Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep11 – Swan Song

“Let me die a hero.”

Storybrooke is under siege in the Once Upon a Time midseason finale, as the combined forces of all the Dark Ones cross from the Underworld to wreak havoc on the world. Except they don’t because, as usual, all evil plans are thwarted by a heroic sacrifice.

Which wouldn’t have been such a problem had there been no build-up to this epic confrontation since the beginning of the season. We were teased with a possible attack from all the most powerful and evil beings that ever existed, and we didn’t even see them do more than ominously stalk the main characters and leave scarab-like marks on their wrists.  After all that build-up, all the big talk about how great a threat ALL the Dark Ones would be when having two caused so much trouble, Nimue and the others were barely there during the finale and were apparently so easily dealt with.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep11 - Swan SongBut the episode really revolved around Hook and his struggles to decide what kind of man he really wanted to be. In Storybrooke, he had a lot of powerful scenes with Emma as she tried to reel him back from the darkness he had so easily succumbed to. And in the flashbacks, we watched Regina test how far he was willing to go for his revenge.

So Hook threatened to snuff out the light with the help of his Dark One posse. But Nimue and the Dark Ones (sounds like a name for a band) were still on a temporary pass to the land of the living. “Like a tourist visa,” Rumple so cleverly puts it. They need to exchange living souls in order to be able to regain their physical selves, and so they mark most everyone in the main cast with Dark Marks, er, the Mark of Charon, making it clear who their targets are. The characters run around, being pursued by hooded and cloaked figures who don’t really do more than intimidate.

But Emma’s family are in danger of being sent to Hell, so she and Regina come up with a plan to stop this from happening. Meanwhile, Snow and the rest decide to spend their last precious moments together as a family having dinner at Granny’s diner (where Granny is nowhere to be seen.) Emma decides to sacrifice herself by having the darkness injected in her and then having Regina stab her with Excalibur. They obtain the aforementioned sword from Rumple, who warns them against it and shows genuine worry.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep11 - Swan SonHe also decides to spend his final moments with his loved one, and gives Belle something to protect her should she cross the town line. He encourages her to leave town and explore the world, as she always wanted. He intentionally withholds crucial information from her (about everyone being sent to the Underworld and everything.) I found it suspicious that she had no idea about the current crisis and was happy to just leave without talking to any of the Charmings or noticing the shadowy, cloaked figures walking around town.

Regina tries to confront Hook about his plans by reminding him of some unsavory moments in his past, but he refuses to speak of them. While we are all aware that Regina once commissioned Hook to assassinate Cora for her, this other, darker moment in their dealings together was never referred to until now. How convenient that after all this time and with Hook being the Dark One for a while, she chooses to remind him of one of his darkest crimes just now. But that allowed for an interesting set of flashbacks that explored more of Hook’s character.

We meet young Killian Jones as child, being comforted on a stormy night by his father. After this sweet moment, we find out that Killian’s father has just run away, leaving him and his brother, Liam, and sold them both into servitude. So like everyone else on the show, Hook is a victim of parental abandonment. And we finally get to see the source of the Daddy issues he and Baelfire bonded over back in the day.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep11 - Swan SongYears later, the Evil Queen decides to test how far the Captain is willing to go for his revenge. She warns him that her mother (correctly) senses weakness and if one is not committed enough to the task, one can easily be defeated by her. It’s always a treat to see Regina all dressed up as the Evil Queen again. No one rocks the costume like Lana Parrilla.

She leads Hook into a pub where the bartender turns out to be his father.  To prove his readiness for the task of killing Cora, he is supposed to do the same to the man who abandoned him and his brother, and whom he holds partially responsible for how he turned out. He stays until closing time and confronts his father about the past.

Papa Hook seems genuinely repentant and apologizes profusely to the son he left behind. I’m glad they explained why he looked the same age as Killian: yet another random sleeping curse, which was apparently cured by True Love’s Kiss from a nurse who made him change his ways and become a better man (sound familiar?).

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep11 - Swan SongMoved by his father’s story, Hook decides to spare him and to give him and his new son a way to leave the kingdom so that Regina will think that Hook killed him. When Hook shows up at his dad’s new home, he overhears the man comforting his new son the way he did with Killian right before he left him. This enrages Hook and he gets even more pissed off when he finds out that the boy’s name is Liam, because he feels like his father was trying to replace his brother with this new boy.

And so, while Papa Hook insists that he really has changed, his arguments fall on deaf ears and Hook commits one of his darkest acts, the murder of his own father. Which reminds us of how villainous he used to be and why it was so easy for him to succumb to the darkness.

(I wonder whether we will ever be seeing Liam II again and who he will turn out to be.)

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