This review contains spoilers! Proceed with caution.
A great thing about Once Upon a Time is that it’s packed with awesome female characters. ‘Ruby Slippers’ was all about these ladies that we’ve come to know and love, and the ways in which they support one another.
Unable to trust Rumple (and for good reason), Belle went to the next best person to save her unborn child. Zelena’s decision to help her – mother to mother – suggests she’s no longer as Wicked as she once was. Her solution was simple: give Belle a sleeping curse as a loophole to Hades’ contract. The plan exposed the true state of Belle and Rumple’s relationship, as they acknowledged that Rumple wouldn’t be able to break the curse. (This was an interesting twist in the traditional True Love narrative, since up until now we’ve been led to believe that True Loves are forever). Despite the risk of never waking up again, Belle went ahead with the idea. The fiercely determined side to her that has emerged these past few seasons has been pretty damn awesome to witness.
Sleeping curses seemed to be the topic of the episode. We saw via flashback that Mulan and Ruby had befriended Dorothy in Oz shortly before Zelena cursed her to eternal slumber. It was hinted earlier this season that Ruby might be Once Upon a Time’s first canonically queer character, but what came as a surprise was that Dorothy was the object of her affections. Although their romance was rushed, the beautiful thing was that Red Kansas was treated just like any other couple on the show. Ruby didn’t need to make a big coming out speech, because her feelings for Dorothy were understood and accepted. The eventual True Love’s Kiss between Dorothy and Ruby removed all possible doubt. The show’s writers didn’t shy away from canon, and it’s that kind of positive, unfettered representation that the LGBTQ community deserves.
Mulan and Ruby were another great dynamic this episode. I loved that Mulan adopted a big-sister role in giving Ruby advice about Dorothy. However, I can’t help but be a little disappointed that Red Warrior didn’t end up happening. Ruby and Mulan are both undergoing journeys of self-discovery that are equally important, and Mulan’s former feelings for Aurora deserve to be explicitly addressed. The writers have done an excellent job so far, and hopefully they’ll continue that by delving deeper into this storyline.
‘Ruby Slippers’ enforced that finding True Love and living Happily Ever After are not notions exclusive to heterosexual people. And in an era of television where characters are at greater risk of being killed off simply because of their sexual orientation, this is an all-too-important message. Well done, Once Upon a Time!