*All of our episode recaps contain spoilers*
Once Upon A Time’s dramatic fourth season finale opens with the story of Issac, usually known simply as ‘the author’. After Storybrooke’s residents finally managed to track him down earlier in the season, the two-part finale titled Operation Mongoose treated viewers to a sneak peek at Issac’s mysterious past, revealing snippets of his life as a TV salesman and how he originally became the author for the characters we all know and love.
After finally learning a little more about his past, we find ourselves in an alternate world created by Issac, now a famed author in the real world, where the villains have their so-called ‘happy endings’. Along the way we discover Snow and Regina’s fates flipped as the former takes the place of Evil Queen and the latter just a thief on the run. We also see Gold get the happy ending he’s been searching for as in this alternate world he is a knight, happily married to Belle, whilst Hook suffers a less favourable fate as a cowardly deckhand on Captain Blackbeard’s ship. Although Storybrooke’s most infamous residents are still living alongside each other here, they have no idea that these new lives are not their true reality.
In Operation Mongoose we also see Henry step up to save his family and even realise his fate as the next author after landing in the alt world. His character hasn’t exactly had a lot to do this season so it was particularly nice to see him play an important role in the finale. So, when he (with a little help from Hook!) manages to rescue Emma it turns out Henry’s not the only one who remembers life in Storybrooke. As it turns out Emma’s fate, to be locked up in a tower by her cruel mother, was sadly not her only punishment. Cleverly the author realised that Emma’s greatest nightmare would be to be left with her memories in tact but unable to act upon the knowledge. As the only one left who knows the truth Emma is sentenced to a life of torture, but can things be put right before Robin and Zelena’s wedding bells chime?
Leading up to season four’s double-bill finale we’ve had several interesting (and somewhat frustrating) reveals but the writers saved their most shocking twist for the final moments of the episode. A prominent plotline this year revolved around the potential for darkness in ‘Savior’ Emma, with the writers teasing the idea for weeks. Although it initially appeared as though this arc had somewhat concluded a couple of weeks back, in Operation Mongoose we were hit with an intriguing turn. In true season finale fashion, after the characters managed to find their way back home, the episode ended on a brilliant cliffhanger where we witnessed Emma take on the darkness in order to save Regina, disappearing in a black mist leaving only the Dark One’s dagger inscribed with her name.
Despite the interesting insight into the past of the mysterious Author Issac, I personally enjoyed the second half of the double episode much more than the first, with the action and tension building up along the way. Aside from this dramatic twist for our MC, I also really loved the lighter moments sprinkled in throughout the second half of the episode, with references to Star Wars, Henry taking out Blackbeard and alt world Hook’s ironic allergy to rum.
The theme of heroes vs. villains is of course the basis for a good fairytale and therefore has always been present on the show, but going forward things are set to be particularly rocky. The writers’ decision to potentially play out next season with Emma as the new ‘villain’ as opposed to bringing in another well-known Disney character (as they did with Maleficent, Cruella and Ursula this year) is a brilliant and bold move. With Regina’s transformation over the years from Evil Queen to one of the ‘heroes’ I can’t wait to see Emma take on the darkness and have the roles reversed… I just hope someone will be able to save her!
In addition to Emma’s darker side and other pre-existing unresolved storylines such as Zelena’s pregnancy, it also looks as though season five will include an arc following Lily’s search for her father. The finale also included the reveal that the sorcerer, the only one with enough power to destroy the darkness, is in fact Merlin meaning hopefully we’ll get to meet him next season too. All of these elements are definitely going to mean a new dynamic for season 5 and I can’t wait to find out what will happen next in Storybrooke!