Oh, we’re off to see the … Hades?!
Episode Summary: In flashbacks we learned that when Regina chose to test Killian, she had him confront his father after he’d abandoned him and Liam. In Storybrooke, we learned that in order for a soul from the underworld to be brought back, someone living must die. And a hero’s sacrifice saves the day, but because our town savior isn’t okay with losing her love, she’s on a journey to the underworld in order to split her heart. Neverland 2.0 here we come.
Review | Analysis: There’s a reason we don’t often theorize here at MGcircles and it’s because this series always ends up blowing us away — even when we know that certain things are coming. That said, this finale may have been one of the most captivating hours on Once Upon A Time history for it served as a prime reminder of what this series ultimately is: hope. And though we’ll have to wait until March 6 of next year to find out what’s happening, we’re confident in the fact that it’ll be beautiful. As per usual, we’re left with a number of questions and a ridiculous amount of plot holes, but nonetheless, we’re pleased, and we’ve got a lot to discuss.
This season finale was a hero’s journey — Killian Jones’ “Swan Song” where he finally conquered the darkness in a way only his true love Emma Swan was able to. “Swan Song” was Killian’s justified fight against the darkness. “Swan Song” was his ultimate win and proof that we are the authors of our own fate. Love is a profound part of everyone’s journey — Killian and Emma are each other’s light, just as they are each other’s person and the anchor who’ll always bring them home.
Before we get into the great moment at the end, we need to address some concerns we’ve had from the very beginning involving the darkness. It’s interesting that Rumple boldly tells Emma she’s a brave woman because truly she’s the only one who has resisted the darkness with nobility. The mistakes she’s made are forgivable. She’s been strong enough not to crush hearts left and right just because. She’s been strong enough to give into love over and over again. And perhaps it’s due to the fact that she’s used to fighting, but the point is, it’s possible to resist darkness. And that’s what Emma’s journey as the Dark Swan has shown us — it’s possible to fight and win what’s undoubtedly the most agonizing internal battle. “Swan Song” was indeed her encore performance: the beautiful showcase that light will always eclipse darkness.
That said, we’re so disappointed in the fact that we’ve had hope for Rumple because it seems as though he’ll probably be the series villain until the final episode. In a sense, that’s fantastic: Robert Carlyle can do no wrong with his performances, but it saddens us to think that he may never be redeemed. How do you come back from all this? He was on the right track and we were finally at a place where we genuinely believed it was authentic. However, the reality is, Rumplestilskin doesn’t want to give up the power. Even though his heart’s been wiped clean, and he has the power to choose between nobility and darkness, it doesn’t change the fact that his mind remains unaltered. He doesn’t see a life without power. He’s convinced that he’s meant to be villain, and he clearly enjoys the fact that although he’s hated, he’s still needed. It’s sick and twisted, but in a weird way, it makes this story fascinating. There’s a definitely a part of him that wants to be the man Belle and Bae deserve, but there’s an even bigger part that doesn’t want to let go of the darkness. He doesn’t want to be a pawn shop owner with no powers because he believes that’s boring, it’s a kind of stability that’ll show him beauty in all the little things, but it isn’t exciting enough for him to choose it.
Essentially, what we’ve gathered from this arc is that the dark one’s curse takes a person’s already existing demons and magnifies them by what’s probably unimaginable to the rest of us. We’ve also gathered, especially through Emma and Killian’s versions, is that they can be controlled. That said, no one knows when Rumple will be ready to give it all up and until then, we just truthfully have no idea how to view his character. In spite of all this, we loved the scene of him setting Belle free and we wish she took it. In a sense, even at that moment Rumple was still a man who needed to feed on power, but without the spirit of the dark one, he’s able to at least try harder. He’s able to be a bit more selfless. But the moment he saw an opportunity to get the darkness back, it took away all his sensible thinking. It surpassed his better judgment and since he’d lost Belle anyway, he sees it as an opportunity to give into his first love again. The real tragedy in all this is the inability to choose a righteous, lone path. And that’s the thing with us humans; sometimes we have to be brave enough to walk alone in order to learn who we are. It’s a downright shame that Rumple can’t see all this.
Belle deserves to explore the world, she deserves to live, and she deserves to be away from all this nonsense. As Emilie de Ravin once stated in interview: Belle needs a vacation. We were so proud of Belle when she stood up for herself last week, but in tonight’s episode it’s disheartening that the belief to once again see the good in Rumple will eventually lead to heartbreak. It’s almost as if the series wants to continuously remind us that Rumple’s the true, ultimate villain in this story. The man who isn’t capable of loving another with every fiber of being, and the man who’ll always choose to rely on dark forces because they’re his version of a warped safe haven. It’s always been him verses Killian and where the story’s concerned, in some twisted way, perhaps the road to redemption can really begin with his choice to help the heroes rescue Killian from the underworld. At the end of the day, he could’ve chosen not to, now that he’s got all the dark magic in him, he could refuse to bring back his biggest threat. However, maybe we can believe that he just might make better decisions this time? Maybe this is his final battle with the darkness? As we all know, despite the fact that the darkness is all consuming at times, there are moments where man is capable of breaking free, and if Robert Carlyle’s performance is any indication of this, we can safely presume that there’s a split instant where it appears as though Rumple realizes he’s made a mistake. As though watching Emma weep over Killian’s dead body made him question whether he’s done the right thing because Carlyle wore an interesting expression of grief on his face. That said, his assistance, though forced, could serve as a potential platform for him to do right even with the darkness in him. But when it comes to this storyline, this is probably just wishful thinking. Let’s just allow The Office’s Michael Scott do the talking because we’re all out of words for Rumple. Oh, and we understand nothing.
In flashbacks, prior to abandoning his boys we see Brennan Jones (Adam Croasdell) give Killian advice on how to conquer nightmares. He states that when he gets scared, he should look within himself because a person’s always braver than they think. He then states that as Killian gets older, he must decide what kind of a man he wants to be. A young Killian (Oliver Bell) then hopefully states that he wants to be just like his father. Did anyone else’s heart shatter because you knew that poor kid was about to be disappointed? There are a lot of questions about where Brennan went off to, but the most heart wrenching part is the fact that he named his son Liam. And that’s just not something we can understand. If it was done to remind himself never to leave his children again is it safe to assume the kid’s middle name is Killian? Nonetheless, it didn’t feel right to us and we can’t imagine the kind of betrayal Hook must’ve felt in that moment. While a lot of things that take place on Once Upon A Time can be perceived as morally gray, murder, unless it’s an act of self-defense, is wrong. It’s difficult to tell whether Hook badly wounded his father or murdered him, but the fact of the matter is we’ve known about his dark past. And we’ve known that he’s made some vile mistakes — the point of all this coming out in this episode was to illuminate one very important trait in Killian: his capacity to love and his faith in its power. Prior to seeing his father with his half-brother, Killian chose to spare him because he believed in this idea that love’s truly capable of changing people. He chose to believe that his father’s honest declaration of a woman being responsible for his changed persona was authentic. And it allows Killian to find in his heart to do something noble that’d potentially interfere with his ties to Regina.
Killian Jones isn’t an honorable man because he’s pure of sin; he’s honorable because he’s continuously atoning for the mistakes he makes. This entire arc has been about his and Emma’s journey towards becoming the people they’ve always wanted to be. Back in “Seige Perilous”, Killian admitted to being wrong in the story where he and Rumple were concerned. And despite the fact that Rumple is to blame for his hook, the fact that he sees himself as a flawed man is rightful indication of his self-awareness.
For example, if we offend someone, whether accidentally or perhaps intentionally in an argument, we’ll apologize because it’s the right thing to do. We’ll apologize because we’ve hurt them and no person should ever be responsible for the pain of another.
And that’s what’s so fascinating about Killian Jones — he’s aware of the fact that sometimes, whether or not a person deserves the kind of treatment they were given, it’s necessary to understand that admittance to being wrong is a significant part of growth. Killian’s ability to have done this since the moment he turned his ship around in “And Straight on to Morning” has all been leading up to this moment of ultimate heroism. When we’re first introduced to Killian, we’re introduced to a man fighting for love. When Killian Jones loves, he loves deeply. He’s able to resonate with people who’ve lost it because he knows what the endless aches feel like. It’s why he’s able to spare his father in the beginning. It’s why he admitted to the fact that if Rumple had fought for Milah, he would’ve talked her into going back to him. He believes in love with such a fervent passion, there’s nothing that gratifies him more. It’s why he was able to see that Emma’s been burned by love in the past. She’s missing something and he saw that on their beanstalk adventure in “Tallahassee”. Because love is a force so profoundly engraved in his bones, it’s capable of conquering the darkness that would’ve otherwise destroyed him.
The season starts of with Killian fighting for love, and it ends with him dying for it. No matter how we look at it, in every situation he would’ve rather died than to see it consume and destroy Emma. And their story as partners begins with a discussion of abandonment and lost love — defining occurrences in their past that’ve not only made them who they are, but the reason they cherish one another so ardently.
Although it was Killian’s choice to give into the darkness without a proper fight in the short amount of time he had, taking into the consideration that he felt angry and let down by the woman he loves most, it’s understandable. However, as we stated in our review last week: “Anger is an emotion that when we act upon, brings out the absolute worst in us, but it’s not who we are deep down. It’s not all that defines us. We are all sorts of emotions. Arguments don’t alter love. We may say we hate someone one minute, but the reality is, we can’t imagine our lives without that person. It’s life. And this series, though a fantasy, plays with real, thought provoking elements.” We make the worst decisions when we act upon anger, and because that’s exactly what Killian’s done, with the darkest spirit in him, it’s even more understandable. There’s no reasoning with him at this point — the plan’s been set in motion. And choosing to disguise himself as Henry to get Excalibur was a low blow. This may not have all been an elaborate plan all along, but no matter how we look at the situation, he would’ve always chosen Emma. It was evident that no matter how this finale played out, in the end, he’d choose his love for Emma. And it was seeing pure love cobbled with heartbreak and pain in Emma’s expressiveness that reminded him of the man he wants to be. Emma Swan is his true love. She’s the woman he’d go to the ends of the earth or time for, and she’s the woman he’d without hesitation die for. In every lifetime, every alternate universe, his choice will always be Emma Swan.
He steadfastly fought for her at a time where he wasn’t even sure she’d reciprocate the same feelings thereby, it’s stunningly unsurprising he’d do the same now. Only this time, he’ll be the one surprised when he learns she too would go to the ends of the earth for him — she’ll fight against death for him.
Honestly, at this point we should probably stop saying this is the best work Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison have done because by the next episode, they’ll probably outdo themselves and once again leave us speechless. That said, “Swan Song” featured some of the most gut-wrenchingly evocative performances we’ve seen from the two. Before we begin gushing, we sincerely want to thank both actors for the incomparable work they put into this series because these scenes would not be as powerful if they didn’t embody their characters as profoundly as they do. We were able to feel every ounce of the potent poignancy that shook these characters to their core. Morrison and O’Donoghue beautifully exposed two lost little souls stripped of all the armor they’ve ever worn in an all consuming moment where only love ensnared them.
O’Donoghue was phenomenal as Killian’s heart took ahold of the darkness following the realization that the harm coming to Emma is physically and emotionally hurting her and thereby, destroying him. And it’s in this moment where we’re able to see that much like Emma, Killian’s capable of fighting the darkness with honor. Just as Emma had to fight for the fact that she’s nothing, Killian had to fight for the fact that he’s capable of being the man he’s always wanted to be. They both chose to fight for the person they’ve always wanted to be and in the darkest moment of their lives, they pushed back. He can fight all the darkness in the world because the woman who stands before him is worth the greatest battle of his life. The kind of love that fiercely runs through his veins has always been strong enough to conquer the darkness — he just needed to believe in himself. He needed to tap into the core of his being where love ignites him in order to release that the light that could win. Killian Jones loves Emma Swan more than anything in the world, and no matter how angry and betrayed he felt by her, deep down he knew her intentions have always been in the right place. Deep down, he’d rather die than live in a world where she doesn’t exist. He’d rather die than win where she loses. O’Donoghue’s best at exhibiting vulnerability, and in the end, it all comes down to Killian’s desperation to see Emma happy and free. It comes down to ending the unbearable aches he’s faced in this trying time where he’d believed she’d given in to the darkness. It’s wrecked him in a way nothing could, but he died with complete faith in the fact that Emma’s strong enough to win any battle she faces.
There are truly too many wonderful things about Killian and Emma’s relationship, but perhaps the most enthralling is the fact that they revolutionize this magnificent idea that when love is real, a person chooses to change for the better on their own. It’s effortless. When you find the one who’s able to bring light into the darkest corridors of your being, you hold onto it. You ceaselessly chase it because the emotions that overpower at this point are unparalleled to anything that’s been experienced before. Killian Jones is strong because he’s been weak — he’s given into the darkness too many times in the past, but this final battle with it is his climatic fall into the light. This is the moment where he realizes the depth of his actions, and chooses to sacrifice himself because he needs Emma to remember him as a hero. It’s not a want, but rather a desperate, profound need to do right by right her because she’s changed and inspired him in ways no being ever has. She’s taken his lost, broken soul and loved the pain away. She believed in him, treasured him, and understood him in ways no one ever could, and for that, he needs her to remember that he was strong enough to be that man she’d always deserved. In the end, Killian chose to be the selfless and courageous man Emma fell in love with. After a fervently adoring kiss and declarations of love, Emma stabbed him with their shared light saber. (How can I not make this joke, blame the show, not me. Also this is my lame attempt to cover up the pain from this moment.)
Morrison is an excellent crier — the one actress who legitimately never fails to make us sob along with her character. Much like in “Birth”, you felt her desperation and agony, only this time, it was magnified because it felt like the end. Only this time, Killian Jones got his wish, he saw the dark one leave her soul — he watched his swan return. And watching Emma sob on top of his motionless body was downright heart wrenching.
Killian’s death was agonizing for all — the way each character stood in a state of shock as they watched Emma break into irrepressible sobs was horrifying. This time, she let him go. This time, they all lost something. This time, they all felt the misery. Robin and Regina comforting Henry in disbelief. Charming masking his shock in order to console his daughter and Snow remaining strong for all was heartrending. This is the moment where everyone truly understood the heroism in Killian’s character, and his strength as a man who ceaselessly chooses honor.
It’s strangely beautiful that in the moment of grief, Emma’s unbearable vulnerability, the physical and emotional aches that nothing can heal sent her off into the arms of her mother. In this moment, she wasn’t the savior but rather a lost little girl needing shelter. As if her uncontrollable sobbing wasn’t enough, Snow mouthing “I’m sorry my baby” was just the icing on top of an already depressing scene. It’s beautiful because this lost little girl would’ve once handled everything on her own, but she’s allowing herself to lean on another.
It was beautiful, in every sense of the word that “Swan Song” gorgeously illuminated the similarities between mother and daughter — their colossal capacity to love. After she hears the dagger calling to her while she’s laying on the couch clutching onto Killian’s ring, she confronts gold and makes the decision to get Killian back. In an unconventional way, this entire arc was not only about the encompassing love Killian and Emma share, but it was about the influence a mother has on a daughter, along with the influence a father has on a son.
Prior to the season beginning, a promo released narrated by Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow indicating she’d play a vast role in Emma’s life this season. And this is the episode where we see just how gorgeously Snow’s inspired her daughter. In the promo she states: “Remember who you are, Emma Swan. Resist temptation. I will not lose my daughter to darkness.” Although there were moments throughout this season where we wanted more of their relationship, “Swan Song” substantiated the fact that Snow’s played a crucial role in Emma opening her heart to love. Killian’s unwavering adoration and faith in her have allowed her to feel safe enough to let her walls down, but her mother’s story is what has indirectly helped her believe in a captivating love that’ll always win.
As they’re attempting to find a way to stop Hook, Snow states that she doesn’t want to spend what could be her last night on earth with her head buried in books. She states that she rather be with her family. At the end of the day, while hope runs in Snow’s blood, nothing matters to her the way Charming, Emma, Neal (little one), and Henry do. Family is everything. Love is everything. Emma knows that there’s nothing Snow wouldn’t do for her father, and learning that a love like this exists allows her to believe in the fact that she can have one just as powerful. Emma may not have understood this in the past, and she may have seen her mother as too optimistic, but today, because she knows true love, she knows hope. She’s chosen to let her walls down. She’s chosen love over and over again just as her mother has. Emma may have temporarily given in to the darkness allowing it to convince her this is a cross she needs to carry alone, but she’s now choosing love in a way she never has. She’s not only trusting in her family, but she’s trusting herself. She believes with every fiber of her being that sharing her heart with Killian will work. When you love someone, the world is a more hopeful place, there’s beauty in every corner, flowers grown in place of wounds, and infinite ways to happy. Snow had faith and belief that her heart was strong enough to carry Charming as well –she was right. And for Emma, this entire journey’s been about the fact that her heart’s not only strong for herself, but for Killian as well. This is how they honorably win the battle together. Killian needed to show Emma that her heart was strong enough to take on the darkness and with that belief, she’ll use it to save him. She’ll use it to bring him back.
She’s taking a page out of her mother’s book because she seen that hope, and belief in a happy ending are indescribably powerful. Emma’s final step into the light was admittance to being wrong in acting alone. And while we’re all capable of making mistakes on a daily basis, we can be certain that she’s now learned it’s safe enough to rely on people because they’re capable of understandable. Snow quickly panicked at the idea of going to the underworld, but then she realized that Emma’s got a point. She realized Emma’s indeed choosing love.
Just as Snow needed to play a role in Emma coming back into light, we feel that at some point, we need to see Brennan Jones again in order for Killian to fully forgive himself and his father. He needs to choose forgiveness and though we can never condone a father abandoning his children, it still wasn’t right of Killian to take him away from Liam 2.0 as well. (Or harm him; we’re still a bit skeptical on what’s happened here.) Bottom line is, Killian’s father leaving him allowed him to see the kind of man he never wants to be thereby, making his transcendence into Dark Hook that much more culminating. He’s resented his father his entire life and hatred of any kind tarnishes the heart over time. It’s his hatred for Rumplestilskin that won’t allow him to move forward. It’s his hatred towards his father. And it’s his deep hatred for the dark spirit that breaks him. All this played a role in his temporary weakness.
In the end, both Emma Swan and Killian Jones saved themselves. They stood up to the darkness and chose who to be instead. They chose to wholeheartedly give into love. And concluding the episode with Emma echoing her family’s “I will always find you” was immaculate. There’s no other word besides perfect. That’s what Snow and Charming do, they find each other. They never give up: they always hope and they always succeed. Killian Jones is not only a vital part of this family, but he’s an irreplaceable figure, and he deserves to be fought for. Morrison delivered the scene with such hope in her voice weaved beautifully with relief in her expression. In this breathtaking moment, Emma Swan is hopeful, she’s driven by unwavering faith, love, and strength. She is fearless.
We’re hugely disappointed that the Camelot arc didn’t receive full closure and we’re actually not sure if it’ll be happening at this point. Did Merida get her revenge on Arthur? Did Guinevere break free from the spell? Where’s Lancelot? What happened to Camelot itself — who’s ruling it?
Additionally, we didn’t mention it last week because we hoped we’d somehow see Merlin again, but now that we’re almost certain we won’t, his death didn’t feel justified. He deserved much better. He deserved a more profound closure. And what on earth did he mean by stating Nimue could help? Are we to assume that he’s somehow evil too? Or did he truly believe in the fact that she could be good? Nimue was anything but free of evil, and it’s actually pretty sweet to read Caroline Ford’s tweet about how she should’ve just given into love. The characters we met in Camelot each had such riveting stories and it’s disappointing that we weren’t given the opportunity to see them come full circle. We have more questions than answers, but the reality is, maybe we could’ve waited to see Zelena being sent off to wherever she was next season? As sad as it is to admit, apart from Killian/Emma, The Charmings, and Rumple, nothing really made sense in the episode. The Camelot arc wouldn’t have fit in with this storyline which is why we should’ve somehow found a way to give them proper closure before. We hoped Zelena would choose to prove she’s worthy of being a mother, but that didn’t work out. And it felt too sudden in this week’s episode. It didn’t make sense in the way the rest of storylines lined up so we’re ultimately unsure of what to write about.
Worth Mentioning: Zelena calling Robin and Regina Gina and Robbie was hysterical. And essentially while at the moment we’re a bit disappointed she’s not choosing to redeem herself for the baby, a part of us is pleased. We’re okay with this only because Rebecca Mader is just downright brilliant when it comes to playing a twisted villain.
What are your thoughts on the season and “Swan Song”? So far, this has definitely been a favorite season of ours and we’re so excited to return in the Spring. Before we conclude this, we’d like to thank you all for the support you’ve shown. Writing wouldn’t be half as enjoyable if we didn’t have kind souls to engage with. And we say this every year, but we honestly have no words for our gratitude. So hopefully, thank you will suffice, but know that you all deserve more. You’re all truly wonderful and we’re eternally grateful.
Stay tuned for performance reviews at the end of this week solely dedicated to Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison throughout the season. We’ve been holding off on them because we knew this episode would astound us, and clearly, we were right.