Grading the Season Finales 2015: Once Upon a Time



I wanted to take this moment to thank all of you who’ve joined us here at NGN for our Once Upon a Time discussions every week. It’s a true joy to get to talk about this show with such a wonderful group of fellow fans!

Title Operation Mongoose Part 1/Operation Mongoose Part 2 (4.21/4.22)

Written By Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz

Two-Sentence Summary When Henry finds a way into Isaac’s new story and alternate reality, he has to help Regina find her happy ending before it’s too late. Meanwhile, the threat of the Dark One’s curse leaving Rumplestiltskin’s body grows stronger.

Game-Changing Moment There was more than one game-changing moment in this finale—from Henry becoming the Author (and then possibly eliminating the role of Author altogether by breaking the pen) to Rumplestiltskin ending the episode in a state of suspended animation as we wait to find out who he will be with a heart no longer held by dark forces. However, no moment changed the game like Emma sacrificing herself to the power of the Dark One. With her powerful light magic now existing in the same body as powerful dark magic, she will most likely be a version of the Dark One unlike any we’ve ever seen. Her new state of being will also change things for the characters who care about her, and the quest to destroy the darkness in her (and to destroy the Dark One curse altogether) will be a strong focus for Season Five. None of the main characters on this show can go back to normal after Emma’s sacrifice, and it will be wonderful to watch these people fight to save the savior after she fought so hard for all of them to be happy. I’ve never been this excited about a new season of Once Upon a Time before. That’s the power of a great, game-changing cliffhanger.

Finale M.V.P. It seems like Emma Swan goes through the emotional wringer in every Once Upon a Time season finale, and while that isn’t always easy to watch as a fan of the character (who just wants her to be happy for five minutes), it’s wonderful to watch as a fan of Jennifer Morrison as an actress. In “Operation Mongoose,” Morrison was asked to play so many different emotions, and she made each one ring true, painting perhaps the most well-rounded portrait of Emma Swan we’ve ever seen.

Emma has grown so much throughout this fourth season, and this finale was a chance for Morrison to show this character at her most emotionally open, while still keeping every display of emotion true to who we know Emma to be. More than any other actor in what was really an actor’s showcase of a finale, Morrison made me feel everything Emma was feeling—from her radiant joy at seeing both Henry and Hook again in the alternate universe to her deep sense of determination and love when she made her sacrifice. And when her two biggest emotional moments came—telling Regina how much she loves Hook and then telling Hook before the darkness took her—Morrison delivered with the trademark emotional honesty that has always made her work as Emma so compelling.

“Operation Mongoose” was a turning point for Emma Swan as a character in so many ways. It focused on her bravery not just in terms of wielding a sword but also in terms of opening her heart and believing in the power of hope and love with more intensity than she ever has before. In order for her sacrifice to resonate, this episode needed to make us care about Emma’s heart more than ever before, and Morrison did that through showing just how strong and open Emma’s heart has grown, which made its fate even more devastating.

Most Memorable Line “You taught me how to be a hero. You taught me how to believe in hope. And I do. And now I need you to believe in it, too.” (Emma, to Snow and Charming)

What Didn’t Work I wanted to care about Isaac; I really did. I just didn’t find his backstory compelling at all. His rationale for wanting to give villains a happy ending (“a bad boss,” as Charming put it) was pretty weak, and I was honestly expecting something a little meatier in terms of his motivations. That was probably my only real disappointment in this finale.

The only other thing I had trouble buying in this episode could turn out to be something I enjoy depending on how it plays out next season, and that’s Rumplestiltskin’s fate. In the moment, it seemed unfair to be able to take the darkness out of his body and then give him a clean slate and a blank heart to begin again. After two hours of watching him be a hero under false pretenses and ultimately choose to be a villain again—ready to kill Henry because he was afraid to go back to reality and pay the price for his darkness, it felt frustrating to see him get what looks like a fresh start. It’s almost too easy, which is why I have to imagine something is going to go wrong with the Apprentice’s plan. And that’s why I’m going to wait until next season to judge how this all plays out.

What Worked/Finale Analysis This was my favorite Once Upon a Time finale yet because it honored the heart and soul of this show in every character’s story, every relationship development, and every plot twist. This is a show about family and love, a show about hope and belief, and a show about what it truly means to be brave. And this episode spent quality time on each of those themes, while still providing plenty of fairytale fun along the way.

Like last season’s finale, “Operation Mongoose” was simply a thoroughly entertaining two hours of television. I loved the gorgeous costumes (especially Emma’s pirate outfit and all of Snow’s costumes). I loved the little nerdy jokes sprinkled throughout, especially the “Wookie prisoner trick,” because I am always a sucker for a good Star Wars reference. I thought Isaac’s flashback taking place right around the time of Walt Disney’s death was a great nod to the show’s earlier statement that Disney was also an Author. And I thought the little wink to the show’s impassioned fandom at Isaac’s book signing was fun, too.

It was also a blast to watch these actors in different roles, which they were clearly enjoying getting to play. From Robert Carlyle’s smile when he first took off his knight’s helmet to Ginnifer Goodwin’s delightfully sinister take on Snow White, you could feel how much fun the actors were having, and that translated into fun for the audience, too. Goodwin was a particular standout in this alternate universe, and it was great to see her and Josh Dallas (complete with his very own guyliner) really sinking their teeth into the twisted new dynamic between Snow and Charming. Another one of my favorite performances in this episode was Colin O’Donoghue’s timid take on Hook—rum allergy and all. There was an innocence to this version of Hook that reminded me of Lieutenant Killian Jones in the flashbacks in Season Three’s “Good Form,” and I loved it. In fact, watching this version of Hook fall for Emma was even better than watching Hook’s past self fall for her in last season’s finale. Something about the Author not being able to change Hook’s inherent sincerity worked really well for me. (And Hook fumbling with his sword in the background as Emma tried to talk to her parents might have been the cutest thing in the entire two-hour episode.)

I think what I loved the most about Hook’s story was what I loved the most about Regina’s story, and Robin’s, and even Rumplestiltskin’s: Free will ultimately won the day. Isaac wrote who he wanted these characters to be, but they all made choices that showed their true colors in the end. They all found their true selves, for better (Hook finding his backbone to save Henry and Emma) or worse (Zelena turning green when Robin made the choice to stay by Regina’s side). It was so powerful to see that no amount of outside manipulation could keep these characters from defining themselves on their own terms when the stakes were at their highest. In the end, “Operation Mongoose” was all about agency, and it sent a powerful message about reclaiming our stories through the choices we make.

In order to reclaim our stories, we need to believe in ourselves. And sometimes in order to do that, we need the help of someone who believes in us. Once Upon a Time has always been a show about the power of belief—in magic but, more importantly, in other people. And that’s why I was thrilled to see Henry, who has the Heart of the Truest Believer, play such an integral role in this finale. It was his belief in both Regina and Hook that helped them reclaim the parts of themselves Isaac tried to wipe away. I loved seeing Henry trying to explain to Regina who she really is and what she needed to do to save everyone, because it was such a fantastic parallel to what he did with Emma in Season One. It was so moving to see Henry believe so fervently in his mother, especially given where there relationship was when the show began. It was also incredibly moving to see Henry believe in Hook when Hook had no confidence in himself. When Henry told Hook he had a great sailing teacher, I had tears in my eyes, because you could feel the deep respect he has for Hook. I really love the dynamic between O’Donoghue and Jared Gilmore, and this episode gave me high hopes for seeing more interaction between them next season.

Henry and Hook’s rescue mission to save Emma was where the episode really picked up steam, and it was because Henry finally found another person who remembered. When Emma looked up at her son with such joy, I actually fist-pumped on my couch because I was so happy for both of them; that’s when you know an episode has you invested. And once Emma met Hook in that world, my investment only grew more intense.

One of my favorite things about “Operation Mongoose” was the way it showed that love can transcend versions of reality. There’s no better example of that than every single “first meeting” between Emma and Hook. No matter what realm or time they’re in or who remembers and who doesn’t, they have a connection from the start. And they’re always shot in those first meetings in a way that suggests Emma bringing light into his life, which is so symbolic of their entire relationship. This first meeting might have been my favorite, though, simply because Emma looked so happy to be back in his arms, while Hook looked so adorably taken aback by her. (His expression was also perfectly reminiscent of his face immediately following their first kiss.)

The chemistry between Morrison and O’Donoghue made those scenes between Emma and this new version of Hook really sparkle. I loved the familiarity in their body language in the scene where she taught him to use his sword, because it was such a great way to show that sword fighting wasn’t the only thing he was picking up quickly thanks to muscle memory. He was drawn to her without fully understanding why, and I always enjoy those kinds of stories (see everything involving Mary Margaret and David in Season One). And if I’m being honest, it was just a really sexy moment between two characters who haven’t had a lot of chances to have those kinds of moments lately.

The same could be said of the chemistry between Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire. The scene between Regina and Robin in the bar showed off their chemistry so well that I completely believed why Regina would be so sure he was her happy ending after only one real meeting. Memories and identities might have been blurred in this universe, but True Loves always find each other. It’s one of the rules of Once Upon a Time.

But just because True Loves always find each other, it doesn’t mean they always stay together—that’s true of both romantic partners and parents and children. The most heartbreaking part of the alternate universe storyline was watching both Hook and Regina sacrifice themselves for the people they loved. Hook believed in Emma so much that he found the bravery Isaac tried to take from him in order to fight to keep her and Henry safe. Love is strength, and it makes people brave. Hook’s bravery has always been driven by devotion to those he loves, and it was wonderful to see him reconnect with that part of himself before he died. But it was devastating to see Emma reeling from his sacrifice. His bravery made her ashamed of her own cowardice when it came to telling him she loved him, and her speech to Regina about how much she loved Hook was one of the finale’s most powerful moments. It was Emma at her most open, which then inspired Regina to be brave and open when it came to her feelings for Robin. It took Emma so long to accept that romantic love could be a part of her happy ending, and I loved seeing her use the growth she experienced to help Regina believe that for herself, too.

However, Regina’s bravery didn’t just come from opening her heart to the possibility of love with Robin; it came from defending her son from a man who now seems incapable of being brave—even when he was written that way. Hook and Regina did the brave thing by giving up their lives for the people they loved; Rumplestiltskin did the cowardly thing by hurting others in order to save his own life. Regina chose Henry instead of the happy ending she thought she was supposed to find with Robin, while Rumplestiltskin continued to choose power over his family. And in that moment, with Rumplestiltskin delivering a fatal blow to Regina as she sacrificed herself for Henry, the show’s definition of heroism never seemed clearer. Heroes make sacrifices for the people they love; villains always choose themselves. Regina was as true a hero in that moment as she’s ever been, and that’s what made her the savior in that reality; her sacrifice was enacted out of True Love. It reminded me of Emma breaking the Dark Curse in Season One; a mother’s love for her son was strong enough to save everyone. That’s what sets the stories on Once Upon a Time apart from so many others: They’re often stories about the powerful love between parents and their children, which isn’t often put into the spotlight in such a prominent way.

Regina’s savior blood made the ink, but only a true Author could pick up the pen and write their way out of the mess they were in. Luckily for everyone, Henry proved to be a worthy Author, which was such a triumphant moment. I’ve been hoping for a long time that Henry was going to be an Author; it seemed fitting given his connection to the book and his ability to believe. So Henry’s new role was a fantastic way to cap what might have been that character’s best episode to date. Gilmore proved he was up to the challenge, too, which was nice to see from a teenage actor trying to figure out his place beyond being the “cute little kid” on the show. I especially loved the simple, unforced longing in his plea to the Apprentice to bring back his father. And his decision to break the pen so no one could do what Isaac had done reminded me in the best way of Harry Potter snapping the Elder Wand because no one should wield that kind of power. I was so proud of Henry for choosing to avoid the temptation to use magic to change events, because this episode served as a reminder of the dangers of that kind of absolute power. Although I’m sure that Henry will be wishing he wasn’t so hasty to snap that pen when he realizes what’s happened to his mother.

The ending of this episode was all about the contrasts between Emma and Rumplestiltskin—even if the latter spent all of it near death or in a kind of magical coma. It built on the episode’s main themes of bravery, belief, and sacrifice in such a strong way. While those themes were important in the alternate universe, it was also easy to view the stakes as being low because it was clear they were going to get back to reality eventually. However, the stakes at the end of the episode were at an all-time high. And how Emma dealt with those stakes showed just how far she’s come, highlighting the growth of this character and the depth of the relationships she’s a part of in a way that took this episode from good to great.

Even upon returning from the alternate reality, Emma was still not her bravest self. Yes, her reunion with Hook was adorable (The giggles! The bed tackle! The face-touching!), but it was frustrating to see her once again stop short of saying she loved him. However, it was perfectly believable. Her parents were downstairs, the feeling of almost losing him was making her afraid to make it real (because then losing him would be even worse), and I think this was one moment where Emma’s newfound sense of hope worked against her. She probably thought she had all the time in the world to completely get over her fear and tell him in the perfect, quiet moment. But I think we all knew after this failed attempt that she was going to tell him under much more stressful circumstances.

Little did anyone know just how stressful those circumstances would be. I thought the darkness that came out of Rumplestiltskin was visually perfect; it reminded me of the Venom symbiote in the Spider-Man universe. And as soon as Emma was able to drive the darkness out of the Apprentice with her light magic, I knew she was going to become its host. There’s too much potential for compelling storytelling with such strong light magic working in the same body as such great darkness. And if that moment with the Apprentice is any indication, I have no doubt that the light magic will eventually win out, but I’m sure it won’t be easy.

However, Emma’s circumstances upon becoming the Dark One are so vastly different from Rumplestiltskin’s that I don’t think anyone can accurately predict what’s going to happen. This episode reminded us that Rumplestiltskin is a coward who would rather change the past than face the consequences of his dark actions. Emma, however, followed in Regina and Hook’s footsteps; she chose to make a brave sacrifice for the people she loves. She chose to save her friend because she felt Regina had come too far to lose herself and her happiness again, and when I think about how much those two women have grown since Season One, I find myself completely in awe of the character development that took them from fighting in a hospital supply closet to fighting for each other’s happiness.

As a baby, Emma’s parents forced the darkness out of her and into Lily, but now Emma chose to save Regina (and everyone else) by absorbing that darkness into her own heart. And she was able to find the strength to do it because she believed—in herself and in the people she loves. And that belief made her brave. Rumplestiltskin became the Dark One because he felt hopeless and weak. Emma, however, became the Dark One because she was motivated by the hope and strength that comes from feeling loved and being brave enough to love others. Before the darkness overtook her, she told her parents to be heroes this time and drive the darkness out of her the right way. In the alternate universe, she begged her parents to remember the hope they inspired in her, and that hope is what she’s counting on now. Emma believes in her parents’ ability to save her from darkness, and that kind of belief takes courage.

And Emma also believes in the strength of the love between herself and Hook. While taking on the darkness was a true act of bravery, it was matched by the bravery of using her last words before it took over to tell Hook she loves him when she was so scared to do it before. And then she held his hand over her heart, which I took as a lovely reminder of his promise to protect her heart and to always see the best in her. Those three words and that hand over her heart represented Emma’s hope that love will save her from the darkness. In that moment, her heart was as strong as it’s ever been, and it needed to be to face what’s coming.

As the darkness enveloped her, I was struck by the beautiful symmetry of Emma spending her last moments looking at Hook just like he spent his last moments looking at her before he died in the alternate universe. While every kind of love in Emma’s life played an important role in this episode and will play an important role in saving her heart from darkness in the future, there’s something poetic about Hook being the last person she wanted to see before the darkness took over. We first met Hook at the height of his quest to kill the Dark One, who took his love from him. Now, the Dark One took his love from him again, but this time his mission is going to be to save the person burdened with this dark curse instead of killing them. I’m sure the rules are going to change (because otherwise Henry could kiss Emma as soon as they find her), but Hook destroying the Dark One not by killing Rumplestiltskin but by giving Emma True Love’s Kiss would be such a beautiful story. No matter what, I’m excited to see everyone Emma loves working hard to prove that her faith in them isn’t in vain. It took real bravery for a woman who’s used to doing things on her own to have faith that her loves ones will drive out this darkness (with Merlin’s help, of course. Who else was excited to hear him named as the Sorcerer?).

The final shot of the season was absolutely gripping: the Dark One’s dagger slowly revealing the name “Emma Swan” written across it. I spent so long being afraid that a storyline dealing with Emma giving in to darkness would be too bleak. However, the way this was set up was brilliant. It still managed to make me feel hopeful, proud of Emma, and excited about where all of this could lead. And as a fan of Emma Swan and all the characters who love her, I cannot wait to see what next season has in store.

Questions to Keep Us Guessing All Summer Is Henry still the Author even though he broke the pen? Can Emma be summoned, and if so, who’s going to summon her? Will the darkness affect her differently because she took on the curse out of bravery and love instead of a need for power? Where is Merlin? How will Emma be freed from the darkness? Who’s Lily’s father (maybe a certain mythical man with the surname Pendragon)? And, most importantly, will Morrison have to wear the creepy makeup and contacts Carlyle wore in Dark One flashbacks?

Finale Grade A. “Operation Mongoose” is what Once Upon a Time looks like when it’s firing on all cylinders and touching on every theme that makes this show something special. It was entertaining, emotional, surprising, and thought-provoking. And it made me long for September in a way that only the best finales can.

42 thoughts on “Grading the Season Finales 2015: Once Upon a Time

  1. I have so many feels and thoughts that I’m still processing about this episode…but mostly, it all boils down to once again being blown away by the stellar storytelling and acting. I do want to throw this out there for feedback as I’ve been thinking a lot about Rumple (mainly because the Captain Swan feels are a little overwhelming right now). Whenever he wakes up, he does presumably have this fresh start…but he also has to deal with being who he was prior to taking on the mantle of the Dark One. Stripped of magic, power, and the respect (via fear) that he’s garnered over hundreds of years worth of living, and now being ordinary…and I assume in possession of the fear that so defined his pre-Dark One character…I really wonder how he’s going to take it. I think that eventually he’ll realize that Belle’s love and belief in him is enough, the basis for a fresh start…but I suspect there is going to be a lot of anger and resentment to work through. And as we saw with Isaac, although he was the Author, I felt there were a lot of temperamental similarities between him and Gold. Both men were capable of great things…but how they chose to use the gifts they’d been given (Rumple – the chance to be a good father to Baelfire, husband to Belle, etc. and Isaac — the opportunity to succeed Walt Disney as the Author) determine their futures — and I just hope Rumple doesn’t squander this chance again.

    • That’s my take on the Rumple sitch — he goes back to pre-Dark One. I think that will present a lot of challenges for him. His magic seemed to be tied to his role as Dark One, so I’m curious if he’ll still be able to do magic. If not, he’s lost his power and his magic. That’s going to be rough.

    • After spending a very long time thinking about what’s going to happen to Rumplestiltskin now, I think you’re right. Yes, he does get a fresh start, but he has to live with what he did to the people around him, and he has to do that without his power, which is going to be very scary for him. While I view a clean slate as a gift, it’s going to be hard for him to see it that was initially because it means a slate wiped clean of his power. It’s a good way to show him choosing to believe that Belle could be enough for him; although I would have loved for him to make that choice even more powerfully when he was still the Dark One (though I suppose that’s now Emma’s choice to make).

  2. this finale was TREMENDOUS and I think you hit on all the points so perfectly. I, too, loved everything about it except the moments with Rumple at the closing–it’s definitely wise, though, to suspend judgment until we see what they’re going to do with the whole situation. That said, it frustrated me that Belle “I have self respect” French was so quick to run back to him with open arms. I do hope there is much more to the reconciliation of their relationship than that.

    I also hope that one of the questions they answer soon is “WHAT HAPPENED TO WILL AND WHY IS HE IN STORYBROOKE.” Especially with how they left things between him and Belle, it just feels very odd and unresolved to not even address his storyline all season. I’m hoping that the location/fate of Anastasia holds the key to finding Merlin, or something like that, so he can be drawn fully into the action as well.

    But those are small critiques compared to the absolute wonder that was this finale. I felt like EVERY relationship got a chance to shine. Emma and Henry, Regina and Henry, Captain Swan, Outlaw Queen, Snowing and the Charming family. . . even Captain Charming with the witty banter at the end about holding Killian’s death over their heads. I can’t wait to see Charming, Henry, and Killian rush to the rescue of their princess.

    I am BEYOND excited about the Dark One Emma story. It was executed perfectly, with her choosing darkness in the end as really the choice of a hero–doing the hard thing to save everyone else. It’s the thing that Rumple can never seem to understand–courage isn’t having a white horse and light magic and being called the “Ogreslayer”, It’s having love to overcome obstacles even when you are otherwise powerless. I hope that whatever Rumple’s future looks like, it involves him learning that courage is about being vulnerable, not just ammassing enough power that you never have to worry about vulnerability again.

    I hope that Henry is still the author in some way. It’s really the perfect role for him, and I’d love to see how it affects his dynamic in the group of heroes. Great to see him finally get a chance to shine and rescue everyone. Also great for him to actually be the one to fulfill Operation Mongoose in every sense of the word–actually writing down his mom’s status as “hero” and using that to save everybody else.

    I’ll stop now because I’m rambling but GREAT REVIEW GREAT FINALE IS IT SEPTEMBER YET WAH

    • Could not agree with you more about Will. That’s the thing that has bothered me most about the inclusion of his character…it felt like he was just thrown into the action and then nothing ever happened, except for a very surface “romance” with Belle in the aftermath of her epic break up with Rumple. I hope hope hope there is a good long-term plan for him & that he’ll get a chance to shine in season 5!

      I think Henry is still the Author/storykeeper — just not sure what that looks like. After all…that was just one quill that he broke. Whose to say whether or not another will appear?

      • Completely agree! I never watched Wonderland but I still want more for this character. It seems like they added him but then completely forgot that he needed a storyline. They haven’t done a single thing to justify adding Will as a regular. Let’s face it, Sean Maguire has had far more screen time than Will and he’s still recurring. It’s a shame because this character has so much potential but it’s being squandered on a throw-away love triangle.

        • I was SO happy to see Maguire’s Robin get some much-needed backstory. And I loved seeing Outlaw Queen get a chance to shine in the AU portion of the finale. I hope that maybe they brought Will on board with some longer-term plan in view that will hit high gear with S5. The character deserves more…esp. considering how much went into his Wonderland story! *fingers crossed*

    • Thank you! And I completely echo your IS IT SEPTEMBER YET? plea. This was a great finale in which, like you said, every relationship was given a chance to shine. And it was a finale that proved once again that true bravery and courage is based in love. As you so perfectly stated, the bravest thing to do is to be vulnerable; it’s not doing whatever you can do to keep yourself from feeling vulnerable ever again. True courage isn’t about riding in to save the day on a white horse; it’s allowing yourself to believe that love is more important that anything else. That takes bravery, and we saw that with Emma, Regina, and Hook in this finale. I’m really hoping Rumple discovers this as he works to rebuild his relationship with Belle—because that’s the only way I’d be okay with her restarting their relationship.

      I’m also with you on all of the unanswered questions about Will. I’m really hoping they figure out what do with him next season or at least fully explain what happened with Anastasia because as of right now it just feels like a waste of a compelling character and my favorite romantic relationship from OUATiW. Here’s hoping the hiatus gives the writers time to think of a good way to bring Will into the story beyond comedic relief, a romance that’s already over, and an occasional scene with Robin. The character deserves more than that (and so does Michael Socha, who handles dramatic work really well).

  3. Honestly, I’m still processing (or, rather reeling), so I anticipate a few “oh, wait! I had another thought! posts.” Excellent write-up on this — especially given how packed it was.

    — What I loved about this finale (like last year’s) was the sense of fun. It was just plain fun to see the variations in the AU as well as new contexts for familiar lines. (A simple thank you would suffice.)

    — Interestingly, Isaac’s shallow motivation is what worked for me. He wants to protect his comfortable lifestyle. He wants to be important. (Of course, I could relate to his desire for room service and indoor plumbing.) I sometimes think these shallow villains — those willing to casually sacrifice others for their own comfort — are scariest.

    — I, too, initially found Rumple’s new state to be achieved too easily. It didn’t seem fair. However, Rumple has just had taken away from him the one thing he sacrificed everything for — power. He always chose power, and now power is not an option for him. He has to face the world without it. I don’t see it as a clean slate as much as a re-set. He’s back to who he was before he was the Dark One. He has to overcome those weaknesses without the benefit of magic — or at least the power of the Dark One. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed fitting.

    — Obnoxious alert: You may want to avert your eyes. CALLED IT!! Merlin as sorcerer. Totally called it. BOO-YAH!

    — Please tell me someone (preferably Killian) runs and gets the Dark One dagger to control Emma. I’m also curious how this will work. Rumple — even with his Dark One-ness — had a relationship with Belle. How consumed will Emma be?

    — I loved that Henry had his chance to be a hero in the fairy-tale world. Like you, I enjoyed his interactions of Hook. Henry has always seemed a little more accepting of Robin Hood than Hook (I’m thinking of the spell of shattered glass and Henry’s hesitation when Emma asked Hook out), so it was nice to see Henry go to Hook and encourage him and realize what he had learned from Hook.

    — Hook and Emma. Oh, my. Yes, one of things I love about this blog is that there is discussion and analysis, but I can be shallow about my feelz, too. 🙂 I was blown away by O’Donoghue’s acting in the scene where Emma almost professes her love. You see the little smile, the twinkle, the restraint because he thinks he knows what’s coming, but he doesn’t want to scare her off, then the realization that she can’t say it but he’s not going to look disappointed because that would scare her off, too. Honestly, I think the writers keep scripting these types of scenes because these two knock it out of the park every time. Ummm. I may have yelled at my tv.

    — Hopefully in Season Five we’ll get more Hook/Charming scenes. “Sorry, I killed you.”

    — Can we count the use of “Shambala” as a Lost shout-out? I always think of that VW van now when I hear it . . .

    — You’ve brought in Harry Potter analogies. I’m going Lord of the Rings. I wonder if Emma’s time as Dark One will be different since it was done as an act of sacrifice. (Bilbo was able to give up the ring in part because he had begun his tenure in mercy.) Could that temper the darkness? So many questions! And so much time to ponder them . . .

    Happy discussing!

    • I’m so glad I’m finally getting around to reading your thoughts!

      You brought up a great point about Rumple now having to live without the power and (most likely) the magic he’s been addicted to for hundreds of years. Now that I think about it, this might be a fate worse than death for him at his worst, but it could be looked at as a beautiful thing if he’s at his best as a person when approaching it. I think it’s going to be a struggle to deal with the withdrawal, but it’s going to make for a compelling story that I think Robert Carlyle is going to knock out of park. (But when does he ever do anything but knock it out of the park?)

      I definitely see where you’re coming from with Isaac’s shallow motivations when creating Rumple’s new story. However, I still don’t think I found his initial reasons for hating heroes very convincing. But maybe that’s because he wasn’t really given the amount of time to develop that we saw with pretty much every other villain on this show.

      As far as the dagger goes, I’m intrigued because it didn’t follow her like it followed Rumple when he sacrificed himself in “Going Home.” What could that mean? I’m sure the revelation of who took it from the street is going to be a big part of the season premiere, but I sort of hope whoever has it—especially if it’s Killian—doesn’t use it to control her or even summon her right away. I feel like Emma’s free will is so important to her character, and it’s been such a huge part of her relationship with Killian. I could see him summoning her in a moment of desperation, but it would still seem a bit out-of-character for him to actually use it because he’s always valued Emma’s agency over everything, even his own happiness. (I have a lot of feelings about this, can you tell?)

      Finally, I just have to say that I second your request for more Charming/Killian banter about Charming killing him in the AU next season. I feel like there’s a lot of potential for their relationship to be explored further as they look for and try to help Emma, and I’d like for there to be some moments of levity amid the angst.

  4. I loved everything you said about the parallels between Emma and Rumple in this episode. I have a feeling that these parallels will be made even more evident in season 5. The fact that Emma chose to take on the Dark One’s magic out of desperation born of love, hope and trust is so different from Rumple’s desperation to protect Bae. Emma sacrificed herself; Rumple selfishly took the power he thought he needed. Will these different motivations play a role in how the Dark One’s magic manifests itself in Emma? I hope so.

    I’m so excited about this twist! It opens up so many story-telling possibilities for the show. We’ll get to delve deeper into the Dark One mythos than ever before. We’ve always known that the Dark One is connected to the dagger and that a new Dark One can be made via murder. We know that the Dark One’s magic corrupted Rumple and made him power-mad and cruel almost immediately. But peasant!Rumple was vastly different from Emma. Peasant!Rumple was friendless, lonely and desperate. He only had Baelfire and sought the power to protect his son. It was only a hop, skip and a jump from wanting the power to protect to wanting the power to do anything. But Emma has a legion of friends, family and loved ones who are going to fight to save her heart. She knew she was loved when she took on the darkness. She doesn’t want power, but will the Dark One’s magic make her power-hungry anyways? Will it make her cruel? Rumple didn’t become power-hungry because the Dark One’s magic corrupted his heart. Rumple was always a coward who wanted something to make him stronger, who wanted power. His Dark One persona was an extension of his darkest desires even before he had the power. What will the Dark One’s magic play on from Emma? I really hope the writers show Emma becoming increasingly possessed by the magic and not straight-up evil from the get-go. This is an amazing opportunity to show exactly how much the Dark One’s magic can mess with someone because we know Emma so well. We know who she was and seeing what the Darkness does to her will go a long ways towards explaining Rumple’s struggles over the past 4 years.

    Speaking of Rumple, I do agree that giving him a blank slate seems like a cop out. An easy way out. He became so intensely selfish at parts of this season that it became difficult to root for him. Rumple used to be my favorite character (season 1 is an amazing showcase for Carlyle. Imp!Rumple is still so inspired and fresh in those episodes) but his continual bad decisions have made it increasingly hard to root for his happy ending. Belle coming back to be with as he died was nice…but I’m not sure I believe it was earned? I appreciate that Belle is a forgiving person and that she still loves Rumple despite everything, but seriously…he hasn’t done anything to earn her forgiveness. Even at the end, when she’s telling him that he could have had that perfect marriage all along, he pushes her away and insists he’s unlovable. For goodness’ sake, does Rumple learn anything?? Everyone else grows and learns from their mistakes, but Rumple seems trapped in the same constant cycle of bad decisions. Maybe this fresh slate will give him a chance to grow and learn…at least we can hope for that.

    The most interesting aspect of Rumple’s transformation to “light” is that it was entirely unearned…Rumple did not make the choice himself to turn his back on the darkness. How is he going to feel when he wakes up and the Darkness is gone? Will he be relieved? Will he be closer to the man he was in the early days with Milah? Will he be like a recovering addict, wishing he still had power? Will he still have magic?? The light that shone from his heart was unlike any other heart we’ve seen…most hearts glow a bright red. Henry’s glowed gold which indicated his status as the truest believer…but white? Have we ever seen a bright white heart? It reminded me of Rumple’s light magic in the AU. Does this indicate that he still retains magic but it’s no longer powered by darkness? Will Rumple use his vast knowledge of the Dark One to help the Charmings and Co. save Emma? Will he finally realize his potential to be a hero? I’m really hoping that there will be a fallout for Rumple to wake up and discover that all his power is gone. Getting a truly blank slate would be unfair…but taking away Rumple’s power will force him to re-evaluate what he considers his happy ending. Will he be able to find happiness with Belle but no power, no reputation? Inquiring minds want to know!!

    • I read the white heart not as being full of anything – in fact, the exact opposite. It is completely empty. All that was there was darkness, and now there is nothing. How do you rebuild your humanity? I actually think that might be an awesome thing to explore!

      • Yes. I hadn’t thought about it while I was watching but after I read that comment about the color of the heart my first thought was that the white could represent a blank slate, like without love or hate. I don’t imagine that the color is without significance, knowing this show. We’ll see…

    • I LOVE this comment so much. All the questions you asked were excellent, and now I can’t stop asking them myself.

      I’m especially intrigued by the point you made about the Dark One magic bringing out Rumple’s darkest desire (lust for power). Will it make Emma lust for power, or will it bring out whatever her darkest desire is? And if it’s the latter, what will that dark desire be? And I also share your hope that the darkness comes upon Emma slowly rather than all at once. It would be so much more interesting that way, and I feel like it would allow for so much development as she fights the growing darkness and those that love her try to keep it from taking over completely. It would also build nicely as a narrative to a climax at the midseason finale (or season finale if—God forbid—they let this story carry over into both half-seasons), where the darkness is about to claim her completely but the curse is broken and the darkness is destroyed just in time.

      I also really loved what you had to say about Rumple not choosing to give up his darkness and how that will affect him going forward as he deals with it being taken from him. His reaction upon waking up is one of the things I’m actually most excited and intrigued to see in Season Five. I’m also looking forward to uncovering more Dark One mythology through both Emma’s journey as the Dark One and Rumple’s journey to move on from 300 years as the Dark One. There’s so much great story left to tell!

  5. Katie, first off, thank you once again for another amazing season of sharing your thoughts with us! With so many very vocal fans, it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to put your thoughts out there every week, and it is truly appreciated! I also want to thank all the commenters, who also put themselves out there with their thoughts and opinions. I love reading everyone’s insight on this show when there are so many different characters to love (and hate?) and discuss!

    I am not quite sure how you managed to formulate such a great review when all I want to do is just type a long string of illegible characters and then lay on the floor. But bravo that a show can do this to me. Its been almost 24 hours and every show induced emotion in me is still very real and intense, and it doesn’t matter that the show is fiction because the feelings it creates is real. Ugh I am a mess right now. I hate it. And I love it. And at least I am not alone.

    I am going to start with Rumple, since I know a lot of people are having a hard time with the idea that he is “getting off easy”. I have never felt much sympathy for Rumple, but I dont feel cheated either. They have made statements throughout this season that the dark one and Rumple are two separate beings, so nothing that happened here was really shocking. Also, as someone who watched and loved ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ the concept that you can have an evil side to yourself that completely overwhelms or even destroys your own humanity is not a new concept. Did I hold Angel or Spike accountable for all the horrible things they did while they were vampires (or even Willow when she went dark)? No. What mattered is how they acted once they had their humanity restored. I suppose I owe that same courtesy to Rumple. I am really curious to see what they do with him as a character moving forward. Pre-dark one Rumple wasn’t all that interesting of a character. What made him interesting was only in the context of how he became the Dark One. But how are they going to keep him interesting now? Will he be tortured a la vampire with a soul? Will he have to atone for his past misdeeds in order to earn the ability to love again? His heart was empty…how do you refill it? There are a lot of ways they can go with this…

    That brings me to Belle. I also dont feel cheated or like she let Rumple off here. She told him once again that he was being stupid and that he sabotaged their marriage because he didn’t believe in them, and simply that she didn’t want to let him die alone. Of course she is still in love with him, it’s only been a couple months. She didnt say, “I forgive you, everything is ok!”, she was mourning what they could have had if Rumple could have kept the darkness at bay. And in the end they tore that darkness out of Rumple not for Rumple’s sake, it was for the safety and protection of the town. We will just have to see what becomes of it.

    For fear this is going to get way too long I am going to leave Regina up to others, but I will say I loved her sacrifice for Henry at the end and I think she is worthy of continuing on her path of redemption, even at the expense of my favs at the moment.

    My dear Emma. Such an amazing episode for her. At the end of season one Emma broke the dark curse with an ‘I love you’ to Henry, and now at the end of season four we have Emma taking on the dark one with an ‘I love you’ to Killian. I cant wait to see her overcome this. Zoso was greedy and power hungry. Rumple was weak and afraid. Emma is strong. Selfless. The savor. With more light in her than was supposed to even exist naturally. If anyone can fight back against the dark one it is her. I thought this season was going to have Emma taking back the darkness from Lily, but absorbing the dark one’s energy is on a whole other level of epic. I cant wait to see what happens when the dark has to fight against that kind of light. It has the potential to show that love and courage and selflessness can defeat even the most intense darkness, and that sounds beautiful. There are so many different ways they can go with this. Perhaps the darkness is simply an external condition that needs to be “cured” by TLK or some other means, but I also love the thought that Emma will be able to overcome the darkness without it. After all, nobody saves Emma but Emma.

    At first a part of me was sad they didn’t give us more of a glimpse into what this all means moving forward. At the end of ‘Going Home’ we got Hook at Emma’s door to give us hope. But then I realized that would have been pointless. We don’t need to see that to have the same kind of hope, because we already know without one tiny sliver of a doubt that Killian and her family are going to go to the end of the world to find/help her. So yes, while there is devastation, there is hope, even without seeing what the future holds.

    I loved every moment of AU Hook and Emma. Its why I love reading AU fanfiction. It doesn’t matter the time or the place or the setting, these two people will be drawn to each other. And Jennifer and Colin are just so good together, we are spoiled that the show has given us so many different versions of them first meeting (their faces kill me every time). One of my favorite parts of the AU was the part with Robin bandaging Regina’s hand. I love it because it shows that even the Author couldn’t deny how sexy and perfect of a scene that was for Hook and Emma. It was such a great scene he had to steal it for his own story and use it on other people. It felt like a lesser imitation, because it was. Nothing can touch the original!

    Out of all the great scenes we got in this finale, the one that blindsided me and turned me into a mess of feelings was the one with Henry and Hook on the Jolly Roger. Emma will always be my first love when it comes to OUAT characters, but I love Killian equally, and the first thing that drew me to Killian as a character was not his relationship with Emma, but his relationship with Bae. Killian turned that ship around in season 2 because of Bae. He wanted another chance to be a part of something after he ruined his chance to be a family with him. And on some level yes its kinda messed up with this whole family tree business, but Killian’s affections for Henry are not only about Emma, they are about Bae too. Because Killian chose to be a part of something, he taught Henry how to sail, and it probably just saved all their collective asses. I loved this moment because it showed in a very tangible way how Killian choosing to be a part of something made that something better, and stronger, and with the skills to fight back against villainy. Give me all the scenes with the two of them in the future!

    Ok, I need to stop now because I definitely need to go hug a pillow again.

    Final thoughts:
    – I want more Killian/Belle friendship in season 5. ‘How to be in love with the dark one’ sessions for two!
    – Please stop attending parties at Granny’s. They never end well.
    – It seems like Henry is still the Author, even without the quill, but I have no idea what that means.
    – Hook being allergic to rum, lol.
    – Emma’s pirate outfit was 100% perfect in every way.
    – Can I give the runner up MVP award to Colin’s hair? From the innocent little hair flip in the AU to the messy bed head, it was on point the entire episode.

    • Excellent point about Killian and Bae. There’s that great scene in Season 2 when Killian realizes Henry is Bae’s son . . . Killian’s always tried to be there for Henry. It was nice to see Henry be there for him.

      And oh! oh! oh! (Imagine me jumping and down excitedly), I am LOVING your point that Isaac stole ideas for his story . . . It just emphasizes how shallow he is as an author. His “new” story isn’t new; he’s just re-purposed the old story. He simply recasts the villains and heroes into the existing story. It really isn’t the re-imagining he thinks it is.

      I second the runner-up MVP for Colin’s hair.

      • I loved the way Henry interacted w/ Killian in the AU too! Seriously it brought a tear to my eye…to see how Killian’s efforts to connect had taken root. Loved that.

  6. I won’t lie this finale was really brutal on me I’m still having residual crying sessions over my heartbrokeness of seeing emma let the darkness consume her to keep it from destroying everyone, so I’ll try and explain my feelings in bullet points otherwise it might end up incoherent

    -Let me get the annoying stuff out the way Rumple? dear lord he and Belle (WHY TOSS WILL ASIDE COMPLETELY THAT WAS GRRR) I’m sorry annoyed me with their attitudes at the end I don’t believe this blank slate will turn out like we think and I’m hoping this means rumple will be facing a mighty struggle as an ordinary person with no magic and now with an entire group of people who will not be happy with his actions so that will be interesting to see in S5 because I am assuming they will have to ask him (if he recovers/wakes up that is) about his experience as the Dark One to get as much information as they can as to how it might affect Emma

    -First the AU Enchanted Forest Scenes were freaking hilarious. I loved seeing everyone Evil Snowing, Bandit Regina and robin and zelena in their mixed up roles. Bandit Regina and robin hood au banter was hilarious and I loved the first meeting of TL parallel of rum and bandaging moment to Hook and Emma’s moment in Tallhassee. Evil snowing oh god haha I laughed so much especially during “I will always find you your majesty” god that was amazing. Everyone was on fire and clearly having fun so KUDOS

    -HENRY! God bless the writers for finally letting jared gilmore take center stage and I was not disappointed. He was so determined to save his family and he was resourceful and smart and oh bless him bless him. I loved his scenes with every one of his family members. That I’m your son parallel oh god I loved that and his scenes with Regina were so reminiscent of his scenes with S1 Emma. Regina sacrificing herself for him i admit caught me by surprise but it fit so well with her character that no matter what time or realm or what kind of memory she has she will always save her son. Seeing him come find Hook and believe in him and clearly care for this lovely pirate by proudly stating he’d learn how to sail from him just made my heart sing I’m sincerely hoping this means we get more captain cobra in S5 as I think being Emma’s two true loves they’ll be leaning on each other during Dark Emma time. and last but not least HENRY IS THE NEW AUTHOR. I’m so happy he gets to take on this role it is literally so perfect considering his deep love of the storybook has been established since the pilot and now he gets to contribute to it by writing down his families stories. (if the whole pen snapping thing wasn’t permanent but kudos for not being tempted by power after confirming he couldn’t bring back his dad *sobs*)

    -Hook oh my lord he was freaking ADORABLE as puppy AU Killian the scared nervous deckhand seeing Henry knock out blackbeard so he could take back the jolly roger was hilarious as well. even though rumple had stripped him of his bravery his sword skills, made him allergic to rum even (seriously?!) he couldn’t take away his sincerity and his connection with Emma. When she ran into him and was literally looking at him like she hadn’t seen the sun in a thousand years and he’s standing there with this holy cow who is this gorgeous woman and why she is making me lose words I about lost it. (She loves him so much *sob*) On top of their adorable AU interactions (muscle memory my god talk about sexual tension) his bravery despite being written otherwise was amazing to see and while i knew it would be temporary seeing him get killed still had me crying on my freaking couch.

    -Emma….oh my brave brave savior…..what a challenge you have in front of you now. I’ll admit ever since the theory came forth of Emma becoming the new Dark One I was resolutely against it out of the fear that it would be so grim I’d never want to tune in and watch another OUAT episode again. Thankfully A&E’s perfect execution of it kept it from being that way, but I’m getting ahead of myself. To start she was brave and wonderful and fearless(sidenote she totally inhabited Killian’s style during her awesome sword fight with Rumple) in a way someone can only be if they’ve opened their heart as she has over the past four years. To her son, her parents and now Killian. She’s willing to take risks she wasn’t before and admitting fears of ones she still has to inspire others. Her speech to Regina about her regret of never telling Killian she loved him before she watched him die was absolutely beautiful. she was simultaneously admitting how much she resolutely adores Killian Jones and is head over heels in love with him while at the same time being a great friend to Regina asking her to not make the same mistake and understanding her fear about it. Seeing her fight for her friends happy ending was really good to see….if only her being the amazing person she is didn’t leave us with one of the most heartbreaking cliffhangers I’ve ever seen on a show. I knew the second that darkness was banished out of the apprentice emma was going to make the choice to take that burden to save everyone. What struck me though is how she got the courage to make the choice and she said it herself she has faith in her parents to drive out the darkness for her again but this time the right way as heroes. Lastly she let Killian know with three wonderful words (MY ONLY CS WISH CAME TRUE EMMA TOLD KILLIAN SHE LOVES HIM WOOT WOOT) that he succeeded in winning her heart and she was trusting him with what he said he would do: protect it and never give up to bring her back to the light until they can find Merlin and banish the darkness once and for all. It was a complete leap of faith and it reminded me of the season three premiere where Rumple accused her of having no belief in anyone including herself and how she’d never taken a real leap of faith. LOOK AT HER NOW. Despite how scared I know a part of her was (bless Jmo’s amazingly expressive eyes as she took one last look at her true love Killian before the darkness engulfed her.) she had gained her faith in love and that happiness is deserved for everyone including herself BUT most importantly in my opinion gaining faith in her parents/family and Killian’s ability to save her from darkness. Now we’ll just have to wait until fall *EXTRA SOB* to see how this goes…..

    -FUTURE season 5 thoughts- Honestly I’m praying that dark one emma is a dark one like we’ve never seen before b/c the dichotomy of having the greatest light magic person with the most powerful dark magic is bound to be a storyline they are going to delve into I hope. I’m also praying that Dark One Emma while is bound to have angsty interactions with Hook (bless him I’m heartbroken for him too) the payoff will be amazing

    -The quest for Merlin now that is something I really am looking forward to cause we’ve never deeply gone into that on this show plus who they pick to play him will be very interesting to see.

    -The one thing I’m really hoping for is that Snow Charming Henry Killian Robin and Regina band together to save the savior and a part of me hopes to see more charming family interactions of them including/supporting Hook as I am really afraid he will be really devastated seeing the woman he loves turn into the magical creature he fought to kill for so many centuries.

    -Lastly if they are setting up Emma and Killian for an epic TLK moment that will ultimately help banish the Darkness once and for all I will die of happiness and all dark one emma angst will be worth. SHOW DON’T LET ME DOWN ITS TIME in my opinion haha

    -Until september Katie I want to say it has been a pleasure reading your OUAT reviews you are amazing at understanding this show and all its characters and being wonderfully articulate about it. I look forward to them once again when S5 rolls around (4 1/2 months PLEASE FLY lol)

  7. WOW I promise these are the only caps I will use but if I wrote this straight after the finale everything would have been written in caps lol. What a fantastic finale I agree with all your points Katie but especially the free will. As this was what I had been concerned about with the whole Operation Mongoose arc was that everybody’s futures could be written by an author the AU Fanfic was superbly written.

    I was concerned initially that with Henry having such a central role in the finale would be slightly awkward but I was really impressed that the young actor was strong enough and talented enough to handle the role, especially with the caliber of the actors that he was sharing scenes with. I did feel that the first part did drag a bit, and I agree that the author was a hard character to get invested in, whether it was liking or loathing the man, I suppose I felt more pity. But when the second part started well, as a fan of Killian Jones I just….sigh

    AU Killian was adorable !!! His looks of wonder when he met Emma, his cowering by the ships wheel when the dragon came the was a joy, just when you think you can’t love Killian Jones anymore you meet another version 🙂 but it was the way he just believed in Henry and Emma and helped them still actually brings a tear to the eye. For a cowardly deckhand that was allergic to rum that was in awe that someone trusted him to the man who sacrificed himself for Emma and Henry just floored me, but the subtle way that his voice lowered and his back straightened when he decided to be a hero was so well acted and that little peak of our pirate coming through was brilliant. I did cry when he died ( The finale was on New Zealand time at midday so I’m glad I was home on my own after sensibly taking the day off ahem )

    I loved the flip for Snow and Charming and Regina and Robin, the parallels to their stories were well paced with enough ..”I see what they did there ” helped the stories flow….the bandaging of the hand was cute. But Rumbelle…sorry I just couldn’t get invested in the “hero”story and when he again was too cowardly to tell the truth…I just feel that that their love story is a tragedy. When he lost the darkness it did make me angry and I felt slightly ripped off. I hope that there is some redeemable features in the “do over” but whether the cowardly spinner comes back or a whole new Rumple …sorry meh I can’t seem to sympathize.

    But my favorite scene has to be the bed scene…with Emma running to find Killian…the giggle the leaping, the straddling of his lap oh my !!!!!!!!! I do understand why she couldn’t tell him she loved him then ….no really I do…..ok so that was the one thing I wish she had done as I do wish that when Emma told him she loved him…it wasn’t during duress…I mean the poor man hasn’t heard those words for hundreds of years let alone be able to say them back.

    OK prediction time…I think that TLK won’t break the curse until they find away to tether the darkness to Merlin or some other being. I don’t think they will summon Dark Emma right away and when the do it will be Killian doing so. Merlin will be Lily’s dragon Dad. I think Emma will be slightly crazed looking and dramatic but I don’t think she will be the scaly green crocodile with the creepy laugh.

    Thanks so much Katie for your wonderful blog, your writing is so eloquent and I find so positive in this fandom you are a gift. I would also like to thank you for taking the time to respond to the comments in such a kind way it is very much appreciated.

  8. Brilliant review as ever Katie, and I know I’m going to come across as a gushing fan girl but I really don’t care coz I loved the finale! All the main cast were excellent, and it was great seeing Henry finally getting to be the hero, Jared Gilmore has really grown into the role and it was great to see him take centre stage. Ginny Goodwin looked like she was having way too much fun playing the Evil Queen, and I think there should be a petition over the hiatus to get Josh Dallas to wear more guy liner! As usual Lana Parrilla was great at portraying a different version of Regina, but bumbling Hook was probably my favourite version in the AU world.
    Ok so now the gushing will really start – since the pilot Emma Swan has been my favourite character, and this episode showcased how much she has grown over the 4 seasons. I loved all her interactions in the finale – when Henry saves her, when she’s showing Hook how to use his sword (tongue firmly in cheek), when she persuades Regina to follow her heart with Robin, and her reunion with Hook in Storybrooke – so basically all of Emma’s scenes. What touched me most about Emma becoming the Dark One was that she made her sacrifice with the utmost faith that her family and loved one will do everything they can to save her. And I think that is what has me most excited about S5 – I cannot wait to see everyone fight to save Emma, and when she is saved (coz let’s be real Emma wont stay dark forever) her reunion scenes will the AMAZING!
    Other thoughts – I liked Regina and Robin’s scene in tavern, although I think the CaptainSwan hand bandaging scene was way sexier. I don’t know what to think about Rumbelle – it seems at the end that Belle is willing to forgive him again which I kind of hate, but I’m going to give this story the benefit of the doubt and see how it unfolds in S5. It is going to be a very long hiatus….

  9. Henry having a lead role was great. I knew he would become the owner of the storybook in some way which he did.

    Henry and Hook scenes were so good (i just hope we see more of them in season 5). And it had to be Henry and Hook to find Emma, because they have always gone to find her and found her… parallels!

    I loved the Emma and Hook moments. They have now met four time…
    Enchanted Forest
    New York
    Enchanted Forest
    Enchanted Forest AU

    Beautiful heartbreaking I love you – you knew that it was going to come at a painful moment.
    Can i say say its not a coincidence that they had camera visualations presenting the two last shots of it panning towards Hook, and then panning towards the dagger to say Emma’s name.
    And before that she looks straight to Hook, and then having Hook and her parents in one frame. Also just before she tethers the darkness – she tells them all 3 of them in one frame, that she knows they will take the darkness out of her again (something like that she said) like they did before (obvs her parents but it included Hook in that visual representation too) )

    How ironic and poetic is it that Hook is in love with the Dark One – Emma.

    Also these posts on tumblr say it better 🙂

    ‘Hook’s character arc before meeting Emma was trying to kill the Dark One because he murdered his love. Now he will have to save the Dark One because she is his love. That, is one poetic parallel.’

    • Sorry about the tumblr posts being that big in the post.
      Forgot to say – even as Hook was written (by Rumple and the author) as a deckhand Killian, as weak/coward and defenseless, he still went to rescue Emma with Henry, believed in Emma, and Henry. And stood up and fought and died for the woman he loved and but in this version had this strong instant connection too – still risked his life for. He wasnt a coward, he became a hero. No matter what he will become a hero.

  10. First things first, this was such a fun episode to watch. I really loved the darker line readings of “I will always find you” and “heigh ho, it’s off to work we go” and getting to see everyone having fun playing different roles.

    I LOVE Henry being the new author. It’s such a fitting role for him to tell the stories of the family he loves so much and I’m so proud of him for being wise enough to know that the magic quill needed to be destroyed. I’m glad you brought up the Harry comparison because that is immediately where my mind went.

    Regina’s sacrifice in the Enchanted Forest was beautiful. She wasn’t quite brave enough to go get Robin in this world but her choosing to save her other love (despite not entirely believing him) was perfect. Henry got it right, she was a hero in that moment and she saved them all.

    I am so proud of how far Emma has come. I started crying the second she took off to check on Hook and didn’t stop until their scene ended. Even though she never said the words, her love for Hook was so evident by the way she tackled him and looked at him. And he knew it too, but never pressured her for the actual words, which makes me love him even more. He gets her. He knows what she’s thinking because he can see it in her eyes and because of that, he can push when he needs to and hold back when it isn’t necessary. He gives her just what she needs and that’s the best kind of partnership.

    Finally, Emma Swan is the Savior. To continue the HP comparisons, she has what Hermione called a “saving people thing” but it’s not out of a selfish need to hold the title. She’s just the type of person who will do what is necessary to keep the people she loves safe and happy. She does it because she knows she’s capable and she’ll fight for them. But this time, she made this sacrifice knowing that they will fight equally as hard for her. She may have contained the darkness, but it’s the people around her that are going to have to fight to protect her from it. She trusted that the people she loves will fight for her. She believed that she was worth fighting for. She’s secure enough in all of those relationships to know that they won’t rest until she’s home and safe and that is such a long way from the girl who felt alone and unloved. Opening up and loving others is hard and takes a lot of courage after spending your life as guarded as Emma has. But it’s equally as brave to trust in the love others have for you and let yourself be loved in return and she’s managed to do both. She’s fought her inner demons and won and I know she’ll fight this darkness with her family at her side.

    I’m really excited to meet Merlin next season and explore Camelot. I had to laugh at The Apprentice’s intonation when he said “his name is Merlin” because it pretty much identical to the way that line is said in the credits of BBC’s Merlin. But I can’t wait to see what they do with the legend and all the various ways I’m sure it will be tied into the existing mythology.

  11. I am blown away that you could write such a comprehensive coherent review right after such an amazing, huge episode. I mean, I think you hit pretty much every point. (I tried to write this last night and had to give up because I couldn’t use my words properly).
    I was delighted once again at how much fun this show can have with its finales. I know some people were not so surprised by the turns and twists, but as someone who avoids spoilers as much as possible I have to say I did not even begin to imagine how this episode was going to go. The promos made it look like it was going to be crazy and fun, but the episode was so much more than I ever would have hoped for. I don’t think any show does finales quite as well as Once has these last couple of seasons. I love the 2 hour almost-movie format.
    This episode was just so much fun. The AU was a really great chance for everyone to play a totally different version of their character which must be the most fun thing for an actor to do. I loved it. And I loved that Emma remembered. It was great to see Henry as the central hero, taking all the lessons he’s learned from his moms and his grandparents and his Killian and being able to save everyone. And having Emma remember gave her such a lovely sense of confidence and mastery and of course it was fun seeing Emma and Killian interact when she was the one who remembered. I enjoyed Colin’s performance SO so much.
    It was great to see Lana as bandit Regina too. Her interactions with Henry were wonderful. I love the mother-child love in this show too and Regina’s actions were an act of true love. Both Regina and Hook dying for their loves who they didn’t even remember… oh my goodness.
    I’m excited to see what comes next. As always I’ll assume that what these writers have planned is bigger and better than anything I can imagine. But I’m sure Snowing, Killian and Regina and Henry will be working together to save Emma, and that Emma will be a Dark One unlike any other. And whatever they have planned for Rumple… he’s such a fun character, I’m sure they’ll give us some good twists and turns. Who knows?!
    I’m looking forward to rewatching this season over the long break. I haven’t had much chance to rewatch lately. It’ll be fun to see how it all holds together watching it again and how I feel about it with the benefit of hindsight. Once again they’ve created a finale that’s just so much fun and everything a finale is supposed to be and that just makes me so happy. Thank you for your wonderful reviews and thank you for getting me into this show.

  12. I had so much love for this episode. Like many in fandom, I really wish this had been a mini-arc in 4B instead of the Queens of Darkness (who never went anywhere). There was so much interesting in the AU, and I would have loved to have seen more of all the main characters and learned more about who they thought they were/what they thought their backstories were.

    I am a huge Regina fan, so no surprise that my favorite moments concerned Regina. I love how Bandit Regina is a healthier, happier person having been abandoned by Cora and left alone by Rumple. I’m curious how she was in position to accidentally cause James’ death.

    But what I love most is that she didn’t stop the wedding. I feel like something the show has been doing really well is showing us that Robin really, truly is not Regina’s Happy Ending. He’s a cherry on top bonus. We got the beautiful line about her happy being finally feeling at home in the world last episode, and this episode reinforced that. Emma, much like Tinkerbell, got it wrong, thinking what Regina needed was romantic love. But really, what Regina needs is hope and support to allow her to be the hero she always should have been. I also don’t think a true love’s kiss would have broken the curse because there was no curse. There was simply an alternate reality written by the author’s magic. Regina’s sacrifice was the right path.

    OUAT has an unusual structure in that Snow and Regina are mirrors for each other, but Emma and Regina are also mirrors for each other (and now Emma has her own additional mirror in Lily). We’ve never gotten Emma’s happy ending explicitly spelled out, but I think what we saw in the finale is that this is another way that Emma and Regina are the same. Emma started out the series feeling abandoned and that she would never be loved. But now, she too, finally feels at home in the world. She, too, has a family and support system that gives her hope. I think it’s not quite accurate to describe Emma’s ending as a sacrifice; she took on the Dark One’s curse because of her faith in her family, friends, and romantic partner to rescue her. It was a loophole.

    I adore Robert Carlyle (who doesn’t!), but Rumple is starting to feel a lot like Syler to me. Too many rejected chances. I think his arc this season would have made more sense if we hadn’t had the abuse and deception of Belle in 4A, but as it is, I can’t root for Rumple any more, and I certainly can’t root for Rumpbelle. I don’t think Belle truly loves Rumple no matter how much she says she does because she wants him to be different. She wants him to be a good man. But he’s not. Rumple’s right that he’s not lovable (except by someone like Cora). I want Belle to stop feeling it’s her responsibility to redeem Rumple. She came so far over s4. I don’t want Rumple’s gazillionth chance to mess that up.

    Despite my love for this episode, my willingness to come back for s5 depends entirely on whether fandom’s united voice persuades TPTB to get rid of the Zelena pregnancy plot. I don’t mind Zelena and could get on board some kind of Zelena-gets-therapy-and-bonds-with-Regina thing, but no rape-by-deception baby. Regina, Robin, and frankly even Zelena all deserve better storylines than that and with Dark Swan on the loose, Regina at least has a better storyline.

  13. I’m still processing this episode, and haven’t had a chance yet to re-watch, but I am just amazed that you are able to write something so incredible in fewer than 12 hours after a 2-hour season finale. Kudos to this amazing recap; your recaps are the best part of the show for me.

    I loved every minute of this episode; from the Mad Men type intro, where the camera zoomed in on the Christmas tree in 1966, giving us that tear-jerking homage to Walt Disney’s death, and the loss of an author in the show to Isaac’s backstory. I completely agree with the users who said that in a way, his non-dramatic life and past make complete sense here; he was a boring man destined for an ordinary life and even with the tremendous access that the quill unlocked, his imagination wasn’t creative enough to write anything but a paler version of what already happened in the Enchanted Forest; from the characters switching places, to the Robin/Regina imitation of the original Hook/Emma scene; it all makes sense.

    I LOVE Henry having more to do; he knocked out Isaac, figured out how to use the key to get into a story, takes out Blackbeard, saves his moms, and the world and the day. It almost makes up for his complete uselessness with Peter Pan in Neverland. Love the idea of going into a story book; my only complaint is with such an A++++ story idea, why in the WORLD did the writers not play this out to the hilt!? This could have easily been a half season, or even a full season story arc. For that matter, both of the last two season finales could have been seasons in themselves. Who didn’t want more Emma/Hook in the past Enchanted Forest, and who didn’t want Henry to start at the beginning of the Heroes and Villains book and make his way through the land in a whole season arc? I would have set up the season finale with Isaac writing the book, and then had Henry enter the book as one of the final scenes to set up next year in the Enchanted Forest. I would have taken that over probably 3/4 of the later episodes of the “Three Big Bads” this season. And I adore Storybrooke, but we’ve spent a lot of time there in Season 4; a season in the Enchanted Forest would have been incredible. I miss it.

    Instead, we get Emma Swan as the new Dark One, which I admit, I both didn’t see coming and kind of love. I confess I screamed at my television set when she chickened out in telling Hook how she felt; that was such an amazing moment for my Emma, and she did everything but tell him, and then she finally did. I love how the writers have played the Emma/Hook storyline, and I continue to love those two together. They remind me of the song It’s All Been Done by Barenaked Ladies; about a couple who knows each other through various periods of time and still connect. Each incarnation of Hook and Emma meeting is hotter than the one before it; their meeting in the Enchanted Forest when Emma was sent back there, their meeting in the past with PastHook, their meeting in Isaac’s world with NerdyHook; it ALL works for me.

    I’m sure I’ll have more to say, but I’ll just end with how much I love the season finales of this show.

  14. I loved how balanced this finale was. Everyone had a good amount screen time. I loved the running themes of heroism and sacrifice being tied together. I always really appreciate when OUAT inserts a lot of parallels and throw backs to earlier seasons. It always make me really happy or a little emotional to watch how far these characters we love have come in the last 4 seasons.

    There has always been the argument that all of Rumple’s bad deeds are all due to his curse. However, in this reality, he wasn’t afflicted by “The Dark One” curse and still chose to make selfish, villainous and cowardly decisions. Like you, I loved that the villains and former villain, despite all magical interference had their true colors shine through. Rumple decided to be a valiant knight/powerful sorcerer that was the epitome of heroism and goodness, yet in the moment he was faced with a tough decision, despite being “The Light One”, he chose the darkest option to resolve his problem. For Rumple, spending his days going around slaying ogres, receiving praise and then coming home to his family was his idea of being a hero, when in reality, being a hero is constantly doing the right thing even when it hurts, even when it doesn’t benefit you. That was clearly not something Rumple was willing to do. Part of Rumple’s problem all season has been that instead of trying to fix his problems by making better choices, he constantly takes the easy way out and turns to magic or manipulation to eliminate anything in his way and in doing so, has been continuously darkening his own heart.
    Part of me almost pities Zelena, she just can’t win and until she stops basing her happiness on Regina’s misery, she never will. Zelena has literally spent a lifetime obsessing over and envying Regina and what Regina has. In doing so, she has missed (is missing) all the things (some of which might be truly great) that are meant for her. Part of me really wants Zelena to just get it together, redeem herself, have a relationship with her sister and find happiness etc. However, this baby storyline makes it kinda hard to root for her.

    This whole season Regina has really embraced the themes of heroism and sacrifice at every turn. She’s fought against her own darker impulses and desires to take the easy way out, and has put her own happiness aside multiple times to save others. With both “Marian” and Zelena (& her child), there were much easier and much less painful ways that she could have handled those problems and ensured her happy ending. While she may have momentarily considered these ways, each time she ultimately chose to walk the harder, more honorable path despite how much it hurt and how little it benefitted her, simply because it was the right thing to do. In this episode, I loved that Regina didn’t believe Henry and yet despite her doubts, she still gave up on what she believed to be her happy ending to jump in front of and die to save him. Her love for him transcending realms and realities was genuinely such a beautiful moment and an ode to just how much her heart loves him. Also, I loved that despite Rumple trying to strip Hook of his courage, swordsmanship, ship and rum (which was so petty), that Hook’s heroism still broke through when he went with Henry to get Emma, and then died saving Emma and Henry even though he’d just met them. Both of those moments were two of my favorites (after the initial heart drops that came with them). Both Hook and Regina have worked so hard to be better people. For me, this felt like the closing chapter of their redemption arcs in a way. It almost felt like they graduated from being classified more as “former villain who have been doing heroic deeds lately”, to “current heroes who have done villainous deeds in the past”…if that makes sense.

    I’m glad Henry finally got a chance to shine and be a hero and I also loved the parallel between him trying to convince Regina vs him trying to convince Emma in season 1. I figured he would become the next author and I really hope that isn’t the last we’ve seen of his new gift, but considering he broke the quill, I assume it might be. I was also super proud when he broke it and came to the conclusion that no one deserved that kind of power, not even him. That was very mature of him. I kinda hope next season he gets to actively help them find a way to save Emma (even if he just helps to come up with a plan and let’s the adults execute it) and doesn’t go back to being in the background like he is most of the time.

    What I loved about the sacrifice at the end was that it was so symbolic of how far these women have come. In season 1, I didn’t see Emma and Regina as ever becoming anything more than reluctantly civil out obligation to Henry. However, they’ve managed to build a really genuine and solid friendship that is independent of Henry. This season Emma has been rooting for Regina to find her happy ending not because it’s something Regina simply wants, but because she sees how much Regina has changed and how incredibly hard she’s worked to fight her way through her darkness to finally get to this healthier place in her life, and Emma believes she truly deserves it. With Regina, all season she’s been fighting to keep Emma away from the darkness because she cares and she’s been there. She doesn’t wish for Emma to experience the same misery she went through, and have to struggle the way she has to claw her way back from that. In that last moment both of them were willing to be afflicted by this darkness because of that. Regina didn’t want Emma to take it because she didn’t want to see her go dark, and Emma didn’t want to see Regina cast back down into a darkness she’s worked so hard to pull herself from. I thought that was just a really great moment to watch how far these two have come both in their own personal journeys and in their friendship. I also love that Emma is finally at a place where she realizes that she has family and friends who have her back and will go to the same lengths for her that she’s willing to go for them. After a season of her being angry and not trusting her parent due to what they did, it was nice to see her have so much faith in them (and Hook, Regina & Henry) and their ability to pull her back from this and do it in a heroic way.

    Other random things (this week has been a lot and I’m too tired to put these into a cohesive paragraph)

    – The reunions scenes were nice. Robin charging at Regina and putting her into that super embrace that nearly knocked her over and Emma literally knocking Hook over were both just very cute.
    – I yelled “seriously?” When Emma was about to say “I love you” and then chicken out. I understand why she did but still. I’m glad she said it before the episode ended though.
    – AU Hook was adorable.
    – Kinda wanted Hook to say I love you back but understand why he didn’t.
    – Bandit Regina was so cute, especially during the tavern scene. That scene was also my favorite first meeting between Outlaw Queen.
    – The diner scene between Robin and Regina was sweet as well. You could tell that he is really kicking himself for this whole Zelena situation and Regina just smiling at him and letting him know that she’ll stand by him and they’ll work it out together was a good moment for them. I was excited about the walk in the moonlight with them because I thought we would finally get a quick conversation, but no. Next season I need them to not cut so many or hold so many conversational scenes offscreen. It makes their development not seem full enough. In addition while the characters have their memories of the missing year, the audience still don’t and the bulk of their getting to know you period is among that. Hopefully Sean gets promoted to regular next season because I really would like to see more development both with his character alone and with OutlawQueen.
    – I’m also interested in finding out who Lily’s father is, I’d laugh if it’s Mushu from Mulan.
    – The convention at the beginning and Isaac’s convo with the Evil Regal was taken straight from Adam’s timeline and I loved it.
    – I can’t imagine they’ll have to spend much time looking for Emma as they can just summon her with the dagger and also command her not to kill anyone, unless she’s in the Dark One vault. In that case they’d have to find a way back to the EF and then decide who gets to die to release her.
    – Since Belle started to undo Rumple’s curse with True Love in skin deep (?), in theory it should be pretty easy to rid Emma of it, right?
    – Hopefully Will gets a storyline next season as well as they have criminally underused him this season.
    – Hopefully since Lily chose to stick around for a while, Maleficent does too. (I’m sure she probably won’t, but I can dream)
    – Gonna wait to see exactly what Rumple’s white heart means before I rant about that. If this means he gets a metaphorical get out of jail free card, I’m gonna be annoyed.
    – Emma running into Killian when she was leaving the tower and the way she looked and him was so cute.
    – Considering the darkness “snuffs out the light”, would Emma even still have her light magic?
    – I also love the little gestures between Robin and Henry like the hugs and the ruffling Henry hair, they’re very small but very parental on Robin’s part.

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  16. This comment has been edited due to its offensive language.

    How sad for you. That you actually had to make shit up, just to try and sell us Hook as anything but a useless creature representing rape culture, and the degrading of women.

    1.7, thats the rating this season finale got. One of the lowest in the series.

    Emma didn’t look at Hook when she turned Dark, her last vision was of Regina, the person she was giving up her light to save. It disturbs me that you can just make things up and tell us its the truth. It’s not the truth.

    Season 5 was a failure, the amount of retcons, rewrites, plot holes, dropped plots, and all around WTF moments is just sad. But nothing is worse then [Hook and Robin] taking up screen time when other more useful characters could have been doing anything else.

    This review, like season 5 it’s self, is a failure. You are the minority in your insanity. Go to college, hit some classes on woman’s rights, creative writing, and a psy 101 class, because damn if the real world is going to be hard for you.

    • You know what? You’re absolutely vile and I think most of us have had it with you.

      Thank you for posting using your full name! It’s definitely easier to find out where you work and such. I do plan on sending your boss some screen shots and a link to your Twitter account. After all, I’m sure your job wouldn’t want their company represented by someone like you!

      I believe you act so awful online because you think you’re anonymous and can get away with it. I can only hope you’ll change your mind after having to face some real life consequences for your words.

      Have a nice day! xx

  17. Why I love the NGN blog: I felt like this needed to be said.

    — Discussion is thoughtful. I may not agree with a poster’s take on a situation or character, but not because I don’t understand it. Everyone here is good about explaining how he or she came to a conclusion. It’s just that sometimes I came to a different conclusion or had a different interpretation. I don’t read Katie’s post or people’s responses and think “are we even watching the same show?”

    — I get to read the different conclusions and interpretations. I have my moments of “oh, I hadn’t thought about that perspective or take on the situation.” And thus begins the pondering and the mulling — which is fun. Sometimes it’s not a difference in interpretation, but merely an element of plot or characterization I had forgotten about. Someone reminds me of a scene or dialogue that adds another layer of depth to a situation. (I mean, good grief, folks have made cheat sheets for us on a theme in previous episodes. How cool is that?)

    — I know I am not alone in occasionally yelling at the TV, bouncing on my couch in anticipation , or wanting to shake certain characters until their teeth rattle. So, if I’m crazy, I have company.

    — A place to occasionally squee about goofy things like my love for the the De Vil car and the Apprentice’s broom. A place where we occasionally side-track onto meaty issues such as “why doesn’t everyone in Storybrook get the heart-removal spell? Would this be covered on insurance?” (Yes, there’s good discussion and hashing out of ideas — such as what does the removal of the Dark One really mean for Rumple? — but I do love the fun rabbit trails, too.)

    — A place to enjoy the show with other people who enjoy the show.

    Thanks, everyone!

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