TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.02

Before I get started on this week’s post, I wanted to take a moment to offer my condolences to the family and friends of a fellow Oncer who passed away over the weekend. Adri, you are loved and you will be missed. 

Source: mashable.com

Source: mashable.com

Title The Price

Two-Sentence Summary As flashbacks to Camelot reveal that Regina pretended to be the Savior for Emma’s safety, Emma in all her Dark One glory puts the full pressure of being the Savior on Regina in Storybrooke. This involves coming up with a plan to save Robin from being taken to the underworld after Regina asked Emma to save his life using her new dark magic in Camelot.

Favorite Line “I spent over a century trying to kill the bloody Crocodile. I can spend at least that long trying to save the woman I love.” (Hook)

My Thoughts “All magic comes with a price.” This is one of the founding principles of Once Upon a Time. But like all good fairytales, this theme is actually about so much more than magic. All actions have consequences. All choices have ramifications. And the question becomes, what price can we live with?

There’s a defining line on Once Upon a Time between the heroes and the villains in terms of how they handle people who make choices that hurt them. The heroes choose to forgive and to move on. Villains revel in doling out punishment, in making people pay for their choices. There’s a reason “All magic comes with a price” is attributed to Rumplestiltskin at his darkest. And whether it was Regina’s desire to ruin Snow’s life after Snow told the secret that got Daniel killed, or Hook’s quest to seek vengeance for Milah’s death (which led to him trying to kill Belle), we’ve seen time and again that darkness often manifests itself in a desire to hurt those who hurt you. We even saw that last season with Emma, who turned her back on her parents as a way to punish them after learning that they transferred her darkness onto Lily before the girls were born.

Thematic continuity is a beautiful thing, so I’ve loved that Emma’s version of the Dark One is an extension of the darkness we saw in her when she learned her parents’ secret last season. Emma is the most empathetic character on Once Upon a Time; at her best, she understands the reasons people made the choices they did, and she doesn’t hold those choices against them. But at her darkest, Emma wants to make the people who’ve let her down pay. There’s a righteous anger to this version of Emma that’s fascinating. And that righteous anger is allowing those who love her to confront their own missteps and become better versions of themselves in the process, as they work to rectify the mistakes they made in the past—even if they can’t remember exactly what those mistakes were.

“The Price” was heavily focused on Regina paying the price for many choices she made—both in Camelot and long before it. Regina has come a long way, but she’s still learning and working to be better than who she was. It’s not something that happens overnight, and this episode showed that she still has a long way to go in some areas, especially where wielding power is concerned. I understood why Regina claimed to be the Savior, and I even understood why she used the dagger to keep Emma from telling Arthur her true identity. Regina was protecting Emma; she knew the attention of the kingdom and especially the king would be on the Savior, so she was giving Emma the space and privacy to battle the darkness without their prying eyes. She was also keeping Emma from having to use her magic, which could cause her to spiral deeper into the darkness (and reveal her as “the demon” Arthur is after).

While I understood Regina’s reasons, that doesn’t mean I didn’t agree with Emma when she told Regina never to use the dagger to control her again. And then Regina did. More than once. In the same scene. Maybe I just care too much about Emma’s agency, but that rubbed me the wrong way. And maybe it was supposed to. Seeing Regina gleefully controlling Emma’s words made me incredibly uncomfortable, but I think that was done to show the seductive nature of power. As we saw later on in the episode, the siren song of power is almost impossible to resist, and it must be even harder for someone whose heart was once as dark as Regina’s was.

Even though Regina made me uncomfortable in that scene, Emma still chose to take the high road at that point—thanking her for protecting her instead of staying angry. Because that’s what heroes do; they let go and choose to focus on the good in people. However, in Storybrooke, Emma isn’t that person anymore. She isn’t choosing to let go; she’s choosing to hold on to her anger. And it’s clear that she’s angry with Regina for claiming to be the Savior at the expense of her agency.

Regina made a choice to claim to be the Savior, which Emma preyed on in Storybrooke, but that wasn’t the only choice she paid for in this episode. The ball started out cute, but it ultimately led to Regina’s part coming back to haunt her in a major way.

While I’m not sure I completely believe Regina never learned to dance in all her years as a queen, it did lead to a great scene between her, Snow, and Charming that further emphasized the heroic nature of moving on from past hurt and helping others, instead of holding their misdeeds over their heads forever. Snow and Charming have every right to still be mad at Regina for what she did to them during her time as the Evil Queen. But they’ve chosen to focus on who Regina is trying to be now instead of who she once was. And that means helping her embrace her best self—whether than means giving her dancing lessons or helping her choose an appropriate dress. (Side note: I would watch an entire show featuring Snow and Charming dishing out fashion advice, if only to watch Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas make critical facial expressions for an hour.)

I liked the juxtaposition between Snow choosing to focus on who Regina is instead of who she was and her choosing to focus on who Emma is instead of who she could be. While we saw Snow ready to use the dagger last week to save Emma from who she could become, we saw no trace of that fear in her scene with her daughter this week. Instead, we saw a mother finally getting to help her daughter get ready for a ball. Snow and Emma both paid the price for Snow letting Emma go as a baby, and that price was never getting to have moments like this as Emma grew up. So it was beautiful to see them finally have a classic mother-daughter moment and to see them both so happy and moved to finally get to share something so special together. Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison are great at capturing that mother-daughter dynamic between their characters, and it was nice to see them show it off again.

The majority of the ball was a classic Once Upon a Time moment of light and happiness to balance out the rest of the episode’s dark tone. It was fun to see Henry with his first little crush. It was adorable to watch Regina and Robin dancing in a world of their own and laughing when they clearly lost the steps. And it was beautiful to see Emma and Hook having a moment of fairytale romance in the middle of the chaos both inside and outside her. I’ve always loved the fact that Hook can make Emma happy even in the most stressful times of her life, and the shots of them at the ball reflected that fact. There was no darkness between them there—just light and love (as reflected in Emma’s gorgeous white dress and their cute banter that was a callback to their first date, another moment of light amid darkness for them).

That didn’t last for long, of course, because Regina had another price to pay, and that came in the form of Percival, a Knight of the Round Table whose village was destroyed by Regina. For as happy as I am to see Regina being embraced by those who care about her for the good person she’s becoming, it felt right to have a moment of acknowledgment that she did do terrible things as the Evil Queen, and there would still be people looking to make her pay for those things.

However, as is usually the case on this show, Regina didn’t pay directly; she paid through pain coming to someone she loves. Watching her desperately try to save Robin after he was stabbed was heartbreaking, and Lana Parrilla did a great job of making Regina’s desperation palpable, which allowed me to understand why she would pressure Emma to use her magic to save him after working so hard to keep Emma from needing to use her magic earlier.

Although Emma was using her magic for a good reason, it still came with a price. And that price was slipping closer to the darkness. It broke my heart to see Rumplestiltskin return as the manifestation of the darkness, but it was important to see everyone react to Emma talking to herself—because it made it clear to all of them how much of a struggle this is for her. And once Emma used her magic to heal Robin, I was moved beyond anything I expected to see her immediately turn to kiss Hook with what looked like everything in her. Morrison made me believe that Emma saw Hook in that moment as her lifeline, her one pinpoint of light to cling to as the darkness crept back in. It was established in the last episode that Hook’s love gives Emma some respite from the voice in her head, and it was so clear in that moment how much Emma needed to believe his love could stop the darkness.

However, not even Hook’s love could completely stop the progress of the darkness in Emma, and it’s because a small part of her chose not to let it stop progressing. It was clear immediately after Emma saved Robin that she was afraid; that’s why she kissed Hook so intensely. She was afraid of that part of herself that liked wielding so much power—even if it was to save someone instead of to hurt them. So she kissed Hook as an attempt to stop the rising darkness that was scaring her; she thought he could be the True Love that would chase the darkness away. But the problem was that—deep down—she already didn’t want to be saved. The seeds of darkness were already taking root, and as Rumplestiltskin pointed out in her mind afterward, True Love’s Kiss can’t work unless you choose to let it work.

When Emma saved Robin, she told Rumplestiltskin that she would pay the price—because that’s who she is; Emma has sacrificed so much for the happiness of others. And despite Rumplestiltskin telling her otherwise, she did pay a price for her choice to use her magic, and the price was taking another step on the path to losing her self in exchange for Robin’s life.

However, there was still a more direct price to pay for Robin’s life, and Emma was more than happy to help collect it as the Dark One in Storybrooke. This version of Emma keeps score, which is such a departure from who we knew her to be. And watching her toy with Regina was compelling, because you could feel her pouring all her resentment into those interactions—resentment with Regina for being the reason Emma had to sacrifice so much for her whole life, resentment that Regina took the credit for being the Savior that was rightfully Emma’s credit to take, and resentment that Regina forced Emma’s hand and brought her one step closer to the darkness by asking her to save Robin. Being the Savior has always weighed heavily on Emma, and you could see her taking pleasure in throwing all those responsibilities on Regina now, basically telling her, ‘If you wanted to be the Savior so much, then be the Savior and sacrifice yourself for someone else—just like I did.’

And that’s exactly what Regina did. It was so cool to see the Fury, the ferry, and other pieces of underworld mythology worked into this story, and those elements worked together to make the episode’s climactic scene feel incredibly intense. Regina chose love over everything in that moment—including her own life. But her bravery and the depth of her love for Robin inspired Snow, Charming, and Leroy to have faith that they could join with her and stop the Fury. It was a very nice Guardians of the Galaxy reference, but it was also so much more. It was a reminder that it will take more than just one person to protect and save Storybrooke; it will take everyone working together and believing in each other. It will also take everyone being able to do what Regina did and atone for their missteps in Camelot—even if they might not know what they are yet. Villains blame and punish; heroes atone and forgive. That theme was as clear as day in this episode.

Everyone is paying the price for what happened to Emma in Camelot, and that includes Emma. Once again, I can’t praise Morrison enough for her work as Emma in her Dark One form. Her voice and her facial expressions were chilling; gone is the empathy that made Emma who she was. It’s been replaced by a cold emptiness, a calculated kind of control that contrasted so well with her scenes in Camelot. Emma has chosen this path now; she’s walking the walk and talking the talk, but it still feels like she isn’t enjoying it it the way Rumplestiltskin did. And that lack of glee played a big part in her story as the episode went on.

Once Upon a Time started with Emma wishing not to be alone, and we watched that wish come true over four seasons. But by choosing to embrace the darkness, Emma lost it all again. Her price for becoming the Dark One was going back to a lonely life.

It was devastating to see Emma’s face light up when she first talked to Henry. He’s her True Love, and I think she assumed he’d still want to be close to her even in this form. However, Henry pulled his hand back from her, showing that he might still love the Emma underneath the darkness, but he can’t love the Dark One the same way. That’s not his mom.

Emma is going to miss so much because of her choice to full embrace her dark side. She’s not going to be there for Henry’s first crush (which was absolutely adorable and a wonderful glimmer of simple joy during a dark hour—especially them finding each other again in the present, a “Charming Family” staple of falling in love). The Dark One might still be able to love, but part of the price of that curse is the fact that it taints all your relationships because you lose the ability to love in a healthy way.

That twisted kind of love was shown in Emma’s interactions with Hook in Storybrooke. As the Dark One, Emma takes what she wants, and Morrison made it clear that Emma wants her pirate. There was such delicious chemistry between her and Colin O’Donoghue in the scene in Emma’s new house, but that scene was about so much more than just the seductive power of darkness. It was about highlighting another price of becoming the Dark One, and I think it was a price Emma wasn’t expecting to have to pay.

Hook trying True Love’s Kiss on Emma again (after he tried it unsuccessfully in Season Three’s “Going Home”) was so sad because we knew it couldn’t work. Emma had chosen the darkness; she gave in to its power and wasn’t willing to give it up for anything—not even all the love and devotion promised in that great kiss. She might still want him, and a part of her still loves him. But it’s not enough. For one split second, Morrison showed Hook breaking through the darkness, her face softening just as it did when she saw Henry. But she also showed with just one blink and a readjusted smile that Emma chose to hold on to the darkness, even in the face of his love.

Hook could have easily decided to give in to her seduction. As we saw throughout the episode, the allure of darkness is strong, especially for someone who once walked a dark path. And I think Emma was banking on that dark path being a way for her to connect with Hook on a different level. Between the rum and the mentions of him being a pirate, it was clear Emma wanted who he was and not who he is now. Because the man Hook is now is strong enough to walk away from the darkness. He believes in the good left in Emma, and he also believes in the good left in himself. He knows what Emma deserves, and it’s not the pirate he was. It’s the honorable man he has chosen to be now. And that honorable man would rather fight for Emma than disappear into the darkness with her.

Hook’s steadfast ability to fight for Emma was a constant in this episode, and it’s going to be interesting to see that battle continue as his interactions with the Dark One in her continue. He has a price to pay for choosing to love the Dark One, too, and that price is the chance that he might lose himself in the process of helping her find herself again. That’s what Belle said happened to her with Rumplestiltskin in Season Four’s “Heroes and Villains.” Watching Belle share that hard-earned experience with Hook in this episode was beautiful; it reminded me that Belle is a true hero because she could move on from the pain Hook caused her to help him in his lowest moments. Those two characters are forever bonded now by their shared pain of loving a Dark One, and I’m excited to watch their friendship continue.

I admired Hook for standing his ground and walking away from Emma when it became clear that she wasn’t capable of loving him in a healthy way for either himself or herself at this point. There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that this character will never stop fighting for her to get back to a healthier place. There’s a reason why they made Emma’s romantic partner a man known for his devotion, a character defined by the quote “A man unwilling to fight for what he wants deserves what he gets.” And with two failed attempts by him at True Love’s Kiss and two failed attempts by both of them in this episode, I think there’s a possibility of the Rule of Three coming into play with a successful attempt later on, with Emma choosing to let go of her power and believe that the love between her and Hook will give her strength she needs to save herself.

The cracks in Emma’s Dark One identity were already showing by the end of the episode. Once again, Morrison knocked it out of the park in the final minutes of “The Price.” I was captivated by her body language in the scene outside of Granny’s. I loved the way she leaned toward the building—toward the light coming from the people she loves. There’s a part of her that doesn’t want to keep paying this price—living with this loneliness—in exchange for her power; you could feel it in every step she took near Granny’s and in every beat of that moment with her and the dagger back at her house. That’s why Rumplestiltskin came back—because the light was finding its was through her darkness; her desire for love was again becoming stronger than her desire for power.

But the darkness is strong, and it wants to get stronger. That’s why Rumplestiltskin was tempting Emma with pulling out Excalibur (How did it get there, by the way?) in order to eliminate her last weaknesses. However, knowing this show and its message of hope, it was clear that the things he mentioned as being weaknesses—family, friends, and love that never gives up—will ultimately be the things that make Emma strong enough to choose to save herself.

This episode left us with a lot of questions: Why did Arthur and the rest of the Camelot crew end up in Storybrooke? Are there things that even Emma doesn’t remember (it seemed like there were things she couldn’t—not just didn’t want to—tell Hook at her house)? Did Merlin cast the curse and not Emma (the whole “tree thing” makes me think yes)? And what is the price for pulling Excalibur from the stone (because all magic comes with a price)? But instead of focusing on the questions, I’m left focusing on the spark of hope that can’t be snuffed out by the darkness—the hope that the bonds of family, friendship, and love will help a lost girl find herself again.

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35 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.02

  1. I am not quite finished with this yet, but for some reason this line got me thinking:

    There’s a righteous anger to this version of Emma that’s fascinating.

    Kind of only semi-connected to your point but I feel like maybe Emma is the way she is as the Dark One – not darkly evil like Rumple, she’s dark in a different way, and a lot of it is as you say righteous anger – is because of the WAY she became the Dark One. Rumple became the DO because he explicitly wanted power. His motivations were for himself, even if he (supposedly) wanted the power to protect his child. They’ve made it clear that that’s usually how it happens, too. But Emma became the DO explicitly to protect everyone else; it wasn’t for herself at all. I wonder if maybe that difference in how and why they became the DO is going to lead to them being able to finally rid of the DO curse forever, or at least get it out of Emma easier.

    And now back to the rest! I may have to come back a bit later though, real life interference is rearing its head.

  2. Great review Katie! Man this episode made me even more excited for this season than the premiere did! I can’t wait to get home from work so I can get all my thoughts down (and boy do I have a lot of them!)

  3. I love your reviews. This was so on point and I agree with everything you’ve said. You were saying you wonder if she doesn’t remember certain things…but I think she does. The only type of thing that I can see any reason for Emma hiding from Killian would be something that has to do with her own well-being. If she – say – found out that the only way for darkness to be vanquished came at a cost of personal injury or death, she wouldn’t tell Killian because she would know he’d try to stop her. Ever the savior. I’m so curious to find out more about that as the season goes on.

    • If Emma did in fact cast the curse, I feel it was because she learned that to defeat the Darkness the price would be her life, and that her loved ones would rather have her alive and use the dagger to keep her in line, than lose her forever, even if meant beating the Darkness.

  4. Sooo much in this episode. SOOOO. MUCH.

    I loved the complexity that accompanies Regina’s choice to claim the title of Savior. While Emma has wrestled with that role, it was her role , and you can see brief flashes of pain every time Regina gets the title. It’s like Regina is taking part of her identity. I think this explains Emma’s anger as Dark One. Being the Savior was never easy . . . Dark One Emma wants Regina to understand just how hard it is. I think this is also why she keeps insisting “this is who I am.” Her old identity is gone. She’s going to embrace the new one because if she isn’t the Savior anymore, who is she?

    Like you, Katie, I do think we were supposed to feel uneasy with Regina’s slight glee in using the dagger on Emma. (It does make sense in light of her character. Evil Queen-ness doesn’t go away quickly.) And how great was Morrison’s dagger-induced “thank you”?

    Like you, I do think Regina had good intentions in claiming to be the Savior. I do think she’s trying to help Emma. However, I think she likes being seen as the Savior even as she feels guilty about assuming that title. She knows she’s pretending at someone else’s expense, even though she does have really good reasons for doing so.

    The scene with Snow, Charming, and Regina was wonderful. I sometimes think that Snow does a better job of mothering Regina than she does mothering Emma — just because she has more history with Regina. She knows Regina better than she does Emma. Snow’s gentleness, insight, and “mom voice” were just great. This was such a beautiful scene with the three of them being family as Charming patiently taught Regina to dance.

    And yes, we need a Snow/Charming “What Not To Wear.” Absolutely. I also laughed really hard at Doc’s insistence on baby-sitting so that he wouldn’t have to be Grumpy’s wingman.

    Belle and Hook. So loving their friendship. LOVE IT. I love that Belle is not one to hold onto the past if it’s not warranted. She can see Hook has changed. She knows he’ll need her advice and friendship, and she is there for him. I also love that Hook is smart enough to go to Belle — and she’s going to need a friend during this tough time, as well.

    I am also not sure I’m going to recover from Hook’s declaration that if needs to spend a hundred years to help Emma, he’ll do it. (Personal disclosure: I’ve been closer than I’d like to situations where the guy bails when it gets difficult — for instance, it’s too hard for him to deal with her ongoing illness. Are you kidding me?? So, this type of love and devotion really resonates with me.) I love that he doesn’t care if it’s hard to love her or it will take a lot of work to restore her — he’s going to do it.

    I also want to know what everyone else thinks about the curse. Like Katie, I’m a wee bit suspicious that Emma didn’t cast it — even though she doesn’t mind letting everyone think so.

  5. brilliant review as always Katie! I gotta say I didn’t like all this talk about Regina being the Savior – that title has always belonged to Emma – hell she even stepped up as the savior again in Camelot when she saved Robin’s life. I know Regina has come a long way since S1 but there is only 1 Savior and that’s Emma Swan!
    I too think that Merlin could have cast the curse that sent everyone back to Storybrooke – I think Emma is happy to let everyone think she did it as she wants to distance herself from her loved ones – it’s easier to be the Dark One if she’s alone.
    My heart broke for Emma when she was watching her parents in Grannys – she looked like a lost girl again. So I really hope we get some scenes between Dark Emma and her parent soon. 2 episodes in and already I’m loving the way this season is shaping up.

  6. I think the original Dark One may have a hand in this curse, but that’s just my feeling. In the Merlin mythology, Nimue is the one who trapped Merlin in a tree (or a cave, depending on the story)….. I have had a feeling ever since we first found out Merlin tethered the Darkness to the dagger that Nimue was the first Dark One. Nothing more than the legend to go on though— but if the lady already likes turning Merlin into a tree, why not errant townspeople too? 😉 I’m just happily waiting to see their take on this story no matter what direction they go with it.

    I’ve been fascinated by Emma’s motivation to push the townspeople (ok, so Regina mostly so far) to own up and make things right. She is like an avenging dark angel so far, and that’s not the form of darkness that I would have predicted but wow does it fit for a former savior. Sort of a turn on the head of “I’m no longer going to fix things for you, it is past time for you to step up and fix it yourselves”. I’m all for that empowerment if only she could have her own happiness as well.

    as for how Excalibur got in Emma’s basement- hallucination!Rumple mentioned that Emma brought it there…. because she wanted to be the first Dark One to put the sword back together. (Suggesting that Emma did indeed cast this curse….or that could be a red herring, because this show has never ever purposely misled us before 😉 )

    • I am so curious to see where Dark One Emma goes, because I also don’t feel like she has been very evil yet. Until she really starts doing some evil deeds, I wont be convinced that this isn’t just an act on some level. Like she is actually doing this for the good of everyone (or I am justin denial and refusing to accept the fact that she is evil because I love her too much)

  7. Amazing review, as usual!! I actually liked this episode even more than the first, and I’m hoping that this is a trend for the rest of the season! I really hope that the writers go the way you were thinking, in that they are foreshadowing that Emma will save herself when she is able to put her love of her friends, family, and most of all Hook before the draw to power. It’s all being laid out so beautifully!

  8. This episode was a little fast paced but definitely one of my new faves.

    I don’t trust any of the Camelot crew. I’ve found Arthur shady from the time he pulled Excalibur out and realized half was missing, but decided to just hide that from everyone. Guneviere (sp) also seems super shady too.

    I’m a huge fighter for agency but I’m kinda conflicted when it comes to Emma this season. In the last episode while I partially agree with them not using the dagger to force Emma not to kill Merida. I also kinda was like “what if she chooses to kill Merida?” Are they gonna just stand around and let her kill an innocent? I think Emma would value the saving of innocent lives over her agency during this period. Once she’s free of the darkness the guilt of any of her actions & victims is gonna eat her alive and she’s gonna ask why if they had the dagger and the means to stop her, why they didn’t. The thing about Emma’s agency this season is that it’s not fully there to begin with. She’s being influenced to do things that she usually wouldn’t otherwise do, so how much of this Emma is in fact Emma? How going forward are they to know what percentage of her decisions are her decisions and how do they know when to pull her back without overstepping her agency.
    Regina only deliberately used the dagger to control Emma once while talking to Arthur and I felt like that was a good usage of it as it was to protect her. The second time was accidental (the writers also confirmed this on Twitter) Regina was talking while holding the dagger, and the dagger mistakingly registered what she was saying as a command. Hence the surprised “oh” Regina let out and also probably why Emma didn’t stay mad and said a genuine thank you. I personally didn’t read into or feel particularly bothered by the way or tone in which Regina said anything in this scene because this is how Regina always talks and they’re friends. I know the way I talk with my friends vary based on my personal relationship with them, and our personalities. Yes, Emma is in a dark place but I don’t think Regina suddenly being super polite & overly warm and fuzzy, or any of those close to her for that matter, suddenly walking on egg shells is gonna help Emma in any real way. While I definitely think it was a speech Regina has needed in the past, I don’t know if I fully agreed with the whole, “take responsibility speech” at this particular moment because it’s hard to take responsibility for something you don’t know you’re responsible for. I didn’t see her going to Emma and asking her to call off the Fury as her shunning responsibility. As far as Regina knows, Emma has something to do with the fury being there considering she said they were going to be punished for failing her and she knew about it before it made an appearance. She tried to appeal to Emma’s good side to avoid anyone having to die, which makes sense. Also, the knowledge of who & what incurred the debt was erased from everyone’s memory by Emma. The second Emma told Regina it was her debt, she didn’t try and find a way out of paying it, she just went to pay it.
    The things the dark one listed in the monologue at the end as being weaknesses are (I think) gonna be the things that save Emma. The familial ties, The friendships, the magic threatening to undo her darkest deeds and the love that won’t give up.
    At first I wasn’t sure if Emma taunting Regina was about her wanting Regina to step up and be the savior, or wanting Regina to completely doubt herself and fail. After the monologue & it coinciding with Regina changing Sneezy back, it made me feel like it’s the latter. I don’t think Regina is even remotely trying to take from Emma or her identity by stepping up as the “savior”, I think she’d be more than happy to leave that title (& the burden that comes with it) with Emma, but Emma clearly isn’t the savior right now and can’t be so she’s doing what needs to be done to protect the people they care about. I think it’s equally uncomfortable for Regina to claim this title as it is for Emma/Emma fans to see her claim this title because the same way they don’t identify her with that title, she doesn’t identify it with herself either, which is part of why she had such a lack of confidence and confused Snow’s concern for her well being with doubt, but at the same time she knows that she needs to step up. Do I think Regina is capable of being a “savior”? Based on S3 alone, absolutely. Do I think she will end up being the savior this season. Probably. Adam & Eddy love parallels, season 1 was Emma working to break Regina’s curse, so honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if this season is Regina working to break Emma’s. In both instances neither curse was broken solely by the savior, it took people also believing in them and fighting for and beside them.
    I also wouldn’t be surprised if the sword and dagger merging and the snuffing out of the light isn’t some form of manipulation from the dark one to basically untether itself and become an independent entity once again as being tethered to a human soul is in fact a form of punishment/defeat.

    The Charmings teaching Regina to dance was a super cute moment and I’m not really surprised that she didn’t know or remember how to dance. In what we’ve seen of Leopold & Regina’s marriage, Regina came across as more of an object/decoration in the background than a person/wife/Queen.
    The Emma and Snow scene was also really beautiful.
    The Ball is probably one of my favorite OUAT moments of all time. It was such a light, fun and romantic moment for all the couples (minus Rumbelle) and it was kinda perfect. I swooned and squealed over OQ being cute and then watching CS to pick back up after the kiss. Cute stuff.
    I love both Hook and Robin in this episode, both at the ball in Camelot and in Storybrooke. I love their faith, encouragement and willingness to fight for the women they love.
    Percival. As much as I love Regina, I honestly can’t say I fully blame him for trying to get revenge, he’s not the first and I highly doubt he’ll be the last, that’s just pretty much the price of having the history Regina does (I was a little peeved he cut my cute dance scene short tho 😒).
    Robin jumping in to protect Regina, Robin dying/almost dying, Regina momentarily reliving Daniel 2.0, Regina begging Emma to save Robin, DarkOne!Rumple coming back 😢 All of that absolutely broke me heart.
    Henry’s new crush is super sweet. The whole iPod thing/jukebox thing was really cute. I also loved Regina’s “Who is that girl talking to my son?” moment. Her protective Mommy mode activated.

    – I never realized how much I wanted a David/Regina friendship until this ep or a Regina/Grumpy friendship.
    – I didn’t really understand why the hand holding Guardians of the Galaxy scene worked…but I won’t question it because I’m glad it did.
    …but I really do wanna know.
    – How did Dopey turn into a tree in a land with no magic?
    -Roland as always is just cute, even when he’s being traumatized by weird winged creatures.
    – It’s about time that they remembered the hospital/doctors exist. I remember when Regina got thrown through the clock tower thinking is nobody gonna suggest some medical attention?
    – Interested to see how this whole thing with removing the sword is gonna play out.

    • Snow and Charming looked a bit gray after that bit, and Snow held her chest. I kind of think that they shared “a life” when they did that, another nod to Guardian’s of the Galaxy sharing power. A life was the price, and I think they each paid a quarter of the price.

      • This was how I read the scene too. Although I am starting to REALLY worry about how all their bodies are holding up. We get to add “partially drained of life force” on top of Snow and Charming’s half heart and countless memory tampering.

  9. Loved your insights here.

    I’m curious about when/how the scene we saw in 5×01 with Merlin and young Emma will come into play, when he warned her not to pull the sword from the stone. Will she remember at the last second and not go through with it? Could Merlin have forseen that she’d take it anyway and put some kind of protection in place?

  10. I’m pretty sure the central theme of this season besides getting the darkness out of Emma is Regina trying to prove she can be good. The show has shown us that she is with the heroes but with her use of the dagger and battling the fury with fire that she still has some darkness. With that being said I’m pretty sure the ending to last nights episode with Excalibur and the stone that they will have Regina be the one to remove it. I on the other hand think that Rumpelstiltskin should be the one that pulls Excalibur from the stone. I think this would be awesome and also show the strength that the Rumpelstiltskin pre dark one could possess.

  11. This episode. Man oh man. It wasn’t a perfect episode by any means, but the themes they brought up in this hour have made me almost downright giddy thinking about the possibilities for this season.

    This episode came down to two main things for me: Regina and Emma’s “friendship” and the team coming together to defeat the fury.

    I will start with Regina and Emma. I have really enjoyed watching Regina’s relationships change with Henry, Snow, and the people in the town. But there is one relationship that I have always had a hard time with, and that is Regina and Emma’s “friendship”. I put it in quotes because I have never really felt like this was a true healthy friendship. I have a feeling my issues with their relationship are strongly rooted in my own personal issues, but never the less, its not my favorite relationship on the show because I think it still has a long way to go, and I wasn’t sure they were ever going to go there. But they are, and now I am actually excited about it. The scene in Camelot with Regina and Emma didn’t bother me. When Emma was forced to say ‘thank you’ I got the impression that Regina didn’t command that on purpose, it just happened because she happened to be holding the dagger at the time she said it. But it was obvious that in Camelot they were showing that Regina was not using the trust that Emma put in her very wisely. She even used it as a threat to get what she wanted. Was it wrong? Yes. Was it a surprise to me? No. As for Emma completely railing on Regina in present day Storybrooke, I have to say that I probably got way too much enjoyment out of it. It was as cathartic for me as I hope it was for Emma. I love it because now I finally feel like they can actually start to build a friendship. This is something I always felt they needed to work through, and they are finally being given the opportunity.

    I am also going to make a confession here. I kinda LOVE dark one Emma. Do I want her to stay this way forever? Of course not. But do I think this is good for her? Yes, actually I do. I have always felt that Savior Emma was TOO selfless. She put others before herself constantly, and I personally think that is just as destructive a way to live as being entirely selfish. Emma was constantly taking responsibility for things she should not have to bear alone. She though that being the Savoir meant she didn’t get a day off and she didn’t get to be happy. She is now experiencing the other extreme part of the spectrum. The “screw you deal with your own problems” part of her. Its not her best self by any means, but it is still a part of her, just one she has not explored until now. I feel like this is necessary for her in order to find the right balance of selflessness and selfishness if she is ever going to have a happy ending of her own.

    Not to mention JMo is killing it as Dark Swan. I am having so much fun watching her. She was absolutely terrifying in her confrontation with Regina! And I loved every second of it.

    I hope they continue with this setup of the characters making mistakes in Camelot that they have to correct in present day Storybrooke. I think it does make the memory loss (as redundant as it seems) an interesting part of the story. They are actually using the audience having knowledge the characters don’t in a satisfying way (as opposed to it just being angsty and frustrating). Its almost like Dark One Emma is testing them. She knows they failed in Camelot. And now they are being “punished”. But I don’t really see it as a punishment. I see it as atonement. She is removing herself from the situation, and making the town take responsibility for their actions. I think its painful on both sides, but I think it’s a good pain. A learning pain.

    This all fits perfectly into the end with the fury. Regina is ready to sacrifice herself (a very Savior Emma thing to do) but the others come together to make sure that Regina doesn’t have to pay that price alone. They share it collectively among themselves. As you mentioned, I think its hilarious that none of them understand that yet, but it’s a good first step. I kinda hope that at the end of this whole thing that there is no “savior” at all.

    Since it seems pretty likely at this point that a TLK is going to factor somewhere in this season, I really appreciate that they at least established that Emma has to allow it to work. It still gives her agency by being responsible for choosing to let go of the power (although honestly a part of me is still hoping there is a way for this to end without her banishing the dark one at all. “There are no good and bad versions of ourselves. ITS JUST ME”).

    Really, there are just so many different ways this whole thing can go, and I am kinda just excited for all of them. I don’t care if any of my predictions are true, because I think that there are plenty of other equally satisfying conclusions. I am all in for this ride.

    This is almost 1000 words already. I need to stop. But first, random thoughts:

    – Belle being a literal wallflower was hilarious.
    – Snow had some amazing lines in this episode. “I am so not dressed for this”
    – I grin like an idiot every time Henry calls David gramps. Its one of my favorite things on the show.
    – Holy hell that kiss between Emma and Hook at her apt was all kinds of hot. I thought Emma’s comments about “the quickest way to a pirates heart is through his liver” and “theres the pirate I remember” was more of a reference to villain Hook she seduced in the bar in the S3 finale. Hence Killian’s “That’s not who I am” comment. Either way, I am just totally for all the kissing in this ep.
    – Henry and Violet are adorable.
    – Rumple voice overs continue to be one of my favorite ways to end an episode.
    – I am really glad that Killian has Belle, but I am hoping he gives/gets support from the whole group as well. I am not seeing full teamwork happening yet and I want to.
    – Who is going to pull Excalibur from the stone? I want to say Henry…but I am not sure what the implications of that would be…
    – Camelot crew is SUPER shady. Gwen and Blue could totally be BFFs.
    – I am so excited you get to see this episode early!! What a fun season to go to your first panel!!

    • I liked your take on Emma and Regina — probably because it echoes my own. I do think Regina means well. I just think she struggles with execution. (Or, she doesn’t struggle when she should . . .) Regina is finally getting a feel for just how difficult things have been for Emma and it’s something that Regina needs to understand. It’s something the whole town needs to understand. Like you, I did get a vicarious thrill out of the Emma/Regina confrontation.

      Like you, I love how consistent Emma’s DarkOne-ness is. I wondered what she would be like as a Dark One, and as I watch I keep thinking, “Oh, yeah. Of course. THAT’s how she would be.”

      As for Blue . . . I have this ridiculous theory that Blue is really Morgan LeFay, and she’s responsible for the curse. (I was having fun coming up with bizarre theories for the memory loss.)

      As for pulling Excalibur out . . . isn’t this where the Thor crossover comes in? 🙂

      • I totally agree with you that Regina means well. She’s hasn’t intentially TRIED to hurt Emma in a long time. But just because someone isn’t actively trying to stop you from being happy doesn’t mean they still can’t be a hindrance to your happiness. Emma tends to lean toward selflessness where Regina leans toward selfishness, and both of them need to meet each other in the middle. And that was never going to happen if Emma was always going to give and Regina was always going to take. So I like this role reversal a lot. Emma’s also getting hit with the stereotypical ‘Evil’ label that Regina has had to carry, so they are both getting to walk in each other’s shoes.

        • Yes! That’s it. Nicely put.

          It’s going to be interesting to see how that reversal continues to play out and how that pushes their characters’ growth.

        • See, I come at it from a different place. What remains interesting to me about Emma and Regina is how the reflect off one another. You mentioned Emma being selfless and Regina being selfish – both are extremes and both actions have consequences. What has always frustrated me about Emma was the lack of ownership she had to her consequences when it came to understanding that intention doesn’t matter. You can be well intended and deeply hurt someone. It doesn’t change the pain, it merely provides context for it. That was always my sticking point about in particular the faux Marion save. Good intentions don’t mean the rules and consequences don’t apply to you. It is in fact why I enjoyed the shoe being on the other foot when Emma told her that she needed to fix her mess and that the price for magic always has to be paid — good intentions, in this case saving Robin don’t matter — Magic comes at a price, that’s the deal whether you’re a villain or a hero. It’s the great leveler. I agree however that they need to walk in each other shoes to discover what it means to come together in a way that is reliant on need. This reversal of fortune if you will is a great way to get there. Regina knows more in her role than Emma did. Emma’s ignorance early on provided a clarity that Regina can’t possibly have because of her experiences. However, I believe it is that precise knowledge and understanding that good and evil are not mutually exclusive that will help her ultimately work and help save Emma from the clutches of the Dark One.

          • I was hoping you comment on this. While I havent faulted Emma much in the past for her actions when done with good intentions, it was harder for me to accept her actions in Camelot since Emma thought the rules of magic didnt apply to her because she was “the savior”. Emma flat out ignores the Dark One’s warning and then claims no responsibility when the fury came to collect the price of that magic. Regina may have asked for it, but Emma still made the choice to heal Robin, so she does share the responsibility. I am curious to see if she is asked or feels compelled to use her magic more and more to help those from Storybrooke because of her savior complex and it leads to her becoming dark. A literal representation of giving too much of yourself and it destroying you.

  12. I find myself very conflicted about this episode, for some of the things you wrote and more

    Dark Swan
    I have a few issues with the way they show her, my friend believes that in some ways she is worse than Rumple and I agree, even in his darkest times he didn’t want not to feel anything, and DarkEmma wants that, her end goal is to not feel love, compassion, friendships, not to be tied up by any of it. This is why she brought the sword to SB. I do believe that whatever happened in Camelot got her to lose faith completely, to stop believing there could be some good left in her. still her actions feel too extreme to me.
    I did see a bit of Emma with Henry and a few seconds with Hook and at the end, I think it surprised her that she felt it, that’s why Rumple came back (narratively he was there to explain the audience about her plans which was a bit silly, no need for it, it would have been better for her to just talk to him) cos she felt a bit light in her.

    Failed True Love Kiss x2
    I didn’t like how they explained why TL didn’t work for Rumbelle and did the same with CS, I even think that TLK to cure the DO is ‘easy way out’, being the Dark One isn’t a curse, it’s being possessed with darkness, and they see it as huge thing to have TLK fix it all in an instant.
    Regardless of that, In the show they talk how Emma loved the power that came from being the Dark One and that’s why it didn’t work and I have issues with it- first of all Emma was powerful before, second of all she never cared for power to have it go to extreme like it happened with Rumple. I don’t buy that Emma likes the power but I think she liked being selfish about it.
    What I saw as the reason for the TLK not working in Camelot was Emma saving Robin and liking the satisfaction it gave her, the entire episode Regina (even if she had good intentions) tried to take what makes Emma unique and special – Being the savior, heck for 4 seasons almost everyone define Emma as the savior first, she believes this is who she is to even her parents before being their daughter, and Regina reduced this specialness to something everyone with magic can do, when Regina couldn’t save Robin, Emma felt like ‘now they need me’, she saved him with only 80% purity (even the color of her magic was yellow or dirty white) and she was scared by it, that’s why she panickly kissed Hook – her anchor.
    In SB when Hook tried kissing her he found out that Emma doesn’t believe there is any good inside her to go back to, I believe she wants to but she lost faith so she is putting the brave face with ‘there’s nothing to go back to, this is who I am accept me’.

    Hook
    First of all – I want to hug him!!! My poor baby. I loved his reaction to her proposal to stay and hated her proposal so much, even Rumple didn’t treat Belle like that, you could always see love and softness from Rumple towards Belle and I didn’t see a lot in Emma. There were a few glimps of old Emma with him but just a few and I hated it, both of them believes the other is his true love, both of them tried the kiss so there’s not hesitation in the emotions (that I liked) but you barely saw nothing from her. What could he have done to make her be this cold with him? the way she treated him was horrible.
    I want to believe that being the Dark one alone is easier for her cos she doesn’t have to stand the looks and searches of Emma when everyone looks at her, with Rumple no one but Hook knew him before, no one loved him before, with Emma maybe it too painful for her to see them searching for a person she doesn’t believe exist or will ever come back, so she is cold and it’s her way to push them away. she tried pulling Hook to the dark side with her cos old selfish Hook wouldn’t have looked at her like this Hook did, and it didn’t work so she went back to being cold.

    I will see how this arc progress but I hope they won’t ruin CS along the way.

    ~Huxy

    • I think it’s perfectly normal for you not to like the way the characters are acting! For me, I kinda love seeing my characters make stupid wrong decisions because on this show it usually means they are going to learn to make the right ones later!

  13. Your analysis always covering the whole picture, thanks for that. I just want to add a few bits, such as the fact that Emma’s hidden agenda might be related to her absolutely particular profile: she IS a light being, born with a powerful light magic – that hasn’t gone away, that is combined now, merged with dark magic, but she is not full dark, no way. She is more likely the Grey One. It was said (by Dark-Demon-Rumple) that if she embraced the darkness she would no longer see him. That’s why she was surprised when he reappeared, it seemed as they have different agendas and he is making sure to align them, making them one. She wish she could tell Killian the truth but she can’t.
    Next episode she will try to gain his trust. People are seeing that as atrap, a trick, but I have my doubts. Trust is and has always being the key to open doors when it comes to Emma and Killian, and still is.

    • I was wondering as well why she can’t tell him, she didn’t say ‘I won’t tell’, she said ‘I can’t tell’ and she looked sincere to me, maybe the vision of Rumple has some kind of a hold on her?

      The problem I have regarding next episode (at least from what we saw in the promo) is that she will use manipulation to try to make him help her delete her love for him. it’s twisted, for Emma trust was high up, not necessarily for Dark Swan.

  14. SO MANY THINGS! omg this episode had so much. Awesome review, as always.

    I also didn’t buy Regina’s whole “I never learned to dance” thing. Not that the character is lying, but it felt like they needed to have that scene and so they just came up with an excuse for it. And honestly, that’s OK with me because it was awesome. For one thing it’s neat to see characters interacting who don’t usually get much screen time together. And for another, your assertion that Regina and Emma are two sides of a coin kept coming to me during this episode (especially as Regina was having to be the Savior). And we saw Charming and Emma get ready for her ball in the flashback was back when. So it felt right to me to see him getting Regina ready for her first real ball, rather belatedly. I also had that ‘suspension of suspension of disbelief’ moment when everyone is dancing at the ball and somehow they all know the complicated steps, and I was thinking “wait, Regina only just learned to dance 5 minutes ago!” but then they showed us that delightful little bit with Robin and Regina not knowing the steps. (I 100% believe that was Lana and Sean goofing around out of character, but I’m really glad they used it!)

    Anyway. I totally missed a lot of things when I was watching it – the Guardians of Galaxy bit, the strong wedding imagery in the ball scenes, the idea that Emma kissing Killian after the healing was a TLK attempt – I just saw that as her seeking to calm the darkness or the craziness of using her magic. I may have read too much fanfic because mostly what was going through my head was “I’ve read this fic! she’s totally going to jump his bones when she uses her magic!” I definitely saw Killian’s kiss as a TLK attempt, but I just didn’t think of that with Emma’s kiss until after Rumple pointed out her sparkly skin. I’m loving that they’re having these failed attempts with explanations that make it clear that no one anywhere questions that they are actually each others true love. I’m really looking forward to that payoff we’ll get eventually.

    JMo is doing an amazing acting job with this role, even more so that she already was before she had to add in the darkness. I’m just blown away by her skills every week, and even more so when I get to see the details on tumblr later. Give that woman all the awards. (I hope you do get a chance to thank her in person, one way or another. I’ll have my fingers crossed for you.)

    I’m just really enjoying everything so far (especially the kissing!) and looking forward to everything still to come.

    • I love how excited we all are for kissing. I remember back in late season two talking to my best friend about the show, and her #1 complaint was that there wasn’t enough kissing.

      This show is way too family friendly. Luckily we fanfiction!

  15. On a completely random note, I am glad to see that Emma has finally learned to “poof” from place to place. That would be the first magic thing I would want — poofing.

    • Yes! I was wondering if she was going to drive her bug around in those outfits! You don’t drive in coats like that, you need a dramatic way to travel, and what is more dramatic than poofing!?

  16. Emma is the most empathetic character on Once Upon a Time; at her best, she understands the reasons people made the choices they did, and she doesn’t hold those choices against them.

    I never had that opinion. Even once Emma becomes free of “the Dark One” curse, she will remained trapped by another role, namely “the Savior”. And she still has to face her past actions and stop pretending that she has not done anything wrong. She still has a lot of growing to do.

  17. I like Emma’s take on the Dark One. It puts me in mind of a dark fae, cold and calculating, sinister, evil in that way. Not wanton destruction evil, not giddy I love being evil, evil. Just stone cold dark and doesn’t shy from it. It makes me think of the Dark fae in the lower planes like in Nordic traditions. JOn said she was reading old fairy tales for inspiration, and I think that really shows.

    • Ohhhh, I like this. (As you noted, Jennifer Morrison evidently does tons of research, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s invoked this deliberately.)

  18. Pingback: TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.03 | Nerdy Girl Notes

  19. Pingback: TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.04 | Nerdy Girl Notes

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