Once Upon A Time has always been a story about love, but not in the ways people would probably expect. Sure, there's romance and there are grand gestures, but often those things pale in comparison to less obvious and more thought-provoking forms of love and devotion — be they between parents and children, friends, or even former enemies. The Season 4 finale certainly left us with a lot to think about in this arena, and it also left us with a serious conundrum on our hands. Emma was just starting to be ready to really let Hook in, while Regina was trying to make a go of it with Robin despite their very messy situation. It seemed like maybe happy endings were a thing after all... until the Darkness was let loose and Emma sacrificed herself and became the Dark One in order to ensure Regina would still get what she wanted. You see what I mean about that conundrum?
Emma's sacrifice kinda screwed everyone over, in the end. Her intentions, of course, were pure: she has grown to truly care about Regina and wanted to prove to the former Evil Queen that she meant what she said and she does have her back. For once, Emma wanted Regina to win, to get what she wanted, and Emma was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. (Talk about a grand gesture!) The problem is, Hook no longer has Emma, Henry no longer has one of his mothers, Emma no longer has full control over her Savior identity, Regina no longer has her closest and fiercest ally and friend, and well, I feel like Robin might not have Regina much longer, either.
Hear me out, Outlaw Queen supporters. I'm not saying I'm hoping for a breakup between Regina and Robin, but we've got to be realistic — fairy tales or not. It might seem noble in theory for Regina to be so willing to overlook the fact that her new paramour is having a baby with her evil sister (and let's not even go there over that whole rape subplot), but in actuality, things are a whole lot more messy. And unless Zelena suddenly has some change of heart and decides to become a walking ray of sunshine and goodness — which would not only be unlikely, but uncharacteristic — then she's not exactly going to make this whole co-parenting thing an easy situation.
And then, of course, there's Emma. She's the one person that Regina finally trusted wholeheartedly, the one person she cared about enough to offer HER a happy ending with their son (miss you, Season 3). Now Emma's done it for her, and that gesture will not be lost on Regina, especially not after how far she's come and all she's been through. Does anyone truly think that Regina is going to walk away from the center of Storybrooke after Emma's name became inscribed on the dagger hand in hand with Robin, whistling a happy tune? If you answered "yes", well, I'm afraid you're beyond any help I can give you.
At the end of the day, Once is not a show that caters to wish fulfillment. No matter who you 'ship, no matter what you want to see happen, the writers aren't sculpting scripts around the desires of fans — especially if it doesn't suit the storyline or propel the characters forward. A little love affair and some eye candy might be good for ratings, but I trust the showrunners too much to believe that happy endings are so easily found, especially at this stage of the game. And while it's still too early to tell just yet how most of the relationships on the show will pan out (besides Snowing, of course, and even they could use a little upheaval), I'm not pinning any hopes on Regina and Robin, regardless of Tink's prophecy, which at this point seems more than a little outdated.
In the end, I am Team Happy Ending — honestly. I just think we have to be open to understanding that our favorite characters may not find it where they (or we) expect.