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REVIEW: Once Upon a Time 5×20 “Firebird”


Isn’t it weird how a show can feel so filler-y even when it’s supposed to be pushing the plot forward? Does that make sense? It’s the best way I can describe the most recent episode of Once Upon a Time. Don’t get me wrong – “Firebird” did a decent job of progressing the plot and amping the show up for a decent finale, but you can tell they were spreading the story pretty thin in order to hit that full hour, especially with the flashbacks. As I’ve mentioned the past week or two, I’m pretty anxious to just get the season over with already. (spoilers ahead!)

I’m going to talk about the flashbacks first. In this week’s flashbacks, we’re visiting a young(er) Emma, a few years before the series began. Emma is currently on the move, trying to find out more about her past and where she came from. She encounters a bounty hunter named Cleo who’s trying to bring her in on a few counts of theft from when Emma and Neal were robbing convenience stores all those years ago. Eventually, Emma befriends Cleo, and the two work together to find out more about Emma’s past.

Right from the get-go, I knew there was something funny about the way Cleo was dressed and how she acted. She was like an exact replica of Emma Swan from the first few episodes of the season. For a split-second, I actually thought Cleo was supposed to be like an alternate universe version of Emma, or maybe Emma from the future (hey, anything can happen on this show).

At the end of the episode, Cleo actually dies from a severe wound after helping Emma break into and escape from a government records building. Emma collects information on Cleo and brings it to a young woman in a thrift store who is revealed to be Cleo’s long-abandoned daughter. Before she leaves the store, Emma remembers an earlier conversation she had with Cleo about her leather jacket, which she explained was her “armor” that protected her from becoming emotionally invested in things that prevent her from carrying out her job. Emma finds and purchases her signature red leather jacket, adopting it as her own armor.

It’s cool that we got this development from Emma and that we learned how she stumbled into her line of work as a bail bond agent, but this episode’s flashback segment felt weird to me. I never figured Emma’s jacket was that significant. I mean, has there ever been mention of this jacket being “armor” in previous episodes? I don’t recall any. If anything, I would’ve preferred an episode where we learned about her car, which seems to be way more iconic for Emma Swan.

Now onto the current timeline. As you can recall from last week, Zelena has been kidnapped by Pan and Rumple. This week, Hades goes to our heroes for help. They offer their guidance in exchange for passage back to Storybrooke. Later on, when Hades meets with Rumple and Pan, he rips up the contract for Rumple’s baby, allowing Zelena to return to him with no further harm. However, Pan demands Zelena’s heart so that he can return to the world of the living. Emma and her friends appear at the last minute and blast him away, forcing the father and son to retreat.

Zelena and Hades finally share a kiss, restoring the latter’s heartbeat. The heroes prepare to return home, but Emma is unable to share her heart with Hook to bring him back to life because he’s been dead for too long. Hades declares that the only way to bring Hook back is to do what the legendary Greek characters Orpheus and Eurydice did to escape Hell: ingest Ambrosia, the food of the gods. Hook and Emma descend to a darker level of Hell to find the fruit.

I was curious about whether the show would introduce more elements from Greek mythology during this season. Yeah, they showed us Hades and Hercules, but those are the Disney-fied version. Tonight’s episode decided to go deeper into the Greek myths. The references to Ambrosia and Orpheus and Eurydice were nice little touches, and I was pretty intrigued when Pan showed Rumple Pandora’s Box, which could supposedly protect Belle from Hades. I’d love for Once Upon a Time to keep bringing in more Greek mythology. Or maybe they could also show us a little bit of Egyptian or Native American mythology as well. The show has the entire public domain at its disposal; they should take advantage of it while they can!

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Hook and Emma venture to the Under-Underworld (?) and find that the Ambrosia fruits are all shriveled up. In addition to this, Cruella and the Blind Witch reveal to the rest of the heroes that they intend to rule the Underworld once Hades is gone, proving that Hades is a two-timing piece of crap. Whoa, you mean the Lord of the Underworld was lying to the good guys all along? Who would’ve thought? (we really need a sarcasm font…)

There’s an emotional scene between Hook and Emma where the former agrees to stay behind in the Underworld so that Emma can pursue Hades and defeat him once and for all. This is where Emma’s “emotional armor” comes into play. She has to prevent her feelings for Hook from interfering with her mission. Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue kick ass with their performances this episode (they hardly ever fail to deliver), but I have a strong feeling that this isn’t the end of Hook and Emma. If it is, I’m going to be pissed. They already killed off Neal so that these two could be together; now they’re killing off Hook too? Maybe they can find another way to bring him back – like something involving Davy Jones’ Locker. There is no way Hook is gone for good just yet.

Another scene I loved this episode involved Pan and Rumple. Rumple is shown stealing Robin Hood’s heart and then offering it to Pan so he can go to Storybrooke. But Pan soon realizes something is wrong with the heart after he puts it into his body. Rumple reveals that it’s actually a skin filled with water from the River of Lost Souls. And just like that – POOF – Pan is destroyed forever. I thought Pan was a lethal villain, but holy crap – Rumple just made him look like a punk. I wonder if he’ll really end up being the ultimate villain of the show. I have no idea how they’re going to keep Rumple around for another season without making him the primary villain once again. He really is a monster.

The episode ends with all our heroes (minus Hook) exiting the Underworld. From what the previews have shown us, it looks like we’re back to Storybrooke next week! I’m glad; I don’t think I can handle that much orange tint anymore… Also, there’s supposed to be a scene where the Storybrookers are attending a funeral. It’s most likely Hook’s funeral, but I wonder if it’s a red herring. Maybe another major character will get killed off by the finale? Only a few more episodes left in the season, so they better not hold back!


Final Grade: C

+ I loved the introduction of more Greek mythological elements (Orpheus and Eurydice, Ambrosia, etc.)

+ I’m happy that we’re finally heading back to Storybrooke.

+ I enjoyed the scenes between Pan and Rumplestiltskin, and Hook and Emma.

– It seems a bit weird to have an entire flashback sequence dedicated to Emma’s jacket.

– I still don’t trust Zelena; at least we know now that Hades certainly can’t be trusted.

– More super convenient plot points!

Extra Thoughts:

– I have a strong feeling that David is going to die by the finale.

What were your thoughts on the recent episode of Once Upon a Time? Are you excited for our heroes to return home? Tell us how you feel 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!