Storybrooke vs. The Dark Ones
Credit: ABC/Jack Rowand
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In the words of Hades: “It’s a small underworld, after all, huh?”

From Camelot to Neverland, the show has never quite been able to sustain itself when it’s simply Storybrooke, as much as some of the better stories have been rooted there. So it’s not a shock to find out that, after tonight, we’re probably going to be spending some time in the Underworld next month. We already know we’re meeting Hercules and Megara; given tonight’s events, does that also mean we’re meeting Hades?

The bigger (and more interesting) question at stake is the fact that now that we’re in the Underworld, how many previously dead characters are going to get a chance to return? We’ve already had confirmations of past-dead characters like Cruella and Cora, though both of those characters are supposedly strictly for the show’s 100th episode. Regardless, moving to the Underworld opens up a host of options for 5B in terms of characters and plot, and I’m curious to see what those options are.

But enough speculation. You’re here to read about the matter at hand, a.k.a. Once Upon a Time’s winter finale. Unsurprisingly, the man of the hour (Hook) had a backstory that took us back in time to when he was just a wee lad aboard a pirate ship, traveling with his brother and father. During a storm, Hook wakes up scared, and his father Brennan (EastEnders’ Adam Croasdell) comes in and reassures him. “Whenever you feel scared, all you have to do is look inside your heart,” he tells his son, before asking him, “what kind of man are you going to be?” Predictably, Hook wants to be just like his brave dad, but maybe that’s not such a good person to emulate: When Hook wakes up, he finds out his father has abandoned him (he was a fugitive, and, well, he could’ve gotten caught at the next port).

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Back in Storybrooke, Hook and Rumple discuss the outcome of their duel from a few episodes ago, while Hook threatens Rumple with the fact that Belle left him because of the type of man he really is. (See a pattern here?) Meanwhile, all the Storybrooke folk are trying to figure out what to do. Emma advises that they split up to find Hook, and Regina and Robin run into a haughty Zelena, who wants to have a chat about their custody arrangement. Her ideas include wanting to raise the baby by herself, which Regina and Robin are obviously not on board with. Their confrontation is interrupted by the fact that they’re suddenly cornered by Dark Ones, as is everyone in town except Emma, who was inside searching for Hook.

While everyone is confused as to what’s just happened (a usual occurrence in Storybrooke these days), Rumple arrives and lays down the law: They’ve all been marked. Dark marked, even. (I keep trying to stop with the Harry Potter references but I can’t help it if the show keeps giving them. Sorry, guys.) See, the Underworld only provides the Dark Ones with a temporary stay in the land of the living. The only way for them to stay here and not get sent home is to trade places with living souls. Basically? They’re all screwed. Fighting won’t do anything, outsmarting them won’t do anything. The best they can do is enjoy the time they have left together.

NEXT: Daddy Issues 101

An angry Regina (my favorite Regina, second only to Snarky!Regina) goes to find Hook and tries to talk him out of his plan. He threatens her with reminders of who she’ll meet in the Underworld, thanks to her Evil Queen days, and when Regina tries to remind him that he’s a different man than the one she recruited all those years ago to kill her mother, Hook loses it. “You don’t know the man I am!”

But Regina does. In flashbacks, Regina and Hook meet up and make a deal: He’ll kill her mother if she’ll send him to a land without magic so that he can get his long-awaited revenge on Rumple. Regina takes him to a tavern, where he sees his father working and stays behind to confront him. Can I just say that I’ve never seen a more swaggering confrontation? Hook reveals himself and tells him, that “this is who I became” — a hot pirate. Or, you know, just Captain Hook. Brennan breaks down and apologizes for abandoning him, telling him what happened after he left: He got caught, and then was saved by true love’s kiss. He married a woman who made him change his ways and become a better man, though she died from the plague. Hook has a change of heart after hearing this confession and admits his intention to kill him. But he decides instead to spare his life so he can start fresh in another world. Brennan asks just one favor: He wants transport for his young son, too.

While Henry is trying to figure out a way to remove the mark from his skin (silly Henry, once you’re branded, you’re branded), Snow has accepted her fate. Emma refuses to give up on her family, and it’s nice to see that, without the anger of the Dark One, she can still find compassion for the ones she loves and be genuine in her feelings. Emma devises a plan that she only lets Regina in on: She’s going to channel all the Dark One powers into herself and then kill herself with Excalibur to save everyone.

Meanwhile, Rumple is taking care of his Belle by trying to get her away from this mess. He gives her a potion that will keep her safe when she crosses the town line and urges her to seek out another life. She wants adventure in the great white somewhere! And it looks like she’s going to get it. The two share a sweet, sentimental moment before, like the Beast sending Belle away when she realizes her father is sick, Rumple sends Belle off. Regina and Emma show up afterward, when Emma asks for Excalibur. Surprisingly, Hook gives it to her with no strings attached whatsoever. This should probably cause red flags, but, I mean, everyone is going to die, so it’s easy to bypass these things. Rumple warns Emma that her plan might not work — the blade chooses who it finds worthy — but Emma doesn’t care. She’s going to try anyway.

In continuing to take care of business before potentially dying, Regina and Robin return to her home, where Zelena is making herself quite comfortable. (“Gina!” “Robbie!” She greets them delightedly.) She’s thinking about baby names and trying to figure out how amazing her life is going to be once they’re all dead, but Regina could not care less. Because she’s got a baby to protect. Now worthy of the wand (yay for believing in yourself!) she transports Zelena to a the clocktower, opens a portal, and sends Zelena back to Oz.

“Enjoy Oz, WITCH!” Never let it be said that Regina won’t send you off in style.

NEXT: Hey. Guess what? I’ve got a place for you to go down UNDER!

Emma leaves a note for her family in the diner, where they’re all spending their last few hours together. Hook watches from the shadows, brooding as always, and Nimue reminds him, “You know what you need to do.” When Emma comes home, Hook is waiting for her, and she tries to talk him out of his plan. But no, Hook wants to thank her! If she hadn’t made him the Dark One, he would have never become the man he wanted to be, the man he didn’t realize he even was until he got this power. (Don’t worry, he’s still pissed as anything about Emma’s decision to make him the Dark One.) Emma swears to protect her family and attempts to run Excalibur through him, but, Emma, you should be smarter than that! Hook disappears and reappears until he shape shifts into Henry, Emma’s weakness. Unable to kill even a vision of her son (there’s some good left in her after all), she gives up the sword. Meanwhile, Snow finds Emma’s suicide note, but before they can do anything, the Dark Ones come to take them to the lake so they can all prepare for transport back to the Underworld.

Once again, Regina stands up to Hook, bringing up “what we swore to never speak of again” — what he did to his father. In a flashback, we find out that Hook came to his father’s house and overhead his father talking to his new son, telling him the same story about bravery that he once told Hook when he was a kid. If that’s not enough to make Hook feel bad, he finds out his dad named him Liam, after his brother. Hook calls Brennan out for all of this, refusing to see him as a changed, better man…and then kills him. Back in Storybrooke, Emma shows up, and Nimue tries to stop her from interfering with the Big Plan. As Hook watches Emma suffer, he has a sudden change of heart, forcing Nimue to stop. After all these years, he’s going to be the man he wants to be. He takes all of the darkness into Excalibur, and Emma too late realizes that he plans to sacrifice himself instead. He tells her to take it, and then has her drive the sword through him, effectively killing him.

(“How sentimental,” Hades might say, if the character was around. “You know, I haven’t been this choked up since I got a hunk of moussaka caught in my throat.” You could also just say this whole scene was basically Buffy 2.0.)

Anyway, Hook’s dead. Truly, absolutely dead, taken away under a sheet and all. The sword destroys itself, Voldemort’s Dark Ones disappear, and everything goes back to normal, including Emma’s attire and hair. But Emma’s a mess and rightfully so, considering she just killed the man she loves. Later, when she’s at home, she thinks she hears the dagger calling because, remember, Dark Ones have the power to hear it. She meets Rumple at his shop, and Rumple doesn’t even try to hide his secret, pulling out the dagger, which has his name on it. Yes, Rumple is the Dark One…again. How? When Emma came asking for the sword, Rumple saw it as an opportunity. He turned Excalibur into a conduit, so while Hook thought it was destroying the darkness, he was really just moving all the darkness into Rumple without knowing. Rumple now has the combined power of every Dark One who has ever lived…including Emma. That’s the man he is. (And it’s kind of sad, considering that Belle came back once Henry told her what happened, choosing to go back to him because she thought his motives were truly selfless.)

But it’s not the man Hook is, and Emma vows not to let her lover die in vain. She forces him to open a portal to the Underworld, threatening to ruin his relationship with Belle if he doesn’t. And while everyone in her family is wary of her decision to go on this kind of rescue mission, you know they’re not going to let her go to the Underworld alone.

Stray Odds & Ends:

  • “Captain Guyliner,” indeed.
  • As nice as it was to see the return of that red leather jacket…a moment of silence for Emma’s Dark One attire. And Hook’s, for that matter. Although at least we’ll get Hook back in leather in the Underworld.
  • The great debate, as asked on Twitter: Pistachio or Baby Hood? (This is a serious question.)
  • All hail the patented Storybrooke finale march! That’s what I’m going to dub these nice group shots that always start or finish an episode. As for the dwarves, well, they did manage to get in on a little of the action. I’m sure they’re satisfied.
  • “I bet there are a lot of people in the Underworld who would be thrilled to see you and me,” says Regina, when she uses Hook’s line against Rumple. This is probably what I’m most looking forward to about 5B…and I would seriously take an entire show about Regina, Rumple, and all their enemies/mistakes, now that we’re in the Underworld.
  • I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Zelena, considering I love what Rebecca Mader brings to the show, but I’m not sure how we’re going to be splitting our time between Hades and Storybrooke (not to mention other worlds) next season, so I’ll just hope for a return.

That’s a wrap on 5A, Oncers! See you all on the other side — literally. Or, as Hades might say… ”Let’s get ready to RUMBLLLLLLE!”

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.

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