Sometimes it seems like Once Upon A Time gets tripped up over itself. I’m sure the show’s intentions are good, as our goal in this particular trajectory is “Find out a way to defeat Hades,” and here comes Killian’s brother Liam with the possible solution. One of the dumbfounding things about this arc so far is how these mere mortals (well, some of them are magic, but still) are supposed to defeat a god. So we learn about the possibility of the storybook; then just as easily that hope is dashed as Liam himself tosses the Hades pages away. It’s always one step sideways, two steps back with this show.

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The duplicity of Liam, the brother that Killian always looked up to, but could never equal, was a problem. We last saw him in “Good Form” during the Neverland arc, nobly dying to save his crew. This episode, unfortunately, we find that Liam’s naval ambitions were enough for him to be responsible for the death of an entire crew (along with the evil captain), after a deal with Hades (never a good idea). This revelation, while surprising again does absolutely nothing for us in the long run: doesn’t offer further insight into what makes Hook tick, just kind of destroys one of his reasons for being, pointlessly at that. Maybe all of us would take a deal with the devil for what we really wanted? Like to think that it was Hades’ promise to save Killian and himself more than anything else that led to the deal, but it did lead to the death of many innocent lives.

Lives that are now lurking around the Underworld, ready to take on the Brothers Jones. Again, pointless: Why should they be mad at Killian? What’s absolutely worse is the resolution, wherein Killian and Liam have a long, introspective conversation while hanging over a cliff (“I want you to forgive me!” “You need to forgive yourself!”). After Liam falls over the cliff, he gets pulled up into this show’s version of whatever heaven you’re after, as it seems attuned to whatever your ideal afterlife is (Hercules got Mount Olympus, these sailors get the sea.) So Liam’s unfinished business is done, but again: He was responsible for the deaths of a whole bunch of people. But because he comes clean at the end, he still gets to go to the good place? If we can be Catholic on Easter Sunday, I guess the status of confession would (according to that doctrine) wipe his soul clean, but karma-wise, it seems like a crock. What’s worse is then all the sailors get to come with him, because now that they know the truth, their unfinished business is also done. But didn’t they all already know what happened? And even if they didn’t, why would Liam’s story have such a stupidly significant effect on them?

In other whack news, Henry wants to be the Author again, because he’s a surly teen and sick of sitting on the sidelines. With Cruella’s help (this episode was such a snooze, here is one of my notes: “I really like all of Cruella’s outfits”), he finds the pen, then proceeds to take the Apprentice’s advice and record the stories instead of create them. Sounds like he’ll still be standing on the sidelines to me.

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Bad news for Cruella, and now the apparent whole crew that has to stay in the Underworld to replace the souls Hades lost. Of course, this crowd will figure out a way to defeat him with that all-important book. And surely the long back story of David and James (can they just stop kissing other people, please?) was meant to bring up the similarities between Charming and his brother and Regina and Zalena, two pairs of siblings with drastically different consequences. The Hades/Zalena relationship will be fun, anyway.

Unlike the Killian/Liam story. How many times did we have to hear how much Hook trusted his brother? Why would he take such an instant dislike to Emma? Was Emma’s distrust of him a shoutout to the olden days when she could always tell if someone was telling the truth? I can’t even figure out why Hook is so down on himself: because he embraced being a Dark One and she didn’t? Here’s the difference: She went into it knowingly, for a purpose. He was tricked into it by someone he cared about. No one could blame him for falling a little deeper into the dark side after that. I mean, I forgive him. Maybe the Liam story was meant to show Hook that no one is perfect, not even his perfect brother.

The problem with these dozen-episode-or-so length arcs in OUAT is that often they feel stretched out to fill the space. I remember a whole Neverland episode about finding Tinkerbelle’s map, or something, which wasn’t even useful in the long run. Hades is a completely compelling character on his own, so instead of drudging up more characters from the past, let’s focus more on how to actually take him down. But if Henry is just recording, not writing, how in the world (Underworld) can that happen?

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Stray observations

  • “Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m going to keep looking in this house for these pages that must have somehow fallen right out of this book.”
  • References to Henry having two mothers this episode: three.
  • The Captain Swan kiss confirms that the Emma-Hook chemistry is till intact.
  • Hades’ silly parlor tricks like creating drinks and sliding them across the bar are beneath him. “A trick is something a whore does for money… or candy!” Liam’s bar looked cool, though.
  • Henry’s best line ever: “Please don’t make this a lesson.” More emo-Henry, please!

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