PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “Once Upon a Time” – The Season 5 Mid-Season Recap & Progress Report (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 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, Chief Couch Potato Kylie loves 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 boasts some whopper ingredients that promise 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)

If you didn’t already know, CPU!’s lovely Once podcast panel of Eddie, Kristen, Amie (and me) wrote a reaction piece to the Season 5 premiere!  You should read here!

And to catch up on prior Once podcast episodes delving into our reactions to Season 4, click on the YouTube links below:

As I said, the podcast panel previously weighed in about this season’s premiere and what they think it meant for the season to come. To see how we fared, listen to our newest chapter of CPU’s ongoing Once Upon a Time podcast, during which we reflect on Season 5A, otherwise known as the “Dark Swan” arc. Do you agree with us? Or, do you have your own thoughts? Comment below!

And never fear, the panel will reconvene following the fifth season finale of OUAT, which will air in or around May 2016.  For now, below are our immediate thoughts.

This podcast was recorded on January 17, 2016, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of the first half of the fifth season. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!

Panelists’ Old Questions

Eddie’s Questions

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

ANSWER: Yes we will, of sorts, but the triangle that we know from legend was not quite what was depicted on this show.  While Arthur (Liam Garrigan) loved Guinevere (Joana Metrass), and Guinevere loved Lancelot (Sinqua Walls), in order to guarantee that he would have Guinevere, Arthur used a potion or dust, which creates illusions and bends wills and which he got from a witch in a wood, on Guinevere to ensure that she would love him unerringly forever.  This put the kibosh on any potential romance with Lancelot.  It should be noted that Arthur was heaps of jealous when he discovered the flirtation brewing between Arthur and Guinevere, which probably wouldn’t have left the ground if it weren’t for the fact that Arthur was scary, ambitious, myopic, and not especially nice to Gwen when he couldn’t find Excalibur in the early years of his reign.

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

ANSWER: Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) did find a love interest, a young Camelot maiden.  Alas, Dark Emma (Jennifer Morrison), his bio mom, sabotaged that budding puppy love to retrieve a tear of true heartbreak from her poor son in order to free Merlin (Elliot Knight) from a tree that imprisoned him in the Camelot gardens.

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?

ANSWER: Not for now.  When Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) approached Henry about the possibility of saving his mom via his Author powers, Henry said it was too much power and responsibility and urged the pirate to find another way.

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?

ANSWER: The Snow Queen hasn’t returned as of now, but she did kind of die in season four.  Still, never say never.  Also, it should be noted that Emma did not look like the Snow Queen once she returned to Storybrooke with her plan in motion.  She was wearing black leather and occasionally lacked eyebrows.

Amie’s Questions

1) How did the dagger come from the sword?

ANSWER: It was split, I believe by Merlin, though Nimue (Caroline Ford), his true love and the first Dark One, tied her essence to the dagger half. 

2) Who was that man in the cinema?

ANSWER: It was Merlin, trying to dissuade young Emma, when she was still a child, from following her future dark path.

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

ANSWER: That’s a lot of ground to cover!  Listen to the podcast :).

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

ANSWER: She became the Dark One when she stood in front of Regina and absorbed the Dark One’s shadow after its essence left the comatose Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) in the fourth season finale.  The dagger traveled through various hands, but it eventually was spirited away from Arthur before Emma cast a memory curse and returned everyone to Storybrooke.  Emma embraced being the Dark One, ultimately, because of Hook – she made Hook a Dark One too and then embraced the dark powers while she concocted a plan to save him from his sharp regress to villain territory as a second Dark One.

5) What’s next for Storybrooke?

ANSWER: Also a big question – listen to the podcast :).

Kristen’s Questions

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

ANSWER: Henry found love then lost it because of Emma.  Rumpel and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) reunited by the end of the season, when Belle believed that Rumpel had become a true hero, only to be deceived again by a Rumpel who yearned only to become the Dark One again.  Emma and Hook’s love was tested by Emma becoming the Dark One and then Hook becoming the Dark One.

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

ANSWER: We did.  See the answer to Eddie’s question above!

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

ANSWER: It was!  It was Hook’s love and his double sacrifice for her that moved Emma to shed the darkness.  Though, it should be noted, Emma’s love also had to save Hook, after Emma made Hook a Dark One to save his life, and after Hook attempted to bring the Underworld to Storybrooke by marking our favorite characters for soul swapping.  It’s very complicated.

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?

ANSWER: It didn’t remove the darkness from Emma, but as Excalibur, whole and untouched, it becomes an even stronger beacon for the Dark One’s essence.  Unfortunately, Rumpel figured that out and drew the essence back to him – he’s become the Dark One once more and has all the powers of the previous Dark Ones to boot!

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: Will Scarlett is gone.  Where he went is anyone’s guess.  Why he was even brought to the flagship show with so little explanation for his coming and going is the bigger mystery.

3) Will Rumpel and Belle ever reconcile?

Answer: They reconciled in season 5A because Belle believes that Rumpel is free of the darkness and has become a true hero.  Unfortunately, he has deceived her once again.

4) 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?

Answer: Hook ultimately saved Emma through their shared love, but Emma was particularly cruel to both Henry and her parents (Ginnifer Goodwin; Josh Dallas) as the Dark One.  As we discuss in the podcast, her intentions were mainly good; however, she was doing all the wrong things, tempted by her heightened powers and wrestling with the darkness as she was.  She cast memory curses, made Hook a Dark One, sabotaged Henry’s budding romance with a Camelot maiden, and bound her parents on more than one occasion.  She also stole their memories with the use of a dream-catcher talisman.  Listen to the podcast for more details.

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?

Answer: Like Will Scarlett, Maleficient and Lily have both disappeared without a trace or explanation.

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?

Answer: Guinevere was only on the evil-ish side because of Arthur’s use of a potion/dust on her that made her as power-hungry and as falsely devoted as he was. Arthur was arguably evil, in as much as he was ambitious to a fault, seeking reunion with a whole Excalibur by any means necessary as the needed ingredient to ensure his rule over Camelot.  He also used the potion/dust to make a large kingdom from a single sad tower and a few village huts.  He was like a petulant child who misbehaved when he didn’t get what he wanted.

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?

Answer: Merlin is not evil, but he was immortal, until he sacrificed his power to the spirit of Nimue, the first Dark One.  He initially received his mysterious power and immortality because he is good of heart, and he used the magic to save a life.  He’s not seemingly a dragon, and there was no connection established to Lily.  Again – that mystery was abandoned in favor of the Camelot arc.

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?

Answer: Henry never had the dagger.  Hook was tied to the dagger but never possessed it when only Emma was tied to the dagger.  He had hold of it for a time when he was made a second Dark One.  Emma gave Regina safe keeping of the dagger, but she failed to keep it safe.  Rumpel was given Excalibur when Emma instructed Merida to train Rumpel to be “brave” and a hero and to pull it (again) from the stone, which had also been transported to Storybrooke along with a score of newly forgetful characters.  When he had hold of Excalibur, he machinated to return himself to being the Dark One but did not control Emma or Hook with the sword, though he managed to steal it from them with a magical slight of hand.

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?

Answer: As we discuss on the podcast, this did not happen, and the panel felt that it was a missed opportunity.

7) Is Zelena (Rebecca Mader) really pregnant? And how is she going to complicate matters, either with Regina and Robin (Sean Maguire) 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?

Answer: As it turns out, the Wicked Witch of the West was really pregnant, and Robin Hood was really the father.  She became a grand annoyance, siding with whomever was against Regina, which turned out to be Arthur in the end.  Dark Emma tried to solve the problem by magically inducing early birth, to a baby girl, and allowing Regina and Robin to take the baby, but Zelena was crafty and prevented that outcome for a time.  By the end of the season, however, Regina and Robin had the baby again, and Regina magicked her sister, via tornado portal, back to Oz.

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)?

Answer: Lily is gone.  Where or where has Lily gone?

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

Answer: He was comatose for a while, but you can’t keep a good Rumpel down.

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?

Answer: Will Scarlett is gone.  Where or where has Will Scarlett gone?

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

Answer: As it turns out, there’s only room for one Savior in this story.  So, Emma had to stop being evil and dark, but she has done so and has returned to the red leather jacket of her savior-dom.

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?

Answer: Snow and Charming’s redemption struggle is still pending.  What Emma and the audience and the Charmings are finding out is that the Charmings are not perfect, but the podcast panelists also struggle to find them interesting.  Snow White, in particular, has lost much of the spark and spunk that her character had when the show started.  We implore the writers to do something about that.

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?

Answer: As above, Henry seems determined to not be the Author or to take on the powers of the Author.

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

Answer: So far, he is still pure of heart.

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?

Answer: He found love, but his mom had to go and ruin it for some spell to release Merlin from his tree prison.  To Amie’s delight, however, the love interest was similarly aged, which she felt was more appropriate.  She doesn’t think he should be hanging out with adults so much.

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

Answer: We saw Lancelot and Gawain, I believe.  They were barely mentioned.  Arthur is sort of ruthless with his Knights.  Though, he did dub David a temporary Round Table Knight.

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.

Answer: Dark Swan was a half season gig.  We now move to the Underworld, where Emma hopes to save newly Dark Hook, who stopped being Dark and sacrificed himself to save Emma and her family.

New Collective Questions

1) Will Regina have to confront her past sins when she arrives in the Underworld?  Will she meet her mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey), down there?  Will she meet other past characters?

2) If Regina must confront her past sins, how will Robin Hood react?

3) Will Henry ever, EVER embrace his Author powers?  The panelists think this will likely not happen until the end of the series, but despite Henry’s prior protests, will it and/or can it happen sooner?

4) Are we watching a Henry/Author rewrite in progress?  This is Eddie’s meta-Matrix theory.

5) Will we see Henry’s Camelot girlfriend again, despite the heartbreak caused by Dark Emma?

6) It’s been advertised that Robbie Kay, who played Peter Pan in the Neverland arc (Season Three), will be returning in this next half season?  How and why will he appear? What effect will he have on our characters?

7) Will the Underworld souls manage to seep into our main world/Storybrooke after all?  If so, how?

8) Will Rumpelstiltskin end up enchanting Belle to either be unaware of his new Ultimate Dark One status or to be happy/make peace with it?  Or, will Belle find out that Rumpel has returned to form, and what will she do?  How will they handle Emilie de Ravin’s real life pregnancy?

9) The show has cast a new actor to play Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast.  What will we learn from the flashbacks into Belle’s past?

10) What is Rumpel’s big plan or end game?  Is it just the power and the love of Belle, or does he plan to use this power for something?  Or: does he plan to resurrect Baelfire (Michael-Raymond James) somehow, which is a possibility raised by several panelists, including the moderator?! What’s he going to do while Emma, the Charmings, Regina, et al, are in the Underworld?

11) Will Baelfire be trapped in the Underworld, given the fact that the Dark One/the Shadow partly caused his death?  Will Henry and/or Emma get to see him again?

12) Will Henry’s life be at risk in the Underworld, and if he is truly endangered, how will his endangerment affect the uneasy friendship between Regina and Emma?

13) How much of the Hercules universe will be present in the Underworld – will we meet any of the Greek gods and goddesses other than Hades (as we speculate that Greg Germann has likely been cast to play the King of the Underworld)?  What will we learn of Hades, as castings of the characters of Hercules and Meg have also been teased?

14) Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smufit) is also slated to return for the 100th episode.  How will she reemerge, and what effect will she have on our characters?

15) Will our Underworld visitors have to confront and/or be tested by these trapped souls: Emma by Cruella (who she accidentally killed), Snow by Cora, Regina by any of a number of souls she terrorized as the Evil Queen, etc.?

16) Will any of our heroes be left/trapped in the Underworld at the end of this arc?  If so, who, why, and how?

17) With Zelena in Oz, will we see her again in this half season?

18) Will Maleficient, Lily, August, Will Scarlett, or any of these disappearing characters reappear?  Will their disappearances, at least, be explained?


The podcast panelists, while hopeful for the second half of the fifth season and the Underworld arc, are experiencing mild degrees of trepidation regarding the continued quality of Once Upon a Time.  Though we all agreed that some parts of the Dark Swan arc worked, we also agreed that some parts did not work and were, at times, confusing, repetitive, and/or boring, veering concernedly toward Lost season three territory (no more Nikki and Paolo!).  There is a general sense that the Once writers are trying to make the show “bigger and better” by introducing scores of new characters, but the more characters are introduced, the more convoluted and potentially lost among the sea of new personalities the story becomes.  In addition, most of the panel reacted cautiously if not outright negatively to the fact that our core characters lost memories again at the beginning of the season, and we implore the Once writers and producers to abandon that conceit for good – three times is enough. Yet, all remain hopeful that the Underworld story will be meted out in an interesting way that provides a good payoff in the end, and we are particularly excited for the 100th episode extravaganza, so long as the writers and producers remember that they are telling stories for a core group of characters first before branching off into tributaries involving minor characters with no through-lines or satisfying conclusions (after all, we already anticipate story lines involving Storybrooke, with Rumpel and Belle; the Underworld with those who travel there; and the Enchanted Forest, with Merida, Mulan, and Ruby).


Once Upon a Time is currently on mid-season hiatus (Galavant is airing in its spot) but will resume on March 6, 2016, and continue to air Sundays on ABC at 8:00 PM.  No renewal announcement has yet been made, but most TV pundits agree, the chances of ABC NOT renewing Once are slim to nil. Until next time and next podcast, which we will likely record in May or June 2016, after the fifth season finale!


One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · February 4, 2016

    Reblogged this on Reel Musings.

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