The biggest theme of this episode was heartbreak over your first love. Henry and Violet; Regina and Daniel; Emma and Neal. Those three relationships--all of which ended badly or were somehow tainted by the machinations of others--took center stage this week as we learned that losing your first love is often the catalyst for knowing you have a heart to begin with. It is with this theme that I want to spend most of my time instead of going from past to present. Author's prerogative, I guess. I hope I don't get sucked into a book by an old Apprentice. When we first met young Violet, I was against Henry having a love story, even if it was puppy love. The fact is, our young Swan-Mills-Cassidy boy wonder is too damn young to have a girlfriend when he doesn't even have a single friend and spends most of his time either kidnapped, trying to make his various mothers stop killing people, or hanging out with his fuddy duddy grandparents. The boy is lacking in the social graces, is what I'm saying. How about we develop Henry with his peers without making it romantic? But, of course, here on OUAT, you're not really a character until you're romantically liked with someone of the opposite sex. However, I will put all of those quibbles (which still stand, by the way) aside in order to say that I found this week's version of VioletBeliever (cute ship name or really silly? I can't decide) to be heartfelt and sweet. It wasn't presented as a new epic love story; it was actually just a boy and a girl having similar interests and common backgrounds and fumbling their way around each other because they honestly don't know how to interact at this stage. But, hey, none of us knew how to interact with the objects of our affection when we were thirteen (side note: Henry is thirteen? Is that...real? Does that match anyone's timeline or am I just supposed to nod and go along with it? Right, nod and go along). What struck a chord most between Henry and Violet was that they've both lost a parent. When Violent announced that she had lost her mother some time ago, I actually rolled my eyes because of course she had. That's how OUAT tells stories: everyone loses a parent--though, that's just rather common to fairy tales. But what really mattered is that Henry can relate; Henry knows the pain Violet is in because he's in it too. There are things, he tells the young lass, that he wishes he could tell Neal, things they could talk about. I have maintained, through it all, that if ABC absolutely mandated CaptainSwan, then fine, I'd deal but Henry deserves his father and Neal deserved a chance to be a father. Taking that away, robbing OUAT of a chance to explore that father/son dynamic (while Neal was helping to heal the breach with Rumple) is powerful storytelling and should have been at the heart (correction: it was the heart of the show) of OUAT. The fact that Henry is sharing in this pain with Violet speaks to a level of self-awareness about their characters and human nature that I didn't think Adam and Eddy still possessed. Right on, boys.
We've got one more love story to tackle and it's a shorter one. Raise your hand if you're surprised that Merlin lost the only woman he's ever loved to the Darkness. If you have your hand raised, then I'm going to assume it's being done sarcastically. It is, of course, exactly how OUAT rolls (I keep saying that this week, don't I?) Let's just be open and honest here: the first Dark One was also Merlin's lost love and it's probably Nimue. There’s a reason the writers put that person in a mask. There is a big reveal to be had later on. Nimue is the First Dark One and Merlin’s lost love and he couldn’t kill her because he loved her so much, but she couldn’t kill him either, so she turned him into a tree. It would be keeping with Arthurian mythology that Merlin loved Nimue and she eventually put him in a tree for reasons that are complicated but here will likely be reduced to "darkness inside her." It's not very fresh nor innovative and while it sticks with mythology, it's rather rote and expected. However, I'm going to be very glad to get that story because, at long last, we'll have some answers about the Dark One and how he/she/it came about and more importantly why. I have no idea why Nimue is the First Dark One or how that happened. Was it a magic spell gone wrong? Was it fate? Did Merlin mean to tether the Darkness to Nimue? Was it an accident? Was he trying to tether it to himself or to the sword/dagger? Also, where is Merlin now? We haven't seen him in Storybrooke. Oh god. Did Emma kill him!? Please tell me she did not kill
--"I liked your dad because he was always himself."
--"Changing so someone likes you never works." Wise words, Emma Swan. Now if only you would follow them.
--"Only You" the song Henry played for young Violet is the same song Neal used to play for Emma because "it always works." So basically, it's a SwanFire song: "Only you can make this change in me. For it's true, you are my destiny. When you hold my hand, I understand the magic that you do. You're my dream come true. My one and only you." Yup, that's pretty SwanFire to me.
--Regina shooting down Hook trying to teach Henry how to woo a woman. Attagirl, Tiger Mom!
--Could the writers please stop using "many years ago" for Camelot. How many is many? 50? 100? 10000? 2? See, no one knows!
--The front porch conversation between Emma and Regina felt very season one, especially with Regina switching to calling Emma "Ms. Swan."
-- What is this Rumple and Merida NONSENSE. Seriously. What is this story?? It’s stupid is what it is. Since when is learning how to fight a sign of bravery? And wasn't Rumple already brave when he faced his father and sacrificed his own life for the sake of his family? Also, how does Merida know about the book?
--I want Regina's red dress. Now, please.
--Impressive CGI for freeing Merlin, with both light and dark magic. Pretty thematically heavy. Well done, OUAT.