‘Once Upon A Time’ S5 mid-season finale recap: A hero’s death

Hook conquers his demons once and for all. (Photo credit: Disney/ABC Press via Twitter)

Season 5’s mid-season finale, “Swan Song,” digs deeper into a secret and shameful part of Hook’s past that Regina has been privy to. For a Disney show about fairytales, “Once Upon A Time” has never shied away from exposing the exceedingly grim side to these fanciful fictions. As we learn of Hook’s unspeakable sin, we realize just how dangerous Dark Hook can really be. If Hook could commit such a heinous crime without being a Dark One, then imagine all the pain he can inflict when wielding so much powerful dark magic. Regina puts Hook to the ultimate test in the past and present, fortunately, both challenges yield drastically different results.

Then in Fairytale Land

Young Killian Jones is tucked in by his sea-faring father, Brennan (Adam Croasdell). Whenever the boy grows frightened, Mr. Jones tells the lad to look inside and find the bravery hiding within himself. When he asks his son what kind of man he wants to be, the boy hopes to become just like his father. Sadly, his dreams are crushed the following morning when he makes an appalling discovery. Brennan is a fugitive and sold his boys into slavery on the ship in exchange for a row boat. He deserted his children to evade the cops who were closing in on him. Whoa! Talk about having some severe daddy issues. He not only abandoned his boys, he sold them into slavery on a ship. For shame!

Over a century later in the Enchanted Forest

The Evil Queen and Hook make a deal. He will kill Cora in exchange for a trip to a world without magic where he can finally get his revenge on that bloody crocodile. But first, he must pass Regina’s test and prove that he has no weakness. Whatever challenge she presents, Hook is certain he will have no qualms facing it. He boasts, “My hook has tasted the blood of dozes.” That’s not the image we care to see when we look at Hook, but sadly, we all know it is true. Time to see what this daring pirate is made of!

Regina takes Hook to a tavern where his father tends bar. Brennan has not aged a day. Both men found a way to cheat death. We know about Hook’s tale of woe and revenge in Neverland. Now we learn that the self-serving Mr. Jones’ youthful looks were sustained by a sleeping curse. True Love’s kiss saved him. As it turns out, he fell in love with his nurse. Her kind, gentle voice helped him see the error of his ways. Thanks to her, he’s a changed man. He only wishes Killian had the father he always wanted and deserved. He explains how his wife grew ill shortly after they were married and she never recovered. Surprisingly, Hook admits he’s there to kill his father. Such is the price of revenge. However, the pirate has had a change of heart.

Hook can relate to his father. He knows how devastating it is to lose the woman you love. He decides to deceive the Evil Queen and help his father escape. Hook will arrange safe passage out of town. Brennan hopes Killian finds peace in his life. He also asks if he can acquire transit for two, since he had a son with his new wife. Hook agrees and meets with him later that night.

Brennan tells his new son, Liam, the same story about finding bravery within. Hook overhears and is terribly unsettled. Why would he name his new son after Killian’s late brother? He confronts his father outside. Brennan explains that he isn’t trying to replace his boys, he’s trying to honor them. Nonetheless, Hook is still heartbroken and offended. Brennan won’t leave his new son, but he had no qualms leaving Killian and Liam years ago. You can’t blame the poor pirate for feeling betrayed. But we also don’t expect what happens next.

Hook stabs his father and murders him in cold blood, just as the Evil Queen wanted. With his dying breath, Brennan tells Killian that it is never too late to change. He can still choose to be a different man. Several years later, we’ve come to Hook’s moment of truth. Will he let Darkness take over or will he finally become the hero we all know he can be? Let’s find out!

Now in Storybrooke

Dark Hook’s plan has been set into motion and the Dark Ones make their way through Storybrooke. They tag our heroes’ wrists with the mark of Charon, the ferryman into the Underworld. The Dark Ones plan to swap places with Team Heroes, so they can bring their reign of terror topside. Rumple warns that life in the Underworld will have them wishing for death because the torture they will face is worse than imaginable. Continuing his streak as the gang’s Debbie Downer, the former Dark One is certain this is a fight they cannot win because they will be going up against Death itself. He urges them all to use this time wisely and spend their final moments saying goodbye to their loved ones. Surely there must be some hope, Dark Hook can’t go through this nasty plot. Right?!

The reformed Evil Queen reminds Hook of the unspeakable thing he did to pass her test. She begs him not to be that heartless man. It is clearly still a sore-spot for him and he nearly kills Regina when he warns her never to speak of his test again. Okay, so there’s no reasoning with Dark Hook. It looks like Team Heroes, or whatever is left of it, must find another way.

Eventually, the always optimistic Snow White and Prince Charming join Rumple’s bandwagon. The Charmings will enjoy one last family dinner at Granny’s Diner before succumbing to their fate. They will find solace in knowing Emma (who remains unmarked because she’s still a Dark One) will still be around to watch over Baby Neal. Before this officially becomes the most depressing episode of “Once Upon A Time” ever, Emma stands her ground and declares that defeat is not an option. She is determined to find a way to save her friends and family from eternal damnation, no matter what it takes. She turns to Regina for help.

Emma wants to destroy the Dark Ones. In order to save Team Heroes, Regina must keep the promise she made to Emma in Camelot. Dark Swan plans to put all the Darkness within herself and then take her own life with Excalibur. It is the only way they can defeat the Darkness once and for all. She asks Regina to keep her secret and see this plan through. They also need a little assistance from Rumple, who is about to do the most selfless thing he’s ever done.

Rumple gives unmarked Belle a protection potion that will allow her to safely cross over the Storybrooke borderline. He tells her to go see the world and have a life. He genuinely wants her to live out her dreams. She seems to be totally unaware of the trouble her friends are in or else we know she would choose to stay and fight alongside them. Belle appreciates Rumple’s kindness and hugs him goodbye. He sends his True Love away, telling her to bid adieu to her dad and finally start living her own life. After she leaves, Rumple looks down at the mark on his wrist with tears in his eyes. After all of the horrible things he’s done, we can’t help but feel heartbroken for Rumple whenever he starts weeping. That is a testament to Robert Carlyle’s brilliance. Before he has a chance to properly wallow, Regina and Emma burst into his shop.

Swan Queen fills Rumple in on their plan. They’ve come to see him because they need Excalibur. Rumple applauds Emma’s courage. He says, “Excalibur was always destined for the hands of a true hero.” However, he warns them that their plan may not work because the blade chooses its miracles. After four and a half seasons, we’re willing to bet on Team Heroes’ ability to pull off another miracle. Regina just needs to check on Robin and the kids before catching-up with Emma and fulfilling their plan.

Zelena is going to take her baby away from Outlaw Queen. They’ll both be dead soon enough, so Zelena is the baby’s best chance. Regina hoped having a child would’ve helped Zelena change the same way Henry helped Regina see the light, but the Wicked Witch is in a different league. She’ll never change, so Regina is left with no other choice. Regina is now powerful enough to wield the magic wand. The half- sisters poof away to the clock tower and Regina sends Zelena back to Oz in a green smoky twister. Good riddance! One baddie down, eleven Dark Ones to go.

Emma leaves a note for her family and sneaks away before they can talk her out of this self-sacrificing plan. She whispers, “I’m sorry, it’s the only way I can make up for what I’ve done.” Hook watches over Emma from a distance, with the devilish Nimue egging him on: “You know what you need to do.”

Dark Hook confronts Emma, he can’t let her use Excalibur. The sharp-tongued pirate has been extra cruel since becoming a Dark One. Each word that rolls off his lips shoots daggers into her heart. He is actually grateful because without having Emma as a distraction, he’s finally become the man he always wanted to be. Ouch. What happened to the man she used to love? Hook snaps that if she didn’t want him to change, then she should’ve let him die. Well, he did warn her that there’d be no turning back once he tasted Darkness again. Even so, Emma still insists she couldn’t watch one more person she loves die. You can’t really blame her for that. Hook taunts her saying that now she’ll get to see everyone she loves die. Gulp!

This verbal joust has all been an effort to take Excalibur from Emma. After demoralizing her with mind-games, he pulls a fast one. Hook turns into Henry and takes the blade away from her. Oh, come on! How annoying. He tells her to enjoy the time she has left with her family and then disappears. Ugh! This is all so painful to watch.

Time for Hook’s moment of truth. Mary Margaret found Emma’s letter and knows what her daughter is willing to do to save them all. The gang has gathered and they’ve all braced themselves to board the SS Purgatory. A distraught Emma arrives in time to say goodbye. Once again, Regina tries appealing to whatever goodness is left in Hook. Can he really sit back and destroy another family for revenge? This is his last chance to decide what kind of man he truly wants to be. If he goes through with this evil plan he will literally regret it forever because after this, Dark Hook will be immortal and invincible. Can he live with himself for all eternity, knowing how much pain he inflicted on so many people he cares about?

When Emma makes one final effort to save the day, Nimue stops her from interfering. Hook stares into Emma’s eyes as Nimue restrains her with a chokehold. We are teetering on the edge of our seats. Hook tells the original Dark One to release Emma. Killian Jones has finally decided what kind of man he wants to be. He chooses to be a hero. Huzzah!

Hook absorbs all the Dark Ones into Excalibur. He can’t fight the Darkness for much longer. He hands Emma the blade and tells her take his life. Killian begs her to let him die a hero. This is all too much…we are in a glass case of emotion! Captain Swan shares one last teary-eyed kiss and exchange “I love you’s” as she runs him through with Excalibur. Oh my God! They killed Hook. Our jaws are on the floor. The Darkness is gone, Emma is back to her normal self and our favorite swashbuckling pirate lays dead on the ground. Noooo! This can’t be the end for Hook. (Side-note: Having a team of EMTs take his body away was just weird. Anyone else feel slightly odd about that?) So, now what?

Belle returns home and runs into Rumple’s arms. Henry called and told her about everything. She kisses Rumple and is ecstatic to see how much he has finally changed. For the first time ever, Rumple really acted in a selflessly by sending away his one True Love. Now Belle knows she wants to be with him. RumBelle gets it on. Flash-forward to the morning after when Rumple receives a text from Emma.

The Dark One’s Dagger has been calling out to Emma, she knows Rumple still has it. What?! NO!!! He doesn’t even deny it. He shows Emma the Dagger with his name engraved on it. For shame! Rumple is the Dark One again and he says the other ex-Dark Ones are not dead. He turned Excalibur into a conduit. When Hook thought he was destroying all the Darkness, he was actually transferring into Rumple. Now Rumpelstiltskin possesses the power of all Dark Ones. Oh, come on! This is immensely annoying. Unlike Hook, it seems that Rumple will always put power and Darkness first in his life. Boo!!! At least there’s a bright side to his betrayal.

Emma present Rumple with an ultimatum. Belle is in love with him again. Imagine how she would feel if Emma told her the truth about him. Emma (who luckily still has her magic powers) promises to keep Rumple’s dirty secret from Belle if he helps her rescue Hook from the Underworld. She explains her strategy to Team Heroes.

Emma is giving into love. Emma and Killian will share her heart, just like the Charming’s share one heart. Awww. Let’s hope that theory works. Rumple is their ticket into the Underworld. He cuts his hand and drops his blood into the Storybrooke pond, summoning the ferry. Team Heroes is all in, Outlaw Queen, Snowing, and even Henry are along for Emma’s wild ride into the Underworld. As they walk on water and aboard the ferry, Emma echoes her parents’ vow: “Hook, I will always find you.”

Phew! So there is hope for Hook and we can find comfort in the fact that Colin O’Donoghue is sticking around on “Once Upon A Time.” However, there is something unsettling about the whole gang venturing into the Underworld. For starters, what about the babies?! Snowing and Outlaw Queen are acting like they’re hopping out on a milk run. Unless time stands still in Storybrooke and moves quickly in the Underworld, this parent-child separation has trouble written all over it. It will be interesting to see if Team Heroes’ journey through the Underworld effects those who are left behind in Storybrooke.

What did you think of “Swan Song,” Oncers? Are you excited for the new Underworld arc? Do you think Rumple will ever quench his thirst for power? What is his new endgame? Will Belle discover the truth on her own? Will Emma’s plan to save Hook work? What horrors does the poor pirate face in the Underworld? Will Snowing and Outlaw Queen regret leaving their little ones behind? Share your thoughts below and on Twitter (@TalkTVwTiffany)!

“Once Upon A Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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