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Once Upon a Time: Operation Mongoose, Parts 1 and 2

“If it’s happy endings you’re after, look someplace else.”

‘Operation Mongoose’ managed to take Once Upon a Time back to its roots by focusing on the characters who helped to bring these people together way back when, while also tying it closely to this season’s fundamental themes: a satisfying conclusion to a mostly satisfying season. It may have lacked subtlety, but I think we all know ambiguity was never part of this show’s mantra.

It all started out quite tamely. The author, we find out, spent his human life as a TV salesman, putting up with a dick boss and mundane customers, all the while nurturing what he believed to be a budding creative talent. Nothing here surprised me, it was obvious that he was a shoddy writer and a bit of a pushover, but I did like the whole process of how he actually became the author and ended up in the fairytale world by letting the writing tool “choose” him. The technicalities of this whole “realms of story” thing were never fully explained, and even though I was still left slightly confused at the close of the episode, it did feel a little less mind boggling. Henry becoming the author makes sense, too. Hopefully he’ll make up for the less than exemplary job that Isaac did.

Putting the youngest member of Team Charming at the core of the episode was both a genius and flawed idea. Love or hate him (and I mostly hate him for reasons I honestly can’t explain) Henry’s always been the heart of the series, and him being the one to save everyone from the alternate reality, just as he did in season one, was a nice little call back to the days when Snow thought she was a cheating hag. She still sort of is but she’s a lot more confident now, I guess. The only problem I had with him being the only one to save the day is that Henry isn’t really the kind of character that can drive an entire story, much less a finale.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the “Heroes and Villains” universe at first, either. The literal interpretation of this season’s motif was a hard pill to swallow, but I do think it was a good move given everything that’s happened up until now. After I started to get used to it, I noticed just how much fun the actors had with the big switch-up. Ginnifer Goodwin seemed to shine in particular, seizing the chance to retire her chronic deadpan look and play a villainous Snow White. But even so, it was Regina who stole the show, stepping in front of Rumple’s blade to save Henry, a deed Emma repays later on in the episode. The former Queen really earned her happy ending this season and not to tempt fate, but I think the writers might finally be done toying with her redemption.

Emma showing up with her memories was a nice reprieve from a mostly Henry centric first half, and it really kicked up the momentum. The Emma and Henry tag team was another gentle reminder of the good old days, and we got to see just how much their bond has grown since then. Emma’s really become a great mother, and an even better leader, something we were painfully reminded of when she selflessly stopped the darkness that the sorcerer’s apprentice removed from Rumple from taking over Regina. Who didn’t cheer after her “you’ve worked too hard” line? I definitely did, and not just because I was panicking that Regina was about to go skipping down heart stealing lane again. Emma’s sacrifice was probably one of the biggest moments in the series, and it’s up there as one of the more pivotal twists that we’ve seen so far.

Emma becoming the dark one might give Rumple the chance to finally be the man he never thought he could be by himself. Without the darkness inside of him he might feel like he can feasibly be with Belle. That heartbreaking scene between the two of them almost made sense of a season’s worth of convoluted character development. I can’t say I really like the idea of him being so dark just because he felt like he didn’t deserve happiness, but I do think there’s a chance for him to get to the place Regina worked so hard to reach, and I didn’t think he could get there before this episode.


In "Heroes and Villains," Hook drinks goat’s milk instead of rum. Gross.

Zelena once again proves that she’s the most selfish, shallow witch in town. I laughed when she turned green after Regina stole her wedding thunder. Can she be a permanent fixture?

Lily had a very small role this week. I’m glad she’s sticking around to find out who her dad is. Hopefully that means Maleficent will stay put, too.

Kristin Bauer Van Straten didn’t even appear in this one, which is criminal considering how important she was for this entire arc. Series regular for season five, please?

He Said, She Said

Emma: “You don’t remember this, but I promised you once I’d help you get your happy ending. I’m just glad I’m here to see it. You got this, Regina.”

If there’s one thing Once has always done right during its four year run, it’s re-invention. Since the end of the curse in season one, the show has managed to change the game in so many different ways. This has been bolstered with the inclusive two halves that have made up the last couple of seasons, which provide the chance to not only try out new things, but also to keep the show’s fairy tale formula alive. With Emma’s transformation into the dark one and Merlin’s imminent arrival, I’m once again excited to see what the series can do with another deviation from its comfort zone.

4.5 out of 5 fireballs

Originally posted at PandaTV.


  1. Satisfying couple of final episodes... and a very satisfying review. I agree with your assessment of Henry. He's been the Truest Believer since day one. It makes total sense to have him as the center of this episode... but it also means he hasn't changed a whit since his sincerity of the early days. I almost wish he'll wind up getting corrupted...

  2. Nice little nod to history, we see Isaac getting chosen to be the new Author in December of '66, and the Apprentice mentions that the previous Author had recently died. A certain "man named Walt" that August mentioned in a previous episode as one of the former Authors died on December 15th, 1966. :)

    As is the case with many of the conclusions to story arcs on Once Upon A Time, if you think about it too hard, you can find plenty of holes in the logic. But overall I thought this finale was quite enjoyable, and I can't wait to see what they do next year with Dark Emma. Heck, I can't wait to see what Dark Emma's even going to LOOK like, you know Jennifer Morrison gonna look kick-ass as the new Dark One. :)

  3. I've found this second part of the season a little scattered, with too many elements going on and not a clear focus. It seemed to start really big with the Queens of Darkness, but then it sort of went in a completely different direction with the Author. It was a fun ride, though, as long you don't think too much about it, which is honestly the way to enjoy this show.

    The "Heroes and Villains" alternate universe was a bit of cracky fun, and Isaac as the Author felt like the writers poking fun at the fans in a kind way. I mean, having a girl with a Regina badge come up to him at a convention and him teasing her to stay tuned if she wants to find about her happy ending... not subtle.

    I wasn't sure which direction they were going to go with the 'verse. I actually thought it was going to be about giving villains their happy ending within their own moral context (for example, say Regina manages to kill Snow and wins), but the role reversal thing was fun, if only to see GG hamming it up as the Evil Queen and Regina as a bandit. I also really liked the parallels between the Henry/Regina meeting with the Henry/Emma one back in the pilot. It was the same, him going "I'm Henry, and I'm you son", and this time having Regina a little annoyed at him and calling him Kid. Nice little family bonding for the Emma/Henry/Regina dynamic.

    I actually liked Henry as such a center piece for the episode. I've been liking him a lot more lately than I ever did at the beggining, and I've no idea why. Maybe is the drop in Jared Gilmore's voice or something???

    Anyway, it was also a great moment for Regina to ultimately choose Henry and save him rather than interrupt Robin's wedding. It's family and a loyalty to her son what's been pulling her out of the darkness since season 1, and I find it a lot more satisfying than her supposed true love with Robin Hood. (I'm sorry, I just find RH to be so completely boring and irrelevant, and his relationship with Regina entirely too forced. I know the writers want me to buy into it, but I just can't).

    And oh, that ending was kind of awesome. All of it, Emma sacrificing herself for Regina and opening up next season's plot with her as the Dark One. Should be fun.

  4. I think you might hate Henry because the actor is quite terrible. I feel sorry for the kid because you can tell he's really trying, but he is one of the worst young actors I've ever seen and every scene he was in the finale was cringeworthy.

    At the end of the episode I was rooting they would find a way to write him off.


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