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Once Upon a Time - Heartbroken & Swan Song - Double Review: "Things are as they should be"

4 Jan 2016

Heart Broken
These past 2 episodes have set up what could have been an epic winter finale. For the most part, I think the show delivered, but there are countless things, little details, that keep both episodes from being as great as they could be. Those details keep bugging my enjoyment from both episodes: it’s entertaining, I can just grasp the greatness, but it slips through my fingers.

“Heartbroken” has its fun with evil Hook; he hasn’t been a villain since season 2 and this time around he is worse than ever. It is always fun to see good characters backslide as long as it is for a short period of time, with good reason and when the actor plays it out fun. OUAT fills all these 3 criterias and as such it is a delight to watch Colin O’Donoghue playing out Dark Hook.

However, the rest of the episode lags in transition. The ending reveals that Hook challenged Rumple to a duel so he could get his blood, but while we were getting there it never made sense to me why he didn’t simply cracked his neck or used to painful magic to exact his revenge. It all seemed too convenient, and even though the final minutes made more sense of what was going on, it still seemed like Hook chose an overly complicated way to get stuff done.

This episode is another offender of not giving Merida much to do: she was introduced as a big character this season, but only the season premiere made justice to her name. Aside from meeting Emma, forging Rumple into a hero and facing off Arthur and Zelena with Mulan and Red, Merida’s role this season has been low key at beast, and honestly much worse than Elsa’s last season, which is a shame because the character is good and the actress did a solid job, but the writing just wasn’t there.

One of the biggest issues OUAT has is that non magical characters are essentially useless. If there’s any merit to “The Bear King” is that it allowed the heroines to win against Zelena without engaging in a wizard battle (though they did use magic items), but aside from that the show is still struggling in its way to give its heroes any power. Emma may be the only hero character that can actually be called powerful, along with the now redeemed Regina, but everyone else is essentially relegated to lame sidequests. As such, Merida didn’t have that much to do, just like Charming and Snow once again go through a season without much going for them.

Aside from the fun of seeing Hook act all sassy and overconfident, I do enjoy the flashbacks more than usual. Seeing the fallout of Hook is pretty interesting and all in all compelling storytelling; he goes nuts! The darkness really took a toll in him in a way I didn’t expect.

In my last review I assumed Merlin as dead (my bad) and I’m glad that it wasn’t the case. Seeing Hook crushing his heart to cast the dark curse, and working since Nimue lives in all dark ones, is a very impressive, powerful moment. The only thing that I regret is losing such a good character as Merlin.

Emma and Hook’s interactions on the flashbacks are some of the strongest moments of the episode, as their dynamic come from showcasing the pain of Emma’s betrayal, which came from her fears and insecurities. She is sure that she can help Hook overcome the darkness, and for a moment there it seems like it’s going to work, but sadly Hook is much more susceptible to temptation than Emma.

Reaching the end of the episode, it’s outstanding to see all the dark ones reaching Storybrooke. It leaves you wondering “what’s going to happen now?” and it’s a level of crisis which you can’t see an easy way out, even more than previous crisis on Storybrooke. It’s a good ending to a mostly entertaining episode that it is almost great.

There are several minor issues that keep me from considering a very good episode: mostly, the lag in transition, coming from good scenes to scenes that slow down severely. Emma and Henry looking for their memories back is not really entertaining, mostly getting down to business, but the moment where Regina points out to Zelena that her baby could be her redemption is strong, so in midst of the main plot we have both boring and good moments.

This is a good episode, but it could have been better.

Grade: B

Swan Song
Oh, “Swan Song”: this is an episode that I both love and hate at the same time. I love it because it is a fitting end to the season long arc, but at the same time I hate because it showcases the many, MANY, issues this season has had thus far.
Biggest offender: Merlin kept insisting that Nimue was the key to save them all… and that lead nowhere. If anything, Nimue just threw them into this massive mess.

One of the things that I’m most conflicted about is not that offender, but rather the reveal that Rumple got the darkness from every dark one: this is essentially the show pressing reboot, resetting Emma into savior mode and Rumple into antagonist/anti hero, only more powerful than ever. I don’t know how to feel about it: on one side it opens up storylines in the lines of what OUAT has done better, but at the same time it is yet another character regression for Rumple and it will possibly lead to more abuse to poor Belle.

Oh Belle, you can’t catch a break. Just when I was so proud of you for leaving Rumple on the past episode you had to come back to his hands, and just when he became the dark one again. I think OUAT could have just moved on from the whole dark one storyline, it would have been a bold move and pushed to show forward, but here we are… I don’t know if I hate or love this move, as the show can be as good as it has been before, but at the same time I’m disappointed that the show is having such a hard time to let go.

However, the whole episode is incredibly entertaining and deep. Hook’s story is honestly heartbreaking and I like the way it connects to Regina, and how she is the one to call it out.
Dealing with abandonment, Hook had a tough life, and we know it didn’t get any easier by losing his brother on Neverland. And he wasn’t just left behind, he was sold. That is rough.

The scene of Regina and Hook in the pier is incredibly intense. She knows that Hook is a different man now, even with the darkness, and she brings up an old wound by reminding him the time she recruited him to kill her mother, a story that ended with Hook killing his father after seeing he named his new son Liam, like his brother. Lana and Colin just hit a level of chemistry like never before, and their scenes together are gold, while the flashback hit homerun.

The whole theme of the episode is deciding what kind of person you want to be. That rings true not only to Hook, but to everyone. Rumple has to decide who he is, Emma has to decide if she is able to kill his love, and so on. When disaster strikes, everyone is pulled against the ropes and have to make their decisions quickly.

Zelena decides to take her daughter to Oz, but Hood and Regina have other plans. I just love how Regina ends up casting Zelena away back to Oz, showing how strong she has gotten by learning how to trust herself and appreciating the trust she has won among the people of Storybrooke. It is another testament of how far the character has gone, and her continuing growth is a big win every time.

Desperation is upon everyone, and almost everyone gives up: Hook gives Belle an out of Storybrooke (and how I wish she took it!), Snow and everyone else goes at Granny’s to spend their last living minutes together and Emma makes Regina promise her that when the time comes she will kill her and destroy the darkness once and for all. The episode looks very bleak, and it’s hard to come up with an easy solution. In the end, something has to be lost to save everyone.

One scene that bothers me to no end is Emma and Hook’s brief reunion before they meet near the lake. How is Emma so stupid to fall for the Henry trick? Not to mention the whole scene is pretty much just reaffirming everything Hook already said on the previous episode.

That being said, near the end, while everyone is about to be led into the Underworld, the are nothing but stellar moments.
Regina: I know the real reason you don’t want to talk about what you did to your father.
Hook: I believe we already had this conversation.
Regina: But this time you are going to listen, because if you don’t you are going to regret it for the rest of your life, which in your case means forever. So you have to ask yourself the same question you did that night: what kind of man you want to be?”

Wow, I said before that Lana and Colin did an outstanding job together, but this particular scene is just something else. The strength conveyed in their conversation is among the best of the show, and it leads to the reveal in flashback that Hook killed his father, which is dark and fitting to the whole episode. The storytelling here is pretty strong.

As Nimue starts choking Emma, Hook has his Darth Vader moment in which he can’t just keep it up and has to sacrifice himself to save who he loves. He finally becomes the man he wants to be and takes on all the darkness so Emma can end him. It’s a tough choice, but it is what it had to be done, and she knows it. She had to do it on the Enchanted Forest, she didn’t, and now Emma has to go through the most painful choice of her life: she kills Hook.

By doing so she is reverted to her normal self, and I gotta say, I missed the leather jacket savior Emma Swan. Dark Swan was fun for a while, but it was time we got her bad.

I already explained that I feel very conflicted about the show resetting its status with Rumple, but damn, I can’t drag down what had been mostly a great episode with intense and awesome moments. Emma killing Hook was heartbreaking, and a bold choice made by the writers… well, it is less bold since Emma is going to the Underworld to save him uttering the same words as his parents I will always find you pretty much stablishing them as the OTP.

But that’s fine, that’s the kind of show OUAT is. Sometimes brave, sometimes more conventional, but always fun. The show is at its best when it finds the balance in between comedy and emotion, not leaning too heavily on either. It is silly, but it can also be deeply emotional when it wants to, and the cast is fairly strong.

OUAT is unique, and it is flawed, and while it can’t always hit the perfect notes, more often than not the show is entertaining and engaging. That’s why I love about it: even when there are these things bugging me, I can’t help but love the show. I love it as a whole, flaws and all, and so I hope it continues on delivering.

Season 4 left the bar too high for me, and season 5 hasn’t delivered (by the way, what the heck happened to Lily and Maleficent?), but even while messy, season 5A has been fun, and that’s exactly what OUAT needs to be.

Grade: B+
Dark Swan Arc: B

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing reviews for Once Upon a Time, The 100 and Supergirl
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