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Recap / Once Upon A Time S 6 E 21 The Final Battle

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Season 6, Episode 21 & 22:

The Final Battle, Parts 1 & 2

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As the new Dark Curse rewrites reality, Henry awakens to a cursed Storybrooke and discovers Emma has been placed in the mental hospital, with the Black Fairy as the new mayor and determined to crush her belief in magic. Henry attempts to help Emma regain her memories, while Gold tries to find out what has really happened to Belle...and what side he is truly on. Meanwhile, Snow, Charming, Regina, Zelena, and Hook are trapped in a crumbling Fairy Tale Land and desperately try to figure out a way to be reunited with Emma and Henry so that the Final Battle at last can be won by Light.

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  • A God Am I: The Black Fairy states that once Emma is gone for good, she'll be rendered all powerful, able to break all the rules of magic, bring back the dead, etc. Whether this is true or not is never revealed, but even if it is, Gold points out such a thing would still have a price.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The final minutes of the episode show everyone moving on with their lives after winning the final battle, and then a Time Skip to an adult Henry's daughter coming to retrieve him the way he did Emma back in the pilot.
  • Arc Words: So many return.
    • Before shooting down her offer and killing her, Gold reminds his mother that "magic comes with a price", and states he's no longer willing to pay it.
    • Henry and Emma once again make the exchange from the pilot, "Just believing in something doesn't make it true."/"That's exactly what makes it true."
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    • Snow's "Believing in just the possibility of a happy ending is a powerful thing", but with the addition "living with that belief is the most powerful thing of all."
    • When Snow finds Charming by the fallen beanstalk and wakes him with a kiss: "You found me." "Did you ever doubt I would?" "Well, the [X] gave me pause."
    • Robin Hood shoots an arrow to the Evil Queen with a message and an engagement ring: "Are you ready for a new adventure?"
    • When Gold realizes that he and Belle have their happy ending with Gideon, she corrects him to reference the musical episode: "No, we have a happy beginning."
    • Future!Henry and his daughter have the same exchange he and Emma did in the pilot: the child calling the parent by name, then telling them he/she is their son/daughter, then the adult saying "I don't have a son/daughter."
  • Apologetic Attacker: Gideon again, including right as he stabs Emma and believes all chance has been lost for either of them to be saved. He should have had more faith in Emma (and his father).
  • Barrier Maiden: Emma turns out to be one since it's her belief that is keeping all the realms safe, and as she loses hope, the realms will disappear along with everyone in them.
  • Book-Ends: Not only does the show's original arc end the way it began, with a child looking at a fairy tale book on public transportation (bus vs. lightrail) and going to find the parent who doesn't know them so as to come and help their family, but it is Henry kissing Emma that restores her life and wins the Final Battle, just as her kiss to him in the finale of Season One broke the original curse.
  • Break the Cutie: Future!Henry has become a cynical recluse, just like Emma was. Clearly something has happened that finally broke him and his belief...
  • The Bus Came Back: A slew of old faces return: The Evil Queen, Jasmine, Aladdin, the Dragon (apparently under the Black Fairy's control), Sven, the Caterpillar (the latter two as The Cameo).
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Black Fairy's wand is the only thing that can translate the runes Henry wrote, which in turn reveal how the Final Battle can be won—Darkness isn't strong enough to defeat Light, it must be induced to defeat itself (i.e. a good and innocent person pitted against the Savior so that no matter who wins, it's Light committing an evil act upon Light). At the same time the wand is a subverted example since it had seemed very likely to be the weapon Fiona would use to face Emma; instead Gold turns on her for betraying him, takes it, and ends up killing her with it.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Henry mentions how he got Emma to believe eating a poisoned apple turnover but Emma says he was saved by Dr. Whale.
    • Once again Archie is involved in trying to break someone of their belief in the fairy tales...this time as Emma's therapist (although apparently he believes he had helped break Henry of his as well).
    • Early on in the episode, Fiona is shown gazing into a mirror in much the same way Regina did near the end of the pilot.
    • The clock tower is again stopped (this time at 6:00, when the curse was cast at the wedding). It starts up again after the curse is broken, and moves from 8:15 after the Final Battle is over and life moves on. The shot showing this, in fact, uses the same exact framing and angle as when the cloud of magic engulfed the clock tower at the end of the Season 1 finale.
    • When Hook, Regina, and the Charmings appear back in the Enchanted Forest, it's in the chapel where the Charmings got married. Regina lampshades the Black Fairy's cruelty in taking Hook away from his wedding to Emma and placing him where her parents got married instead.
    • Zelena used one of Jefferson's extra hats to escape Oz.
    • Regina remarks that Arendelle was hit by massive snowstorms.
    • Hook discusses climbing a beanstalk with Emma in Season Two, which leads David to remind him of all the things he did against her and Snow when he was working for Cora.
    • The Evil Queen notes how Regina failed to mention everyone in the Wish Realm thinks she murdered Snow and Charming, and that she was chased by Henry and angry villagers, forcing her to relocate with Robin to Regina's castle.
    • The Evil Queen trying to hold back the approaching destruction very visually resembles Regina undoing Pan's curse at the end of Season 3A, and it employs the music from the casting of the Spell of Shattered Sight in Season 4A.
    • When Emma goes back to her apartment in Boston, the candle with the blue star on it is still there from the pilot, and her bail bond boss calls her with a case, asking her to use the "first date" ruse she did in the pilot.
    • Belle's situation under the new curse is rather like a combination of her asylum imprisonment in the first season and her amnesia/fear of Gold which resulted from being shot across the town line in Season Two.
    • Regina references how she and Emma hated each other at the start of the first season, and also Snow White's speeches about hope, when giving her pep talk to the Savior.
    • Once again it's a True Love's (Familial) Kiss that saves the day, this time bringing Emma back to life.
    • The ending montage includes a shot of Snow White once again teaching her class about birds.
    • Hook is made deputy sheriff by Emma, just as she was by Graham.
    • Regina is shown holding up an apple in the Mayor's office, much as she did at one point in Season One (and on several of the covers for the DVDs).
    • Back in Season Two, Charming and Snow had discussed how insane their family tree was (after learning about Gold being Neal's father), and the quip was made that Thanksgiving dinner would be extremely problematic. Flash-forward to now, and while it isn't Thanksgiving, the meal everyone shares at Granny's is very much in gratitude for all of them surviving and being together, and it does include the entire extended family—even ones they didn't know about at the time (Zelena) or ever expected to be there (Gold, little Gideon and Neal, Hook).
  • Cuckoos Nest: Emma is locked in the insane asylum, convinced that she is delusional about the fairy tale world with only Henry remembering the truth. Referenced not only by the Nurse Ratched and the Chief analogues, but by Henry and his code name when he breaks Emma out; she responds with "Didn't that end with a lobotomy?"
  • Dead Man Switch: The Black Fairy not only tricked Gold with the heart she gave him for Gideon being a fake (the same as she did with her own heart for him to trick the others), but also put a spell on it which ensured he would stay under her control and take Emma out for her even if (or especially if) she were to die.
  • Deus ex Machina: Emma letting herself be struck down peacefully, and Gold trying to stop Gideon rather than side with the Black Fairy, count as the "when good and evil both choose to do the right thing" needed to undo all of the Black Fairy's evil (including returning Emma to life). Set up for, though, by Gold having been destined to be a Savior as well (so that it would make sense his choice to oppose his mother and save Gideon would be critical in some way). Also, the fact Gold could make this choice when possessing the evil of all the Dark Ones would surely also have a significant and potent magical result.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Gold kills the Black Fairy rather easily about 20 minutes until the end so that Emma has to face Gideon in the Final Battle, not her. However, her death actually works out in her favor as part of her Xanatos Gambit.
  • Disney Death: David, when the beanstalk falls on him, and Emma, when she's struck down by Gideon.
  • Do Wrong, Right: By killing his mother, Gold "does the right thing" (although, can you blame him for killing her?) so he's doing wrong (murder), for the right reasons.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Among the changes the Black Fairy makes to the new Storybrooke is having Gold and Gideon operating as father and son at the pawn shop, clearly happy giving them a shot at being a family.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Black Fairy's inability to understand selflessness is her undoing. First, Gold refusing her offer to both force Belle and Gideon to accept him as the Dark One and resurrect Baelfire leads to him killing her. Then, Emma being willing to let herself be killed by Gideon rather than go down fighting provides part of the Deus ex Machina that completely undoes Fiona's evil.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The Black Fairy's betrayal with Belle finally turns Gold fully against her, swearing he would make her pay for what she did to Belle and Gideon. Subverted though in that this choice and its consequences (killing the Black Fairy, resisting the voice of the Darkness, getting the heart back and countermanding her orders) constitutes Gold "doing the right thing" which allows Emma (and Henry) to defeat the Darkness and win the Final Battle—i.e., he isn't being evil anymore. Or at least he's shifting farther from Black to Gray Morality.
  • The Final Temptation: Gold is hit by this twice. First, the Black Fairy offers him everything he's ever wanted in exchange for letting her beat Emma, but he refuses and kills her. Then, his Dark One self appears before him to try and convince him not to stop Gideon, thereby gaining all the power that would have been the Black Fairy's; Gold tells him off instead.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After more than two hundred years of running around the Heel–Face Revolving Door and falling off the wagon time and time and time again, Gold finally decides that he does want love, but he's not willing to pay the price that using magic to obtain it will leave him with, turns his mother to dust, and goes and rescues Gideon's heart. Considering his original destiny as the Savior and how much darkness (i.e. that of all the Dark Ones) he had to overcome to do this, it is absolutely fitting that this is when it would finally happen.
  • Here We Go Again!: With Henry's daughter coming to him with a new storybook, revealing her existence to him and telling him his family needs his help.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • The Evil Queen gives her existence up to hold off the wave of darkness for as long as she can. Subverted as she turns up alive once the realms are restored.
    • Emma peacefully lets herself be struck down by Gideon (rather than going down fighting), which combined with Gold choosing to do the right thing, provides the Deus ex Machina needed to save the day.
  • History Repeats / Recycled Plot: The finale ends with a now-adult Henry being approached by his previously unknown daughter to save his family, just like he did with Emma in the premiere all those years ago.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: Gold destroys his mother with her own weapon.
  • Idiot Ball: The Black Fairy takes Belle from her son and then lies that she left. How she thought she could get away with this is a Riddle for the Ages, given Rumple knows that A) Belle would take Gideon with her if she left especially after what she went through to keep him safe, B) his mother would never let Belle go and, most importantly, C) Belle wouldn't just leave without at least a goodbye.
    • Then, she commits another one, by using Gideon to get her wand. Fucking with Rumple's sons... is not a good idea in any way, shape or form, even if you are Rumple's mother.
    • It could be argued that she thought Rumple was under the effects of the Dark Curse (remember, Rumple had to install that little loophole himself), but the fact that she didn't take any precautions against this possibility (come on, it's Gold we're talking about here) pushes her right back into this trope.
  • In Medias Res: The finale opens with a seemingly-unconnected segment where a man and his daughter are facing the forces of darkness in the Enchanted Forest (many years hence, it turns out), with the only connection to the present-day being the storybook and the sword that can cut past magic. It isn't until the end that the truth is made clear about their identities.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Word for word from Belle when she twists her ankle in the mines, and insists the Race Against Time to stop Gideon and save everyone is more important. Key in that it means when Gold must face the Darkness and make his final choice, he must do so alone, not with her by his side as his Morality Chain.note 
  • Kick the Dog: Not only does the Black Fairy shove Henry down a flight of steps, breaking his arm and putting him in the hospital, then uses this danger and what he is "doing to himself" to convince Emma to burn the storybook, but after doing so she brings him the ashes under a hospital serving cover just to taunt him.
  • "Last Supper" Steal: Near the end, the main characters all seat at a large table at Granny's mirroring the famous painting, complete with Emma taking Jesus' place.
  • Meaningful Echo: Of a gesture rather than words, but the means by which Fiona got Tiger Lily's wand so as to turn herself into a fairy (embracing her while handing over baby Rumple) is in this episode used by Rumple himself to get the ultimate weapon of dark magic from his mother.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: A non-fatal version. Wanting Belle out of the way to get Gideon and Gold on her side, the Black Fairy had him believing Belle left. She finally shows him (badly-photoshopped) pictures of Belle around the world, giving the idea she left Gold to travel around. Gold, however, suspects trickery and confirms Belle is alive and still in Storybrooke - she's just too terrified to leave her house.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Thanks to Emma's sacrifice, Gideon is returned to the infant he once was, giving Gold and Belle the chance to raise him right.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When they escape from Agrabah's destruction, Aladdin is wearing the "Prince Ali" garb from the Disney film.
    • When the realms are restored at the end, the shot of it snowing in Arendelle is very like the final shot of Frozen.
    • Once again, Belle and Gold dance to "Beauty and the Beast."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Gold killing his mom ensures that her final command to Gideon that he kill Emma can't be countermanded.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The Black Fairy tries to convince Gold that Belle ran away from him to see the world, complete with photos. Having been awake this entire time, Gold now knows there's no way the Fairy would let Belle go and she must be in Storybrooke, proving he can't trust his mother.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Killing the Black Fairy instantly breaks her curse, bringing everyone back and restoring their memories. Light winning the Final Battle also instantly restores all the realms and their people, as well as the storybook, and restores Gideon to what he would have been if not for the Black Fairy's kidnapping.
  • No-Sell: Because Emma's belief is so far gone by the point he tries it, Henry giving her the storybook to hold to jolt her memories doesn't work.
  • Operation: [Blank]: Henry's plan to get Emma out of the asylum is "Operation Cuckoo's Nest."
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Gold shows his mother just why everyone in the Enchanted Forest basically craps themselves at the mere mention of his name - by turning her into dust with her own weapon.
  • Picture-Perfect Presentation: Something which hasn't been seen since Season One, and extremely meaningful this time—the shot of everyone having dinner together at Granny's becomes a picture at the end of the storybook which Henry's daughter is reading.
  • Properly Paranoid: Gold made sure he'd be immune to the curse in case his mother double-crossed him. She did when she got rid of Belle.
  • Prophetic Fallacy: As usual, the vision of the future Emma has seen since the start of the season doesn't mean what it seemed to mean. Played with in that the death it depicted for her did happen...but because the vision didn't show what came after, it didn't reveal that it would be undone. It also didn't show it as a willing Heroic Sacrifice as it ended up being.
  • Raise Him Right This Time: Undoing the Black Fairy's curse and winning the Final Battle allows Gideon's kidnapping and 28 years in the Dark Realm to be undone too, so Gold and Belle can raise him as they should have.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Gold gives one to himself. It works.
  • Ret Gone: The group realizes this is the real plan of the Black Fairy. After trapping them back in the Fairy Tale land, she starts to erode Emma's belief. As it happens, one by one, the magical lands vanish. Zelena relates Oz looking a disaster but when they get there, there's literally nothing outside the windows. If the Book is destroyed, then the lands just vanish with everyone in them.
  • Self-Made Orphan: With this episode, Gold has killed both his parents.
  • Series Fauxnale: The ending seems like a definite ending to the show, including all the shots of the restored lands, and the happy couples and families...right until the end.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Hook's attempt to get a magic bean so he can get to Emma and help her believe again, which almost costs him and David their lives, ends up not mattering in the end—he gets back to the castle only to find the bean has lost its magic, Regina and the Evil Queen don't have enough magic to restore it, and even the Evil Queen's sacrifice doesn't give Regina time to save them. It's the handmade storybook Henry makes for Emma, telling her of her life as a hero, that convinces her to come back, and her renewed belief that stops the destruction and brings everyone back to Storybrooke.
  • Shout-Out: The shot of Emma working out in her cell is practically identical to the image of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Complete with Henry as John Connor coming to break her out.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Emma chooses to sacrifice herself, rather then simply dying in battle or killing Gideon and darkening her heart (since he was an innocent being controlled via his heart).
    • Gold could join his mother and get everything he ever wanted, or he would be forced to kill Gideon if he wanted to abrogate her spell and save Emma and everyone else. Instead he chooses to find Gideon's heart and free him of the compulsion that way, thereby saving him too. This doesn't work out as intended since her spell can't be so easily undone, but him picking this third option is what enables Emma to be saved and everything restored to the way it was, including getting Gideon back.
  • Villain Ball: The Black Fairy removing Belle from the picture caused her son to turn against her; the fact she did this because she believed Belle was weak and holding him back from embracing the darkness, which neglected the fact that as much as he did love darkness and power, Gold did not want to lose Belle for anything, makes this even more of a fatal error on her part.
  • Villain World: The Black Fairy's curse basically resets Storybrooke back to the way it was at the start of the series, except with her as mayor instead of Regina, and Emma locked up in a mental hospital.
  • We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Played with. The pictures Fiona shows to Gold of Belle are very, very obviously bad Photoshop jobs, but not only is Gold likely not familiar with digital technology, Fiona's curse has wiped everyone's memories and would easily smooth over any discrepancies and oddities in the cover story she's providing. However even without his memories, Gold would know that Belle would never leave without Gideon, or without saying good-bye, and it's soon revealed that through a loophole (because he rightly didn't trust his mother) Gold had never been under the curse. So he likely saw right through the photos and this was one more thing to drive him to learn the truth about Belle's "disappearance."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The opening scene does not state a time frame, but the fact it shows Henry and his daughter together fighting evil in the Enchanted Forest shows it must be some time after the finale's ending scene; yet later when the little girl returns to the burned-out homestead, Tiger Lily appears as her fairy godmother, complete with wings. It isn't revealed whether she was restored because she did her part in helping Emma win the Final Battle, as part of the undoing of everything the Black Fairy did, or what; it's possible this will be part of the Season 7 story arc.
    • Also, after all the hubbub made about it by Tiger Lily, and the search for it which preoccupied Episode 19, it's never explained what happened to Fiona's original wand that Hook had to bring from Neverland; Regina restores it, Gold takes it to face Fiona, and then it disappears after he joins her. Did he simply give it back to the heroes after he was "done" with it? Or perhaps, could he have kept it and used it to create that little loophole for himself in his mother's new curse...? If so, that would explain why it was essential, since Gold could never have made the right choice in aiding Gideon and standing up to his mother if he weren't awake and aware of what she did to Belle.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The Black Fairy's final move was one of these. Either Gideon kills Emma in battle (destroying the light) or Emma kills him in self-defense (darkening her heart and destroying the light anyway). If someone happens to kill the Black Fairy herself? No problem, she placed a protection spell on Gideon's heart, making her orders to him irreversible. Even if the Black Fairy dies, she still wins and can celebrate victorious in the Underworld. Emma takes a third option instead, by peacefully letting herself be killed. This sacrifice helps to undo all the Black Fairy's evil.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Gold didn't trust his mother so made sure he would be awake under her curse; doing so allowed him to discover her betrayal with Belle. She expected this, so not only did she hold on to Gideon's heart, she placed a spell on it to make him do her bidding even if she died. She didn't expect Gold to resist her temptation and kill her, nor to resist the Darkness when he found the heart, but she did prepare the heart so that even if he found it and countermanded her orders, it wouldn't be enough.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Subverted. It turns out that the reason Henry couldn't use the Author's quill to determine the outcome of the Final Battle wasn't because it could not be avoided, but because the outcome of the battle itself hinged on Emma and Gold's choices—i.e., for the pen to work it would have to abrogate free will, which would go against the whole point of the battle.
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