Once Upon a Time Winter Finale Recap: By Hook or by Crook

Once Upon a Time Recap Underworld

This Sunday on the Season 5A finale of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, Hook’s plan to exploit his Dark One status for the purpose of at long last getting his revenge on “The Crocodile” came back to bite all of Storybrooke in the bum — and in doing so, ultimately set the stage for one hell of a Season 5B.

With Dark Ones running rampant through Storybrooke determined to ship Emma and her loved ones to the Underworld, Emma revisits her Plan A, to send all the Darkness into one being — herself — and then sacrifice her life. But after Hook steals Excalibur from her, it is the pirate who, when push came to shove, (seemingly) absorbs all the Darkness. Hook then beseeches Emma to run him through with Excalibur. “I was weak, let me be strong…. Let me die a hero,” he begs. A sobbing Emma obliges, after which she transforms back into her blonde, red-jacketed self.

But… twist! Toward episode’s end, it is revealed that prior to turning Excalibur over to selfless Emma, Rumple “tweaked” the (surprisingly mutable for a mighty) sword to instead move the Darkness… into him. So, he is now the Dark One — more powerful than ever, and with his returned love Belle (again, oy!) none the wiser.

Though rightfully repulsed by Rumple’s betrayal, Emma sees an opportunity to blackmail him into doing her a favor by summoning the boat to the Underworld. Her plan? To travel there, with her parents, Henry, Regina and Robin, and get Hook back, by sharing her heart with him a la her parents. In case the parallel wasn’t driven home, she even declares at episode’s end, “I will always find you!”

Elsewhere in the midseason finale:

* Hasty dispatch alert! When Zelena threatens to take sole custody of her and Robin’s baby and raise the wee one to be wicked, Regina uses the Apprentice’s wand to summon a tornado that whisks the witch back to Oz.

* The flashbacks that informed Hook’s eventual sacrifice revealed how his father abandoned him and brother Liam one night while at sea, leaving the lads in servitude of the man whose boat he fled on. Ageless years later, in the course of testing Hook’s mettle to murder her mamma, Regina forces him to confront his father in a tavern. Dad almost wins Hook over with a tale of being changed by the love of a good woman, who gave him another son. But when Hook learns that the new son also got named Liam, like some clumsy “replacement,” he proceeded to slay his dad.

* When the Dark Ones were threatening to send everyone to the Underworld, Rumple discreetly urged Belle to leave town and see the world. But once the Dark Ones are dispatched, Belle returns to lovingly reunite with her “selfless” husband. “I don’t need to see the world to know what I want,” she beams. “What I want is to be with you!”

What did you think of “Swan Song,” Hook’s sacrifice, Rumple’s surreptitious (if very expected) return to Darkness, Emma’s new mission and the outlook for Season 5B?