Rating: ☆☆☆☆ ½ (4 ½ stars)


October 3, 2015

It’s safe to say that Once’s fourth season came with mixed reviews: some were ecstatic at the character development, others had unfriendly thoughts for the new supporting characters that they felt took up too much screen time. Nevertheless, the heart-wrenching conclusion to the season, in which the saviour Emma Swan sacrifices her soul to the darkness for the Evil Queen, set the pace for what’s sure to be a great journey.

The episode goes in about five different directions in forty minutes. We see a lot of arguments between Emma’s loved ones, who try to decide on the best way to bring her back. The audience is met with the wielding of (broken) Excalibur by the newly-introduced King Arthur, young Emma being warned by Merlin about thievery, and present-day Emma being warned by the darkness which manifests itself in the form of fan-favourites Rumpelstiltskin and Brave’s Merida. And who could forget the shocking last five minutes that leaves viewers speechless?

Perhaps what are showcased best are the brilliant performances by the cast. Rebecca Mader plays an excellent, insane, pregnant Wicked Witch, Lana Parrilla never disappoints as the now “Chaotic Neutral” Regina, and Colin o’Donoghue’s broken and desperate portrayal of Hook leaves Captain Swan fans near tears. Of course, Robert Carlyle’s iconic Rumpelstiltskin finds itself on the list as well.

Jennifer Morrison as the frantic Emma struggling with her darkness, however, is what really sets the bar. Her first scenes – “accidentally” choking a street-seller while on her way to seek Merlin (who can hopefully get rid of the darkness) and arguing with the Rumple manifestation, eventually letting it consume her just a bit – is beautiful to watch. Emma going dark had been teased all throughout the previous season, but her distress will surely tear at the hearts of Emma’s fans.

Merida already seems to be a better addition than the characters in season four. On a journey to rescue her kidnapped brothers, her bravery, wit and strength are pronounced in everything she does, all the way to shooting arrows at Dark Emma (who catches them, very stylishly of course).

The last five minutes, which consists of Morrison showing off a now fully-dark Emma, leaves viewers speechless as Emma, who has (or, the show has, for the eighth time now) taken away her family and their memories back to Storybrooke, accuses them of failing her at Camelot. She is whisked away by a grey cloud of magic, setting the stage for weeks of travelling between Camelot and Storybrooke.

All in all, the premiere was fantastic in showcasing the internal struggles of our beloved characters and the wondrous performances by the cast, laying down the structure for what’s sure to be months of a great, layered, and suspenseful plotline.