After mixed reactions to the Frozen and Search for the Author storylines last season, Once Upon a Time managed to rejuvenate itself in an unlikely fashion. Emma Swan, the protagonist, sacrificed herself and became a villain. It sounds far-fetched, and yet has been the exact boost OUaT needed. If you couldn’t tell from my weekly recaps, I’ve been in love with Season Five. Jennifer Morrison finally has more to do than say, “I’m the savior,” and argue with Regina.
However, I was a little disappointed with how the Dark Swan arc wrapped up in last week’s mid-season finale. Emma was prepared to sacrifice herself again to save her family, but Dark!Hook had a last-second change of heart and died instead. Some magical nonsense turned Rumplestiltskin into a uber-powerful Dark One, and Emma blackmailed him to take her to the Underworld to rescue Hook.
While it’s exciting that Rumplestiltskin is back to being an antagonist, this Underworld story looks flimsy to me. He’s only helping the gang get to the Underworld because Emma threatened to tell Belle. But after what he did to become a Dark One again, are they really going to trust him to get them through the Underworld safely? Wouldn’t it be in Rumple’s better interests to just leave them there?
Passing through the Underworld guarantees a lot of returning guest stars, and hopefully some scenes devoted to analyzing the characters. Barbara Hershey is returning as Cora, mother of both Regina and Zelena, the Evil Queen and Wicked Witch. Unfortunately, Zelena’s been all-too-conveniently sent back to Oz, so we’re already cheated out of a Mills Family reunion.
On the positive side, we’re also seeing the return of Robbie Kay as Peter Pan, Giancarlo Esposito as Sidney Glass/The Mirror, Emma Caulfield as the Blind Witch from Hansel and Gretel, and Tony Perez as Regina’s dad, Henry Senior. And now I’m hearing about Milah?! Y’know, Rumple’s wife who left him for Hook, and whose murder at the hand of her ex-husband sent Killian Jones down his centuries-long plan of revenge?
In a clever recycling of shooting location, the Underworld looks like a dilapidated Storybrooke. Considering that characters like Pan and Cora died in Storybrooke, it makes sense that it would be the setting of their afterlives. But the Blind Witch and Sidney seem like stretches–unless they introduce a retcon, the Witch died in the Enchanted Forest, and Sidney’s not even dead. So will he play into a flashback, or did Rumple start a free-for-all when he opened the portal to the Underworld? It’s also confirmed that the gang will encounter Hercules (Jonathan Whitesell) and Megara (Kacey Rohl) on their journey–are these new characters dead already, or are we pulling from the end of the Disney movie where Herc retrieves her soul? It certainly presents a parallel for Emma’s mission to save Hook.
By the way, Emma doesn’t have much of an actual plan once they GET to the Underworld. In the finale, Emma told her parents that she would share her heart with Hook like Snow did with Charming back in season three. But….that makes no sense! It only worked for her parents because Charming’s original heart was crushed to enact the dark curse. So of course giving him a “new” heart works.
But Hook’s heart is fine. Sure, Emma ran her boyfriend through with Excalibur, but that wasn’t his cause of death. That simply extinguished the darkness in both of them, the same darkness that was keeping Hook alive. He dies when his neck wound from Camelot returns and he bleeds out (AGAIN) in Emma’s arms. Wounds from Excalibur don’t heal, so even if Emma manages to drag Killian’s soul from the Underworld, won’t his body just start bleeding again?