Operation AU: Once Upon a Time’s Season Four Finale

Previously, on Once Upon a Time: Regina’s wicked half-sister Zelena announced that she’s pregnant by Robin Hood after masquerading as Maid Marian for months. Isaac the Author teamed up with Rumplestiltskin to write a new story before the latter’s heart turns completely black. Emma’s friend Lily turned out to be Maleficent’s long-lost daughter (also a dragon).  And Will Scarlet, my beloved Knave from Wonderland, gets no screen time except when he’s a plot device.

So yeah, it’s been a pretty wacky season, and that’s not even considering the Frozen arc.  While last year’s finale dealt with time travel, this year’s was alternate reality. Isaac wrote a new story that would give him his OWN happy ending, breaking the cardinal rule of being an Author. With everyone from Storybrooke having disappeared into Isaac’s best-selling book, Henry tracks down the rogue author to get his family back.

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First off, I love that Henry’s the hero for about eighty-percent of the finale.  That boy got it DONE.  Considering he’s the true believer who got this whole crazy journey started, he hasn’t had a whole lot to do lately. Plus Isaac taking a shield his Henry’s face certainly motivates you to see the Author as a villain.

Lucky for Henry, he’s saved by a dashing, righteous knight by the name of…Rumplestiltskin? In the AU, he isn’t the Dark One, more like The Dork One. Except this Dork has to face a terrible choice between staying a hero and actually being one when Isaac tells him to kill Regina and Henry if they try to stop the marriage of Robin Hood and Zelena. Their wedding bells herald the end of the book, so if Henry and company find a way to change the story, Isaac’s work will be undone.

Also eager to kill Regina is Queen Snow White. With a queensguard of evil dwarves and her enslaved boy toy Charming, she wants vengeance for Regina’s actions that led to the death of her “true love”, Prince James. A lot of fans didn’t take to dark!Snow White, but I loved her. Ginnifer Goodwin obviously had a lot of fun with the role. Speaking of roles, it’s time for my unpopular opinion!  I really LIKED shy, cowardly dork Hook in the AU. Captain Swan isn’t really my preferred ship when it comes to Emma, but any scene where she’s the aggressor in the relationship gets my approval. Him being a bumbling deckhand while she’s a confident leader is A-OK in my book.

Evil dwarves and cowardly Hook...please, please!
Evil dwarves and cowardly Hook…yes, please!

If you love parallels like I do, this finale’s actually pretty great; Henry trying to convince Bandit!Regina echoes his relationship with Emma in season one, while Emma’s imprisonment as a madwoman because she knows the truth recalls the isolation Henry suffered before the first curse was broken.

Of course, I know a certain subset of the fandom is disappointed that Emma and Regina’s relationship wasn’t made a direct parallel to Snow and Charming, despite their AU outfits. Everyone’s a bit hung up on “True Love’s Kiss Will Break Any Curse”, so the goal is get Regina to snog Robin Hood before he gets hitched to Zelena. Rumplestiltskin stands in their way at the church; both Emma and Henry urge Regina to find her happiness. Regina ends up being the real hero and protects Henry from a killing blow. Even in a universe where she doesn’t know him, her son trumps everything. Her sacrifice allows for Henry to use the Author Quill and undo Isaac’s mess.

With the AopmongooseU gone, we’re faced with a horrid reality: Rumple is still dying due to his heart going completely black. He won’t be Rumplestiltskin anymore, but a complete Dark One. Basically, Storybrooke is on its way to hell unless Emma and The Apprentice can do something to save him.

While taking the darkness out of Rumple’s heart is a success, containing it within the Sorcerer’s Hat is not. It breaks free in search of a new host. Emma manages to pull the darkness out of The Apprentice so he can give us some exposition about its history: long ago The Sorcerer battled the darkness, and the only way he suceeded was by tethering it to a human soul,  creating The Dark One.

The darkness attacks Regina, prompting Emma’s sacrifice by taking the darkness into herself. She disappears, leaving behind the dagger. So where the hell did Emma/The Dark One go? I’d hazard a guess it’s got something to do with finding The Sorcerer, AKA Merlin. That’s right, Geekettes, looks like Season 5’s headed to Camelot!emma dagger

So it was a pretty decent finale, a lot of fun, but probably disappointing if you watch with Shipper Goggles. Look, OUaT’s always been an ensemble show, and while they’ve unfortunately pushed a lot of characters aside over the years of the Charming family, Rumple, and Regina, it’s still an ensemble affair. Those are the characters that are going to get the focus. And I thought the episode made it pretty clear that Isaac’s flaw as a writer is he doesn’t “write the stories that people want” – so we’re SUPPOSED to be dissatisfied with a lot of stuff in the AU. That being said, here are my concerns while we wait for Season Five:

Who’s Your Daddy

I really didn’t want Lily’s paternity to be a plot point. I would’ve been perfectly content with Maleficent planning to be a single mom back in the Enchanted Forest before Lily was lost. But no, apparently the baby daddy is important, because Lily’s only clue to his identity is the half-moon necklace she has. Mal doesn’t have any idea because the conception …well, it’s a dragon thing.

lily1 lily2'

So….we can’t get any canon queer relationships but dragon sex is okay?

The Sorcerer = Merlin

We met Lancelot back in Season Two and Excalibur was referenced in Season Three, so the likelihood of Camelot was always there. However, I do question the choice of making Merlin the Sorcerer, and wonder what exactly he could bring to the story. Is he going to continue the “Everyone’s Related” pattern of OUaT and be Lily’s father? OR could King Arthur Pendragon be her dad?

Wonder-ing Will Scarlet’s Purpose

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Readers may remember that I was seriously in love with the Wonderland spin-off. So I was psyched when Michael Socha was announced as part of the Season 4 cast. He was a supporting member for the first half of the season. He caused a bit of trouble for Emma and Hook but it was his observation about the ice cream shop that led them to finding The Snow Queen. His more interesting actions were shrouded in mystery: digging up the beach where he’d supposedly hidden a map, and drunkenly breaking into the library and curling up with a copy of Alice in Wonderland.

The writers promised us answers in the second arc of the season, but they didn’t bloody deliver. Will’s screentime has actually dwindled, and when he’s not propping up a Robin Hood-themed story he’s a plot device for ship angst. I’m referring to the fact that in the 4B arc, Will is suddenly dating Belle. The ship known as “Scarlet Beauty” would actually be kind of cute if the Wonderland series hadn’t concluded with Will BEING MARRIED TO HIS TRUE LOVE, ANASTASIA AKA THE RED QUEEN.

Bring back my OTP, please.
Bring back my OTP, please.

So where the hell is my favorite complicated anti-hero? Nobody’s saying. The longer Will’s in Storybrooke without Ana, the less sense his presence makes. I’m almost inclined to think that Horowitz and Kitsis had plans to bring in Anastasia but couldn’t make it work with Emma Rigby’s schedule. In any case, Belle admitted in the finale that she doesn’t love Will. So she’ll likely be giving Rumple another chance now that his heart’s got a clean slate. And where was Will in the finale? In the AU, he attended Robin and Zelena’s wedding but was basically just a body in the crowd. When Isaac’s work was undone, he was an off-screen babysitter for Robin’s son. It’s a real shame, because Will Scarlet was a shining character on Wonderland. But the main show isn’t using him at all, let alone to any sliver of potential. Step it up for Season 5, please.

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