Once Upon A Time has given us such a big buildup over the past 10 episodes, it was going to take a lot for a finale to be worthy. The Dark Swan’s fantastic entrance, the double Dark One reveal, the crumbling of Camelot, adding up to the continuing struggles of darkness versus light (I’ve already forgotten all the Scottish bear stuff).

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So I’m not sure if “Swan Song” lives up to all the hype, although it does focus on everyone’s favorite new character, Dark Hook. In flirty flashback mode, he’s charged by Regina to go after the father who sold him and his brother Liam out for a rowboat. Enraged to realize that his father’s new son has the same name as Killian’s lost brother, Hook kills his father, just as Rumple did a few seasons ago. It’s a shame those two are enemies, they have so much in common!

OUAT being OUAT, it threads this episode with an unsubtle (and oft-repeated) theme: What kind of man is Hook is going to be? (Even flashback Regina wants to know.) When he’s a kid, he wants to be just like his dad. As a pirate scoundrel, he’s a pirate scoundrel. For Emma, for the first time in quite a long while, he wants to be a better man, until the Dark One energy smothers all the goodness he’d been storing up. As with Rumple and Regina, the pitiful origins of our villain are inspired to drum up some sympathy for old Killian. Even his dying father seems to get it: We can always change, apparently. And both Killian and his father have benefited from true love to help them see the error of their ways. This notion proves crucial in the episode’s excellent finale. Hook wants to go out as the man he knows he can be.

Before that, though, we have the half-wits marked by the Mark Of Charron, so that they will be sent to the Underworld while the Dark Ones hang out at Granny’s eating pie; some dramatic conversations between Hook with Regina and Rumple; and Regina taking time out from the approaching apocalypse to kick her sister back to Oz. Ah, Storybrooke, a land where a giant green tornado sweeps down the street and no one bats an eyelash, except to shrug and then wonder where all the Dark Ones are. I also wonder why the show bothered to bring Zelena back at all, as it didn’t seem to know what to do with her; all she did was add another useless baby to this show.

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Fortunately, all the Dark Ones are clustered around Hook, who is then so overcome by Nimue choking Emma (even though she can’t kill her), that he absorbs all the Dark and implores Emma to forget her crazy self-sacrifice plan and kill him herself. Didn’t really get why she was feeling so guilty anyway: All she did was become the Dark One to save Regina, and then make Hook a Dark One to save him. Oh, and controlled the heart of a young girl for awhile. Still, basically her primary Dark One acts involved saving people.

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Amazingly, Emma actually listens to Hook this time and kills him with Excalibur, eliminating the hooded Dark Ones. This unfortunately channels all the Dark Ones’ power, ever, into Rumple, proving the kind of man he is. Hook was spot-on when he called Rumple out for missing the power he had and wanting power more than love, and since Belle dumped him, he probably figured he had nothing left to lose at this point. It’s repetitive and a bit disappointing, but let’s face it: non-evil Rumple was not that compelling. And Robert Carlyle seems almost relieved to be back in his malevolent black suits again. But he’s also a pointless antagonist: What else could Rumple-Dark One possibly want from these people? Except silence?

So when the rest are all anticlimactically standing stupidly around the kitchen counter, devastated Emma announces she’s going after Hook. I get that this is a needed leap to kick off the next half-season’s quest, but I also kind of hate it. Y’know, we’ve all lost loved ones, and we’re not able to trot down to the Underworld and pick them up. That’s not a reasonable or mentally healthy plan to have, especially not one that the rest of the Scoobies should immediately follow as they march onto the Underworld tour boat. Emma could just as well pick up Neal while she’s down there, right? And maybe a few other guest stars? Especially since Emma has just saved them all from the Underworld, which Rumple has said is a fate worth than death, so now they’re all going to go down there willingly? What’s even worse is that this is the second time Hook has pleaded with Emma to just let him go, to let him die a hero, and she’s like, “Nope.” The first time turned out spectacularly horrible for everyone, so why would this one end any differently?

Could be her parents’ sappy influence, what with the last lines of the episode, “I will always find you.” Sometimes people just shouldn’t be found. But I’m almost willing to let that slide in favor of Hook’s amazing death scene. His change of heart seems rather sudden, and even Hook seems to know that that his benevolence is fleeting, so he begs Emma to kill him while all the darkness is contained. These two have had so many kissy “I love you” scenes this season (rivaling Buffy-Angel), but this one was especially effective. Both Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison acted the hell out of Hook’s death scene and many others, with O’Donoghue especially showing many shades of Killian. Here he travels from treachery (tricking Emma out of Excalibur) to sacrificing hero in a matter of minutes.

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Can’t believe she fell for that one; she really was the worst Dark One ever. But the role and storyline gave Morrison and a few others a necessary chance to explore some different character sides. It also proves that the most fun this show can have is redeeming previously unredeemable characters (see also: Regina, and Rumple, for a while). It was a fun half-season, one of the series’ best, and one it will be tough for OUAT to top, even with a fun spring break in Hades.

Dark Swan arc: A-

Everything else (Zelena, Merida, et al.): C+

Stray observations

  • Liked Rumple’s nod to Belle that she’d always wanted to travel, just like movie version Belle.
  • Hook just drinking wine out of a goblet in a field. Where did the wine come from then?
  • “Again” is a word that came up a lot this season.
  • “That’s it? You don’t want to make a deal or something?” Ha, just wait.
  • Whenever OUAT throws out another old chestnut, like Hood talking about his baby’s “best chance,” I just groan. Stop it, show.
  • I like when Henry’s useful, like knowing what the Mark Of Charron is.
  • The dwarves got into the action a little! They were probably so excited.
  • You can find my ode to Snow White’s wig in Monday’s Inventory.
  • And that’s it until March 6 when we come back to travel to Hades, friends. Thanks for all your comments during this Dark Swan journey and thanks for reading. I really liked the effect of having Hook and Emma’s outfits go back to their non-Dark One ones, but I’m going to miss Dark Emma. She was a lot more interesting than regular Emma. Next up: Dark Snow? Please?

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