Around the Water Cooler: “Once Upon a Time” – The Podcast Panel’s Reaction to the Season 5 Premiere (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:

When: The Season 5 premiere aired on Sunday, September 27, 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 season 4, as provided by our lovely podcast panel of Eddie, Kristen, Amie (and me), read here and here!

After such an eventful fourth season, and with the airing of the fifth season premiere of our beloved show, our podcast panel wanted to weigh in about that premiere and what they think it means for the season to come.  With this post, you will get to put faces to name with our Once Upon a Time podcast panel and read the panel’s instant reactions and predictions stemming from the premiere.  Do you agree with them?  Or, do you have your own thoughts?  Comment below!

And never fear, the panel will return to podcast form following the mid-season finale of OUAT, which will air in or around December 2015.  For now, here are our immediate thoughts:



The Season 5 premiere of Once inspired many questions and created many new possibilities for our beloved story. Of course, we now know that Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is the Dark One, or, more accurately, the Dark One in training. When the episode started, I found it very interesting that Emma was herself, the same Emma we met and have come to know and grown to love, at the moment she was starting to transform. I thought she would look different from the start, but her change, which has been teased in the season previews, did not come until later in the episode, at which point, she definitely looked more evil. I also found it very interesting that Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) became Emma’s mentor, even if he was only in her head. This whole episode raised many new questions that I am excited to try to answer.

I am glad that Zelena (Rebecca Mader), who is one of my favorite characters and though she doesn’t have full freedom, is doing more than sitting and rotting in a padded cell. I personally feel that for Regina (Lana Parilla) to finally get her happy ending, it must start with her sister. I predict that Regina and Zelena are somehow going to have to work together, which I believe may be a necessary ingredient for Regina’s happy ending.

Last but not least, with regard to Hook (Colin O’Donaghue), I feel that this season is a “make it or break it” season for the character. Hook, although not one of the original characters to start the series, is beginning to lack as a character in my opinion. I could see him taking his own life to save Emma for some reason. Only time will tell.

Whatever happens, I am excited to keep watching and to see where this season goes. Until the podcast panel next meets, I will see you in Camelot.

Eddie’s Questions

1) With Lancelot back on the show, will we have a love triangle?

2) Camelot, traditionally, is a land of LOVE. Will someone fall in love? Perhaps, Henry will find a love interest.

3) Henry is still the writer of the book. What is he going to have to write to help Emma – will he have to accept his Author powers to help his mom?

4) I also thought it was interesting, when we did see Emma finally all dressed as the Dark One, that she resembled someone familiar: the Snow Queen from the Frozen arc. Did the writers do this because they were so closely related, or is there going to be another family connection happening between Emma and the Snow Queen?  Will Elizabeth Mitchell return?



Oh, boy!  OUAT is off to a great start and has some serious potential for Season 5!  OUAT has a way of integrating storylines in a fairly seamless and logical way – yet there is still so much intrigue! Where to begin?

I enjoyed the tie in (so far) to Camelot and Excalibur! Yet, it left us thinking: well, what’s next?  It gave us a lot without giving us much information at all!  How did the dagger come from the sword?  Who was that man in the cinema?  What happened in those six weeks??  We had a chance to peek at Camelot before being thrown back, quite literally, into Storybrooke.  I hope we return via flashbacks or something.  And what happened to Merida?  I know nothing about that particularly story, but she seemed quick to trust Emma again, despite the whole “heart outside of her chest” incident.  I’m on the fence about her story line but will hang in there, as more is yet to come I’m sure.

Though Gold is no longer The Dark One, die hard Rumple fans like myself, I expect, were happy to see the Crocodile again, even if he was unconscious/part of Emma’s subconscious.  Showing Emma’s personal struggle of fighting off the Evil was a powerful choice by the producers/writers.  It’s a journey that fascinates me, though I return to the key question: “What the hell happened in Camelot?!”

For the first time in the series, Hook kind of annoyed me.  I see and appreciate how much stronger the Charmings’ (Ginnifer Goodwin; Josh Dallas) character actions and decisions were in this episode, but Hook seems to have lost his edge a bit.  I am chalking that up to his desperate need to save Emma.  On the other hand, we do see that Regina continues to be a serious bad-ass, even when Zelena makes her escape.  Regina always finds a way to be a few steps ahead, even if it’s only a slight advantage.  The way the portal was opened is a perfect example of this! Also, flying Granny’s to Camelot via the tornado… Brilliant!  What an homage to The Wizard of Oz, and yet, it still felt appropriate.

Finally, at the end of the episode, Emma IS the Dark One.  How did she become this way, and how did she get the dagger from Regina?  The moment when Emma gave the dagger to Regina was awesome! I love me some Regina, man!  Somehow, though, Dark Swan got the dagger back from Regina, and I await the episodes that explain why, how, and when.  When Emma said, “You failed,” it gave me chills, left me wanting MORE, and thinking, “The next episode is seven days away?! How am I going to wait that long to find out more?” A good story will always leave the audience wanting more.

I also wonder if Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) ever has “what if” moments, regarding the pen and his new role as the Author, such as, “What if I never broke the pen. Would I be able to rewrite the story?”  I wish OUAT would show his personal struggle with these kinds of decisions.  For a teenage boy, he seems rather resolute on everything he does.  Perhaps, his resolute spirit is part of what makes Henry so special, but we never see him interact with other children; there were other kids in Storybrooke, after all, but that is another discussion for another time.

So far…so good! I am excited for Episode 2!

Amie’s Questions

1) How did the dagger come from the sword?

2) Who was that man in the cinema?

3) What happened in those six weeks with King Arthur, Merida, Emma, and all the rest?

4) How did Emma become the Dark One, and how did she get the dagger from Regina?

5) What’s next for Storybrooke?



First things first: throughout the first 55 minutes of the premiere, I was pretty happy with how the story line was progressing and was looking forward to seeing more of the Enchanted Forest/Camelot this season. Then, all of a sudden, it’s six weeks later, and our Storybrooke search and rescue crew has lost their memories of recent events – AGAIN! Personally, I think it’s a little too soon to use this device a second time. It’s only been a year and a half since Zelena used it during season 3B. C’mon guys – surely you can think of something more creative? (Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, I’m talking to you!)

In a slightly interesting twist, not only have we traveled between worlds in episode 5.01, but we have also traveled back in time. We have been transported to the Camelot section of the Enchanted Forest back before Regina cast the first curse that set this whole series in motion. The proof? Lancelot is alive and well. If you remember all the way back to season two, Emma and Snow encountered Lancelot in the small section of the Enchanted Forest that was unaffected by the original curse; however, Lancelot had been killed previously, and the Lancelot we saw was actually Cora using a Lancelot glamour spell.

Camelot itself was first popularized in 12th century French romances and has since become synonymous with love and romance. Will some of our Storybrooke favorites find new/renewed love in this magical place during their brief six-week stay? It’s been confirmed by the show runners/producers that Henry will experience his first crush – my money is that it will be on a young Camelot maiden. Will we see the famed King Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle? Will Hook’s love for Emma be enough to save her from the darkness? While their love may be a part of her salvation from the darkness, I’m not entirely sold that it’s the only thing that will save her. Merlin will definitely play a large part in this.

Speaking of the darkness, I’m intrigued by the fact that the dagger is the missing end of Excalibur – a sword, legend has it, to have magical powers of its own. Will joining the two pieces together remove the darkness from Emma, and eliminate the need for a Dark One, for good? I’m sure Merlin will explain why the sword was broken in two later on this season, but I’m guessing it could be to keep Arthur from using the darkness during his reign. Something just seems a little off about that guy…

Regarding where I think things are headed, I believe we’ll still be seeing some Camelot flashbacks, as well as what’s happening in present day Storybrooke, just as we did back in season one – and personally, I’m happy that OUAT is getting back to its roots a bit. I don’t think that the members of the Storybrooke gang were the only ones transported back to the real world; I have a feeling that some members of Camelot made the trip as well…and there might be some repercussions, as they were obviously transported for a reason. I’m also suspecting that the premiere won’t be the only time we see Merida; I’m sure we’ll get a check-in later to see how her mission to save her brothers turned out.

Final thought: did anyone else notice that Camelot bears a striking resemblance to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany? (Fun fact: Walt Disney and his Imagineers used Neushwanstein Castle as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland.)

Kristen’s Questions

1) Will some of our Storybrooke favorites find new/renewed love in Camelot during their brief six-week stay?

2) Will we see the famed King Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle?

3) Will Hook’s love for Emma be enough to save her from the darkness?

4) Will joining the two pieces – the broken hilt of Excalibur and the Dark One’s dagger – remove the darkness from Emma and eliminate the need for a Dark One, for good?



I echo many of the others’ sentiments, which is convenient because I am editing and assembling them for this post (a moderator’s job is never done). While I initially loved the set-up of the whole episode, beginning with Emma’s not-quite transformation to full Dark One and showing her struggle to overcome the pull of the Dark One’s shadow, even I knew that this struggle would be temporary, because Dark Swan has been teased for some months, lack of eyebrows and all.  Yet, I did not expect the writers to immediately jettison us back to Storybrooke with a six-week memory loss with which to contend.  My immediate reactions sound much like Amie’s and Kristen’s: what the hell happened in Camelot? Why are we using this memory loss device AGAIN – of course, readers of this blog and listeners of the podcast might remember that I have been the most vocal opponent of how the writers handled season 3B, with a brilliant mid-season finale showing the evaporation of Storybrooke as Emma and Henry drove away only to find everyone back in Storybrooke, with a wicked case of amnesia, in the very next episode? It felt cheap then, and it feels cheap now, though this time, it did not negate the brilliance and impact of an epic mid-season finale immediately preceding it.  I expect, as all of the panelists have surmised, that flashbacks will give us some glimpse into those missing six weeks, but I was especially looking forward to spending some quality time in the Enchanted Forest and in Camelot.  I wanted the story shift to show the plot proper in the Enchanted Forest, with maybe flash forwards (like Lost) into the Storybrooke that we found at the end of the premiere, with Emma as the fully fledged Dark One.  Maybe I am being too cynical, and the next episodes will strike a narrative balance between the two realms, but the season 3B resolution felt like such a mishandling of the plot and was such a disappointment.  Also, I lived through Lost.  I have trust issues with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz by default.

I thought it was neat how the Blue Fairy/Mother Superior handed Belle a rose, like in Beauty and the Beast, to track whether Rumple, in his comatose state, was still alive. It was a nice callback, and these little details and other Easter eggs help me to continue loving the show.  I was less impressed with the infusion of Merida.  I am an avid Pixar fan and love Brave, but her introduction felt shoehorned into the proceedings. I hope Kristen is right, and that we’ll see more of her as time marches on, though I appreciated that Merida’s story on the show picked up after the events of Brave.  I also love how the show’s creators reproduced the wisp; the quest to catch the wisp left me wanting to re-watch the movie.

Like Amie, I also thought the tornado portal and connection to the Wizard of Oz was very cool.  The discussion about Regina having moved too over the line toward light magic to make the special wand work was a bit convoluted.  I believe that she is now more good than evil, but I hope and really believe that she hasn’t lost all of her bite, particularly since, unlike Eddie, I find the Zelena character to be too maddening to be likable. I hope Regina’s edge remains sharp around her sister, and that her transformation is not complete.  Maybe Eddie is right, and Regina’s full conversion to “hero” will center around her sister, though I think her participation in saving Emma from evil will be more key. I still question the validity of Zelena’s pregnancy.

I also found it interesting that Hook specifically asked Henry to use his Author powers to help his mom, and that Henry made special mention of the fact that he broke the pen.  I remain hopeful that the Author side of Henry is not lost on this narrative cop out – it feels too convenient, almost as if the writers don’t want to plod headlong into the use of the device only to write themselves in circles or to render an easy escape for any situation in future.  It’s a lot of power, sure, but as we know from Spider Man, with great power comes great responsibility, and I think Henry is capable of not being tempted by the power.  He has the heart of the true believer and the combined experiences of his messy family tree to act as his tethers.  I think his temptation toward the use of that power would be a brilliant juxtaposition to the struggle of his bio mom – maybe that’s too heady for prime time television, but this possibility immediately jumped out at me.

Lastly, I enjoy that both Eddie and Amie were a bit put off by Hook in this episode.  He did become rather intense and sappy, but I think the writers made the Emma/Hook relationship a bit too easy by killing off Baelfire, and despite Emma’s initial wishy-washyness about Hook, she seemed to cave too easily.  I don’t think they will ultimately kill off Hook; after all, Colin O’Donaghue has proven to be quite the draw for the show, with lady fans and certain male fans alike.  Still, I hope Hook and his own dark side are not neutered by his desperation to save Emma.  He still has quite a dark side with which to contend; I would love his struggle to also dovetail Emma’s.  The temptation and ultimate seduction of Emma, the so-called Savior, to the dark side provides an interesting mirror for so many of our characters – I hope the writers do not similarly waste this opportunity.  By the way, was Hook there when everyone awoke in Granny’s after returning to Storybrooke with amnesia?

Ultimately, I am the most interested in finding out what happened during the missing six weeks.  I also want someone to take charge of the dagger that is not Emma – perhaps, that arc will be saved for the second half of this season.  As we alluded to in our last podcast, the possibility of different characters having control of Emma as the Dark One is too tantalizing not to wonder about. I further want the writers not to fear spending time in the Enchanted Forest; I mean, is the end of our series going to leave all our characters in the real world?  What will happen to all of their stories, then?  These questions also reinvigorate the importance of not abandoning the Author conceit. Henry’s role is not gone or lost just because he broke the pen, no matter what he may say; he, at least, must preserve his family’s legacy, since they’re all so content to stay in this world and not be the fairy tale characters they are (or, since the writers are so content to render them that way). Of course, I am not advocating for the end of the series, but we’re probably in the latter half of the series run at this point.  I hope the writers are giving thought to these continuity issues as they move forward.

For now, I’m eager for episode two and any glimpse as to what happened.  I also wonder what sort of terror Emma is going to introduce into Storybrooke now – how will her Dark One be different from Rumple’s?  Also, how many petals are left on that rose? I will definitely tune in to find out – and not just because we’ll be returning to podcast this show later in the season!

Collective Questions (including Kylie’s 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) 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 discussed in previous podcasts, the show failed to provide an adequate explanation for this development.  There is still hope that the writers will revisit this topic, and that Emma Rigby will find a way to a guest spot on the show.

3) Will Rumpel and Belle ever reconcile?

Answer: They haven’t really reconciled yet, but Belle is definitely concerned for his well being, as she was worried about leaving him in a coma, prompting the Blue Fairy/Mother Superior to give her the rose.

New(ish) Questions from the end of Season Four

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 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 Rumple?

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 Rumple 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 panelists were predominantly intrigued by the events of the fifth season premiere but are still confronted by many of the same questions and reactions we faced at the end of the fourth season.  In addition, most of the panel reacted cautiously if not outright negatively to the fact that our core characters have lost memories again, and that we will not be given a more direct depiction of events in the Enchanted Forest realm.  Yet, all remain hopeful that the story will be meted out in an interesting way that provides a good payoff for the device in the end, and that we will be given important answers to many of our questions as the season progresses.  If nothing else, all seemed genuinely positive toward Emma’s transformation and what possibilities this character shift provides for our story.


Once Upon a Time airs Sundays on ABC at 8:00 PM.  Until next time and next podcast, which will likely record in January 2016!


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