It might be early to call Season 5 the best season of Once Upon a Time yet. It is however the most enjoyable season in years and all thanks to the alluring and terrifying performance of Jennifer Morrison as Dark Swan. The Storybrooke sections of the story have come alive in a way that hasn’t been felt in years. Everyone, not just the extended Charming family, is in on the action. A problem remains on Once Upon a Time and it’s an issue that has plagued the series since Season 3. The flashbacks are a constant bore and Once Upon a Time would be better removing them entirely.
Why It’s Not Working in Season 5
Not that I’m necessarily complaining because it gave us Dark Swan early but Once Upon a Time really shot themselves in foot in the season premiere. When Once Upon a Time gave us the end of the Camelot story before it even really began, the story was doomed. There is almost no tension in the flashback story this season because the outcome is predetermined. The heroes will fail, Emma will turn dark and everything will be reset once everyone goes back to Storybrooke and loses their memories.
Once Upon a Time‘s method of correcting this inherent issue has only caused more problems. In an effort to make Camelot more interesting they’ve introduced King Arthur has a quasi-villain, or at least as a man who is selfish and power-hungry. The intention behind the story is appreciated and any other season it might’ve been interesting but not for this one. Any time spent with King Arthur as the bad guy takes it away from Dark Swan. I can’t imagine any Once Upon a Time fan who wouldn’t want to see more of their former hero being the ultimate incarnation of evil.
As it is, it feels like Once Upon a Time is killing time with the King Arthur story line. It negatively effects the Dark Swan in more than reduced screen time. There appears to be a lack of confidence or planning in the Dark Swan story. There is an assumption made about the story. Once Upon a Time can’t sustain the Dark Swan stuff for a whole season (or half season) so they need to fill time with this King Arthur nonsense.
Why It Hasn’t Worked in Past Seasons
This is not just a problem with Season 5. It has been brewing for a while. The last time the flashbacks benefited our main group of characters was in Season 3 in the Neverland arc. While that maybe wasn’t the best time in Once Upon a Time history overall, there were interesting revelations in the flashbacks. We learned things about our characters that explained their actions both past and present.
This was the last season that was possible because for the most part each major character’s history was exhausted. There was no clearer demonstration that Once Upon a Time had run out of ideas for their characters’ past than introducing Bo Peep as a shepherd crime lord tormenting David. Not to mention it was a complete continuity nightmare figuring out how everything exactly worked as more flashbacks were introduced.
Again Once Upon a Time‘s solution to solve the problem caused more problems. The answer to keep this clearly irrelevant plot device was to just wipe everyone’s memory with a curse. For starters this is a pretty lazy attempt to make the flashbacks seem important. It also is uninteresting attempt for the same reason that Season 5’s flashbacks aren’t working. There is no fun watching a story that has already been spoiled.
The forgotten memory curse (and flashbacks) worked in Season 1 when we were still learning the histories of the fairy tale characters. It was clever how Once Upon a Time twisted the classic tales and seeing how their curse identities matched up with their true identities. In Season 1, my favorite episodes were the ones that explored Snow’s past because of how it explained Mary-Margaret’s personality and actions.
The subsequent memory curses didn’t work in the same way because they never changed the character’s personalities. No one remembered what they did in the past so it didn’t inform their character in any way. Did Emma change in any measurable way when she learned that the Snow Queen almost adopted her? No she didn’t. She was somewhat sad at the Snow Queen’s death but there was longtime mourning. The same goes for any of the other “revelations” were exposed in new memory curses. These events just existed because Once Upon a Time instituted this unbreakable rule that flashbacks must exist.
The Real Solution
Once Upon a Time really should just exorcise the flashbacks from their playbook. If they do need to stick around, for whatever reason, they should at least become less frequent. Maybe every episode doesn’t need to have a flashback element. Maybe they should only show up when a new character or characters are introduced. As Once Upon a Time continues it’s fifth year on the air, flashback episodes should become an event and not a staple.
Quiz: Which Once Upon a Time Land Are You From?>>>
But what do you think? Are you tired of watching the flashback stories on Once Upon a Time? Do you still find some enjoyment in them? Am I dead wrong about the King Arthur story and you actually prefer that to Dark Swan? What is your favorite flashback story on Once Upon a Time?
Once Upon a Time season 5 airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)