Heroes and villains swapped roles, Henry was named the new Author and Emma became the Dark One on Once Upon a Time Season 4 Episode 23.
Below, TV Fanatics Mary Kate Venedam, Allison Nichols, Robin Harry and Amanda Steinmetz are joined by Gareth from Once Upon a Fan to debate Emma’s turn as the Dark One, the best hero/villain swap and the couple they root for most in Storybrooke...
Emma becoming the Dark One: Love it or Hate it?
Gareth: Love it. I think it will really shake the show up and give Jennifer Morrison a chance to do something totally different with her character. I really hope we get a few Rumpleesque giggles and mannerisms from her. I’m intrigued by how much sway the Dark One will hold over her since Gold clearly stated that a part of himself was always in control as the Dark One
Mary Kate: At first, I was kind of mad, but after thinking about it, it will lead to plenty of great stories for when season 5 returns because even though Rumple was the Dark One, he still had the ability to love, just not the way that he should have. It will be interesting how that story unwinds with Hook, her parents, and especially Henry.
Allison: I'm hopefully optimistic. I don't want to be negative on it before it begins, but I feel like this would have been more interesting of a twist if we didn't spend most of this half of the season fearing that Emma's heart would go dark. I expect lots of pain where Dark Emma manipulates and hurts all of her loved ones around her for fun.
Robin: I'm open to it. I like Mary Kate's note that Rumple could still love even as the Dark One. Emma will probably make some interesting choices, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone deal with the havoc she creates.
Amanda: I think it's a great idea. They've been teasing Emma's dark side for a while now, and it would have been a let down to not see that side fully explored. This opens up a new aspect of the show, especially since Rumple is not the Dark One anymore.
Who was your favorite Hero/Villain swap?
Gareth: I thought Hook was really funny. I enjoyed his scenes with Emma and Henry as he slowly became the pirate once again. Snow was also great as the Evil Queen. She had some awesome lines.
Mary Kate: I loved Snow White as the Evil Queen! It was perfect, Ginny Goodwin was a total badass. Everyone had their moments, but Snow and Hook were probably my favorites. Snow was just so drastically different and Hook was probably the most amusing opposite.
Allison: I loved the Robin and Regina dynamic because it was different from the Charming and Snow one from the original tale. We got to see Regina play the bandit role that we are familiar with, but with a twist. Hook was by far the most amusing with his cowardly, allergic to rum self.
Robin: I loved Hook. Colin O'Donoghue did such a fantastic job making the formerly suave Captain Hook seem timid and fearful. I thought it was fascinating that Rumple and the Author gave Hook all the cowardly qualities that Rumpelstiltskin had, that they saw it fit that Hook's punishment was that he would be like Rumple.
Amanda: I enjoyed seeing Snow's evil side, but I'll give the edge to Hook simply because of comedic effect. I loved how he drank milk instead of rum.
There have been so many characters on this show. Some who pop back up and some we never see any more. Is there one character you’d lose permanently and/or one you’d like to see more of in Season 5?
Gareth: It is sometimes hard to get attached to characters on Once for this exact reason, you are just starting to care about them and they disappear. I think the Emma crisis will bring the story back to our core characters, which is a good thing in my book. I’d love to see some backstory for characters like Granny and Archie. Would also love to see Red back but that is dependent on Meghan Ory’s schedule.
Mary Kate: August and Neal! I'd love to see August return on a regular basis again, it'd be interesting to see that friendship with Emma as she is the Dark One. Neal just needs to come back and get his own happy ending. I'm not sure there's anyone I'd want to lose permanently, I just wish the characters we already know and love could get some more screentime. I miss seeing Granny, Archie, Leroy, basically anyone we got to know in the first few seasons. They've definitely taken a back seat to other stories.
Allison: I want August to return on a more permanent basis, as his older self. He can talk to Henry and help him out with being the author, and maybe August will have some intel on Merlin. I don't know that I want to permanently lose someone, but I want them to have better storylines, Belle in particular. She only pops up really whenever it deals with Rumple. I want more for her.
Robin: I suppose there's no hope for Zelena's permanent exit from these stories, now that she's carrying Robin Hood's child. I'm always happy to see August (is it just me or was he even more good-looking in this episode than usual?!), and I'd be okay with more of him.
Amanda: I want to keep August around for as long as possible. I remember being so disappointed when he turned back into a little boy, so I hope he stays as a grown man. I'd love it if Zelena and her stupid pregnancy would be gone forever, but that doesn't seem likely to happen.
As the season ends, who is your top couple on Once Upon a Time?
Gareth: I really don’t ship characters to be honest. I enjoy all the different kind of relationships on the show. Having said that, I have really enjoyed the Emma/Regina relationship this season. They have come so far. So yeah, I guess I am coming out and proud of Swan Queen. I’m not sure it would ever happen in the show but I can certainly understand why that ship has such a huge following.
Mary Kate: Probably Snowing and Outlaw Queen. I'm happy that Snowing have remained the stable couple on the show and I have always loved the dynamic between Regina and Robin. I'm so happy that they will hopefully get their happy ending after so much time, even if Zelena is interrupting it.
Allison: Captain Swan! Killian sacrificed himself based on a feeling he had that Emma and Henry were telling the truth of this crazy sounding other world. I'm worried about the pain that will happen next season. Will Emma push him away or will she drag him back into the darkness with her?
Robin: Like Gareth, I'm not much of a "shipper" as they say, though I will root for couples if I feel their pairing will make the characters better and the story more interesting. That said, Hook and Emma are absolutely my favorite couple. They've consistently brought out the best in each other, and I loved that Hook was willing to die just on the notion that another version of him would get to be with Emma in another reality. Their connection is that intense!
Amanda: While I enjoy Snow and Charming's steadiness, I have to go with Hook and Emma. I've enjoyed seeing their connection deepen, and I was glad she finally said she loves him. I'm curious how he will react to her as the dark one.
Was there anything in “Operation Mongoose” that disappointed you?
Gareth: Nothing. It was a really strong finale, probably my favorite since Once Upon a Time Season 1. The whole episode had a classic Season 1 feel to it. Having Henry up front and center was a smart move.
Mary Kate: Overall, I thought it was a good finale, not as good as others, It was cool to see this alternate universe of the Enchanted Forest, but there was something missing from it that I have loved more in the other finales.
Allison: I wish we had some more variety in the alternate enchanted forest. A lot of it we had seen before, just now Snow White is the Evil Queen. There were some differences, but I wanted more of a mix up, more of things we hadn't seen. Overall though, I did enjoy it.
Robin: I wasn't really disappointed, but I would have liked to have seen Maleficent. I wanted to see what her alternate hero personality would have been like. Also, I was screaming at my screen when Emma found Hook after restoring their world and STILL couldn't tell him she loved him.
Amanda: Nothing in particular, but this finale wasn't as great as the time travel finale last year or breaking the curse in season 1.
What was your favorite scene of the season 4 finale?
Gareth: Henry and the book when he became the author. I was literally jumping up and down screaming “Come on Henry”! Such a geek. I loved it.
Mary Kate: I loved a lot about Henry's story. From entering the Enchanted Forest for the first time to meeting Regina as a bandit to becoming the Author. Jared Gilmore stepped up for his story and it was so great to see after seeing him grow up on the show for the last 4 years. I will admit one of my favorite was when he wanted to use his Author powers to bring back Neal. So sweet and heartbreaking.
Allison: I'm going to echo everyone's praise of Henry. He really shined. Not only did he do his normal "believe in the story that I'm telling you because it's the truth" thing, but he also got to be a bit more of an action hero. He took out Blackbeard and knocked out a knight.
Robin: I'm so glad we're all on the Henry bandwagon. You're not alone, Gareth; I had my fists in the air and was cheering "Henry! Henry!" as he started figuring out that he could be the next author, as he reached for the quill and figured out the way to save everyone. He nailed it.
Amanda: Looks like we're all in agreement about Henry. The kid hasn't had much to do this season, so it was great to watch him save the day.
Check back in next week for our Once Upon a Time Season 4 Report Card and if you’re already missing the magic, you can watch Once Upon a Time online here at TV Fanatic.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.