‘Once Upon A Time’ Season 5 Episode 18 Review: LGBT Romance Highlights ‘Ruby Slippers’
Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 5 Episode 18 – Ruby Slippers:
Once Upon A Time has dealt with LGBT romance before, but never with as much depth as we get here with “Ruby Slippers”. While you could make the argument that the show should be focusing more on the Hades story at this late stage of the season rather than a one-off story about Ruby’s romance with Dorothy. But I think this episode illustrates why not every one-off story has to feel like filler.
What I loved about tonight’s episode was the matter-of-fact presentation of the love story between Ruby (Meghan Ory) and Dorothy (Teri Reeves). It’s the kind of gay love story we should be getting more often on television, the sort that doesn’t make a big deal out of two people of the same gender loving each other. This wasn’t a television event, it was just another love story in the OUAT universe. And it was presented just the same as any other. Of course, this isn’t to say there aren’t dramatic wrinkles to the story, since Ruby is given a fairly complex characterization here. Long story short, the flashbacks reveal that Ruby teamed up with Dorothy to help her rescue Toto from Zelena (Rebecca Mader) in Oz. In the process, Ruby transformed into a werewolf in front of her. Later that night, Dorothy bails on the team of Ruby and Mulan (Jamie Chung), never to be seen again. This leaves Ruby believing that Dorothy fled out of disgust. Granted, it still doesn’t stop her from casting a tracking spell on Zelena that leads her to the Underworld, with the hopes of finding out what happened to her love, Dorothy. But she can’t allow herself to believe that Dorothy could ever possibly love her back, and it’s a characterization that reflects the journey of self-discovery experienced by a lot of people in the LGBT. The self-doubt, the fear of rejection, the feeling of being unlovable, and the gradual journey towards self-acceptance. It’s all there in Ruby’s characterization this week, and it gives us some pretty great moments, such as Snow White’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) awesome speech to Ruby about how love is scary but still totally worth it, or Mulan telling Ruby to take her chance, since she knows all too well the pain of waiting too long to act on true love. Ruby awaking Dorothy from Zelena’s sleeping curse with True Love’s Kiss is a beautiful moment, made all the more poignant by Dorothy revealing that she didn’t flee out of disgust that night, but out of fear of losing Ruby if they’d continued on their mission together. They kiss again, more passionately this time, and it’s not played for sexual thrills or headline-grabbing sensationalism. Say what you will about how quickly we’re expected to believe in this love story, but this felt far more honest and grounded than many romances on Once Upon A Time. If nothing else, Ruby and Dorothy had great chemistry, so that it was at least believable that they could develop this attraction over the course of one evening. And hey, this is a show about fairy tales, after all. So it’s not as if a love story this abrupt necessarily strains credulity. I thought this that rare one-off storyline with a complete arc for the character on which it’s centered, as Ruby got to journey from self-doubt to self-acceptance, from loneliness to true love. It was pretty great stuff overall.
Of course, I was a bit less impressed with the story centering on David (Josh Dallas) finding a loophole that would allow him to take Snow’s place in the Underworld, since it once again relies on the show using magic as a way around having its characters actually earn their victories. In this case, David learns that since Snow’s name is on a tombstone in the Underworld, she can’t leave until Hades (Greg Germann) is defeated. But David can, which means he can actually go and be with baby Neal. However, he doesn’t want to leave Snow, so Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) uses his Hades-enchanted hook to scratch Snow’s name off the tombstone and write David’s in its place. Trading a life for a life now means Snow White can leave, and yet it still feels like sort of a cheat that provided a shortcut to the hero’s goal of being able to leave the Underworld. The redeeming factor in all this is that there’s a very clear sacrifice being made here. It’s not as if everyone is getting to leave without having defeated Hades. It’s just one person. And it’s not as if the show didn’t set this up, as it’s been explained that for every life that moves on, one must stay behind in the Underworld. So it makes sense, in its own way. But I think it would have been more compelling to see how David adjusts to fatherhood without Snow White there to help guide him, while also getting to see how Snow White rises to the challenges of heroism without David around. Perhaps the show will come back to this story at some point, and approach it from a different angle. But even if it doesn’t, I have to say it’s still more compelling than what happened with Gold (Robert Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie De Ravin).
It was disappointing to see the show sideline Belle right as her storyline was starting to get interesting. Upon learning from Zelena that Hades could accelerate her pregnancy to take her child sooner, Belle decides to place herself under a sleeping curse, essentially locking her body and protecting it from being manipulated by Hades. However, Belle sets the condition that Gold will have to get her father to use True Love’s Kiss to awaken her, and only then after he’s defeated Hades and voided the contract for their baby. Gold warning Belle that he won’t be able to wake her with True Love’s Kiss because he’ll never be pure like she wants is a compelling direction for the character, since we no longer have any hemming and hawing about the kind of man he is. We know he’s not a hero, although I’m not sure how much of a villain he is either. Gold simply walks the middle ground, and he’s making no apologies for it, which is refreshing. That said, I wish we’d gotten to see more of Belle’s conflict over having darkened her soul last week to save Gold. This was an opportunity to explore Belle’s potential for embracing the same sort of power that drives Gold, yet she reverts back to guilt and self-loathing rather than analyzing how her actions last week might have been necessary. I love De Ravin, and I hope Belle gets to wake up soon so we’ll have her back. Because, for now, it feels like the show isn’t getting all that it could out of her. But I’ll withhold judgment on this storyline for now, since I get the feeling that the reason for going in this direction will make more sense in the weeks to come. Well, hopefully. At the very least, it’s clear that whatever mission Gold has ahead won’t be made any easier by Zelena willingly joining forces with Hades at the end of the episode. I mean, we’re talking about a woman who threatened to hurt a girl’s innocent dog teaming up with a man who MELTED that same girl’s aunt in the Underworld (seriously, that was some disturbing stuff!). So while it’s likely a happy ending is in store for our heroes (I mean, come on, it’s Once Upon A Time), it’s going to take a hell of a fight to get it. With any luck, the rest of the season proves as engaging as “Ruby Slippers”.
But what did you think of Once Upon A Time Season 5 Episode 18, “Ruby Slippers”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Once Upon A Time, read our review of last week’s epic “Her Handsome Hero”!