This review contains spoilers! Proceed with caution.
‘Devil’s Due’ saw Hades give Hook an ultimatum: betray his friends, or face eternal limbo in the River of Lost Souls. Meanwhile, Emma continued her rescue mission with some unexpected help from Rumplestiltskin. Once Upon a Time clearly distinguishes between heroes and villains, and the characters’ actions this episode revealed which of these groups they belong in.
Rumple and Emma needed assistance to get to Hook, and this came from none other than his ex-lover (and Neal’s mother), Milah. Emma and Milah’s first meeting resulted in a hilarious ‘oh shit’ moment for both of them. But despite the initial awkwardness, they became fast friends once they got to know each other. I’m forever grateful to Jane Espenson for that; she could have easily turned Milah into the jealous ex. Women are constantly pitted against each other – in fiction and in real life – and seeing these two bonding instead was a welcome change. On top of this, Milah actually acknowledged that she should have been a better parent. Her simple admission was a huge step in character development, and ironically made me like her more than I ever did while she was alive.
Then, of course, Rumple had to step in and ruin it all. He’s known for his questionable morals, but what he did to Milah was unforgivable. It was bad enough that he killed her in the first place, now he’s taken away the one chance she had to move on to a better place. To add insult to injury, the heroes remain oblivious to the truth: True Love’s Kiss didn’t cure how ugly he is on the inside. What’s so frustrating is that Rumple continues to hide behind excuses. (To paraphrase Janis Ian: ‘At least Hades and Peter Pan know they’re mean. You try to act so innocent.’) His victim complex enables him to shift the blame onto other people, when really it’s his own actions that have led him down this path. It was pretty satisfying when Hades reneged on their deal, but now Belle is wrapped up in Rumple’s mess again. No matter how unhealthy their relationship has become, it seems like there’s no escaping it. (As an aside: the introduction of another baby plotline seems a bit much, considering Zelena’s child is only a couple weeks old. The writers really need to find new ways to keep things interesting).
In contrast to Rumple’s deception, Hook continued to demonstrate his bravery. He remained loyal to Emma and the others, even with Hades’ attempts to sway him. It just goes to show that heroism is a choice, not a destiny (Rumple just chooses wrong. Every. Single. Time). As glad as I was when Killian was rescued, I do feel that his imprisonment could have lasted a few more episodes to draw out the suspense. It would have been interesting to see how and why he ended up in Hades’ dungeon in the first place. However, it looks like we’re quickly moving on to the next problem at hand: how will Emma, Regina, and Snow return to the land of the living?
Rumple’s villainy and Killian’s heroism have been set up as the two opposing narratives in Season 5B. Hook may very well be essential to unmasking Rumple’s true personality. On the other hand, Hades continues to be a wild card. It’s possible that he’s manipulating them both to be pieces in his chess game.