Once Upon a Time,S5 Ep12 – Souls of the Departed

Once Upon a Time reached its 100th episode with “Souls of the Departed” which shows our heroes beginning their journey into the Underworld in order to rescue Killian Jones/Captain Hook. After nobly sacrificing himself during the mid-season finale, Hook’s soul was sent to the Underworld to wander lost and despairing for all eternity unless someone goes down to rescue him. Luckily for him, Emma Swan’s love is so strong and her friends and family so loyal (except for Rumplestiltskin, who was coerced into joining this quest) that they are all willing to enter the land of lost souls to find him and bring him back.

Once Upon a Time,S5 Ep12 - Souls of the DepartedThe episode sets the stage for the rest of the season, providing some exposition on the new setting and the nature of threats that the heroes will have to face. It was also a clever opportunity to have deceased characters make cameo appearances. Although we pretty much expected these characters, the cast members having been announced way in advance, it was still interesting to see them play against our main cast once more.

The short but sweet scene with Neal and Emma at the start of the episode was not only a neat way of having a former character return briefly, but also a chance to establish certain distinctions about the Once Upon a Time version of the afterlife. Neal warned Emma about the dangers of her quest in the Underworld. He himself was not there because apparently, the Underworld is only for those who still have unfinished business, an interesting set-up when one considers all the lost souls Emma and company are going to meet there. Neal is fortunate that he does not have anything unresolved (though I would have thought he might have some unfinished business with Rumple?)

Once Upon a Time,S5 Ep12 - Souls of the DepartedIt was all about family reunions and this being Once Upon a Time, familial relationships are always complicated. Regina has emotional reunions with each of her parents while Rumplestiltskin has a tense standoff with his father, Peter Pan. Regina’s mother Cora tries to manipulate her (yet again) by using her father as bait, while Pan tries to strike a deal with his son about leaving someone behind so that he may return to the land of the living. It helps that the Underworld looks like a twisted, creepy version of Storybrooke with people going about their unfinished business down the foggy streets.

Most of the episode was also devoted to Regina and her complicated relationship with her parents. The flashback was set during her birthday back when she was still bitter about not being able to capture Snow White and crush the latter’s heart. Lana Parrilla has always been able to skillfully play the different sides of Regina and this episode is no exception. We see the stark contrast between the cold and cruel Queen and the vulnerable, emotional, and repentant Regina Mills of Storybrooke.

Once Upon a Time,S5 Ep12 - Souls of the DepartedA particularly moving scene was when Henry Sr. met young Henry and the latter thanked the former for always believing in his mom even when she didn’t believe in herself. Henry Sr. really pushed for Regina’s redemption even if she literally killed him to enact the Dark Curse. He tried his best to rid Regina of her desire for revenge so that she could move on with her life. But back in the Enchanted Forest, of course, she was having none of it. And Henry’s efforts inadvertently allowed for Cora to cross over from Wonderland to wreak havoc on her daughter’s birthday (with another cameo appearance – from the Magic Mirror!)

Once Upon a Time,S5 Ep12 - Souls of the DepartedThe flashback, though it fleshed out Regina’s character even further, did not do much to forward the story but it did answer an existing plot hole from way back in season 1. This episode explained how Henry Sr. got trapped in Wonderland and so why Regina had to trick the Mad Hatter into taking her there, only to leave him behind. So there’s plot continuity as well as continuity of the themes of leaving someone in one realm to replace someone else. That’s not much foreshadowing, is it?

Emma and the others are able to get a brief glimpse of a bloody-faced Hook after sprinkling a magical potion on his grave. Let’s not dwell too much on the details. Apparently, in Once Upon a Time everyone in the Underworld has a grave despite being actually dead. Not much progress was made in the quest to save Hook. They don’t even know where he is.

But what they did realize at the end of the episode was that all of them have some responsibility towards the lost souls in the Underworld. Regina, Snow, Charming, and, of course, Rumple, have been involved in so many people’s lives over the years and caused (intentionally or not) complications. They will have to face their demons in the form of the people whose souls were trapped in that realm because of them.

The ruler of the Underworld, a suave Hades who somewhat resembles the Disney version, complete with flaming blue hair, is not pleased with the arrival of the heroes since he does not want any souls to escape. He manipulated Cora to try and get Regina to leave but she failed and is now doomed to be a peasant for all eternity, a real nightmare. Hades will definitely be one of the most powerful and dangerous villains the group has ever faced.

Operation Firebird, as Henry named it, is on, however, and everyone is determined to fulfill their mission. One of the best moments of this episode is Regina’s triumphant smile when she noticed the clock hand of Storybrooke start moving, a lovely callback to the pilot episode of the show.

Next week on Once Upon a Time, we get to meet Hercules: