TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.22/5.23

OUAT S5 finale


I apologize for the delay in getting this post to you, fellow Oncers! I spent the last two weeks finding some magic of my own in Walt Disney World, which I will be writing about in great detail very soon. But for now, we have a finale to discuss!

Title Only You/An Untold Story

Two-Sentence Summary Growing weary of the pain magic has caused his family, Henry sets out with Violet on a quest to destroy all of Storybrooke’s magic, which brings both of his mothers and Rumplestiltskin to New York City to find him before he can put his plan in motion. Meanwhile, a portal gone awry sends Snow, Charming, Zelena, and Killian into the Land of Untold Stories, where they meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, whose separation tempts Regina to separate herself from her own dark side.

Favorite Line “I know how crazy it sounds, but magic is real. It’s all around us. You just have to be willing to see it. You have to be willing to believe.” (Henry)

My Thoughts

At some point in your life, every one of you was once a believer. And at some point, you left that part of you behind. But you can go back to it—if you believe.

Once Upon a Time isn’t a show for everyone. It’s a show for believers. It’s a show that asks you to watch with an open heart and your cynicism checked at the door. And for those of us not-so-grown-up grownups who love it, it’s a show that called out to the part of us we left behind and reignited in us what it means to believe.

A lot of things happened in this two-hour finale event. New characters were introduced, new lands were visited, kisses were shared, conflicts were established, and families were separated and reunited. But for as important as the plot setup might have felt for next season or for as rich as the character development was, it all paled in comparison to the words of the Truest Believer reminding all of us why Once Upon a Time has touched so many of our hearts.

This is a show about hope, but I wouldn’t blame you if you’d forgotten that after the events of this season. Between Emma becoming a Dark One (and also making Killian one against his wishes), Killian dying more than once, and Robin being obliterated without the hope of his soul ever moving on, it’s been a pretty bleak season of a show that preaches the value of optimism. And that’s why Henry’s speech was so important—not just for Henry and the other characters, but for those of us who are fans of theirs, too. That speech was like a ray of sunshine breaking through the swirling vortex of sadness that this season has been. It was a reminder that even when things look hopeless, you can’t stop believing that something good can happen. Because there is power in optimism. There is strength in hope. And that was a bright, positive message that was sorely needed after such a dark stretch of episodes.

With the show going to such dark places this season, I completely understood why Henry would want to destroy magic—even if it was a horribly impulsive decision (which teenagers are known to make). Magic was the weapon that killed his father and two father figures (even if one is now back from the dead), turned his mother into a Dark One who betrayed his trust, and was wielded with deadly power by his other mother during the darkest times in her life. And while I found the connections the show was trying to make between Henry and his father both trying to destroy magic a little forced (We never had any hint that Neal was up to something like this.), I loved the idea of Henry going on an adventure—and going on one with Violet.

Like his maternal grandparents and both of his mothers before him (and many other characters on this show), Henry grew closer to the object of his adorable young affection on a journey to defeat a foe (in this case, magic). It was like a YA version of the other epic love stories this show has given us so far, and I adored it. Jared Gilmore and Olivia Steele Falconer have a very sweet and sincere rapport onscreen, and this relationship has been handled so well given their youth. Young love is the kind of love where a smile from the other person or the touch of their hand feels like the stuff of legend, and this show has gotten that feeling so right every time it’s dealt with these two characters. Theirs is an innocent kind of love, but that doesn’t lessen how important it is for both of them. Violet stands by Henry’s side in hard times, they’ve opened up to each other about painful parts of their past, and they make a great team. It’s not True Love (that we know of), but it certainly has all the makings of a story worthy of being in Henry’s book.

This was such an important pair of episodes for Henry, and Gilmore proved once again that he’s up to the task when given more challenging material to work with. And this was a finale that saw Henry come to understand one of the most challenging aspects of adulthood: Nothing is black and white. You have to accept that there is the potential for good and evil in both magic and people, and it’s up to you to choose to believe that the good is stronger than evil. Dark magic and light magic are connected; you can’t have one without the other. That’s how the world works. There’s always going to be good and evil, and things are hardly ever all good or all evil.

Regina, however, feels that things in her life are all bad at this point to compensate for the fact that she was once all bad herself. This finale gave us a fascinating look into her psyche at one of the lowest points in her life, and I loved that she was allowed to deal with everything happening to her in an imperfect but very human way. Regina isn’t good at grief, but who is? When she’s in a bad place emotionally, she becomes self-centered, bitter, self-pitying, and angry. She lashes out, especially at those who are happy while she’s suffering. And I actually love that about her. I love that Regina gets to be a real, flawed person when she’s in pain. I can throw a pretty raging pity party myself when I’m going through hard times (which are never even a tenth as hard as what Regina is going through), so I related to the part of Regina that got snarky with Emma and talked herself into believing she was destined to suffer. I’m not proud of it, but I’m human. And so is Regina.

Out of all the characters on this show, Regina is the one most at war with herself. Lana Parrilla plays her inner conflict so well that I was completely captivated by Regina’s monologue about her struggle against the darkness. She’s in such a dark place right now, and you could feel that it’s taking everything in her to keep her worst self at bay. And while I got a good laugh out of Parrilla’s offhand delivery of Regina’s understanding that she shouldn’t rip out Killian’s throat because she knows that’s wrong now, my heart broke when she said she would rather suffer herself than cause those she loves to suffer. That’s a huge step in the right direction for her, but it’s also still such a hopeless statement. I don’t want those to be the only options for her, and I don’t want her to believe those are the only options for her. Belief matters in this world, and Regina still believes that she’s never going to be truly happy because she’ll always be paying for what she did in her past.

That attitude is why I wish it would have been Killian in that room with her and not Emma. I get why it had to be Emma, but Killian is the best person to give Regina advice on coming to terms with a dark past. Both characters have walked the same path, and both had trouble believing they could be happy because of what they did at their darkest. Killian eventually faced his worst self again and overcame it when he was turned into the Dark One. I think Regina is going to have to do the same next season in order to grow into her best and strongest self.

One of my favorite things about Killian is that he understands one of the most basic concepts on this show: We are both. You can’t act like who you were and who you are now are two separate entities. You can choose to be a better version of yourself, but you also have to live with the things you did at your worst. And that’s something Regina is still struggling with. There is a part of her that sees the Evil Queen as a separate part of her identity, a part she can physically distance herself from so she doesn’t have to live with what she did and struggle with the possibility that she could go back to that dark place again.

There were so many things I loved about this finale, but the idea of separating your darkest self from your best self isn’t one of them. I felt no sense of victory in Regina seemingly destroying the Evil Queen. And I felt no emotion other than annoyance at Emma and Snow encouraging her to spilt herself in two. I understand why they might have wanted to help her do that: Emma is clearly still afraid of what the Evil Queen might do, and Snow has shown in the past that if given the chance to ensure that someone could have all the potential for evil taken out of them, she’d do whatever it takes to make it happen. But it felt like a direct contrast to the “We are both” theme so prevalent in the show’s early days. And it felt like they were taking the easy way out by using magic to solve a problem, which everyone should know never works in this world.

I know that Regina didn’t succeed in destroying the Evil Queen, and I’m sure it’s because she’s going to learn that you can’t kill a part of yourself. And that’s exactly who the Evil Queen is. She’s a part of her. Maybe she’ll destroy her once she lets go of all the anger, resentment, and bitterness that created her in the first place. Or maybe she’ll learn to accept that the Evil Queen is a part of her that she needs to live with. (Which is why one of my favorite moments in this finale was the moment when Regina corrected herself and called the Evil Queen “I” instead of “she.” One little pronoun change said so much about the potential for Regina to come to terms with who she was.) Whatever happens, I just want these characters to accept that you can’t act like your worst self and best self are independent of each other. This reminds me of everything I felt about “Operation Mongoose” and Regina wanting the Author to give her a happy ending. I knew then—like I know now—that the endpoint was going to be Regina learning a valuable lesson that matches the themes of this show, but I often found myself frustrated while getting there.

No matter what happens with this Regina/Evil Queen split, I am excited to see Parrilla sink her teeth into the darkest side of this character again. There’s something so deliciously entertaining about her work as the Evil Queen, so even though I might not love the reasoning behind the split from a character perspective, I am ready to love the acting that comes out of it.

There was already some excellent acting coming out of the idea of separating one part of the self from the other. The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde continued to haunt me long after I read it in high school, and it seems that will still be the case here, as Sam Witwer’s Hyde is definitely chilling enough to carry on the legacy of such a famous villain. (I also detected some definite chemistry between Witwer and Parrilla, but who knows if that will mean anything for the story going forward?)

All of the Jekyll and Hyde stuff was great setup for Season Six, even though I didn’t love the characters being pulled apart so soon after getting back from the Underworld. (But I did love Regina’s line about it happening again because this show is at its best when it’s self-aware about its plot devices.) Even more that the personality splitting, I’m intrigued by the idea of a Land of Untold Stories and what it will mean for the characters from that land to now be in Storybrooke. I’m hoping it means even more for Henry to do as he helps all of them tell their stories and get back to where they belong.

Some fun things happened during the trip to the Land of Untold Stories. We got to see Charming fight to protect Killian. (Everyone’s favorite bromance lives!) We got to see Zelena banter with the heroes. We got to see Snow be a badass and use a Taser to save everyone. But what mattered more to me was what was happening in New York that led to everyone coming back from that land.

I loved that Henry’s big moment of renewed belief was something he shared mainly with Emma. For as much as I love his relationship with Regina, the idea of believing in magic and getting others to believe has always been an “Operation Cobra” thing. It brought tears to my eyes when Henry talked about making a wish that his mom wouldn’t feel so alone back when they lived in New York. Even with Walsh in the picture, Henry knew his mom was missing something, and his wish led to her be reunited with the man who would become her other True Love, Killian. Henry brought Killian back to her, and Killian brought her back to the rest of her family. And it was all because of faith, belief, and the magic of a penny in a fountain.

As a woman who still throws pennies into fountains to make a wish, nothing on this show has ever touched me like the sight of all those pennies raining down and bringing magic back into the world. It was the kind of moment that harkens back to everyone clapping to save Tinker Bell’s life in Peter Pan or even the scene when singing Christmas songs makes Santa’s sleigh work again in Elf. It was a moment of shared belief allowing the impossible to become possible, blissfully devoid of cynicism.

Because magic does exist. And even though Henry might have been sad that the citizens of New York could only see what happened as a magic trick, Emma reminded him that what he was able to do was its own kind of magic: He made people believe again. There is real magic in that, and Emma knows it better than anyone. Henry was the one who helped her believe in magic; he’ll always be her Truest Believer. That progression from the little boy who was told he was crazy for believing to the Truest Believer who can make an entire crowd believe in magic again has been beautiful to see. Because Henry’s right: Magic is all around us.

There was plenty of magic in this finale’s last scenes scenes. Sometimes it was obvious—like Evil Queen crushing the Dragon’s heart. But other times it was a more intimate kind of magic—but one that is no less powerful. There was magic to be found in the first kiss between Henry and Violet and the hope it symbolized. And not too long after that kiss, another one was shared that also glowed with the hope of a happy future. When Killian kissed Emma with the kind of joyful passion reserved only for the most beautiful fairytales, it came on the heels of a hugely important moment for them: Emma’s first “I love you” said in a moment of happiness and not desperation. Those three words might not seem like much because they’ve already been said by this pair of True Loves, but when looked at in the context of Emma’s journey, they represent their own kind of powerful magic.

Belief was so important in this finale, and this was Emma’s moment to show that she’s now a believer, too. She believes that she can say “I love you” when she’s happy, and it won’t be taken away from her. She believes that she doesn’t need to protect her heart with Killian—that she can let herself be open and hopeful because the potential for good far outweighs the potential for pain. So those three words and that magical kiss represent the two of them starting the next chapter in their love story—a happy chapter after too many chapters filled with pain. The pure joy and love in that moment was palpable from both Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison, and I can’t wait to see these two characters build on this lovely moment and finally start to live out their “happily ever after.” If anyone deserves the kind of happiness that kiss promised, it’s Emma and Killian, who’ve literally been to hell and back together this season.

Like any season finale on a serialized show, this one left us with a lot of questions: What’s going to happen with Hyde and Rumplestiltskin? How is Belle going to wake up? (Don’t even get me started on Rumplestiltskin still trying to get more power to wake her instead of giving his up to do it.) Who is the Evil Queen going to target first? How will she be defeated? How will all these new characters adjust to life in this realm? And—most importantly (at least for some of us)—will Emma and Killian finally get some alone time to enjoy being a couple (and to sleep!) before the next crisis?

Even though those questions will be stuck in my head until fall, what will really stick with me are Henry’s words and the magic he made with them. All of you have to do is be willing to see the magic around you in order to find it. And I’m so thankful that this show exists, reminding all of us that there is magic in the world for those who are brave enough to believe.


20 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.22/5.23

  1. I hope you had a wonderful time at Disney – it sounds like you did. Did you do something appropriately crazy on my behalf? 🙂

    Lovely thoughts on magic. This gets at the heart of why so many of us love the show . . . we love the magic of story. I’m glad we got that emphasis here at the end of the season.

    This is a little more random than usual:

    Part of what I love about the Emma-Regina friendship is that they don’t always know the best thing for the other. I love the reality of Regina wanting to use the dagger to make Emma confront a difficult truth and Emma trying to sideline Regina out of the fear that Regina will go full-throttle Evil Queen. Each one really is trying to help the other. In this case, perhaps the best thing Emma could do was just sit and listen to Regina’s frustration. (Perhaps we’ll get the Regina-Killian convo next season. I didn’t realize how much I wanted that until you pointed it out.)

    Snow is usually on point with the best way to help Regina (as evidenced by her consolation after Robin’s death), so I was disappointed, too, that she went for the easy fix. The Evil Queen isn’t going away that easily. I do love the conflict that it could set up for Season 6, so I won’t complain too much. I am glad that they didn’t make it a quick fix. This is still something Regina will have to battle.

    Speaking of battling the darkness . . . Oh, Rumple. When will he learn? How typical is it that he rationalizes what he’s doing to Belle with the fact that he will “give her what she’s always dreamed of.” Seeing the world was just one of her dreams. He conveniently ignores any dreams that require anything from him. He wants to love Belle on his terms, with no sacrifice involved. I find it endlessly fascinating that Rumple will work VERY hard for those he claims to love (Belle, Bae), but he won’t give anything up for them.

    Loved the Henry-Violet road trip. (They are so cute.) However, I did want someone to swipe all the Once Upon A Time books from the library to take back to Storybrooke. I think those might come in handy. (Apologies to all librarians. Taking books from the library is wrong. I know this . . . but still . . .) Also, people, USE YOUR WORDS. Explain to Henry what wiping out magic could do.

    Really, really random:
    — Henry evidently has the family knack of evading a tail. The phone-on-the-bus trick has an Emma feel to it.
    — Ok, you’re in Boston. You have magic. You need to get to NYC. POOF THE BUG! POOF THE BUG!
    — Violet is seriously adorable. (Glad she’s staying.) I love the pink coat.
    — Sam Witwer. Wow. Amazing as Hyde. I’d only seen him on Being Human, but his voice, his mannerisms, and his movement are completely different here.
    — Captain Charming!
    — Please writers, do not tease me with Steampunk and not deliver. I want Steampunk in Season 6. Bring the Verne.
    — Can we have one episode of Karaoke night? Just let everyone take a breath and be happy for a few minutes?

  2. Excellent review, Katie!

    I thought the finale was fun, if flawed in parts–partially because it tried to set up next season more than conclude this one. But the fountain scene was lovely, and I’m SO EXCITED for Witwer’s Hyde next season!

    Did you catch the reveal of Violet as the daughter of the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court? Little reveals like that, nods to classic stories and literature, are one of the delights of OUAT for me, and so I was giggling and clapping my hands for that part (also Henry’s “really??” YOUR MOMS HAVE BEEN DEALING WITH DATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS FOR SEVERAL SEASONS NOW, HENRY. TIME TO ASK FOR SOME DATING ADVICE.)

    I also had a little fangirl “squee!” when the wedding dress in the clothes shop window was directly between Killian and Emma during the kiss scene–it may not mean anything for the upcoming season, but I can’t help but think they want US to start thinking about the future for Captain Swan, just as Emma has!

  3. Overall I really enjoyed this episode and its classic Once message about belief. The scene around the fountain was a perfect exemplar of what this show is about and what it stands for.
    I found the pacing to be a bit off this time – the show usually races through its stories, but with 2 hours to fill I felt that some scenes took up more time than they really needed. At times it was nice not to rush so much, but I actually got a little bit bored and distracted during a couple of scenes. I think it was mostly poor Regina and her pity party. (Yes, she is all too human, but I guess I wasn’t in the mood to hear it.) And although splitting the Evil Queen off was a fun idea for us viewers, um, no, that’s not the right solution to this problem. Any more than getting the Author to rewrite your ending was a good idea. And obviously it wasn’t going to work.
    Regina’s “Again?” was perfect. The poor writers. At least they own up to their repetition.
    And I had to laugh at Rumple’s magic purple hotel storm… no big deal. I’m sure they see that kind of stuff in NYC all the time. (Makes me think of Ghostbusters). Rumple’s BS was much better after I saw the comparison with the white long haired kitty scrambling all over the bed video. I’m sure Robert Carlyle used that as his inspiration for Rumple’s panic. Although he could also refer to his reaction to his son going through the portal. Sigh. Again, Rumple? Really.
    Yup, overall I loved it, and the show certainly knows how to build excitement for the next season. I sincerely hope the next we see of Emma and Killian is canoodling under the sheets, having a quiet afternoon reunion in their lovely home. They can traumatize Henry and add another parallel to the Snow/Charming story. That wedding dress placement made me very happy (I totally didn’t notice that until I saw it on Tumblr!) – not to mention that KISS. The whole scene, truly.
    Good stuff.

    And welcome back, Katie. We missed you. It looked like you had a great time at DisneyWorld. How lucky are you to be able to spend so long down there?

    • You thought of Ghostbusters, and I was thinking of Enchanted! I am pretty sure there was a big purple storm in that movie too.

      I kinda geeked out a bit in this episode since I had just visited NYC for the first time earlier this month. I am impressed they at least attempted with the lions in front of the “NYC public library”…I have a photo of me next to that exact lion Henry climbs on (ok obviously not that exact one, but the one that lion is SUPPOSED to be). Convenient that Vancouver has similar lions!

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us on the finale Katie! I was eager to hear your thoughts, because I personally really enjoyed this finale, and I felt like I was in the minority after it aired.

    Sure as a season 5 finale it had some issues (or more just season 5 had issues in general), but as a stand alone episode of the show, I enjoyed it immensely. After all the heaviness of the season I could finally relax a bit and just enjoy watching these characters go on a new adventure. I thought it was fun, funny, and had interesting themes, and it has me intrigued enough for Season 6 I downloaded ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ and blew through it in a couple days.

    While Season 5 seemed to have a record number of unresolved plot threads, I thought the finale did tie up nicely Emma and Killian’s journey this season. At the end of season 4 we got Emma being afraid to say ‘I love you’. Then Season 5 was basically every worst case scenario Emma could possibly face opening herself up to love, and they came out of it. It was dark and painful, but they both survived. And, as you pointed out, it wasnt just Emma that had to face her worst fears. Killian also had his own stuff to work through. The fear that the man he really was wasnt a hero. That he didnt deserve a happy ending. All of these worries played themselves out and they both survived and came out stronger. I mean, yes, Killian died, but somehow he even survived that. Am I proud of them? Yes. But I never want to see them have to go through that much pain again. Fun. I need the fun.

    I was all ready to have a Season 5 re-watch, and I watched the S5 premiere, and then I just ended up going straight to re-watching the finale, because I kinda realized I didnt want to watch all that angst again. If I could somehow extract all the happy Camelot stuff and watch that without the Storybrooke timeline, I think I would enjoy that much better. And I also realized that the S5 premiere and finale follow a single timeline, which I think I am realizing I enjoy much better than the back and forth memory loss structure of 5A and 3B. I dont mind the flashbacks so much, but following two current timelines with memory loss thrown in just hasn’t worked all that well for me. For now its looking like S6 will follow a S1 flashback structure with these “unfinished stories” and I am perfectly ok with that. Just no memory loss please.

    I mentioned that I really enjoyed the humor in this one. This show is usually pretty clever and amusing, but for me it is rarely laugh-out-loud funny. But even my boyfriend commented that he kept hearing me laughing from the other room. Some of my favs:

    “I still have a fist. Gold still has a nose.”
    “My best student was a queen. You have her buried under tasteful cotton and good intentions”
    “No offense grandpa, but that’s exactly what he was talking about”
    “So not many maids with untold stories then?”

    Emma and Regina had some really meaty conversation in this one. In the past I have had a hard time feeling empathy for Regina, but I did feel for her here. I mean, obviously the whole “Im going to cut out the bad part of me” isn’t the right way to do things (I assume this will be the whole point of next season), but I could at least understand why she would want to. And I can also understand why Snow and Emma would actually encourage her to do it. Regina wasnt denying her responsibility here, she was admitting that it was a constant struggle for her everyday. She is in pain. She has constant temptation. That temptation is a danger to those around her that she loves. And when given the chance to seemingly remove that temptation, she took it. And I think Emma and Snow were ok with it because A) they didnt want to see her suffer for making the conscious decision to do good, B) they have forgiven her, and C) it was seemingly the safest thing for everyone involved. Unfortunately for all of them, they have now released that evil side void of the goodness that was keeping her evil desires in check. “In my experience, if you really don’t want to worry about something, you lock it in a cage, a strong cage…its when you unlock the cage, that’s when the trouble starts”.

    I loved everything you had to say about Henry and Violet’s adventure. I really like Violet, and I hope we get to see more of her next season, because Henry definitely needs someone to talk to his age. Her adorable cape made me feel like my outfits when I visited NYC a couple weeks ago were super lame. I also enjoy the implication that our world is ‘the land without magic” not because there is no magic, but because people just stopped believing in it.

    Random thoughts:

    -With the sorcerer’s wand intact and Zelena able to wield it, its seems it would be quite easy to travel between magical realms now. Will we be sending all these untold stories back to their homes? I am all for realm jumping adventures! And now Emma can visit Elsa (and ask her to be maid of honor when the time comes, obviously).

    -I am interested to see if this personality split results in a personality change in “good” Regina. I actually think it would be kind of amusing if Regina sans evil queen is annoyingly righteous.

    -Do we know how Rumple was able to send everyone to Storybrooke? I was unclear on that deal. Also, how do you just “give” someone a town? Last I checked Storybrooke was still kinda a democracy.

    -I expected Hyde to be a little bit more surprised when he opened a portal to steal Belle and ended up with a box, but he seemed unfazed. I guess when you live in a land with magic nothing surprises you. Also, convenient! Rumple should start a pandora’s box shipping service.

    -That was a harsh parallel between Emma choosing Killian in the underworld and Rumple clearly not choosing Belle when his power was threatened. Still THE WORST.

    -What is going on with the barrier at the town line?! Considering we had Henry, Violet, Gold, Regina, and Emma all crossing it in this ep, its not there anymore? No more tree dopey?

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, especially when it comes to Emma and Snow’s motivation for helping Regina eliminate the Evil Queen. It bothered me as I was watching it that they took such hasty action, but you and Katie articulated their motivations nicely. They HAVE forgiven Regina, and it was hard for them to watch her suffer like this, especially the way she clearly believed she deserved her sad fate.

      Also, you totally beat me to the point about Elsa. I had the same thought about Zelena’s ability to open portals between the worlds. I mentioned below that they should go all out for Season 6, and that definitely includes getting the Frozen gang back to town for a big event. : ) Elizabeth Lail (Anna) is on Adam and Eddy’s new show, so she should be easier to schedule!

    • Ditto on Regina. I was incredibly annoyed with her in past seasons when she seemed to think that she wouldn’t have to suffer the repercussions for her decisions as Evil Queen. I sympathized with her more now and admire the fact that she cannot go back to evil because hurting the ones she loves is unacceptable. I liked your explanations for Emma’s and Snow’s motivations on tearing out the Evil Queen. As much as we all know it won’t be that easy, part of me likes the fact that they’ve done this. Honestly, wouldn’t we all like to just pluck out the bad parts sometimes?

      Yes! to the fun. They can start off with an epic quest to de-tree Dopey, followed by karaoke night. 🙂

  5. Katie,

    Thanks so much for this, and I am glad you had a wonderful trip!

    I didn’t love this episode as much as you and some others did, but I did definitely enjoy it, and I appreciated its themes and what it was trying to do. I can totally understand the significance of a story focused around Henry rediscovering his belief, but when it comes right down to it, I’d rather the show not center a season finale around that character and his love interest, who we barely know. Those young actors are fine, but OUAT has a very strong ensemble and I’d rather they focus on their A players. As a result, the Henry-Violet scenes dragged on a bit for me. Instead, I could have used more character-focused moments centered around characters’ reactions to Robin’s death and Killian’s return.

    The deep dive into Regina’s mindset was brilliant, though. I usually shut her out when she starts in on self pity (“I’m used to suffering while others get their way…” C’mon, Regina, really? Nobody else has suffered? Nobody else lost love or had crappy parents? Let’s be real!) However, her monologue about constantly being caught in the middle of her dark instincts and love for her family and friends was tremendous. Some of the show’s best writing and acting.

    I am REALLY glad you brought up the similarities to the choice to “split” Regina and the Operation Mongoose storyline. It seems like a quick, magical fix to human problems, and it frustrated me last season that everyone blindly supported Regina’s plan to have the author rewrite her story. I am guessing that part of the plan for Season 6 is to show how the split was a mistake, but it was still tough to watch Emma and Snow suggest and support that plan…I mean, maybe wait a couple days and see if Jekyll has any side effects? That being said, this is definitely a case where, even if I can guess where they are heading, I am excited for the journey.

    Finally, it is pretty cool that this is a show in which the key actions and decisions that drive the climax of the episode (splitting and killing the Evil Queen) are made by three women, with nary a man in sight! Not too common in the current TV landscape.

    Hopes for next season –

    Like most of you, I’d love to see Emma and Killian together and happy, hopefully as the stabilizing force amidst all the turmoil in town. It would be great to give them a lighter, fun storyline as well…maybe a little subplot centered around an engagement?

    I mean, Evil Regina pretty much has to kidnap Good Regina and take her place for a while, right?

    More Sam Witwer. He was great, and totally had chemistry with Parilla. I do think it’s cool that the heroes sort of have two test subjects to look at for this “splitting dark and light” experiment. Maybe something will happen with Jekyll and Hyde that will clue everyone in to what’s happened with Regina?

    Also, I didn’t watch Nashville or Castle regularly, but I know that both were ABC ‘bubble’ shows that were cancelled late and ended up having disappointing finales. I hope that this show either avoids ‘the bubble’ all year, or that the network gives the producers plenty of lead time if this is to be the final season. Either way, I think Adam and Eddy should just go all out as if it IS the last season…who cares if Season 6 ends happily (preferably with a wedding,) and with no cliffhanger. Just my $.02!

  6. As all finale reviews, this was excellent and I’m so thrilled to read something happy and positive. I especially loved the way you spoke about magic because that’s what this show is. I know so many people that can’t stand the cheesy moments, but I live for them. They’re the moments that make me cry so hard because for a moment, I’m left believing. For a moment, I can be a kid again. For a moment, optimism wins and I want to believe that’s something that can happen in the real world as well. BEAUTIFUL WORK, LOVELY! Truly worth the wait. It’s been an amazing season and I can’t wait to see what you have in store for season six!

  7. Thank you for your post, Katie.

    I realize Henry is still young, but it’s not the magic that is bad. It’s the people who use magic. Magic, is like The Force, it can be used for good or it can be used for evil but it all depends on the person. I’m actually shocked after 5 seasons now, Henry doesn’t realize that’s actually the root of the problem. It’s not magic itself, it’s who uses the magic and how the magic is used.

    I still have some problems with the finale, but I did like the introduction of Jekyll and Hyde, and I’m excited to see what they bring in season 6.

    I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Regina. There are time I sympathize with her, and there are other times I just roll my eyes. I think she was very self-aware in this episode, which I appreciated but separating the Evil Queen from her, like she was a demon that needed to be exorcised was ridiculous; even Snow saying, “I want to see you kill The Evil Queen.” How is Snow’s heart not pitch after that comment? It was really dark.

    Of course, things don’t go as planned and Regina and the heroes are going to learn that. What I’m hoping the 6A arc deals with, it’s more than Regina confronting her dark self but ALL of our heroes dueling with the duality of their personalities. I think that was what was hinted at with Snow’s comment. There’s a darkness in Snow that maybe she hasn’t truly confronted, and maybe we’ll see other characters like Rumple face that too. There are endless story possibilities I think and that makes me excited.

    (I hated the Neal “I want to destroy” magic plot device too. Seriously show, you give hints towards everything else but that literally came out of nowhere!)

  8. Big fan of the show, and I hate to say this, but the finale had me bored to tears. And trust me I hate saying that, OUAT is my favorite show, and I don’t like criticizing it. I remember the finale of Season 3 when Emma kissed Killian at Grannys, I was jumping up and down with joy, rewatching that scene a hundred times and hungrily waiting for more. I actually enjoyed Season 4, however Season 5 was Meh; the writing was sub par! I also think that they practically ruined Killian’s character when he went full blown evil. It was just such a waste of an amazing character that is so beloved by fans. This kind of reminds me of what they did to Spike’s character of BTVS 😦

    I hope they address these issues because I can’t be the only one feeling his way (and I’m sure the drop in ratings proves that). They need to make Killian and Emma sparkle again, its been lackluster, and this is coming from a hardcore CS fan.

    • Oh one more thing…. they separated Killian and Emma almost throughout the finale!!!! They have become the “heart” of the show, and instead we get one LONG boring scene of Emma and Regina in the apartment…what a waste. I feel like the writers are trying to make all their fans happy instead of just telling the damn story. Okay, for the fans who hate Captain Swan, we’ll only have a couple minutes of screentime with Killian and Emma for the fans of SQ we’ll have one long drawn out scene in an apartment, etc. It seems like its all just pandering and its ruining the show.

      • Lucky Scrunch, I agree with you about Season 5 being subpar and that Emma/Killian have been floundering for the most part lately. I hope next season has better luck and ends up being the show’s last since Once Upon a Time has had the feeling of being long on the tooth with the endless excuses for keeping Rumple around and its lack of cooling period between Big Bad villains.

    • Sorry to hear that Season 5 didnt work for you. I think the writers/show runners definitely were a little over ambitious with their planning this season, and they ended up having to cut a lot of stuff in the end (I wish we could see directors cuts!). With all the unpredictable circumstances that can present themselves during a TV writing season, especially with a large ensemble cast, sometimes I am in awe that anything gets produced at all!

      Its also really hard to recapture the sparkle that is the beginning of a relationship, but we still have plenty of Killian/Emma moments to look forward to. We havent really had a chance to see them doing anything domestic yet, and I am sure there will be plenty of large moments for them to come. This season was all about them dealing with their baggage. It was pretty much the equivalent of fantasy world therapy, and its usually not fun to deal with one’s deepest insecurities. I feel like they have a clean slate now, and I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for them and how they enjoy the quiet moments in-between the chaos.

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