“Swan Song” – aired 12/6/2015 – *****stars
Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
*Spoilers are contained within.
So far this season on Once Upon a Time, we’ve seen Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) struggle to destroy the dark magic that she absorbed saving Regina (Lana Parilla) in last season’s finale. We were introduced to new worlds like Camelot and new, yet familiar, characters like Merida (Amy Manson) and Merlin (Elliot Knight). In last week’s episode, “Broken Heart” we saw Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) embrace his dark powers and summon all of the dark ones to take over Storybrooke and destroy its residents. Now, it is up to Emma, Regina and the others to stop Hook, the dark army and save their world.
In this episode, we actually get a glimpse into Hook’s life through various flashbacks. The opening scene shows a young Hook, referred to as Killian, sleeping on his dad’s ship when rough seas scares him awake. His father, played by Adam Croasdell, reassures Killian everything will be okay and to always remember the man he wants to be. However, the tender moment does not last. The next time little Killian wakes up, he is on a different ship with a different captain. His father sells him and his brother into indentured servitude without explanation. Time passes and we see Regina recruiting Hook to kill her mother when she challenges him to kill a man she will point out to him. A tall man makes a remark about pirates so Hook thinks it’s him, but Regina uses her magic, knocking the man out.
Hook takes his father to a back room where he calls him out as a liar for telling him and his brother about bravery and being the men they want to be yet he abandoned them. It is finally revealed the boys were sold into servitude to pay off a debt and as a way for their father to escape the law. Hook’s father says he was caught and wounded, but put under a sleeping spell. The spell was broken when his nurse kissed him and he married her right away. They had a child together and shortly after, she passed away from the plague. Hook comes very close to killing his father but instead tells him he will get notes of passage for him and the boy to run away and never be heard from again. He will then tell Regina he killed him and go on with his life. His father agrees and both men part ways. Hook, now dark, visits his father, hearing the same story he and his brother were told before they were abandoned. This infuriates Hook and he kills his father so that the boy can be never suffer the fate he did. As his father dies, he tells Hook there is still time to change, to be the man he always wanted to be.
It is a dark time in Storybrooke as Hook, Nimue (Caroline Ford) and the rest of the dark army take over the town. They appear all over and are even a part of a trap set by Zelena (Rebecca Mader) against Regina and Robin (Sean MacGuire). She tells them she has granted herself sole custody of Robin’s daughter, then teleports them away to the middle of the town. They are joined by Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), David (Josh Dallas) and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) who now have strange marks on their arms. Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) explains they have all been marked as trading places with the dark ones. The dark ones will stay and they will go to the underworld in their place. Knowing it cannot be undone, they meet at Granny’s for what may be the last time. Regina quickly heads over to the docks where she asks Hook not to destroy the town and everyone in it saying he’s better than that. Hook snaps back saying she was no better than he was when she was queen. Regina says she has changed and so can he. Emma meets up with Regina to tell her a secret that could change everything.
Emma tells Regina she will take Excalibur, reabsorb all of the dark power, then kill herself to destroy it. Regina has her concerns but helps Emma anyway. Before they get to the shop, we see a tender moment between Rumplestiltskin and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) where he saves her from the uncertainty and darkness of Storybrooke. He hands her squid ink and the car keys, telling her to go far away and start a new life wherever she winds up. As she leaves, Regina and Emma enter and get Excalibur from Rumplestiltskin. He hands it over without question but does have a warning: the plan is not guaranteed to work. Zelena has now made herself at home amid the chaos as Regina and Robin find her in the mansion. They confront her about the baby but she uses magic and tells hem they are not getting the child. Regina breaks the magic, transports herself and Zelena to the clock tower, then summons a green tornado which sweeps Zelena back to Oz, hopefully never to be seen again. Back at Granny’s, Emma contemplates her final goodbye, which becomes a mote left on the jukebox. She sneaks out without notice but doesn’t know Hook and Nimue are watching from a nearby alley, ready to strike.
Emma goes back to her house when Hook appears. She tries to fight him, but he teleports too quickly for her attacks. He thanks her for turning him dark because now he can finally get revenge on Rumplestiltskin. He disappears again to avoid Emma’s attack, but now Henry appears, telling Emma to let go of the sword, which she does. As soon as she lets go, Hook appears. It was all a ruse to get Emma to hand over the sword, giving him all of the power. It seems for now, that Emma’s plan has failed. The group is sent to the lake at the park where the boat to the underworld appears, manned by Charon, to take them away.
Emma arrives, but it seems to be too late as Hook and the dark ones are ready to destroy our heroes. Emma tries to stop them but Nimue chokes her. Regina plays the memory of Hook stabbing his father to show him he can still change. Hook stops, then turns to Nimue and holds up Excalibur to her. Her power, and the rest of the dark ones’ powers, are absorbed into Excalibur. He hands the sword to Emma where he presents himself to her to be killed and end the darkness. She breaks down into tears, telling him she can’t do it. He begs her to do it because he knows what kind of man he wants to be. She kisses him and stabs him with Excalibur, breaking the curse. Excalibur disintegrates and everything in Storybrooke is back to normal from the streets to the buildings, even down to Emma’s blonde hair and red jacket. However, it does not change the fact Hook is dead. He is checked by paramedics but it is too late as his body is covered and taken away. The group is shocked and saddened by what they just witnessed and by the events of the dark curse. The next day, Belle returns, saying she heard everything and how brave Rumplestiltskin was. She vows to stay with him forever and is convinced he has changed.
Back home, Emma is still grieving but hears voices calling to her. She goes to Rumplestiltskin’s shop and drops a huge bombshell that he still has the dagger. He laced Excalibur with a spell that transferred all of its dark power to him. He has the power of every dark one in history now. Emma threatens to tell his secret to Belle unless he takes her to the underworld to find Hook. Rumplestiltskin has no choice but to accept Emma’s request so they all meet at the lake where he opens the gateway for the boat to the underworld to arrive.
This episode served as a great end to the first half of the season. We got answers for one story arc and we get to formulate questions for a new one. This episode was nothing short of emotional which really drove it home. I like episodes or movies like this where someone has to choose between life and love. It makes us question our own psyches and emotions. We ask ourselves what would we do if we were Emma or Hook in that situation? If we were Rumple, would we let our loved ones go to save them from ourselves and our current situation? If we were Belle would we run away forever or would we come back? “Swan Song” was a well-written episode because it was thought-provoking. I cannot wait to see the underworld and what kind of characters we will be introduced to in it. We have to wait until March, but there is a special on ABC next Sunday at 8pm (as always, check your local listings) called Behind the Magic: Snow White narrated by our very own Mary Margaret, Ginnifer Goodwin. This special will take us behind the scenes of the 1937 Disney classic and inspiration for Once Upon a Time.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays on ABC at 8pm. Check your local listings.