Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Once Upon a Time Episode Analysis (Dreamcatcher)

When I first saw the title of this episode, I inwardly groaned, fully expecting this episode to be a virtual love letter to Nealfirebagelperson who I’ve made clear I was never a fan of.  But then I remembered something.  Back in ‘The Cricket Game,’ they were able to use a dreamcatcher to extract memories.  So that’s when I started to speculate that someone would try to use a dreamcatcher to replay their memories of the missing time in Camelot.  And it was revealed in the last episode that Emma had been making quite a few dreamcatchers during her time in Camelot in the hopes that they could help keep the voices in her head away.   Well, it turns out I was right on both counts.  And I’m actually pretty cool with that.  With one small exception, which I’ll get to.

In Camelot, Emma somehow is able to figure stuff out.  Not sure how she got to that point.  The last time we saw her in the Camelot storyline, things seemed to be on a high note for her.  But now, bam, she suddenly has figured out her parents are under the control of Arthur’s magic powder, and is also able to access Merlin’s memories within a dreamcatcher.  Is there going to be a deleted scene that explains the sudden change in Emma’s demeanor?  Because this really bugs me.  Last episode left us with a sense of hope that Emma would be freed from the Darkness because of the strength of the love between her and Killian.  But now, we suddenly open to Emma, seemingly standing on the brink of the abyss.  For that matter, where exactly were Killian and Robin during the majority of the Camelot scenes?  There was absolutely no explanation where they were during the episode that primarily featured Emma and Regina working together.  The last time we had one of those episodes was in ‘Breaking Glass,’ and that episode was able to spare 15 seconds to say Killian was taking Henry sailing, so there was an explanation for his absence during the majority of the episode.  Why wasn’t there a similar effort to explain the whereabouts of Emma and Regina’s boyfriends while the two women were busy making the potion to free Merlin?  Did someone skip a line or two?

Anyway, by accessing his memories in her dreamcatcher, Emma learns Merlin was trapped in the tree by the very first Dark One, who was responsible for the loss of the woman Merlin loved.  (Just calling it right now- the first Dark One WAS the woman Merlin loved.)  Regina and Emma figure out that if Merlin’s heartbroken tear could be used to trap him in the tree, perhaps another tear of heartbreak can free him.   Regina ends up offering one of her own tears, using the memory of Daniel’s death.  With her tear, they concoct a potion, but because the heartbreak of Daniel’s death wasn’t’ fresh, and the pain of that loss has been lessened by the presence of Robin, the potion failed.  However, they can use Henry’s tear instead.  There was a subplot with Henry in Camelot, as he tries to impress Violet, especially after Violet’s father voices his disapproval with Henry, on the grounds that he can’t wield a sword or ride a horse.   (I guess they’ve forgotten that Henry had been getting sword fighting lessons during season 2, and that Grandpa Charming had also gifted him his own horse.)  But when Henry tries to arrange a date night for him and Violet, following the advice of his two mothers, she ends up friend zoning him.  Thanks to the heartbroken Henry’s tears, Emma and Regina are able to finish the potion they need.  Even though Arthur chooses that moment to barge in, he is ultimately unable to stop Emma from freeing Merlin, who promptly reads Arthur the riot act, resulting in the disgraced king to effectively sulk off with his tail between his legs.  But of course, we know that it’s not going to be that easy to deal with Arthur, and that he’ll be back once he puts some ice on his metaphysical burn.

With Merlin’s help, the Nevengers are able to reverse the effects of the magical powder, thus freeing Snow and Charming from Arthur’s control (which answers one of my questions from last episode).  Once that’s done, Merlin agrees to help free Emma from the Darkness.  However, he states that he can only help if Emma is completely ready and willing to give up the Dark One’s power.

Now this leads me to my first real question of this episode.  If they succeeded in freeing Merlin in Camelot, where is he now?  Come to think of it, where’s Lancelot?  The last we saw of him, he was in Camelot’s dungeon.  But so was Merida, and she’s clearly out and about now.  So why isn’t the same true for Lancelot?

In Storybrooke, the Nevengers have discovered the disappearance of Griff and automatically assume he must have used a magic bean to whisk himself away.  (Why no one thought to check the stinking SECURITY FOOTAGE to confirm that suspicion, I can’t quite understand.)  To try and raise the spirits of the Camelot crowd, Snow and Charming, on Henry’s suggestion, decide to throw a block party.  Which brings me to my current grievance with Snow and Charming.  They’re really putting a lot of effort into catering to Arthur and the Camelot crowd.  Instead of bending over backwards for people they can’t currently remember knowing too well, shouldn’t they be more focused on helping or talking to their daughter?!?  We haven’t seen them try to reach out to her ONCE since the mind wipe happened.  And I know it’s not because they’re still under the effects of the magic powder, because the Camelot storyline revealed Merlin freed them from that stuff.  (Also, I notice Baby Neal is once again MIA.  Where do they keep stashing that poor kid?)

Before the block party could begin, Henry finds out Violet’s beloved horse has gone missing.  Wanting to help her, Henry goes to Dark One Emma, asking for her help in reopening Operation Cobra so Violet could get her happy ending.  They end up finding the horse at Peter Pumpkin Eater’s pumpkin patch (ha, so he’s real, too?), allowing Henry to return the horse to Violet at the block party.  While Henry and Dark One Emma are off, Killian, Belle, Robin and Regina take advantage of her absence to sneak into Emma’s house, to find out what’s behind the Mystery Door and to locate the missing Gold, who they realize Dark One Emma has abducted.  As a result, they find Excalibur, and immediately take note of how similar the blade is to the Dark One’s dagger.  Killian moves to pull out the sword so they can get a better look at it, but Regina stops him before he could do so, on the grounds that it may be booby trapped somehow.  (For those of you who have heard about the current fan theory going around, you know why seeing Killian reaching for the sword was such a big deal.)  When they begin to leave the house, upon being notified by Henry that Dark One Emma is returning, Killian notices a dreamcatcher sitting on a nearby table.  Regina, figuring out the dreamcatcher might hold their missing memories, activates it once she returns home.  The memories trapped inside the dreamcatcher are revealed to be Violet’s.  These memories reveal Emma had actually forced Violet via heart-possession to break Henry’s heart in Camelot, so they’d be able use his tear to free Merlin.  Unfortunately, Henry was present when this memory was revealed, so he was able to witness that moment as well.  And because no one remembers that they needed his tear to free Merlin, Henry ends up shutting Emma out. 

So, yeah, this episode didn’t exactly end on a positive note, with them suggesting Henry might have joined the group that has pretty much washed their hands of Emma.  Now, I completely understand why Henry and Regina are so put out with Emma after they witness that particular moment.  After all, all they’ve seen is that one moment, so unlike the viewers, they have nothing else to go on.  They don’t remember what was going on in Camelot at the time.  While I’m sure there are some people out there who will disagree with me on this, I can’t completely vilify Emma for what she did.  Mostly because I understand where she was coming from.  She’d recently found out Arthur was Shady McShady, and was plotting some sinister stuff.  Snow and Charming had already fallen victim to Arthur’s magic Avalon powder, and Arthur was most likely going to figure out that the Nevengers were onto him at any moment, which would undoubtedly lead to him moving against them at full force.  Obviously, they were running out of time, and needed to free Merlin before Arthur could stop them.  And to get Merlin out of that tree, they needed the tear of someone who’d just gotten their heart broken.  I’m sure if there hadn’t been a deadline, Emma wouldn’t have felt the need to resort to the method she ended up utilizing.  But because of that deadline, they really didn’t have the luxury of looking for an alternative way of getting that tear.   And it wasn’t as if Emma was unaffected or apathetic about heart-commanding Violet.  On the contrary, she was practically near tears herself.  Clearly, this wasn’t what she wanted to do at all.  But she felt it had to be done in order to free Merlin before Arthur had the chance to stop them.  Was Emma’s actions in this episode wrong?  Probably.  But again, because I understand where she was coming from, I cannot bring myself to be that angry at her, especially after letting the shock of that reveal wear off.  Like with Killian’s actions in ‘The Jolly Roger’ flashback, the fact that I understand the reasons why a character behaves in a questionable way makes it hard for me to be all that angry with them, especially when the questionable action not only has no real lasting repercussions, but ultimately leads to something beneficial.

In all honesty, the thing that disturbed me the most was the show’s attempt at comparing what Emma did in Camelot to what Cora did in pre-curse Enchanted Forest.   I might be alone, but I’m just not seeing the similarity.  Cora was a cold, heartless social climber who had a long history of putting herself first.  And when she killed Daniel, it was because she couldn’t tolerate or respect the fact that her daughter didn’t share her agenda.  As I mentioned in the last paragraph, Emma was in a rather tight spot at the moment.  If she didn’t force Violet to break Henry’s heart, they might never have been able to free Merlin.  And without Merlin, not only would Emma be doomed to spend the rest of her life as the Dark One, but they also might not have been able to free Snow and Charming from the magic Avalon powder, let alone stop Arthur from his own diabolical schemes.  And to be completely honest, even after taking a few days to process things, I cannot for the life of me think of any alternatives to the method she used, especially considering if she hadn’t taken the steps to obtain Henry’s tear, Arthur might very well have captured them before they could complete the potion.  So on the one hand, we have a woman who frequently abused her daughter emotionally and resorted to murder when the daughter in question tried to stand up for herself and her agency.  On the other, we have a desperate woman who, with great reluctance, chose to put her child’s happiness on hold in order to do something that would ultimately lead to the benefit of all.  Emma’s actions in the Camelot flashback reminded me of someone, all right.  But it certainly wasn’t Cora.  You know who it did remind me of?  Snow and Charming- the couple who chose to send their newborn baby daughter through a magical wardrobe, knowing they were sentencing her to a life where she would grow up without the love of her parents, but that doing so was the only way to ensure Evil Queen Regina’s curse would be broken.  Since the show has made it clear Emma has long since forgiven her parents for that, I’ll be very disappointed if Henry doesn’t forgive Emma once he remembers why his tear of heartbreak was needed.   And unlike Cora, Dark One Emma showed genuine remorse for what she did to Henry.  And she even made a successful effort at making it up to him, by helping Henry find Violet’s missing horse, which led to them being able to pick up on crushing on each other again.  And even if Dark One Emma had to resort to manipulative ways to achieve that, Henry was manipulating her right back in this episode.   When he got Dark One Emma to come with him in the search for Violet’s horse so they could spend time together while reminiscing about the days of Operation Cobra, he was also making sure she was out of the way so the Nevengers could have free reign to search her house.  Really, you can’t tell me it’s okay for Henry to manipulate Emma, but it’s not okay for Emma to use manipulation herself.  You can’t have it both ways, show.

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but even though Dark One Emma is resorting to things that she wouldn’t normally do, like willingly hurt the people she loves, I have yet to see her do something all that evil.  For starters, we haven’t seen her kill anyone, have we?  In fact, the stuff we do see her do is stuff that Regina does on a regular basis.  And no one ever calls Regina out on that.  I suppose it’s possible people are simply setting the bar much lower for Regina than they do Emma.  But even so, it’s still bordering on hypocritical of them to get mad at Emma for the stuff she’s doing while possessed by an ancient evil entity but simply shrug it off when Regina resorts to questionable stuff when she’s supposed to be currently classified as a hero.  The only one Dark One Emma seems to be particularly cruel to at present is Merida, and there might very well be a story behind that that we have yet to learn.  As for her bullying Gold?   After everything Gold did to her and the people she loved during the last four seasons, the guy really could use a taste of his own medicine, so I have no problem with this.  Long story short, even though Emma has supposedly given into the Darkness, she still seems to be toeing the line.  Which makes me suspect she’s only holding on to her Dark One status because it’s necessary for her to complete some sort of plan, and once that plan is complete, she’ll be more than willing to cast the Darkness aside again.

The subplot with Gold and Merida was rather short in this episode.  Basically, Merida begins her task of molding Gold into a hero, but when his cowardly nature gets in the way, Merida decides to use his love for Belle to force him into action, by waving around the symbolic chipped teacup a few times.  However, if the promo for next week’s episode is any indication, we’re going to be given an entire episode dedicated to Belle and Gold.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that, as I’m currently indifferent to this particular pairing.

There was a bit of possible subtle foreshadowing at the block party, when the Nevengers tell Arthur that Dark One Emma has Excalibur.  It could just be me making a mountain out of a molehill, but Killian seemed to be giving Arthur the stink eye when they discussed the connection between Excalibur and the Dark One’s dagger.  I’m just remembering that this isn’t the first time Killian has encountered a corrupted king.  It was such a person that cost him his brother’s life centuries ago.  Perhaps Killian will be the one who realizes Arthur can’t be trusted during the Storybrooke storyline, which will lead to him saving everyone from this corrupt king, the way he hadn’t been able to save Liam from that corrupt king of the past.  He certainly had his perceptiveness on overdrive in this episode, considering he was the one who first noticed the similarity between Excalibur’s blade and the Dark One’s Dagger, and he was the one who spotted the dreamcatcher sitting on the table.

Now, can I just say, could we please ease up on the Neal talk?  I know there is a small group among the viewing audience who actually liked the guy for reasons I can’t quite fathom, but the way they kept bringing him up in this episode seemed a bit forced.  Okay, I was fine with Henry mentioning him with Violet when she said her mother had passed away.  It was something for them to bond over.  And I was even fine with Killian mentioning him when they found the dreamcatcher in Dark One Emma’s house, mostly because it once again indicated that Emma had confided in him about her past.  (We saw a hint of this before in the Wizard of Oz arc, when Emma brought up the fact that Neal had sent her to jail during one of her conversations with Killian.)  I’m fairly certain that Emma has confided more in Killian than anyone else in Storybrooke.  But why was Emma speaking of Neal so positively when Henry was trying to think of ways to impress Violet in Camelot?  Seriously, I know he was her first love, and they were trying to play up the whole first love thing in this episode, but she actually states she liked Neal because he was always himself when they were together.  The guy didn’t even tell her his REAL NAME!  Or where he was really from.  How can you be yourself if you can’t even be completely honest about your past?  Also, was it really necessary to praise his ‘signature move?’ You know, considering he used these ‘signature moves’ on someone who wasn’t even a legal adult at the time?  Seriously, show, stop trying to canonize Neal like he was some kind of saint.  He was anything but.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Once Upon a Time Episode Analysis (The Broken Kingdom)

This episode goes into the backstory of King Arthur, and how he started sliding downhill.  We learn that Merlin has been trapped in that tree for YEARS.  At the very least, since Arthur’s boyhood days.  But Merlin had managed to communicate with young Arthur in his dreams, informing him of a prophesy that said Arthur would one day pull a sword from a stone and become King of Camelot.  However, no one believes that a stable boy like Arthur could ever become king.  The only one who shows faith in Arthur is his childhood friend, Guinevere.  When Arthur reaches adulthood and locates the fabled sword, he pulled out Excalibur and found out that the sword was incomplete.  He very quickly becomes obsessed with finding the other half, the Dark One’s Dagger, in order to restore it.  So much so, he began to neglect everything else, even his wife, Guinevere.  Wanting her husband back, Guinevere decides to find the dagger on her own so he could put this obsession to rest, using the magical gauntlet we saw in the ‘Heroes and Villains’ flashback.  With Lancelot accompanying her, they manage to locate the Vault of the Dark One.  When they find the dagger by walking through a portal door that leads to a garden of some sort, they get confronted by Dark One Rumpelstiltskin.  Of course, he won’t hand over the dagger, but he offers them some magic powder that would make it look like Excalibur was whole again, in exchange for the magic gauntlet (which explains how he obtained the gauntlet in the first place).  So, Lancelot and Guinevere return to Camelot with the magic powder.  Lancelot, realizing he’d fallen in love with Guinevere, decides to leave the kingdom in order to keep a wedge from forming between her and Arthur.  But Arthur had been spying on their farewell, and when he confronts Guinevere, she explains that their quest to find the dagger for Arthur had resulted in them obtaining the magical powder.  She goes on to say that she’d originally planned to use it to make Excalibur appear whole, but realized at the last minute that she no longer wanted that.  Because Arthur had become too obsessed with the sword, he’d become blinded to what REALLY mattered.  However, her words fail to get through to Arthur, who decides to use the magical powder to make Camelot seem like a perfect little kingdom, with Guinevere becoming the brainwashed little wife who will simply go along with whatever Arthur decides.  So, our great king of Camelot is now a total psycho who has turned Camelot into this whole False Utopian style kingdom.  Once again, I’m getting Avatar: The Last Airbender vibes from this show.  This is very similar to what was going down in Ba Sing Se during the show’s second season.  It’s even creepier that he’s now pretty much gotten Guinevere brainwashed into loving him.  And I thought the Rumpelstiltskin/Belle pairing was borderline unhealthy and toxic. 

Flash-forwarding a few years, now that Charming is a Knight of the Round Table, Arthur fills him in on the secret of Excalibur, and explains his intention to merge Excalibur to the Dark One’s Dagger.  In his desperation to help Emma, Charming allows his judgement to become clouded and refuses to pay heed to Snow when she tries to tell him what Lancelot said, about how Arthur couldn’t be trusted.  Going behind Snow’s back, Charming tries to bring the dagger to Arthur.  But it turns out Snow anticipated this and took the dagger to hide it with Lancelot.  They try to return it to the place where Lancelot and Guinevere found it before, in that garden dimension that could be accessed in the bowels of the Vault of the Dark One.  Before they can return it to the holding pedestal thing, they find Arthur had followed them.  When Arthur tries to kill Lancelot, Snow decides to surrender the dagger to save her friend’s life.  Arthur then reveals his ultimate plan is to force Emma to restore Excalibur so he can use it to kill Merlin before eliminating the Darkness forever.  Okay, but why does Arthur want to kill Merlin?  I mean, if Arthur wants Merlin out of the way, wouldn’t the smart move be to just leave him trapped in the tree?  I guess Arthur’s afraid someone might find a way to release Merlin, and the only way to be sure Merlin can’t ever come after him is to kill him, but if Merlin is supposed to be this great and powerful sorcerer, you’d think it would be all too easy for Merlin to dodge and deflect Arthur’s killing blow.  So, wouldn’t it be more prudent for Arthur to just set fire to Tree Merlin and be done with it?  That’s not even mentioning the obvious question of why Arthur seems to not want Merlin around to begin with.  Weren’t Arthur and Merlin supposed to be buddies?  Unless it’s because Arthur realizes deep down that he’s no longer worthy of wielding Excalibur because he’s let the power go to his head and doesn’t want to give Merlin the chance to take the sword away from him.  Which would kinda make sense, I suppose.

Anyway, when Arthur tries to use the dagger to summon Emma, it’s revealed that the dagger was a fake.  Turns out this whole thing was actually a clever ruse devised by Snow and Charming, with the latter following Arthur in secret.  (And this is me, expressing my genuine apologies for doubting Charming in this episode.)  With Arthur’s true nature revealed, Snow and Charming plan to use Excalibur to save Emma’s life instead of destroying her, the way Arthur had planned.  But before they could begin, Guinevere, still under the effects of the magic powder, arrives with the rest of the Camelot knights.  Lancelot is captured and thrown into Camelot’s dungeon, where he meets up with Merida, who was also captured off-camera.  (Does this mean Arthur was the one who kidnapped her brothers?)  As for Snow and Charming, they are both placed under the power of the magic powder, which brainwashes them into becoming willing allies of Arthur’s evil plan.

Yeah, so this is not looking like it’s gonna end well.  Although, this could explain how the Nevengers ‘failed’ Emma in Camelot, especially since Arthur and Guinevere could just use the magic powder on anyone who suspected Snow and Charming were not acting of their own free will.  If it is, it’s obvious they were not at fault- they were under magical mind control, courtesy of King Nutso.  I’m now wondering if Killian and Henry will be able to figure out what’s really going on before the mind wipe occurs.  After all, they’re the only two Dark One Emma doesn’t seem to be miffed at in Storybrooke.  But the question remains if Snow and Charming are still under the effects of the magical powder.  Unless the mind wipe counteracted the magic powder’s effects.  Which would explain why the memory wipe was necessary.  After all, Guinevere still seems to be affected by it, but she got blasted with the stuff before the Nevengers even made it to Camelot, so the memory wipe would not have counteracted it.

Meanwhile, while things were quickly spiraling downward into madness in the main storyline, Emma was finding it harder and harder to block out the voice of the Darkness.   So much so, she was actually becoming physically ill.  When Regina suggests that she could benefit from going somewhere quiet, away from prying ears, Killian and Henry decide to take Emma out on an outing so she could clear her head, with Henry deciding the perfect place would be the stables that belonged to his new friend, Violet, and her family.  Of course, Henry went ‘peace out’ pretty quickly when Violet actually shows up.  And I adore that whole scene and everything it stands for, especially Emma and Killian’s reactions to learning Henry now has a love interest.  Emma was all ‘wait, what?  But my son’s too young for this!’ And Killian was all ‘yeeeaahhh, attaboy!’  Which were such typical mother/father reactions to a boy bringing home a girl for the first time.  I can’t even stand how good they’ve got the whole parental thing down, especially Killian.  Who cares if he’s not Henry’s father by blood?  There’s a lot more to being a real father than simply providing the sperm portion of the child in question.  If this moment is any indication, Killian is Henry’s father in all the ways that actually count.

When Henry leaves with Violet, Killian gets Emma to open up to him, and she tells him all about the Dark One Rumpelstiltskin Hallucination, and how she’s struggling to block him out.  Killian, remembering how he was sometimes able to block out his internal demons by sailing about aboard the Jolly Roger, decides to utilize the same method to help Emma.  Of course, the Jolly Roger is currently docked at Storybrooke’s harbor, and Camelot is apparently too far inland for them to borrow a random ship for a few hours.  So, Killian goes with the next best thing and borrows a horse from the stables.  Emma is doubtful at first, since the horse is able to sense the Darkness that currently possesses her, and the Dark One Rumple Hallucination tries to feed on her hesitations.  But Killian instructs Emma to simply put her trust in him, because he’s not going to stop fighting for them or their future together.  Once again, you have to truly admire Killian’s unyielding love for Emma.  He’s not fazed at all at the news that she’s being plagued by voices in her head.  He just remains completely confident that they can beat this and return to Storybrooke, where they can continue their life together.  Even in the opening scene, when Emma nearly hits him with a magical blast during her emotional meltdown.  He barely even blinks and simply reaches out to Emma to calm and comfort her.  It’s very reminiscent of that moment in ‘Snow Queen,’ when Killian barely took note of the fact that he nearly got struck with a falling lamp pole when Emma’s magic was going haywire.  Instead, he remained solely focused on Emma and her obvious distress and physically reached out to her in his desire to help her.  No matter what the situation, Killian always manages to put Emma’s well-being first.

With his encouragement, Emma is able to mount the horse behind him, and Killian brings them to a really beautiful clearing filled with pink roses, which were the same roses that more or less symbolized the love between Arthur and Guinevere before Arthur went off the deep end.  (Well, the show calls them middlemist flowers, which are apparently a real thing, but they’re so rare, the only two known locations are a greenhouse in the UK and a New Zealand garden.  So I guess they had to represent the middlemist with pink roses.)  Upon reaching the clearing, Emma realizes the Dark One Rumpelstiltskin Hallucination is nowhere in sight.  Because she was able to place her complete faith in Killian and his love for her, it left no room for the Darkness to take root.  This revelation helps restore Emma’s hopes of becoming freed from the curse of the Dark One, and she and Killian share one of the most beautifully filmed kisses to date.

And that brings us to the million dollar question- did Emma and Killian have ‘coffee’ after the cutaway?  I mean, look how the final moments of that scene played out:

Emma: Well, now that we’re alone…
[Killian does that eyebrow thing, and they initiate a very romantic kiss as the camera pans upward to show they are standing in the middle of a field of the middlemist flowers/pink roses]

I mean, come on, people!  That is one of the oldest tropes in history- the couple making love for the first time while surrounded by rose petals.  And there’s also the fact that we see Dark One Emma has held on to the flower Killian had given her when they reached the clearing, which might indicate that particular moment held special meaning to her.  Obviously, I know we’re not going to get to actually SEE anything, since this show is on the family-friendly ABC and not the more adult-themed HBO.  But if the next episode has the first Camelot scene with Emma and Killian still in that field of middlemist, I’m fairly certain there will be Captain Swan riot, especially if we see something like Killian putting his coat back on.

In the final moments of the episode, we see Dark One Emma beginning her plan to mold the revived Gold into a hero.  Taking possession of Merida’s heart (because Merida was obviously brought over to Storybrooke as well), Dark One Emma tasks Merida with helping Gold learn how to be brave.  All I can say is that Merida has her work cut out for her.  After all, if Isaac’s twisted AU world showed us anything, it’s that it is very hard to change a person’s true nature.  Even in that world, when Gold was supposed to be the hero, he still was perfectly willing to strike down a young boy like Henry to protect his cozy little existence.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Once Upon a Time Episode Analysis (Siege Perilous)

Okay, at this point, I’m in a state of mental chaos.  In the sense that I’m trying to be optimistic, but I have absolutely no idea where they’re going with this story arc.  It’s made even worse that this is the first time I have to really wait to find out what happens next, as I wasn’t introduced to the show until season 4 was still airing, so the first episode I had to actually wait to watch was ‘Mother
In Camelot, Regina, during a brainstorming session, decides to use some magical toadstool that,according to one of Merlin's spellbooks, was supposed to help reach across magical boundaries to possibly communicate with Tree Merlin, in the hopes that he could offer some insights on how to free him. (And again, why are they automatically concluding Emma can’t use Light Magic anymore?  On what basis are they making this conclusion?  It’s really bothering me.)  To obtain the toadstool, Charming decides to set off on a personal quest, with King Arthur volunteering to come along.  During their expedition, they bond over their similarities (such as peasant beginnings and similar tastes in wives).  They eventually find the toadstool in the middle of a swamp, but when Charming goes to retrieve it, he discovers that the toadstool is guarded by cursed suits of armor, which I guess belonged to the poor souls who failed to get the toadstool.  Charming gives his best effort to fight them off, but ultimately has to be saved by Arthur when the cursed armor drags him underwater to drown him.  Unfortunately, Charming ends up losing the toadstool.  But they still are able to return with heads held high, because… something to do with true courage coming out when you refuse to give up in the face of failure.  Anyway, Charming is honored for his efforts by becoming a Knight of the Round Table, and is given Lancelot’s old seat, which is supposed to be the most honored place around the Round Table.  But when Snow steps out of the room to calm Baby Neal, who got upset with all the applause (because babies and loud noises don’t mix too well), she discovers Lancelot is alive after all (So Cora WAS lying about killing him?  SHOCKER!  Though it does beg the question of where he’s been hiding all this time.)  Lancelot warns Snow that the real villain in Camelot is not the Dark One, but is actually King Arthur. 

Oh, I’m sorry.  Was I supposed to be shocked by that reveal?  Cause I really wasn’t.  I knew he seemed a bit shady.  It certainly did strike me as a bit fishy how he just let Charming go for the toadstool in the swamp while he sat back and did pretty much nothing.  And hey, if Pan can be a bad guy despite being traditionally viewed as the hero in our world, why not King Arthur?  It’s not as if anything was sacred in this show, anyway.  If anything, I feel bad for Charming, in the sense that he’ll eventually discover his new BFF was just using him all along.  To drive the fact that Arthur is the original Shady McShady home, we then see that Charming DID get the toadstool after all, but Arthur squirreled it away from him in secret with the intent of using it for himself in some way.  Whatever he needed the toadstool for, however, he apparently wasn’t able to go through with it, because by the episode’s end, Charming and company find the toadstool again in Storybrooke.  But because of their lost memories, their only hint about why they needed the toadstool comes from the fact that Regina had marked the page that discussed the toadstool in Merlin’s spellbook back in Camelot. 

In the Storybrooke plotline, Arthur once again approaches Charming to inform him that some of the Camelot treasures, which were brought over in the new curse, have been stolen.  One of the stolen items was apparently a magic bean, which Arthur had planned to use to return to Camelot.  Charming, not bothering to question how Arthur managed to obtain something that rare, devises a plot to weed out the thief, which ends up going quite well, and they manage to apprehend the culprit, who is Sir Griff, who claimed to have stolen the treasures because he felt wronged by King Arthur somehow.  But as we learned in the Camelot Flashback, King Arthur is all kinds of shady, and its revealed that, not only was there never a magic bean to begin with, this whole thing of Sir Griff stealing the royal treasures was all just a ruse devised between Griff and Arthur to ensure Arthur could gain Charming’s trust.  Because Arthur wants to overthrow Storybrooke and make it into a new Camelot.  (And I’m once again getting Pan vibes from him.  After all, that little devil child also wanted to turn Storybrooke into a New Neverland.)  Arthur even gets Griff to poison himself so the evil scheme won’t be found out.  So, does this mean Arthur is officially the new Pan?  Although, I have to point out a major flaw in Arthur’s poisoning plan.  The poisoning thing occurred in the Sheriff Station.  You know, the place where there are security cameras, as we saw in the season 3 finale?  And unlike Dark One Rumple, Arthur cannot magically alter the security footage to remove the evidence that he was there.  So, if Charming has the foresight to check the footage when he discovers Griff is missing from his cell, Arthur’s cover is pretty much blown.  Unless the show writers conveniently forget about those security cameras this time around, which would pretty much indicate they dropped the ball on this one.

Meanwhile Dark One Emma is trying to get Excalibur out of the stone, but to no avail.  Not even the dwarf pickaxe she stole from Happy helps.  The Dark One Rumple Hallucination just sorta laughs at her attempts, telling her she knows what she has to do to get the sword- find a hero that can be worthy enough to pull it out.  With those words still ringing in her ears, she seeks out Killian aboard the Jolly Roger, where she goes about recreating their first date back in ‘The Apprentice.’  However, while it’s clear that Killian is feeling tormented by the reminders of happier times, he’s placing his full effort into keeping his head in the game and refuses to let Dark One Emma get under his skin.  He repeatedly asks that Dark One Emma be upfront and honest with him and asks her about the Mystery Door.  When she continues to deflect Killian’s requests, and instead brings up precious memories he undoubtedly cherishes, Killian loses his temper and straight up demands Dark One Emma level with him about what she’s after.  Dark One Emma again chooses to be all cryptic, stating she just wants his trust.  She then asks him if he loves her, stating she’ll let him go if he says he doesn’t.  In response to that question, Killian simply states ‘I loved you.’  Of course, this isn’t them saying Killian has stopped loving Emma.  It’s just his way of saying he loves the real Emma, and isn’t going to pander this version of her by being her enabler.  That was Belle’s fatal mistake.   She allowed herself to constantly turn a blind eye to Dark One Rumple’s misdeeds and just ended up getting burned.  Of course, Belle was already approaching the task of being the current Dark One’s True Love at a disadvantage, since she never got the chance to know Rumpelstiltskin before he absorbed the Dark One’s essence.  Dark One Rumpelstiltskin was the only Rumpelstiltskin she knew, so she had no standard to compare him to.  Killian, however, is the exact opposite.  What’s more, he has already set himself at odds with the very identity of the Dark One.  It was that entity that murdered his first love and left him permanently maimed.  So he’s not about to let the Dark One walk all over him now, even if it’s currently using the face of the woman he loves.  Instead, he’s going to continue fighting for the real Emma, by encouraging her to fight against the Darkness that’s currently possessing her by utilizing some much-needed tough love.  Of course, taking this particular stance is never easy.  And you can see how the method Killian utilized has left them both feeling hurt.  So much so that Killian cannot meet her eyes anymore, and a small bit of the real Emma breaks through momentarily.  But Dark One Emma teleports away before she can break too much, and when she reappears on screen again, she’s once again put on her full-on Dark One mask.  (Although, she clearly doesn’t appreciate the Evil Jiminy Cricket's reminder of how her most recent actions have hurt Killian.)

Oh, and it gets even better.  It turns out that Dark One Emma swiped Killian’s cutlass when she left the Jolly Roger and uses that to pull Rumple out of his coma.   Because this was the same cutlass he was wielding during their confrontation aboard the Jolly Roger way back when, so it was a vital ingredient in the spell designed to wake him up.  I'm kinda sad that Killian has once again lost that cutlass, which he'd apparently gotten back from the Dark One Rumple's forbidden vault off-camera.  Except, since it's now been crushed to dust, he's probably lost it for good. That aside, the revival of Rumpelstiltskin results in me getting an answer to my earlier question- he does remember everything he’s done up until this point.  Because Rumple’s heart is now apparently a blank slate, Dark One Emma plans to mold him into the purest hero ever, so he could pull out Excalibur. Yeah, that’s great and all, but wasn’t Rumple supposed to be a sniveling coward? Now that the Dark One’s influence is gone from him, shouldn’t he revert back to that, considering he now has nothing to hide behind anymore? And there is the little issue of his limp, which should make it a bit hard for him to do any derring-do even if he can grow a backbone.  Okay, this show has gone complete cray-cray now.

But things might get even more nuts after this.  Killian is not going to let that Mystery Door go, so he turns to Robin, asking him to utilize his old thieving skills to help him find out what’s behind that door.  I admit, I’m completely on board with seeing Killian and Robin becoming buddies.  Whether it be teaming up for some mad misadventure in order to set things right again or looking at Zelena’s ultrasound picture.  (And who else laughed at Killian’s reaction to Robin’s poor attempt at explaining what it was a picture of?)  Like with Henry, I think it’s time Killian branched out and developed more friendships.  After all, Belle was able to develop nice little friendships with Ruby (who has yet to reappear) and Grumpy.  Why should Killian not have the same opportunity?

To be honest, I’m still not completely convinced Emma really is the big bad everyone thinks she is this story arc.  I haven’t ruled out the possibility that someone else cast this new curse instead of Dark One Emma as we’ve been led to believe.  It’s not as if we haven’t seen it before.  We spent the majority of the Wizard of Oz arc believing Zelena had cast the second Dark Curse when it was ultimately revealed to have been Snow and Charming.  And then there’s the fact that she still didn’t tell Killian what she’s planning, simply asking him to trust her.  While it could be just the Darkness influencing her into toying with him and his feelings for her, there is a fan theory going around that I'm on board with- that something or someone is actually PREVENTING her from openly explaining things.  If that’s the case, it would give new meaning to her request for Killian to trust her in this episode.  It would mean she was trying to inform him in a cryptic way that, even though she couldn’t be completely upfront with him, she had a plan and needed him to trust her.  However, I know I could be completely wrong about that.  That said, if Dark One Emma was the one to cast the new curse, this episode might have offered us a clue as to why she did so.  Maybe it was the only way to stop Arthur from doing something really bad in Camelot, but there was no real way to spare her loved ones from the mind wipe.  So it was either wipe away everyone’s memories or do nothing and allow Arthur free reign or whatever.

Now I gotta discuss a certain aspect of Killian and Dark One Emma’s conversation.  More specifically the part where they discuss Killian’s initial meeting with Rumpelstiltskin centuries earlier.  According to Killian, he was the one at fault back then, and he shouldn’t have prevented Rumple’s attempt at keeping his family together.  Okay, I completely get what his intent was in this moment, and that he was trying to get Dark One Emma to realize becoming the Dark One did not change Rumple for the better so she’d realize embracing the Darkness was not making her better, either.  He was trying to convince her that the only thing that would really make her better was rejecting the Dark One’s power and returning to the person he fell in love with, walls and all. (It was also the writers’ way of showing how much Killian has grown to be ashamed of his past misdeeds, and also disproving the belief amongst certain viewers that Emma doesn’t know the whole story about Milah.  This exchange proves she’s been told all about it.)  But I really don’t like the idea that Killian is quite possibly placing the full extent of the blame on himself, because he really doesn’t deserve that.  If they’re really going to play the blame game for this incident, there was plenty of that to go around.  If Rumple really wanted to keep his family together, he should have made an effort to consider Milah’s feelings.   Milah was dealing with serious depression and wanted a fresh start in some other village where she wouldn’t be ostracized by the neighbors because of her husband’s actions in the Ogre Wars.  But Rumple refused to even consider moving away.  Even if Killian hadn’t entered the picture, Miliah might very well have walked out on him anyway.  And while it was possibly a low blow of Killian to virtually mock Rumple when he ventured onto the Jolly Roger to get Milah back, his actions in making Rumple believe they were abducting his wife might very well have protected Milah’s reputation.  Better that people think she was kidnapped by pirates than know she willingly ran off with another man.  Somehow, I don’t think people would be very open-minded about something like that in the medieval-style world of the Enchanted Forest.  And it was entirely possible that Milah had also asked Killian to lie for her, because she didn’t WANT to go back with her husband.  Like I said, there was blame to share.  The only one who was entirely guiltless in this particular situation was Boy Baelfire.  So I sincerely hope Killian isn’t trying to place all the blame on himself.  Then again, this could have just been him reverting back to his tendency to be all self-loathing.  It has been shown repeatedly that people are generally at their worst when they’re separated from their True Love.  And Killian is in the unique position of having his True Love being there physically but being gone at the same time.  Regardless, I have a seriously hard time in seeing how Killian simply acting like a smug frat boy in the past was synonymous with him being villainous.  Maybe people just have a different morality back in the Enchanted Forest.  There have been a few instances when this show has suggested actions that seemed reasonable enough to me were actually a sign of giving into the darkness.  (i.e. Emma nearly punching the landlord guy in ‘Lily.’  I still say if someone is callous enough to start badmouthing a dead person to someone who might have been friends with said dead person, they’re ASKING to get hit in the face.)

Once again, I am 1001% DONE with Zelena’s storyline, but this time, however, I was equally miffed with Regina.  She practically berates Zelena for wasting all the chances they gave her to change her ways. Please remind me how many chances YOU got, Regina.  And then there was her ‘you keep painting yourself as a victim.’  Yeah, says the woman who spent YEARS blaming Snow for people seeing her as the Evil Queen when she was the one who chose to slaughter hundreds amongst other horrible acts.  Says the woman who once spat Emma sympathy back in her face during the Neverland arc, stating that Emma had parents when she didn’t, even though it’s really Regina’s fault she no longer has her father in her life.  Says the woman who spent the majority of season 4 throwing a tantrum at Emma for the whole ‘Not-Marian’ issue and then claiming the Author purposely set her up for failure.  Says the woman who, just last episode, whined about how King Leopold never danced with her and then tried to blame the comatose Rumple for turning her into the Evil Queen.  I don’t want to make a whole pot and kettle analogy, but it’s getting close.   And is she seriously contemplating taking the child away from Zelena?  Does Regina even realize when she’s telling her sister that she can’t take that child away from his father that SHE’S planning to take a child from its mother?  I realize this is a sticky situation to be in, but I just keep remembering that this baby is the result of Robin being raped through deception.  I completely understand how Robin must have mixed feelings about the unborn baby, but I can just see it being a constant elephant in the room if Regina and Robin get full custody of the baby and Zelena is cast aside.  I’m not one to promote the practice of sweeping problems under the rug so people can just ignore they exist, but if all Zelena wants is to keep the baby, she’s not going to go away willingly without that child.  At the present time, I see no downside of just letting Zelena walk off into the sunset with her offspring, just so we’d never have to deal with her anymore.  Besides, I’m sure Robin and Regina could have kids of their own one day.  I’m still convinced Regina’s barren state could be rectified if they just took a little day trip to Lake Nostros.  Seriously, why is it so hard for people to spot the solutions that are right in front of them?

On a final side note, was it just me, or were the dwarves major jerks in this episode?  I realize they’ve got a lot on their plate in trying to figure out how to restore Tree Dopey to his original flesh and blood state, but like Grumpy said last episode, Emma used to be one of them.  But now that she’s full-on Dark One, it’s like they feel that they’ve got to completely wash their hands of her.  Weren’t the dwarves supposed to be Snow and Charming’s loyal guards?  Where’s the loyalty now?  I mean, they’re talking about the daughter of the royal couple they once swore to serve here.  You’d think the ‘loyal’ guards would want to stand by their rulers’ desire to find a solution that would help restore their daughter instead of, you know, killing her or whatever.  Then again, we have seen Grumpy resort to an angry-mob mentality in the past, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect any better from him anymore.  (And to think Grumpy was my favorite dwarf in the original Disney film.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Once Upon a Time Episode Analysis (The Price)

Okay, when this episode began, my first thought was ‘why is Sneezy still stone?’  You can’t tell me no one knew how to turn him back.  We’ve SEEN Regina use the exact same spell during ‘The Thing You Love Most’ flashback back in season 1.  Don’t think I haven’t forgotten that.  So shouldn’t she know the counter-spell?  And at the end of the episode, I got my confirmation- Regina COULD turn Sneezy back.  So why did she wait so long to do so?!  What was stopping her from turning him back right after Dark One Emma teleported away at the end of last episode?  I mean really, she only turns him back after everyone is convinced she can successfully pose as the new Savior.  Is that really the act of a hero?

During the Camelot flashback, the Nevengers are introduced to the royal court, including Queen Guinevere, and King Arthur is all set to throw a ball in honor of their prophesized arrival.  (*Sigh* Stinking prophesies.  What good has ever come about from listening to them?   Nine times out of ten, they just turn out to be self-fulfilling.)  Killian, however, is focused solely on helping free Emma from the Dark One’s curse for good, and announces his eagerness to begin the search for Merlin.  Which results in the reveal that Merlin is actually in Camelot, but trapped inside a tree.  I kinda like this detail, as I seem to remember something about Merlin being trapped inside a tree in the original mythos.  I’m guessing there’s also a connection between this and the new town line border spell.  Yeah, this time around, if anyone tries to cross the Storybrooke town line, they get tuned into a tree, as Dopey found out the hard way.  Which makes me wonder how Dopey’s going to get turned back, because it’s not like anyone can step over the line to bring Tree Dopey back into town limits.

Anyway, Arthur states that only the Savior would be able to free Merlin, but when Emma starts to step forward, Regina cuts her off, announcing that SHE’S the Savior, while keeping a hand on the Dark One’s dagger in order to prevent Emma from contradicting her statement.  Emma is not pleased with this, and she makes sure to inform Regina of this once they’re alone.  But Regina waves off Emma’s irritation, stating that if she’d tried to free Merlin, she would just end up using Dark Magic, and risk sinking deeper into the Darkness.  Okay, I’m sorry to be all nitpicky, but…. how do they KNOW Emma would instantly produce Dark Magic?  Where is it written in stone that she can’t use Light Magic just because she’s now the Dark One?  I mean, they’ve only seen ONE Dark One in action before.  And maybe the only reason why Dark One Rumple never used Light Magic was a) because he didn’t WANT to or b) unlike Emma, Rumpelstiltskin didn’t have a drop of magical blood in him to begin with, so there was nothing to transfer over.  I’m just saying, it seems like a bit of a stretch to instantly assume the person who once was able to wield pretty strong Light Magic can’t do so anymore.  I mean, they don’t even allow Emma the opportunity to try using Light Magic before making that conclusion.  Granted, that seems to be the case later on, but maybe this is similar to what we saw in previous seasons, when you can only see magic stuff if you believe in it.  Emma wasn’t able to see August was turning into wood until she believed the curse was real.  When they were looking for the book to restore Henry’s memories during the Wizard of Oz arc, Emma wasn’t able to find the book in the box when Snow was able to do so seconds later because she didn’t really WANT to find the book.  When Zelena was defeated, Emma believed that she hadn’t gotten her magic back, but it was later revealed the only reason they hadn’t returned was because Emma hadn’t wanted them to.  The moment she changed her mind on the matter, they instantly manifested again.  During the Neverland arc, Tinkerbell was only able to get the pixie dust to glow when she believed she could.  And when we saw how Author Isaac was initiated, the Apprentice stated that Author Isaac could only see the magic portal door because he believed.  Maybe if Emma believed she could use Light Magic while she’s still the Dark One, she’d be able to.  And the only reason why she doesn’t seem to be able to do so during this episode was because that’s what everyone has been telling her, so of course she’s going to believe that.  Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it CAN’T be done.  It could just mean no one has tried to test the limits yet.

And this is when things get super ridiculous.  When everyone is getting ready for the ball, Regina states she’s not going- because she doesn’t know how to dance.

Okay, show writers, WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE?!  Just because the Nevengers have lost their memories doesn’t mean the viewing audience have.  We all remember what that nutjob Cora was like, and how she most likely was grooming Regina to become queen from the millisecond she could WALK!  Are we seriously expected to believe Cora neglected to cover flipping BALLROOM DANCING in those non-stop etiquette lessons?  I’m calling horse bunk on this one.  If that wasn’t bad enough, she actually has the gall to comment on how whenever she attended a ball in the past, King Leopold was more interested in dancing with young Snow than with her.  Yeah, like we should TOTALLY feel super bad for Regina that the man she eventually had MURDERED via snake bite never danced with her.   Also, dare I remind people that Regina had plenty of opportunities to get dancing lessons and attend balls during that span of time when she was Evil Queen Regina?  We CLEARLY saw her attending King Midas’ ball in the season 3 finale.  What are we supposed to think she was she doing all evening?  Skulking in the corner and stuffing her face with h'orderves?  Granted, that’s what I would be doing, but the difference is I’m not of noble birth like Regina was.  Seriously, show writers, I’ve been willing to overlook a lot of the questionable storytelling stuff you’ve done in the past, but this?  This is getting dangerously close to ‘insulting our intelligence’ territory.

And it gets even better.  When they attend the ball, one of the Knights of the Round Table, who’s later revealed to be Percival, approaches Regina and invites her to dance.  As they dance, he reveals himself as the sole survivor of a village Regina had massacred during her reign as the Evil Queen.  He then attempts to strike her down with a sword, prompting Robin and Charming to come charging in to save her.  The struggle ends with Charming killing Percival and Robin getting stabbed.  I’ll get to Robin in a minute, because I can’t overlook how people kept reacting to Percival.  Everyone is instantly talking about how horrible it is that Percival tried to kill the ‘guest of honor.’  Yeah, how dare Percival react with reasonable anger towards the woman who killed his entire family and pretty much laughed at his misery upon seeing him.  Look, if you want us to believe Regina is a good guy now, great.  More power to you. But stop trying to make us forget stuff we’ve already seen happen in past episodes by pretending Regina was just some poor little misunderstood victim who doesn’t deserve it when people harbor resentment towards her because of her past sins.  In a related story, why is no one making an issue of Charming killing Percival?  Especially since it wasn’t completely necessary for Percival to get killed, as I’m sure Charming could have just restrained him instead.  But instead, he goes right for the kill, and no one bats an eye.  In a glaring contrast, when Snow caused the death of Cora and Emma killed Cruella, everyone was instantly worried that their hearts were going dark.  I don’t get it.  Why is it okay for Charming to just up and kill someone who was threatening Regina but it was super bad when Snow and Emma killed someone to protect their family?  What’s with the double standard?

Anyway, Robin.  Because the sword that he was stabbed with was enchanted in some way, Regina’s magic cannot heal him.  So Regina turns to Emma, asking her to step in.  Despite Snow and Killian’s fears for Emma’s wellbeing, and Emma’s own trepidation, she ultimately decides to try and heal Robin.  While she succeeds in healing him, the effort involved takes its toll on Emma, as her actions have only resulted in the Darkness starting to take hold, which is indicated by the skin on her hand starting to alter in appearance.  Not even her attempt at utilizing True Love’s Kiss with Killian seems to stop the transformation, which, according to Emma’s Evil Jiminy Cricket, means a part of her enjoyed the feeling of using Dark Magic.  You know, the more I watch this show, the more I start to think that Dark Magic is synonymous to illegal drugs.  After taking a few hits, it starts to get into your head.  It’s not the person’s fault that they eventually can’t stop, of course.  There’s a reason why addiction is sometimes referred to as a sickness.

In present day Storybrooke, everyone is reacting to Emma becoming fully Dark One in their own way.  Killian, determined to free Emma, once again considers utilizing True Love’s Kiss.  Because of this plan, we get one of those Killian/Belle friendship moments I was hoping for, in which Killian checks with Belle to see why it didn’t work with her and Dark One Rumpelstiltskin.  Belle’s answer that Rumple got scared and chose the power over love gives Killian the push he needs, since he’s convinced that it won’t be the same for Emma, and he leaves, seemingly ignoring Belle’s warning that it’s easier to hate the Dark One than to love the Dark One.  This ultimately leads to one of the most devastating moments for the Captain Swan ship to date.  Upon meeting up with Dark One Emma, she brings Killian to her new house. Yep, the curse of the Dark One has gotten Emma to fulfill her earlier goal of getting her own place.  I’m really hoping she keeps that house once this whole Dark Swan thing blows over.  On a side note, I fully admire Killian for immediately taking note of the mysterious wooden door.  That man wasn’t kidding when he said he was perceptive.  But Emma cuts him off before he gets the chance to investigate the mystery door properly.  When Killian does attempt True Love’s Kiss, he is devastated that it once again failed, because Emma has grown too attached to the power.  This is a painful moment, which is made even worse by the agony in Killian’s eyes as they take in every inch of Emma’s face, hoping for some sign of it working after all.  But on the bright side, it could have been a lot worse.  Remember the last time Killian tried utilizing True Love’s Kiss on Emma, and having it fail?  His comment about how he’d been hoping she felt as he did suggested he took the failure of that attempt as an indication that they weren’t True Love after all.  But it’s different this time.  This time, there is no doubt at all in Killian’s mind that he and Emma are True Love, and he doesn’t need a successful True Love’s Kiss to prove it.  (The fact that Emma also tried in the Camelot flashback indicates the same is true for her- she KNOWS beyond a shadow of a doubt that Killian is her True Love, too.)  But the fact that it didn’t work does present a problem- if True Love’s Kiss can’t pull Emma back, what will?  In the final scenes of the episode, Killian once again has a friendly heart-to-heart with Belle, vowing that he’s not going to give up fighting for Emma, and he won’t rest until he finds a way to save her.

I also have to applaud Killian for standing firm in this episode.  After the failed True Love’s Kiss, Dark One Emma clearly tries to seduce Killian into bed.  But Killian refuses the offer, because he knows that partaking in that particular act would be meaningless when Emma is in her current state.   He only wants to experience that moment with the Emma he fell in love with, and he’ll accept no substitute.  (And let this put to rest the silly belief among the people who are opposed to Captain Swan that Killian is only after Emma for her ‘assets.’  Because if that was all he was after, he wouldn’t have turned her down here.)  Also, the fact that he rejects Dark One Emma’s advances goes back to his grievance with Gold back in the Frozen arc.  Killian was disgusted by the fact that Gold believed he could continue seeking more power and still have Belle’s love.  He knew what Gold failed to comprehend- that you could not have both power and True Love.  You had to choose.  So he’s not about to allow Emma have both, either.  Regardless of how deeply Killian loves Emma, he’s not going to let her lead him on while she maintains her grip on the Dark One’s power.

As devastating as the Storybrooke scenes were in regards to the Captain Swan pairing, we did at least get some beautiful moments of them at the Camelot ball.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I was getting butterflies in my stomach every time I saw Emma holding Killian’s hook so casually, as if it was nothing more than an ordinary hand.  Even Robin and Regina could see how perfect those two were, as evidenced by Robin mimicking them at one point during the dance.  And just TRY to tell me that Killian wasn’t picturing Emma as his bride when he saw her in that gorgeous white ball gown.  I mean, come on people, she even had a crown of flowers in her hair!  The symbolism is just too much to deny.

As for Henry, he seeks Emma out to apologize for whatever he did in Camelot.  Dark One Emma, however, reassures him that she doesn’t blame him for what happened.  Of course, Regina chooses that moment to interrupt their talk.  (And I’m seriously rolling my eyes that she’s back to the whole ‘my son’ crap.  I thought we were past that.  Just because Emma’s the Dark One doesn’t mean she stopped being Henry’s mother.  And if you say it does?  Need I remind you of the stuff you did during Season 1?)  Regina starts talking about how whatever sort of memory-stripping curse Dark One Emma cast, they will find a way to beat it.  Dark One Emma, however, practically scoffs, commenting on how they only managed to beat all the past Big Bads because of her, and now that there’s no Savior, there’s nothing anyone can do.  But Regina insists that she can uphold the position just fine.   Dark One Emma once again reacts with skepticism, stating that something’s coming to Storybrooke, and only a Savior can deal with it.  That something reveals itself shortly after it’s discovered that King Arthur and his knights have also been brought over, and while helping set up a refugee camp for the new arrivals, Robin is abducted by some sort of creature.  With the help of Belle’s books, they discover the creature is a Fury, who plans to drag Robin to the underworld.  Unless someone gives their life in his place.  Because apparently when Robin was healed in Camelot with no one taking his place in death, it upset the great balance of the world or something along those lines.  Now the Fury has come to collect.  After a bit of moping and doping, Regina decides to offer up her life for Robin’s.  However, when Regina steps forward to offer her life in exchange for Robin’s, Snow, Charming, Grumpy and Arthur all charge forward to offer themselves too.  So the Fury, I’m guessing, takes a few years off all of their lives and thus spares Robin.  This prompts Grumpy to comment that perhaps Regina can protect the town after all. 

Okay, Grumpy.  Not to be a Negative Nancy, but it took all five of you to drive off the Fury.  Meaning Regina wasn’t able to stop the threat on her own.  And then there’s the fact that the person being threatened this time around was Robin, someone who Regina is particularly invested in.  So, I don’t think this proves anything.  When Regina steps up on her own and saves someone outside of her inner circle, like one of the nameless background Storybrookers, THEN perhaps I’ll be impressed.  Until then, I’m not gonna be convinced.

After watching this episode, I think I’ve started to figure out why Emma might have gone full Dark One- It was watching Regina claiming to be the Savior.  I mean, think about it.  That was always Emma’s role, and even though she was quite reluctant to accept it at first, she got there eventually, and once she did, she kept proving repeatedly that she deserved that mantle.   Now, after Emma had made the greatest sacrifice to date by willingly allowing herself to be possessed by the Dark One’s Essence, she has to sit back and let Regina pose as the Savior.  While Regina claimed it was all for Emma’s protection, imagine how much it must have stung for Emma to watch Regina take the credit for saving Robin’s life, even though Emma was the one who did all the work, and possibly risked her very soul in the process.   While we have yet to see more of what went down in Camelot, what if that pattern kept continuing, with Emma repeatedly saving the day in secret while Regina takes all the credit?  In addition, there was the fact that this episode also showed us Snow and Charming helping Regina learn how to dance, which made no sense to begin with.  That should have been a milestone bonding moment for Snow and Charming to experience with their daughter.  Granted Emma had already gotten a crash course in Ballroom Dancing 101 from Killian when they attended Midas’ ball, but even so, Emma should have gotten that bonding moment with her parents, too.  Instead, Regina is the one who is experiencing that instead of Emma.  So, not only is Regina taking the credit that should be going to Emma, Regina is also getting all the bonding moments that Emma should be experiencing with her parents.  If that pattern continued throughout the Camelot arc, I wouldn’t be surprised if Emma began to feel like everyone was trying to replace her.  As painful as that feeling would be to anyone, Emma grew up in the foster system, where she grew up feeling like no one wanted her.  And we’ve already been told her first foster family returned her to the system when they had a kid of their own.  So she might just feel even more sensitive to the feeling of being replaced.  This episode did seem to have her give off a whole ‘fine, you think you can be the Savior?  Have at it.  Just don’t expect me to bail you out; you’re on your own this time’ sort of air during her scenes with Regina.  It would also explain her extreme reaction to Sneezy in the last episode.  She didn’t turn him into stone because he sneezed.  It was because she saw he was wearing her trademark red leather jacket, and she got all ‘oh, so now YOU think you can replace me, too?!’

In addition, there was a slight hint that Regina might get to be a bit too gung-ho with the Dark One’s dagger.  Even though they treated it as an offhanded comment, Regina actually showed an indication that she might start relishing in the fact that she can have complete control over Emma’s every action.  And when Regina was asking Emma to heal Robin, she stated that she could use the dagger to force Emma to heal him but instead was going to ask her.   But what if Emma had said no?  Would Regina have gone ahead and whipped out the dagger after all?  I mean, she did actually say ‘I can get used to this.’   Having Regina begin to abuse her position as the dagger carrier might also be a possible factor in all of this.  But again, that remains to be seen.

Speaking of Dark One Emma, for someone who has supposedly embraced the Darkness, she didn’t really strike me as all that evil in this episode.  On the contrary, she seemed to actually be trying to help her loved ones, in a cryptic way.  She did warn Regina about the Fury, after all.  And at the end, we see her forlornly gazing at Granny’s Diner, clearly wishing she could go in and be with everyone again.  In all honesty, the worst thing she seemed to do in this episode was simply drop a few truth bombs on Regina.  An actual line from Dark One Emma was ‘that’s your problem, Regina.  You're always looking for someone else to blame.’  Yes, exactly!  Thank you, Dark One Emma!  Regina has always fallen back on this same habit, and it’s about time she quit it.  In fact, a few scenes earlier, Regina actually goes up to the comatose Rumple and says ‘you made me like this. You made me the Evil Queen. You're the reason no one believes in me.’  Dang it, Regina!  While I won’t deny he manipulated you, it’s not as if he was holding a gun to your head the whole time.  You were the one who practically begged him to teach you magic, and you could have walked away from those lessons at any time.  You were the one who chose to let your misplaced hatred for Snow fester to the point where you could no longer tell what was what.  You were the one who chose to ignore Maleficent’s warning that casting the Dark Curse wasn’t worth it.  In fact, when you first started training under Rumple, when you asked him if learning magic would turn you into your mother, he said that it was entirely up to you.  How many times does this woman have to learn the same old ‘only you can decide the course of your life’ lesson before it finally permanently sinks in?

Moving on, there’s the interesting fact that, even though Henry and Killian have both asked her what happened in Camelot, Emma didn’t say.  Instead, she evaded the question every time it was asked.  She even told Killian that she wished she could tell him.  Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but what if she LITERALLY couldn’t say?  Like if someone had dagger-commanded her not to reveal that information or something.  If that’s the case, it could suggest there’s another Big Bad lurking in the shadows who has yet to reveal him/herself.

There was a really great moment between Belle and Leroy/Grumpy that I enjoyed, in which they discuss Belle’s enchanted rose that she’s using to keep tabs on the comatose Rumple’s condition.  You sometimes forget that these two were sorta friends in Pre-Curse Enchanted Forest.  But then, we get scenes like this, and we’re all ‘oh yeah!’

Henry also gets a possible love interest in this episode when he meets a girl his age at the Camelot Ball.  It’s about time he started hanging out with someone his own age.  While it is cute and all that he has a crush, I’m reserving judgement on this Violet.  Mostly because we know nothing about her yet.  She seems sweet enough, and we certainly share the same general view about big dances like the Camelot ball.  (I would have been bored out of my skull, too.)  But we’ve yet to establish anything about her overall character, so the jury is still out on this new addition to the cast.  Although, I don’t get Regina’s reaction to seeing Henry and Violet talking at the Camelot ball.  Lady, what’s wrong with your son talking to someone his own age?

And in the final moments, we get to see what was behind the mystery door Killian took notice of.  Excalibur has also been brought over, and it’s back in the stone.  Apparently, Dark One Emma’s goal is now going to be pulling it out of the stone to merge Excalibur with the Dark One’s Dagger.  If she accomplishes this, she can eliminate what’s left of her humanity, and no longer feel the draw she feels to her loved ones.  Although, that begs the question of why Arthur also wants the sword and the dagger to be merged.  Could it be that King Arthur also has a shady motive?  Only time will tell, I suppose.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Once Upon a Time Episode Analysis (The Dark Swan)

WHA!?  What kind of an ending was that?!  Although, interesting hint surrounding the origins of the Dark One.  The dagger is actually the tip of Excalibur.  Didn’t see that one coming.

After merging with the Darkness, Emma was instantly transported into the Enchanted Forest, to the Vault of the Dark One, which we last saw in ‘Quiet Minds.’  Apparently, this happens to all Dark Ones.  So, was Rumple transported there after he killed Dark One Zoso?  It would certainly explain why it took him a while to return to his home village, only arriving just in time to stop the soldiers from taking Boy Baelfire to the Ogre Wars’ frontlines.  Upon arriving in the Enchanted Forest, Emma is immediately greeted by a familiar face.  More specifically, the Darkness’ consciousness is projecting a hallucination of Dark One Rumpelstiltskin to ‘instruct’ Emma on the finer points of being the Dark One.  This hallucination is basically serving as the little devil sitting on Emma’s shoulder, and is taking on Dark One Rumple’s appearance because it was a form Emma would recognize.  After all, Emma had previously gotten a first-hand look at Dark One Rumpelstiltskin’s Enchanted Forest appearance during her impromptu trip into the past.  (Although, I do have questions about this Gorgon the Invincible.  Was a previous Dark One a shapeshifter?  Or can an animal be possessed by the Darkness as well?  What are the limitations of this?) 

The presence of the Dark One Rumpelstiltskin Hallucination also makes sense from a filming standpoint.  They couldn’t very well have actor Robert Carlyle’s only appearances this story arc be of him lying in his coma, could they?  Incidentally, there is a short scene where we see Belle being torn between keeping vigil at her wayward husband’s bedside in case his condition suddenly took a turn for the worst or doing something to help the Nevengers save Emma from the Dark One’s curse.  Blue, being the walking plot point she is, presents Belle with an enchanted rose that will keep her updated on Rumple’s current condition.  As long as the rose keeps its petals, it’s a sign that Rumple still lives.  Obviously, this was meant to be another Beauty and the Beast reference, which I’m okay with.  Although, at this point, I’m not too invested in this particular pairing.  Maybe I’ll be interested again when Rumple wakes up and we get to see how Belle will react to him possibly being back to his pre-Dark One personality.  That remains to be seen.

Emma is doing her best to ignore her evil conscience and focus on what the Apprentice had told her, about how Merlin could get rid of the Darkness for good.  The Dark One’s Consciousness, taking advantage of Emma’s determination to find Merlin, convinces her to teleport herself to some previously unexplored region of the Enchanted Forest fairy tale land and directs her attention to a passing will-o-wisp, saying that the small ethereal creature could help her achieve her desired goal.  However, someone manages to capture the will-o-wisp before Emma can reach it.  That someone is Merida, straight out from Disney’s Brave.  Much like with the Frozen cast, Merida is exactly how she was portrayed in the actual movie.  Which really makes you wonder how the ‘older’ Disney characters in the show are so different from their animated counterparts.  Maybe it’s just this whole ‘lost through constant retelling of the story’ thing.  Anyway, it comes out that Merida’s father, King Fergus, has passed away, which is a shame to hear.  Because the other clans don’t think a woman can be a proper leader, they’ve kidnapped Merida’s brothers, Hamish, Hubert and Harris.  Which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  If their whole issue was having a female in charge of the clan, why would they get rid of the three princes?  ‘Yeah, we don’t want a woman running things, so let’s go and get rid of the three male heirs.  That’ll fix the problem.’  Were they holding the triplets hostage to try and force Merida to give up the throne?  Again, I’m failing to see the logic behind this, but for the sake of the episode’s plot, I made an attempt to just go with it.  In any event, the plight of her three brothers has given Merida her own reason for needing the will-o-wisp, as it could help her find out where they’re being kept.  (Although, wouldn’t it make an interesting twist if the triplets managed to escape their kidnappers on their own?  The movie did suggest those three were certainly crafty enough.)  Merida eventually decides to try and help Emma upon seeing how she was willing to be completely selfless and simply allow Merida to keep the wisp instead of trying to fight her for it.  But then, the Dark One Rumpelstiltskin Hallucination starts whispering into Emma’s ear during the night, informing her that the will-o-wisp cannot be shared, and the only way Emma can get the wisp to lead her to Merlin is if she takes it from Merida.

Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, the Nevengers are left reeling from Emma’s sudden disappearance.  But while it might be my bias speaking, it’s Killian’s reactions that are the most noticeable to me.  While everyone else is  just yammering on about what just happened, he is standing stock still, simply staring at the Dark One’s dagger that was left lying on the ground after Emma vanished.  It only makes sense he’d have this sort of reaction.  Emma had only just told him she loved him for the first time, and now she’s gone, being snatched up by the curse of the Dark One.  It’s a rather chilling parallel when you remember ‘I love you’ were Milah’s last words before she was killed by Dark One Rumpelstiltskin.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Killian was once again feeling the worst sort of Deja-Vu.  When he finally snaps out of it, he was the only one who actually attempted to do something, by using the dagger to command Emma to return.   Of course, his plan failed, as Emma is now in the Enchanted Forest.  And again, I find it quite notable that he’s the only one who seemed to show concern for Henry, as he turned to look right at him when his attempts to call Emma back with the dagger failed.  I realize that everyone was in shock at the time, but if Killian can spare a thought to how Henry might feel about how his mother has just became the new Dark One and subsequently vanished, why can’t Henry’s grandparents or his other mother who has claimed to love him?

To try and find a way to follow after her, they return to the Apprentice, who turns out is alive after all.  The Apprentice informs them that Emma has been transported into the Enchanted Forest, and if they want to go after her, they need to use his wand to open up a portal, also stating that the wand can only open the portal if it’s wielded by someone who possesses light and dark magic.  With those words, he once again appears to die.  I think.  So is he actually dead this time?  Or was this another fake-out?  (And why am I once again side-eyeing Blue, who just happened to be hovering over the Apprentice when he apparently died for real?  I’ve got my eye on you, Shady.)  When Regina attempts to wield the Apprentice’s wand, nothing happens.  Even though Killian states that Regina can’t use the wand as she no longer contains darkness in her on account of her doing too much good, I have to humbly disagree with that.  Yes, she has done some good things, but the impression I keep getting is that every time she does something good, it’s because she’ll benefit in some way.  There’s a significant difference between performing a good deed simply because it’s the right thing to do and doing good in order to get some commendation or reward out of it.  The motivation behind doing good deeds is vitally important.  Hate to say it, but Regina’s actions during most of season 4 were a bit too self-centered for me to believe she no longer has enough darkness in her.  I personally think it’s the exact opposite- she doesn’t have enough light in her to make the wand work.  Either way, Killian suggests that they try having Zelena wield the wand instead, something Regina is not at all pleased about.  But when Killian reminds her that she once again owes Emma her life, Regina begrudgingly agrees.  Of course, when they actually go to Zelena’s cell, Regina ultimately decides against allowing Zelena to wield the wand, as it would require them to remove the magic-nullifying wrist cuff. 

Speaking of which, did they ever actually explain how Zelena got her magic back?  Because I got the impression she was automatically stripped of her magical abilities when they took her green gem from her.  Did she reabsorb the magic during that astral projection stunt she pulled after Gold tried to kill her at the end of season 3?  If so, they could have explained that a bit better.  While I do feel there are many times when it’s better to show not tell, sometimes a bit of exposition can be beneficial to the viewing audience.

Even though Regina is now dead-set against having Zelena’s assistance in this, Killian is not willing to go along with her decision.  Watching him in this episode is really painful, as you can clearly see that Emma’s absence, and the implications of it, have shaken him to the very core.  Much like what we saw during ‘The Jolly Roger’ flashback, being separated from your True Love leaves you at your worst.  But it’s even more than that.  He has no way of knowing what Emma’s doing or what trials she’s facing at that very moment.   All he knows is that wherever she is, she’s facing her new status as the Dark One alone.  And he knows better than most how easy it is to be lured into the darkness when you don’t have anyone there to pull you back.  He’s lived through that experience twice.  In addition, he knew Rumpelstiltskin before he killed Dark One Zoso and took on the mantle himself.  Killian is the only one among the Nevengers who has seen what the Dark One’s curse can do to a person.  The very knowledge that Emma could lose the battle against the darkness while she’s separated from the people she loves has him simply wrecked and restless in his determination to get to her before it’s too late.  Many times, you get the impression he can barely even breathe with Emma gone, so of course he’d be willing to do whatever it takes to get to Emma, even if it means striking a deal with Zelena.  This is the same man who actually went to his bitterest enemy out of a desire to be worthy of Emma back in ‘The Apprentice,’ after all.  In what I hope is a testament to things to come, Killian teams up with Henry to execute his cockamamie plan.  Much like with what we saw in the ‘Operation Mongoose’ two-parter, which Killian actually references by mentioning the ‘Wookie prisoner gag,’ it’s so awesome to see Killian and Henry interacting, particularly when it involves saving Emma.  Even though it's not official yet, those two really are displaying a great stepfather-and-stepson dynamic.  And to those viewers who are saying that Killian was being irresponsible by putting a kid like Henry in danger, let me remind you that not only did Killian enter Zelena’s cell by himself, thereby leaving Henry out of the line of fire, Henry was completely right when he said ‘I’m not a kid anymore.’  We’re talking about the same character that ventured into Isaac’s warped Alternate Universe to fix things, masterminded the plan to rescue Emma from her tower, and singlehandedly took out a Black Knight and that nasty piece of work, Blackbeard.  The person who had the chance to have vast cosmic power to control and manipulate reality, but chose to forever turn his back on that opportunity because he knew it was too much power for anyone to have.  This is the same boy who frequently snuck out of the house, sometimes in the middle of the night, to ensure the success of Operation Cobra, and even willingly ventured into a collapsing mine tunnel just to find proof that Storybrooke was cursed and everyone in town was a fairy tale character.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in regards to everything he’s gotten up to since the show began.  Henry stopped being a kid when he was ten years old, from the moment he stole his teacher’s credit card, hopped on a bus and traveled across three states by himself to track down his birth mother.  So don’t even try telling me Henry’s just a child who needs to be kept away from dangerous situations.

Minor rant aside, while Henry distracts the administrative nurse, Killian swipes the keys and enters Zelena’s cell, while the seemingly mute janitor looks on.  (Speaking of whom, who exactly are Nurse Gertrude and the silent janitor?  Unless I’m mistaken, they’re the only recurring characters whose Enchanted Forest identities remain a mystery.  It would be interesting if they touched on that at some point.)  Of course, Killian’s plan ultimately backfires when Zelena gets her hands on his knife and uses it to cut off her hand to get the wrist cuff off.  Of course, she magically reattaches it immediately afterwards, but even so, this show sure does love making us watch characters getting dismembered.  Isn’t this supposed to be a family show?  With the wand in her possession, Zelena is able to escape from her cell.

There is a slight possible plothole here.  While confronting Zelena in her cell, Killian pours a potion on his hook to once again grant him the ability to remove someone’s heart, planning to take Zelena’s heart to ensure she wouldn’t try anything.  During the scene, Killian refers to the moment in time when Evil Queen Regina gave him that ability to remove Cora’s heart.  However, when you go back to watch that episode, it appears Regina placed an actual spell on his hook.  There didn’t seem to be a potion involved.  If there had been, she certainly didn’t seem to give it to Killian at the time.  Unless Killian had obtained the potion after Evil Queen Regina used it through the act of pickpocketing.  After all, Killian was a full-blown pirate captain during that point in time.  I can see him being all ‘hmmm, that could come in handy at some point.  Mine!’  Minor inconsistency aside, the fact that Killian has once again failed to use the heart-removal spell for its original intent is an interesting turn of events, especially since it means Killian might still have the ability to remove a heart.  I wonder if that will come up again at some point in the near future. 

Also, why would Killian bring a knife with him when he was going to face Zelena to begin with?  He has to remember how psychotic this woman is.  Then again, maybe he felt a bit safer/more comfortable with some manner of blade on hand.  Did he ever get back his sword?  You know, the one he seemed to lose when Dark One Rumpelstiltskin transported him and Emma into his forbidden vault back in the season 3 finale?  Perhaps he started carrying around the knife because he was getting tired of constantly reaching up to touch the sword only to keep finding it missing.  Sorta like the way someone would keep looking down at their wrist to check the time even after they lost their watch.

So, now Zelena’s on the loose and her first act is to take Robin hostage, demanding the Apprentice’s wand in exchange for his safe return.  Zelena intends to use the wand to return to Oz, stating that she’s tired of Regina getting everything and wants to escape her shadow, blah blah blah.  Okay, it’s official.  I am so sick of Zelena.  Never mind the fact that she’s now claiming she just wants to go back to Oz so she can finally be happy.  Because don’t blame us for that, Greenie; you’re the one who decided to leave Oz.  No one in Storybrooke made you leave.  She’s just so annoying with her constant whining about how Regina gets everything.  It makes me wonder why they brought her back and didn’t just leave her dead.  Because I don’t see how anyone could possibly be interested in this whole pregnancy-through-deceit subplot.  What makes it even worse is that I’ve got a really nasty feeling they’re going to try and make another half-baked redemption story for Zelena.  If they do, I’m not going to be too happy, since I don’t think they did a very good job with Regina’s redemption story.  I mean, seriously.  Regina became a villain when she started off blaming a 10 year old for her boyfriend’s death.  And even after she ‘redeemed’ herself, she still has a tendency to cast blame on everyone else every time something didn’t go her way, completely ignoring how much pain she’d inflicted on others.  And now, we’re seeing a similar pattern with Zelena’s constant wining about how her half-sister, who only just learned of her existence less than a year ago, has taken away everything from her.  Seriously Zelena!  Shut up, already!

Anyway, though a bunch of magical what-not, Regina ends up giving Zelena the wand to ensure Robin’s safety, but then it’s revealed that Regina was also simultaneously setting a trap, since she knew the wand would injure Zelena the instant the portal was opened, (how’d she figure that out?) allowing the Nevengers to recapture her.  Now that Zelena is once again restrained, they decide to redirect the portal and use it to locate Emma in the Enchanted Forest instead of Oz.  To make sure the portal brings them to Emma, Regina produces Emma’s old baby blanket.   How Regina managed to get access to the baby blanket is not actually explained.  I don’t think Emma ever showed Regina the blanket, as she always seemed to keep it under close guard.  In fact, I think the only people who Emma actually showed her old blanket to was Snow, back when she was still just Season 1 Mary Margret, Nick and Ava/Hansel and Gretel, Henry and Killian.  Come to think if it, did Regina even KNOW about the existence of the baby blanket?  Eh, whatever.  It gets the plot rolling.

In an interesting turn of events, when the Nevengers all decide to make the trip to the Enchanted Forest with Granny’s Diner in tow, (possibly to ensure they had a roof over their heads, as they had no way of knowing how far they’d be from an actual village), Grumpy/Leroy volunteers himself, Happy and Doc to go along as well, stating that he’s sick and tired of always being left out of their adventures.   (Although, seeing Grumpy take charge makes you wonder who really is the leader of the dwarfs.  Because the animated Disney movie would make you believe Doc was the one in charge.  Obviously, that’s not the case in OUAT’s reality.)  As a result, this is the biggest outing the Nevengers have had to date.  Just look at the list of people going on this adventure: Snow and Charming (who are actually taking responsibility for their son by bringing Baby Neal along, so kudos to them), Killian, Henry, Regina, Robin, Roland, Belle, Granny, Grumpy, Doc and Happy.  (Also, Zelena is also being dragged along, which I don’t fully understand.  Maybe there wasn’t enough time to return her to her cell before the cyclone portal hit?)  I gotta admit, it’s really fitting that such a big group is going along, as this time, the stakes are arguably at the highest they’ve been to date.  Although, I do wonder what the rest of Storybrooke is going to do with Granny’s Diner gone, as it’s practically the town’s centerpiece.  Also, wasn’t Ruby supposed to be coming back this season?  Why would Granny leave for an extended period of time without at least saying goodbye to her granddaughter first?

The Nevengers touch down in the Enchanted Forest at just the right time, as Emma is starting to lose her internal battle against the Dark One Rumple Hallucination, who is currently talking her into crushing Merida’s heart in order to gain control of the wisp.  Killian is just on fire in this moment.  While he spent the majority of the episode fuming and crazed in his desperation to get to Emma, the moment he’s at her side again, he’s immediately back to his collected, rational self as he tries to talk her down.  And on a personal note, I adore how he responds to Emma’s questioning how he managed to reach her by saying ‘it doesn't matter how. Has anything ever stopped me before?’  In all honestly, Emma really shouldn’t have been surprised.  We’re talking about the same man who found a way to cross realms to find her again, fueled by nothing but her ‘good.’  The same man who willingly followed her through a time portal that would take them who-knows-where-and-when after an ‘of course I care.’  What did Emma expect him to do after she gave him an actual ‘I love you?

Also, this scene once again gives us another example of how Killian is more of an anchor for Emma than her own mother is.  Snow is fully prepared to use the dagger to force Emma to stand down, but Killian immediately steps in and dismisses Snow’s plan, knowing that Emma has to choose to resist the Darkness, otherwise it won’t count.  There he goes again, not only respecting Emma’s agency, but also showing his complete faith that Emma is strong enough to beat this on her own.  This is Killian ‘I’ve yet to see you fail’ Jones, after all.  He even goes so far in ensuring her ‘we can find another way together.’  Which is a possible callback to what he told her back in ‘Smash the Mirror,’ after Emma chose to not give up her magic.  ‘We'll find another way to defeat the Snow Queen... together.’   In the end, Killian’s reassurance does the trick, and Emma is able to return Merida’s heart without crushing it.  Although the effort involved must have been physically trying on Emma, as she just falls into Killian’s arms so hard, he nearly stumbles backward.

In the aftermath of this trial, Emma tasks the responsibility of wielding the Dark One’s dagger to Regina, stating that she’ll be the only one who’d be able to do what is necessary if Emma loses control.  And as much as I disagree with the statement that Regina can actually be considered a hero now for the reasons I’ve previously gone over, I do agree with Emma here.  I don’t doubt for an instant that Regina wouldn’t hesitate to destroy Emma if it came to that.  As for Merida, she sets off to locate her brothers, thanking Emma for allowing her to see her struggle against the Darkness, as it has inspired Merida to resist against it herself, by not killing the people who kidnapped her brothers like she originally intended.  Instead, she plans to show them mercy, the way Emma had mercy on her.  After Merida sets off, and the Nevengers take Emma back to Home Base Granny’s to show her in person how many people are now standing behind her, they are immediately approached by King Arthur himself, who states Merlin had once prophesied that the Nevengers would appear there one day, and when they did, Merlin, who had apparently been missing for years, would also return.  With King Arthur and his knights providing escort, the Nevengers all make their way into Camelot, with Emma and Killian leading the way, arm-in-arm.  And how could you not love their new level of intimacy, which has undoubtedly been brought about by Emma’s verbal love confession?  Even though they have yet to get the chance to actually discuss the matter, that ‘I love you’ has really lowered a lot of barriers between them.  At one point, you even see Emma and Killian swinging their arms as they walk while holding hands.  Could those two kill me more with the high levels of cute?  And of course, there was Killian’s ‘well, you don't look like a crocodile.’  Because of course he would comment on that.  Those two just have their own brand of flirting, and it is beyond precious.

And this is when things take a sudden U Turn.  The Nevengers are suddenly transported back into Storybrooke, all wearing Enchanted Forest garb.  According to Sneezy and Sleepy, who arrive on the scene seconds later, they’ve all been gone six weeks.  But none of the Nevengers have any memory of that- the last thing they remember was entering Camelot with King Arthur.  Oh, goody.  Another round of amnesia/lost memories.  By now, you’d think they’d all be keeping personal journals to ensure they’ll have a way to instantly figure out whatever they’ve forgotten.   Besides, Henry's the Author now.  His entire job requires him to chronicle stuff that's been happening.  So what's his excuse of not recording everything that's gone down during that six week period?  Of course, you gotta love Killian’s sense of priorities.  While everyone else is wondering what happened and why they’ve suddenly got new wardrobes, Killian’s first question is about Emma’s whereabouts.  In fact, just watch him when the camera pans to him when the Nevengers first return to Storybrooke.  The very first thing he does is look down at his good hand.  Because the last thing he remembers was that it was holding Emma’s.  So of course, he’s going to immediately notice she’s unaccounted for.

And that’s when we all get kicked in the teeth, when Emma makes her appearance.  Somehow, during the six week gap, she’s gone full –on Dark One on us.  And while I know the new look she’s sporting is meant to be shocking and intimidating, it still makes me hope that Dark Swan will only last until the end of the season at the very latest.  On the other hand, her take on the Dark One is a striking difference to Dark One Rumple.  While Rumple was all giddy about utilizing his Dark One powers and fully relished in them, Emma comes across as cold and aloof. (And I tell you now, if she starts calling people ‘dearie,’ I’m gonna vomit)  Hopefully, this will be a good thing in the long run- it could suggest that even though she’s fully Dark One, she’s not enjoying it the way Rumple did.  Which could mean she’ll be more willing to eventually give up the power than her predecessor did, once they find a way to do so.

Dark One Emma’s first act is to turn Sneezy into stone upon seeing he’s donned her trademark red leather jacket.   Okay, does anyone actually think for a second that that’s going to be permanent?  Because I’m pretty sure the dwarfs are immune from any permanent damage.  Like the way they fake-killed Doc in Isaac’s alternate world.  That was just done for shock value, and wasn’t a permanent thing.  Oh, could this be an indication that they’ll actually go to Narnia in the next story arc?  After all, Aslan was able to return people who were turned to stone to their original flesh and blood state.  And The Chronicles of Narnia were seeped in Christian undertones.  Isn’t redemption and forgiveness of sins a major aspect of Christianity?  Or am I just reading too much into this particular moment?  Anyway, Emma then proceeds to inform the Nevengers that they all failed to take the Darkness out of her, and because of some currently unknown wrong they inflicted on her, they will be punished.   Which of course, leads to the question of what exactly happened in those missing six weeks that led Emma to this point, and what exactly did the Nevengers do?  At the moment, we have no way of knowing, but I’m pretty sure Snow once again played a part in it.  While she did have a bright spot in this episode when she stepped in to break up the fight brewing between Killian and Regina after Zelena escaped, she has a long history of dropping the ball in regards to Emma.  Deciding she wanted another go at being a parent because her current relationship with her daughter wasn’t matching her expectations, being willing to stay in Neverland with Dreamshade-poisoned-Charming, even if it meant never seeing her daughter and grandson again, reacting in fear to Emma’s magic to the point of not letting her hold her baby brother and then scolding her for an accidental magical surge.  Not to mention the fact that she more-or-less performed the magical equivalent of genetic pre-selection to make sure Emma would be born ‘right.’  (Because manipulation by Author Isaac or not, that was pretty messed up.)  And Dark One Emma was looking right at Snow when she stated the Nevengers failed.  The fact that she didn’t hesitate to try using the dagger to stop Emma from crushing Merida’s heart could have been a foreshadowing of things to come.  (Is it too much to ask that Emma and Snow finally get to share a good relationship for once?  With each passing season, I miss the dynamic between Emma and Season 1 Mary Margret more and more.)  And while I know it might be my personal bias kicking in, I don’t think for a moment Henry and Killian had a part in this misdeed Dark One Emma mentioned.  If you look back at the scene when Emma was reunited with everyone, when Emma hugged Killian and then Henry, the Dark One Rumpelstiltskin Hallucination vanished.  At present, I think this was the writers’ way of hinting that Killian and Henry are the keys to Emma keeping the Darkness at bay.  So how could they have played a part in failing Emma?  Not to mention Killian had previously stated ‘I don’t intend to let you down.’  And we’ve seen Henry has unparalleled faith in his mother, so I have a hard time believing that those two played a part in whatever it is Dark One Emma’s talking about.

I’m also wondering how Excalibur is going to play into this.  We already know the Dark One’s dagger is actually the end of Excalibur’s blade, so there is the question of what would happen if the two parts are made whole again.  Also, that small flashback scene of Little Emma at the start of the episode suggests that at some point, Emma might have the opportunity to wield Excalibur.  Which doesn’t make much sense right now, as this episode also showed us that Arthur has already pulled it out of the stone, which lead to the reveal about the connection between Excalibur and the Dark One’s dagger.  Speaking of the flashback, I have one minor grievance with it.  So, in this flashback, we see Little Emma, who I guess is about 6 years old at the time, being taken to the movies to see The Sword in the Stone with her current foster family.  However, when they enter the theater that’s playing the movie, anyone who has actually watched Sword in the Stone can tell that it’s at the start of the final act.  Really, I don’t get it.  If you’re going to take your kids to the movies, be it a foster kid or not, why would you only enter the theater when the movie is almost over anyway?  Where’s the logic to that?  Not only will the kid have no idea what’s going on, but you’ve essentially wasted your money by paying full ticket price and only getting the final few minutes.  Eh, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that this foster family wasn’t that with it.  After all, they clearly weren’t keeping a close watch on Little Emma, as she was able to slip away on her own, after swiping a candy bar from some woman’s pocket.  Another thing about this flashback was how this guy is able to approach her and give her a warning about something that’s possibly going to happen at some point during this story arc.  I’ve more or less have been told that this mysterious person is going to eventually be revealed as Merlin, who is choosing now to give Emma the warning.  This kinda makes a bit of sense.  From what I remember about the original legend of King Arthur, Merlin aged in reverse.  So he could remember stuff that was going to happen in the future, but not what had already happened in the past.  In an unrelated story, was it bad that I thought that the person warning Emma in this scene was Lancelot at first?  I realize that doesn’t make a lot of sense, since Lancelot is supposed to be dead in the present-timeline, and it would beg the question how he even got there to begin with.   But in my defense, I had seen there was talk about Lancelot somehow coming back this season, so I figured they might end up revealing that Cora had been lying about killing him.  After all, she’s been known to lie about quite a lot.  Plus, I really don’t know the actors who portray the Camelot cast outside of this show, and it had been a while since we last saw Lancelot.  Top that off with the fact that, before I saw this episode, I hadn’t come across any promotional images of OUAT’s portrayal of Merlin, so I had no clue what he was going to look like ahead of time.