[WARNING: The following contains spoilers from the Season 4 finale of Once Upon a Time. Read at your own risk!]
Happy Mother's Day! Notice we did not say Happy Endings Day.
That's because Once Upon a Time's epic finale on Sunday once again denied even a day of happy-ending joy to Emma & Co. On one hand, we get it; It's a TV show that needs to keep the narrative tension going, and that means the concept of a happy ending is, well, a fairy tale until this show finally comes to its true end. On the other hand, it was a pretty damn entertaining two hours that gave us plenty of action, awesome visuals, swoonworthy romance and deep belly laughs. Here's a quick rundown of what went down:
In writing his new book, Heroes and Villains, Isaac (Patrick Fischler) whisked our favorite Storybrooke characters into an alternate story in which the villains got the happy endings, and the heroes were doomed to misery. But in our reality, Isaac also wrote himself fame and fortune as a celebrated writer. Penning your own happy ending is a no-no for Authors, so his magical quill powers became null and void after that (but he still enjoyed his filthy lucre). Henry (Jared Gilmore), having been born in the non-magical world, was left out of the rewriting shenanigans, but after confronting the Author, used his magic storybook key to enter into the Heroes and Villains book.
Once there, Henry encountered Rumplestilskin (Robert Carlyle) the knight, tried to convince outlaw Regina (Lana Parrilla) that she was his mom and enlisted the help of Hook to free Emma (Jennifer Morrison) from imprisonment. Armed with the idea that creating a happy ending for the traditional heroes would upset the balance of the Heroes and Villains story, and thus undo all of Isaac's work, Emma and Henry were determined to get Regina to share true love's kiss with Robin Hood (Sean Maguire). Only problem? He was about to get married to her half sister Zelena (Rebecca Mader). Just as Regina was about to crash the wedding, however, Rumplestilskin showed up to keep things status quo, and he took a swipe at Henry with his sword. But he hit Regina instead, who had decided to save Henry instead of get her kiss. As she lay dying, Henry heard the call of the Author's quill, realized he was the new Author and used Regina's hero blood (because everything is topsy-turvy in this world) to write a line that canceled the whole Heroes and Villains nonsense.
Back in Storybrooke, almost everything was right and tight. Those who died in the Heroes and Villains world were alive, Evil Snow and the Charming Huntsman (Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas) were back to being the happily married Mary Margaret and David, and Isaac was once again a nobody hack. Yay! The only problem was that meant Gold/Rumplestiltskin was still dying from the darkness in his heart. The Apprentice decided to use the Sorcerer's hat to suck out the Dark One's darkness, but since it had grown over most of Rumple's heart all these years, the procedure left him so weak he had to be left in some sort of magical wavy stasis to recover. And of course the darkness then escaped from the hat, killed the Apprentice, went out through a mail slot into the world and then tried to take over Regina. That's when the Savior did what she does best: She grabbed the Dark One's dagger so that the darkness consumed her. In the end, she got whisked away into the darkness, and with her name etched on the dagger, became the next Dark One.
Whew! Got that? Here are our thoughts about each of the characters' journeys:
Emma: We adored her many amazingly flirty moments with Hook before he sacrificed himself so she could escape Evil Snow. And restored to Storybrooke proper, it should have been perfect, especially since she finally told him, "I love you," but of course that was before she became the next Dark One. Now, while this finale was rich with all of those aforementioned Captain Swan moments, in fact it was far heavier with that other 'shipper couple: Swan Queen. Here's the thing. On a show in which the true love's kiss that broke the first curse was Emma's kiss for her dying son Henry, true love can also exist between two women, whether it's romantic or not. Emma and Regina's co-parenting of Henry in Heroes and Villains world was natural, and Emma made it a priority — twice! — to give Regina her happy ending, even giving up her own to do so. How is Emma's sacrifice any less about love than Hook's or Regina's? It isn't. So, while we're not thrilled with that big twist at the end, it was a beautiful, selfless thing she did. We're just worried though that since Emma is already so powerful, how that will be twisted now that she's finally made good on the tease all season that she could go dark. Also, one last thing to ponder: Why couldn't Emma have just smooched Hook in order to do the whole true love's kiss thing without having to stop a wedding?
Regina: We also have to give Regina credit for taking a sword for Henry, a boy that she didn't really believe was her adopted son since her memories were rewritten in Isaac's crazy world. Again, that was a mother's love that was realized in the ultimate way. Also, given that Henry never existed in the Heroes and Villains book, if he was injured, that may have been permanent. There are two upsides to her story: She and Robin are finally together, and if ever we wondered if she had finally achieved redemption for her past wrongs, we got confirmation when in the Heroes and Villains world, she was denied a happy ending. Why would that happen unless Isaac viewed her as a hero?
Henry: Well at least one of our predictions came true! Good on him for snapping the quill and not giving into the temptation of changing the course of history. But judging from the Apprentice's comment that they picked correctly this time, it appears that he may still be the Author. We're excited to see where this may take him. Are there other duties? Also... does this finally mean a love interest (or two) coming next season?
Rumplestilskin and Belle (Emilie de Ravin): Yes, Rumple, you could have had your happy ending with Belle all along if you only decided to accept it. He truly is one of the most tragic characters on the show, and has never know true contentment. There's just been so much misery for this couple this whole season, and the finale wasn't that much better. It was almost painful to see Rumple in the Heroes and Villains reality playing at being this wonderful knight, the Light One, with only good memories of how his son died, when we knew what the reality was. But we're left with a little hope that once he recovers, having the darkness leeched from him will at last allow him to accept Belle's love and the life she has to offer.
Snow and Charming: We admit that it was really fun to see Snow ham it up as her evil counterpart and how she treated Charming as a pretty lackey. But it's weird that in that alternate reality, David's brother James who had died was her true love. We know that was fiction, and yet, that's got to be a little awkward coming back into reality. Also, where was Baby Neal in all this?
Hook: Seriously, Colin O'Donoghue is comedy gold, and he doesn't even have to speak! Hands (and hook) down, he was the best part of the Heroes and Villains interlude, and his expressions upon meeting Emma were adorable. But now that the episode has aired, we'll be combing the Internet for gifs of him fumbling that sword. It really was the best ever.
Extra random thoughts:
The Apprentice: Now that he's dead, will we need a replacement? We hope this means that we'll finally meet the Sorcerer at some point.
Zelena/Lily: Regina's half sister is still pregnant. How will that baby daddy situation play out? It's kind of interesting to note that only Baby Neal has had a traditional parenting situation. Speaking of that... Lily (Agnes Bruckner) will be seeking her father next season (Maleficent was pretty indiscriminate as a dragon!). Any guesses on who he could be?
Isaac: He's still out there alive, and we can't imagine that after tasting success he'll be content to disappear forever. Frankly, we kind of hate him, and don't care to see him again, even if he is going to try to seek redemption.
Punctuation is key: Even magic heeds the rules of good grammar! It's not until Henry puts a period on his sentence — "Thanks to the hero Regina's sacrifice, Isaac's villainous work was undone." — does the magic happen. Take note, those of you who play fast and loose with grammar!
What did you think of the finale? What was your favorite part? How do you think Storybrooke can save their Savior from herself?
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