I should have known that the magic of last week's quite exhilarating episode of Once Upon a Time would only last for one week. The mid season finale had some high points (I see you, Colin O'Donoghue) but also some truly low and frustrating ones. Just trying to stay true to yourself aren't you, our dear Once?
I will say that the highlight of this episode, for me, was Colin O'Donoghue. I'll be honest, he's the only reason I still watch this show. I do love Hook, problematic yet sassy and adorable Hook, but I mostly stay to see what O'Donoghue can do with the character. And I honestly think he's been knocking this season's material out of the park. Like I wouldn't mind meeting Hook down an alley, if you know what I mean, but this Dark Hook is terrifying. I in no way want to meet that guy, even with that fabulous hair.
Anyway, I could talk about O'Donoghue all day but I won't. Instead I'll start at the beginning of "Swan Song" which opens with a baby Killian Jones, before he ever had any idea that he would become the fearsome Captain Hook.
Killian is scared of the raging sea surrounding the ship where he is currently trying to sleep. Enter his father, this family has great genes by the way, to calm him. He tells him to look inside when he feels scared. He says that people are always braver than they think. Killian's father advises him to decide what kind of man he wants to be. I sense this being the theme of the episode, but also this kid is like 5. Why are we getting so deep here, Papa Hook?
Little Killian falls asleep believing his father to be a great hero, as all kids do at some point, but soon wakes up to find him missing. The Captain of the ship enters and tells him that his father is a thief and took off in the night because he didn't want to be arrested at the next port. In order to get a boat to sail away, Killian's father sold he and his brother Liam into servitude on the boat. Oh okay. Father of the year here.
In present day Storybrooke, Dark Hook continues to taunt Rumple, telling him that he is the kind of man that will value power above anything else. Hey, at least Dark Hook is super honest and really great at speaking the truth.
Dark Emma and her posse are walking around Storybrooke making a plan to take down Dark Hook. Only Snow is against using all the force necessary to take him down. Thank you, Snow. Emma is clearly conflicted but she's not about to let her boyfriend hurt anyone in her family. They all split up to find Hook when they discover the horde of Dark One's that has been unleashed on the town. Uh oh.
Dark Emma watches as Nimue walks through Henry. Yes, you read that right. She walked right through him. That marked him with a sweet new tattoo of sorts. What's not cool is that new tattoo means he's about to be dragged to the Underworld. The rest of the main cast has also been tagged by other Dark Ones, except for Emma. Rumple pops in to explain that the Dark Ones can't continue to exist in Storybrooke unless they take the place of someone else in the town. Thus, they are sending our heroes to the Underworld in the morn so that they can stay and vacay in Storybrooke for the indefinite future.
Regina meets up with Dark Hook at the harbor because of course he'd be near water. She decides to finally call him by his name and not one of the million nicknames she consistently gives to him. This is serious, y'all. Hook notes that there are plenty of people in the Underworld who would love to get their hands on Regina. Regina knows that she isn't that Evil Queen anymore, though, and tells Hook that he too isn't the same man that she once asked to kill her mother for her. Then he essentially uses the force on her and phantom chokeholds her while telling her to never test him again. She doesn't know the man he truly is.
Flashback to discover the man Hook truly is, I suppose. The Evil Queen meets up with Captain Hook after asking him to kill her mother. She wants to test to see if he has what it takes to get the job done. She takes him to a pub where, SURPRISE, his dirtbag of a father works.
Captain Hook waits until the pub is clear to confront dear ol' dad. His father is surprised and also still looks super young. They both question how it is possible for the other to still be alive after centuries. Hook has Neverland. What's your excuse, Papa Hook?
Apparently not long after he sold his sons into slavery he was hit with a sleeping curse. He was eventually awoken by true loves kiss from his nurse. They somehow fell in love while he was asleep, because he could hear her voice and she completely changed his heart. I don't know why she fell in love with him. He was literally unconscious during the entirety of their courtship. How desperate was this girl?
However it happened, this new love changed Hook's father for the better. Too bad she fell ill with the plague and died shortly after their marriage. Our dastardly Captain Hook decides to spare his father because he thinks they both deserve better, but he still has to prove to the Evil Queen that he can kill someone from his past. He agrees to get him out of town. His father asks if it's possibly to also take his other son. Hook has a half brother!
Let's all take bets on who this step-brother is. It HAS to be someone we already know. It wouldn't be Once Upon a Time if he wasn't. Im going to go with Arthur. I have no basis for this guess other than they both have dark hair and Arthur isn't tied to any of the other characters yet.
In the present day, the Charmings decide to listen to Rumple's pessimistic outlook on their Dark One situation and choose to spend their final moments together at Granny's. Snow knows Emma won't stop trying to help Dark Hook but she hopes she'll stop in for a goodbye at some point. Dark Emma asks Regina to keep her promise from earlier in the season. The one about killing Dark Emma if need be. Emma is going to get Excalibur, absorb all of the Dark Ones and sacrifice herself so the darkness is gone for good.
Over in his shop, Rumple frantically pushes Belle into leaving town to travel the world. He won't tell her what is going on but manages to persuade her to do something for herself. To discover who she is and what she wants. That's nice. She agrees and leaves Storybrooke. He breaks down and cries after she leaves and it's pretty sad. Rumple's heroic growth is a nice change of pace for the show.
Rumple can't get any alone time because Dark Emma and Regina burst in asking for Excalibur. They tell them their plan and Rumple hands the sword over and applauds Emma for her bravery. He warns that it may not work considering Excalibur does what it wants and chooses worthy people and which miracles it wants to perform. Is Excalibur a slightly more judgmental Jesus now?
In the side plot that nobody cares about but may be important, Zelena is figuring out how she wants to redecorate Regina's office since Regina and everyone will be dragged to the Underworld soon. Regina and Robin walk in to tell her that her desire to take her baby away and raise her up to be wicked will not fly with them. Regina whips out the Sorcerer's wand and poofs herself and Zelena to the clocktower. Having enough of her dear sister's drama, Regina sends Zelena back to Oz in a massive green tornado. Well, there's that.
Dark Emma decides to leave a note for her family instead of speaking to them in person. She then goes to her house to retrieve Excalibur. Dark Hook is already there and asks for the sword telling her she can't go through with her plan because it means she will die. Dark Emma ask why he cares now. He simply says that he technically owes her his life since she brought him back from death and turned him into the Dark One. This allowed him to be the man he wants to be, the one who gets revenge on his arch nemesis. Okay, except you totally could have killed Rumple last week or anytime you wanted because he's defenseless. But you didn't? What are you playing at Hook?
Dark Emma has finally had enough of Dark Hook after he once again threatens her family. She tries to stab him with Excalibur but he continually puffs away. A wild Henry appears at the door and Dark Emma for some reason lets him take the sword. Turns out it was just Hook pretending to be Henry. Shocker. Really, Emma? REALLY? Like...what? I really wanted Emma to be super badass during the Dark Emma arc but honestly she's kind of failed on so many levels. Oh well.
Now that Dark Hook has Excalibur, the other Dark Ones set our heroes' new tats aglow. This transports them to the edge of the pond where the Underworld gate keeper is soon to arrive. Apparently all of their babies and toddlers are in the safe and secure hands of the fairies. This show is really great about childcare.
Hook swaggers up with Excalibur and Regina confronts him one more time. She tells him to drop the act because she knows he doesn't want to tear another family apart. Apparently something happened with his father many many years ago that they agreed to never talk about.
In the final flashback, we see Captain Hook waiting outside of his father's house. He watches as his father puts his tiny son to bed and tells him all of the same comforting words that he told little Killian years ago on the ship. Then he listens as his father calls his new brother Liam. Um. Just like Hook's older brother? One of the sons you abandoned and sold into servitude? That's so weird.
Hook is PISSED. He yells at his father for trying to replace he and his brother. His father tells him that it wasn't replacing but honoring. He is striving to never make the same mistake again. Hook doesn't care and is blinded by centuries of hurt and pain. He tells his father that he can't have the Evil Queen questioning his ability to do his job and he stabs his dad. Before dying, his father tells him that it's never too late to be the man he wants to be.
Dark Hook thinks about killing his father and rejects Regina's pleas to be the better man. Nimue is bored and uses her own magical abilities to phantom chokehold Dark Emma. Dark Hook watches and ultimately can't handle it. He yells at Nimue to stop and says that he is going to be the man that he wants to be. That's a sudden turn to good. Whatever.
Dark Hook proceeds to use Excalibur to suck up all of the Dark Ones. He asks Emma to take the sword, which is shaking violently, and stab him with it. He admits that he was weak and asks that she please allow him to be strong and to die a hero by doing this for him. Dark Emma takes the sword, kisses him and tells him she loves him. Then she stabs him.
That somehow releases both him and her from the darkness. Too bad Hook was made into the Dark One because he died from that Excalibur cut back in Camelot. So, Emma's wardrobe changes back to her trusty red leather jacket and Hook's fatal cut reappears.
AND HE DIES.
Like Storybrooke EMT's (THEY HAVE THOSE?) put his body on a gurney and cover it with a sheet.
Emma is sobbing and everything is sad. Later on she lays on her couch holding the ring Hook gave to her in Camelot. She begins to hear voices and realizes that it's the dagger calling to her. If the dagger had no master, then she probably shouldn't be hearing those voices. She decides to follow the voices which they lead her to Rumple's pawn shop.
Over in Rumple's pawn shop, Belle returns from her 5 minute trip around the world. She tells Rumple that Henry called her and told her everything. She knows Rumple lied to get her out of town and somehow that makes him a selfless hero. So, she turned around instantly and came back to him because she loves him and wants to be with him for forever. They proceed to make up for lost time if you know what I mean.
Rumple hears someone enter his shop and goes out to find Emma. She tells him that she hears the voices calling from the dagger and she knows he has it. He casually brings it out to show her that his name is once again on the dagger. So, he is the Dark One again. Like the only one, I guess?
Our dear ol' Rumple had a few tricks up his sleeve. When Regina and Dark Emma first came to him and told them about their plan to sacrifice Emma and rid Storybook of all of the Dark One's Rumple saw his chance to get it back. He magic'd Excalibur so that when Hook used it to suck up the darkness, he wasn't destroying it but merely transferring it. To Rumple.
So, now Rumple has all of the power of every previous Dark One making him the most powerful being to ever live. It also makes him a douchebag and I hate him. So much for character growth.
Emma is incredibly upset but realizes that Rumple can now do something for her. She threatens to tell Belle everything about Rumple's lies if he doesn't help her. Her plan is to go to the Underworld to rescue Hook. All of our other main characters, including Henry, decide to go too. That makes sense. So, Rumple opens the portal and calls upon the Underworld gate keeper. Emma walks out into the water towards the boat telling herself (and I guess Hook) that she will find him. She will always find him.
Cheesy but also I love it. Whatever.
So, the next half of the season will be in the Underworld. This means Hades. Yay! Please make him similar to the one in Hercules. He cracks me up.
I HAVE A LOT OF THOUGHTS. SORRY.
1. Why take everyone that you just tried to keep from going to the Underworld to the Underworld? Who is watching the kids? Do these people spend ANY time with their babies?
1a. I don't care THAT much. I'm just glad they are going after Hook. Because as my fave pirate (Sorry, Hook) said, "Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while." You go get your true love, Emma girl.
2. I'm disappointed with how Dark Hook turned out. It makes more sense for him to have been playing Nimue and the other Dark Ones the entire time. Like getting them all there in order to sacrifice himself and rid the world of the Dark Ones all together. His sudden turn to super asshole makes little sense without it. Also, his motives and actions make little sense. If his only goal while being the Dark One was to get revenge on Rumple, then why did he not kill him during their duel? Why did he not kill him at ANY OTHER TIME since Rumple had no magic? It would have been so easy.
Also, what's the point of calling on ALL of the former Dark Ones if your only goal is to get your revenge? What is the purpose of that? His claim of wanting revenge does not justify his words to Emma either. At his characters core, he isn't someone that would say those things to her unless he was trying to distance himself from her. Or her from him. Because he had some big plan that would ultimately destroy them as a couple, aka sacrificing himself.
And why would he spend so much time in Storybrooke not acting like the Dark One but as soon as he knows he is one he turns up his evil 100%. Then he was only evil for a hot second before rather quickly deciding that he wanted to choose love and heroism. It felt like a giant cop out for the Dark One story and it just didn't work on any sort of emotional level for me.
3. This show is so repetitive. It keeps sending villains down paths of good only to retcon everything and have them be crazy nasty fools again. It's redundant. I'm looking at you, Rumple. He has had absolutely no character growth over 5 seasons. It's okay if the show wants to depict a man that is not capable of overcoming his own obsession with darkness and power. That's fine. But they do it at the expense of Belle, a character that has only ever been jerked around by Rumple's man pain.
The writer's were finally giving Belle her own purpose by letting her go off to explore the world and to discover her own feelings. But then they took that back in less than 20 minutes and had her come back to Rumple, who is once again lying to her. It's the same story with them week after week and it's rather disturbing. Belle is a weak character on this show simply because she is mostly used to further Rumple's never-ending storyline of lying and getting what he wants.
Having Belle instantly fly back to Rumple upon hearing of his one selfless act is annoying. Having them sleep together after Rumple has already welcomed back the Dark One powers and lied to her is gross. This isn't good primetime family television. It's sloppy, melodramatic soap opera level television. It makes me wish Hook was for real dying so Colin O'Donoghue could leave the show and go onto other things (please be in other things) so I could quit this mess.
I'm not sure there was a purpose to the first half of season 5. What did we learn? What did the characters learn? How did they grow? Hook was ultimately a hero but that's something that's been reiterated by Emma since season 4. And his path to believing it himself was dumb and frankly made him look like a large tool.
Emma possibly grew a bit in regards to letting love in. She had already accepted Henry and her family. Now, she realizes her capacity to love another human on a different level and that it's okay to be loved in return. That's cool.
But that's it? Everyone else may have shown a bit of something more only to end up back in the place they were at the beginning of the season. And let's not even mention the inclusion of King Arthur and Merida, who seemed important but then were mysteriously missing from this mid season finale.
So, what was the purpose? Im having a difficult time figuring it out. Maybe there wasn't one. Maybe I should just accept that this show is a mindless hour of interesting moments and not something deep or profound. I mean, I know it's never been deep or profound but it has so much potential to make fairytales real and beautiful. I like that a hero falls in love with a villain. I like that a villain can change her stars and become a person worthy of love and respect. There are good messages to be had here, but this show can't seem to get out of a continuous loop with its storytelling.
Hopefully the back half of season 5 will be better or at least different. I'm excited to get into mythology more so than typical fairytale stories. I just hope they find Hook soon because I'm gonna need him to be back in order to make this slightly more bearable.
Until next time...