PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler – “Once Upon a Time” – The Season 4 Wrap-Up Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)


Who: “Once Upon a Time” airs on network TV, specifically on ABC, fall/winter/spring Sundays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Once Upon a Time,” a fantasy drama wherein storybook and fairy tale characters are not only real but are living in this world, away from their enchanted kingdoms and worlds beyond reality, and how they all interrelate (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/once_upon_a_time/summary.html).

When: The Season 4 finale aired on Sunday, May 10, 2015, on ABC at 8:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in fictional Storybrooke, Maine, as well as in “The Enchanted Forest,” the fairy tale kingdom from where most of the main characters originate. The action takes place primarily in present day, though there are flashbacks to the characters’ past lives, before they were whisked away to Storybrooke via curse wrought by the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parilla) and before they were made run-of-the-mill real world residents with serious bouts of amnesia.

Why: Two primary reasons: one, I love fantasy and fairy tales, and the Disney network green-lit a live action serial television program about fairy tale characters that they would probably own the rights to, if the characters weren’t already public domain.  Two, the creators are Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, two of the head writers of Lost. Whatever else may be said about the latter program, I don’t think anyone could argue that Lost wasn’t well written.  Once boasted some whopper ingredients that promised to result in an explosive and tantalizing mixture of story possibilities; the show has done nothing but live up to that expectation and then some.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

For a recap of the first half of season 4 – the “Frozen” arc – provided by our lovely podcast panel of Eddie, Kristen, Amie (and me), read here!

The second half of season 4 saw a return to form for our Once characters in what became known as the “Queens of Darkness” arc.  Abandoning the conceit of jumping fairy tale realms, the show returned to Storybrooke and to our core characters, much to the elation of our podcast panel, to weave a tale surrounding the fairy tale villains’ desires to obtain their happy endings, believing that to do so was possible, regardless of what seemed to be their fate, given their natures and/or choices.  In order to achieve those happy endings, Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle), the ringleader of the movement toward happier villains, believed that he and his recruited accomplices – Ursula (Merrin Dungey), Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit), and the newly resurrected Maleficent (Kristen Bauer von Straten) – must 1) find the Author of the “Book,” the “Once Upon a Time” storybook given to Henry by Snow White in the first season of the series, and convince him to change the courses of their stories; and 2) corrupt the Savior, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), in order to disrupt the tide of fate, since Emma seems to be the fulcrum on which good and evil must balance in this fairy tale inspired world.  The journeys, toward the future and into the past via the show’s trademark flashbacks, of each of our main characters, both hero and villain, were fraught with twists and unexpected plot developments, which resulted in a cataclysmic event in the finale to round out the season that promises to cast a significant spell on our characters in season five.  As a result, I asked the Once panel of fellow Couch Potatoes how they felt about the second half of season four “Around the Water Cooler.”  This podcast was recorded on June 14, 2015, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS. Listen, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) Is baby Neal magical like his sister?

Answer: At this time, baby Neal’s “specialness,” if it exists, is still unknown.

2) What did Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) do with Maleficent and her baby to ensure that Emma is imbued with a good heart and light magic?

Answer: Snow and Charming took Maleficent’s baby (who hatched from a dragon egg) and tossed the egg into a portal, which sent the egg to our world.  As it turned out, we’d met Maleficient’s daughter before…

3) How the hell did Cruella de Vil get magical?  Where does she come from?  How did she come to know Maleficent and Ursula?

Answer: Cruella came from London – clearly her accent gave her away.  Yet, the Author imbued Cruella with magical powers and exaggerated the seeds of the already mean spirit she seemed to possess because he met her and became quite taken with her – and even the Author wanted a happy ending for himself, not content to sit on the sidelines and record a story he never actually created.  The three “Queens” met each other as students of the Dark One, i.e. Rumpelstiltskin, who recruited them in the Enchanted Forest to begin invoking his plan of seeking out happy endings for all of them but particularly for himself.  But, he double crossed them initially.  Typical.

4) Why did these particular Queens of Darkness band together at any point?

Answer: See above.

5) How did Rumpel come to make their acquaintance?

Answer: He sought them out for his nefarious plans.  He had a nose for the magical; remember how he found Regina, Cora (Barbara Hershey), etc.

6) What did Rumpel do for the six weeks during which he was ousted from Storybrooke, without magic and disabled?

Answer: Seek out Ursula and Cruella.  How he managed it, we don’t know.  The show did a poor job of connecting the two thoughts, which we discuss in the podcast.

7) WHO IS THE AUTHOR? And can changing the book really change Regina’s, or anyone else’s, fate?

Answer: The Author (Patrick Fischler) is someone we hadn’t met yet.  The Author is appointed his task, largely by Fate but with help of the Sorcerer via his Apprentice.  The Author is bestowed with the specific instruction and charge of recording things as they happen; he is not supposed to change the fates or destinies of the characters.  Yet, the Author can change.  Who the original Author was, we don’t know, though one of the Authors was called “Walt.”  This Author, Isaac, chose to pervert his sacred task and the flow of the story by changing the original Cruella, so she would love him, and then by capitulating to Rumpel’s wily demands, though the Author wanted to create a world where he was a Hero as well as well known for his magical purpose.  In the season finale, the Author changed the book, rendering the villains heroes and vice versa.  So, Regina and Snow White, for example, switched places – Regina, a thief and champion of the people, ran from the machinations of Evil Snow (Black?), who saw fit to destroy Regina for causing the death of her “true” love, Charming’s twin brother, who we met in a prior season.  Rumpel became a knight, happy with Belle (Emilie de Ravin) and a new baby, and so on, but it was all put to rights in the end thanks to Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), who has since become the new Author.  Listen to the podcast!

8) Will Emma go bad? She has the potential; this we know.  Did everyone catch the Fantasiareference?

Answer: Our podcast panel caught the Fantasia reference.  The answer is yes. Emma (spoilerspoilerspoiler) ….. is the new DARK ONE!

9) Grown-up Pinocchio, August, is returning to the show.  Will he and Emma canoodle? They were kind of flirty in the past.

Answer: There was no canoodling of any type.  They’re just good friends.

10) How did Will Scarlett (Michael Socha), aka the Knave from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, end up in Storybrooke and without Anastasia, the former Red Queen? And how did he and Belle decide to hook up?

Answer: As we discuss on the podcast, the show failed to provide an adequate explanation for this development.  Will provides some dismissive description of how he and Anastasia fought and stopped loving each other (presumably), so he left Wonderland and ended up competing with Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) for the Elixir for a Broken Heart, which was held by Zelena in Oz.  The panel, particularly your moderator and Chief Couch Potato, found the explanation less than satisfactory.

11) Will Rumpel and Belle ever reconcile?

Answer: They haven’t really reconciled yet, but Belle’s position has softened, considering that Rumpel almost died from the blackness that the Dark Shadow left on his heart.

12) Where are Robin and Marian nowadays?

Answer: They were trying to set up a new home for themselves, even though Robin is still clearly in love with Regina, but then Marian got pregnant!  And then – one of the most gigantic twists of the season – we found out that Marian was really Regina’s Wicked Witch of a sister Zelena (Rebecca Mader), who did not die in season 3 and, instead, followed Emma to the past in the Enchanted Forest, murdered the real Marian (rather than Regina doing it), and glamoured herself to look like Marian, just so she could hitch a ride back to Storybrooke and screw with her sister.  Sibling rivalry, man!  Fortunately, after Zelena revealed her true self, Regina had her conniving sis locked up in the cell formerly occupied by Belle, though she’s still pregnant, to our knowledge.  Rebecca Mader, as well as Sean Maguire, were promoted to series regulars, however, so this is not the last we’ve heard of this story or of Wicked Zelena.

13) Why does Emma keep talking about her “superpower” of being able to detect lies when she has actual real superpowers?

Answer: The world may never know.  It’s getting old, though.

14) Why have Snow and Charming chosen to lie to Emma?

Answer: They were trying to spare her feelings and her disappointment in them, but, instead, they fueled her darker nature.  She was mad at them for most of the back half of the season when she learned that Snow and Charming had stolen Maleficient’s baby.  They realized ultimately that, to be a family, they should not be keeping secrets from each other.

15) What is Rumpel’s endgame?  What power does he really want?

Answer: He wanted everything – his happy ending and his magic.  He couldn’t have both, as the Dark One’s magic nearly killed him.  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice saved Rumpel by drawing out the Shadow, harming the Apprentice in the process, but Rumpel survived, albeit in a stasis like coma, preserved until he could be helped by others’ magic, or, perhaps, the magic of medicine.  Where Rumpel will be now that this has happened will probably be one of the story explorations of season five.

16) The Frozen story was wrapped up neatly, so most of these questions come from the first episodes of the second part of this season.  What is the writers’ endgame now?

Answer: To make Emma an evil bad ass!  Oh, the tantalizing possibilities!!

New Questions

1) What’s going to happen now that Emma is the Dark One?  What we will she do? How will her descent into darkness affect the other characters, including her son (Henry) and her parents (Snow and Charming)?  Will they be able to save her?  And when?

2) Where did Maleficient go by the end of the season?  Will we see more of her?  Will she be involved in the arc to save Emma?  Will she reconnect with her daughter – who (spoilerspoilerspoiler) we find out is Emma’s childhood friend Lily – in a more meaningful way?

3) Will there be other evil Queens in our future?  The writers/producers have teased a trip to Camelot next season and are casting King Arthur and Queen Guinevere as well as Merlin.  Will they be good as we have traditionally known these characters to be? Or, will they be evil?

4) Is Merlin evil?  Is Merlin a dragon?  Is Merlin Lily’s father?  If not, who is Lily’s father?! Who else could be a dragon?  Or, is Maleficient kinky for dragons?

5) Will others get a hold of the dagger to control Emma as the Dark One?  What will happen, and who might be tempted to use Emma for evil purposes as opposed to good ones?  Will Hook get a hold of the dagger?  Will Henry?  Will Regina?  Will Rumpel?

6) Will Emma and Regina go head to head in what are tantamount to switched places, with Emma as the Dark One and “villain” and Regina as the “hero,” in an epic battle of magic?

7) Is Zelena really pregnant?  And how is she going to complicate matters, either with Regina and Robin or with everyone else, next season?  Will Robin succumb to his nearly stubborn sense of honor with respect to Zelena and the baby, provided that Zelena is really pregnant?  If she is pregnant, is the baby really Robin Hood’s?

8) Will Lily still seek revenge against the Charmings?  Or, will she turn good now that Emma is evil?  Will Lily try to save Emma, or will she let Emma assume the “evil” role in favor of having a better life?  Doesn’t that really make her evil in the end (or not necessarily all good…more human)?

9) Is Rumpel out of the woods?  Did “preserving” him save him from death?

10) Will the Once writers/producers provide a better, more detailed explanation for why Will Scarlett is on the flagship series and with Belle?  Will they provide a more significant flashback to explain why he and Anastasia are not together anymore? Would Emma Rigby be available to reprise her role of Anastasia?

11) Will a new Savior emerge now that Emma is the Dark One?

12) Will Snow and Charming be redeemed, particularly in Emma’s or Lily’s or Maleficient’s or Regina’s eyes, if they are able to save their daughter?

13) Will Henry get a new pen? Will he have to act as The Author anyway?  Will his role as the Author figure into redeeming/saving Emma?

14) Will Henry ever straddle the line of good and evil?

15) Henry’s a teenager now.  Will he meet a love interest?  He’s aging like Walt on Lost. Does he ever interact with kids his own age, rather than just his slightly dysfunctional family?

16) What Knights of the Round Table will we see in Camelot, if any?

17) Will the Camelot/Dark Emma layers be crammed into a half season, or will the writers percolate these plots throughout the whole of next season?  The panel votes for the latter scenario.


The podcast panel was generally much more favorable toward the “Queens of Darkness” story line, as everyone enjoyed the fact that the writers focused the story on our core group of main characters and the connections they have, rather than visiting other realms and introducing too many new characters (aside from the Queens and the Author, which were welcome variables to the normal Storybrooke landscape).  The panel is excited about season five and what it might mean for Emma and her family now that she is the Dark One, and what it might mean for Maleficient, Lily, and the trip to Camelot.  If we all maintained the comparison to the creators’ predecessor series – Lost  – we are entering the season comparable to the discovery of Jacob; the fifth season should be strong, given all of the possibilities Dark Emma presents.  The panel remains eager to see more of the Enchanted Forest and more flushing out of the Enchanted Forest flashbacks, in light of the season finale’s trip to “Bizarro Enchanted Forest,” either by incorporating more frequent or more expanded back stories or, perhaps, returning to the event series concept that motivated OUAT-Wonderland as a means of providing additional detail and dimension to those known and beloved characters.  In any event, many questions and predictions arose, most of which are reflected above, and the panel can’t wait to try to answer and/or confirm them in the coming season. Most happily, the writers/producers may have redeemed themselves a little, at least in the panel’s eyes, from the downhill spiral initiated by including Frozen as a story arc.


Once Upon a Time was renewed by ABC for a fifth season, slated to premiere on September 27, 2015.  Until next time and next podcast!


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