkled with sleepy dust too so this is his dream as well. He doesn’t want mum back with dad. Belle’s attitude has reassured him that a reunion isn’t on the cards so he allows her to wake up.
- Meanwhile: Regina has a hissyfit on Zelana, blaming her for Robin’s death. Zelena leaves Regina’s house and runs straight into the Evil Queen.
We’re calling this one: that was the dullest Once Upon A Time season premiere to date. If you watched this without knowing, you’d probably assume this was a mid-season filler.
The producers have promised a different feel for this season, after a series of half-season-long mini arcs and ongoing stories predominantly set in other lands for the past few years. Season six, we’re led to believe, will concentrate more on Storybrooke and attempt to capture the spirit of the early episodes.
Which is a noble aim, and probably a good idea. At this stage, the show could do with a change of pace and refresh in its approach to stop it getting stale. But there’s little sign of that here. Aside from the fact that – with one exception – it’s all set in Storybrooke, the episode feels very much like business as usual; not so much a new beginning as a mopping up exercise – swiftly, efficiently but somewhat unenthusiastically dealing with plots threads left dangling from last season and trying to weave them into the new season.
Pace-wise, the episode does little to convince you that we’re embarking on a bold new chapter in the show’s life. And neither does it do much to re-establish Storybrooke as a living, breathing community. After one brief smooch for Hook and Emma, we’re thrust straight into a relentlessly plot-lead episode. From the second the Land Of Untold Stories dirigible turns up, the show does its usual breathless sprint from scene to scene, literally only slowing down for a Regina monologue at the end that hints at the themes of the season to come. Notably, this quieter moment is one of the episode’s highlights.
We’re introduced to Aladdin and Jafar in a far from thrilling scene that fails to raise any excitement or anticipation for the newbies. The cast is now so huge that many of the popular characters are sidelined or given little more than cameos. And the “Emma mystery of the season” feels even more contrived than usual to give Jennifer Morrison a central role.
“The Savior” isn’t bad, just dispiritingly average for a season premiere. Hopefully it’s just a necessary piece of housekeeping so the writers can move from “what went before” to “what comes next” and we will start to see some real evidence of this alleged new vibe soon.
- The arrival of the dirigible from the Land Of Untold Stories is impressive.
- Regina and Snow’s bonding session is very sweet.
- “A cricket? Sorry. I didn’t mean that like I was anti-cricket.”
- Okay, we’ll admit – we were blindsided about the Morpheus revelation. Although since he comes across as such a creepy little git, we’d caution Belle not to take his advice at face value.
- The effects showing how Rumple’s castle starts changing as Rumple woos Belle back are very effective; the scene itself might be a remix of a previous hit but it still brings a lump to your throat.
- For an opening scene of a new season, the special FX for the flying carpet are merely passable at best (and like something out of a ’90s video game at worst).
- Aladdin and Jafar are introduced in particularly uninspiring confrontation then promptly go AWOL.
- If Once Upon A Time were science fiction, the way Team Storybrooke defeats Hyde would be to most unforgivable technobabble ever.
- Emma just goes from one bum deal to another, doesn’t she?
- And how come she doesn’t want to tell anyone about her tremors and visions? After five seasons in Storybrooke you’d think she’s have learnt the wisdom of sharing by now.
- So Belle’s anti-Gold again now. That’ll change in a few episodes. Then change back. Then change back again. Oh, it’s all getting a bit repetitive, isn’t it?
- With Hollywood becoming more and more concerned with diversity (and rightfully so) we’re surprised Once Upon A Time decided to make the Oracle so blandly white American.
- Rumple’s castle in its apparently “terrifying” form isn’t particularly terrifying, just badly lit.
- Hyde’s contact lenses are so laughably fake they’re actually distracting.
And The Random:
- The title card shows someone riding a magic carpet.
- Jafar was previously played by Lost’s Naveen Andrews in Once Upon A Time In Wonderland. He’s been replaced by Oded Fehr (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Charmed) who’s actually a very good actor normally but fails to make much impact here.
- The red bird is presumably supposed to be Iago the parrot from the Aladdin films and TV series.
- In Belle’s dream Rumple re-enacts their honeymoon dance from the season four premiere (which is in itself a re-enactment of the famous dance scene from the animated Beauty And The Beast).
Review by Jonathan Norton