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.