1. What do you make of Emma's mission to save Hook and her character growth as a result?
Joanne: To be honest, I wasn't really involved with Emma's character development. I recognized that this arc was to show that Emma had always felt alone and had done things her own way, independent from everyone else. In Underbrooke, her family reigned her in a bit and made her realize that they loved her and were there to help her save Hook, but in the end Hook essentially saved himself by helping her.
Teresa: Like Joanne, I wasn't too into it. I believe Emma's journey was supposed to be her opening to love, but then I always saw her having reached that with Henry in "A Land Without Magic". I did like where the last few episodes of the Underworld arc went with her gradually coming to terms with Hook's death and her need to move on. I felt actually there was a beautiful conclusion in "Last Rites" when she was able to do what her father advised: learn to accept death like everyone else. I thought her acceptance and farewell to Hook at his grave, complete with the rum she placed, was perfection. Then Hook came back to life. To me, his return took away from those moments. (Not that I didn't want him to resurrect. I am not fond of any untimely deaths at this stage of the Story About Hope.) On the other hand, it happened, and Emma has Hook back. I hope though that the lessons she learned in her journey through the stages of grief will play a part in S6.
Sam: I think Emma Swan is a smart, brave, strong character. I wish she could find Love if that would make her life better. I think Hook is hot stuff in leather. He was a great pirate and I do believe he redeemed himself in the last few seasons. But I've never really been sold on CaptainSwan as a "True Love" pairing. I think Emma learned more about her relationship to her family and friends than she did about her love for Hook.
Ashley: I feel like it started out exciting enough, but in the end I was less connected with the mission and more connected with the Underworld. I enjoyed that Emma is becoming more reliant on her family, more allowing of allies in stead of going off and doing her own thing. She's letting people get close to her again and even though she's afraid of losing them, well she lost Hook, twice actually, and has survived both times. She knows that even though it hurts, even with all the collective losses she's suffered, she can keep going.
Mia: I thought Emma's mission to save Hook was very heroic and sweet. It definitely showed her growth. Being open to love, she took a page out of her parent's book, and decided to do whatever it took to save him. Emma was very brave, going into a world that she knew nothing about, only clinging onto the idea that she might be able to bring Hook home.
2. How do you feel about Once's portrayal of the Underworld and its addition to the OUAT mythos?
Joanne: I loved how they portrayed and explained Underbrooke. It was very clever. Hades created it in the likeness of Storybrooke to give his love, Zelena, all that her sister, Regina, had in the real world. I loved how they wove in the Greek Mythology of the Underworld with the rivers and being able to see various characters who had died previously; Cruella especially. It was a great way to tie up some loose story threads.
Ashley: I loved everything about the Underworld, from how it looked to what it meant. Everyone's punishment down there was extremely fitting. It was neat seeing all these old characters back and the roles they had slipped into in limbo. I love the decayed state of Underbrooke. It was just very unsettling.
Teresa: I enjoyed the way it was an alternate Storybrooke: Hades and Zelena's Decay! Like Joanne, I liked that it gave us a chance to see old favorites and have their stories resolved. It would be nice to revisit in S6 and see what Arthur and Cruella are up to.
Sam: I really loved how the Underworld was portrayed as a version of Storybrooke, and the explanation made sense. I would not mind visiting it again and I will always imagine characters going there when they die.
Mia: In my opinion, it was strange to see the Underworld look so much like Storybrooke. I wish that they could have made it look like an entire new realm to discover. Hades was an interesting character and very different from the Disney movie. I also thought we would see more of Hercules and Meg. I'm disappointed we only saw Zeus once. I feel as though the mythology ended too quickly.
3. There was a lot of "moving on" in Underbrooke. Thoughts on Once's version of the afterlife.
Joanne: I liked that Underbrooke was a sort of limbo or spirit prison when the denizens had to work out their unfinished business. Like I mentioned before, it was a great way to tie up some loose story threads. It gave us some great moments such as Regina and her father, Hook and his brother, and Regina and Zelena with Cora. It also gave us some satisfaction with the ending of Pan and Gaston. I'm still left wondering about some of the other characters who I feel didn't deserve their fate in the River of Lost Souls like Aunty Em and Milah. (Not that I ever liked Milah.)
Ashley: I like that on Once Upon a Time there are many different stages to it and that all these casualties over the seasons had unfinished business and were just hanging about. Also, having the idea of moving on from the Underworld on the show gave the audience a way to say goodbye to some fan favorite characters that we maybe didn't get to see off so well when they first left the show.
Sam: The best part of this arc was getting to see all the different characters find closure one way or another with friends, lovers and enemies. I think that everyone did get the Fate they deserved, except for maybe Hook, who really did luck out with his "Get out of Death Free" pass from Zeus. I think it's fair that any character might die, if the story requires it. I would not have minded it at all if Hook really died even after all Emma did trying to save him.
Teresa: I found it interesting that Underbrooke was portrayed as a type of Purgatory--though not an exact mirror of that "realm"--and that there is a "Heaven" suited to each person. My favorite "moving on" was Daddy, Henry Sr. It was beautiful to see him meet Henry and make peace with Regina.
Mia: I really enjoyed how Once Upon a Time dealt with moving on into the afterlife. It was intriguing to see which character would end up where; into the light, or downstairs. The writers left the final destination as a mystery which I liked. The fact that the Underworld was essentially "the middle place" that all of the souls first go to when they pass away, and then have to decide whether they move on or stay, was clever.
4. Zelena had a remarkable transformation. What did you think of the changed Zelena, her relationship with Hades, and Hades himself?
Sam: Hades was a really interesting villain. I loved Greg Germann's take on him. It was refreshing to have a male villain for a while. I found I have a lot more sympathy for Zelena than I wanted to, if that makes sense. She can be very selfish and whiny, but she also showed she could be loyal and, in the end, she even killed her own love to save everyone else.
Joanne: Zelena was, for me, the character that grew the most this season. She went from a spiteful trickster to a loving mother and sister. She truly cared for her daughter, Robin, and once her former friendship with Regina was revealed by Cora, I think that she and Regina were finally able to come to an understanding. I thought Zades was adorable. Two villains who acted like a couple of love-struck teenagers together. I felt sorry for Zelena because Hades, like Rumple, just wasn't willing to compromise and give up power. They could have been very happy living together in Storybrooke, quietly raising little Robin.
Ashley: I like that Zelena hasn't lost her bite. We've seen in the Season 5 finale that the sarcasm and sass are still there. I think it was good for Zelena to realize that she was capable of being loved, I think that was the first step towards healing. Then, when she a Regina finally reconciled, I was so happy because as much as I enjoyed the bickering sisters angle these two had, seeing them more as allies with the occasional sisterly fights is more satisfactory. Hades was a great villain and I really did want him to stick around. I was so pleasantly surprised in the casting and performance. It really stood out to me this season. Unfortunately, when Hades started to go a little too nutty for Zelena and began liquefying people's aunts, that's when i knew it wouldn't last between them.
Teresa: Zelena being on her way to becoming "sisters" with Regina is lovely. I love Once's family dynamics. I just wish the horrid Robin violation/pregnancy hadn't happened because it casts an almost unforgivable shadow on Zelena. If her transformation moves forward, I would like to see explored all for what Zelena still needs to atone. Zades for me had a lot of potential--I even hoped for awhile that they would be an anti-Snowing--evil and loving it. Hades' death at Zelena's hands seems to have put their plot to rest--more a vehicle for Zelena's redemption. As for Hades, he surprised me. I wasn't expecting to like him at all, but he really captured my imagination in the beginning of the arc--I loved his scenes with Cora, Rumple and Zelena-- but he fizzled out at the end into "muhahaha, I'm evil." That said, I will miss him. I thought he was fun and wouldn't mind seeing more of him.
Mia: I was very surprised that Zelena changed, but I'm happy about it. As funny and sassy the Wicked Witch was, I love that Once Upon a Time could take Zelena, who was essentially despised by the audience during Seasons 3 and 4, and show that she does have kindness and can love. It was heartbreaking to see Zelena opening up her heart to Hades only to be deceived. I believe the end result with Hades' defeat made her stronger. She realized that she doesn't need a man to be happy, and that her sister and daughter is all she needs.
5. Favorite Episodes
Teresa: I liked "Sisters". The scenes with Regina, Zelena and Cora were magnificent. I've waited since S3 for those moments and they didn't disappoint. Another favorite was "Her Handsome Hero" because we got to see a throwback to Once exploring classic Disney in the Gaston story. We also saw some real, honest development with Rumple and Belle rather than the one-dimensional silliness so typical of the last two seasons. I was very annoyed when that forward movement got negated in the later episodes of 5b.
Joanne: I liked "Her Handsome Hero" because it was a Rumbelle episode. I enjoyed seeing more of Belle's backstory and her pre-Rumple relationship with Gaston. I had always felt sorry for Gaston being turned into a rose and then snipped by Belle's scissors. After that episode, I think Gaston deserved what he got. I love how it tied into Season One's "Skin Deep". It tied up some loose ends for me.
Ashley: My fav was "Our Decay". It had a lot of interesting leaps and turns, as well as wonderful character moments.
Mia: My favorite episode includes "Souls of the Departed". It was awesome to see some old familiar faces that are greatly missed on the show as well as the introduction to the Underworld. I also loved "The Brothers Jones" because we got to learn more about Hook's past. It also served as a lesson that not everyone is entirely good or evil and that everyone makes mistakes. Although deeply heartbreaking, I also enjoyed "Firebird" and "Last Rites". These two almost felt like a two-parter. These were definitely episodes that made me sit on the edge of my seat as I watched our characters race against the clock to escape from the Underworld and then try to defeat Hades before he destroyed Storybrooke, all while dealing with the loss of love.
6. Favorite Quotes
Teresa: "Maybe it's time you start dealing with death the way other people do." ~Charming to Emma. I think this was a theme for Emma's arc this year, a plea for her to perhaps realize she's not the only one who has suffered? It came across to me as a step forward in her development as well as an illustration of Charming's wisdom. I hope to see more of him in S6.
Joanne: Regina to Emma: "When you're upset we follow you to Hell but when I'm upset I get a timeout."
Ashley: Pretty much anytime Ruby talked about herself and her feelings in "Ruby Slippers". The frank way her love was discussed was refreshing.
Sam: My favorite quotes were everything Cruella said all season long. I'm going to miss that crazy, sarcastic, evil woman.
Mia: "What you get back when you love someone far outweighs the risk." ~Snow White
"I guess my armor's been on for such a long time that sometimes I forget that I don't need it with you."~ Emma Swan
"You never stop being connected, right up to the end, and sometimes even after." ~ Cora Mills (about Regina and Zelena)
7. Anything Else?
Joanne: I did enjoy the journey to Underbrooke. It was great seeing some of the characters from previous seasons that we haven't seen in a while and it gave closure to some of the storylines.
Sam: I'm going to agree with Joanne, overall I enjoyed the stories in Underbrooke. We were treated to some very classic "Once" moments this year and it was fun to see so many different cameos while keeping the focus on the main cast.
Teresa: 5b had some great vignettes, but for me as a whole it didn't come even close to the must-see TV that Once used to be. One could easily have skipped several filler episodes (or ones that got negated/dead-ended) and not missed a thing. I think moving back to a one season format is a needed shift to getting control of the story and the pacing. A solid S6 (or series finish?) is a real possibility and one that I look forward to watching.
Mia: The Season 5 finale was my least favorite finale. I'm not too thrilled to see Jekyll and Hyde, Sinbad, and all of the other "untold stories" come into the picture. I wish we were able to focus more on our core characters. However, I will keep an open mind. I'm curious to see how the writers tie these characters into the story that has been developed.