Once Upon a Time Season 3 Review
The third season of Once Upon a Time is an improvement over its predecessor and although it has its big problems, it is still so incredibly entertaining and fun with particularly good villains.
This season is split into two parts – the Neverland and the Oz storyline. Let’s talk about the first one. It starts right where the second season ended – with Henry being taken to Neverland and with our crew all uniting and going in there to save him. I liked that they killed Greg and Tamara instantly and I also really liked the first couple of episodes in which the crew learns to get along. I really liked the interactions between all of them as it is realistic that they at first did not get along so well. The relationships between Regina and Emma, Neal and Rumpel, Pan and Rumpel as well as Hook and Charming and Hook and Emma are highlights. Speaking of Pan, he is an excellent villain and I absolutely loved what they did with him not only in terms of personality, but also in terms of casting. Robbie Kay’s performance is just fantastic and he looks the part beautifully while also having a lot of charisma.
The relationship between him and Rumpelstiltskin is the highlight of this first half of the season. I just loved the twist near the end as it was not only very difficult to predict, but was also so emotionally satisfying and wonderfully fitting into the storyline and the character motivations. It is one of the most powerful moments in the show and their best twist ever. I loved the dialogue between the two and Think Lovely Thoughts is easily the best episode here with such a jaw-dropping third act. And the whole childhood theme is so sophisticated here. I loved what they did with the Darling children as well and the whole Peter Pan mythology is phenomenal here and such a wild, dark and yet suitably different treatment that works. Ariel also gets a fantastic treatment and it is interesting how they did not change her story too much as opposed to other characters in this show. And that is perfectly fine as her episodes are all the more charming, quotable and endearing for it. And the actress did such a nice job as well.
As for Oz, that half of this season is easily the better one here mostly because of one character – Wicked/Zelena. She is absolutely fantastic because her motivation is pretty well realized and she is such a well developed, but thankfully true villain. Zelena wants to change the past as she is the abandoned sister of Regina who did not get the same chance that Regina received. She now wants to time travel and change that, but first has to collect some ingredients for the curse to be enacted. The story here is quite well crafted and always so wonderfully entertaining to watch. The pacing is interesting here. The Neverland saga is very drawn out and sometimes slow, but the Oz saga is quite the opposite – very fast and energetic. And while I would have loved for both of them to be a bit slower/faster and that creates a jarring shift in tone, I still liked that approach as it made the first half well fleshed out in characterization and the second half beautifully action-oriented and intriguing.
I really loved the backstory of Zelena and how she became evil, but what they did with Oz is stupendous. Whereas Neverland wasn’t particularly interesting or pleasing to the eye, Oz is visually splendid and is very faithful to the original story while still changing some necessary details. I loved how Dorothy and Glinda came into the whole picture and I loved the different approach with the story told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West being very refreshing and intriguing.
I strongly disliked Snow and Charming in this season and, whereas they were tolerable and even interesting before, they’re just so boring and even annoying this time around with cheesy lines and dull attitudes. However, Emma I really enjoyed here. In Neverland she gets some emotional scenes and her orphan status is well put to use whereas in the second half of the season she is finally learning magic (Regina being her teacher is awesome and those scenes were so fun to watch) and even getting to go into the Enchanted Forest for the first time. That changed a lot when her character is concerned as she finally got the whole fairytale/magic lives that they parents lead and she finally comes to terms with it and comes to love Snow and David. That was great and those two last episodes were overall immensely entertaining. Although the ‘Back to the Future‘ parallel was too much accentuated and the episodes still seemed like filler, it was still a bold choice to kill off a villain before the finale and to have the finale deal with the already established storyline and characters. But it also worked as those two episodes are probably the most entertaining ones here and also the most emotional ones with some moments being beyond sweet. And it was a great vehicle for Emma and Hook.
Speaking of Hook, I loved his character. The way he changed was dealt with carefully and his relationship with Emma is fantastic and one of the best relationships Once Upon a Time has along with Rumpel and Belle. You root for the guy and he is always so funny and charming. Now, as for Regina, I really do not know what to think of that cliffhanger. I loved her in this season and her shift to the full good guy mode now is welcome and well handled as it got her two seasons to get there. Her relationship with Emma is superb, but her romance with Robin Hood is also quite interesting and I rooted for them to end up together which is why it was frustrating when I realized they won’t. I feel that she has to remain good now as the show would be repeating itself if she went bad again. Robin Hood is also quite good now despite his poor introduction.
Rumpelstiltskin is amazing here and remains the best character OUAT has ever had. His story is so complex as is his personality and his constantly shifting actions. His death was so emotional and so well executed and they of course brought him back and their constant refusal to actually kill off some main characters continues to be frustrating. But in this case, it is okay as he is the highlight of the show and although he was underused and humiliated in the second half by being essentially the puppet of Zelena, I still liked that they brought him back and he continues to be great. Belle is as effervescent as ever and her brief Lacey persona was very interesting as well.
Neal is great as well and his death is the only real one here and albeit somewhat poorly executed, it was quite impactful. Henry was super annoying in Neverland, but somehow progressed a lot later on and was much more likable with Jared S. Gilmore’s acting also improving a lot from before. The dwarfs continue to be a nuisance along with the Blue Fairy, but Tinker Bell is overall fine, albeit disappointing. Aurora and Mulan’s relationship is very interesting and that last moment between the two is heartbreaking. And Elsa is well introduced in the last scene and it’s definitely exciting, but still so contrived and forced. But I am looking forward to her in Season 4 and I hope she delivers. And I hated with they did with Rapunzel as she is so weak and underutilized.
The score continues to be too on the nose whereas the special effects are weak, but much improved and at times stupendous with the flying monkeys being so well realized and Oz being great. The pacing is all over the place, but the emotion is evident. The dialogue is at times great, but sometimes quite cheesy and overly simplistic. The problems here are mostly the dialogue and some of the characters, but most especially the action which is super brief and contrived along with some illogical and stupid decisions from the characters. They just make some incredibly dumb choices and that continues to be a big problem for this show. The acting is great with Robert Carlyle once again delivering and Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue are terrific too. And Rebecca Mader is awesome and wonderfully theatrical as Zelena. The humor is so good, definitely cheesy, but a lot of fun and at times hilarious. The adaptation of the stories is great and this season is wonderfully unpredictable with a lot of good twists and turns. It isn’t as good as the first season, but is slightly worse and it is definitely better than the second one.
Once Upon a Time Season 3 is so much fun. It has some annoying characters, many illogical moments and the dialogue and special effects continue to be weak, but most of the characters are great with their interactions being superb, the Neverland and Oz stories are so well realized, the villains are absolutely terrific and the season is imbued with a lot of great humor, energy and wonderful over-the-top fun.