Whew! That series finale certainly was something, and finished up with an ending I truly wasn’t expecting. Which I find pretty exciting. I know I’ve been a little down on this season – specifically the back half with The Author’s story line – but I really do like this show. And I’m excited that the season finale has left me excited for what’s to come.
When it came to Rumpelstiltskin’s alternate universe, I had some quibbles. Namely, I don’t think any of it actually counted as villains getting their happy ending while heroes suffered. I mean, I guess Rumpelstiltskin was happy with Belle and their child, but he wasn’t Rumpelstiltskin anymore, not really. I would have thought “villains getting their happy ending” would have meant that they would still be villains when they got their happiness. That Rumpelstiltskin’s happiness would have been all the power he craved and Belle by his side. That Zelena would want to know that she was destroying the happiness of her sister by marrying her love. Instead, we’re still reinforcing that villains can’t be happy.
But that small annoyance aside, I did enjoy the alternate reality. It felt very reminiscent of last season when Emma and Hook went back in time (and I mean that positively – not that it felt already done). Some aspects of the story were just switched – like Snow White and Regina – but other elements were clearly influenced by Rumpelstiltskin’s personal feelings. Particularly Captain Hook and his cowardice and Regina’s happy ending being kept at bay. They may have started out as villains, but they’ve come a long way since then and Rumpelstiltskin certainly holds no love for either of them. And even though Rumpelstiltskin and The Author wrote these new stories and new endings for everyone, people’s natures still were able to shine through. Hook’s fighting came back through muscle memory. Zelena’s selfishness resurfaced and she started turning green again. And Rumpelstiltskin allowed his hero self to be corrupted into killing Regina in order to safeguard his secret from Belle.
I did find it a little odd that Rumpelstiltskin wouldn’t give Henry a place in the story, just as a safeguard if nothing else, but maybe this just goes to show how little Rumpelstiltskin thinks of Henry. I thought maybe The Author couldn’t do anything to Henry since he’s not a storybook character, but then neither is Isaac and he wrote his own happy ending. So I’m not sure that theory holds.
To be honest, as we went into the second half of the finale, I did wonder if Henry wouldn’t make it in time. I wondered if the season would end similar to Season Two – with the new curse and Emma and Henry leaving without their memories. I thought maybe they would be stuck in these new realities and have to find a new way to get The Author’s story erased. That could have been interesting.
My theory was proved wrong, but I’m on board with what happened. And I definitely didn’t predict what was going to happen. I thought for sure when Belle showed up at Rumpelstiltskin’s shop – and didn’t you just love how ready to throw down she was – and his heart started to give out that we were all ready for another True Love’s Kiss to heal him. And to be honest, I’m glad we didn’t go that rout. Belle made it clear that she loved him – that she knew who he was and what she was getting into, darkness and all, and that despite dating him she didn’t love Will – but sometimes love’s not enough. Belle and Rumpelstiltskin have a ways to go before they can get back to true love.
But instead of True Love’s Kiss, we got a transfer of the Dark One from Rumpelstiltskin to Emma. Once the Dark One was extracted from Rumpelstiltskin and escaped the hat, I thought it was just going to permeate the whole town. Like, everyone was going to be infected with some of the darkness (I guess a bit like the Spell of Shattered Sight, but less immediately lethal) making everyone in town more likely to lean into their baser and more self-serving instincts. And again, I was wrong. The whole town won’t go dark, just Emma.
I guess I should have seen it coming, but it went for Regina first – and I rolled my eyes thinking about us reverting back to Evil Regina again – but nope, Emma stepped in. And truly, they’ve been hinting all season about Emma going dark. But I just thought that was over when The Author and Rumpelstiltskin couldn’t force her to go dark. I came into the finale with that story line done and behind us, not even thinking that was on the table anymore. So it was a good bit of bait and switch there. And I appreciate that nobody could make Emma go dark. Instead, in true savior fashion, she chose darkness in order to save her friend and protect her town. In a season that told so many stories revolving around consent and free will, it felt appropriate that in the end she got to make a choice.
We set up some good stuff going into next season. Emma’s darkness, needing Merlin to help defeat it, Lily looking for her father. I truly hope that Merlin isn’t Lily’s father since that just seems too neat (though I did like someone’s theory about it being Arthur Pendragon since I love a good pun). I’m interested to see what they’ll do with Merlin and if they’ll include any easter eggs from Disney’s Sword and the Stone. I hope they do.