Once Upon a Time: Only You/An Untold Story Review

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By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

As a whole, season five of Once Upon a Time was a beautiful and brilliant one. Although the first half was much stronger, being one of the greatest arcs of the series, while the second half floundered at times, 5B also featured some truly wonderful episodes. Knowing what the show is capable of in terms of season finales, especially the amazing, magical, and epic storytelling from the last two seasons, is what makes the final episode of Season 5 perplexing and even somewhat disappointing. Perhaps the issue was that proper resolutions from the previous 21 episodes were for the most part skipped over and a brand new story was launched into hyper drive. That’s not to say it was not enjoyable to watch as there were some wonderful moments, but it felt like a beginning more than an end – and an end that was needed and earned but only partially delivered on. In summation of the very plot-heavy episode: Regina was mourning the loss of Robin and Emma fears her reaction to Killian’s return, which surprises everyone. But worries quickly shift when Gold tethers all of Storybrooke’s magic to the Olympian Crystal and Henry and Violet steal it and head to New York to destroy magic, thinking it’s the source of all their problems. Emma and Regina head after their wayward son, along with Gold, while David, Snow, Killian, and Zelena are accidentally sucked into a portal to a strange land of “Untold Stories” and taken prisoner by what turns out to be a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They escape, but a magical serum splits the two sides of that man. Meanwhile, after Henry does destroy magic temporarily, with guidance from the Dragon, he restores it with hope and wishes in a fountain, allowing our heroes to be reunited. Hoping to rid herself of the Evil Queen for good, Regina uses the serum and thinks she has succeeded but the Queen remains. Lastly, after making a deal with Gold to help him awaken Belle, Mr. Hyde arrives in Storybrooke surely to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting town who thought that peace and normalcy were restored, most especially Emma, who was happy to finally be able to tell Killian she loves him without any darkness surrounding them as they sweetly kissed with a wedding dress in the background of their happy moment.

What made season five so remarkable and special was the way it focused on Emma’s journey toward her own happy ending as she overcame personal demons and darkness to come out stronger than she has ever been. This also allowed the well-earned and brilliantly portrayed journey for Killian to come to the forefront as well in his own hero’s journey and miraculous return to his to true love Emma Swan, concluding this truly epic chapter of their story. While the couple was given a heartbreaking goodbye and an exquisite reunion, this finale did not give them much of a reprieve or moment of reflection on everything they went through, but instead they were separated for most of the two hours with the main exception being their very important and beautiful scene at episode’s end. And while it was beautiful, given everything they’ve gone through all season (things Emma lists), their characters deserved an additional line or scene that indicates the next step for their future, such as finally moving into their house together, though I suppose the wedding dress served as that indicator and it did indeed make me so happy to see. What was more sorrowful and disappointing from both emotional and analytically narrative standpoints was everyone’s reaction to Killian’s resurrection was basically an afterthought. Emma’s entire family went to the Underworld to save him, and was pained to leave him behind. So when he concernedly burst into Granny’s, they were understandably shocked but then happy to see him as we see David give Killian a hug. But it was in the background of the scene. There were no verbal reactions, no happy tears or exclamations from the people we know care about him such as Henry and Snow, and that was the episode’s and this arc’s most disappointing thing for me as a viewer – to know they are happy he’s back but not given a single line of dialogue or more substantial gestures of affection in the forefront. After sacrificing himself, refusing to condemn them, and working to make sure they all could be defeat Hades and be safe, Killian deserved more than a blink-and-you-miss-it reunion with the people who are now his family. It’s why it’s so confusing that when he spent the majority of the episode with Snow and David, there was not one conversation about what had transpired. Instead, their adventure, while I did love it, was all plot and it could have included more. Screen time is precious and some minutes were wasted on scenes that took too long or served very little purpose and could’ve been allotted to give some proper resolution and well-earned conversations between Killian and the Charmings. For example, Henry and Violet’s scenes, while sweet, could’ve easily been condensed, and a scene where a bellboy brings Mr. Gold’s room service could’ve been eliminated completely. In these two minutes of precious screen time, Gold obtains a silver tray which in the next scene is on the table behind him and is literally not brought up again. I’m not sure what point or purpose the scene served other than to show that Gold is intimidating but we already knew this. Robert Carlyle is so good he could scare you with a single look. Lastly, the episode’s main thread (which is obviously a lead into what’s to come) was Regina’s struggles with her past, wanting to be rid of the Evil Queen once and for all. The scenes were quite long and things were brought up again and again. I will say, however, that these did serve a purpose and were interesting to watch from a psychological level.

Although Regina’s struggles elicited some conflicting emotions from me, many of these things had to be said in order for her character to move forward. Following the death of Robin, and after reading a heartfelt letter he wrote to her but never sent, Regina admits to Emma that she is always at war with her dark instincts, knowing that reverting back to the Evil Queen is wrong because she would lose everyone, while at the same time hating doing good because she keeps on suffering. A very painful moment was hearing that Regina’s first instinct upon Killian’s return was to rip his throat out because it was not fair that he survived. Grief and dark instincts aside, that is an awful thing to say to someone who was supposed to be a friend, even if she says she knows that it is wrong. The most important thing about this scene was that it not only showed the extreme differences between the two women, but the crucial ways in which Regina has and has not changed. It’s been a long time coming but it was so good to hear her say she knew that she had a choice and she chose the wrong path and did horrific, unspeakable things. The evil and destruction she caused of her own doing and that guilt and remorse she feels is ever apparent, as is her emphasis that she is suffering the well deserved consequences from it. Emma, being a truly good person she is still believes that Regina can be happy, but Regina says she is trapped instead. Therein lies the truth of their characters and the situation. Despite the suffering Regina caused, Emma chose forgiveness and belief because that is the kind of person she is. She thinks of others above herself. That’s not to say Regina has never shown this, but what’s important is that all of her confessions here for the most part still related back to her own personal suffering, not wanting to live with what she has done. This is why she wishes she could be free from the Evil Queen that is always in her psyche – and why Snow, and even Emma, want to help her. Of course, as I watched the scene where they plan to split Regina’s personas, I knew it was bound to end badly, as well as sending a very mixed message if it ended differently than it eventually did. From Snow and Regina’s perspective especially, you can understand wanting the darkness to just go away and to go back to the innocent, loving affection of the girl who loved horses and the princess whose life was saved. They wish so badly to return to that place. But you can’t wish away your problems or your past. For better or for worse, everything you’ve done is a part of you and you must accept it. The Evil Queen will always be a part of Regina. After all, the way she thinks she destroyed that part of her was a dark act – crushing a heart. Regina will only find real redemption and happiness when she learns to accept this part of who she is, continues to be good no matter what, and most importantly, leaves that self-centered part of herself behind and no longer concentrates on her own suffering. That is why I’m glad the Evil Queen was not destroyed physically. The truth of heroism is humility and comes from doing good, not because it will grant you what you want but because it’s the right thing to do.

When it comes to what I enjoyed and loved about the finale, there were quite a few moments. Although I would’ve loved some meaningful conversations sprinkled throughout, I adored seeing David hug Killian. These two men have come so far and I unabashedly admit that seeing them embrace in a brotherly sign of affection made me misty-eyed. I also loved the adventure that the Charmings, Killian, and Zelena had in this “Land of Untold Stories.” I love mixtures of characters, especially when they all must work together, and their scenes were thoroughly entertaining. Here’s hoping for more of these characters working together in season six. Speaking of this mysterious land, my jaw literally dropped at this amalgam of every kind of story imaginable, from knights to frontiersmen to The Three Musketeers, all residing in this gorgeous Steampunk dream of a realm. In fact, I love the idea that there are so many stories that need to be completed and that Henry discovered even more storybooks than he ever imagined possible. Even though I don’t think time should be focused on them, I love the concept behind this. As far as the new characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (portrayed by Hank Harris and Sam Witwer respectively), they were absolutely fantastic. Witwer especially is so suave and deliciously dark and I can’t remember the last time a villain truly terrified me on the series. Their characters and story potential remind me of the brilliant and enthralling Once Upon a Time in Wonderland as well as Dr. Whale’s Land Without Color and I look forward to what they bring to the show.

When it came to the finale’s finest moments, they truly shined because they were a reminder of what Once Upon a Time is about at its core – hope, belief, love, and family. It was quite moving to see Emma and Henry in a scene that was very much a role reversal when he fears what he’s done may have separated them from their family forever. But Emma, much like he once did for her, gives Henry hope. In fact, her whole calmness regarding this was an exquisite way of showing how much faith she now has in her family’s ability to always find each other. She has come so far and Emma giving her son the same hope he has given her revealed a beautiful revelation and one of the most touching parallels the show has ever seen. It’s always been a moving part of the story the way Killian found Emma in New York and brought her back to Storybrooke, much like Henry did in the pilot of the series. Her two true loves found her and brought her home to her family. But when Henry reveals his belief that the wish he made in a fountain outside the library helped make that come true, it brought forth another stunning parallel. In the pilot Emma makes a wish that she doesn’t have to be alone and moments later Henry arrives. While living in New York, despite Emma being in a relationship, her son could sense that she was lonely, and so he made a wish their family could be complete. And a few days later, his wish was granted. Killian arrived and made their family complete, along with their other loved ones in Storybrooke. This is so lovely and meaningful and what prompts the boy with the heart of the truest believer to have faith that once again a true wish and unwavering sense of hope can reunite them with their family once more. His speech to the New Yorkers that magic is real was a sweet representation of what the show constantly showcases. One of its loveliest and most steadfast themes that is ever-resonant is that our lives can get better if we just believe. I was reminded of a quote from Roald Dahl, a philosophy that is truly inspiring and one we should all endeavor to live by: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” It may seem like a simple resolution for pennies thrown in the fountain with wishes to help restore magic and reunite their family but that is what makes it so beautiful – its simplicity. Even if it was only for moment, Henry made them all believe in magic, something we all long to hold onto even as we grow older. As we mature, deep down in our hearts we still wish to maintain a childlike wonder, believe that magic is real, and that hope never fails. And that is what Once Upon a Time has always been about. Whether it’s real or metaphorical, magic exists for these characters. And it sometimes comes from the simplest things.

The beautiful thing about Emma Swan is not only that she is Once Upon a Time‘s original fairytale, but also that it encompasses a journey built on opening her heart to familial and romantic love as well as learning to love herself. In particular, the love story with her and Killian is the kind of fairy tale that dreams are made of. Season five brought their story to the forefront with epic proportions and was filled with magic and miracles. And yet what so often makes their story so special are the quiet moments – the simple things that are so divine. Little smiles, warm embraces, hands entwined. The moment that concludes this chapter to the story demonstrated not only the beauty of a quiet moment and something truly meaningful for Emma’s character, but also how the repose a simple “I love you” can feel so magical. Killian asked Emma why she couldn’t admit how she felt unless one of them was facing certain death and it was because she sometimes forgets that she no longer needs her armor around him. And it’s true that all of her declarations of love have been surrounded by darkness, curses, or sorrow, making them no less meaningful or beautiful but tied with uncertainty. But to say, “I love you,” in a moment of normalcy, simply because she wanted to express how she felt, is a lovely and meaningful step for her character. For the first time she was allowed those three words to be in a moment of serenity and Killian understands how significant this is for her. Her armor is off, her heart is completely open, and she truly loves him, and Morrison and O’Donoghue exhibited the beauty and meaning of this in their soft smiles and the way he lifted her up as they passionately kiss like they never had before, sweeping her off her feet to make her feel as loved and cherished and she has made him feel. Moments like this are the show’s true magic.

What the future holds for season six is uncertain but there will no doubt be a great deal of emphasis on Regina’s struggle and her split persona of the Evil Queen, as well as the new characters of Jekyll and Hyde. But as interesting as they can be, I sincerely hope that is not the only main focus of the season because that could quickly grow tiresome and dreary. There has never been an arc that did not in some shape or form focus on Emma’s character and that should continue. Through it all, Once Upon a Time remains Emma Swan’s journey, and her story is the most beautiful, engaging, and inspiring one of all. With all my heart I hope that the wedding dress we saw behind her and Killian during the joyful, sweeping-her-off-her-feet kiss, is a promise of what is next for the happy couple. We’ve seen the dress before but never so prominently centered between these two characters, a clear foreshadow that a wedding is on the horizon. After defeating darkness and transcending death, I think it is time for the start of Emma and Killian’s happy ending.

Favorite Moments:
It was the sweet, happy moments that shined the brightest in the season finale’s two episodes, from Emma finally able to tell Killian she loves him in a moment of normalcy, complete with a passionate sweep-her-off-her-feet kiss for the ages, and a wedding dress behind them (please let there be wedding on the horizon for them very soon), to Henry making the people New York believe in magic even if it was just for a moment. There is magic all around us if we believe there is. I also adored seeing David welcome Killian back with a hug, Henry and Violet share their first kiss, Snow and Regina share a heartfelt moment of understanding, the breathtaking Land of Untold Stories, and the intriguing dichotomy of the two separate characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Favorite Lines:
Emma: After everything we’ve been through – darkness, Hades, separated by realms – I just wanted to say something, you know, when we’re not in the middle of a big battle or one of us is facing death; when things are just normal.
Killian: And what’s that, Swan?
Emma: I love you.

Henry: Magic is real. It’s all around us. You just have to be willing to see it. You have to be willing to believe.

Henry: I could tell you were lonely, so I wished our family could be complete. And you know what happened a few days later?
Emma: Hook came to New York, and he brought us back to Storybrooke, and we were reunited with our family.

Regina: I still have a fist and Gold still has a nose!


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