So, was Once’s second season finale as momentous as its first? The short answer: Not really.
The long answer: Last year’s juiciest finale developments — Emma breaking the Dark Curse and Rumpelstiltskin bringing magic back to Storybrooke — changed the show’s status quo for good, setting up a world of new and exciting possibilities. By contrast, Henry’s kidnapping and his dysfunctional family’s subsequent journey to Neverland aren’t really game-changers. In the short term, at least, they’re simply setting up a season 3 that’s much like season 2: a sprawling exercise in world-jumping and cross-cutting that trades one big goal (break the curse!) for several smaller, slightly less pressing goals (find Henry! Protect Storybrooke from outsiders! Figure out what Red’s been up to for the past six months!).
But even if “And Straight On Till Morning” didn’t forever alter the fabric of Once as we know it, there was plenty here to satisfy the series’s most avid fans. Regina apologists got to see the so-called “evil queen” sacrifice herself for the greater good, thus moving closer to sweet, sweet redemption. Diehard Rumbelle shippers finally got to see their favorite pair reunite, albeit ever so briefly. Hookers (look it up!) got to see their cap’n smolder, brood, and even show a bit of vulnerability in his very own fairyback — a subplot he shared with teenage Bae, newly transplanted to Neverland.
“Baelfire,” it seems, isn’t exactly the magical world’s version of “Steve.” As soon as his young charge reveals his unique name, Hook realizes that he’s stumbled upon a child born of his lost love Milah — as well as her murderer. This knowledge is enough to keep Hook from immediately turning the boy over to the Lost Ones, a group of creepy bounty hunters led by a Jamie Campbell-Bower lookalike I’m going to call Rufio.
Over time, the pirate and Bae begin to bond. He teaches the kid the difference between “port” and “starboard;” the kid, in turn, gets comfortable enough to confess that his father is, in fact, the Dark One. (Bae also lets slip that Rumpel’s dagger is the only weapon that can kill him.) They’re well on their way to forming a weird sort of surrogate father/child of one’s dead lover-type relationship… until Bae discovers a drawing of his mother on Hook’s desk. (Wait, Hook has a desk? What does he do there, his evil taxes?)
Immediately, Bae knows Hook’s own identity: he must be the pirate who killed Milah and destroyed the fragile ‘Stiltskin family. And even after Hook patiently explains that the kid has his facts all wrong — he didn’t kill Milah! He just committed adultery with her and watched as her evil husband ripped her heart out! — their bond has been irrevocably broken. Bae tells Hook he hates him (“you’re not my real dad!”) and demands to be let off the Jolly Roger. Hook complies… though he does so by promptly handing Bae over to the Lost Ones. On the “good dad/bad dad” scale, he just went from Danny Tanner to Darth Vader.
NEXT: “If he tries anything, I’ll shoot him in the face”