On our full discussion of the season four finale, Operation Mongoose, we narrowed down five moments that stood out the most for us and chatted about it. From how Isaac became the Author to the alternate reality, Lily’s father, Emma becoming the new Dark One, and Henry proving that he’s no longer the poor innocent child who needs saving and becoming a knight in shining armor himself! All these plus a few more random things to rant and rave about on our 200th episode!
The whole gang is complete to discuss the great season finale episode! Today, we decided to do a more thematic approach and hit some of the main points that stood out to us, so bear with us if we’re not going to be discussing every scene that happened in the episode, Operation Mongoose in detail.
One of our favorite moments in the episode was the scene with Charming and evil Snow White and Charming telling Snow, “I will always find you.” We also liked seeing Henry take the quill. That whole moment with the quill and the book falling out and seeing him feeling drawn towards it gave us goosebumps every time we see that. We also liked the very last scene; loved the dialogue between Emma and Regina, as well as the sacrifice that was made, and Emma finally professing her feelings toward Hook when she tells him, “I love you.” It was also great seeing Henry get sucked into the Enchanted Forest. We’ve been waiting a very long time to see Henry in the Enchanted Forest because he was the one person who has never been there, but probably the very person who should have been there all along. It was great to see him realized where he was and to pick up the sword, going on a little adventure of his own. Henry was also very brave and grown up in this episode.
The Author’s backstory—Our World, December, 1966
So I noticed after I watched the show again that the date on the letter that Isaac got from Star Publishing was Dec 15, 1966. The day Walt Disney died! And there was Christmas music playing in the background! That was the coolest Disney Easter Egg yet!
— Rose Mason
We all knew at some point that we will eventually get a backstory to the author and in our Operation Mongoose initial reaction, Rose was totally right about the dates and Disney. In the letter that Isaac got from Star Publishing, the letter was dated December 15, 1966, which was Walt Disney’s date of death and, thus, making Walt Disney the author that the Apprentice mentioned who recently died.
One of the other interesting things that we looked up is we saw two different addresses in this scene, one of which was Isaac’s business address—968 East 14th Street, Brooklyn, NY. We looked it up and found out that it is, apparently, one of Woody Allen’s former homes, who is one of Kitsis and Horowitz’s heroes. The other address was of Star Publishing, which is at 302 West 37th Street, New York, NY. This one, meanwhile, is home to the Actors Movement Studio, also known as the Actor Movement Conservatory, is a teaching facility for actors in the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.
We love the fact that Isaac was actually from our world; he had a different view going into everything. It was also interesting how self-aware it was. His backstory and the author himself is just incredibly meta. It was fun hearing Isaac say “No Spoilers” to the girl asking whether Regina was going to get a happy ending because Adam Horowitz was fond of using #NoSpoilers on Twitter. The way they decided to depict this author as themselves and the way in which they are telling their story and the Isaac tell his story was also interesting to say the least.
Also, during our initial reaction, we said that we thought we saw Jane Espenson in the crowd during Isaac’s book signing, but after watching the episode again, it ended up not being her in the episode. In the initial reaction, we also mentioned that Isaac having to choose a pen reminded us of Ben from Lost, but realized it was more like Richard’s finding Locke. What would have happened if Isaac chose another pen?
There were some really cool Easter eggs in choosing the author. When the Apprentice keep saying “the time has come”. Timothy Webber, the actor who played the Apprentice, also played the Carpenter in the 2009 miniseries, Alice. “The time has come” also are the opening words to “The Walrus and the Carpenter” in Through the Looking Glass. It was also a nice nod that Isaac that was put in 1960s because Patrick Fischler, the actor who plays Isaac, portrayed a character from the TV show, Mad Men, which was set also in 1960s.
Did the Apprentice time-traveled to Isaac? Does the author not age? Why do they not replaced him instead of locking him in the book later? Can they only replace the author is if the author dies or when he has broken the fundamental rule of authorship, which is giving himself his own happy ending? Why didn’t they took some of Cruella’s hair to continue on with the book? How are they getting ink throughout the centuries of writing stories?
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The Alternate Reality
Because of the author writing the book, Heroes and Villains, the alternate reality was created. He didn’t just change the stories, he created a new, fictional story. What were the expectations set for the entire season leading up to this point? What were the stakes as we’ve heard of people looking for the author, writing new stories?
On the other hand, the book he wrote was a side project. When he saw the picture of Regina and Robin Hood kissing outside the tavern down in Regina’s vault, he kind of referenced it as something that he’s been wanting to write about. It’s possible that what he wrote in the Heroes and Villains book was that whole completely different story, not just changing their present condition, but giving them a whole different backstory, an artificial world, and therefore influencing his own reality.
It was said that “the quill and ink can only change a past that it created.” Doesn’t that mean it could undo what happened to Lily or undo any of what Isaac did? Was it actually about the ink and not the quill? Was that why Isaac created an alternate reality instead of changing the past altogether? Which ink, then, did Isaac use to record when Snow White and Prince Charming banished Lily off to our world?
The villains simply want to give them a happy ending, not to go back and make things as if it didn’t happen, especially after Regina come into conclusion with Zelena that that wasn’t something she was going to do. Maybe part of his happy ending was that he didn’t want any of them around?
It’s really evident that even in the alternate reality, everyone is still able to go back to their old ways; Regina was still a bit in the gray area like how she is currently in Storybrooke; Rumplestiltskin is also the same person who is willing to kill a young boy like his Storybrooke counterpart and didn’t take much of a push to get back to that kind of person. In the episode, we saw heroes turn to villains and villains turning into heroes, but the only happy ending we saw was Rumplestiltskin’s, who isn’t now a villain, but a hero. Zelena was whiny as well, but she still isn’t a hero.
It was also a little bit confusing because we have been told to look at what will happen if villains win; we expected villains to remain villains. Regina’s happy ending, as Regina the villain, is that she’s gotten the best of Snow White and Prince Charming, but also that she’s found love again after Daniel. Rumple’s is that he gets to keep all of his power, while having his son and wife. Hook’s happy ending as of season four, meanwhile, is Emma. However, Emma is locked in a tower, Hook is a groveling ship boy.
Hook wasn’t exactly a villain anymore but neither is Regina. And Regina wasn’t on her path to actually getting her happy ending. And even though Snow White was the Queen, she couldn’t get her happy ending either. What we were struggling a lot with this episode is that we kept looking at it from the perspective of roles being reversed and the stories continue as before.
Also, Robin Hood was supposed to be a hero and he was still on the path to getting his happy ending. Perhaps not what the Robin Hood would choose in Storybrooke, but why isn’t he suffering? Did Henry get Robin Hood to rescue Regina? Did he influence Robin to find and rescue Regina? There is, was not a hero on the show that hasn’t done villainous acts. That being said, there were also no villains that are outright a villain, except maybe Peter Pan.
We noticed that some actors are better than the others in playing the total opposite of their current character. Lana Parrilla played bandit Regina so well; she was pretty comfortable and really good at making her voice sound like a teenager.
We also liked Hook in the alternate reality as a cowardly deck-hand, as well as Ginnifer Goodwin playing the evil counterpart of herself. Although her voice still sounded like light and airy, the way she does evil Snow White has a tone that she was going to rip out your heart and crush it in front of you. Snow White being aggressive like was not untrue of original Snow White, either.
Rumple on the other hand, looked weird as a knight and funny riding the horse. It doesn’t have something to do with the acting, just that it was weird hearing him say things such as, “this comes with no price.”
By the way, Hook being an employee of Blackbeard is actually something that’s in one of the original Peter Pan novels. In the novel, there was a little comment that said that Hook was employed by Blackbeard.
We also liked seeing Rumple as a stand in for Prince Charming. We loved how they dressed Robert Carlyle, basically in Josh Dallas’ clothes. However, it kind of bothers us that the character’s cores didn’t change, except Emma. The author robbed her of savior-hood, completely took it away, even though this alternate reality was completely fictional and the real characters are peeking out from behind. She’s still Emma Swan, daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, product of true love, she should still have been the Savior; Her fundamentals shouldn’t have changed.
Regina must have channeled her inner Elsa when she jumped to save Henry. In essence, it was an act of true love that could potentially undo the author’s doing. On the other hand, it wouldn’t still have worked because Regina doesn’t know Henry.
There are some cool things that happened in that prison island, as well. What Henry and Hook did was the Wookie prisoner gag, which is from Star Wars. Also, Henry is a prisoner from “Kashyyyk,” which is the Wookie homeworld.
Another nice Easter egg that we noticed is that the Evil Queen Snow’s roundtable was black and gray, the same one as the Charming’s roundtable, only in different color but still contains the same icons. We also liked the little look at Granny that we got, dressed in all black and glaring at people. But where’s Ruby? Shouldn’t she have been a part of the roundtable?
We liked the parallel from what Snow White said that “hope is a very powerful thing”, which was what Snow said to Emma in the Pilot episode. The chipped also made it in again. For a while we thought that it would be like the magical item that makes Rumple understand things. We also thought that Rumple would remember that he is just in an alternate reality but like Isaac said, he was just perceptive as he is in all worlds.
Now that Rumple is a white heart blank slate and is in a magically-induced coma, how much of Rumple are we going to see for the next season? Is Rumple going to be sidelined for, at least, the first half of the fifth season?
What was the point of bringing Will over if Belle didn’t actually love him? One of the few things that the fandom agrees on is Will’s involvement in the show. He even barely used it at all this season; not even a glimpse of Wonderland, nor Will’s backstory. Was Michael Socha’s involvement on the show simple an example of bad planning?
The New Author
I liked the parallel between Henry and Harry Potter during this episode, after Henry becomes The Author. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry discovers that he’s the master of the Elder Wand, the most powerful weapon in the Wizarding World. However, because he doesn’t want to be tempted by the power it possesses, he decides to get rid of it. Henry does the same with the Quill, breaking it in order to not be tempted by (or to mess with) fate. Probably not intentional, but pretty cool!
Now that the quill is broken, how is Henry going to record? Does the pen make the author or does the author make the pen?
Would it be interesting for the series to end with old Henry reading stories to his children or grandchildren and it’s the stories that he wrote down?
Who is Lily’s father? Could it have been Merlin? The Dragon from season 2? Are Merlin and Yen Sid two different people? Is Yen Sid the Apprentice and Merlin the Sorcerer? One of the popular theories in the forums right now is Arthur, the King. Feesh over the chatroom suggested that it also could be the same dragon that David cut the head off before and gave it to King Midas. What about Mushu? We haven’t seen Mulan for a while.
The New Dark One
We already know that Emma has pure light magic, and it was interesting during our re-watch seeing the magic swirl when it was around Regina, it swirling black and light blue, which they said that it was snuffing out the light inside of her, assuming the black swirl snuffing out the blue light. However, when it tethered on Emma, the same thing was happening, but the blue never disappeared even after she disappears in blue and black magic. This has us wondering whether Emma really is going to be the new big bad for the fifth season. Does the Dark One’s dark magic actually just balanced out Emma’s pure light magic, thus not making her next season’s villain?
We loved hearing the origin of the Dark One, getting to know the story and has us wondering if Thor might make an appearance someday because the whole darkness that we saw in this episode is kind of similar to the sequel of Thor. When the Apprentice said that “long before hero stories began, the Sorcerer battled the darkness. He tethered it to a human soul that could be controlled with the dagger”, it reminded us of Buffy’s final season, which was Buffy battling the first evil that ever existed. But if the Sorcerer couldn’t destroy it before, what can he do differently now to put an end to it once and for all?
It was nice to see August again, especially now that he shed light on how he knew about the book. Apparently, the Apprentice told him about him of it.
What a great scene it was where Emma becomes the Dark One, especially her exchange with Regina. We loved how emotional she is and how she told Regina how she has worked too hard to try to get her happy ending. Their friendship has developed so nicely this season. On the one hand, we were also scared for the entire town. It was really creepy not knowing what that darkness was going to do. When they first said that it’s surrounding them, we thought that the darkness created a dome under them. Can the Sorcerer tether the darkness on everyone? Snow White had darkness in her heart but somehow made amends with that. Hook and Regina were also once villains and have darkness in their hearts, but are both trying to be good now and make better choices. We all have darkness, anyway, which was pretty significant this season. Emma, for example, was born with both the potential for good and the potential for darkness. Will it be completely destroyed next season?
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It would be nice seeing a darker Emma, as well as seeing Jennifer Morrison portray as the Dark One version of her character. Mark Isham’s score has been amazing this season, as he always does throughout the series. Although season one finale will always win, Operation Mongoose comes into a close tie to season one finale.
Is the Apprentice dead? Will we get a new apprentice? Is it going to be Emma?
“Great reading… ranges from Knights slaying Dragons to the fight of the common person against evil and oppression. Truly Brilliant.” By Cheryl Marion (Once Upon a Time’s art director))
“Heller takes ‘attack or be beaten’ ideologies to new heights in this heavy-hitting first work. I had the sense that I learned something new about the fight against evil…” By Keith Lau (Once Upon a Time’s illustrator)
On that rack of books was another book called Hidden Informant, which was listed as #7 on the hardback fiction best sellers list that Isaac looked up in the newspaper. There was also an article in the newspaper that said, “Is the writing life a vocation or merely a career?” Perhaps a little question to Henry’s new job as the new Author?
Moreover, Isaac’s last name, Heller, has been associated with several authors through the years, one of them being Joseph Heller who wrote the novel, Catch 22.
There was also two Jack Sparrow in this episode, one of which was Emma’s obvious Jack Sparrow reference, while the other one was at Isaac’s signing, there was a girl dressed up exactly in a Jack Sparrow outfit.
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