Once Upon A Time Season 5 is still several months away and frankly, I'm still not over everything that happened during the Season 4 finale yet, but there are some things we need to talk about before we move forward. Many things, in fact — but there's one issue in particular that's on my mind at the moment, and that's the fact that we barely saw Snow White and Prince Charming (or Mary Margaret and David — whatever you want to call them) last season. They're there, sure, but for being two of the biggest characters in Storybrooke (not to mention in fairy tales in general), I feel like there's a lot of wasted potential there.
Snow and Charming's biggest storyline during Season 4 was the discovery that they weren't as noble as they initially made out. In fact, 30 years ago, they'd somehow managed to force the Apprentice into cursing Maleficent's child with darkness in order to save Emma and ensure she would turn out good. This revelation separated the couple from their daughter for much of 4B, but that didn't have to mean we didn't see them at all. Then again, when there are no villains, there isn't much need for heroes (and besides, Emma is probably a bigger hero than either of them could ever be, considering), so it's likely the writers just didn't know what else to do with them — especially with so much going on with everyone else. There were simply bigger fish to fry in Storybrooke.
But if "Operation Mongoose" did one thing, it's to set the stage not only for some storyline shifts — after all, Regina's likely going to be Season 5's big hero and she'll need to form some new alliances to fill those shoes, particularly with Emma's parents — but also for the characters we've become so familiar with to explore new territory in terms of their inner growth. Snow and Charming are the parents of the Savior, and now the Savior is the Dark One. Despite all their sacrifices and the bad decisions they made, they've now lost their daughter a second time. There's grief that will come with that realization, but hopefully also a renewed purpose that will make them stand out again.
I don't, by any means, think that Snow and Charming hold the key to restoring Emma to her former self and banishing the Darkness once and for all. We know only Merlin is that powerful, and also that True Love is not the key (at least not when it comes to freeing Emma of this terrible force). However, Emma's sacrifice to preserve Regina's happiness might have the unintended effect of kicking Snow and Charming back into gear, of reminding them who they once were and who they could still be: courageous individuals that fight for what's right and good — not ones that sit back and watch the action taking place around them and hoping for the best.
Of course, the lack of attention given to them during Season 4 by Once writers was also likely circumstantial, given that the actors behind the characters, Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, welcomed their first child together just last summer — happy news, but likely news that affected the amount of time the couple spent on set and in front of the camera. I'm hoping that's the biggest explanation, because Snow and Charming are two heroes Storybrooke needs more of — and there's room for more than one, you know.