There is nothing you can’t come back from if you just tell us.Regina
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire, and Robert Carlyle.
For about half of this episode, I was mainly carried through by the strong presence of Emma and Regina throughout this episode, but the eleventh hour twists made this instalment highly compelling by the close.
Firstly, it’s nice to see Emma have so much screen time. Even though the Season 5A arc is based around her, I still feel like, barring the premiere, we haven’t had ample time with her. Jennifer Morrison’s performance throughout this episode is brilliant. Her vocal tone as Dark Emma is a significant departure, far deeper and more measured and controlled than we are used to, though you can still see hints of the old Emma poking through, which is no mean feat. However, while this makes sense in Storybrooke, the sudden switch in persona in Camelot is more confusing, considering the breakthrough she had with Hook last week.
The extent of Emma’s darkness was really shown through her manipulation of Henry. Even though it was unfair for her to hurt Henry like this, it was highly interesting, and I’m still holding out hope that Emma has a plan somehow. After all, she only did it so that Merlin could be resurrected, which also opens up huge opportunities. I’d assumed that Merlin’s liberation from the tree might serve as a last minute solution to Emma’s darkness later in this season arc, but the fact that he’s out already really makes Emma’s descent to the Dark One all the more mystifying.
A downside of the episode was how much it hinged upon Henry and Violet. Despite being, ostensibly, the glue of the show, Henry is probably the most boring character out of the bunch – and there’s stiff competition. The scenes between him and Violet felt incredibly awkward, and it was frustrating to see so much importance put upon a childhood crush in a programme that mostly features epic romance. It just wasn’t as captivating as the show clearly wanted it to be, and I find it hard to actually interpret Henry’s heartbreak as genuine, considering he’s been in Camelot all of a week and spoken to the girl a handful of times. It was a crush, nothing more. Let’s not be too dramatic about it.
Ultimately, Emma’s interference sold the episode. The fact that she’d outwardly appeared as supportive towards Henry the entire time, and pretty much the regular Emma (bar some shifty delivery within her lines) made it all the more manipulative. It really added more colour to her as a character, not to mention being a genuinely surprising turn.
Another highlight was Emma and Regina’s confrontation at the end. We have been so used to seeing Emma protecting Henry from Regina that it’s quite engaging to see those roles reversed. Seeing Regina do it as well adds another element, as she genuinely understands what it’s like to be Emma. She gives her the chance to explain herself, and makes it clear that she can be redeemed no matter what, but does not excuse what Emma has done in the past. Emma slipping and revealing some other elements that happened in Camelot saw even more of her regular self slipping past the dark exterior, so quite what happened with Merlin is anybody’s guess.
I was surprised to see some of the plot points being resolved so swiftly. Snow and Charming being under Arthur’s influence was batted out of the window less than five minutes in, entirely subverting my expectation for the rest of the season. Indeed, Merlin also being released so soon was surprising. In general, the plot for Season 5A has entirely been turned on its head for me. Apart from my relaxed assurance that either a) Emma is not really evil or b) she will be saved from being the Dark One, my expectations don’t know what’s hit them. I must say, I am a little disappointed that Snow and Charming aren’t being influenced by Arthur for any longer – that would have been quite interesting, but I suppose it takes quite a lot to pull a fast one on Emma Swan. Well, Emma Swan as the Dark One at least.
Seeing Merida training Rumple in her Brave ways is nice, mainly for Merida being an utter delight. However, I’m really not on board with the whole idea of Rumple being a “blank slate” ready to be the hero worthy of pulling Excalibur out of the Stone. Not least because he really shouldn’t be considered a blank slate. His heart was so dark he died! Surely we can’t just ignore this just so we can keep Robert Carlyle on the show? Some things you just can’t be redeemed from.
Ultimately, this episode was the best glimpse we’ve had at Dark Swan, and Merlin’s presence in Camelot makes her descent into evil all the more fascinating. However, some of the plot movements were far too quickly, and Henry had far too much to do here.
Once Upon an Additional Brainthought
- I am absolutely loving the costumes this season. Merida looks stunning, mainly due to her vivid red hair and gorgeous blue dress sticking out against the British Columbian forest. Emma’s Camelot gear is also wonderful, I’m loving the white cape, and the way some of the shots were framed this week with Emma’s white gown contrasting with Regina’s red was visually stunning. But the less said about Snow’s clothes, the better.
- One confusing element between the Camelot and Storybrooke arcs is the fact that Granny’s is in both of them.
- ”Carnival in a can?” really Violet? How do you even know what a can is?!
- How on earth was Henry’s battery so high on his phone? What witchcraft is this?!
- Why are the graphics effects team so keen on tendrils now for the magic? It’s so new but now it just seems to be everywhere. How can magic suddenly aesthetically change? Weird.
- I love that Merlin is so dismissive of Arthur.
- I have a sneaky suspicion that the Dark One who turned Merlin into a tree (see, he wasn’t trapped in a tree) was a woman, and I think that when he says that they stole his first love that they are his first love.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.