Lesson learned: Don't throw away your cassette tapes.
Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC

When you’re a little girl in Minnesota who hasn’t realized her true magical powers yet, what do you do? You sing.

Guys, it’s a tale as old as time. You want to be part of that world where there’s no one to tell you no, or where to go. You sing like you’re waiting on that next adventure just around the river bend. You pack all your hopes and dreams into a performance and take that sinking boat and point it home… wait. Wrong Once.

This Once is going for a musical wedding episode, which can be scary. For this to work, I need you to check your magical plot doubts at the door. I need you to not be that friend who saw La La Land and insisted that Emma and Ryan can’t actually sing. I need you to root for Zelena with me. Let’s grade these numbers and this wedding together and talk about the MAGIC OF SONG.

Little Emma goes for it back at the group home, trying to record herself a hit song in 1991. Her angry teenage counterpart breaks in mid-song to remind her that she’s just a lonely orphan, but it worked for Annie, so WHO KNOWS. In the present, Snow asks Emma which dress she’s decided on, but she hasn’t decided. Fortunately, Belle found Snow’s old dress in the back of Rumple’s shop.

“Powerful Magic of Song” — Snow White, Prince Charming: B

That flashes us back to Snow and David’s wedding way back when, after the Evil Queen nearly ruined it. She steps out and wishes on a star, hoping to have what it takes to make Emma safe and happy. The next morning, a whistling bird shows up, launching everyone into MUSICAL VERSE. It’s the moment of truth — Snow does fine, but David… David has pipes, y’all. They decide together that the most powerful weapon they have is song. And like I said, their voices are great, but is it enough to beat the Evil Queen? I mean, c’mon. Where the lyrics may not quite get there (“every line ends with a rhyme, don’t know how, but it’s sublime”), it seems that both Ginnifer and Josh are just rolling with it. God love ‘em.

Back in the present, Emma’s sipping on mimosas when Snow shows up with her dress. Emma loves it, but as soon as she touches it, it turns to black. The Black Fairy shows up and everyone is shocked, but none more than Snow, who is mostly ticked that she’s doing this on Emma’s wedding day. The Black Fairy throws down and says that they’re going to battle, and that Emma is nothing more than the same orphan girl she once was. The Black Fairy sends the heroes to the clock tower to reveal enough Black Fairy dust to curse the town twice over, to be released at 6 o’clock — the same time as Emma’s wedding.

“Love Doesn’t Stand a Chance” — Evil Queen: C

Regina and Zelena take on the task of disabling the dark fairy dust, since Regina already ruined Emma’s parents’ wedding. That launches back to Regina’s time as the Evil Queen, and of course she’s broken into song as well because wishes on stars know no limits. Naturally, she hates that everyone is singing. And how do you convey your hatred of song? Through BROADWAY-THEMED ROCK MUSIC and light grinding on mirrors. We get a little paso doble action as the Evil Queen croons about how Snow and Charming’s love doesn’t stand a chance, and it’s the best use of a cape we’ve seen outside of Monday night.

“Revenge is Gonna Be Mine” — Captain Hook: A+

In Storybrooke, Emma goes to find Hook to break the news that she still has to fight that final battle. She tells him that she has to do this alone, and he’s heartbroken because he knows that she’s come to say goodbye. All she says is that she loves him. But back in the Enchanted Forest, Snow and Charming run into Hook. They’re ready to find the Evil Queen, and they want to use the Jolly Roger to get there, and guess what? IT LAUNCHES HIM INTO SONG.

Hook gets a pretty wonderful Queen-inspired number about revenge… on the crocodile that snagged his hand. As everyone knows, all people with an accent can sing, so we don’t even question Killian. Snow and David strike a deal with him mid-song to use the ship and help him get the croc, and it ends on a nice ensemble power note, and man do we all feel alive.

Of course, in present day, Hook has an even bigger obstacle — helping Emma defeat the Black Fairy. He goes to address things with Rumple, who is not apologizing for lying about the Black Fairy. So Hook shoots him with dream shade from Neverland. But as he makes his move, the Black Fairy appears, and it seems like our boy might be in trouble. Mind you, while all this is happening, Henry shows up to give his mom his seal of approval at the police station. In the process, he finds her orphan music, but Emma shuts it down real fast. Who’s willing to bet that it’s her own music that brings her back to life??

“Wicked Always Wins” — Zelena: A-

While Regina and Zelena work together to shut down that dark fairy dust, Zelena jogs Regina’s memory. If Regina can isolate the part of the potion that once stopped time, she can buy them more time to break the spell. We flash back again, hoping for an inspired Regina version of “If I Could Turn Back Time,” but alas, we get the Evil Queen visiting Rumple. As the music starts, Rumple fakes us out because the Dark One doesn’t sing.

But Zelena does! Again, the accent theory holds as Zelena belts out a song about how Rumple chose the wrong wicked sister to curse. I know it’s an understood fact at this point, but it would be nice to see Zelena be more than just the lesser sister. But in this episode, she is the Beyoncé to Regina’s Kelly Rowland.

Back in Storybrooke, Regina and Zelena have isolated the freezing portion of the spell. But Rumple was saved by Black Fairy, and he appears in front of Emma’s family, snags that potion, and uses it on them right as Emma goes to confront the Black Fairy. Emma attempts to stop her, but she makes Emma remember what it’s like to be alone. How? By playing that song she once recorded on her tape recorder. Henry, being the most logical adult on this show, gives Emma a pep talk. She maybe takes it the wrong direction by concluding that she needs to just give in and turn her heart over to the Black Fairy to protect Henry and her family. Not quite, girl.

“Powerful Magic of Song/Love Doesn’t Stand a Chance” (Reprise)

Back in the Enchanted Forest, the Queen faces off against Snow and David with a little bit of fire but mostly song. It all gets a little yell-y as they combine the songs together, but Regina pulls the song right out of them, and admittedly, watching Snow and David try to sing again without having their “song” is kind of hilarious. Of course, she did it with Zelena’s help, and Regina sends them home. Devastated, Blue appears to Snow and David and explains that unfortunately, the power of song was never used to defeat the Evil Queen. It’s meant to buy the world a Coke. Jokes aside, it’s meant to be placed in Emma’s heart because the power of song will help her win a major battle. Which one, pray tell? Probably the one with the Black Fairy! She just has to let it bubble to the top.

“The Song Inside of Me” — Emma Swan: A

Waiting for the worst conclusion ever, Henry throws his blank storybook in rage. Henry! But he discovers a surprise page that reveals the moment Blue placed all that song inside of Emma’s heart. It might just be too late though, because Emma goes to the Black Fairy to tell her family goodbye and offer her heart to the Black Fairy. She rips it out, but she can’t kill her. No matter what Robin Thicke may have led us to believe, it’s nearly impossible to kill song! Henry rushes in to reveal to Emma what he’s discovered, and as her heart hits the ground, young Emma’s song begins to play, and thus, grown Emma sings!

“Happy Beginning” — Ensemble: C

Fittingly, Emma’s song is nearly a perfect addition to Once. Emma realizes her power mid-song, discovering how strong she can be while also realizing that she’s not alone. Henry picks up her heart and shoves it back into her chest, but the Black Fairy isn’t done. That curse is still coming. Even so, it’s time for the wedding we’ve all been waiting for. With Archie officiating, Emma is walked down the aisle to Hook with Snow and David on hand. It’s been a long time coming, guys, but we get our wish — Swan and Hook are married.

They spend their first dance singing their own song, and eventually the group joins in. It’s a nice number about how this isn’t a Happy Ending but a Happy Beginning. Unfortunately, it’s probably the weakest song of the entire episode, but it does come with some pretty sick choreography, and you have to love that. But as we stated before, that curse is still very much a thing, and as the song ends, her curse blasts through the town. Emma says, “Wherever we end up, we’re going to win,” and the whole screen fades to black.

Listen. Once Upon a Time has gone off the tracks a bit in the past couple seasons, and this season has been a journey, but the musical episode did something that very, very few musical episodes manage to do — put things back on track. You can’t course-correct everything and everyone in one episode, but the musical episode brought a new life into Once that hasn’t been around for a while. What did you think? Were you surprised by the singing, and what do you think the Black Fairy’s curse will do to the town?

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.

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