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.)