Like a lot of fans, I’ve got some complicated feelings about this one. On the one hand, it was hard to watch a character that I love experience a regression of sorts, making some bad choices that will be hard to come back from. But Hook made those choices after he begged Emma not to turn him into the Dark One, which actually showed progression on his part, as well as an understanding of his own weaknesses. Add in that this episode felt very much like the first part of a story, with the conclusion coming next week, and I’m hesitant to make any judgements on Hook’s behavior at this point. I often go into a mid-season or season finale of Once with a lot of questions and concerns, most of which are usually rectified by the finale, so I’m hoping that’s what happens here. If not, than my issues with Hook’s behavior are something I can talk more about next week.
However, at this point, I am o.k. with being a little critical of how quickly Hook succumbed to the darkness. Unfortunately, I don’t buy that Emma hiding Excalibur from him was enough to turn him. I think the logic behind that is that Hook is a reformed villain while Emma is not, making it nearly impossible for him to resist the darkness while Emma was mostly able to do so. But that’s part of my issue with it: I’ve never seen Hook as a Rumple or Regina calibur villain. Instead, I think he has more in common with Emma, someone who has a similar darkness in her past and proved last season that she was capable of both killing (albeit for a good reason) and being tempted by evil. This is just my characterization of him, one that I’m sure some people disagree with, but it did make that aspect of the episode hard to swallow. I also may have struggled with it a bit because Emma’s battle with darkness has been layered, emotional, and character re-defining, which makes it that much more disappointing that Hook’s was skipped over entirely.
Quick hits on the rest of the episode:
-I’m probably overly pleased that everyone has their memories back now. I know it happens all the time on this show, but it’s always frustrating to me when some characters don’t have the whole story. I would not make it as a citizen of Storybrooke, clearly.
-Am I the only one who laughed a little at the irony of Dark One Rumple convincing Hook to kill real Rumple?
-Hook and Emma’s scenes were simply magnificent, so well-acted and written and among their most heartbreaking in the entire series. In Camelot, there was that lovely parallel of Emma helping Hook get rid of Rumple, just as he did for her earlier in the season, and another when Emma kissed Hook and held him as the curse took hold, as Snow did with Charming in this moment.
-Crazily enough, their scenes in Storybrooke were actually harder to get through, especially because of how easily Dark Hook laughed off Killian’s relationship with Emma, calling her nothing more than a “pretty blonde distraction”. It was also hard to hear him diminish Emma’s progress in the cruelest way possible: by telling her that she’ll “always be an orphan”.
-I loved seeing Snow stick up for Emma and her decision to save Hook; the shared hearts comparison was great. Snow let Emma (and viewers) down a bit with her behavior last season, but the writers have done a nice job of building her back up recently, especially through small moments like this one.
-The scene with Hook, Rumple, and Belle in Gold’s shop was excellent, one of those scenes where the music, dialogue, and acting (especially Colin O’Donoghue’s devilish little grin) came together perfectly.
-It was lovely to see Emma and Henry team up again, and I was glad that Henry made her work for it a bit. He’s a forgiving kid, but that was a big, cruel thing that she did to him, regardless of her reasoning, so I’m glad he expressed his anger about that.
-Zelena seeing her daughter again was nice (and I loved Regina and Robin’s explanation of why they thought she would be good for Zelena), but it, like that storyline as a whole this season, didn’t fit into this episode all that well. I feel like it easily could have been taken out of this hour and out of the entire arc with little impact. My feelings may change depending on the role it plays (if any) in next week’s episode, but as of now it’s one of my least favorite storylines of this season.
-Though I have complicated feelings about this version of Hook and Rumple in general, it was very cool that their fight scene added another big moment for them on the Jolly Roger. It was also a unique bit of growth for Rumple that only this show could pull off.
-I think Belle taking some time away from Rumple is a good thing for both of them. Rumple is a stranger to her in a lot of ways now, and it’s a good idea to give him time to understand who he is before diving back into their relationship. I also loved her line about spending too long mending his heart and needing some time to do the same to hers. One of my long-standing issues with their relationship is that it isn’t one of equals, so I’m glad Belle called attention to it in that fashion.
-I grew to like Merlin a lot this season, so I was bummed to see him die, especially since I’ve been holding out hope that he and Nimue might somehow get a happy ending (turns out they got the opposite of that). When Hook comes back to himself, it’ll be hard to see him deal with the guilt of killing Merlin, especially with how much he helped Emma and the other heroes.
-I felt terribly for Emma, but the scene where she took responsibility for her role in Merlin’s death was so, so well-done. I loved that she took the Savior mantle on yet again, determined to fix everything completely on her own. The problem, as Snow and Regina pointed out, is that it’s becoming a bit of a complex at this point. As they told her, she shouldn’t have fought this particular battle alone; it would have been far better if she’d done it with the support of her family and friends. And that’s why, as of now, Emma’s hope wasn’t enough and that promise she made to Hook (“When you wake up, you’ll be the man you were, the man I love, the man who loves me”) was only realized through magic.
What are your thoughts on this episode? Let me know in the comments!