1. The tale of the Dark Swan took an unexpected turn when we learned that Emma was trying to save Hook rather than succumb to the darkness, but Hook was less than thrilled about his fate. How did you feel about the Dark Swan story and its effect on Emma and Hook's relationship?
Joanne: I was a little disappointed in it. I'm still not understanding why Hook didn't know that he was a Dark One. I was also disappointed in his reaction to her efforts to save him. They could have worked together to rid both of themselves of the Dark One curse, but instead he gets all pouty about it.
Teresa: I felt a let-down for it seemed that everything was leading to Dark Swan focusing on Emma and facing her inner darkness. I was really looking forward to that. The "twist" came quite close to "bait and switch" in my opinion. Yet once I recovered from that disappointment, I enjoyed Dark Hook. I felt like unaddressed resentments within him just deliciously bubbled forth. The venom he heaped on Emma didn't come from nowhere. Now that he's expressed these resentments, I imagine this will be a strain in their relationship, but one that could ultimately make them stronger now that all "cards" have been dealt. I don't want Hook to leave--and I doubt he will--but there's a part of me that can see high drama coming if the next step in CaptainSwan's relationship is Emma accepting that "dead is dead" and must therefore let him go.
Ashley: I do wish the Dark Swan storyline had remained Emma-centric, though I understand how her fear of losing yet another important person in her life could drive her to make the decision she did.
Samantha: When Dark Swan Emma showed up in Storybrooke and threatened to punish the town it was chilling, but it quickly became apparent that Emma was only trying to protect and save everyone as she usually does. The power of that initial threat was just a false promise of conflict that never really materialized. I will say that I loved every bit of Jennifer Morrison's Dark Swan portrayal. Her tense body language and her tight jawed speech really conveyed the inner battle Emma was fighting with Darkness. The Dark Swan severe costume, hair and make-up all worked for me too.
I really do understand why Hook was angry. I feel he did find redemption during the time they spent in Neverland (Season 3) and in his efforts to bring Emma back to Storybrooke. I can see where he would rather die than have Darkness pushed upon him again. It's often said that Power is Rumplestiltskin's addiction. I think this kind of addiction to power or Darkness is a problem for Hook and even Regina. Having the Darkness forced upon him by Emma was a sort of betrayal and I think it will take some work by Emma to repair the relationship, should Hook survive his death.
Zach: I'll join Samantha in saying that Jennifer Morrison did a fantastic job in her portrayal of the Dark Swan. She brought a rigid, snake-like physicality to Emma that was very threatening and I thoroughly enjoyed the contrast between Emma's Dark voice and Rumple's Dark voice; where his went high, hers went low, and I liked what Jen did to make it her own. The costume was great (I want that jacket), very Catwoman ala Tim Burton's Batman Returns, and the hair played to the aesthetic as well. All that being said, I was disappointed overall in the storyline. I was expecting to see Emma's darkness rooted in her abandonment issues with her parents and the anger that comes with it, along with rage at Regina for casting the curse that separated them in the first place. Making Hook the driving force behind it all missed the mark. It felt like a missed opportunity to have some character/relationship development between Emma, the Charmings and Regina, and have resolution to their dynamics. I appreciate that Emma's motives were for the greater good though, it's keeping with her role as the Savior and the embodiment of true love.
Amy: I loved Dark Swan. I thought it was SO interesting to see such a new facet of Emma. Jen Morrison knocked it out of the park. The scenes with Emma/Dark Swan and the dream catchers were absolutely heart squishing. I really adored the costuming, big kudos yet again to Eduardo Castro.
2. Arthur proved himself to be an unworthy ruler of Camelot and Guinevere suffered the consequences. What did you think of the twisted interpretation of the Arthurian legend?
Joanne: I'm not sure how I feel about it. It tarnishes the Legend of King Arthur, but it was fun to hate him as a villain. I've never been fond of the Guinevere character because she cheated on Arthur with Lancelot, but now, with the Once twist, I have to feel sorry for her. If Arthur had just focused on building his kingdom from the ground up instead of taking the easy way with magic, things would have been so much better for the couple.
Ashley: I really enjoyed it. The idea that even though you are fated to be a hero doen't mean you automatically become one, that you have to earn that honor through your deeds and leadership was an interesting take on the legend. Megalomaniac King Arthur was fun to root against and I enjoyed how he was an ally to our heroes at first before they discovered his seedy underbelly. I would have liked to see that explored more, for Charming to really truly begin to trust Arthur over the course of the season, only to have the carpet sweep out from under him and have Charming have to reexamine his views on chivalry.
Samantha: Well, I really didn't care for this Arthur who was just a raving maniac. It didn't seem like there was enough justification for his fall into madness. I do look forward to seeing some kind of resolution to the Camelot storyline.
Teresa: I sincerely wish the writers had not gone this direction with the legendary queen and king. Especially Arthur. There is so much more that could have been done with him that would have been true to his essence. Perhaps we'll see more of his depth and nobility in 5b.
Zach: At first I wasn't happy about it because I expected the legendary king of Camelot to behave in a certain way and Arthur went against the grain, but now that I've had a few months to reflect I think it was a good twist. Once always puts a real-life spin on their stories and the portrayal of Arthur as an obsessed lunatic with control issues speaks to a real-world issue that exists in relationships and society today. For people who experience that in their own lives, it empowers them to recognize it and do something about it. When Arthur's magic dust wears off and Guinevere sees him for who he is, she will undoubtedly leave him for Lancelot, and as the audience roots for her to do so, they will be rooting for themselves to let go as well, and I think that's very encouraging.
Also: in the Disney animated version of The Sword in the Stone, Merlin tells Arthur, "I thought you were going to amount to something! I thought you had a few brains!" You can hear animated Merlin say that in the flashback to 1989, when Emma is watching the movie in the theater. Merlin and Arthur's relationship on Once took a similar turn, and I appreciate that the writers built part of their storyline off two lines of dialogue from the film.
Amy: I'm a complete dork for anything related to the Arthurian legend, and I think because of that this version of Arthur just killed me. I wasn't a giant fan of the conniving, back stabby Art. What I DID love though was some of the other details that came about because of this storyline. I absolutely adored that the dagger/Excalibur were actually one, the nod to the Holy Grail and its history, and the character arc of Merlin.
3. The Mills-Hood-Zelena Family came to an understanding that fell quickly apart. Can they be a blended, albeit incredibly dysfunctional family, after Zelena's banishment? How do you see this playing out in the spring?
Joanne: I don't know if I want them to be blended. They put the fun in dysfunctional, that's for sure. I think that Robin and Regina would be content with the blended family, if Zelena learned to play nice. I'm hoping her banishment in Oz will help her come to an understanding of how important family is in her life.
Samantha: I believe that Zelena will always be crazy and is beyond redemption, much like Cruella. She will never be able to have any kind of normal relationship with anyone. I can only hope that Regina and Robin get some peace, but we all know that will never happen in Storybrooke!
Zach: I think the crux of Zelena's issues is that she just wants someone to love her. She wanted to take the baby to Oz for precisely that reason, to have someone love her who wouldn't turn against her or abandon her. If Zelena were to find love with someone, I think it could be the thing that turns her around and there will be a chance for them all to live in peace. As far as who that person could be, well, they are about to meet Hades. I think he and Zelena could be a hilarious couple!
Ashley: After the banishment I don't know if they can be blended. I really thought we were getting some progress with Zelena in that moment when she held the child she carried. It felt abrupt for everything to fall apart so quickly, I would have liked to see Zelena struggle with her hatred of Regina combating against her growing love for the newborn child. I'm eager to see what the return to Oz will do for the wicked witch.
Teresa: I too thought that the scene with Zelena and her baby was them coming to an understanding. I guess that is not to be for now. I cannot see any of them forgiving and forgetting after the banishment to Oz. Perhaps this is one plot that can only end in tragedy for one of the three.
Amy: I feel like the banishment of Zelena really throws the family bonding into chaos. As difficult of a situation as it is, I would love to see some kind of relationship come around before their story ends. I like to think that Zelena is really very much what Regina was and would have continued to be if not for the love she found in adopting Henry and her redemption that followed through the seasons of Once. In real life, families are SO mixed and varied and it isn't always easy. I love to see that even a family with as many issues as these characters can still have hope.
4. The dagger. The sword. The Grail. What were your feelings on their history as revealed this season? Do you think they will play a role in 5b and the attempt to conquer death?
Joanne: I was a little shocked at first that they used the Holy Grail to form a weapon of war, even if it was Excalibur. Then I realized that Excalibur was meant to be a sign of authority for the king's right to rule the land. Merlin misused it when trying to tether Nimue, and Rumplestiltskin's misuse of it went to the extreme. So now we have the symbol of Christ's love and sacrifice being used as the ultimate weapon of Dark power. Rumple might be able to use the mega dark dagger to free Hook from Death, but is he going to be able to escape Hades? It will be interesting to see the storyline play out.
Teresa: It was strange to see the Holy Grail used in this fashion, but makes sense because in the legend, and how it is viewed by many today, misuse of it brings death upon oneself. The dagger has certainly done that. I think the ultimate defeat of the Dark Ones (all of them) can only come from the goodness of the what the Grail represents. It is death and life together. That paradox maybe will bring the Final Battle mentioned in the Pilot. I was sad that Merlin was murdered in the midst of this. Perhaps though there is a higher plan for him in that he will have a "resurrection" which will play a role in "Good Will Win". I feel he is too key a figure in the myth for us to have seen the last of him.
Ashley: I loved that the Dark One dagger had such legendary origins. As one of the more recognizable symbols of Once Upon a Time it only seemed fitting. The dagger is the antithesis of what Excalibur stood for; it's meant to keep in check the dark side of the just leadership meant for the sword-bearer. Power in itself isn't evil, but how you wield it can be, So seeing both the sword and dagger come from the same source was satisfying. How and if it will factor into season 5b is a mystery to me.
Zach: I absolutely loved this part of the story. First we saw that the dagger was part of Excalibur, which floored me, and then we learned that Excalibur was a reforged Grail. Oh my swan! It was genius, I tell you! Genius, I say! I don't know if they'll play a part in conquering death or not, but I hope the dagger comes into play as a foil for Hades. Imagine that: the darkest relic of all is what defeats the ruler of the Underworld. Yes, please!
5. Will Merida seek her vengance on Arthur for killing her father, or will she rise above it?
Zach: She'll rise above it. I don't want Arthur to die, he just needs to be punched in the face and I think Guinevere may have that handled once she dusts herself off. I think he'll end up rather like Grindelwald from Harry Potter, alone and miserable in a cell of his own creation (literally).
Samantha: Merida will want vengeance, but she will never act out in a dishonorable way. She will go after Arthur, but she will find a way to resolve her need for revenge without violence. Maybe just a little violence.
Joanne: I think she will ultimately rise above it, but Arthur will have to pay in some way for what he has done to Merida, Guinevere and his people. As Rumple said, "All magic comes with a price." Arthur is overdue.
Teresa: I'm hoping that she will not seek vengeance when the moment comes, but will walk away letting karma be a b----. Arthur made his bed, and the best revenge is to let him lay in it.
Ashley: I think Arthur will get his comeuppance, though directly by Merida's hand is unknown to me. I think she might set events in motion that cause the king to dig his own grave so to speak, but I doubt she will directly take action.
Amy: I continue to hold out hope that there was more to Arthur's douchary than simply him throwing a hissy fit over not having the whole sword and feeling slighted. If that is the case I hope he just gets a few good throat punches from Merida. I mean, he is responsible for her father's death so he doesn't just get a pass. I have a feeling in the end Merida will do the honorable thing and let him live.
Favorite Episode and Favorite Moment
Joanne: My favorite episode had to be the finale, "Swan Song". I had two favorite moments. The first was Gold straightening his tie after he reunited with Belle. The second was when Emma realized that Gold had, once again, tricked everyone and had taken all the Dark Ones' powers into himself by channeling them from Hook through Excalibur. "It's what I do. It's the man I am." I was so thrilled that Rumple was the Dark One again.
Ashley: "Dreamcatcher" has to be the high point in season 5a for me. Everything about the episode was perfect, from the character moments, to the CGI effects, to the call backs to Season One. The twist towards the end caught me completely off guard and really upped the stakes for what the Dark Swan was capable of.
Zach: "Dreamcatcher" was my favorite as well. I'm thrilled that pieces of Emma and Neal's relationship lives on in the show and to see that she made dreamcatchers showed that while she loves Hook, her love for Neal will go on as well, and it made Emma more relatable as she juggled feelings pertaining to past and present romances.
My favorite moment was the ball in Camelot. I loved how every character on the trip got to participate and let their hair down for a change, to just relax and have fun, if ever so briefly. I especially liked Charming's guidance over Henry and his first crush and the inclusion of Yaz's "Only You."
Teresa: "Dreamcatcher" was my favorite episode too as it featured Henry and showed the connections with those that had passed on: Neal and Daniel particularly. Emma and Regina's clash over what the former did to Henry resonated. Never hurt the Heart of the Truest Believer! Never harm a child!
The ball was a favorite moment for me in both its romantic and family connections: Regina/Charming/Snow, Snow and Emma, Henry and Charming. And honorable mention to the moment when Rumple pulled the sword from the stone, making him a "certified" hero. His sincere mea culpa to Belle followed by her assertion that "it's never to late" inspired me to feel hope, not for a ship--ships are only symbols, albeit strong ones, of what Happily Ever After means--but hope that despite everything anyone can still change; a reiteration of a beloved Once theme. Greatness within oneself is always possible. When the show anchors on these aspects, I believe it soars.
Amy: I really loved "Dreamcatcher". It had those moments that just grabbed your heart and then squished it. My favorite scene of the season is probably the ball. I LOVE seeing everyone dressed in their Fairytale best, and using "Only You" as the song was fantastic!
Samantha: I loved how Dark One Rumple became the personification of Darkness for Emma. There can never be too much Robert Carlyle as Dark One Rumple in this show!
Joanne: "Be careful. Love is a weapon, dearie. The most dangerous weapon of all which means the pain you should worry about isn't the kind inflicted by a broken sword but the kind that comes from a broken heart." ~ Rumple
Ashley: This might be a cheap answer, but anything that came out of Zelena's mouth this half of the season. I enjoyed how her character was incorporated in 5a and wish to see more of her in 5b.
Samantha: Rumple's "It's what I do. It's the man I am." Rumple's redemption has been a roller coaster for sure! I know some fans are screaming "Let me off!" Personally, I love the mysterious Mr. Gold so much I'm glad to have him back even at the expense of his latest redemption.
Zach: I cheered when Gold told Emma that while there were other heroes in town, they weren't him, and he was going to stop her. Talk about a role reversal!
Teresa: Rumple's line to Emma was my favorite too. I think we haven't seen the last of that promise! There was too much "promise" in the warning that he as a hero is something to be reckoned with.
Amy: Zelena takes it with "Once you go Green you'll never go Queen"! Honorable mention seriously has to go to Belle for seeing rope and immediately saying that Rumple had been there. Exactly WHAT are they up to at home?
Teresa: I am looking forward to the Underworld, especially seeing Cora and Pan. They are compelling characters and I hope to see them bringing out the good, the bad, and the ugly in all the characters. Robbie Kay especially gave such a magnificent performance in Season 3a. I'm stoked to see him in action again. I also want more Henry as the Author and the "heart" that ties this extended family together.
Joanne: Even though Rumple has taken all of the Dark Ones' powers, I still have hope that he can be redeemed. I think we saw him make some great strides in becoming a hero. He is flawed, but he has learned some important lessons this season. He truly loves Belle and doesn't want to lose her. I hope that he can become the man she deserves.
The episode "Birth" will always hold a special place in my heart because I was able to watch a couple of the scenes being filmed. I spent an entire evening listening to Colin (Hook) call out Emma Swan's name while up on the Storybrooke Library roof.
Samantha: I cannot wait to see all our heroes and villains face off in the Underworld! There is so much potential for surprise when these characters have the chance to resolve unfinished business. Cora and Regina? Pan and Rumple? Emma and Neal? Can't wait.
Ashley: Season 5a has shaken things up for our heroes and I look forward to how the events of this first half of the season will effect our characters as the take a closer look at their pasts and themselves in the Underworld.
Zach: Shout out to Eduardo Castro and the costume department for their intricate and beautiful garments this season! Camelot had a very distinctive style in terms of silhouettes and color palettes and I loved how the costumes were distinguished from the other lands we've visited.
Amy: I love mythology and I cannot wait to explore Hades' character. As much as Once loves a horrible parent, I hope that we get some Chronos daddy issues with the whole Hades/Zeus/Poseidon angle!