I had my doubts about season five. Could there be any new magic left in the bucket for another run? Once Upon A Time has become somewhat formulaic in it’s overarching scope since season 3. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still an ardent fan and probably will always look forward to the adventures of Emma and family. But beginning with the third season, each one was broken up into two halves with a very familiar storyline – something bad happens, new characters are introduced, there is a twist in the plot, and then good wins…until some glitch in the solution causes bad things to happen once again. This season was no different in that respect.
We started out with Dark Swan. Emma began season five as the Dark One, having sacrificed herself to save Regina and her family (glitch in the solution to season four). But her transformation caused a series of events which introduced us to a King Arthur and his court at Camelot (new characters). Probably the best casting of the first half was Merlin who was the opposite of the old, white, long-bearded eccentric man that you see in Disney’s animated classic Sword in the Stone. Instead we are introduced to a young, smart, black man with noble intentions but with a tragic past and who serves a King who is not the Arthur of legend (twist in the plot). In the end, Emma becomes rid of the darkness (good wins) but at a high cost – the life of Captain Hook (glitch in the solution).
The first half of season five was perhaps the most disjointed half season of the series so far. Merida was introduced, but seemed to be thrown into the mix just to introduce another novel character who didn’t really fit. And Arthur wasn’t as nasty as previous villains proved to be. Instead he seemed to be a mean, shallow figure – a pale shade of the man who is supposed to be Britain’s greatest savior. But the real disappointment was how they ended the half season with Hook turning into a Dark One and ALL the Dark Ones in all of history coming back to rule the world to only be foiled in a somewhat contrived moment. Even though Hook “died” no one believed he would stay dead long and sure enough the second half of the season was focused on bringing him back.
Emma in her grief declares she is going after Hook’s soul in the Underworld to bring him back (something bad happens). We find out that Hook is being tortured by Hades (new character). It turns out Hades has had a prior relationship with Regina’s sister, Zelena (twist in the plot)! Hades convinces Zelena that he is turning over a new leaf – but it’s all a ruse as he is planning on using her to free himself and take over the world. In the end, Hook is saved and Hades is defeated by Zelena with the help of the heroes who reveal Hades true self to her (good wins). But as they are restoring the Camelot characters back to their home, some of our heroes get trapped in the Land of Untold Stories where they meet Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde! They are freed by Henry who is able to restore magic to the world. Easily the highlight of the season, Henry’s impassioned speech to the people of New York is moving. But Regina is sad. She feels like she will never be rid of the urge to be evil. Dr. Jekyll gives our heroes some of his separation solution that tore away Mr. Hyde from himself. Regina uses it and crushes the Evil Queen’s heart, seemingly destroying her. Everyone returns to Storybrooke – along with Mr. Hyde who has come along for the ride (and brought some “friends” with him). And in the end, the Evil Queen, now freed from Regina, returns (glitch in the solution).
So what will happen this season? Is Once Upon A Time returning to focus on what made it so engaging? Will they stop doing the formulaic half season villain (doesn’t look like it)? What will be the effect of the Evil Queen being on her own? My guess is Regina will come to terms with her evil half and understand that it’s a part of her. The same will happen to Jekyll and Hyde and Hyde will be reintegrated into Jekyll. But I’m really looking forward to Lana Parilla as the Evil Queen one more time. In the end, I’m hoping that Regina WILL get her happy ending. She deserves it. Like Star Wars, I think the show isn’t really about Emma (just as Star Wars isn’t really about Luke), it’s about Regina’s path of redemption. What do you think? What are you most looking forward to in season six?