1. In "Birth" we learned that Emma planned to use Zelena to destroy Dark Magic. How do you feel about this plan?
Sam: That was a very dark turn. I think it shows how the Dark One's magic is really tainted by the revenge that Nimue was feeling when she killed Vortigan. Emma Swan would not kill in cold blood, even for revenge, but a Dark One would.
Joanne: Well, part of me was thinking that was a good solution. It would solve several problems. It would get Zelena out of Regina and Robin's life and they could raise Robin's daughter without Zelena's toxic influence. Zelena would also be the perfect vessel for the Darkness because she is dark already. Where the plan falls apart is killing Zelena. It is morally wrong. Even if nobody likes her and she is responsible for Neal and Marian's deaths, Emma should not act as judge, jury and executioner.
Laurie: I was pretty shocked by this. Emma’s plan to kill Zelena was so completely out of character. Yes, we know she was doing it “for Hook,” but really? I don’t need to be shocked like this to appreciate that she is now the Dark One and has some hard choices to make.
Ashley: I think that it was a plan fitting of a Dark One. The Dark Swan didn't blink twice at sacrificing Zelena's life for her own, whereas Emma would not have allowed herself to condemn another person, even if that person did what Zelena did. I think it says a lot that it made me uncomfortable at how casually Emma was talking about her plan. It really was kind of evil in that "Dark One has good intentions but terrible practices" kind of way.
1. What did you think of Merlin and Nimue's backstory? Did it live up to your expectations?
Teresa: Yes and no. It lived up to my expectations for characters in which I have no investment. I hope all ends well, but I worry more about Henry and the rest of the gang. The show is at its best when we see that.
Francesca: This episode was more on an adult level, in thanks to the wonderful writing of Jane Espenson. Not sure where they are going with Arthur in this story, but I did like Nimue's backstory and how she became the first Dark One.
Amy: I loved it. Merlin's backstory was fantastic. I almost jumped out of my skin when he found the Holy Grail, and that the story kept with some parts of the original myth. Having to be "Humble before God" to drink from it. And the "Wastelands made fertile", all part of the original lore of the Grail. I am really digging Merlin.
Lori: Yes. I loved the fact that Merlin was willing to give up his power and immortality for true love. We sometimes tend to view Merlin as an archetype or as defined solely as a wizard, so it was refreshing to see his human aspect focused on in this episode.
1. Gold showed true courage in his quest to save Belle and finally became a hero before he pulled Excalibur from the stone. He also made it clear to the Dark Swan that he intends to bring her down. What is next for the former Dark One?
Ashley: I'm eager to see the true man Rumple could have been without his father's or the darkness's influence. Rumple has the advantage; he knows how a Dark One thinks. I wonder if he won't be tested and tempted with the potential to possess magic again.
Laurie: I was very impressed (as usual) with Robert Carlyle’s acting in this episode. He got the opportunity to play a lot of dimensions of Rumple, all in one episode. I think we are going to see Rumple move forward with strength and commitment to doing what is right (finally) and to help everyone achieve more happy endings, including Emma. He knows, as no one else can, that the only way to help Emma is to bring her down. Rumple has unique perspective here and I am very interested in how that is going to come about. By no means is he the only person who wants to help Emma, so he will have to work alongside the Charmings, Regina, Hook, Robin and the rest. Definitely major character development for the former Dark One!
Sam: Can a Hero seek revenge? It's one thing for a Hero to stand up and protect those he loves and the "community". But, it feels like it may be easy for Rumple to slide into the realm of revenge while trying to stop Emma.
Joanne: I'm hoping that Gold has learned from his past mistakes and become a team player. With his experience, Belle's book smarts, and the other combined talents of the heroes, all should come up with a way to defeat or stop Emma.
1. Gold showed that he's willing to fight his cowardice for Belle. Do you think he will triumph over his demons and become the hero he's always wanted to be?
Teresa: I'm not sure his demons will go away, but I believe he will be heroic. Both Belle and Bae have already inspired him to do some of the most heroic acts seen in the series. I think that Belle's life being on the line will once again bring out the best in him. As for the cowardice, Gold to me is not coming off as a coward, but rather displaying a natural reaction to being in a "Misery"- like situation. Moreover, his apparent bat-s&%^ crazy kidnappers keep taunting him--a cripple-- to fight. It's like "Mean Girls" on crack! I'd be freaking too. Hence I need more information about any "cowardice" the characters say he needs to overcome. But will he fight for Belle? Oh heck yes!
Lori: I think it's within him to be heroic in the moment of dire need. I believe (and hope) that the Rumple who let go of his son's hand over a portal has evolved. But conquering his demons and making heroic choices with deliberate thought is harder.
Amy: Perhaps. I think he can do just about anything for Belle, but I don't see him staying completely without magic forever.
Francesca: I do think he will triumph because his love for Belle is strong and we saw his emotions when Merida showed him the chipped cup. But I still do not think he will be the hero in the end to help Emma with removing Excalibur from the stone.
1. The Dark Swan ordered Merida to train Gold in the art of bravery. Do you think she will succeed?
Zach: I think a person can find their bravery in the right circumstances, but I don't think you can "train" someone to be brave. I do hope that Gold finds his courage because it would be a major development for his character, and I want to see him become a hero on his own.
Joanne: It will be interesting to see the bravest of the Brave train the most cowardly coward. I hope she does succeed in giving Gold some backbone. I do think he has one buried under all his insecurities. Now that he doesn't have magic, he needs to find his inner strength.
Ashley: I think the Dark Swan has some ulterior motives. The idea of being "brave" is very abstract. I wonder if she is using Merida as a way of coaxing something else out of Rumple. It can't be as simple as learning sword play. Perhaps it's a test to see what he will do when Merida pushes him to the limit..
1. Charming and Arthur went out on a quest and bonded. Then we learned of Arthur's treachery. How do you see this playing out? What has made Arthur so obsessed with saving Camelot?
Teresa: I really enjoyed these scenes. Charming was finally featured! I don't think that Arthur is quite the villain he seems. At some point, yet to be revealed, he maybe was a "desperate soul" who started down a less honorable path in which he he didn't quite expect to find himself. I can see this leading to an ephipany and a subsequent heroic act which will free Merlin..
Mauri: I think Charming will catch on eventually. I'm glad Lancelot showed up. I think Arthur has gone mad. I'm also wondering if the people of Camelot are already dead like in the movie The Sixth Sense, and the magic in Storybrooke is keeping up their illusion.
Francesca: I think Lancelot has a role to play in all this, and we have not yet seen all the clues to reveal Arthur's true purpose for saving Camelot, and Guinevere seems just has devious. I did like the scenes between Arthur and David on their quest for the Crimson Crown.
Lori: One section of dialogue said it all for me. Arthur defines the nature of a quest as a search for something, and it is the search, not the finding, that is important. This is a major theme of medieval romance (and I don't mean romance in the modern sense of genre - medieval romance was literature focusing on chivalric deeds and quests, maybe with some courtly unrequited love thrown in to spice things up). And then Arthur throws this ideal on its head by stating if the finding is important for his kingdom then that is what matters to him. In true OUAT fashion, Arthur is not the ideal philosopher-king of Sir Thomas Malory's story, but a "real" person, much like the other fairy tale characters, made up of both heroic and villainous traits. (By the way, treachery was the utmost sin of the Middle Ages - Dante saved his final circle of Hell for traitors - so Arthur is treading on perilous ground here. No pun intended.) I simply cannot see Arthur as a full-on villain yet, no matter what Lancelot says. The Celtic idea of kingship was a sovereignty of the land: the king was tied to the land, literally and symbolically, and was expected to make sacrifices and decisions for the good of his kingdom. You can see this symbiotic relationship in the Wasteland of the Grail legends; the king of the land is maimed (usually in the thigh or groin), and thus the land itself is parched and barren. Arthur may be following this sovereignty, but to what extreme . . . in a real, flawed person, attempting to hold to this kingship ideal may lead to an "end justifies the means" mentality and single-mindedness. I think we saw this already in Arthur convincing his page to drink poison for the good of Camelot. To me, so far it is an interesting exploration of King Arthur as a flawed human leader rather than a literary ideal
Amy: I think Arthur has been manipulated, and that he truly believes he is saving his kingdom and all he loves. He seems like such a smarmy jerk at the end of the episode, but I still feel like Shady Guinevere has something to do with all this. The Charmings are clever though, and I see them catching on pretty quickly to Arthur's shenanigans.
1. Emma refuses to reveal what drove her to darkness in Camelot. What do you think her motivations are?
Zach: I feel like Emma's resistance to becoming the Savior is a major factor here. She refused to believe in magic (or Henry) in Season One, going so far as to tell August that she didn't want her destiny. She's struggled with who she is ever since, a struggle which was highlighted in season 3A's episode "Lost Girl," and even more during her confrontations with Ingrid in season 4A. My first thought when she yelled at Regina ("You want people to believe you're the Savior? Then step up and do what needs to be done!") was that she was really yelling at herself. Regina and Emma have always been mirrors for each other, and I think in that moment Emma saw her struggle reflected in Regina, and got angry because she let herself and her family down. I think that, when it came down to it, Emma had a choice whether to destroy the Darkness or not, and she made the wrong choice. She's ashamed and blaming her family for her own choices (rather like Regina), and her shame is what led her to erase their memories.
Ashley: I'm not sure and I think that's the mystery I like the most about this season. I prefer that the writers spend more time in the missing six weeks than they did in the missing year of Season 3b. I want this mystery to unfold slowly, so for now I really can't guess since we don't have enough info. It must have been a serious betrayal though.
Sam: I have two early theories on this. First, I wonder if even Emma does not remember what happened in Camelot. My second theory is that she cannot tell everyone what happened and she needs them to figure it out for themselves to be able to help her.
Joanne: I don't think Emma can tell people why she embraced the dark side. She told Hook as much at her house. I think that she has been compelled to keep quiet about it by Merlin or even Arthur.
Laurie: She said that Henry didn’t let her down, but it appears that literally everyone else did. I think it has to do with finding Merlin, and what may have happened when they found him. For some reason, he was unable or unwilling to rid Emma of the darkness - it may be that the others went behind Emma’s back and inadvertently prevented Merlin from helping her. Or he was killed or somehow rendered unable to help her? It seems like a personal disappointment on Emma’s part - that it is one more thing her parents (and others?) did where they thought they were helping her, but in reality they made things worse.
5x01 "The Dark Swan"
1. Dark Swan is here! What was your reaction to the new Emma? Her and "Rumplestiltskin" also had unique dialogues and clashes. Thoughts on their interactions and what they reveal about The Dark One mythology.
Lori: I loved how the Emma/Rumple/Merida scenes focused on the "desperate soul" theme of the Dark One Mythology; at one point Emma even uses the word "desperately" to describe her need for the wisp to rid herself of the curse. It makes me wonder what really happened in those six weeks to turn her completely dark, since she fought it so hard in this episode. Also, I found it interesting that there was emphasis on the fact that the Dark One can't sleep (shades of "Skin Deep": "Why do you spin so much?" "It helps me forget.") because sleep deprivation affects one in many ways. And if you can't sleep, you don't rest, you don't dream - it actually makes sense that this would be part of the Dark One curse.
Amy: Adored it on so many levels. When Emma first emerged from that pit of "Wonder Goo" as the new Dark One, she literally looked as though she had just been given birth too, or baptized into this darkness. She was wet, no makeup, somber. I am really enjoying the Rumple/Dark One in her head. It gives us more Robert Carlyle in Rumple leather, which is pretty fantastic on its own...but there is something so sinister about this darkness that Emma hears, just constantly prodding at her. I love it. Don't get me started on the new Storybrooke Dark Swan costume, because I may faint. It's divine.
Operation Mongoose went full throttle. Did the two-hour finale live up to your expectations?
Gareth: With doing the TV Fanatic roundtable and all the other editorial responsibilities, I’ve just not had as much time to be a part of the site roundtables this season. However I wanted to contribute to this discussion because, for me personally, this was one of the best episodes of OUAT since Season One. It had everything that a Oncer could wish for. Action and romance, a well thought out, developed storyline which flowed beautifully and an epic twist at the end. Bringing Jared Gilmore back to the forefront gave it a classic Season One feel. I didn’t realize just how much I had missed Jared having such an active role. He really came into his own in this episode! I have grumbled about certain storylines this season. Some worked for me, some didn’t. But this episode really shone as a classic example of what makes OUAT such compulsive viewing. When it’s really good, it’s magic!
Teresa: It not only lived up to them, it blew them out into the hemisphere, through the solar system and into multiple dimensions. The writers still have it! They really do! I guess, for reasons we’ll never know (and I don’t really want to know!), there was a something that led to treading water for a year, and then they let it all loose in the last two hours of the season. But OMG, thanks be to the Great Wide Universe those shackles were thrown off and Operation Mongoose was green-lit! The finale just rocked it. I was cheering, crying, on the edge of my seat in a good way. Magic is back!
Lori: And more! It was a wild ride, from start to finish, and reminded me of the passion and power of the Season 1 finale. I was left exhilarated, and satisfied yet wanting more! I think it was strong enough that the magic of the finale will sustain me through the summer, however, especially because there is so much for us to research and talk about!
Ashley: Yes, very much so! I was excited to see everything go topsy turvy as we’ve all be speculating about this since season 4B began. It was fun to see the different takes on the new stories and I enjoyed the fact that they weren’t straight up switches, that the flip flops made sense in respect to the various character’s happy endings and goals. Rumple got the adoring family he wanted while Hook was a coward, Zelena took over Regina’s life, while Robin Hood was stripped of his happy end with Regina despite nothing really changing for the thief. It was all incredibly well done and a joy to watch.
Joanne: I thought it was a fantastic episode! I loved seeing the characters flip-flop roles and take on different personalities. It must have been fun for the actors to step into each other's shoes.
Zach: What a finale! This episode surpassed my expectations and is now battling with "A Land Without Magic" for best finale and favorite episode. It had so many great parallels to previous episodes including the "Pilot," "Snow Falls," and "Going Home," with an ending that packed quite a wollop with the 1-2-3 punch of Gold's cleansed heart, the reveal of the Sorcerer's name and a Dark turn for the town Swan. The Regal Con crowd and I yelled at the screen several times while we were watching! What a fun and exciting two hours of television.
Diane: Absolutely! I thought it was a riveting episode that opened up fascinating possibilities for Season 5, and I loved the role reversals that allowed us to see the dark or weaker sides of many characters, adding a richness to what we believed we knew about them. Everything about this episode took me by surprise, the costumes and graphics were fantastic, and I enjoyed the way the writers played with our notions of these fairy tale characters and turned them inside out. I have to say, it is now one of my all-time favorite episodes.
Mauri: Yes, it lived up to and past my expectations! I was at the edge of my seat and screaming at the TV through out the finale.
Sam: Yes! Operation Mongoose has been one of my favorite arcs ever and the finale really delivered plenty of adventure and answers. I have been speculating about the origin of Henry's book since Season One.
Laura: It was the best episode in a LONG time. It had a “Classic Season One” feel to it that's been sadly missing for a while now. I really enjoyed it.
Amy: And more! I loved this finale. The music was stunning, the throwbacks and mirrors to dialog from way back seasons was just perfect. It was such fun to see most characters in a whole new light. And Isaac…. Oh my goodness, he is a devious rat but SO MUCH fun to watch! The scene with the cosplayers in his audience and he says “No Spoilers”…. I’d bet cash that Adam & Eddy put that little fun bit in J Adam is famous on twitter for saying “No Spoilers.” Ahhh, too much to say, too much to say! It was ALL amazing.