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REVIEW: Once Upon a Time 5×11 “Swan Song”

Some things just never change. Once Upon a Time‘s mid-season finale, “Swan Song”, had a lot of heart to it, and it did a great a job of progressing the story along, but am I the only person who felt like this episode was a bit too similar to past seasons? Almost every scene had a moment where I was like “Oh, so it’s just like what happened in Season X.” I guess there are only so many different storylines you can use before things start to overlap, right? Anyway, at least “Swan Song” tied up the first half of Season 5 pretty well while also setting up a promising second half when the show returns. (spoilers ahead!)

Captain Hook is the star of this episode; there’s no doubt about it. He and the Dark Ones are planning to take over Storybrooke and “snuff out the light” in the world once and for all. In addition to this, it seems that all our main characters are getting booked for a one-way trip to the Underworld. As we learn in this episode, former Dark Ones are granted a temporary pass to the Overworld as long as they can swap places with someone. Soon enough, all the main cast members start getting “marked” with a spider brand, which means that they will soon be taken to the Underworld. Some people, like Regina and Emma, say “No way” to this, and look for ways to stop this from happening. Other people, like Mary Margaret and David, sit down at Granny’s and decide to spend their last few minutes together while waiting for the end to come.

Regina and Robin settle their own issues first. Zelena, being the nasty little witch that she is, spends her time taunting the couple about the baby. Regina, however, isn’t having any of that. Finally believing in herself, she is able to cast a special spell that creates a tornado, which sucks up Zelena and whisks her back to Oz. It doesn’t kill her, just banishes her. At least take her heart out so that you can control her! Oh, wait, is Regina too much of a “good guy” to do that now? Screw that. After all that Zelena has done, she doesn’t deserve mercy. And now we know for a fact that she will make a return to Once Upon a Time in the future. All Regina did was put a temporary bandaid on the whole thing.

Regina and Emma go to Rumplestiltskin’s shop to get Excalibur. Emma’s plan is to suck up the darkness into her body, and then sacrifice herself to banish it from the world. Unfortunately, this plan is rife with problems. For starters, Hook takes the sword from Emma after tricking her. Next, it seems that Rumple placed a little spell on the sword itself, which shows that he’s still up to his tricky little ways (more on that later).

I mentioned that Captain Hook is the star of this episode, so let’s delve into his plot-line. We see a little bit of a backstory to little Hook and learn about how his father abandoned him as a lad. Later on, when Hook was wandering around the Enchanted Forest looking for Rumplestiltskin, he encountered Regina, who offered to help. Being the evil queen that she was, Regina tasked Hook with killing his own father. The two are reunited, and Hook’s dad apologizes for abandoning him all those years ago. You think that it’ll be a happily ever after, until Hook finds out that his father had a new child and named him after his long-lost brother, Liam. Hook kills his dad, showcasing his apparent darkness long before he actually became a Dark One. Colin O’Donoghue does a fantastic job as Hook in every scene he’s in, especially the flashbacks. You can see how his portrayal of the characters remains relatively the same in most of the scenes, but there are subtle differences between current-Hook and past-Hook.

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I liked learning more about Hook’s backstory, but here is my problem with the plot-line: does everyone in the main cast have daddy issues? Seriously, I think there’s only like one case of someone having a semi-normal relationship with their father. Rumplestiltskin’s dad abandoned him and became Peter Pan, Henry’s dad bailed on his mom before his birth, Regina killed her father after taking his heart, and so on and so forth. How many times are they going to recycle the “problems with fathers” storyline in this show? To be fair, pretty much any parental relationship in this show is full of drama, but I couldn’t help but feel like Hook’s backstory involving his problematic father had already been done to death.

Toward the end of the episode, Hook saves Emma by letting her stab him with Excalibur. This sucks up all the darkness into the sword and destroys it. Woooo we got light Emma back! But poor Hook is now dead. So sad. Except not really.

Because this show doesn’t like to permanently kill characters, we find out that there is a way to save Hook. Emma discovers that Rumplestiltskin cast a spell in Excalibur that didn’t necessarily destroy the darkness; it just placed it back into him, turning him into the Dark One once again. Emma blackmails Rumple into helping her or else she will reveal his conniving act to Belle. Rumple agrees to help everyone journey into the Underworld so that they can reclaim Hook’s soul. The big problem with this is that the Underworld is most likely filled with people who aren’t happy with our heroes.

The mid-season finale had its ups and downs, but overall, I thought it was a proper send-off for the first half of Season 5. I’m looking forward to the return of Once Upon a Time, especially since it’s been announced that old characters like Peter Pan, Cruella DeVille, and Cora will be making an appearance in some capacity. I can’t wait to see these old villains return to the screen and encounter our heroes once again.

Final Grade: B

+ Fantastic performance by Colin O’Donoghue.

+ I liked learning more about Hook’s backstory, even if it felt a bit derivative.

+ The setup for the next half of the season looks promising, but it’s almost exactly like the end of Season 2 when the gang ventured to Neverland.

– Does everyone on this show have daddy issues?

– Of course there’s still a chance to save Captain Hook. Why not? You know, this show really takes away the significance of characters’ deaths if it’s so easy to revive them.

– Zelena’s exit was rather underwhelming; it’s obvious she’ll be back sometime soon.

Extra Thoughts:

– I mentioned a few episodes ago how cool it would be to see some Greek Mythology intertwined into the show’s lore; now that the cast is heading to the Underworld, I’m even more curious about whether we’ll see these influences.


How did you feel about Once Upon a Time‘s mid-season finale? Are you looking forward to the next half of Season 5? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Alex Reale

From a young age, Alex knew he was destined to be a writer. He also harbored a deep infatuation with superheroes and comics. Luckily, he was able to combine these two passions through his role with A Place to Hang Your Cape, where he works as Junior Sidekick and Social Media Hero.

When he’s not writing for AP2HYC or working full-time as a content manager for a small business website, Alex is diligently at work on other creative projects including a fantasy novel collection and an independent comic series.

You can find Alex's first book, Dodger's Doorway, on Amazon!