Swan Song

#OnceUponATime Panel “Swan Song”

Hello #Oncers! It’s been five days since “Swan Song.” FIVE DAYS. Have we processed yet? (Will we ever?)

We knew pain was coming our way. I just don’t think we expected THIS kind of pain. But that’s okay. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, the path of true love never did run smooth. So, here we are, ready to go into the Umderworld with our favorites. Ready to let this show put the pieces of our heart back together again.

In March.


Oh, this is going to be a long hiatus. A long one. I promise to try to fill it with as much fun Once Upon A Time stuff as possible. In the meantime, let’s get on with our final panel of the year, as we discuss Captain Swan, the hero’s journey and Rumplestiltskin. Joining me today are Maggie, Msgenevieve and Marianne (who also also reviews  Once  at The Nerd Machine and The Girly Nerd) and do they have some good answers (and I a lot of questions!). So, let’s begin!

For all the fuss about the Dark Ones invading Storybrooke, they seemed to be …well, very inefficient. Were you disappointed with how the show executed this part of the plot?

Maggie: It did feel a little underwhelming and perhaps could have been fleshed out had they not given that one hour long episode to Merida/Mulan/Ruby, but it is what it is and I think that for the time they had they managed to pull it all together quite well. The Dark Ones and their plan were sprinkled throughout the season and it all came to a head. It was definitely not the overwhelming arc of this season, I genuinely believe that this arc was fully about Hook and Emma and this journey we’re about to embark on and that’s not just the shipper in me talking. So many little lines and scenes all make so much sense now in hindsight. In fact the final scene of Season Four drew attention from Hook to the dagger.

Msgenevieve: I think having only Nimue present as a ‘known’ Dark One was a missed opportunity – where were Clippy Rumple and Zuzoo, for example? if they’d been there, I think their presence would have added quite the dramatic urgency to those scenes. Not that they weren’t dramatic, but nameless people in cloaks just weren’t as scary as they could have been.

Marianne: I was not disappointed at all. When it comes to any villain or threat I usually look at what their purpose is to the plot. They were not going to succeed in dragging everyone to the Underworld. I did not believe that would happen because Once Upon a Time is not a hopeless show.  So I do think about them as being ineffectual. In terms of what they did for the plot and characters they were effective. Their presence was a way to free Emma from the darkness and help Killian finally overcome all of his demons once and for all bringing his redemption full circle in a very powerful way.

Regina had tried last episode to give her sister the benefit of the doubt, but in “Swan Song,” she was done with being nice. Do you agree with her decision to send Zelena back to Oz or do you fall on the side of not separating a child from her mother? Even if you do, is Zelena capable of being a good mother?

Maggie: Perhaps sending Zelena to Oz wasn’t the best decision, seeing as we won’t be seeing the maniacal and amazing Bex Mader on our screens for a bit, but I fully believe that Zelena should have no rights to her child. True, Regina has done terrible things in her past, but she is actually a better suited parent than Zelena could ever dream to be. The little baby green bean was nothing more than a pawn for Zelena to use to terrorize Regina and Robin.

Msgenevieve: I have the feeling that most of my answers are going to start with ‘if they’d had more time’. I think they did the best that could with the Zelena ‘for now’ resolution given everything else that was going on. I think we all knew that Zelena wasn’t going to be happy with having supervised visits with her daughter so her actions weren’t a surprise at all, and honestly, neither was Regina’s decision to send her sister back to Oz. I’m not emotionally involved in either storyline, to be frank, so I watched with rather detached eyes, but I think both women acted true to form and in character as far as I’m concerned.

Marianne: I do agree with Regina’s decision because Zelena was given a very fair chance to be a part of her daughter’s life and decided instead to try to take the baby away from Robin, who is the victim in the situation. They decided to be hopeful that she could change and Zelena proved that the hope they had for her was all for naught. Not only was she going to take the baby away from Robin but teach her to be “wicked.” That certainly does not scream “mother of the year” material. Cora may not have raised Zelena but it seems she has great deal of her mother in her. On this show I always say there is always a chance at redemption, but Zelena may be an exception.

Both Hook’s darkness and subsequent change of heart felt very sudden. Do you like how the show handled his character in the last two episodes?

Maggie: I don’t believe that it was too sudden. We saw Hook in a very unusual place throughout the present day Storybrooke scenes. He seemed unusually moody and lashed out quite a bit, though warranted giving the entire situation, in hindsight I think it was the darkness peeking out. His change of heart was actually my favorite part of the episode because that was Killian, not the darkness using his body. He saw Emma in danger and realized that this wasn’t the man he was and he fought the darkness and gave up his life to save hers.

Msgenevieve: I wanted more time to explore it. I wanted a clearer explanation (for those who like to quibble) about how he could go so quickly from not knowing to BEING the Dark One once they were back in SB. Personally, I felt it was like Gold not knowing who he was during the Dark Curse until Emma came to town and he heard her name. As soon as he remembered he was the Dark One, he WAS the Dark One. When Emma cast the curse to return to SB from Camelot, she included a special caveat for Killian – when you wake up, you’ll be the man I love. The man who loves me – and it clearly worked. When Zelena restored his memories, it was like Gold hearing Emma’s name, aka an Instant Dark One switch being flicked.

I would have LOVED more scenes of him wavering over what he was doing. He was obviously pleased that Emma wouldn’t be going to the UW (she hadn’t been marked) and I wonder if she HAD been, whether he would have hesitated and turned on the Dark Ones long before he did.

Marianne: Absolutely! While his descent into darkness did feel sudden, I understood it because he had suddenly been turned into the thing he hated the most and fought against for centuries, and by the woman he loves. And when she lied about having Excalibur all of his self doubt, self loathing and past disappointment were manipulated and twisted by the Darkness. I understood that completely having only watched “Broken Heart.” But now having seen “Swan Song” his behavior is even more clear. Learning that he and Liam had essentially been sold into servitude by their father was devastating, it is no wonder he had issues with being controlled by others.

His change of heart may have happened quickly as well, but it was beautifully portrayed and made complete sense for his character. You could see the entire episode he was having moments of doubt. Every time he clenched his jaw you could see the darkness was losing their grip on him. The final straw was seeing Emma in pain and unable to help her family. The true Killian Jones loves Emma more than anything so of course he was able to finally break free. It just shows how much he loves her and what a strong man he truly is. And of course that true love is stronger than darkness!

Rumple showed his true colors once again, choosing power over love. Describe how this makes you feel.

Maggie: It makes me feel a tiny bit boastful because I called it. I always believed he’d be the Dark One again and honestly, Rumple is the main villain of the show. I have believed that since we first met him and I’ve maintained that belief. It came as no surprise whatsoever.

Msgenevieve:  Completely and utterly unsurprised! LOL. Also, poor Belle.

Marianne: Disappointed but not completely surprised. I will admit I was shocked when I found out that he darkness had not been destroyed and that he was the Dark One again. I did not see that coming at all! He seemed to really be turning over a new leaf and since we are well into the series I thought maybe it could be possible that he would continue to try to atone for his past. But this current betrayal makes me think he is meant to be the one main villain of the series and that his redemption may never come. I know I will find it difficult to ever trust anything he says. Of course Robert Carlyle is so fantastic in this part and the way he portrays these villainous moments, so from an entertainment standpoint it is amazing and great drama.

 Snow has gone through ups and downs characterization-wise this season, and even this episode, but in the end she walked into the Underworld with her daughter. They all did. What do you think this means for the rest of the season, and for the chances of these people finally becoming one big complicated family?

Maggie: I really hope that the final act of this winter finale marks the beginning of Emma’s family actually backing her up and fighting with her for her happy ending. That’s one aspect of the show that has disappointed me since Season Three. Snow is such a hopeful, optimistic, lover of love, but she’s been so consistently negative and begrudging of her daughter being happy and that has always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m fairly certain Killian’s walked on egg shells around her because one second she seems to favor him and the next she’s shooting him down. It’s been inconsistent and I think even the general audience has noticed the inconsistency. I really hope that this finale is the start of Snow fighting for her daughter’s happiness, it’s about damn time Emma has her family behind her fully.

Msgenevieve: I just know that Ginny’s pregnancy is going to affect her screen time, but I am holding out a lot of hope that Emma and her parents can finally use this harrowing journey to clear out the emotional minefield that still lingers between them. I think if you’re prepared to travel with your family to the UW, you should be able to voice all the fear and resentment and uncertainty that you’ve been carrying around with you all your life.

Marianne: This was my favorite episode for Snow of the season! I loved seeing her finally comforting her daughter when she needed it the most and right there with her ready to march to the Underworld to help save Killian. In fact, the little nod that Snow and Charming gave Emma before she stepped onto the lake was one of my favorite parts of the episode. I think this means that some of the things I have wanted to see for a long time have a good chance of happening this season. For a while I have wanted everyone, particularly Snow and Charming, to acknowledge that Killian is worthy of trust and being a part of their family, but also to recognize the place his has in Emma’s heart. I think they are finally on their way of doing so. When Killian sacrificed himself and Emma was sobbing over him, they made a distinct point to cut to Snow and Charming looking very distressed. And while they questioned Emma going to the Underworld at first that was only because they feared she would give into darkness again. Once they hear that she is going to save him the heroic way, with love and light, they are right there backing up their daughter with an encouraging smile.

Belle has always seen the good in people, even to her own detriment. Do you think she’s wrong to do so? What would you like to see from her going forward?

Maggie: I wholeheartedly believe that Belle’s constant belief in seeing the good in people is going to get her screwed over in a massive way. In fact, we saw it in the finale. She believed in Rumple’s good once again and look where that got her – right back into the web of his lies and power-hunger. I honestly want nothing more than for Belle to escape from Rumple and leave Storybrooke. It’s only going to bring her more heartache.

Msgenevieve: In her own way, Belle is as much an emotional addict as Rumple. He’s addicted to power, she’s addicted to loving Rumple. She’s tried to leave him a few times, just as he’s tried to leave power and magic behind him, and they’ve both relapsed every time. As with Ginny, EDR’s pregnancy means that Belle will either be sidelined or pregnant, and I really hope it’s the former. I think one baby brought into the world under false pretences is enough. (Poor Robin.)

Marianne: I don’t want to say seeing the best and good in people is ever wrong. It is a beautiful quality to possess. In her case, seeing the best in Rumple has made her a bit naive, but she had been so much stronger in this case, standing up for herself. Even though I wanted him to do a bit more I was good with her coming back to him after he had sent her out of town for her safety. He had been selfless in this case. But when I discovered he once again betrayed everyone’s trust these feelings went out the window. I am honestly not sure where her character should go. I do know that I really love her new and unique friendship with Killian and when her knowledge is put to use. So I hope to see those things continue.

What Hook’s father did was unforgivable, and yet Hook was, at first, ready to let bygones be bygones. What do you think this says about the sort of “villain” Killian Jones was.

Maggie: To some extent Killian is the classic “villain” backstory. Tragic childhood, tragic losses, tragic life. But I think the important thing about Killian and his “villainy” is that he consistently grows from it. We saw in the Season Two finale that the reflection on his interactions with Bae made him turn his ship around and help Emma and the Storybrooke clan and in this winter finale we saw the reflection of “what sort of man do you want to be?” come into play with his last minute fight against the darkness to die a hero and to save Emma and everyone. I think that’s the thing that sets him apart from the other villains. He seems to have genuinely reformed, he hates what he used to be and does not want to be that man again. He’s expressed disgust in his dark deeds and makes no attempts at acting like he’s some saint. I could ramble philosophically about Killian and how  his entire arc from Season Two to this season has shown his growth and has consistently reflected on his past deeds and present attempts to be better than them, but I’m pretty sure I’d go on for pages.

Msgenevieve:  Personally, I think that if Brennan Jones has named his third son Killian rather than Liam, he would have survived that night. The thought of Liam (‘a much better man than I’) being dismissed and dishonoured and REPLACED so easily by their father tipped Hook into the dark madness that he’d first tasted when the King had betrayed them and caused Liam’s death.

Marianne: I think it says that a great deal of his villainy stems from feeling betrayed and from a loss of love. I think it is important that he only changed his mind when he heard the same speech being given to his as a boy, but most especially because Brennan’s new son was named Liam. Killian idolized and loved Liam more than anything. So to see his feather basically replace one boy with the other was obviously too much for him. It does not excuse what he did but you can understand how he felt. The fact that he was willing to spare his father before this, even after everything he had done shows the kind of man Killian is- someone who deep down does not want to be a villain and wants to be honorable and forgiving.

 The love story of Killian Jones and Emma Swan has now reached epic levels. How do you feel about this couple, and where do you think they’re going with them the rest of the season?

Maggie: This question is posed as such a simple thing! How do I feel? I’m still staring at the ceiling every night replaying Killian’s THIRD death feeling a little empty and broken and shattered. This couple is everything I ever dreamed of loving. I’ve been on board since it was first introduced and to see how far they’ve come has been a truly incredible ride. This season was beautiful and devastating for the couple and I absolutely adore how much Emma loves him, how much she sees her parents’ love in her own relationship. Unlike several people I’ve seen here recently, I loved that Emma ‘borrowed’ her parents’ “I will always find you” quote. I think that’s a testament to just how much Emma loves Killian. I have always wanted that line used and I loved hearing it – I honestly thought that was always going to be an unfulfilled wish of mine!

As for where I think they’re going… Well straight to hell in a handbasket, haha! I think we’re going to see Emma fighting for her happy ending, like she’s fought for everyone else’s and I love that everyone is right there behind her leading the fight to get Killian back. I think the pain has only started but I genuinely believe this arc is going to end in something incredible for Killian and Emma.

Msgenevieve: Oh, I think they can reach WAY more epic heights! I love them to bits. I love them as themselves, and as a couple. I haven't been this infatuated with a fictional couple in years, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. I think Emma will find her TL and rescue him from the depths of the UW. Beyond that, I have no idea, but I can't WAIT.

Marianne: The love story of Killian and Emma is not only the most beautiful and well developed story of the series but they are becoming my favorite fictional couple ever. I spoke the other day that although we do not know the end of the book yet, their story has become my favorite fairy tale. They are a beautiful couple- real and passionate, sweet and sexy, and a perfect representation of ways love can heal our wounds, make us stronger and help us to be the best version of ourselves. Their story has always captivated my heart but this season in particular has been absolutely amazing. In the second half of the season I expect to see Emma fighting to save Killian with every fiber of her being and many more epic and romantic moments, perhaps even a True Love's Kiss. I also believe that by season's end they will get engaged or married. There has been so much wedding foreshadowing and the existence of "Operation Light Swan" pretty much solidifies that in my eyes. Henry's missions never fail, so I both hope and believe that this will succeed and they will find and begin their future together in their house in Storybrooke.

Emma’s arc in this episode was heartbreaking – she went from being willing to kill the man she loved to save her family, to getting him back and then having to kill him anyway. In this respect, the Emma that we see at the end of the episode is not the Emma we know. She’s grown. She’s opened herself up to love. What do you think about Emma’s journey?

Maggie: Emma’s journey has been so breathtaking to watch. I instantly latched onto Emma Swan in season one and while I loved other characters Emma was always my number one girl. She was so broken and it’s been so much fun to watch her patch up all of those broken pieces of her and learn that it’s okay to love and be loved. This was Emma Swan who could barely hug her son in the first season who is now comfortable with public displays of affection with her significant other, expressing the feelings straight from the heart, and even reaching out for help (even if it came too late). I think the beauty in Emma Swan is that she is a deeply flawed character, she makes mistakes, she learns, she grows, she is constantly evolving. I think this Dark Swan arc has really tested her and brought out a more vulnerable side of her and she’s acting from a place of desperation now to get her happy ending. She’s worked so hard for everyone else’s that it’s about damn time they work with her to get her own. Her growth hasn’t come to an end either I think 5B will really test who she is as well.

Msgenevieve: I actually cannot find the words to express how happy I am that Emma and her happy ending have been the focus of this season so far. I love how brave she's been, how strong and unwavering in her determination not to lose the man she loves. She's made mistakes along the way, but she kept going, and now she's hell-bent (ha!) on making good on those mistakes and bringing her TL back to the land of the living. I'm very excited for 5B.

Marianne: Emma's journey has been so incredibly moving and seeing her grow and open her heart has made me proud to be a fan of her character. Her growth and her journey is very inspiring to me because I think many of us can understand feeling hopeless, cynical, and disappointed, but at the same time deeply longing for family and romantic love. She is not the same Emma we saw at the beginning of the series; nor is the same from even the start of this season. It has been a slow and steady progression which makes it all the more believable, and each year she has grown a little more. Now she is stronger than ever, determined and full of hope and belief that true love can overcome anything. It is truly beautiful!

What was your favorite part of the episode? And your least favorite part?

Maggie: My favorite part of the episode was actually Killian’s death because Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue absolutely blew it out of the park. Like I lowkey hate them for being such incredible actors because that scene is probably going to haunt me for the rest of my life. I will be grey and in an old folk’s home one day and I’ll still be talking about that scene. As for least favorite… I’d have to give that one to the Regina and Hook scenes simply because I thought Lana was a bit over the top and it was pretty uncomfortable for me. Her insistence in touching him and his rather droll ‘please stop’ looks made me feel skeevy.

Marianne: I have a few favorite scenes from the episode. Without a doubt one of these was Emma setting off towards the boat to the Underworld with her family and friends right behind her vowing "Hook, I will find you. I will always find you." I cannot even express how much her speaking these words means to me. In this moment she has become a true Charming and it ended the episode on one of the most hopeful moments we've ever seen on the show. I was rendered speechless. Although it was utterly heartbreaking, I also loved the climatic scene between Killian and Emma when he sacrifices himself, mostly especially their exchange of "I Love Yous" and wjen we see Emma magically transform back into her true self. The image of her becoming the Savior again was so beautiful and showed how light overcame the darkness. Honestly I loved "Swan Song" so much and it is one of my favorite episodes of the series ever, so I don't really have a least favorite part. I suppose I could also say Killian's sacrifice was because seeing Killian die and Emma uncontrollably sob over his body was almost too much to bear. I was crying a great deal over this scene. But it was so masterfully filmed and performed I still loved it because I know this is not the end of their story. This is merely a dark chapter on the road towards a happy ending.

Agree? Disagree? Have your own answers to these questions? Sound off in the comments below!

Once Upon a Time airs on Sundays at 8/7c on ABC. It's now on hiatus, and the next new episode is slated to air March 6th, 2016.

Lawyer. Dreamer. Geek. Eternal optimist. Fangirl since the dawn of time. Hates the color yellow, olives and cigarettes. Has a recurring nightmare where she’s forced to choose between sports and books. Falls in love with fictional characters.