ONCE UPON A TIME – Season Finale
Season 4, Episodes 21 & 22 (Operation Mongoose Part I & Part II)
There is certainly something to be said for telling a good story with a tidy beginning, middle, and end. This season finale brings together the majority of the plotlines of the past few months and resolves them, wrapping up everything neatly but for one, teeny, tiny detail – the choosing of a new Dark One.
In one quick scene, the circumstances of the series has dramatically changed. Now Rumplestiltskin is powerless (and possibly quite nearly dead) and the Saviour is gone.
The Author writes, at Rumplestiltskin’s bidding, a new story wherein the heroes and villains have switched places. Now Rumplestiltskin is a gallant hero (happily married to Belle and father of baby Neal), Regina is a wanted bandit, Snow White is an evil queen, Captain Hook is a cowardly weakling, Prince Charming is a heartless lackey, and Emma is a trapped damsel in distress. Oh, and Robin Hood is happily engaged to Zelena. I have to admit, seeing these role reversals was fun. It was refreshing to see the actors take on what essentially amount to new characters and play them such that they remind us of both the actual characters and the characters that they are replacing in the story, without being outright replays of the same story as before. Evil Snow White was truly scary in that the real Snow White could have gone down that route had she made those choices. Bandit Regina was heartwarming in that Regina had the fortitude to be strong and independent had she decided to do so. Heroic Rumplestiltskin was bittersweet because we get to see what Rumplestiltskin wanted to be all along. After all, he wanted to use his power for good initially. He did not count on the darkness consuming him.
However, the Author did not count on Henry, who is determined to set things right and go into the book to save everyone. Finally, Henry gets the chance to be the hero that he wants to be and see the Enchanted Forest in real life. He is entirely out of his element, but he manages to follow the narrative so that he can save everyone. Well, actually, Regina can save everyone, but only because of Henry’s insistence.
In the closing minutes of the season, the darkness killing Rumplestiltskin is removed by the Apprentice, but it consumes the latter and then disappears. Reappearing shortly thereafter, it starts to attack Regina, but Emma refuses to let it do so. Instead, with a tearful farewell to Captain Hook and her parents, she disappears into the darkness, leaving a startled (but relieved) Regina, distraught Charmings and Hook, and a shocked Robin Hood to stare at the Dark One’s dagger, now inscribed with ‘Emma Swan’.
Aside from this powerful scene, the rest of the story is self-contained and the rest of the cast celebrates having safely returned to Storybrooke. Next season will be intriguing and opens up plenty of new possibilities. What of Rumplestiltskin? Is he dead, comatose, or just back to his pre-Dark One self? What of Emma? Does her Saviour magic have an adverse reaction on the darkness? Has her goodness been entirely overridden? What about Zelena – is she still going to spend the next seven months contained and controlled? What about after she has her child? How will the loss of Emma affect her family? Poor Henry! Will he try to save her, abusing his Author powers? Will he be tempted to go the way of his grandfather?
Meanwhile, in his dying breaths, the Apprentice revealed the name of the Sorcerer: Merlin. So next season surely will take our characters to Camelot, or have Camelot featured heavily in the past. (Hmm, perhaps there is a chance that Regina will find some holy water to cure herself! I foresee a semi-humourous sideplot about this.) How Merlin will factor into the story will be interesting – there are certainly ways to screw it up. Hopefully, the writers have an understanding of how he and Camelot fit into the world. They seamlessly wove in Frozen, after all, so Camelot should be entirely attainable.
What is Camelot but an enchanted kingdom?
CASTLE – Season Finale
Season 7, Episode 23 (Hollander’s Woods)
At long last, we find out the first crime that has haunted Richard Castle since childhood and spurred him on to be a mystery writer. Namely – when he was eleven years old, he was in the woods and came across the dead body of a woman (the first time that he had seen such a thing) and subsequently was attacked by a masked man who threatened his life should he say anything to the authorities.
Thirty years later, Castle is up for an award for his writing and everything is going well in his life. As the writers of the show were unsure if they would be renewed for another season, they treated this episode as a sentimental finale wherein Castle got the chance to have heart-to-heart conversations with his daughter and mother, Beckett and Castle got the chance to have some discussion of the future of their relationship, and we were treated to a lovely tribute to all of the main characters at the 12th precinct. Had this been their last adventure, it would have been memorable and enjoyable because we had closure with the characters and also an adrenaline-rush of a case.
Meanwhile, a body is found with the same markings and circumstances as the woman that young Castle (er, Rodgers, at the time…) found in the woods. In the course of their investigation, they discover that there have been several other women go missing in the Hollander’s Woods area under similar circumstances over the past three decades. On the hunt for a serial killer, Castle takes the investigation particularly personally and vows to do right by the woman that he was unable to help when he was eleven. He is even willing to seek out the perpetrator on his own property to help Beckett find evidence without a warrant – even at the risk of his own life. The killer had qualms about killing an eleven-year-old boy, but not a man in his forties. Were it not for their quick thinking, fortunate gaps in barn doors, and Castle and Beckett’s implicit trust in each other, Castle might have been receiving his award posthumously.
That said, the secondary plot involving Beckett is equally important to the show. For seven seasons, we have had the same basic premise, even as the relationship between our leads evolved: Castle is shadowing Detective Beckett on murder cases, aided by Ryan & Esposito and others, and reporting to a captain. However, Beckett is now not only up for promotion to Captain herself, she is being suggested to run for the Senate. Either position would change how the characters would relate. If Beckett becomes Captain, she is faced with more paperwork than legwork and her buddy-cops would become her subordinates. Yes, Castle could still shadow her, but would he want to shadow her sitting in an office filling out paperwork and answering the telephone? Equally, and this is a premise mentioned by the characters themselves, if Beckett were to run for the Senate, would Castle follow her to write political thrillers instead of murder mysteries? And what about Beckett and Castle having a family? Beckett is in her mid-thirties, so would she delay or forgo children altogether for her career? Or would she decide to have a baby instead? I would think that being promoted to Captain would make it easier for her to have a child, but do the writers agree with me?
Either way, I look forward to finding out.