This review contains spoilers! Proceed with caution.
The midseason premiere of Once Upon a Time took us all the way to the Underworld (which was really just a scarier Storybrooke). Charming and Co. were brought face-to-face with some old friends…and a few enemies, too.
Honestly, I expected a little more pizzazz from ‘Souls of the Departed’, considering that this episode is the show’s one hundredth. Apart from some character cameos it was pretty much business as usual – with an emphasis on the business. The plot moved at a snail’s pace, and was seriously lacking in adrenaline-pumping action scenes. However, the episode did a good job of setting up the dominoes for Season 5B; all that’s left now is to watch them fall.
The Underworld was full of reunions – especially for Regina. Both her father and mother had been there since their deaths, and we saw Regina torn between them. Cora urged her to abandon the Charmings and return to Storybrooke, while Henry encouraged her to help her friends. Although Cora’s advice was seemingly well-intentioned, it was also misguided; the reason Regina is now a hero is because she’s let herself care about others, and not just those closest to her. Leaving the party early would undo some of that positive progress she’s made. Ultimately, Regina decided to stay despite Cora’s ultimatum. I couldn’t be prouder that she’s gotten out from under her mother’s thumb – four for you, Regina Mills. And in what turned out to be a win-win scenario, it was Regina’s defiance that finally freed her father’s soul. His parting words – ‘never forget who you really are’ – have some interesting implications for Regina’s journey in Season 5B. Being in the Underworld is surely going to bring her evil past back to haunt her – but staying true to herself is the best way to overcome those obstacles.
Although this episode was quite Regina-centric, we also saw an emotional side of Emma. There’s a stark contrast between her past and present loves – with Neal in a ‘better place’ while Hook is trapped below. Emma and Neal’s brief conversation was a nice touch that brought further closure to their relationship. Her encounter with Killian didn’t go so smoothly; after summoning his spirit with Rumple’s potion, the two experienced ‘technical difficulties’ which hindered their ability to communicate. But talking wasn’t necessary to convey his suffering. Just by looking at him – bruised, bloody, barely aware of his surroundings – it’s clear that something awful is happening. Even without dialogue, this was still a strong moment in terms of Captain Swan. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, and Emma’s devastation after merely seeing Killian emphasises how much she truly loves him.
‘Souls of the Departed’ formed a clearer picture of the road that lies ahead. We’ve been introduced to the Big Bads in town: Hades and – dare I say it – maybe even Peter Pan. They don’t seem too threatening at the moment, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this show it’s that you should never underestimate a villain. The revelation that souls can be saved from the Underworld hints that Once might be returning to its much-loved Season One format of helping people. I’m excited by the prospect of seeing Emma in her Saviour role again – it’s good to have her back to her regular self after her stint as the Dark One. All in all, this episode gave us a lot to chew on. The latter half of this season is certainly shaping up to be promising!