For all the loopiness of last episode’s Double Dark Ones (Extra Dark Ones?) twist, this Sunday’s Once Upon a Time mined the fallout — as well as the Camelot events leading up to the latest curse — for some choice confrontations.
IN CAMELOT…. | We saw “Rumple” tempt newly Dark Hook with the chance to “finally do what you never could do before — kill me, of course.” To do that back in Storybrooke, a Dark Curse would be required, and “Rumple” has a heart-crushing loophole in mind. But then newly Dark Emma shows up, only to be met by an angry Hook, who lambastes her for undoing his centuries spent quelling a bloodlust. Emma speaks of the future they were heading toward, together, which forces “Rumple” out of Hook’s mind. But later the apparition resurfaces to taunt Hook with the notion that Emma is hiding Excalibur — which, it turns out, she is. Eventually, Emma hands over the sword to Hook, saying, “I do believe in you, I do trust you to control your own fight” with the Darkness. “I love you, and I will never try to control you again,” she adds, prompting Hook to echo the ILY and pull her into a kiss.
They return to Granny’s to see Merlin (who’s busy recording his “voice message” warning) — except that once there, it becomes clear that Hook was puling a fast one on Emma, because once she lied about hiding Excalibur, “all bets were off.” Hook plucks out Merlin’s heart, then magics Excalibur back into the stone whence it came. But how will crushing Merlin’s heart enact the curse? Because “Rumple” transforms into “Nimue,” and since “all the Dark Ones” are inside Hook, his crushing the pumper is as good as Merlin’s ex-love doing it herself. Emma warns Hook that in doing so he’ll be crushing his happy ending with her, but he laughs off the sentiment as the musings of her “lovesick puppy dog.” When Hook crushes Merlin’s heart and triggers the curse, Emma acts quickly to erase Hook’s memory of being a Dark One and casting the curse, and then memory-wipes the others, so that back in Storybrooke she can make the best of a very bad situation — albeit on her own, without help.
In related news, the dwarfs proved to be integral to this Camelot adventure. Grumpy’s gotta be glad he tagged along.
IN STORYBROOKE… | Regina and the Charmings find Emma in the wake of her confrontation with Hook and Zelena, who slapped the magic-sapping cuff on her. Regina and Snow chastise Emma for not thinking of the consequences of turning Hook dark, even to save his life, as well as for the idea of killing Zelena as part of the grand plan. Snow then gets the idea to retrieve their memories to piece together Hook’s endgame — except the dreamcatchers are missing.
After Dark Hook challenges Rumplestiltskin to a duel at noon aboard the Jolly Roger, Rumple, Belle and the others convene to speculate about the pirate’s possible plan. Emma wants to help as well, but no one will remove the cuff for her — not even Henry, who sees through her desire to use dark magic to get things done all by her lonesome and not as part of a team, as in the old days.
Before heading off to the duel, Rumple acknowledges to Belle that “not wanting [him] to die” is not the same as wanting to be with him, so if he manages to survive, it is his vow to do “better by you, to love you the way I never could before,” to “be the man you deserve.” To that end, he invites her to meet him at the well, should he survive.
Hook meanwhile meets up with Emma, where he admits, “Of course I still have feelings for you: Anger. Hatred. Disappointment.” He says he now sees her for what she really is — “an anchor, nothing more than a pretty distraction.” When Emma warns that the Darkness is using him for its own purpose, he shrugs it off — as long as he gets what he wants in the end. For nasty measure, he chides Emma for pushing away the ones she loves, saying “that’s why you’ll always be an orphan,” destroying her happiness as she does quite well on her own.
Meanwhile, Regina reunites Zelena with Baby Hood, explaining that she and Robin have agreed — despite their better instincts — to let her be a part of the little one’s life, that maybe the unconditional love of a child can turn things around for her, as Henry did for Regina…. And Emma intercepts Henry at the library (where everyone has their noses buried in The Dark One Chronicles), beseeching him to help her with “Operation Cobra, Part II” — and he agrees, going so far as to remove the cuff for her when they find the dreacatchers protected by magic.
At the Jolly Roger, before the duel gets underway, Hook kindly first “fixes” Rumple’s limp, and then the longtime adversaries get to swashbuckling. Rumple manages to run Hook through with his plain ol’ sword, to little effect. Hook then slashes Rumple and pins him down, but gloats just long enough for Rumple to (literally) sandbag him. Rumple grabs Excalibur, but rather than finish Hook off, he lets his foe live with the knowledge that he was in fact bested.
Alas, Rumple would lose one this day, too, for upon reuniting with Belle at the well, she says that while “some part” of her will always love him, her heart has been broken too many times. When Rumple points out, “My heart is pure now, we have a chance to make this work,” she counters that she isn’t sure she wants to, that after so long a time mending his heart, it’s time to protect hers.
Meanwhile at the mayor’s office, when Emma restores everyone’s memories with the dreamcatchers, immediately realizes what Hook’s dark plan is. We then see Hook and “Rumple” at the pond where the Fury tried to drag Robin away. The apparition explains that with a drop of the blood of a man who died and came back — e.g. Rumplestiltskin, whose blood is on Hook’s… hook — they can open a portal to the Underworld. A boat then appears, and off it and across the water steps Nimue, who has all of the other Dark Ones with her, to do what they do best: Snuff out the light.
What did you think of this Season 5A’s penultimate episode?