Well, Once fans, I think it’s safe to say that this past season has been one wild roller-coaster from start to finish. I’m certainly still recovering from the whirlwind that was the latest episode, and I have even more questions than before (which will have to wait until next Autumn, unfortunately). So, with only the necessary warning, let’s dive in to the Sunday-night two-hour season finale of ABC’s hit fantasy drama, Once Upon A Time.
Last week, we saw Zelena get locked up in the hospital asylum; Regina found out that some benevolent force beyond even the Author may be looking out for her; Lilith and Maleficent reunited; Emma forgave her parents; and Rumpelstiltskin, though near death, provided Isaac with a new book to begin: Heroes and Villains.
This week, we see that before his writing days, Isaac started out selling colored televisions in in the fifties…
(Um, WAIT. Cruella’s backstory was reminiscent of the 1930s, if not the 1920s. But Isaac was already a writer when he met her. How does that work? He’s not a time traveller…)
Anyway, Isaac’s an aspiring author with all-rejected manuscripts, and his irritated boss comes close to firing him because he’s also a poor salesman. However, he receives a summons from a publishing company and arrives to find Mickey waiting for him. Mickey orders him to choose from a set of five pens and pencils as a sort of personality test, to figure out what kind of writer he really is. After some long consideration, Isaac picks up… the quill.
Mickey tells him that this is a sign of his new vocation, since the latest Author just passed away. Mickey creates a door for him to enter (which Isaac can only see because he believes in magic) and he is to travel through the realms and find his destiny there! I’m pretty sure every aspiring writer would want to have an experience like that…
Back in the present in Storybrooke, August finds Regina and the Charmings with important information: the quill was given to Isaac by the Sorcerer’s apprentice (Mickey), and Mickey was also the person who told August about the book in the first place.
When shown a sketch of the apprentice, Hook recognizes Mickey and they fetch the fairies to free him from the magic hat — because as it turns out, the dagger isn’t necessary to free prisoners of the hat. (It was just a weird plot twist that ran its course a few episodes ago, and now the writers have tired of it and thrown it out.)
Once free, Mickey goes straight to work: he plans to banish Isaac again, using the painted door and its key. Because that worked so well the first time.
As Isaac nears the end of his new book and prepares to write himself a happy ending in the modern world, he offers Gold a story where all memories of Baelfire have been erased; magic can’t erase the dead, but it can change Gold’s perception of the past. However, Gold refuses, preferring only that he remembers doing right by Neal rather than letting him down.
While Henry, Hook, and the Charmings search for the painted Door in their apartment, Emma and Regina close in on Gold’s pawn shop… but not before Isaac can pen the final fatal words…
BLAMMO. The new spell washes over Storybrooke!
When Henry awakens in the apartment with the Door and key, he finds Hook and the Charmings gone. (What about Baby Neal!? Is he gone, too!?) For some reason, Henry got left behind… perhaps overlooked. That’s good. People who get overlooked are always the people to save the day.
With all of Storybrooke emptied, Henry decides to step up his AWESOME a level and take the nearest car for a joyride!
He pulls into the nearest diner and asks the waitress if she’s seen his family, but this of course makes her suspicious. While she’s placing a call to the police, Henry prepares to leave… only to notice, on his way out, the best-selling book Heroes and Villains by Isaac Heller!
Up in the city, Isaac is enjoying his fame and the devoted attention of his cosplaying readers… some of whom even give him gifts like homemade “Long Live Regina” pins. But in the middle of his latest signing session, Henry shows up with the Door and key! He demands to know where his family is, and if he doesn’t get answers then he’ll open the Door and Isaac will be banished again.
Isaac explains that Henry’s family is fine, just trapped in the original manuscript of Heroes and Villains. Everyone but Emma got their “deserved endings,” because there was no room for a Savior in the book. Henry just got left behind because he’s from a non-magical world. (But wait. What about baby Neal? He and Henry were born to magical parents in the modern world, but Neal wasn’t left behind!)
When Henry demands that Isaac rewrite everything, Isaac explains that he can’t anymore; no Author can write their own happy ending, and since Isaac broke that rule, he’s no longer powerful. Henry snatches the original manuscript from him — HENRY IS GOING TO BE THE NEXT AUTHOR. I JUST KNOW IT — and uses the key to unlock a page and dive into the book! Just like when he was eleven, it looks like Henry alone will be the one to save all of the Enchanted Forest from a lie that they don’t even realize they’re living!
Henry arrives in an empty village and finds a discarded sword, but Isaac follows him to ensure that he won’t change the book’s permanent ending (which shall occur “at the tolling of the evening bells”).
Isaac knocks Henry out and ties him to an overturned cart, because this is the beginning of the last chapter, and Isaac knows what’s about to come stomping and snarling around the corner: a hungry ogre.
Henry calls for help while Isaac slinks off to gloat (rather than, I dunno, make sure his victim actually dies), and a mighty knight rides forth to Henry’s aid! The knight knocks the ogre out with magic and raises his visor to greet the townspeople. Who could this warrior be?… Oh, let’s face it, we all saw the trailer: it’s Rumpelstiltskin.
Rumpelstiltskin frees Henry but rides off without recognizing him, and Henry begins the trudge through the forest alone with only the book’s final chapter as his guide around traps and obstacles. Eventually he reaches a large hollowed-out log and comes face-to-face (or rather, face-to-arrow) with his mother, who is wearing Snow’s old bandit/hunter outfit and doesn’t even recognize him.
Meanwhile, Isaac comes back to the village in the hopes of seeing Henry’s remains, only to find the slain ogre and realize his mistake in forgetting that Rumpelstiltskin would arrive—
NO SANE AUTHOR COULD POSSIBLY FORGET WHAT THEY WROTE WITH THEIR OWN HAND! HOW COULD ISAAC REMEMBER THAT THE CHAPTER BEGINS WITH AN OGRE ATTACK AND NOT REMEMBER THAT A CERTAIN KNIGHT WOULD COME IN AND SLAY THE OGRE!? WHAT FREAKISH NONSENSE IS THIS!? YOU ARE NO AUTHOR, ISAAC!*
*(I would almost want to go so far as accuse the OUAT writers of the same fault, given all their plot holes including this ridiculous one, but they are writers at the helm of a multi-million-dollar franchise and I am not. So I will refrain.)
Back at the Log, Henry is urging Regina to remember him. Only showing her the book (which declares her intentions of robbing the royal carriage that day) can convince her that he’s not crazy… but then she dumps the novel into her fire and Henry can only manage to salvage a few pages from it before running after her.
He insists that in order to get her happy ending, she has to meet Robin Hood in a tavern. However, in this universe, Robin Hood is not her true love: only a competing thief.
Meanwhile, Isaac wander the forest in search of Henry and (like any soul-less writer who doesn’t care about his own work) forgets that he’s walking straight into a trap. He’s captured by the seven evil dwarves that serve Snow White, and when they search him they find a “Long Live Regina” pin — evidence that he must be a traitor!
They take Issac to the Evil Queen Snow White, who prepares for his execution with the help of her Charming slave (again, we all saw the trailers: she uses his heart to control him. Eeeeevil). Isaac tries to explain that a boy has entered the land and will disrupt her happy ending (LIES), but none of his excuses work until he declares that he knows of Snow’s real love: David’s twin brother James. Thanks to a ‘magical book,’ Isaac can tell Snow (and therefore the audience) all about her new twisted backstory… and where to find Regina. All that Snow has to do… is execute Henry. And what does she think of that?
Can I just say, turning the Villains into heroes kind of negates the idea that “Villains will get happy endings.” Because they’re not Villains anymore. Switching personalities between characters doesn’t change the fact that good triumphs over evil — it just changes who’s evil. I don’t mind that they’re trying to take traditionally good characters (like Snow White) and reverse their roles — I mind that they act as if the evil people will finally triumph, but in the end they just turn the evil people into good people. But I digress.
Not long later, Regina proceeds to rob the royal carriage, only to find Snow White waiting inside of it. Snow is on the verge of ripping Regina’s heart out (as revenge for being responsible for the death of her first love… oh, you get the point; it’s all the original backstories, just in reverse) but Charming reminds her to ask about Henry, first. Regina won’t tell them anything about him, but before Snow can kill her, guess who rides in to the rescue!
Robin and Regina arrive at a tavern and bicker-flirt, sharing a drink until Regina realizes that she may actually like him and Henry may have been on to something. But all that changes when Robin offers her the role of leader to the Merry Men, since he’s getting out of thieving for the sake of his new bride: Zelena.
Out in the alley when Henry finally catches up to her, she shows him the ‘happy’ couple and they argue in broad daylight in town (despite the fact that Regina is a wanted criminal). Regina wants to leave the kingdom before the wedding bells chime, but Henry realizes that those are the bells that will signal the end of the book. If they can stop the wedding, they can save everyone!
Regina pulls out and suggest Henry find his real mother to help him mess with fate. Henry explains that Emma is the Savior, even more powerful than Snow, but he doesn’t know how to find her. However, at the name “Savior,” Regina remembers an old rumor (which Henry apparently didn’t catch when reading the book). As it turns out, the Savior is in the book (Isaac lied), but she’s been locked up in an impenetrable tower for years.
Meanwhile, Rumpelstiltskin returns home from do-gooding to his wife, Belle, and his baby son Neal (OH THANK GOODNESS HE’S OKAY. I wonder if he still has the same name here. That would make sense but also be kind of weird). Isaac is visiting, and he privately warns Rumpel that a boy has entered the realm and is a threat to his happiness. Isaac proves that he created this happiness by telling Rumpelstiltskin that he knows about Baelfire, whom Belle (in this world) doesn’t even know about. Rumpel may think he did well by his son, but in reality his actions led to the boy’s death.
If Regina or Henry aren’t slain before they can stop the wedding, then everyone including Belle will find out the truth of Rumpelstiltskin’s cowardice.
Isaac leaves, trusting Gold to make the right decision. (But wait. He’s a Hero now. What if he does make the right decision, and his heroic sacrifice leads to everything being righted again!?)
Henry finds the Jolly Roger on the docks and tries to convince Hook to take him to Emma, but Hook isn’t the captain here — Blackbeard is.
In fact, Hook is a sniveling deckhand… so Henry knocks Blackbeard out with a pulley. After all, he took sailing lessons from the fiercest pirate on the seas, so he can help Hook crew the Jolly Roger with just the two of them.
The two of them reach the island, which is manned by just one black guard — whom Henry knocks out with Hook’s sword while pretending to be a prisoner. HENRY IS MY NEW FAVORITE, GUYS. I FREAKING LOVE THIS KID.
Henry rescues Emma, who as it turns out can remember everything; part of her punishment was knowing the truth and being unable to stop it. The three of them get back on the ship and sail away, but they need to hurry before the guard wakes up. Why? (I bet I know why).
That knight was no ordinary knight: it was Lilith.
Lilith dragons up and attacks, but the escapees load the cannon with chain shot and fell her. They celebrate with Hook’s flask of… goat’s milk. Apparently he’s allergic to rum in this world.
While Snow White kills Doc in order to motivate her followers to search harder for the fugitives, Emma teaches a bashful Hook how to sword-fight for about five seconds (and he senses that they were together in the “other world”). Then, just as they prepare to leave, Lily arrives and leads Snow straight to them. When Snow won’t listen to Emma’s pleas, Hook decides to battle Charming to give her and Henry time to escape.
Hook discovers he’s a natural at fencing, but when he pauses to focus on Snow White, Charming stabs him in the back.
It’s traumatizing, even though he will obviously come back and there was no point to his death since Emma and Henry didn’t run like they were supposed to.
Meahwhile, Gold confesses to Belle that he just learned of a threat to their realm that could destroy everything they’ve built together. She assures him that he’s the Light One (ha, ha…) and that he will always triumph. However, in this case, he’s concerned that he won’t make the right choice. He then drops his teacup and it chips (what a shock), and Belle assures him that little flaws don’t matter. (WRONG ADVICE, BELLE. WRONG ADVICE.)
Henry brings his real mother to Regina, and Emma urges her to go speak with Robin. She just saw her own true love die, and the worst part is that she never told him that she loved him. Now Emma’s only chance with him is if Regina doesn’t make the same mistake.
That evening, Isaac (and for some inexplicable reason, not Snow or Charming) waits at the wedding. Outside the building, Regina and Emma discuss what to do and decide that actions speak louder than words… so, ironically, Rumpelstiltskin has time to appear and get in their way while they’re busy talking. Emma faces the “Light One” while Regina runs to the door and opens it, but all she can do is peer in without entering.
While Regina lingers in fear and makes eye contact with Robin, Rumpelstiltskin blasts Emma away with magic and Henry stands in his way (DON’T DIE, HENRY. YOU’VE BECOME TOO AWESOME TO DIE). The Light One raises his sword. Henry doesn’t believe that he’ll kill him since Rumpelstiltskin is a hero now, but Rumpel assures him that this will help him to remain a hero. The sword comes down — but Regina dives in front of Henry and takes the blow!
The wedding bells sound! The book ends!
Robin and Zelena parade out of the church, but Robin spots Regina dying and runs to her — doing a great job of ignoring his spoiled wife when she complains that now she has blood on her dress.
Emma punches Isaac and orders him to rewrite everything, but he can’t. Meanwhile, Henry spots his quill and paper. YES, HENRY. DO IT.
He grabs it! The quill lights up!
Isaac warns him that he can’t write without ink, and Emma’s blood won’t work because she’s not the Savior here. However, Henry is quick to realize who is: Regina. He he dips the quill in her blood and undoes Isaac’s work!
Everyone awakens back in Storybrooke, unhurt and reunited! Emma knocks Hook over with a massive hug… but she chickens out at the last second and doesn’t tell him that she loves him.
Isaac flees when he and Gold awaken, stealing a car and trying to reach the town line before anyone can catch him… but the Charmings do. They show him that his best-seller in the paper is gone, and they ask why he wanted to hurt them so badly all this time. Isaac admits that it’s not them personally, just what they represent. After a lifetime of being trod underfoot by people who were constantly getting their own happy endings, he decided it was his turn to win. But instead of becoming a Hero, he tried to win at the expense of others, and became a Villain.
Meanwhile in the mayor’s office, Henry asks Mickey if he can use the quill to bring his father back. Mickey admits no magic can do that, because while Hook’s death was fictional, Neal’s was real. However, Henry can tell true stories — about his father, and everyone else. He must resist the power and temptation to change reality. Henry considers this, then snaps the quill and puts an end to the line of Authors!
However, in the pawn shop, Belle comes to look for Gold and finds him dying. He laments that they were at least happy in the false story — but Belle reminds him that they were truly happy when they were married, and they only lost that happiness because he didn’t believe it was real. Belle came for him because she really loves him and not Will, and she won’t let him die alone. However, Gold gives her the dagger and warns her to run; once the mortal man inside of him is gone, the evil will be worse than anyone can imagine.
Meanwhile, oblivious to the danger, the rest of the Heroes are celebrating at Granny’s. Lilith comes out of her sulk briefly enough to ask Emma for help tracking down her father. As it turns out, the moon-shaped necklace from her childhood is a piece of her eggshell and her only clue to finding him… because apparently the whole thing happened in dragon form and Maleficent doesn’t know who he is either.
THIS SHOW JUST KEEPS GETTING WEIRDER AND WEIRDER.
Anyway, Belle runs into the diner completely distraught, bringing the news that Gold is dying. Everyone fetches Mickey and the sorcerer’s hat, with the hopes of banishing the darkness into it — though that will be a larger amount than the hat was ever meant to contain, and there’s no telling whether Gold will survive or even benefit from the process.
Mickey takes out Gold’s heart (WHOA THERE, MOUSE BOY, YOU HAVE SOME PRETTY INSANE POWERS THERE) and banishes the darkness from the heart into the hat. The dagger glows and the name vanishes from it, and Mickey sets Gold’s now bright-and-shiny heart back into his body!
It looks like Gold will live, though he will be weak and without magic. However, the darkness in the hat can’t be contained! It bursts out and nearly shoots into Mickey, but Emma blasts him with magic before his mysterious name can appear on the dagger! Deprived of its original victim, the dark magic shoots out the door and into town!
The Charmings chase after it while the others help Mickey up. Though weakened, he warns Emma that the sorcerer battled Darkness eons ago and was able to tether it to a human soul that could be controlled with the dagger. Now that it’s free, the Dark One could destroy everything unless the sorcerer is there to stop it. They’ll have to go far away to find him, and his name is…
Calm yourselves, BBC fans.
As the Heroes go on the search for the Darkness, it swirls onto Regina and starts to try snuffing out the light within her! Emma realizes the only thing they can do is tether it to a human soul, so she picks up the dagger!
Regina pleads with her, but Emma says that she has worked to hard for Regina to lose everything now. She tells her parents to help her defeat the darkness again… and she finally tells Hook that she loves him!
She sucks in the Darkness and vanishes in a tornado, leaving behind nothing but the Dagger with its new name: Emma Swan.
To be continued in the Fall.
A. WHO. IS. LILITH’S. FATHER.
B. Where was Roland during that whole book-mixup fiasco? Also, I find it strange that some Heroes, such as Belle and Robin Hood, still did get happy endings (though then again, being married to Zelena might have led to a fate worse than death in the long run…)
A. Did I not say, when Rumpelstiltskin mentioned Camelot in December 14th's episode, that we might get to see Arthur and Merlin!?
B. Besides Rumpelstiltskin, I have a new contender for the role of Lilith’s father: Merlin. They're both the two main resident magicians of this universe with the power to transform into a dragon (and the unpredictable nature that might lead to a fling with Maleficent).
C. Emma is going to free Zelena for some evil shenanigans.
D. HENRY. Henry is going to be EVERYTHING in the coming season. He just IS. He just made up for all of his gullible shortcomings and became FULLY AWESOME in a single episode. I demand more Henry.