Wow. Just. Wow.
This was, as people were predicting, in many ways a giant fanfic piece. We got to see the alternates of people in The Author's new world and man do I have some thoughts about how some of that shook out. Plus we got to see Henry finally step up and take his place. And I'm not just talking about him being the next Author. He takes center stage, as was also predicted given the name of the episode, and leads much of the action. Finally finally. And even after the alternate universe is made right we see more reversals, twists, and turns and a fascinating set up for next season.
I don't even know where to start. Okay.
Since I've already started to some extent, can I just say how very very happy I was to get such a Henry-centric episode? He's had far too little screen time lately. Perhaps it's because the actor is growing faster than the character (and I really wish they'd taken advantage of the whole Never Land excursion to explain that), but he's really the one who started this all. As important as Emma and Regina and all the other characters are, it's Henry who got the ball rolling and here's hoping he hasn't forfeited his place in the center by refusing to allow the power of the quill seduce him.
There were just so many YES HENRY moments. He put his grandfather's sword training to good use, knocks out a dragon woman, frees Hook, rescues his mother, turns his adoptive mother's life around, and finally, when he has the power to do anything to help those he loves or punish those who threaten them he gives it up. With barely a pause. There isn't another character on this show who would have made that decision so quickly and so decisively.
I was really afraid that they were going to kill Henry off, and I had posited to myself, yelling at the screen, while my upstairs neighbor is probably wondering what on earth is going on, that Regina would save the day, not by going to Robin, but by showing her love for Henry. Which she did.
However, I was thinking that maybe Henry would kiss her on the forehead a la Emma in S1 (that was S1, right?) when she kissed Henry and broke the spell (wow that was so long ago). I totally didn't see it coming that Henry would be the next Author, but it makes SO much sense. He's the one who took the book seriously. He's the one who figured out the curse long before anyone else. He's the one who convinced Emma that she was the Savior. So of course it makes sense that he's the Author.
I do have to wonder, though, if he can really break the power of the Author so easily. Surely there will be other quills. And if he doesn't chronicle what happens, will their stories begin to fade? Or does it just mean that they will truly have to make their own futures? And really, that's where so many signs have been pointing since the beginning of the show.
I've even said it here, maybe even a little ad nauseum - being a hero or a villain is dependent on your choices.
Let's begin with the interesting set up of this alternate world The Author created. The way these alternate lives played out sheds some interesting light on our characters.
Some of the reversals are obvious - in this world Snow and Regina have basically traded places (though I'm not really sure how Regina could have betrayed Snow when Regina was a child since Snow is younger... but hey, it's created, so I guess they can do whatever they want). Snow as the evil queen was done really well. I loved that her wardrobe and behavior, while villainous, were still her. They didn't try to make her be Regina, just an evil version of herself. Just as Regina (though dressed in a very Snow the Outlaw way) is a better version of herself.
I do have to break in here though and say what the hey was going on with Snow's hair? Really?
Exhibit B: Regina and Hook - they're both miserable and both as far from getting a happy ending as they could possibly be. Regina is placed in the hero's role, yet still kept away from her happy ending. And Hook is so far away from the man he became that he's neither hero nor villain - he's a weak deck hand who cowers before Blackbeard. No happy ending in sight - not even the captain of his own ship.
So, if in this world, the heroes are not allowed to have their happy ending and the villains are, does that mean Regina and Killian are heroes? I would argue very much yes. And the proof is Rumple.
Exhibit C: Rumple is the only "villain" left. He's the only one, the ONLY one, in this alternate reality to have his happy ending. Now, you could argue that this is because Rumple is now, quite literally, the knight in shining armor riding in on his white horse. But everything about him feels fake. From his name ("the light one"? Really?), to his perfect life with Belle and new child, to his memories of Baelfire. It's too good to be true and he knows it. But, as Belle points out to him at the end of the episode, it was all real - his choices are what destroyed it. Every time. He had Belle, but his inability to believe that he was worth love and his eternal grasping for power over love destroyed his happiness. And even in this alternate world where he is literally the hero and has everything he could ever want, the fear of losing his power and his identity sends him into a spiral down the very path he wrote himself out of. He chooses power over people.
Snow hits the nail on the head when she says villains "make themselves happy at the expense of others, but that just makes them more unhappy." Belle even tells Rumple that she doesn't love Will (and many Rumbelle sighs of relief were heard), but he's made his decision. Over. And over. He's blackened his heart beyond redemption, choosing even in his last few days to destroy everyone else's happiness to grasp at his own. Magic can't create happiness. Power alone will never create a happy ending.
Regina and Killian are the ones showing the way forward. And actually Ursula and Maleficent are illustrations of this as well. You don't need an Author to change the way things work - you just have to become a hero instead of a villain. This is why Rumple is continually thwarted - because, even with some of the good choices he has made, he still behaves and inhabits the world of a villain. He still chooses power (even now in all his manipulations to get the author) over people, whereas Regina and Killian have started choosing to do right by the people in their lives even if it means losing some of their power and what they're discovering is that they're gaining a different type of power - the power of relationships, friendship, and love. Which will always defeat self-serving power. And this is why their happy endings are coming around. It might be taking time (like with Regina), but even if she hadn't started searching after the Author things very likely would have worked out to get Robin back. And Hook and Emma, well, they've certainly been heading in the right direction and Snow and David certainly went through their share of trials, but their happy ending is loving each other and Emma finally articulating her love cements what she and Killian have and places him firmly in the roll of hero.
And speaking of soul mates, seeing Regina and Robin's instant connection was sweet, though I think I threw up a little when Zelena showed up. Ahem. That glance they shared at the door of the church was perfect. Just as it was perfect for Regina to throw aside her own chance at happiness to save Henry (which is why I really think that should have broken the curse).
And while I'm on that note, I liked that Regina said her happy ending was not a man. Yes. BUT I also loved the way Emma countered that by saying, it's true, but LOVE. Love is essential to a happy ending (another reason her sacrifice for Henry should have BROKEN THE CURSE).
And in the real world, how adorable was it that it was Hook who knew exactly where Henry's bookbag was?
Jumping back to Rumple for a minute, what does it mean that his heart is glowy white now? Will he come back? Will he still be Rumple? Will his character have some actual growth? I don't want a fake, he's all good now because magic sucked out all of his darkness Rumple. I want his redemption to be earned, not given. Or maybe he'll be a blank slate and the question will be, can he make the right decisions this time or will his fear and cowardice get the better of him yet again? If he has Belle from the start, will it make a difference? In his last moment, his decision to keep Belle safe and try to warn everyone of what was coming bodes well for things and it will be interesting to see what happens next season. I do wonder, though, (as many angry fans on the interwebs are wondering) why Belle gets such short shrift on this show. And why nobody thought to try True Love's Kiss except for with Regina and Robin. No one suggested it as Regina was dying (even with both Henry and Robin leaning over her) and no one even started to think about it with Rumple and Belle (though I understand that one more, since Rumple is still painting himself as a villain, though why Belle didn't think to give it a shot I'm not sure).
And one last question/thought - Honestly, dead is never dead on this show. The list of people who have died and come back is pretty much the entire cast. So why the hammering over and over that Neal is gone. Dead and gone. Can't ever come back. That's just stupid. ??? Why is this one character the only one that can't come back? I really would love for there to be a bigger answer there.
And now for some random thoughts and highlights:
Isn't this seriously every writer's dream? To get a letter from a publisher and then be offered the power and magic to travel between realms and literally write history?
I also loved that, even though he had written the book, the Author kept getting completely trampled in it. And screwing up his own story line by trying to "fix" it. It makes me wonder how many authors would survive if they got sucked into their own stories? There's a fun idea for a book. Someone write it.
Cute Tinker Bell garden spike.
GRUMPY. There has been a distinct lack of good Grumpy scenes. And Granny's dress was amazing.
Poor Doc. I do have to say, though, that it's hard to take anything seriously when it's an alternate reality, because they can kill whoever they want because they can fix it all at the end. But it is strangely ... not enjoyable, but something close to it to see a favorite character sacrifice themselves when you know it's not real.
Emma is still doing the EPIC MAGIC CASTING STANCE. Makes me giggle every time.
And the finale leaves us with 3 new challenges for next season. And they're good ones.
1. Who is Lily's father? (and where is Maleficent? Oddly missing in this finale)
2. Merlin is real and the Sorcerer and the only way to defeat the Dark One. And of course he's far, far away. ROAD TRIP.
3. I'm weirdly excited to see Emma as the Dark One. It'll be interesting to see her as a different character. I'm excited to see how things will play out with her and Killian and her and Henry. And I also have one burning question: Will her skin get all glittery?