Once Upon A Time 4×21-22 “Operation Mongoose” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

And just like that Once Upon A Time reminds us of the fact that Emma Swan is one of the greatest fictional characters in history – “Operation Mongoose” Parts I and II were a solid two hours of fantastic television. Between the gorgeous costumes, exceptional performances, and nerve wrecking storylines, it’s been an epic ride leading us into a torturous three month long hiatus.

Episode Summary: Isaac rewrites everyone’s stories into a best selling novel called Heroes and Villains. However, the stories in the book will only ever become a permanent reality if things aren’t made right before the loud tolling of bells at sunset. Because Henry wasn’t born in the Enchanted Forest, he remains in Storybrooke with his memories and finds the author (by driving?! What!). At this point he traps them both into the book and when convincing Regina that she’s his mother doesn’t work, he seeks Hook’s help in order to find Emma. Snow and Charming are an evil duo. Regina’s a miserable bandit with Robin as her competition engaged to be married to Zelena. And Rumplestilskin is the noblest knight of them all. A heroic sacrifice from Regina allows new author Henry to use her blood as ink and all’s restored back to normal. The only problem is, in the world of Once Upon A Time, happiness is short lived, and as Rumplestilskin dies, the dark one needs another soul to consume to which Emma boldly sacrifices herself for everyone else.

Review | Analysis: It’s pretty evident by now for frequent readers that we’ve changed our style for this particular episode. Since there’s so much to discuss in both worlds, we’re writing our Once Upon A Time reviews the same way we do for other series. Tonight’s episode delivered incredibly shocking and inimitably heartfelt moments that’ll be talked about for a while. Cliffhangers are never fun but in the world of Once Upon A Time, we know that the heroes always win. And as much as we’ve been dreading what occurred, we’ve got a great amount of hope in us that it’s going to be fantastic. For the first time since the series aired, we aren’t being introduced to new characters and we’re looking forward to getting to know the ones we have now. Without further ado, let’s get to discussing shall we?

If you have been following our reviews then you know that our biggest issue with this storyline has always been the fact that we’ve disliked the diminishing of the power of choice. While fate clearly plays a massive role in a person’s life, so do their choices – the two go hand in hand in ways we feel we cannot ever truly fathom. That said, we’re dearly proud of the great choices our favorites have made in this week’s episode.

First things first, let’s talk about how the author’s rage against the Charmings has come from the fact that they remind him of a terrible boss. And that once he was given powers over them he’s used them wrongly. Silly author, don’t you know that the ultimate revenge is succeeding honorably? Isaac and Cruella were basically a match made in heaven because who on earth hits a child? Henry was all alone in the Enchanted Forest without anyone knowing who he was and instead of helping him, the author ran faster than he could ever write happily ever after. And therefore in the end, he got what he deserved – his job taken from him forever + time in prison. You have fun in there, pal.

Speaking of choices, someone should’ve told Rumplestilskin that the power to be a praised knight was in him from the very beginning. He could’ve always been a heroic figure had he chosen to fight through his fears of failure. Much like the author, at this point frequent readers are probably familiar with the way we feel about Rumplestilskin and his doings – bad form.

It’s not easy to root for Rumplestilskin – even though we’re certain his feelings for Belle are genuine. It keeps making us wonder why it wasn’t enough in the first place. One of the most interesting relationships on the series has always been Rumplestilskin and Baelfire’s for we’ve always been certain that leaving him behind has been Rumple’s biggest regret. We had almost expected him to want to lose those memories because they pained him the most, but unsurprisingly all Rumplestilskin wanted was to have memories of being a hero in his son’s eyes. While that was unsurprising, what came as the biggest shock to us is that in this alternate universe, as a hero, Rumplestilskin wasn’t the dark one. He was the light one (cue laughter). And it ultimately revolutionizes what we’ve been saying all along – heroes are the ones who win by choice. Rumple has always had the power within him to have been a good man. If it’s what he wanted, he would’ve achieved it. He didn’t need some author to rewrite his story. Fate gives us what it must, but our choices dictate where we go and stand. It was a breath of fresh air to see Robert Carlyle play a whole new side of Rumplestilskin because even that he did wonderfully. And while it was difficult to feel sympathy when he was dying, it was honorable of him to tell Belle to go to Will. At his deathbed, he could’ve asked her to stay by his side, but for the first time in a long time, he chose to be selfless. Thereby leaving us wondering if this is truly the last time we’ll ever see Rumplestilskin. It certainly appears as though he’s actually dead, but it appeared that way in “Going Home” as well. On a show like Once Upon A Time, we know that resurrection to a certain degree is possible; however, for this scenario we’ll just have to wait and see what occurs because we’re all out of theories.

It’s been a while since Henry’s really been the center of attention and we’re so pleased with the way his character’s developed. Before we get into discussing his storyline, did anyone else catch how easily Jared Gilmore’s mannerisms with Enchanted Forest artifacts mirrored Josh Dallas and Jennifer Morrison’s? Essentially, further proof that the Charming family is never to be toyed with because they’ll always come out at top.

So much of this episode mirrored the pilot with Henry going after everything himself in order to make things right. Except this time, instead of catching a train, he drove himself. Questionable but we’ll let it slide this time. The entire situation with Henry and Regina was pleasant – excluding the fact that she’d call him crazy which is a writing choice we wish wasn’t made. Luckily, Henry’s mature and wise enough to understand that she doesn’t actually mean it to harm him. And although Regina was extremely skeptical to believe the random kid claiming to be her adoptive son, deep down it’s clear that there was a part of her wanting to believe it – all of it – Henry, Robin, and happy endings. In this alternate universe, not only was Regina the reason Snow’s true love James (David’s twin) was killed, but she was also abandoned as a child the same way Zelena was. After Regina fails to believe Henry when learning that Zelena and Robin are to be married, she tells him the story of how rumors state that there’s a woman locked up in a tower who’s claimed to be the savior. And of course believing that it’s Emma, Henry seeks Hook in order to go on a rescue mission.

Let’s take a moment to consider the fact that Henry’s legitimately had to rescue every single one of his “parental” figures in this week’s episode and then let’s give him some kind of an award. That boy is in some dire need of ice cream. When he learns that Killian’s not actually the captain of the Jolly Roger but a scared and quiet deckhand, he begins calling the shots on the Jolly Roger and the first order of business is knocking Captain Blackbeard unconscious. And the second order of business is teaching Killian how to sail the same way he once taught him. When the two finally reach the tower, Henry then knocks the black knight on guard unconscious and steals the keys in order to free Emma. Was anyone else covered in goose bumps when Emma uttered the words “I knew you’d find me” to Henry? Jennifer Morrison delivered the scene with such heart shattering gratitude. Emma’s punishment in the alternate universe was that she’d know the truth all along but was in a powerless state to do anything about it. In this world, although Emma’s been completely lonely and undoubtedly exhausted, there’s nothing braver than believing in the fact that Henry will always find her – just as he did on her life changing 28th birthday. And that belief shows exemplary character growth because once upon a time, you couldn’t convince her of the fact that she’s a savior and here we are in a world where she’d do anything to help, but there’s absolutely no way for her do so.

Anytime we’re given a different timeline where Killian and Emma meet – the instant connection between them could easily be seen and felt from miles away. Thereby establishing the gorgeous fact that whatever world they meet in and no matter who they are at the time, they’ll be drawn to each other. And at the end of the day, they’ll always fall in love with one another.

In this universe however, situations couldn’t have been funnier. O’Donoghue and Morrison are revolutionary scene partners – it’s a fact. As O’Donoghue brought bewilderment and slight panic into Killian’s awkwardly petrified persona, Morrison delivered adorable fascination and poise. Although he wasn’t exactly the bravest pirate in all the realms, his astounding sincerity remains as the most intriguing part of him. O’Donoghue did an exceptional job of exuding the ever-present warmth within Killian’s heart, and it was especially clear when Killian found himself astounded by the fact that this impeccable woman trusts him completely. Though in his world they’ve just met, he’s still at a place where he wants to do right by her because of the undeniable magnetic connection between them – beyond anything he can grasp.

Even though he doesn’t completely know the woman in front of him, trusting her and believing in her were enough to risk his entire life for her. And that’s the thing with true love, when it happens, even though you don’t exactly know what it is, the one thing you are most certain of is that it’s worth the risk. It’s easy to trust your instincts – to look into a person’s eyes and give in to beautiful longings that naturally captivate the entire being. It’s not something that’s fully understood, but the need to act upon the feelings is greater than anything else for it comes entirely from the depths of one’s heart. True love is constant sacrifice. Much like in “Snow Falls” without a single thought Snow used the dark fairy dust to help Charming escape from the trolls, and in “Operation Mongoose” Killian did the same with Emma. He could’ve easily believed she was crazy, but he chose to trust. He chose to be a hero in order to help the woman who momentarily captained the Jolly Roger then taught him how to sword fight. He chose to be brave for her – just as he once chose to be a hero in order to be worthy of her.

Emma didn’t need words to exhibit the terrors she felt in that moment because Morrison delivered the unbearable heartache of losing Killian masterfully. The agonizing calamity in her eyes followed by the misery in her voice as she uttered his name broke us – as simple as that. Morrison’s meticulous conveyance of Emma’s reaction boldly showcases the death of an enormous part of her happy ending – Killian’s not the only person who dies, for an irreplaceable part of Emma dies with him.

Just when you think it isn’t possible to admire Emma Swan even more than you already do, Once Upon A Time gives you an exquisite episode that reveals just how beautifully she’s grown as a character. When Henry first finds Emma, she’s hopeless – a woman who didn’t open her heart because it had been shattered too many times in the past. A woman who had very little hope because life had been too cruel to her every time she’d believe in something or someone. And in “Operation Mongoose”, not only did she have full faith in the fact that Henry would find her, but even at her most hopeless, she did everything in her power to push Regina towards her happy ending. The loss of true love has often proven on Once Upon A Time to be the trigger that darkens a person’s heart, but Emma Swan didn’t allow that.

“Operation Mongoose” featured our favorite moment between Emma and Regina – while the two women haven’t exactly been the best of friends, there was a sincerity in their scenes during this finale that we’ve yet to see before. Emma tells Regina that she needs to go after Robin in order to get her happy ending to which she replies that her happy ending isn’t a man. We’re thrilled to see this side of Regina because she’s spent a good chunk of season four angry over the fact that she wasn’t given love. And while her revelation is great, Emma’s response is even greater. Love truly is a part of all happy endings. It’s the only thing in the world that could do the immeasurable and unthinkable. We’ve always been a fan of the fact that Once Upon A Time debunks the conception that love is weakness. And this very conversation between the two women illuminates the fact that love is strength. It isn’t easy to be open to things when you’ve been hurt in the past, but Emma showcases impeccable growth by revealing that taking leaps of faith requires bravery and will. There’s not a single person on the show who’s been hurt more than Emma – although others have faced loss, the bottom line is they’ve known the value of love without the pangs of betrayal. And Emma’s choice to open her heart as much as she has shows inestimable courage. It’s taken a great amount of time for her to fully trust, but it’s always been easy with Killian. It’s been easy because his invariable devotion to her has solidified the fact that it’s safe to fall for he’ll not only catch her, but he’ll lay down his life for her no matter the time or place.

Morrison’s delivery of Emma’s pain was nothing short of exceptional. It was unbearable to watch her tell Regina about her regrets because you were able to feel the emptiness left behind in her heart with Killian gone. You knew that if he didn’t actually come back, it’d destroy Emma and wound her in ways nothing else ever has. He’s her person – the heroic pirate who’s honorably captivated her heart through his unwavering adoration and she’s finally admitted that she too will ceaselessly fight for and treasure him.

Lana Parilla also did a great job of exhibiting Regina’s sincerity as she watched Emma cry because of the loss of love – you could see that although she barely knows this woman, she aches for her. And this heartbreaking moment gives her the courage to stand up for the feelings within her as well. So, when Regina looked to Robin as she died and when she stood up for Henry, you saw genuine compassion in her like never before.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas must’ve had so much fun filming this episode. In a world where Charming’s heart was in possession of Snow (wrongfully), both actors did such a fantastic job of making their evilness and hollowness believable. Ginnifer Goodwin made sure the audience could see Snow’s insensitive rage masterfully through the gaze that not once broke character. And Dallas was especially outstanding as he showcased the emptiness within Charming in his nonchalant stance. Snow’s irrationally evil because she’s bitter over the mistakes a child made (flashbacks anyone?) and Charming’s a mere puppet with no care to fight honorably. These two were so enjoyable to watch in this universe because of the performances they put on. In all honesty, because we’ve only ever seen Goodwin in romantic comedies and as our beautifully gentle Snow, we had no idea she had such impeccable skills. It’s good to know that if she was ever cast as a villain, she’d be worthy of a best actress award depending on the category. And that’s how you know someone’s good at their job, when it’s easy to momentarily forget that the evil queen is in fact the sweet Snow White.

If only celebratory parties at Granny’s could go on longer than two minutes. However, as all Once Upon A Time finales go, they’ve got to be interrupted somehow. And prior to that we were given some incredibly memorable moments with the Charming family. Charming and Snow sincerely apologize on behalf of their evil selves for killing Hook and while he forgives them, he states that he plans on holding it against them. It’s amazing that this group of people has gone from punching one another to joking and understanding each other as profoundly as they do. We can’t help but agree with captain–kittenhere: “Charming’s gonna be a busy guy both walking his daughter down the aisle and being best man to the groom.” Really though, let’s hurry up this dark!Swan plot so we can get to the wedding planning.

Furthermore, according to Lily, the necklace she had Emma retrieve when they were teens is actually the only remaining piece of the egg she was born from – in other words, the only thing she has that could help her find her father. As it turns out, dragon sex means you don’t exactly know who you’re making babies with. Lily’s sticking around Storybrooke to look and it appears as though she’s slowly letting go of the grudge she has against the Charming family. We’ll just have to wait until next season to see the kind of role she’ll be playing Storybrooke.

In the alternate universe, when Zelena’s spotlight as a bride was taken from a dying Regina who had all of her husband’s attention, she began to turn green. And in the real world, she’s still pregnant and still locked up. Interestingly, the episode solidified the notion that the pairs in love will somehow always gravitate towards one another. Although he had met her only hours ago, Robin still felt an unexplainably strong desire to remain by Regina’s side as she died. It was interesting to see that in this universe, Robin and Regina were rivals – constantly competing without her ever knowing what he looks like. It gorgeously ties back to her knowing she had a soul mate with a lion tattoo without actually knowing the man’s name or anything more about him. And it geos to prove that some things never change no matter how many tables are turned – two people who are meant to fall in love will always find each other. Although Snow and Charming weren’t exactly an ideal pair, there was still a thread beneath them. Also, once again, Killian Jones was a jealous of another version of himself who got to be Emma – cute stuff.

The final moments in the Enchanted Forest were phenomenal – it doesn’t matter if Regina didn’t believe Henry or Emma, she had the chance to cease her opportunity at love but instead she courageously sacrificed her happiness to make sure Henry didn’t get hurt. And that’s exactly what it means to be a hero. You must not only do the honorable thing at all times, but you must risk your own happiness for others. We know Regina’s character and we know that what she must’ve felt for Robin was strong enough for her to chase, but it also speaks incredibly loud that she trusted her gut feelings to do something even more heroic.

Sometimes, little moments are the loveliest and another scene that depicted Regina’s come far is the smile she wore on her face as she and Henry looked at Snow and Charming’s wedding page. There really are no more grudges against one another. And that’s fascinating storytelling – we’re hoping it stays this way.

Did anyone else’s heart shatter at Henry’s desire to write Neal back in the story? It’s never easy to lose a father and we understand him completely. But the apprentice is right, no pen is mighty enough to do that and the only thing Henry must do as the new author is write the truth. Collectively we feel it’s safe to speak on the majority of the Once Upon A Time fandom when we say Henry becoming the author is one of the most awesome twists the series has ever done. HENRY MILLS IS THE AUTHOR, and it’s so spectacularly fitting because there’s no one else who believes with such kindness in his heart. From the very moment we met the adorable kid, all he’s ever wanted to do was help restore the truth. Henry’s continuously proven that he not only has the heart of the truest believer, but he’s the bravest. And his bold move to break the pen still gives us chills as we write. He states that no one should have that kind of power and we’re certain the outcome will be delved into next season. Does this change the way the author works? Can he still document what happens with a broken pen? Jared Gilmore’s been doing such wonderful work on Once Upon A Time, but this episode’s definitely been his strongest. You felt his complete sadness when Regina died, his happiness with he found Emma, and the downright frustration Henry felt because he essentially had to do everyone’s work for them. It was undoubtedly one of his finest moments as an actor and one of the best episodes for Henry’s character.

And finally, the series changing moment of heroism that has each and every one of us wishing we had time machines to the future. The Dark One – in black cloud form – must take a human body and the only one who could ever fully get rid of it is Merlin. One of the most well known wizards is coming to Storybrooke and we couldn’t be more excited if we tried. However, at the time being, Merlin could be an Asgard (lol!) for all we know and Emma Swan once more proves that she has the purest heart on the series by sacrificing her deserved happiness for Regina’s. In one of the most powerful scenes in Once Upon A Time history, we were able to honestly feel that these characters aren’t the same people we’ve met in season one. As the Dark One’s consuming Regina, Emma decides she won’t allow it and holds up the dagger in order to become the Dark One herself. Season 4 of Once Upon A Time has been about solidifying hope, self-love, courageously opening up the heart, and fighting honorably to remain good. And we were able to see the beautiful thematic elements come to life most gorgeously with our favorite heroine – Emma Swan. Regina may have worked hard to come this far, but the truth is no one’s worked harder than Emma. As we’ve constantly been saying that even when she had absolutely nothing, she has always made honorable decisions to help others.

Prior to this moment, a sweet reunion with the love of her life didn’t go as she planned because fears continued to engulf her. As she thanked Killian for sacrificing himself, what she really wanted to do was tell him she loved him. Before we get into serious business, we must ask a very important question – is there anyone more adorable in love than Emma Swan? No, no there isn’t. Shealmost told him she loved him, and he definitely knew it’s what she was going to say. The most heroic trait Killian possesses is the way he respects Emma’s agency. He’d never put any sort of pressure on her to say something she wasn’t ready to, and he’d never hold it against her. He knows her well enough to know that if she’s holding back, she’s doing it for a reason and she must fight through it herself. He understands the depths of her fears more than anyone else thereby, the only thing he can do is continue to remind her of the fact that he’s not going anywhere. Showcasing once more that true love is selflessly caring for and respecting your partner until the end of the time.

It was also nice to see Killian finally accept himself as a hero. So much of this season he’s allowed guilt and remorse to consume him and regardless of the fact that Emma kept having to remind him, he wouldn’t believe it himself. In this week’s episode, his selfless act in the alternate universe gave him the confidence to accept that he’s not only come incredibly far but he deserves to be where he is.

Emma’s the savior – when she accepted the fact that she must restore everyone’s happy endings, she’s selflessly seen Storybrooke civilians as the people she must protect. This year, Emma’s learned to control her magic, fall in love, and understood the importance of heroism. Heroism isn’t perfection – it’s the strength to stand by your mistakes and do everything in your power to make them right. She’s learned to fully trust that no matter what happens, her parents’ eternal love for her will never waver. And for someone who’s spent 28 years relying solely on herself, it takes a great amount of courage to allow people into her heart. Fundamentally, the most beautiful trait about Emma is the fact that her selflessness is the most genuine kind there is. She’s worked too hard for her happy ending as well, and even when Regina told her not to do it, she couldn’t. It’s who Emma Swan is – she fights for others. And what easily broke us the most is the fact that Emma’s doing all this by completely putting her faith into her parents and Killian. She trusts that her parents will do everything in their ability to rid the darkness from her honorably this time. And she trusts that Killian will fight through the end of time to bring her back home as he’s always done. And finally, as she sees that their time is once again cut short, Emma Swan gathers up to courage to tell Killian Jones that she loves him – thereby, completely giving her entire heart to him and believing that it’s safe with him.

Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue brought this irreplaceable scene to life perfectly. Morrison’s delivery of the “I love you” was full of stunning vulnerability, fear, hope, and immaculate adoration – there’s never a moment where she’s been more bare in front of him. And O’Donoghue delivered Killian’s horrifying fears of losing her once more in the utmost form of sincerity that showcased unutterable grief. Just as you could see the despondency and immense desire to hold on in his expression, you could hear the horrors of the pain in his voice.

Morrison’s entire performance in that final scene was devastatingly heart shattering – and while she’s no stranger to groundbreaking performances, thus far nothing’s compared to the work she’s done with her eyes. Morrison embodies Emma masterfully, and the full range of emotions she delivered in this scene made for one of the most powerful moments. Emma Swan is brave for selflessly fighting for others, but it doesn’t mean she’s any less human than any of the other people standing on the street – she was confident in the fact that she’d be saved, but simultaneously broken and terrified. And Morrison’s strategic choices to speak through her eyes showcased the depth of Emma’s heart. As the darkness is harnessing itself onto her and Emma’s looking to Killian with the ever-present tinge of hope in her eyes, you know that deep down she’s fighting to keep the light within her. Emma’s selfless act leaves us wondering if whether or not her version of the Dark One will be similar to Rumple’s – she’s never killed anyone to become the way she is and she didn’t do it for the power therefore, perhaps she’ll (hopefully) be different.

In Once Upon A Time history, this final scene was just as heart wrenching as the goodbyes in “Going Home” and featured some of the best performances we’ve seen. Whether it was Morrison’s spotless delivery of the whirlwind of emotions, O’Donoghue’s heartbreaking cry, Dallas and Goodwin’s concerning fears, Maguire’s showcase of loving determination, or Parrilla’s genuine sadness – each performer brought a significant amount of depth to their characters we’ve yet to see.

What are your thoughts on this week’s episode? Remember if there’s anything you’d like us to discuss, let us know and we will gladly do so. Thank you for such kind and gorgeous feedback throughout the entire season. We love writing these reviews with every fiber of our being, and we can’t put our gratitude into words no matter how hard we try.

Until next season,

Marian and Gissane (MGcircles Founders)

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