Once Upon A Time season 5 episode 11 review: Swan Song

Once Upon A Time season 5 goes on its winter holiday, but not before dragging its characters on a journey to the underworld...

This review contains spoilers.

5.11 Swan Song

‘What kind of man do you want to be?’ asks literally nearly everyone of Hook in the mid season finale of Once Upon A Time.

Hook is hell-bent on getting his revenge against the crocodile, even if it means others have to suffer for it to happen. Henry and his extended family (which is actually a lot) are all marked by Carron; Storybrooke’s local ferryman to the Underworld. They’ve all got a one-way ticket and Rumple, ever the optimist, informs them that there is no changing the destination. They will all be in the Underworld by the end of the night.

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Everyone gives up pretty easily and accepts their fate, which feels like uncharacteristic behaviour to facilitate the plot. If they really were going to be dragged to hell, there is no way Regina wouldn’t be spending every last moment with Henry, and not off sending her sister back to Oz. This B-plot was the weakest part of the episode because it was so disconnected from everything else happening. Zelena is a fantastic character, but they’ve struggled to find a way to integrate her properly into the season. I mean, they literally had her locked up away in a room for some of the episodes, that’s how much they didn’t know what to do with her. Only in a Once finale does summoning a green tornado that sucks up a person to transport them back to a magical land go unnoticed by the majority of the town’s population. Yes, she was a terrible person and Pistachio (that’s the name they decided on, right?) is probably better off without her, but she will be missed. Hopefully next time they bring her back, she will be more important to the main season’s arc.

While Snowing, Henry and baby Neal are having a strangely upbeat last meal together, Emma has a different plan. She’s going to suck all the Dark Ones back into Excalibur and then kill herself with it, so that her family is saved and dark magic is eradicated forever. It’s a good idea in theory, but Hook is one step ahead of her, shutting down that plan before it can ever really get started. It looks like it’s time to meet the reaper, but Hook pauses when Regina asks, “what kind of man do you want to be?” The flashbacks weren’t the best, mainly because it retconned Hook and Regina having a relationship in the Enchanted Forest that we weren’t aware of before, and Hook’s emotional turning point only being established now.

Nevertheless, it worked for the episode. Hook realises he can’t go through with it, and instead captures all the old dark ones into the sword and asks Emma to kill him with it. And they say chivalry is dead. Unlike when Hook first died, Emma knows better now. She has to respect his wishes. He tells her, “let me die a hero”, that’s the man he wants to be. The whole scene was riveting and Emma’s grief moving. This has been an excellent season for Jennifer Morrison, who got the chance to go through a huge range of character upheavals, from evil and callous to heartbroken.

Finally, we can’t forget about Rumple. When Hook points out at the start of the episode that Rumple loves his power more than anything, little did I realise how right he would be. I should clarify that I do believe Rumple sending Belle away was truly selfless – even though it was weird that a) she would leave without saying goodbye to anyone, and b) not know what was going on) – but without a reason to be good anymore, him immediately jumping at the opportunity to get back his power shows that at his core, he hasn’t changed. It was honestly the biggest surprise of the episode, but not one I’m completely sold on. Scheming, conniving Rumple is more of an interesting character, but with Belle in love with him and believing he’s a hero again, we’ve gone back a whole season’s development. This exact scenario has already been played out. I wasn’t a fan of Belle coming back to Rumple, but I still prefer it to this development. Either have the two honestly try and mend their relationship together, or have Rumple go bad on his own without Belle. If there was any room for Rumple to be redeemed last time, it is all gone now, except Belle is going to look like an even bigger fool.

Besides the Brave-centric episodes, by focusing back onto the core cast this half of season 5 has been one of the strongest seasons of Once Upon A Time. The next half picks up on March the 6th with the gang journeying down into the Underworld. Who’s ready to meet Hades?