I haven’t been online too much since this episode aired, so I’m not sure what the general fan reaction has been, but I loved this one. I’ve made my issues with this B-season clear over the last few months, but as sometimes happens, this finale made me feel a lot better about the arc as a whole. There are definitely some plot points that still seem unnecessary (now that we’ve seen the finale, I maintain that the Queens of Darkness were rather non-essential in an arc that was supposed to be all about them), but this last episode also showed that other storylines that seemed like plots with no payoff were actually stepping stones to the finale (such as Emma finally going dark, but under completely different circumstances than we expected).
But I think what really set this episode apart for me, was that it felt very much like its own little story, something that could be enjoyed apart from the rest of the season, much like last season’s finale. It was very contained, in a way that made it feel a bit like a mini-movie. With such mystical settings and complex characters, this show is made for two-hour episodes, and I was glad to see the writers take full advantage of that opportunity again, taking the audience on one hell of a ride that gave each of the characters time to shine, as well as a bit of closure before next season. But without further ado, here are my 10 Thoughts on “Operation Mongoose”:
1. The first part of the episode relied heavily on Henry to keep us interested, and Jared Gilmore did a great job with that. The image of him waking up in Storybrooke completely alone was a cool (if sad) one; the shot of him walking down Main Street especially, highlighted just how alone he was in the world. With the absence of his family, I’m glad that he got to show off his resourcefulness and intelligence: finding the Author’s book, figuring out a way to get inside the story himself when the Author wouldn’t help him, etc. It was kind of a nice twist that, in a season where he hasn’t had a lot to do, the final episode showed that the Author’s story has really been his story all along.
2. The parallels and callbacks on this show are always done well, and Henry trying to convince Regina of another life (as he did with Emma in season one) was no exception. Given the time crunch, his desperation was more palpable here, but he also showed his maturity by offering logic (showing her the book), rather than just begging her to believe him, which he did more of with Emma. I also just really liked Regina’s character in the twisted Enchanted Forest: she was cynical but kind, very similar to the person she’s become in the last couple seasons. I also liked that, even though she and Snow basically switched their original Enchanted Forest roles in this episode, neither of them were truly happy because they are both heroes now. Yes, we’ve known it for awhile now, but it was nice to see it confirmed in this episode.
3. Rumple as a heroic knight was fun, but I liked that, much like Regina, his fundamental character traits were still there. It was unfortunate that they were his bad ones (keeping secrets from Belle, justifying killing to keep his “hero” name), but they were very inline with the Rumplestiltskin that we know in Storybrooke. I think it also showed how little control he has over his own flaws; even in a world that he basically came up with himself, he still couldn’t rid himself of his hubris.
4. Hook and Henry rescuing Emma came at just the right time in the episode, as it offered Henry (and viewers) a bit of relief when Emma knew exactly who he was. It also made total sense that Gold’s twisted punishment for Emma would be leaving her helpless while her friends and family wrecked havoc on each other’s lives. The timing also gave Henry much of the first hour to figure things out on his own, while then giving him the relief of being a kid again, and letting one of his moms shoulder the responsibility of getting them back to Maine. I also loved Henry working with Hook on the boat; telling Hook that he had a great teacher was a really nice nod to the father-son type bond they have in Storybrooke.
5. Really, I enjoyed what they did with Hook’s character in general; he was one who (much like Snow) seemed completely different than his real life self, but unlike Snow, his strongest characteristic, his bravery (especially when Emma Swan is involved), came out in the end. I also loved that this proved that they have a connection in any world, and her sword fight teaching and attempted rum-sharing showed that. Also, how great was it that Rumple’s punishment for Hook (arguably his greatest nemesis) was not death but a rum allergy? Could Rumple have a sense of humor he’s been hiding from us?
6. Emma seeing Hook die in front of her was so hard to watch (kudos Jen Morrison), but I liked that she used that emotion to convince Regina to break up the wedding, knowing that it was the only way that she would ever see Hook again. Emma’s nothing if not resilient, so it was totally in-character of her to do what needed to be done, despite the trauma she suffered.
7. Snow and Charming were a ton of fun here (and Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin were clearly having the time of their lives), and I liked that Goodwin in particular didn’t do a copy cat version of Lana Parilla’s Evil Queen, instead creating her own equally terrifying but unique version. I also loved the twist on she and Charming’s classic line (“I will always find you”), as well as hearts still playing an important role in their story.
8. I absolutely loved Regina and Emma’s parallel sacrifices at the end of the episode. Regina’s was amazing because until that moment, she hadn’t even believed Henry to be her son, yet she still jumped in front of a blade for him. Emma’s was a different type of sacrifice, one for both her friend and her son, and it’s mark of how much those relationships mean to her, that she couldn’t stand to let Regina fight her way back from darkness again, and couldn’t bear to let her son see his mom go through that again. Granted, he’ll still have to see one mom experience it, but at least he won’t be dealing with the same issues he had with Regina in the first couple of seasons. And as much as it hurt to watch, there was also something really poetic about the woman called the Savior being the one to bear that cross of darkness for her town.
9. As I said before, Henry becoming the Author was a huge part of this episode, and I loved that not only was he smart enough to figure out that he was the next Author, he was also intelligent enough to recognize that no one should have the power to change stories (after very humanly inquiring about bringing his dad back). I’m very curious to see if his role as the Author will factor into next season’s stories, or if because this season was so focused on the book, next season will just mention it in passing.
10. Finally, a couple of odds and ends…I was surprised that Lily was in the finale but Maleficent wasn’t. In fact, Lily’s inclusion made Mal’s absence that much more noticeable. Since Storybrooke was empty, she clearly had a role in Heroes and Villains and it would have been really interesting to see what that was…How freakin’ small was the book’s version of the Enchanted Forest? Henry supposedly had only a day to make things right, so he must have bounced around that forest quickly, and seemingly without any means of transportation…The only big weak spot for me in this episode was the Author’s reasoning for going after Snow and Charming. The boss we met in the beginning was kind of a jerk yes, but I don’t know if he was enough of a jerk to justify everything the Author did.
And one last thing: the hallmark of a successful finale is that it leaves you dying for September, and this episode definitely accomplished that. I can’t wait to see what a potentially good Rumple looks like, a dark Emma helped back to the light by Regina and Hook (the very people she once helped herself), Lily and Mal bonding in their search of her father, how exactly Zelena and her pregnancy are going to affect Robin and Regina’s lives etc. So, so much to look forward to, so fingers crossed this hiatus goes by quickly!