All season long we were teased that Emma had a dark side.
Well, just when you thought things were safe for Emma Swan, Once Upon a Time Season 4 Episode 23 came along took darkness to a whole new level.
The first half of this two-hour season finale had Henry playing hero in order to save his family from the Author’s new story. It was great to see the kid get something to do after being sidelined for most of the season. Henry’s learned a lot from his family and friends and it was fun to see him put his knowledge of swords and escape plans to good use.
Patrick Fischler’s performance as Isaac made this twisted villain seem all the more human as we watched him struggle to keep the happy ending he'd created by taking it from others. The romp through the world of his book was a topsy turvy ride, as we got to see Regina in the role of the savior, and Snow as the evil queen complete with awesome outfits.
This story was filled with wonderfully quirky moments like Hook only being able to drink goat’s milk, the dwarves as evil guards, and Rumpel as a hero although even here he couldn’t manage to stay that way.
Perhaps Rumpel’s story was the saddest. When able to rewrite his own story, all he wanted was to be the hero who did everything to save his son and not the coward who let him down. But it’s as though Rumpel can’t help but lie. Even when he’s happily married to Belle and they have a child, he’s still hiding his past. Even in his perfect world he can’t help but keep secrets.
When Robin said he was getting married, I assumed it was to Marian. Watching Zelena walk in was a surprise, but then again she was the villain, so stealing Robin from Regina was her happy ending.
Regina saving Henry by sacrificing herself was no surprise at all. Hero or villain, she’d put her life on the line for her son in any realm.
The ending back in Storybrooke was the twist I didn’t see coming.
First off, I couldn’t believe that Emma didn’t tell Hook she loved him when she finally found him. Ugh! It was frustratingly obvious they were building to a bigger climax, but I had no idea it was all leading to the dark side.
As Belle told a dying Rumpel she still loved him, all I could think was kiss him! Would true love’s kiss save his darkening heart? I wasn't sure, but now we’ll never know.
The plan to transfer the dark power to the Sorcerer’s hat seemed solid enough, but I had a sick feeling it was going to go wrong. I hate it when that sick feeling is right.
Emma knew that Regina deserved her happy ending. As the Author himself pointed out, she’d been screwed over enough. But watching Emma take the place of the Dark One was an incredibly creative twist that I both loved and hated. I hate it because I want to see Emma and Hook finally get that happy ending and one I love you isn’t going to to cut it.
However, this is a fantastic set up for Once Upon a Time Season 5. Has Emma truly become the Dark One? Will anyone she loves be able to save her? Will Henry use the quill's power to change her story? Is Will Scarlett being shipped back to Wonderland or do the Charmings need a permanent babysitter?
We’ll all just have to tune back in next fall to find out.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.