This review contains spoilers! Proceed with caution.
After a two-week mini-hiatus, Once Upon a Time picked up where the massive cliff-hanger from ‘Birth’ left off. We saw the immediate aftermath of Hook remembering he is also a Dark One, and finally got answers to the questions we’ve been asking all season.
In my last review I expressed concerns about the pacing of this season. This week confirmed my beliefs. It feels like too much time was spent on building suspense about how Emma became the Dark Swan, with not enough dedicated to the resolution. Case in point: all of Killian’s positive character development was undone in one episode. He completely reverted to the Captain Hook of Season 2, and even went as far as to kill Merlin to further his personal agenda. He also treated Emma with far more contempt than he ever has before (calling her a ‘pretty blonde distraction’ was not cool). The sudden character change was hard to grasp, and we definitely needed more episodes of Dark!Hook to understand his thinking. That being said, I have to give props to Colin O’Donoghue for the way he pulled it off: I loved how this new version of Hook possessed a touch of Rumple’s melodrama. And Regina’s new nickname for him – ‘Captain Dark One’ – is all too catchy.
Despite still looking like the Dark Swan, Emma’s true self shone through this episode. It turns out she’s been playing for the heroes’ team the whole time. However, it took them a while to trust her again. Henry’s anger especially was completely understandable, considering how Emma betrayed him in ‘Dreamcatcher’. Her actions this season have been driven by a desire to protect her loved ones. She’s held them at arm’s length so as not to risk hurting them, but we all know that the heroes work better together. I’m thankful that Emma came to her senses and enlisted Henry’s help in Operation Cobra (Part 2). Restoring everyone’s memories was a long-overdue action to take, but better late than never, right? I didn’t even realise how much I missed Emma’s interactions with her family until this episode. It’s good to have the Saviour back!
Lastly, but most definitely not least: Rumple and Belle’s ‘break-up’. The use of quotation marks stems from my firm belief that this ship is far from sunk. To paraphrase Snowing’s oft-used sentiment: True Loves always find their way back to each other. For now, though, the episode title seems to have rung true as the hearts of Rumbelle shippers everywhere were broken. Although it was a difficult scene to sit through, the writers are smart to delay Rumple and Belle’s reunion. They both need time apart to heal, and this plotline will only strengthen their relationship in the long run.
I’m not sure how opening a portal to the Underworld is going to help Killian to exact revenge on Gold, but it’s an interesting arc to be explored further in Season 5B. The latter half of the season might even have Hook as the main antagonist (*cue horrified screaming*). He still has one episode to shake the darkness, though, so who knows. One thing’s for certain: the midseason finale is going to be a killer.