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REVIEW: Once Upon a Time 5×12 “Souls of the Departed”

Is it just me, or did it seem like Once Upon a Time took FOREVER to return? Out of all the shows this year, it felt like this one had the longest break. At least we’re finally back in Storybrooke – kinda. “Souls of the Departed” actually takes us to a whole new realm that has yet to be seen on Once Upon a Time. This time, we’re following the characters to Hell itself, and it doesn’t look too welcoming. (spoilers ahead!)

As you may recall from the midseason finale, Emma, Mary Margaret, David, Rumpelstiltskin, Henry, Regina, and Robin have decided to venture to Hell in order to retrieve Captain Hook. Little do they realize that they’re about to encounter some old enemies who, as you can imagine, aren’t too excited to see them.

I liked the way the episode portrayed the Underworld/Hell in this episode. It’s more-or-less just a darker, more decrepit version of Storybrooke. The city is in shambles, the citizens are hardly more than shambling zombies, and there is an orange tint and eerie presence in the area. It’s very creepy and well-done, and you get a true sense of the haunting setting. I’ll admit that the orange tint hurt my eyes after a while, but it was still a neat effect to enhance the atmosphere. I expected Hell to be just darkness or something. The show went above and beyond to give us a proper portrayal.

Even though this half of the season was meant to be about Emma reuniting with Hook in the Underworld, this episode focused almost entirely on Regina and her family troubles. In the flashback sequences, we see more shenanigans going on between her and her parents during one of her birthday parties. These moments showed us more of the disjointed relationship between Regina and her parents, and everyone did a solid job properly conveying the necessary emotions of their characters. However, I felt like their scenes slowed down the episode so much. There were parts where I zoned out because it sounded like they were just repeating the same stuff over and over. I wish they sprinkled this story in among another episode instead of focusing on it so much during one time.

In the present timeline, we follow our heroes as they attempt to locate Hook. As you can imagine, it’s not that easy since he could be ANYWHERE. Luckily, Rumpelstiltskin has yet another incredibly specific item that happens to let people communicate with the dead. I’m not even going to say anything…

The episode hardly progressed the over-arching plot of the season, but at least it gave us some development for Regina and her family. We were also treated to a handful of cameos. We got to see Peter Pan, the Magic Mirror, Neal, and even Cruella de Vil’s car! I’m curious about what other long-dead characters we’ll encounter. What about the Huntsman? Is Jamie Dornan too busy filming the Fifty Shades of Grey sequel that he can’t pop in for a quick moment? I think he could add a touch of fun drama to the show, especially since he was having relations with Regina back during the first season. I’d be all over a fight between the Huntsman and Robin Hood.

Like I said, the episode hardly moved the plot along. The heroes are baffled as to where to find Hook, and since they’re on a restricted schedule, they might end up stuck in the Underworld. Oh, and they also figured they should help the citizens of Hell-Storybrooke go to a final, peaceful resting place, so it looks like there’s going to be more work to be done in coming episodes.

Oh, well. I’m not going to complain about more Once Upon a Time. They’ve made it work so far, haven’t they? I don’t see the show tanking anytime soon. I just hope we get more focus on the actual Hell plot-line instead of just family troubles.

Final Grade: B –

+ Great cameos from Robbie Kay‘s Peter Pan, Giancarlo Esposito‘s Magic Mirror, and Michael Raymond-James‘s Neal (and Cruella de Vil’s car).

+ The orange tint and foreboding aura of Hell-Storybrooke really enhanced the atmosphere of the episode.

+ Some powerful, emotional scenes between Regina and her parents.

– I thought the episode would focus more on Emma and Hook; instead, we were too busy learning more about Regina’s family problems; though the scenes between Regina and her parents were well-acted, I thought they slowed down the episode.

– The major plot of the season hardly progressed.

– Overall, it was a rather disappointing return to the show.

Extra Thoughts:

– I hope there’s a heavy emphasis on Greek mythology in the coming episodes.

What’d you think of the midseason premiere of Once Upon a Time? Was it a welcome return? 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!