Let me say, this is the best two hours of fanfic I have ever seen. All I want to do is bust out a Mystery Science Theater 3000 on this thing. Alas, I cannot. Perhaps one day. But it’s my job to deliver a recap, and I shall oblige. But I’m calling it “The Impossible Season Finale Recap of Once Upon a Time!” because there is no doing justice to the amount of action and dialogue they crammed into this 180-minutes-minus-commercials extravaganza!
Let’s just jump down the rabbit hole, shall we?
It’s December 15, 1966 and Isaac, pre-Authordom, is making his living – barely – as a TV salesman. After a dressing down by his manager, Isaac finds an acceptance letter from “Star Publishing.” He eagerly arrives at a large, nearly empty office.
Clad in a suit and tie, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice awaits him, presents him with several pens, asking him to choose the one that calls out to him. Isaac…chooses wisely. The pen flashes and glows and the Apprentice says that it is a sign that Isaac is to be the next author. The Apprentice asks if Isaac would like to take a trip, magics the Door from thin air, and opens it to the Enchanted Forest.
Isaac looks like a kid in a candy story who doesn’t know he’s diabetic.
In the mansion’s hidden room, Regina, Robin, Henry, David, Mary Margaret, Emma and Killian flip through books looking for what the Author might be writing, but nothing is appearing in the books. August enters and tells them about the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and how that man told August all about the story book. He shows them a sketch, and Killian, having helped Gold trap him in the hat earlier in the season, recognizes him.
The group brings Mother Superior to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s home and, with his broom, she magics him out of the hat. Immediately, the Apprentice insists that they need the Page with the painted Door and the Key so they can send the Author back to his prison. The Page is at Mary Margaret’s apartment and they group makes plans to get to it before Gold can.
But Gold is still in cardiac time out on the floor of his shop. The Author is just finishing his new story. He tells Gold he may have been “the Dark One,” but he’s never been “the Content One,” and the Author can sympathize. Isaac says it’s time for a world where villains can have happy endings, but he likes room service and indoor plumbing, so he’s not planning on going to the Enchanted Forest himself. The Author offers to rewrite Gold’s memories of how he and Baelfire parted, so in the new story, Bae will have died knowing his father was a hero, not a coward.
While Regina, Emma, and the SA head to Gold’s shop, Mary Margaret, David, Henry, and Killian retrieve the Page from the Book.
But everyone is way too late because the Author is just scrawling “The End.”
We find Henry waking up on the floor of the apartment, the Key in hand. But there’s no one around. The entire town is deserted.
I’m just gonna start calling Henry “Carl” from now on. *spoilers* I kinda do that in my head anyway.
Henry boosts a car and makes it over the town line to a bustling little ‘burb with a diner. He shows some pictures of his family to the hostess and asks if anyone has seen his family. She promptly calls CPS about a runaway because, you know, runaways are often trying to track down their family.
As Henry makes to skedaddle, he spots a book entitled Heroes and Villains by Isaac Heller on a sales rack. On the back is the Author’s face.
Isaac is addressing his fans at a book signing.
As he signs one woman’s book, she gives him a homemade button proclaiming “Long live Regina!”
Interestingly, she asks him if Regina will ever get a happy ending, implying that Regina is actually considered by Isaac to be a hero as she is not enjoying herself in this new story.
Henry arrives and plunks down the Page on the table, demands to know where his family is, then holds the Key over the Door menacingly. Isaac meets Henry in the back room to talk in private, then tells Henry his family is in his book. Showing him the original Heroes and Villains, Isaac explains that everyone got the ending they deserved, except Emma, as there was no room for a Savior in his story. He tells Henry he can’t change anything because he’s traded his magic for his own happy ending, which involves lots of fans and a penthouse. As Isaac walks away, Henry loses it and tackles him, gains control of the Heroes and Villains book, then activates the key over a random page with a door on it.
Henry lands face down in the mud outside a little village in the Enchanted Forest, finds a sword, and then gets clocked by Isaac with a shield.
When Henry, awakes he is tied to a wagon as ogre bait. Isaac explains that, thanks, now they’re both trapped in a place where things are always trying to kill you. This is the final chapter, which he wrote, and it ends with the tolling of bells at sundown. This will mark the point where this is no changing the story, no going back, all will stay as he wrote it, and Isaac leaves. As the ogre bears down on Henry and the little village, a gold knight on a white horse, “the Ogre Slayer,” rides up and magics the ogre to death, per his name. P.S., it’s Rumplestiltskin. He introduces himself to Henry, then rides off to save another village.
Henry refers to the paperback of Heroes and Villains to find where his family may be living. He follows landmarks (read: traps that would kill a man) through the woods to a huge hollowed out log, like the one Snow used as a hideout. But as Henry calls into the log, he is ambushed by Regina, dressed in Snow’s bandit outfit.
Isaac returns to where he left Henry to die and, finding no Henry bits and a dead ogre, is annoyed he forgot that he created an Ogre Slayer. Meanwhile, Henry is trying to explain to Regina where they’re really from and who they really are, but Regina isn’t having it. She pulls a knife on Henry and demands to know if he’s working for the Queen. But Henry assures her he’s trying to help her find her Happy Ending. Regina thinks he’s crazy, but Henry shows her a copy of the book they’re trapped in. Regina wants to know how the book knows her future, then throws it in the fire, because witchcraft?
Regina tries to shake Henry as she stomps through the woods. Henry explains that if she could go find Robin Hood, meet him, and kiss him, then their True Love’s Kiss would break the curse for sure. But Regina squashes that saying if she ever meets “her competition” all he’ll get is a broken nose. Sooooo, that might not work. Regina is adamant that she’s got to get out the realm because she ruined the Queen’s life and needs to vamoose, so Henry better look for happy endings somewhere else.
Isaac tramps through the woods calling for Henry like they’re friends, as though Henry is just going to be like, “Yeah, dude, I’m right here.” He steps his dumb ass right into a trap.
They find the incriminating “Long Live Regina!” button, then take him to the Queen, who is an Evil Snow White.
I love her. I’m not kidding. She looks fierce, she’s just the right kind of melodramatic, and that hair, tho! I could watch a limited series about her.
Grumpy gives Evil Snow the low down on Isaac, and she contemplates which parts of him to remove first. Isaac immediately spills the beans on Henry’s arrival in their land and frames him as a threat to Evil Snow’s reign. Evil Snow uses a heart intercom to summon the equally amazidiculous sorta-Evil Charming, whom she commands to remove Isaac’s head.
Isaac screams that he knows who Snow White really loves, and he reveals that Evil Snow really loved Evil James…because he was EVIL. And Regina caused his death, so Snow took Charming’s heart and uses him as a pale replacement for her true love. Isaac promises to use his foreknowledge of events to ensure revenge on Regina, so long as Snow also promises to kill Henry. Creepily, Evil Snow agrees.
Regina ambushes the Queen’s carriage, but is easily disarmed and subdued by Evil Snow and Charming. Snow refuses to forgive Regina for causing James’ death even though it’s been years of this blood feud. Snow begins to remove Regina’s heart, but Charming reminds her to ask about “the boy.” Regina refuses to tell her, then warns her that killing will only leave a hole in her heart and no hope of finding true happiness. A malicious Snow readies up a fireball then BAM! An arrow blows the carriage door into her FACE!
Regina grabs some gold, punches Charming, and hops on the back of her rescuer’s horse. They take refuge in a tavern, and Regina realizes that it is Robin Hood, her competition, who saved her. As he bandages her hand she gives him his cut of the gold she stole. Robin admits he’s always admired her skills and offers her leadership of his band of Merry Men. While flattered, she says she needs to get out of the forest. Robin begins to talk about the woman he’s in love with, and Regina has a flicker of hope that it may be her. But as he tells her of his betrothed, ZELENA WALKS IN.
Zelena prattles on about something, I dunno, I stopped listening. Regina turns down the invitation to attend the wedding, then thanks Robin for saving her life. She leaves disheartened. Henry arrives, triumphant his plan has worked, but Regina shoves him towards the window where he sees Robin making eyes at Zelena, who is obviously getting her happy ending.
Henry insists that Regina feeling anything at all for Robin is proof he’s her true love, but she says it’s proof that she’s not the kind of person who gets a happy ending, then grumbles that Henry gave her hope, and that sucks. Regina tells Henry she wants to get far away from Robin and Zelena’s wedding bells, and this jogs Henry’s memory of what Isaac said earlier. He theorizes that if they can stop the wedding, they can fix the story. Regina suggests Henry go find the other mom he’s been mentioning to help him because she is DONE. Henry tells Regina that Emma is more powerful than Snow and that if they could find the Savior, maybe they have a chance. Regina has heard of someone who called herself “the Savior,” but Snow White locked her up years ago in an impenetrable tower.
AND THAT’S JUST PART ONE!
As we begin part two, let’s take a brief intermission to recap the recap.
- Isaac is magicless
- Snow’s evil
- Regina’s good
- Charming is technically evil?
- Gold’s good, I think?
- The Dwarves are CREEPY evil
- Robin Hood and Zelena are getting hitched
- Henry is the Jesus of the story: he arrives to make all things new; he is a child feared by the current ruler who sets out to kill him; he’s got to convince people he’s right and that there is hope in the Savior; he begins to round up followers.
- Just a little nervous because it didn’t turn out too good for Jesus at one point.
The Gold Knight, the Ogre Slayer, returns home to Belle and a new baby. And Isaac. Ugh. He complains the water is a bit murky and this gets rid of Belle, who heads off to the well.
Rumple is not excited to see him, but Isaac tells him of Henry’s plan to help Regina and destroy the world they’ve created. He explains the whole situation, then says Rumple has to kill Regina or else he’ll lose everything. Rumple pulls his sword and accuses Isaac of trying to corrupt him. But Isaac assures him he was already a villain and he can prove it. He mentioned Baelfire, and how Rumple was a coward. Rumple demands Isaac leave, but before he does, he reminds Rumple that if Henry succeeds, everyone, including Belle, will know the truth about Rumple’s true nature.
Henry has somehow found his way down to the docks to the Jolly Roger. He asks a skittish Hook to take him out to the Bottomless Sea to save Emma, but Hook declines. Then Black Beard, who remains a jerk face, shows up to mock Hook. Black Beard is the real captain of the Jolly Roger in this world, and Hook is nothing but a lowly deckhand (awkward). Black Beard is amused that anyone would mistake this “one-handed coward” for a captain and challenges Hook to a fight where the winner gets the ship. Henry is appalled when Hook returns to his scrubby brush, so he takes matters into his own hands and grabs a sword, cuts a rope, and sends a winch into Black Beard’s smug face.
Hook insists he can’t sail alone, but Henry says he’ll help. After all, he had a great teacher – Hook himself.
On the way to the impenetrable fortress, which is guarded by – count ‘em! – ONE Black Knight, Hook tries to convince Henry that he’s not a fighter. Henry devises a plan: Hook will sneak him in and they will – you guessed it – hit the Black Knight in the face with something!
Henry grabs the keys and goes to find Emma who, thankfully, remembers everything.
Emma assumes that Gold wanted her to remember everything, know the truth, but be powerless to do anything about it. She has no magic now, either. Henry unlocks his mom and brings her downstairs where she runs into Hook.
A bemused Hook doesn’t know what to say so he shakes Emma’s hand and they escape. Emma warns that they need to put distance between them and the guard before she wakes up because she is dangerous.
Emma takes charge and helps load the cannon, drawing Dragon Lily’s attention towards the ship. She ducks at the last second and Hook fires, taking out Dragon Lily in one shot. She crashes face-first into the sea and Hook celebrates by breaking out his flask.
Fun fact, in this ‘verse, Hook is ironically painfully allergic to rum and drinks goat’s milk instead. Super duper unfair. He asks why Emma trusted him with her life just then, and she deflects the inevitable long story by saying they need to concentrate on helping Regina stop the wedding.
Back at the
happiest place on earth Evil Snow’s castle, the dwarves and Dark Granny have to explain why they still haven’t returned with Regina’s heart, nor killed Henry. In creepy Voldemort fashion, Snow assures she’s not mad, but rips out Doc’s heart anyway. “Down to six,” she says before dismissing them with orders to kill Regina and the boy, lest they become five.
Back on land, Hook and Emma are engaging in some intimate activity.
As she tries to encourage Hook’s…confidence…she leads him through some basic but powerful swashbuckling moves. She assures him that he was as good as Jack Sparrow, and that once one becomes an expert, the subconscious takes over. Hook asks her about the world she wants them to return to and suspects they were close once. Emma says, “Very,” making Hook jealous of his alternate self. Changing the subject quickly, she wonders if Henry’s found them anything to eat yet.
Lily appears with Evil Snow and Charming in tow. After Grumpy disarms Hook, Emma face-mooshes him away like an older sister to her kid brother.
Snow realizes that this is Emma, “the mad hag” who she locked up in the tower years ago. Emma appeals to Snow and Charming, tries to convince them they are her parents, and says they need to believe in hope. Snow plays Emma for one hopeful moment, but then turns right back to evil as she commands Charming to kill Emma and Hook. Cue Henry with an armload of bread.
As Emma waits for the swords to start falling, Hook tells her to save Henry and that if she succeeds, his death here today won’t matter. Hook kicks down a beam holding up stores of barrels and boxes which hit more people in the face.
Charming asks if Emma is worth his life, and Hook replies that he’s willing to find out. After a sword fight that is basically Charming just toying with his food before he eats it, Killian manages to disarm Charming using his hook. Then, because there seems to be a running gag on this show, Hook knocks over a rickety shelving unit of top heavy boxes and barrels onto Lily and the knights, then uses his elbow to smash Charming in the nose.
Unfortunately, Snow draws Hook’s attention easily, putting Charming in deft position to stab Hook right in the back like a total jerk! Emma is horrified, but Henry grabs her and tells her they must run. Killian falls to the ground, dying in front of Emma.
Not one for niceties, Snow magics up a fireball and flings it at a fleeing Emma and Henry.
Rumple returns home to Belle saying that he’s learned of a new threat to their realm, which, if left unchecked, will destroy all their happiness. To overcome this threat, he must make a choice, and he worries he’ll make a wrong one. Belle assures him he never makes the wrong choice because he’s a hero. Rumple drops his tea cup and chips it.
Henry has returned to Regina’s log and introduces her to Emma. Emma tries to convince Regina she really is the Savior and that happiness is possible. Regina insists that a man isn’t her happy ending, but Emma tells her that love is part of happiness and she needs to be open to that. Regina resists crashing the wedding, but Emma recounts how she just watched the man she loves die and how she never told him how she really felt because she was too scared that it would make it too real. She explains that she’ll only have another chance with Hook if Regina goes to stop the wedding and not make the mistake of fearing love like she did.
Emma, Regina, and Henry arrive at the wedding from Spaceballs and/or Robin Hood: Men in Tights already in progress.
But the bells haven’t rung yet, so there’s still time. Regina dithers over what to say to Robin, but Henry is all, “Just kiss him!” Emma says that Regina won’t remember this, but a long time ago Emma promised to get Regina her happy ending, so she’s glad she’s there to see it.
Rumple shows up and he and Emma draw swords. Emma tells Regina she’ll take care of the Dark One. Amid some intense sword fighting, Regina peeks in at the wedding and catches Robin’s eye. Emma proves a formidable match for Rumple, and he magics her into a pile of grain sacks. Henry grabs Emma’s sword and challenges Rumple to buy Regina more time.
Rumple disarms Henry easily, and Regina looks from Robin to Henry and back again. Henry says Rumple won’t hurt him because in this world he’s a hero. But Rumple explains that’s why he must kill Henry, so he can remain a hero. #faultylogic
But as Rumple deals the death blow, Regina plays the mom card hard and fast, taking a slicing to save Henry. Having accomplished his mission, Rumple magics away, leaving Henry sobbing.
Emma awakens and joins them as the bells ring, signalling Robin’s marriage and the end of the book. The church doors open and the wedding party is greeted with Regina bleeding all over the place. Then that no-good sofa of a woman Zelena barges in and laments getting blood on her dress, then turns green with envy as she bemoans Regina ruining her wedding day. She runs off to hide her gross face while Robin comforts Regina. They gaze at each other adoringly, but Isaac, who has been watching it all play out from a safe distance, says their love is too little, too late.
Then Emma socks him right in the nose.
Also, is that HAGRID?
Isaac’s bag falls open with his pen and notebook. Henry is drawn to the pen, picks it up, and it glows.
That’s totally Hagrid!
Isaac is piiiiiiiiissed and says Henry is the next Author. Emma asks him to fix it all, but without ink there’s nothing to write. Emma is willing to slice her hand open to give him blood like Lily’s, but Henry says what they need now is blood from a light Savior, not a dark one. He takes blood from Regina’s wound and writes that, thanks to the Hero Regina’s sacrifice, Isaac’s villainous work was undone.
Instantly, all that had transpired returns to normal and Henry finds Regina, Emma, and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice back in the streets of Storybrooke. After Emma sees that Henry is okay, her first thought is of Hook, and she bolts off towards the apartment.
Terrifyingly, Hook is not where he is expected to be, and the look on Emma’s face is painful as she gives into her fear that Hook very well may not have made it back. I’m not even screenshoting it because it hurts to look at her.
But he’s totally fine! Emma rushes upstairs to bear hug Killian and they fall over on the bed, adding a totally-not-suggestive element to their reunion. Killian reminds her that he is a survivor and explains he woke moments before David and Mary Margaret and came upstairs to find Henry. Emma pulls him up and confides that, when she watched him die, she was afraid that she was never going to get a chance to tell him something. Killian looks at her like, “YES, FINALLY, SAY IT!” Or maybe I’m projecting…
Instead, she thanks him for sacrificing himself to save her and Henry. Hook, squashing his disappointment down into his boots, says it’s all in a day’s work for a hero. Maybe tomorrow, Hook.
Back at the pawn shop, everything is as it was, but Gold is doubled up on the floor, worse than ever. Isaac grabs some car keys and high tails it out of the shop past Belle. Gold thinks she came back for him, but Belle says she only came back to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt anyone else.
Isaac is tearing it up out of town when he’s cut off by the Sheriff’s car. David and Mary Margaret hop out and apprehend him. When they ask him why he hates the two of them so much, he compares them to his boss and says he’s had a lifetime of so-called heroes who just want to push around guys like him. Mary Margaret points out that he became a villain and made everyone unhappy to make himself happy, and she pities him.
Henry sits contemplating the quill and the books when the Apprentice joins him. Henry talks about how he’s tempted to bring his father back from the dead, but the Apprentice reminds him that no Author is capable of such a thing. Baelfire died in the real world, not in the made up world of Heroes and Villains, so there’s no bringing him back like Hook. The fiction that Isaac wrote is erased and the book now empty. The Apprentice says Henry’s original book can never be erased because it is the truth, and that he must always write the truth and resist the temptation to change reality. Henry says no one should have that much power and snaps the
Elderwand magic quill in two.
The Apprentice smiles and says perhaps they’ve finally found the right person for the job.
Gold is still on death’s doorstep as he tells Belle how happy he and she were in the book, but Belle insists that she was already in love with him in real life. Rumple could have made good decisions and had a good life with a good marriage for real, but it wasn’t good enough for him, and he says it was because he couldn’t believe it.
She tells him she’s not in love with Will Scarlett, nor will she let Rumple die alone.
Rumple warns Belle to go now because his end is near and the Dark One is too dangerous.
At Granny’s, everyone decompresses with some drinks and music and laughter. Robin joins Henry and Regina, who verifies that Zelena is still locked up and still pregnant. They agree to face whatever happens together. Robin suggests a moonlight stroll and they totally ditch Henry.
David apologizes for killing Hook, and Mary Margaret apologizes for being so damn terrible all around. But seeing her parents as REAL villains puts things in perspective for Emma, and she apologizes for holding a grudge. Amid lots of hugging, Emma sees Lily sitting alone. Lily asks if she can stick around Storybooke and find her dad. Emma wholeheartedly agrees.
Belle bursts in to warn everyone that Rumple’s heart is nearly gone and they are in danger from the Dark One. The Apprentice brings the hat to the pawn shop and says they can use it to pull the Darkness out of Rumple. If his heart is strong enough, it will heal once the Darkness is gone. He pulls out Rumple’s heart which, now devoid of red, has a fleck of purple in the core, then uses the hat to suck out the darkness of the heart. Rumple’s name disappears from the Dagger. But the Darkness refuses to stay contained in the hat and circles the Apprentice.
Emma hits the Apprentice with some serious magic and succeeds in driving the Darkness away. Unfortunately, it heads out into town via the mail slot. The Apprentice tells Emma that long ago the Sorcerer tethered this Darkness to the soul of a human so that it could be tamed with the Dagger. This Sorcerer is the only hope to destroy the Darkness for good. His name is Merlin, and they’ve got to find him. The Apprentice then dies from the strain of the attack.
Out in the streets, Mary Margaret, David, Emma and Killian are joined by Regina and Robin as they try to discern where the Darkness has gone.
Regina realizes the Darkness never left and is all around them. It heads directly for her and surrounds her, snuffing out the light. Emma shouts over the chaos that the only thing they can do is to tether it to another person, and she rushes forward to take Regina’s place.
Regina protests, but Emma says Regina’s worked too hard to have her happiness destroyed. Tearfully, Emma tells her parents to figure out, again, how to take the darkness out of her, but this time as heroes. Killian begs her not to do this, and unflinchingly Emma finally tells him she loves him. She pushes him back and then digs the dagger into the cloud of darkness surrounding Regina.
The Darkness coils around Emma, overcoming every part of her, and then cyclones its way to the sky.
In a flash, the Darkness, and Emma, disappear. The Dagger clatters to the street and Emma’s name is now engraved on the blade.
Honestly, I think Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz need to pay for my therapy bills this summer.
So, tell us! Did you survive the season 4 finale?
What did you see coming? Did any of your predictions come true?
What do you think season 5 is going to look like?
All screen captures are property of ABC.
ABC. “Images, et.al.” May 10, 2015. Television. May 11, 2015.