TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.03

Source: ABC/Jack Rowand

Source: ABC/Jack Rowand

Title Siege Perilous

Two-Sentence Summary Secret motivations are revealed in both Camelot and Storybrooke as Charming and Arthur team up on quests in the past and present. Meanwhile, when Hook refuses the temptation of the Dark One, Emma is forced to find someone else to pull Excalibur from its stone.

Favorite Line “I don’t want to only be remembered as the man who kissed a sleeping princess awake 30 years ago.” (Charming)

(I would also like to use this section to mention the perfection of the “Doctoberfest” pun, possibly my favorite Once Upon a Time pun ever.)

My Thoughts Before I begin this week’s episode analysis, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the environment I got to see “Siege Perilous” in. I had the pleasure of watching it in a room full of Once Upon a Time fans at New York Comic Con (NYCC) on Friday, and it was (pun intended) a truly magical experience. (If any of you reading this were there, I was the girl in the navy blue Granny’s Diner t-shirt!)

If you ever get the chance to watch an episode of your favorite show with a bunch of other fans, do it; it’s so much fun. I’ll have more to say about my whole NYCC experience later this week, but for today I’ll try include some notes about the audience reaction to particular scenes, because it’s fun to know what others experienced while watching this crazy rollercoaster of an episode unfold.

Once Upon a Time is a show about fairytales, which makes it a show about heroes and villains. While the line between those two archetypes has grown increasingly blurry over the seasons, what has grown clearer is the idea that those labels don’t define a person so much as the choices they make define them. You can call yourself a hero all you want in this show’s universe, but it ultimately won’t mean anything without making heroic choices. And on this show, a heroic choice is a choice to love others more than your own selfish desires. Darkness on Once Upon a Time comes from hurting others and closing yourself off to love for selfish reasons—whether it’s vengeance, jealousy, ambition, or lust for power. And that darkness is contrasted by those who’ve chosen to fight for the people they love, even when it gets hard—especially when it gets hard.

“Siege Perilous” provided strong examples of contrasts between people who call themselves heroes and people who are actually doing heroic things. And in no pairing of characters was that contrast clearer than it was between Charming and Arthur. Charming might be afraid that he’ll only be remembered as a man who woke a sleeping princess 30 years ago (a truly poignant line delivered perfectly by Josh Dallas), but, in truth, his legacy is about so much more than breaking one sleeping curse. If Charming is known for anything, it’s the depth and strength of his love for the two most important women in his life: his wife and his daughter. And that’s not something defined by one act 30 years ago. It’s something we’ve seen reflected in every choice he’s made since then, including his choices in this episode.

Charming is a man of action; our first impression of him was the man who fought off attackers with his baby in his arms. So it felt right that being unable to physically do anything to help his daughter—both in Camelot and in Storybrooke—would be eating away at him. Dallas was excellent in this episode; I love when he gets a chance to shine, because he’s such a good actor whose work sometimes gets overshadowed by the flashier storylines on Once Upon a Time. He made Charming’s frustration feel palpable. I loved the moment in Camelot when he was shown holding baby Neal while the women around him were hard at work because it was such a classic Once Upon a Time moment of flipping traditional gender roles. (And we all know Dallas looks even more handsome while holding a baby.) But it also highlighted the fact that Charming felt like he was useless until Arthur gave him a quest.

That same sense of frustration was prevalent in Charming’s early scenes in Storybrooke. I loved the scene between Charming and Snow in the sheriff’s office because it felt like a very real moment between a married couple whose child has chosen to go down a dark path. Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin are such great scene partners for each other in dramatic moments, allowing each other to go to difficult places as actors. And Dallas had to go to a very difficult place in that scene, but Goodwin was there for him every step of the way, just like Snow was there for Charming.

I liked the word choice of Charming feeling “paralyzed” by what’s happened to Emma. This is a man of action who can’t figure out how to act, because the villain he needs to take action against is his daughter. In Dallas’s performance, you could see how painful it is for Charming to believe he’d failed Emma. In Season Three, we saw that Emma telling Charming he’d failed her was the stuff of nightmares for him, but it became his reality in this season’s premiere. Charming is a father who did everything in his power (including things less than heroic) to ensure that his daughter lived and lived a life of goodness. The tragedy in this story is that the one thing Charming couldn’t save his daughter from was herself. And to not even be able to remember how his failure led to her darkness makes the whole situation even more painful. That pain came through so profoundly in Dallas’s performance.

Dallas’s depiction of hopelessness was matched beautifully by Goodwin’s depiction of Snow’s steadfast faith in her husband. While we can’t just call ourselves a hero without earning it, sometimes all it takes is someone we love reminding us of our best self to help us find it again. Snow calling Charming her hero was such a lovely reminder that belief in those we love is such a critical theme on Once Upon a Time, and these two characters represent that theme better than anyone.

However, seeds were planted in this episode that this foundational relationship is about to be tested, and it’s all because of Charming’s new friendship with Arthur. In both Camelot and Storybrooke, Arthur made Charming feel useful again by giving him a quest to undertake. Those quests provided the bulk of the episode’s fun action sequences (Regenerating water zombie knights! Indiana Jones-style bridge crossings! Jousting from a truck—which got a huge reaction from the NYCC crowd!). They also gave the audience a chance to really examine Arthur as a character before the episode’s big final twist.

This show’s darkest characters know how to prey on desperate souls looking for a purpose, and that’s exactly what Arthur did with Charming. There were far too many similarities in their pasts to be true, and I think the scene where we find out Arthur took the toadstool was less about shock value than it was about allowing the audience to feel validated in our mistrust of Arthur from his first moments on the show.

The real shock came from Lancelot returning with a warning for Snow: Arthur isn’t just a suspicious character, he’s the villain in this Camelot story. I’m excited to see what happens with Lancelot coming back, but I’m even more excited to see what this means for Snow and Charming. The juxtaposition of Snow holding baby Neal—her face awash in worry—as Charming beamed from his new seat at the Round Table set up the tension for future episodes perfectly.

The next big shock came from just how right Lancelot was about Arthur being a villain. This wasn’t just about hiding a toadstool; this was about Arthur making his squire drink poison and watching him die all for his desire to create a new Camelot by overtaking Storybrooke. It caused quite a stir at NYCC, and for good reason. Arthur may have believed he was doing this for a noble reason, but there’s nothing noble about taking a life to fuel ambition. And there’s also nothing noble about hiding the fact that he seems to know things about the time in Camelot that other characters have no memory of.

Great twists on Once Upon a Time earn their greatness because they provide a surprise while also fitting perfectly into the show’s narrative and themes. In this case, the revelation of Arthur’s dark side tied perfectly into the theme of what makes someone a hero. Pulling a sword from a stone and lying about it being whole doesn’t make you a hero. What makes you a hero is choosing to help others and choosing to be honest about who you are and who you were, especially when it’s difficult. Charming deserves to sit in the Siege Perilous, reserved for the purest of knights on the most noble of quests (saving his daughter). But Arthur doesn’t seem to have done anything to earn his status as a hero. If anything, his choices so far have shown him to be more aligned with this show’s villains than its heroes, telling himself that his dark deeds are being done for the right reasons.

The true definition of heroism was also a prominent theme in this week’s “Dark Swan” story. I know I say this every week, but Jennifer Morrison’s performance as Dark One Emma is nothing short of brilliant. Getting to watch the episode twice allowed me to pick up on a bunch of subtle shifts in vocal inflection and facial expression that I would have missed with only one viewing, and it made me appreciate her work even more.

The darkness needs a hero to pull Excalibur from the stone and unite it with the dagger, and it broke my heart to see the way the darkness preyed on Emma and Hook’s relationship in its search for a worthy hero. Loving and being loved by Emma helped Hook change from someone consumed by darkness to a true hero, but now that love is being twisted by the darkness for its own evil ends.

While “Siege Perilous” had plenty of great twists and jaw-dropping scenes, it was Emma and Hook’s interactions onboard the Jolly Roger that captivated me the most. Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue were breathtaking in those moments (literally—I found myself holding my breath during that scene at the NYCC screening because it was so intense). In a few short minutes, we were given a fascinating look into the psychology of a Dark One, as well as a heartbreaking picture of what it means to love someone who can’t have any kind of healthy relationship because of the choices they’ve made.

It absolutely broke my heart to see Emma tempting Hook with a re-creation of their first date, down to her dress and ponytail. That first-date look meant so much to me that I actually wrote an entire essay about it, so it was devastating to see the darkness corrupt that moment of pure light and joy in an effort to earn Hook’s trust in order to get him to do its dark bidding. And O’Donoghue was so good in that scene because you could see all over his painfully expressive face how hard it was for Hook to see their love being used for ulterior motives. From the start, he knew it wasn’t Emma coming to him; it was the Dark One. He knew he was being toyed with, and he wasn’t going to have any of it.

No one knows the Dark One like Hook. This episode reminded us that he’s the only character who knew Rumplestiltskin both before and after he became the Dark One. And he spent centuries trying to defeat it. He knows the games it plays, and when he sees Emma trying those games on him, something inside him breaks. Because it’s not really Emma playing those mind games with him. It’s not Emma hiding the truth from him as she asks for his trust. The woman he loves would never do either of those things. Emma Swan wasn’t someone who toyed with people’s emotions; she never played games or manipulated people. I feel like this scene was the moment when it became clear to Hook that trying to simply love Emma enough to help her find her true self again wasn’t going to work. Because it was clear that the darkness makes her feel as if this new, manipulative self is her true self.

I loved the symbolic lighting in the moment in which Emma told Hook that she’s better now that she doesn’t have walls and isn’t afraid. As she talked about who she was before the darkness, she was bathed in light. And as she talked about who she’s become, she was cloaked in shadows. That moment said so much about how the darkness twists a person’s mind into thinking they need it. Emma’s strength came from the fact that she let herself be vulnerable and she let others in to help her walls come down. That’s where true strength comes from—not from eliminating all vulnerabilities and relying only on yourself. The darkness made Emma look with disdain and self-loathing on who she once was, and that gave me a much better sense of what it did to Rumplestiltskin, too.

Even in Emma’s body, the darkness spoke with disgust about Rumplestiltskin’s cowardice when he was just a man. It felt so wrong to see Emma tell Hook that embracing the darkness gave Rumplestiltskin a path to true love and a way to be his best self. But that’s where Hook’s familiarity with the Dark One came into play again. Unlike anyone else, he knew who Rumplestiltskin really was before taking on the darkness—and that was a good, frightened man who was trying to keep his family together. Hook was able to do something so profound in that moment with Emma: admit that he was the villain and also admit that he’s changed for the better. Hook’s self-awareness has always been one of my favorite things about him, but this took it to a new level. He wasn’t blaming anyone but himself for his dark deeds. He owned his dark side. But then he also put aside the inability to see himself as a hero that plagued him for much of the past two seasons. He’s finally able to see himself as someone who has changed for the better, but what’s almost unbearably sad is that he admitted all this to the one person who helped him change for the better—and she didn’t even care.

Instead of truly listening to what Hook said about his personal experience with the Dark One, Emma simply played another game, using their time in the alternate storybook—a time that was actually incredibly painful for them—to try to distract him with a kind of twisted flirting. And that game proved to be his last straw. O’Donoghue looked absolutely beside himself with anger in that moment, and you could see in his face the echo of Charming’s earlier frustration—a man who pledged to protect the heart of the woman he loves unable to do anything to save that heart from the darkness (and unable to remember what happened to turn it so dark).

While the darkness was trying to use Hook and Emma’s love as a weapon to gain strength, Hook turned the tables and tried to use their love as a weapon for good, trying to reach the woman underneath the darkness. I was floored by the sincere emotion in his voice when he told Emma that he liked who she was; he liked her walls and helping to bring them down. That was Hook trying desperately to talk to his Emma, to reassure her that she doesn’t need the darkness to be better or stronger. The things the darkness wants her to hate about who she was were things he liked; they weren’t burdens or things to be ashamed of. They were what made her Emma, a woman working to be her best self one moment of vulnerability at a time.

And for one brief, beautiful moment, Morrison showed his words reaching through the darkness to touch whatever little bit of Emma still exists. Her face softened just enough to show that his Emma is still there, and she wants to know she’s loved for who she was—not who she’s become. But in just one shift in her body language, that Emma faded away and the darkness returned with another manipulative question: “Do you love me?”

Hook knows the Dark One, and he knows Emma. He knew that wasn’t Emma asking the question; it was the Dark One. But he spoke once again to the Emma he believes is still there somewhere when he said, “I loved you.” That confession isn’t an ending; it’s a beginning of a new way of fighting for the woman he loved and still loves. He loved who Emma was—the Emma the darkness wants to erase forever. He loved the woman who asked her loved ones to get the darkness out of her, and he knows that Emma wouldn’t want him to blindly accept her darkness while she’s losing herself more and more. That Emma wouldn’t want him to lose himself, too; she would want him to be his best self to help her regain her sense of her best self.

That line doesn’t represent Hook giving up. It represents Hook fighting more fiercely than ever, using love as a weapon in his own way. By showing Emma that she can’t have both the darkness and his love, he’s giving her a choice instead of letting her believe she can have it all. And as we saw at the end of “The Price,” there’s still a part of Emma that wants to be surrounded by love. That part of her is who Hook is trying to reach, and, once again, he succeeded for a moment. After his confession, Morrison gave us that perfect moment of Emma looking down, her eyes filling with tears and her smile unable to last. Even though the Dark One got what it wanted, Emma didn’t. And her heart is breaking, which we all know means it still works. It was clear from the powerful way she told the darkness to be quiet when it belittled her love for Hook at the end of the episode; she didn’t like having to hurt him, and she doesn’t like the darkness making light of it. And that’s a reason for hope—to believe that she’ll ultimately choose his love and acceptance over the darkness.

This episode discussed the way heroes never give up—even after a loss. While Emma’s loved ones are suffering loss after loss as the darkness in her grows stronger, we know they’ll never give up; it’s one of the themes of the whole show. (“You don’t give up on the people you love.”) And if anyone knows the value of never giving up on the people you love, it’s Belle. Seeing the way the darkness kept twisting Emma and Hook’s love made me think more deeply about just how much it preyed on Rumplestiltskin’s love for Belle, especially since he started to love her after becoming the Dark One—and their love almost broke the curse. That new way of looking at him and their relationship helped me find real, sincere joy in watching Belle see the rose petals being put back on the enchanted rose. There was something so infectious about Emilie de Ravin’s happiness in that moment, and it led to the most excited audience rumblings at the entire NYCC screening.

However, Belle couldn’t find Rumplestiltskin; another woman got to him first. Watching Emma and “Dark One Rumplestiltskin” stand over his body was deliciously creepy. It was fascinating to think that the Dark One is still preying on him even now that it’s out of his body. I also have to give Robert Carlyle so much credit for immediately showing Rumplestiltskin’s fear as he woke up, returning to who he was without the Dark One in him.

As Emma said, he’s now neither hero nor villain. The Dark One intends to make him a hero, but this episode showed us that it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just anoint someone (or yourself) a hero. You have to earn it. The darkness knows nothing of heroism; that much is clear. So I’m interested to see how this plan will backfire and what will happen when it does. Because we all know that the darkness won’t ultimately win—just like we know Emma’s loved ones won’t ever give up on fighting for her to be her best self. Love is strength, and it’s finally time the Dark One learned that lesson.

Extra Thoughts:
• Regina didn’t have much to do in this episode, but it was puzzling to see her still refer to herself as the Evil Queen when threatening Zelena. Just as Robin and Henry bring out her best self, it’s clear Zelena still brings out her worst self. It’s going to be interesting to see her work through that dark part of herself that still rises to the surface around her sister.
• Does the sheriff’s station still have cameras? If so, I hope they’re used to show everyone exactly who Arthur is.
• Between the “Doctoberfest” pun and the truck jousting it was clear that “Siege Perilous” was a Jane Espenson episode. She has such a unique tone to her writing, and all her episodes involve a good dose of fairytale fun, even when things are emotionally heavy and thematically complex.
• I loved seeing Hook finally have someone to confide in during his scenes with Robin. It’s about time he had a friend, and I’m pretty sure everyone (including O’Donoghue and Sean Maguire) wanted that friend to be Robin. The NYCC crowd loved those scenes, too—lots of screams! It’s going to be fun to watch them team up on this mission to break into Emma’s locked room.
• At NYCC, it was revealed that someone’s heart was crushed to cast this curse. Any theories on whose it is? Is a couple (Emma and Hook?) sharing a heart now like Snow and Charming? Did Emma’s heart get crushed since she’s now immortal? Did Merlin’s heart get crushed since we haven’t seen him in Storybrooke yet (and I’m sure they freed him in Camelot)?

49 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.03

  1. Woo Hoo! Lots of stuff to dig into and discuss . . . Fun times.

    I love that we see the variations of villainy in OUAT. Right now, we see a man who claims to want to save his kingdom and just what he’s willing to do to achieve that — and the lies he’ll tell himself and others in the process. Granted, at this point, we don’t fully know what’s going on with Arthur, so we’ll probably learn that’s there’s more to the story. But take it at face value for a minute: his single-mindedness in saving his kingdom is frightening. Consider, too, the shape this takes: betrayal. He betrays Charming’s trust. He betrays the loyalty of his squire. I have a feeling we’ll learn that he’s betrayed Lancelot as well. (If you’ve read your Dante, you know betrayal is as bad as it gets.) Now, we may learn that Arthur’s been evil all along, but right now, it’s interesting how scary Arthur is because he thinks he’s doing good . . . and how he gets others to buy into his vision as well.

    Ahhh, Charming. Yes, baby-holding is a good look on him. (Hopefully, we’ve move past the swaddling like a breakfast burrito.) I love how eagerly he jumped at the chance for a quest. He wants so badly to do something to help. I love the partnership we see between Charming and Snow as well in the jail scenes. They always take turn saving each other: even if it’s just with words.

    Oh, Regina. Is baiting Zelena really the smartest move? No. Is it completely in character with Regina? Absolutely. Would many of us love to do the same? Probably. Yes, Zelena has had multiple chances . . . but is the baby the thing that would make the difference? That’s hard to tell. As someone pointed out a couple of weeks ago, Zelena’s view of motherhood is toxic, so letting her near the baby is problematic. Yet, she is the mother, so cutting her off presents difficulties as well.

    Poor Robin. I love that they address the complexity of the relationships. Robin is excited about the baby, but he gets that it’s difficult to discuss that with Regina . . . and possibly others if he doesn’t consider his word choice. (Poor Hook.)

    I am so ready for the Mission Impossible episode of OUAT with Hook and Robin Hood. Bring it, writers. BRING IT

    Hook and Emma. Wow. As I noted a few weeks ago, Hook is smart when it counts. He’s always been the one person who knows just what Emma needs — he knows when to push, when to pull back, when to bring the grilled cheese. He gets her. He also knows the Dark One. Granted, he may not always be as smart in his dealings with the Dark One, but he knows the Dark One. Should we be surprised, then, that Hook knows how to deal with Emma as Dark One . . . and that he’ll do it, no matter how difficult it is? (How often have we seen Hook show restraint with Emma? There’s been a lot of sexy jaw clenching.) You can tell that it’s killing him, but he won’t fall for the manipulation. He’s walking a fine line of giving Emma what she needs without giving the Dark One what it needs.

    I was just starting to recover from the Hook’s declaration last week that he’d spend as long as needed to get Emma back, when we get, “I liked your walls.” Wow. Just wow. I . . . yeah, wow. *sniffle*

    Is someone making Doctoberfest mugs on Zazzle? I need a Doctoberfest mug.

    Operation Make-Rumple-A-Hero should be interesting . . .

    Great recap, Katie. I’m glad you had such a excellent time at NYCC

    • Thank you—and I can’t wait to tell you all even more about NYCC in my post about it tomorrow! 🙂

      I would also like to add my name to the list of people in need of a Doctoberfest mug. And I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only person who got a little sniffly at “I liked your walls.” What a perfect line, delivered perfectly. I never would have thought about the Dark One making Emma feel like she needs to be “better” than who she was, but I suppose that’s exactly what it did to Rumple, too. And that’s why it’s such a good thing that she has Hook to try to tell her that she doesn’t need the darkness to make her better because she was enough exactly as she was.

      I also really liked what you said about Arthur. Like you, I’m sure there’s more to the story, and I’m really interested to see what’s making him so desperate to preserve his kingdom. On the surface, it’s a noble pursuit, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m excited to see what started him on this path and what exactly happened with Lancelot, since you know it has to be a twist on the story we all know.

  2. I’m so happy you got to experience this episode with a room full of fans! That sounds like a great experience that I really need to have one day.

    I love it when Josh Dallas gets a chance to shine and this was a great episode for him. The action sequences were fun and very entertaining to watch (especially the truck jousting) but it was the scene in the sheriff’s office that I loved the most. You can’t help but have your heart break for Charming. From the time she accepted them, and especially last season, you can see how much Emma is a daddy’s girl. She’s his pride and joy and once again, he feels like he’s failed her and is powerless to fix it. His face when he looked at the picture of the two of them was incredibly well-acted but so sad to watch.

    On the other side of the relationship, I loved Snow’s mama bear instinct coming out when Grumpy threatened to do something about Dark Swan. Emma may be lost to the darkness at the moment but Snow’s not going to give up on her. She has home that she can bring her daughter back and her steadfast belief in her family is just what Charming needed. I’ve had my issues with Snow in the past and her black-and-white thinking, but her unwavering hope is what she and Charming are going to need to get through this. Especially now that Lancelot is back and Arthur has officially been revealed as a villain.

    I’m going to say this about every episode until this arc is over but I cannot get enough of how JMo is playing Dark Swan. I love the moments where Emma can briefly take control before the darkness takes over again and I love the moments where both are present but very obviously not the same entity. It is fascinating to watch as a viewer and while I’d like Emma back, I am adoring every second of what JMo is bringing to her new role.

    I loved the twisted sense of wonder on Dark Swan’s face as she declared that the darkness had made her better. This is easily the most we’ve ever seen her embrace her magical power for its own value, not what it can do for others, and the darkness loves it. The casual use of magic to manipulate and make her own life easier has been abundant since we returned to Storybrooke and it is such a switch from the Emma that first arrived in Storybrooke that it is incredibly easy to see how the darkness can twist that into something good. Because it rarely lies outright. Darkness prefers half-truths that can be turned into something more palatable to believe. It preys on our weaknesses and insecurities and turns what we once held dear against us.

    I loved the corruption of the first date memory and the contrast between the soft innocence that surrounded Emma that night vs. this version that loves the game and the manipulation. It’s so clearly not the same Emma and I’m glad Hook sees that and is unwilling to accept anything less than the girl he fell in love with. He doesn’t want this approximation that wears her face and flaunts their love for her own purposes. But what I like most of all is the readiness with which he accepts that this isn’t Emma. He knows more than most the influence the Dark One has on a person and can see through its facade to the Emma that’s still there, no matter how deep she’s buried. It only strengthens his resolve to get her back and he’s not going to stop fighting for her.

    This was supposed to be a short comment (oops) but I’ll wrap up by saying that I cannot wait to see Emma interacting with both forms of Rumple in the next coming weeks. With the strength JMo is bringing to this arc and Robert Carlyle’s general awesomeness, it’s going to be so good to watch.

    • I’m going to start by replying to your last thought because that was my immediate reaction to the end of this episode: JMo+ TWO Robert Carlyles = perfection. Those scenes are going to be amazing.

      I loved everything you had to say about Charming, and it’s making me super emotional again. Emma is such a daddy’s girl, and Charming has always instinctively known how to be the father his daughter needs. But now that’s all changed. And it leaves him feeling completely useless, which leaves me completely heartbroken. And I totally agree that Snow’s sense of hope and her inability to give up on that hope is going to be what pulls them through. Emma needs someone to believe in her and to believe in everyone fighting to bring her out of the darkness, and who better to do that than her ever-hopeful mom?

      Everything you said about Emma causally using magic now is so important, too. From closing doors to changing clothes to appearing and disappearing at will, she’s never used her magic this much for no reason other than herself before. It reinforces the idea that the darkness wants her to think she’s better with it and the power it gives her, especially by preying on the complicated relationship Emma has with her magic, which we saw in Season 4A.

  3. I’m not the biggest Charming fan, but I love his relationship with Emma. How come neither he or Snow have tried to reach out to Emma, like Henry and Hook did? In my opinion, the logical step for them would be to confront their daughter and try to appeal to her good side.

    • I think Snow and Charming are worried about provoking her. With the mind wipe, there isnt much time that has passed between when Emma forgave them last season and now. And it was clear during the scene at Grannys at the end of the premiere that Emma was NOT happy with them. Henry and Killian seem free from her wrath, if not necessarily her manipulation.

    • I’m just going to echo Shauna’s reply and say that I think they’re afraid of making things worse, since she seemed to direct most of her anger at them in the last scene of 5.01. Both Snow and Charming have always feared failing their daughter, so I think this turn of events is preying on their guilt and making it hard for them to know how to proceed.

      • But they’re eventually going to do something, right? It’s their daughter and they’re the only ones among the core characters who haven’t even tried to reach out to Emma or even to find out what happened in Camelot! Even Henry tried to talk to Emma and he’s a kid! Maybe I’m reading too much into that but having a promo video with Snow saying “I’m not losing my daughter, my hope, to darkness” and then showing them doing nothing. Hope speeches are very pretty and stuff but actions speak louder than words.

        • I definitely think there will be an episode soon that deals with them having some kind of meaningful interaction with Emma as the Dark One. I think the fact that Henry is a kid—Emma’s kid, specifically—actually makes it a lot easier for him to reach out to her than her parents. He comes at things with less baggage. I’d argue that this episode showed them struggling with the same frustration in themselves that you’re voicing with them, so I think we’ll see action from them on a lot of fronts soon enough.

  4. You are amazing. Sometimes I worry that I’m not seeing things the right way and I worry the writers are just being sneaky and fooling me and will ultimately break my heart. Then I read your blog posts and I am so relieved. It really is the beautiful storytelling I think it is and that in the end I will feel so good about the moral of the story and the hope that will inevitably be apparent. Thank you so much for confirming the softening of Emma’s eyes when he talked of breaking down her walls to show the Darkness that what it convinced her was a weakness was something he loved about her. Ugh. I’m probably going to read this at least 10 times. I love it so much!

    • Thank you so much for saying such incredibly kind things about my writing. If nothing else, I write what I want to read, and I always want to read things that make me feel hopeful about the shows I love. And I think the beauty of OUAT is that it really is all about hope in the end. It’s not a show that’s going to make you feel worse about the world when all is said and done; it’s goal is to make its audience feel hopeful. And in a TV landscape that’s fairly dark, I love shows like this one that remind me that even when things look bleak, there are still reasons to hope.

  5. I am so excited you were able to go to NYCC and experience watching a episode with a room full of fans. I have had this experience a few times over the years, and it really is fun to feed off the energy of everyone in the room. The one OUAT I got to see early was also a Jane Espenson (“Bleeding Through” from season 3B) and I remember the audience being super enthusiastic, more so than any other screening I have been to.

    I always enjoy Jane Espenson episodes because I feel like she likes to make sure each character has something to contribute to the episode. If its not emotional, its at least funny, and most of the time its both!

    I said last week how much I love Dark Swan. Well, I think its safe to say that I love Dark Swan yelling at Regina more than I love Dark Swan manipulating Killian. But at the same time, its such GREAT angst. I mean CS has gone through some really frustrating angst over the seasons (3B and 4A were just mean if you ask me) but this angst I welcome. This is angst were you know they are going to end up stronger than ever. My first thought when this season started was that Killian was going to accept Emma with the darkness. One of the things I have always loved about him is the fact that Killian sees and loves Emma for who she is, not what he wants her to be. Emma has so many labels; daughter, mother, princess, sheriff, and savior. But Killian never needed her to be anything more than what she already was. So I thought that being the “Dark One” was just going to be another label that wouldnt mean anything to him. But its very clear now that ‘Dark One’ is much more than a label or a symbolic title. Its a dark force that has overtaken the Emma that he loves, and he is going to fight tooth and nail to get his Emma back. Its hard to watch, but like I said, its a good pain. And I am glad that Emma is being forced to make that choice between love and power (and, I think on some level, duty as the Savior, something I personally have never seen as necessarily a good thing).

    Like you, I especially loved Killian’s reflection on his first meeting with Rumple and admitting he was a villain in that scene. Are there any more Killian character criticisms they plan on squashing this season because it seems like the writers dont want to leave any doubt at this point. I am actually curious to see what kind of interaction he might have with Rumple now that he is no longer the Dark One.

    Speaking of Rumple, can I gloat about calling the ‘blank slate’ thing?! I thought that Rumple was going to have to rebuild his humanity himself, but of course the writers had to go one up me and have his humanity be manipulated and built for evil instead. Does this mean Rumple will be doing the right things but for the wrong reasons in contrast with everyone else doing the wrong things for the right reasons?

    Arthur is BRUTAL. That poor squire. Its going to be rough to see him betray Charming and the rest of them. I really want to know why he thinks its so important to protect his kingdom over everything else.

    Other Thoughts:

    – Seeing Charming get angry and throw things in the Sheriffs station killed me. Charming and Snow may have messed up over the years, but there is no doubt that they love Emma and want the best for her.

    – You mentioned that Zelena brings out the worst in Regina, and I have always seen this as a good thing. Zelena challenges Regina in a way the others characters dont, and has actually been a pretty key figure in unwittingly encouraging Regina to make good choices, and I wouldnt be surprised if that trend continues, although now she is sharing the antagonist role with Hook and Dark Swan.

    – I loved seeing Dark Swan harass the dwarfs. I just want to see Dark Swan harass everyone. Archie and Blue for sure. Except maybe her parents, thats just going to hurt.

    – If you are going to have poison made, make sure to pay extra for the “disappearing body” add on.

    – The whole “photo from up inside Zelena” and Hook’s reaction was about as inappropriate as this show gets but I loved it.

    -TRUCK JOUSTING. I mean, this is what I love about the show. The action sequences in general were just really well done this episode. Between the bridge and the knights and the truck/horse chase, everything looked great, which is sadly not the norm.

    – I am still confused if Emma went to Hook to try to get him to help her with Excalibur, or if she was only there to steal something that once touched pre Dark One Rumple. I couldnt tell if she changed her plan once Killian started telling the story with his sword or if it was her plan all along. “I touched this to his neck…” is a pretty awkward way to tell that story which makes me think they wanted to be obvious about it. I think you can make an argument either way.

    – As with Regina’s dancing last week, I think I am going to have to suspend a little belief that Belle a) didnt know where something of Bae’s was and b) didnt think to ask Killian if he had anything that touched Rumple pre Dark One.

    – Getting to see Dark One Rumple and pre Dark One Rumple in the same scene together kinda made me giddy. I hope we get more of it in the episodes to come. I have always loved Carlyle’s performance as both, but getting to see them together is just icing on the cake.

    • I am still confused as well about DS’s original motivation on the Jolly Roger too. They also did not show any backstory about how DS knew she needed something that touched Rumple. When we heard what was needed it was just between Belle and Charming right? Was Arthur there? Maybe he’s working with the Dark One? I dunno.

      • Arthur was there with Charming and Belle in the shop I think. I’m pretty sure, so perhaps there could be a connection between Arthur and Dark Swan

      • I’m working under the assumption that she either eavesdropped the spell, or, since she has Rumple in her head, maybe she just knew the spell?

        Also, she said that Hook told her that pre-DO Rumple lay groveling on the deck of the ship (and therefore was there and touched not only the ship but possibly a few objects on it). I’m wondering if her trip there was expressly to find something that he had touched.

    • I’m with you on wondering why Emma went to Hook . . . I assumed that her insistence on trust was to get him on board with the Excalibur plan.

      Love, LOVE your points on labels and identify. This probably has something to do with my undying love for the exploration of this theme in film/lit. It’s always seemed to me that Emma took on too much with the role of savior and that the town was ready to let her do that. Yes, she’s the curse-breaker, but it seemed to evolve into more and more and more. Hopefully now the town will realize that this is more than one person should have to carry.

      Of course you can gloat. What’s the fun in predicting things if don’t get to do the “called it!” dance? The “I-told-you-so” dance. The “I-am-so-clever” dance. Take your pick. I think the Numfar dance of joy works, too. Obviously this will be better once we have Doctoberfest mugs. 🙂

      • A part of me has always been confused as to why the ‘Savior’ label never went away after she broke the curse. I always saw Emma’s job of “bringing back the happy endings” was just giving everyone back their agency, but five seasons in nobody has gotten that memo and I was starting to wonder if I was just way off base. But part of the reason I am so excited about this season is the hope that they are going to address it.

        • Glad I’m not alone. I was never sure if the writers always intended her role to be more than just initial curse-breaker or if that was something Emma took on herself as one curse turned into another. Based on what they’re doing with Regina (in terms of sharing the load), I hope that when Emma is de-Dark-One-d she won’t have that sole responsibility thrust back on her. I like the way you frame it: giving everyone back their agency.

          • I think I heard somewhere that the writers didn’t even expect the curse to be broken till the end of the series (I think they didn’t know if it would last past one season) so it probably evolved over the course of the show, I do hope Regina helps with the load and I’ve read speculation that rumple could also become a savior, and since they are gearing him up to be a hero, would make sense – but then we would have a whole lot of hero power and would need a big time villain, guess that’s why they said the next arc would be hell, Queen hades?

    • I think that Dark Swan went to the Jolly Roger to get something pre-Dark One Rumple touched because he is the only person who knew Rumple prior to becoming the Dark One. I think she’s trying to tap into his love for Emma in order to gain control of him for sure, but the purpose of the trip down memory land was to gain what she needed to release Excalibur. In becoming the Dark One she gains knowledge that Emma wouldn’t necessarily independently have. So it’s know merely Emma’s knowledge that she is tapping. I think that is why it is so important to have Dark One Rumple as our guide to the Dark One’s internal monologue as it were. I agree with Katie, that flash that Morrison gives us of Emma reacting to Hook placing his love in past tense was exquisite. It is the first time we see the struggle for Emma’s humanity in earnest. Similar to the spaces we would see it with Rumple, especially last year when he had possession of the dagger but Neal was gone.

      I think you are onto something with regards to Emma’s labels. I think her vulnerability to becoming DS has everything to do with maintaining labels and being defined by them independent of her need/desire to define herself. I think it is her challenge/struggle from last week when Regina steps in and pretends to be the savior and the power she feels when she saves Robin. Having that type of control over her magic without assistance was a shift for Emma.

      As for Arthur can we all agree no good comes from being placed in that damn prison cell? I mean seriously how many people need to vanish from it before you realize perhaps you need a new game plan for suspects/prisoners.

      Also – I am not convinced Lancelot is a reliable narrator. We don’t know how/why he is alive given Cora’s possession of him from a few seasons ago. And I agree with you Zelena is a mirror for Regina. A mirror for not only who she is and was but for owning and controlling her choices. Last week, Regina’s insecurities showed up big time and she was defaulting back to old behaviors and patterns. This week revealed her growing confidence especially having earned Charming and Snow’s trust.

    • I love how excited you, Heather, and I are about double the Robert Carlyle! 😉

      And now onto the question of what Dark Swan Emma went to the Jolly Roger for. My initial interpretation was that she went to try to convince him to be her hero to get Excalibur out, but once she realized he wasn’t going to trust her and go along with her plan, her motivation shifted. There was that very specific shot of her face when he was telling her about his sword, and I took that as the moment the Dark One realized what else could be done to use this moment for its own purposes. (I also think the Dark One knew about the spell because it’s the strongest dark magical force ever created, so it just knows this kind of stuff…) But like you said, I could see an argument made for her always wanting the sword, too.

      No matter what she wanted, the outcome was the same: PAIN. However, I’m with you in loving this angst because it’s going to make both characters stronger individually and together in the long run, and it’s solidifying them as a true OUAT power couple to rival Snow/Charming. I also loved what you said about labels. I think this whole arc is going to be about Emma choosing to save and define herself as her own person with light and dark in her instead of the savior (a title I really think has more responsibility attached than it should have at this point) who can only do good things. It feels like Emma mentally replaced the Savior with the Dark One, and I can’t wait for her to accept (and for everyone else to accept) that all she has to be is Emma. We know Hook already knows that, though. 😉

      This was such a fun episode despite that one very painful scene, and I am beyond thrilled that I got to see it with a bunch of fellow fans. The reactions and enthusiasm in the crowd were things I’ll never forget.

  6. Can I just say that I absolutely love your writing and your insight into these fantastical characters that have captured our hearts. You put into words what I can never hope to properly articulate beyond a lot of nonsensical noises and weeping. I’ve only just started reading your work but find myself looking forward to your reviews each week.
    (P.S. Do you have a Tumblr I can follow you on?)

    • Thank you so much! I’m so glad you found NGN, and I hope you enjoy your Mondays around here—I know I do! (And don’t worry…I have plenty of moments of nonsensical noises and weeping, too.)

  7. First so cool you got to watch this among fans. I love that it was a Charming episode given your connection to Charming and Snow from the beginning of this series. I am also so sad my post from last week was lost in the ether – I will tried to bring some of it into this one.

    I found your take on heroes for the episodes arc an interesting one. Because I watched it from a completely different lens. For me the episode represented acts of desperation – many well intended, some not as much. And what sacrifices needed to be made in order to feed those acts. I was also struck by the cadence of parallels between stories and characters that manifested throughout the episode.

    You talked about Emma’s manipulation being an action of the Dark One. For me Emma’s ability to manipulate people was clearly given to us in the first episode of the series in her role as a Bail Bondsman. It’s a skill she’s acquired and used in certain moments across the series. It doesn’t define her the way it defines Regina, but it is a part of the murky lines between heroes and villains. That skill is clearly what the Dark One is tapping into in order to have Emma do his bidding. Very much in the same way we caught a glimpse last week of Emma’s taste for how her power could be controlled when she saved Robin, a control she has never truly had over her power before. Without the Dark One, Emma was brave and Rumple was a coward. What they shared in common was a desire to protect their families. We learned through Neal’s death just how important that was to Rumple. His story about feeling like a father at his grave was one of the most vulnerable and revealing moments of who Rumple is, it was arguably the only time he felt like a man. The Dark One overcompensated for that need through a lust for power. The only person who could see through it was Belle. Hook comes at this in reverse as you so aptly pointed out. He has the unique perspective of knowing Rumple before he became the Dark One, so he too has the capacity to see through it. It’s a strength, not so different from Belle’s that he will need to navigate back to Emma and help break her free of the Dark One.

    I appreciate that Emma’s descent into being the Dark One was due to the failure in Camelot we are learning about. I appreciate it because when she chose to not have Regina taken it was knowing that her history would leave her vulnerable to being swallowed by the darkness. That Emma has been taken hold of by the Dark One in spite of that motivation I think does shed an interesting light on Rumple and precisely how much influence the Dark One possesses. I appreciated the scene with Regina and Emma last week when she confronts her about not placing blame and owning her choices, thus needing to pay the price of magic. But it was a direct hit because Emma too has broken the rules – bringing Marion back – in the name of not wanting an innocent to die.

    That is why for me a lot of this episode came down to what are you willing to sacrifice. What will you give up to win back love, to regain control, to take back power? I think that was the question that loomed over everyone. I am not convinced that Arthur is evil outright. I have deep suspicions from last week about Guinevere and her role and influence in all this and ultimately the methods used by Arthur. Think about it. Arthur poisoning his attendant, Regina needing to take her father’s heart to enact the first curse, Rumple dropping Bae down the portal and of course Pan sacrificing first Rumple and then a Lost Boy. Who set the curse and who was sacrificed is a key missing piece for the missing time from Camelot. One I honestly don’t have a clue about as of yet. The quest of Charming this episode felt very much in keeping with a man willing to sacrifice in order to save his daughter, just like he was willing to die in Neverland. Charming’s pain comes from the idea that he can not protect those he loves, especially Emma. It blinds him, much like it did Rumple, to seeing when he is being used. Arthur’s motivations are unknown. But the fact that he didn’t leave Charming to die in the lake is more than merely recovering the toadstool. I think his lust for power may be less about the sword and more about the power the dagger potentially possesses and that he knows getting the dark one free from Emma may be the key to gaining that power. In every lie there is a layer of truth. Arthur may have been lying to Charming, but his competitive needs were a truth and one that I believe will ultimately play out during this arc.

    Random Additional Thoughts:

    – Robin and Hook at Grannies comparing love problems so reminded me of the Princes bemoaning Agony during Into the Woods in the best possible way.

    – I think Robin’s throwaway scene was more than it appeared. His candor with Hook about how he can be excited about the baby, an innocent, even though it lives and grows from a manipulation is the very foundation of the unconditional love the show and our heroes are founded on.

    – Regina’s scene with Zelena this week was odd. I think she is aligned for wanting to see this child safe and sound, but Regina can not afford to be gullible and provide openings for additional threats. Her insecurity is what the dark one preyed upon. It is something she is fully aware of and now can see manifested in Zelena. I think Regina declaring herself the Evil Queen in that moment was more about owning her own power. Her history informs her choices. Being a hero isn’t merely about being noble, it’s about being true to yourself. Regina, like all the characters isn’t infallible. She is however in control after many years of being controlled by her mother, Rumple and her own hate and need for revenge. There are lessons she brings to this fight to save Emma and to worthy of the trust Charming, Snow and the others have put in her. To do so means being honest to yourself about who you are. If she is transparent, she controls her actions. It is when Regina hides that she opens herself up to the choices that once made her Evil without consequence. Much like you talked about Hook owning his role as a villain, Regina too owns who she was and what she is still very much capable of.

    – In addition to having Carlyle’s brilliant work. Having Dark One Rumple be the voice in Emma’s head has really provided an visual for us to understand the way darkness feeds and twists our truths into its own self serving ends. I am living to see how that will play against Gold who is stripped of those powers and motivation.

    • Welcome back!!

      I like all your thoughts on Arthur here. This episode took me from “Arthur is shady” to “damn, now I want to know what he thinks is so important!”. And there lies why the “villains” on this show are so interesting. They all have complex reasons behind their actions that aren’t necessarily evil.

    • Welcome back, friend!

      I need to start with one big YES to your thoughts on Regina. This is one of the many reasons why I have missed you so around here. What you brought up about owning who you are in regards to Regina and how that relates to Hook is so important. Both of them have finally reached a place where they can admit to their own capacity for darkness and their own failures in resisting darkness, which is so important in relation to Emma’s story.

      I also really liked what you had to say about Emma and her ability to manipulate. I probably didn’t expand on this clearly enough—I think all the Dark One does is take traits that its host already has and twist it for its own purposes. Emma has always been able to manipulate, distract, and play games, and the Dark One simply took that ability and ran with it. As you said, this is all giving us a much more complex picture of what was going on with Rumple all those years, and that’s saying something given how complex he already was. For Emma to take on the darkness from such a place of strength and to be surrounded by so many different kinds of love and STILL be unable to resist the darkness (for whatever reason) really makes me think about how hard it must have been for Rumple to take it on as a coward with only Bae by his side.

      Like you, I have no idea who cast the new curse and how Arthur plays into all this, but I’m excited to find out. I’m sure there’s much more to him than meets the eye, and I love that this episode made me so much more interested in his character (beyond just his very VERY pretty face).

    • Great, GREAT, points on sacrifice. OUAT has always been about love as sacrifice, so it is interesting to see how that plays out — to see what and who people are willing to sacrifice. I don’t know if Arthur’s really trying to save Camelot or if this is just the lie he tells himself, but I think it’s interesting that he seems willing to sacrifice his honor to do so. As you point out, who cast the curse and who got sacrificed will be telling (and probably surprising).

      I saw the Hook/Robin sonogram pic scene as an acknowledgment of the complexity and difficulty of the issue, so thanks for pointing out it also highlights unconditional love. And to tie back to your point about sacrifice, this love is going to take a Belle-like sacrifice and heroism.(They have to sacrifice the easy way out. This is a heroism that’s day-to-day in loving this child when circumstances make that challenging.) This isn’t going to be easy. I love that both Regina and Robin don’t shy away from that.

  8. I loved your review Katie and Happy you were at the comic con, I wish I will get a chance like that in the future.

    I was floored about your review regarding Hook and Emma, so articulate! I believe when DarkSwan asked Hook if he loves her, she wanted to see if she can have the entire cake, and his reaction was perfect, I am so proud of him in the way he handles everything, It could have been really easy to just go backward to being Dark and being with Emma but he know it’s not true to their relationship or to her, and he did exactly what DarkSwan tried to do- use their love as a weapon but for the good and it worked, his words hit Emma hard, you could see Emma surface back. Jane said she used ‘loved’ in the script exactly for that reason.

    I didn’t know a heart was crashed for this curse, I thought it wasn’t a curse like the dark curse because they didn’t need to create StoryBrooke, now I really wonder..I don’t want it to be that someone is sharing another heart like Snowing so I hope it’s a minor character and not main.

    Great review as always Katie

    • I agree with you about the heart being split. As much as I LOVE Captain Swan, that was something very unique and special to Snow/Charming. It was a HUGE deal for them and if Emma and Hook did it too, it just seems to minimize it a little…at least in my mind. I sort of hope it was Arthur who enacted the curse by crushing the heart of someone he cares about in Camelot. I don’t know, but I too didn’t think this was the same curse and required the same tactics.

    • Thank you so much! I hope you get a chance to experience something like I did at NYCC, too, because it was wonderful.

      Until Adam and Eddy specifically said a heart was crushed during their NYCC panel, I didn’t think it was the same kind of curse at all. But now that they’ve confirmed that a heart was crushed, I do agree that I don’t want a situation that’s a perfect parallel of Snow and Charming. That was so special that I don’t think it should be repeated; it would lose some of its magic that way. But I’m sure whatever happens will be perfect because it’s clear they put a lot of thought and heart into this storyline.

  9. Hi Katie, loved the review as always – it will be hard to top the last few days – between meeting Jennifer Morrison and getting a Charmattack from Josh Dallas – they are well deserved accolades and I’m delighted for you!

    Onto the episode – I know it’s hard to beat Robert Carlyle and Colin O’Donoghue, but Josh Dallas is probably the most under rated actor on the show. Sentences that would sound cheesy by anyone else, he manages to sell as Charming. There is never any doubt about how much Charming loves his family, and I totally bought his frustration in this ep that a) he wasn’t able to stop Emma becoming the Dark One and b) he now doesn’t know how to save her. Also this ep again showed what good scene partners Goodwin and Dallas are, and this ep seemed to setup possible tensions between them as it looks like Charming will continue to trust Arthur while Snow will be trusting Lancelot. I for one am looking forward to seeing a bit of tension between the couple, as they desperately try to save Emma in both Storybrooke and Camelot.

    The Emma/Hook scene was also amazing – this Dark Swan storyline is really forcing Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue to up their games and I think the scene on the Jolly Roger (while the most painful) was also probably the best acted scene between them. I loved the back and forth between them – Emma trying to convince Hook that she’s better as the Dark One, and it ending with Hook telling Emma that he’ll never love her as the Dark One, at the end you could see the real Emma breaking through just before she poofed away. I love that the show is setting up that Emma will have to choose to give up the power in order to be happy, which of course is the one thing that Rumple could never do.

    The one part of the episode that annoyed me was the scene between Regina and Zelena, but then I think that was the intention. Regina was given so many chances to change before she eventually did, and the single biggest trigger was having Henry in her life, and even then it wasn’t until he threatened to leave her that she realised she needed to truly change. I think (ie hope) the show is setting up that by the end of the season Regina will realise that Zelena deserves the same opportunities she was given.

    • Thank you so much, Joan! I’ve basically been living on Cloud Nine this entire week, and I have no intention of coming down from that cloud anytime soon. I can’t overstate how much I appreciate the love that’s been coming my way lately, and I hope all of you know that all I want to do is reflect that love back at all of you. ❤

      I loved what you had to say about Josh Dallas. I agree—he's so underrated. He was the actor who made me go all-in on the show from the pilot when Charming told Snow, "What's 28 years when you have eternal love?" With any other actor, that line would have been unbearably cheesy, but Dallas brings such sincerity to this role that I believed him. And he's been doing that ever since.

  10. So now I have two new thoughts related to this- 1. Perhaps Henry’s heart was the one crushed and he now shares a heart with one of his mothers, I mean he is the thing the real Emma and/or Regina would love most, plus Emma told Henry that he was the only one who didn’t let her down, and he has tried to give his heart before for the greater good, second, perhaps Arthur is the original dark one – as Merlin created the dagger – Merlin played the part In the sword in the stone and telling Emma not pull it out, and the wand the apprentice provided was made with both sides of the coin, what if that could mean Merlin was good powers and Arthur was bad powers prior to the darkness being removed and tethered to a human, or at least maybe Arthur is the one who initially called the darkness idk, my second guess for crushed heart is Hook and Emma as I have thought of that before,but idk

    • Those are very interesting theories! I’m not sure Emma or Regina would be willing to risk Henry’s heart that way, but I could see Henry being willing to risk it—he’s done it before, as you mentioned. I think that whatever happens with all these mysteries is going to amaze us all, and I can’t wait!

  11. Great review!! I think Emma did what Snow did sacrificed Hook’s heart and now they share a bond, that is maybe why he doesn’t have to summon the dark one only think about her..
    Also, Morrison’s acting this week was amazing those little moments where we can see broken Emma OMG!! And a second later back to dark one it just shows how A great actress Jennifer is, plus how deep she knows her character!!
    Hook I’m sure will be the real Hero in this arch of the story!!

    • Thank you! I’m interested to see what happens with the heart because I’m not sure they’d want to follow the exact same path as Snow and Charming. I could be wrong, though.

      And I think Hook is shaping up to be a very important hero in this story. I still think Emma will ultimately be her own hero (“Nobody saves me but me.”), but I think Hook’s ability to embrace his own inner hero is going to play a big part in helping her save herself.

  12. I truly loved watching Hook’s character growth in this episode. He’s a man who’s never shied away from the person he was. He knew he was a villain and it took him a long time to see himself as a hero, and as a Killian stans, I could not be more proud of him than his performance in this episode with Emma.

    For the second time, I denied the Dark One what she wanted, instead of enabling it. Jennifer Morrison said it great once last season that all the curses, spells, villains that come through Storybrooke are analogies for real life trials and I think Hook looks at this new period — Emma as the Dark One – as another trial. He knows that this is not the real her speaking, it’s the Dark One. I think Hook also understands that the power is an addiction (like drug abuse), and the worse thing for his relationship with Emma is to enable, encourage that addiction.

    Hook fell in with Emma, the good, strong, powerful, vulnerable woman. He loved being the one to break through her walls and become her partner and lover. A true partner, like Hook, knows that the darkness inside Emma is another wall but it’s a very unhealthy wall, more so than Emma’s original walls. He also recognizes his own history with the Dark One (Rumple) and that Rumple was a good man once, trying to keep his family together and Hook was the villain.

    I re-watch The Crocodile from time to time and I think, who is the villain and who is the hero, it can go both ways. There’s two acts in the flashback. There’s the period before Rumple became the Dark One and there’s the period after, when Killian returns and Rumple is the Dark One.

    I’d say in the first act, Killian is the villain but in the second act, when Rumple is the Dark One, the roles are definitely reversed. The thing about villains, most villains on Once anyway, they often paint themselves as the victim and we’ve seen, in some instances that is true but there’s also the choices that villains make that ultimately make them the villains too.

    But I truly enjoyed Killian’s self-awareness in this episode when he was talking to Emma, telling her that he was the villain and Rumple then, was just a good man trying to keep his family together (even though it had become a very unhealthy home environment).

    Props also to Jennifer Morrison for her performance as the Dark One. She’s cold, calculating, manipulative but she’s still Emma underneath. You see that in her scenes with Henry and Killian, she still genuinely cares about both of them and I love that Killian’s fighting for his Emma to come back through reminding her of the person she was before, that Emma is her true self.

    • Thank you for this comment, and I really liked everything you had to say about Killian’s self-awareness. It’s such an important trait, and I feel like his ability to acknowledge that he was once a villain lost to the darkness but managed to choose a better path is going to be ultimately very helpful for Emma in her struggle.

  13. I am so very in love with your episode post-mortems 🙂 I read them religiously and repeatedly. In that vein, I was wondering if you’d ever considered making a kind of contents page or list format for finding posts and episode reviews? It’s a bit of a lengthy process scrolling through them all to find my favourites – like I said, I reread them like a favourite book 🙂 It’s totally worth it and it by no means detracts from the NGN experience, but I thought I’d suggest 🙂

    • Thank you so much—it makes me so happy to know that you enjoy reading and re-reading my posts! And thank you also for the great idea. I’ve never thought about it before, but I think making reference pages for different kinds of posts is very smart. I might not be able to get to doing it very soon, but it would make a good project while all my shows are on winter hiatus. Thanks again! 🙂

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  17. argh!! I just lost a looong comment! I’m so behind on your blog and I had the page loaded too long and when I clicked it went away and I can’t get it back…. aaarrghhh! I’m so sorry. I was hoping to get my comment up today and then continue catching up on all that I missed when I had people in town… ugh.

    I’ll be back. I might end up having to write a summary comment on the most recent review. Soon. I haven’t forgotten you Katie, I promise!

    • That’s okay, Jo! I know you’ve been busy, so I never would have thought you’d forgotten us! And dumb WordPress—I would have loved to read your comment, but I will happily read whatever this dumb site lets you post. 😉

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