Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep20 – Firebird

A fairly dull episode of Once Upon a Time this week with characters making dumb decisions and old themes and storylines being rehashed. We got the origin story of Emma’s red jacket as well as the inspiration for her tough, bail bonds person persona.

Following Zelena’s kidnap by Rumple and Peter Pan, Hades turns to the heroes for help in rescuing her. Although they are initially wary of his intentions (as they should be!), Regina manages to convince them that his feelings for her sister are true and so they strike up a deal with him to get out of the Underworld.

The rescue succeeds and Rumple gets what he wants as Hades tears up the contract for Rumple’s second-born child. Peter Pan doesn’t end up with anything as Rumple decides to leave him in the lurch and disappear in a puff of smoke. It was disappointing not to see much of Pan this season, but I’m glad Rumple wasn’t just about to trust his manipulative father.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep20 - FirebirdZelena finally opens her heart to Hades who, in all fairness, was sincere in his affections. They share their first kiss and the curse on Hades is broken. His heart starts beating again and he is finally free to leave the Underworld with everyone else. He shows his goodwill by erasing the names on the tombstones and the heroes foolishly believe that he is truly a changed man.

But Hook correctly points out that no one changes that fast. And as Once Upon a Time has consistently shown, villains may seek redemption but it always takes a considerable amount of time. And so far, Hades has been nothing but shady even though his love for Zelena has been genuine. It was always clear that the only ones he truly cares about are himself and Zelena, so it was unlikely that he was just going to let the heroes escape on their own. So they should really not have been that surprised that he betrayed them.

A portal back to Storybrooke opens but only until a certain point. Hook still can’t leave the Underworld, so he and Emma go on a wild goose chase for some ambrosia that Orpheus supposedly fed to Eurydice to help her escape the Underworld. While I appreciated this Greek mythology reference, it somehow felt unnecessary in an already overstuffed episode/half-season.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep20 - FirebirdThe quest for the ambrosia turned out not only to be a trick by Hades, but also showcased scenes between Hook and Emma that felt like a tedious retread of familiar territory. Yes, Emma has issues expressing her feelings and yes, Hook wants her to just let him go. And as she bid him a tearful goodbye, the scene did not have that much of an impact because it gave such a sense of déjà vu.

The stakes aren’t as high as the show would like us to think, because if after all this trouble the heroes still don’t manage to save Hook, then the entire half-season arc would have been pointless. Once Upon a Time always has a way of finding a loophole for people who have died (look at all the dead characters who made cameos this half-season.) So I’m sure they’ll find a way for Hook to make it back and all this drama was just for drama’s sake.

There was a small and infinitely more interesting subplot involving Henry using his Author powers to help the rest of the Underworld populace figure out their unfinished business. This was the other mission Regina and others were supposed to be involved in when they went down there. While Emma fussed about saving Hook, Regina was supposed to help the countless people she had wronged. Instead, this interesting and substantial subplot was set aside for endless repetitive drama. And the few scenes with Henry were just tacked on to try and wrap things up.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep20 - FirebirdI’ll say a few things about the flashback because really, there’s not much to say. We met Cleo Fox, a woman from Emma’s past who made a real impression on her and basically became the model for Emma Swan, bail bonds person, complete with the leather jacket substituting emotional armor. We saw how Emma became the closed off individual with trust issues that we have known she was since Once Upon a Time season one. Again, familiar territory and not really as emotionally resonant as the show would have us believe.

Anyway, Cruella and the Blind Witch (now there’s someone I wish we knew more about, considering how often we saw her during this season) trapped the heroes in the library while Zelena and her baby, Hades, Rumple, and Belle (in Pandora’s box) went ahead. Emma made it back right in time for her to help the rest of her family jump through, leaving Hook behind (for good? I doubt it.) But now they’re going to have to deal with Hades wreaking havoc on the living world.

Next week on Once Upon a Time, someone is caught in the crossfire in the fight against Hades: