Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep8 – Birth

“So you really want to know the truth no matter how awful?”

“Birth” finally fills in the blanks about what happened back in Camelot six weeks ago, and we finally get to see what truly led to Emma becoming the Dark Swan. Back in Storybrooke, her intentions for the reforged Excalibur also come to light, but nothing goes quite as she planned. And as usual on Once Upon a Time, the answers we got about the major mysteries of this half of the season only led to more questions.

Back in “six weeks ago” Camelot, Arthur, with the eager help of Zelena and the coerced cooperation of Merlin, threatens Emma’s family and demands that she brings the ember of Prometheus’ fire and the dagger to him so that he can finally reforge Excalibur. Emma is tempted to fight him, but Merlin stands in her way and he is more than a match for the Dark One. The rest of her family watch helplessly (though I hope that Zelena used some pretty powerful magic to bind Regina, because I don’t think the latter would stand idly by as everyone gets threatened and controlled by Arthur.)

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep8 - BirthLuckily, after some effective pep talk and a lot of flaring nostrils, Merlin is able to resist Arthur’s control (which I hoped he would, because I really didn’t buy how a tethering spell from Zelena could overpower the greatest sorcerer in the realms). He breaks free and Zelena poofs Arthur and herself off to the next episode for an ultimately futile side-quest, but more on that in the next recap. Also, Hook gets nicked by Arthur’s blade, a seemingly minor detail that becomes crucial later on.

Everyone is safe but Emma still struggles to understand what she is afraid of and what she is clinging to that prevents her from completely giving up the darkness. Regina approaches her and tries to force her to admit the truth by using the dagger, because Regina is a fan of tough love. But Emma still can’t bring herself to admit what’s keeping her from just giving up the darkness.

In Storybrooke, after the Charmings unmask Arthur for the jerk that he is, Hook gets into a fight with the king and almost gets killed when Emma steps in to save him. He confronts her about her darkness and all her evil plans and she blurts out that everything she did, she did for him. Then she doesn’t explain herself and just poofs away. Rumple tells Hook that she’s probably atoning for something while Regina tells Hook that Emma is just manipulating him. He tries to force the truth from Emma by pretending to commit suicide so that she would save him. He insists that he wants to know so they walk to her house (instead of conveniently poofing there) and then she proceeds to not tell him anything.

Because elsewhere in Storybrooke, Zelena suddenly goes into labor because of Emma’s pregnancy-accelerating onion rings. Robin and Regina rush her to the hospital while wondering what Emma had planned for this baby.

Watch iZombie, guys!

Watch iZombie, guys!

A really special moment ensues as Dr. Whale pops up to deliver the baby. The sassy doctor steals the scene with his wit and charm, staying cool under pressure because he’s been through so much in Storybrooke already, so very little can faze him at this point. David Anders is a delight in this role, and even has a witty response to when Regina points out that he’s changed his hair color. Regina doesn’t approve but Storybrooke doesn’t need another doctor. We just need to see more of this one.

The baby is born and poor Doctor Whale gets thrown across the room yet again. Apparently, it wasn’t the baby Emma needed but Zelena herself. And so the next phase of the Dark Swan’s plans becomes clear, as Emma explains that she intends to fill Zelena with all the darkness and then destroy it by killing the witch. She imprisons Zelena and Hook in her underground lair where they join forces and manage to escape. Zelena wants to leave, but Hook is determined to get the truth out of Emma.

Now, I have never liked Zelena as a character as much as I sometimes enjoy the actress’ portrayal of her. She’s selfish, petty, manipulative, and vicious without the willingness to change for the better like Regina. She’s just an awful person. But having said this, she doesn’t deserve to be murdered just so that Emma can get rid of the darkness.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep8 - BirthIt’s becoming a thing on this show that you can get rid of darkness by injecting it into a person (last season’s example was baby Lily, who is probably off with Maleficent trying to find out who her father is, which accounts for their absence from Storybrooke), and then either send this person to another realm or in this case, kill them, and then get rid of the darkness forever. Seems awfully convenient and still quite dark. Anyway.

Hook finds the squid ink Emma stole from Rumple’s shop and freezes her in her tracks, demanding the truth. Zelena waltzes back with a dreamcatcher containing Hook’s erased memories and we watch as the following scenes unfold.

Back in Camelot, the family gathers at Granny’s and Emma prepares to reforge the blades when Hook’s wound reopens, because apparently any injury dealt by the Excalibur fragment can never truly be healed. He starts bleeding to death and bids a tearful good-bye to Emma, who refuses to let him go. Apparently, the only way to save him is for Emma to use Dark Magic and once she crosses that line, there’s no turning back.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep8 - BirthBut she loves Hook so much that she’s willing to do no matter what it takes for them to have a future together. So she poofs them both into that field of pink roses and tells him that she loves him. She raises Excalibur and tethers his soul to it and in so doing, creates another Dark One (which none of us knew was possible until this moment.) He emerges from the malevolent gloop of the Dark One vault, complete with hooded cloak and disgruntled expression.

Hook is horrified that he has been unconsciously turned into the thing he hates the most and lashes out at Emma for doing this. A little extreme considering she did just save his life, but I also understand where he’s coming from. He wants to “take care” of Emma, but what that really means remains ambiguous.

So Hook’s been the Dark One all along but Emma erased his memory so he wasn’t aware of the change in his circumstances? He wasn’t aware that he was immortal and all-powerful? Did he think he just had a bad case of insomnia this whole time (since Dark Ones don’t sleep?)

For all of Emma’s “Dark One” bitterness and cold demeanor, what she did was still noble? Just like Rumple, who became the Dark One to try and save his son, Emma did it for someone she loved. And she didn’t even go on a mass murder spree as Dark One!Rumple did. Although this whole “murdering Zelena to destroy the darkness” is questionable. But what happened to all her big speeches to Nimue and the Dark One assembly about snuffing out the light? It was all just an act?

But after this major reveal that finally advanced the plot, none of this was addressed in the next episode which featured a ridiculous, contrived adventure featuring beloved minor characters who in the end, did nothing to advance the main story. I’m talking about the second half of this Once Upon a Time special, “The Bear King.”