I think this was another strong episode in the B portion of the season, but it did leave me with some concerns about the show’s arc this year, which I’ll get into down below.
1. It says a lot about the strength of this episode that I didn’t really miss Storybrooke very much. Sure, Hook/Emma moments are always welcome, and it might have been interesting to see a bit more of Rumple/Regina, but for the most psrt I was happy to spend time in Oz, Sherwood Forest, and NYC.
2. The storytelling structure this ep was a bit complicated (reminding me that it is the minds of Lost that are in charge), but I think it made a lot of sense to flashback to Sherwood Forest from NYC. It gave me a much better sense of who Robin Hood is, as well as what his relationship with Marian was like.
3. I was pleasantly surprised to see Will Scarlett in Oz, and I think his presence there gave me a better sense of who he is as a character as well. It said a lot about his sense of honor that he didn’t even suspect Robin of lying about the potion, and confiding in Robin about his sister (and Robin slipping him the potion), provided a lovely start to their friendship.
4. It was neat to see how Robin Hood’s “Steal from the rich, give to the poor” philosophy came about, and I also loved the way that Marian supported him in that choice.
5. Speaking of Marian, this episode was bittersweet for me in that, just as I started to really like her, we found out that she did die when everyone thought she did, just at the hand of her original murderer’s sister. I’m also bummed for Roland and Robin; talk about emotional whiplash!
6. Speaking of the sister, I was shocked to see Zelena back (as a viewer should be, if it’s a good twist like this one). It was the kind of reveal that made me want to go back and watch this season from the beginning, just to see if there were any hints that Marian wasn’t who she claimed to be. It seemed a little easy that she was able to just float out of her body back to the portal, but she is a great witch, so I’m willing to go with it. Her impersonation of Marian also explains why she and Robin haven’t been connecting, and further complicates things in his already abundantly messy relationship with Regina. Will she still view him as her one true love if she knows that there was never any competition from the real Marian?
7. I’ve also forgotten just how delightfully creepy Zelena is. She managed to effectively terrify the great Rumplestiltskin in that hospital room, which says a lot about her creep factor.
8. It was interesting that she’s blackmailing Rumple to get her happy ending, but I still have the same question I’ve had for this entire arc: When will the villains learn that they’ll get their happy endings when they stop acting like villains?
9. Back to Storybrooke for a moment…I don’t think the scene with Emma, Snow, and Charming really needed to be in this episode, but I did like that Rumple and the Author met, because we’ll be able to dive right into that next week. And I loved the ending scene with Rumple and Regina. For one, it was amazing to see Regina defending Emma (sometimes I really can’t believe how far those two have come), and two, the possibility of her working with Rumple against her will has so much potential. Lana Parilla’s reaction was great upon hearing Zelena’s voice on the other end of the line. But meatloaf? Really? Couldn’t do a nice steak or something?
10. Finally, like I said up top, while I thought the episode itself was very strong, I think it contributed to my biggest problem with 4B: The episodes themselves have been excellent, but the arc has been a bit of a mess. At this point (and bear in mind, this could totally change with what happens in the final stretch of episodes) I feel like there are just too many balls in the air. We have the Author, we have the Queens of Darkness, we have the potential for Emma going dark, we have Malificent’s baby, we have Zelena, we have Rumple’s deteriorating health, we have Robin Hood unaware of who he’s living with, etc. Trust me, I have no problem with many storylines going on simultaneously. My issue is that we’re getting to a point in the season where I have no idea how they’re going to bring all of them to a satisfying conclusion, something that I’ve really never been concerned about before on Once. But this show does tend to exceed my expectations, so I’ll have to wait and see!