Once Upon A Time Roundtable “Tougher Than The Rest”

Once Upon A Time is finally back! And, so are we – because, as usual, we have a lot of feels about what happened in this episode. Good feels, bad feels, uh feels. This show usually delivers in all respects!

Joining me to talk about “Tougher Than The Rest” and to discuss our hopes, dreams and expectations for Season 6B are Sarah, Charles and our lovely guest this week, Maggie!

So here we go:

What were your overall thoughts on this episode?  Rate the episode on a scale of 1 to 10.

Lizzie: I’ll give it a 7.5. Emma’s backstory was the highlight of the episode, August didn’t annoy me as much as he usually does, OldHook was a hoot, the Captain Charming team-up was nice to see, Robin/Regina was emotional, for change and even the Rumbelle parts didn’t bug me as much as they usually do. Solid episode, and much better than the last one.

Sarah:  I’d say a 7.5 personally. I loved getting to see more of Emma’s backstory, even if I’m still not the biggest fan of August. Regina and Robin was wonderful, but I’m still cautious on how this storyline will go. I really liked seeing Charming and Hook team up, hoping for more of that and I didn’t totally hate Rumple and Belle’s story with Gideon so I consider that a win.

Charles: I give it a solid 7. The Emma/August, Robin/Regina stuff was nice and enjoyable. Could have used more of the Charming/Hook team though that looks like it’s coming soon. The Rumple/Belle/Gideon plot line was fine for what it was.  A very lovely episode of Once.

Maggie: Eight for me. I loved the Outlaw Queen, Old Hook was hilarious and the Emma story was nice.

The central message of this episode was about fate – or better yet, about deciding who to become, about making your own fate. Did you enjoy Emma’s backstory and how it led to her final confrontation with Gideon? Do you think Emma is finally ready to make her own destiny?

Lizzie:  Emma’s backstory was perfect, it was. When I was watching the episode, I legit went from that’s not how the story goes to who cares? New headcanon, because in a way, OUAT’s interpretation means more to me. It’s about the power of choice, and that translates perfectly not just to Emma, but to the way we all live our lives. I like to think we have a choice in what we become, just as Emma has a choice in her confrontation with Gideon, in her relationships, in her future. And I think  for all that she’s been trying to fight against the inevitable idea of destiny, this is the moment where Emma finally realized that yes, she could have it all. And I think she’s going to grab onto the future that she wants with both hands and never, ever let go.

Sarah:  Definitely. Emma’s backstory was a really good way to show rather than just tell how her famous last name came to be. The fact that it was her choice worked well with Emma’s realization in the present no matter how much power it feels fate has, it can never drown out the freedom we all have to make our own choices. Emma being away in the Wish Realm, as strange as that place was didn’t just show her the grass is necessarily greener, but as she fought for her way home it wasn’t just Storybrooke she was trying to get back to. It was her parents, Henry and Killian Jones her whole life and when something even for a short time is taken away from you, I think can help you realize how much you are willing to fight to keep it. Emma’s ready now to fight not just for herself, but her whole future and I can’t wait to see her succeed.

Charles: I thought Emma’s backstory of getting the name Swan was a nice touch.  Especially liked the actress playing young Emma. I thought she did a good job nailing stuff Jennifer does.  As for Emma making her own destiny, yes I think she is more than ready to. She is ready to control her own life and live it how she wants it to be set, not how others do.  I’m ready for a whole bunch of Emma happy with her whole family intact.

Maggie: I liked it, but it feels like they’re contradicting themselves in how she got the name. They had said it was the last name of her first foster parents. But okay, it was nice, so I’ll let it go. The rest of the stuff, especially with her fighting Gideon and being all like I’m Emma and you’re not going to beat me was perfect.

There was a lot of August in this episode. What are your thoughts about him? Do you like him as a character? Have you forgiven him for abandoning Emma? Is he someone you want to see more of or would you rather they give this time to the main characters?

Lizzie: Okay, to start with, I’m never going to forgive him for abandoning Emma. Never ever. It feels like OUAT is playing revisionist history with him, and because they like the idea of the character and/or the actor, they keep going back and making it seem like what he did – not just by abandoning, but by getting Neal to do the same – wasn’t that bad. Newsflash: It was. And we’re not going to forgive him just because Emma turned out good and is now happy. She did that herself, August played no role in it.

So, the whole thing with him helping Emma – meh. If he wanted to help he would have stayed. That being said, his whole presence didn’t bother me that much this episode, because I think the message that he was there to send was a good one, and probably a necessary one. Did it need to come from him specifically? No. Plenty of other characters would have done the trick. I didn’t hate him in this episode, but I don’t particularly need more August. Ever.

Sarah:  I like August as a character in terms of, I really like Eion’s face and he plays him really well but I’ve never been a huge fan because of how much he’s played a part in how frankly terrible Emma’s life was for a long time. The story has been framed in that he did his best, but I’ve not bought that truthfully since it was revealed way back in Season 1 he left Emma the second he found an out. Despite all of that though, he’s always had good intentions, so while I’ll never fully forgive him I’m glad he’s always been honest about the mistakes he’s made. I don’t mean seeing him onscreen, but time-wise I’d always choose to give more to the main characters.

Charles: August has always been a character that I really had no thoughts on to be honest. I don’t hate him but I don’t really like him either.  As for abandoning Emma, yeah way over that now that Emma has moved onto much better things (Hook *wink wink*). As for seeing him again, no. His story is over and time to focus on the main characters of Storybrooke.

Maggie:  I don’t care about him one way or another and I would have liked it for them to spend all the time they spent on August on any character but him.

The Regina/Robin scenes were very emotional, and spoke of Regina’s inability to find peace. Did you enjoy them? Where do you think this storyline is going? Do you think Robin is staying for good, and do you think Regina’s happy ending is dependant on him being around?

Lizzie: I enjoyed them a lot more than I’ve enjoyed anything for them in the past season and a half or so. And it’s not because I didn’t like them – I did, it’s because the show seemingly forgot about them, or started treating them as background characters, forgot that Robin was something other than a prop for Regina and, ultimately, sacrificed him for no reason other than shock value. This episode was a nice reminder of what Robin/Regina were in their first moments together, of what they could have been if the writers had been invested.

That being said – and as much as I enjoyed their scenes, particularly the one in Rumple’s dungeon, this is surely going to end bad. I’m pretty sure OUAT is going for the Regina can be happy without a guy route as long as she finds peace, which would have been all fine and good, a woman doesn’t necessarily need a man to be happy – it’s just that after Robin’s introduction and subsequent death, it all feels like a waste. Why even bring them together in the first place if they were always going to end  like this?

Sarah:  I liked seeing Regina with this version of Robin because despite his physical appearance she was very much aware he was not “her” Robin and it lent a wistful tone to their otherwise lovely scenes.  I had forgotten how much I missed seeing Sean & Lana onscreen together and it reminded me of when Robin was first introduced back in Season 3 how new it all was. I can’t begin to guess where the storyline is going, but I don’t believe Robin will be here for good. If they had intended him to permanently stay they wouldn’t have killed him off in the first place last season. He’s here for a reason, but I’m curious to see what exactly that is and how everything plays out with this self proclaimed Robin of Loxley and Regina. Her happy ending has always been a work in progress, shifting based on the trajectory of her life over the years to me. As much as I think it involves being around people she loves, like her family, it was never dependent on solely one person even Robin. If it came down to just one, it would be Regina herself and I do believe she will find her happy ending, it’s just destined to be a very twisty and unusual way to get there.

Charles: The Outlaw Queen scenes were very emotional and added a little extra to this episode. I enjoyed the back and forth chemistry between the two and how each surprised the other. As for the storyline, I see it going one of two ways. Either Robin reforms his ways after some rough times or Robin is unable to change his ways and becomes a bad guy in Storybrooke.  I hope Robin stays good but it will be tough for him I think.  As for Regina’s happy ending, she believes that it’s dependent on Robin but I don’t think it does at all. It has to be Regina finding peace with herself first.

Maggie: This was my favorite part of the episode and I’m so scared we’ll end up with our hearts broken again. Why kill Robin in the first place? Why bring him back just to take him away from us again? What is the message here? But I hope that’s just my pessimistic side showing through and that there is a reason for this storyline and Robin’s return, a reason that makes sense. I loved this couple since they first appeared on screen and I feel like they’ve gotten the short end of the stick time and time again.

It seems like Belle and Rumple finally have a common goal – saving their kid. Are you glad to see them teaming up for this? Can the show ever do something to redeem this ship in your eyes, or would you rather they just co-parent without getting cozy at all? Finally, do you think OUAT is setting Rumple up to sacrifice himself?

Lizzie: Glad is a big word. I’m never glad for anything that puts these two together. I understand it needs to happen, and I guess you can say I would be angrier if it didn’t, because this IS the kind of thing they need to deal with together. But by together I mean in the same place, not together together because I hope we never have to see that again. Too much has happened. I’m never buying them together again. They crossed that line approximately two season ago for me, and everything after has just been piling on. Please, no more Rumbelle. Ever again.

As for Rumple, I’ve had the feeling he was going to come full circle and sacrifice himself for his son since we first found out Belle was pregnant. His story was never one about happily ever after, and I think that, despite all the bad he’s done, Rumple has always been at his best when it comes to his sons. This is his chance to do something right, and I hope that’s where Once Upon A Time is going with it. Hopefully it’ll also mean they can de-age Gideon or something, because he deserves a good life with his mother.

Sarah:  I’m glad they are agreeing on tackling what’s going on with their son as a united front, but I’m wary of how it’ll turn out. Rumple doesn’t have the best track record (which is putting it lightly I’m aware) even if he seems to have honest intentions regarding Gideon. Ship wise Rumbelle is dead in the water to me, but I’d be happy to see them reconcile their family as far as helping their son realize he doesn’t need to kill anyone to save the people back in the Black Fairy’s realm where he was raised. Rumplestiltskin is a character I’ve had a contentious relationship with for a while in that I love how amazing Bobby is as Rumple, but ever since season 4 I have never been able to understand the writer’s intentions with him. They’ve had him as a hero, but he’s far too delicious as an anti hero or usually villain to keep him in the hero camp for very long. Either he’s going to fully redeem himself which doesn’t seem likely at this point or he will end up sacrificing himself to save his family. I’m curious to see which it is, but if he does live please don’t put him back with Belle. I really do think too much has happened for them to ever be happy together as a couple again.

Charles: I am happy the Belle/Rumple scenes weren’t too bad this week but I still am a big fat no on them ever being a couple again. They need to figure out how to be better people apart from one another, especially Rumple. Pretty much Rumple.  I do hope Rumple does sacrifice himself. To me , he has outlived his usefulness on here and a hero’s death could be the only way to redeem Rumple in my eyes.

Maggie: I love Rumple, I just don’t think he’s ever going to be a good guy and Belle is never going to see eye to eye with him, so the couple just doesn’t work, will never work. But it’s nice to see them working together in this, like any two parents should. And yes, I think this probably the end of Rumple, whether the show continues or not.

We have to talk about wish-realm Hook. Did you enjoy him? Did you still find him attractive? What did you think about Emma’s reaction to him? And back to the Captain Swan we know and love – do you wish the show would give us a little more of their alone moments or are you satisfied with what we go?

Lizzie: I’m gonna come clean with you here, I still found him attractive. Maybe it was the Jack Sparrow-like swagger. Or that he clearly still thought he was God’s gift to women or something. Plus, I’ve realized I need Colin O’Donoghue to do more comedy, his comedic timing is perfect. As for Emma’s reaction, I think she clearly saw him the way she viewed her parents in the wish realm – as fake, and yet, I think seeing him renewed her desire to go home to her Hook. She wasn’t anything like wish-realm Emma, and I think that give her some perspective as to the other people that populated this realm.

As for our Captain Swan, yes, I wish the show would give us more of their alone moments. They would have been hard-pressed to do it in this episode, but I wish the show had taken the time, in general, to give us some conversations between the two of them that we’ve missed during the past five seasons. Balance has never been this show’s biggest strength, and I think for all that they’ve always understood what the heart of this tale was, they’ve sometimes gotten distracted by new, shiny things, and forgotten to give now just Captain Swan, but most couples, their due.

Sarah:  Wish realm Hook was hilarious, I loved how Colin played it straight with the gray hair, and beer belly, haha. Despite everything I couldn’t help but think he was adorable in the wish realm, and Emma’s reaction to him just classic knowing this is what could/would happen to him if he’d never met her. Her bafflement at his appearance didn’t overshadow the fact that she still tried to protect him from a fight he probably wasn’t going to win. Especially after he gets knocked out and she remarked on getting home and getting her Hook off the rum and dessert. Present Day Captain Swan, I’d love to see more alone quiet moments with the two of them. The little things, like  making coffee for each other in the morning, or the two of them just hanging out on the couch watching Netflix and anything similar I’d happily love more of for them.

Charles: I did find wish-realm Hook pretty funny. Now attractive? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. No.  Emma’s reaction felt like one of bemusement at what Hook could have been. So thank the lord he got to meet Emma Swan.  As for the Captain Swan of it all, of course I would love more quiet moments. My favorite thing to see in tv couples isn’t always the big romantic gesture but the tiny little everyday things. Like morning rituals and casual chats. Give me more of that anytime!

Maggie: It was funny that he still had this swagger, like the thought he was attractive still. I enjoyed him much more than I thought I would. As for Captain Swan, I don’t think this episode really could have crammed a more private moment between them, but I do think this show fails at giving all couples enough time alone to advance the relationships.

What are your expectations for 6B? Who’s holding that ring? What do you want to see? And, if this is indeed the final season – what would be your happy ending?

Lizzie: My expectations are that, now that Emma has stopped struggling with the idea of a predetermined fate, and now that she’s gotten over her fears, we’ll see her reach for that future with Hook that she clearly wants. I think the only thing that’s been holding him back, and in turn, holding them both back, is Emma. So now that she’s ready, I think we’re gonna see them take quite a leap in 6B – especially because I’m 100% sure that ring is Hook’s. We’ve been predicting a Captain Swan wedding here since before it was trendy to do so, and I wholeheartedly believe we’ll get not just the proposal, but probably the wedding before the season is over. And I can’t wait, because …these two deserve that happy ending. They really do.

I also want Snow out of that stupid sleeping curse. Snowing was the reason I started watching this show and the reason I stuck around and I want them BOTH to get to see their daughter come full circle by marrying her true love. I want Henry to live his life, no matter where it takes him, I want Belle to get a chance to raise her kid and I want Regina to find peace, not by full redemption, which is impossible, but by the acceptance that being good is something she has to fight for every day. In full, I want this family to be just that …a family. To be happy together, in good times and bad. I don’t really want it to end, but if it must, I want the happy ending I was promised.

Sarah:  I’m expecting one heck of a story to follow on how Emma is going to fight for her own happy ending and future. I’d really like to see the rest of Aladdin and Jasmine’s story and please for the curse between Snow and Charming to be broken sooner rather than later I miss those two together so much. That ring I firmly believe belongs to, none other than our very own Killian Jones! I can’t wait to see how he proposes to Emma *squeals* My happy ending is for the entirety of the Charming family, Emma, Snow, Charming, Henry, Killian, and Regina all of them find peace from the never ending villains and to live their own lives happy individually and as a family. What more could I ask for?

Charles: I expect Gideon to come back with a vengeance and cause more trouble for Emma. Also a return from some former friends like Aladdin and Jasmine. As for the ring, HOOK OF COURSE! I think we see Hook propose to Emma very soon. As for my happy ending for the show- is the Charmings all be together, healthy, supporting and loving one another like the family they are.

Maggie: I hope I don’t get my heart broken by Outlaw Queen – if this is the end, I want them to be happy, together. I hope Gideon is de-aged and I hope Captain Swan gets to have their happy ending as well.

Agree? Disagree? Want to participate in one of these round-tables in the future? Share with us in the comments below!

Once Upon a Time airs on Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.