Normally, for OUAT, I break my reviews down into two parts: the past and the present. But this episode took a hard left and decided to eschew the normal narrative set up (for the most part) so I'm going to follow suit and only discuss what is going on in the present day. If there is one narrative point from start to finish, it's the idea of temptation. Darkness and evil are not slimy, disgusting things that lurk and hide in the shadows. It's one of my pet peeves when pieces of media present evil or the incarnations of evil as being somehow disfigured and deformed, revolting to behold. Evil is supposed to tempt you. It wants you to give in and in order to do that, it has to present itself as a very enticing offer. That apple in the Garden was probably the most delicious looking piece of fruit in the history of fruit. Temptation is seduction; it's about reaching out to some baser level and flashing you with all the shiny and pretty. Temptation is lust and wealth and power and and greed and it is supposed to feel good. It is at this crossroads of desire and abject horror that Emma Swan finds herself after the "vortex of evil" sucked her back into the Enchanted Forest and into the Pit of Eternal Goo, last seen in the episode where Neal sacrificed himself to resurrect Rumple. So, you know, happy memories for me! Right off the bat, Emma--our Jesus figure--is met by her own Devil--the Darkness who chooses to take on Rumple's appearance--out in the wilderness and is told and shown just how wonderful succumbing to the Darkness could be. The idea of tempting the hero is an old one, and one that almost every hero is going to encounter as they walk down Monomyth Road. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness; Harry is tempted by Voldemort and the Sorcerer's Stone and later the Deathly Hallows; Luke is tempted by the Dark Side; Buffy becomes a Dark! Slayer in season 6. All of this is on point and in line with what we expect with the heroes journey. It's Hero Writing 101 and it's older than you or I which is why I enjoy it. If you read my reviews, then you know I'm a sucker for a good archetype or a good old fashioned cosmic story. That's what this season is or at least needs to be. It's OUAT finally getting back to their roots and instead of introducing another new villain who has yet another connection to the CharMillStiltskin clan who has some horrendously cliche sob story, we have our capital "S"avior being tempted by a Cosmic Evil. It feels far more in line and organic to the show than anything they've done in the past two years. Wow, look at this. I'm complementing OUAT again, guys. It's a brave new world.
--"....your turn." I laughed so hard and for a very long time. Temptation plays a role with the Camelot crew of some indeterminate point in history as well. Excalibur feels a bit "The One Ring" like in that it calls to people and only the worthy one can bear it. The Camelot cast is only briefly seen so there's not much to say about them right now.
--I love that the Dark One's dagger is the missing piece of Excalibur. I think that's a very interesting narrative point and sets up a thesis for the show as a whole. The sword is supposed to be a weapon of good, only working in the hands of a divinely appointed Messiah King. The fact that the missing bit of it is a weapon of evil and corruption speaks to the fact that there is very little that separates lights and dark and how in order to be complete you need both. I wonder if Merlin forged the blade and it broke into the dagger when he tethered the Darkness to a human.
--Speaking of Merlin, dude is a creeper in a movie theater, no? Also, super obvious that he's Merlin since "The Sword and the Stone" is playing on the big screen. Not subtle, OUAT.
--Hook is a horrible influence on Henry. Did the Pirate stop and think, even for one second, about the fact that Zelena killed Henry's father?
--Zelena cut off her own hand and then reattached it. The woman is obviously insane and should not have possession of a child. But did the show go ahead and admit that Zelena raped Robin? Did I mishear that? Zelena called him an unwilling pawn and Robin emphasizes that he was quite unwilling. So...that's a rape admission right?
--"Do you like knitting?"
--"I like her spunk. Break her neck!"
--The ending. Oh ye gods, the ending. I hated this ending. I am fine with Emma being the Dark One. The season would be pointless if she wasn't, but again with the amnesia, OUAT? Really? Because you haven't done it to death!? It's an old trope and it's one that is past its expiration date. I might have ranked the episode higher if not for this horribly cliche and over wrought ending.