I was both satisfied with this episode and disappointed at the same time. There were some surprises and a great setup for the bottom half of the season. But at the same time, this episode killed some great character development by going instantly back to square one. And although more character background was shoehorned in, it was altogether a great episode and an excellent mid-season ending.
Apparently, Hook has daddy issues. His father was a thief and a fugitive and sold out his sons in order to get away. When Regina was still the Evil Queen in the Enchanted Forest and recruited Hook to work for her, she tested him by having him stand up to his father, who happened to be a reformed family man. Although his wife died from the plague, they had a son. So after promising his father safe passage away for him and his son so that Regina would think he was dead, Hook turned on him and actually killed him.
All of the Dark Ones were in Storybrooke. They infected our intrepid heroes (except Emma) with a mark condemning them to the Underworld, since the only way the Dark Ones could remain in the world of Storybrooke is if someone took their places in Hell. So Emma decided to get Excalibur from Rumpelstiltskin, take the darkness into herself, and then self-sacrifice. Rumpel handed over the sword without any expectation of repayment. He did warn that what she was trying to do might not work. Excalibur chooses its heroes and its miracles. The only thing that was certain was that those who had the mark were going to die and be condemned to the Underworld, which Rumpel warned them that they would wish that it was only fire and brimstone, but would be much, much worse.
Regina finally managed to use the Apprentice’s wand to call forth a tornado and send Zelena back to Oz. It’s too bad that they squandered such a great villain this season. Aside from a few pivotal moments, mainly working with Arthur and having the baby, Zelena was largely pushed into the background.
Hook ended up taking Excalibur from Emma by magically disguising himself as Henry. So all hope seemed to be lost for our intrepid heroes. Nimue transported David, Mary Margaret, and Henry away from Granny’s Diner to the waterfront with the others. (Granny must be one fantastic cook if people choose their last act on Earth to eat at the diner!) They were surrounded by all of the Dark Ones. In walked Hook, who decided to take all of the darkness (and all the Dark Ones) into himself. Then after some trying to convince Emma to do the deed and some crying on her part, she ran him through with Excalibur. He died and she ceased being a Dark One.
Rumpel had sent Belle away earlier in the episode and then she returned when she found out what he had done. She was thrilled that he was being completely selfless. The next morning, Emma texted Rumpel to meet her at his shop. When he arrived, she confronted him about the fact that she could still hear the call of the dagger, and it led her to his shop. Rumpel put a spell on Excalibur that when Hook thought he was taking in all the Dark Ones, the darkness was actually being funneled into Rumpel. He now had the powers of all the Dark Ones, including Hook and Emma. He even had the dagger with the name Rumpelstiltskin engraved on the handle.
This is where I have a major issue. They finally were doing something different with Rumpel by turning him into a hero, making him a strong asset against bigger evils in the future. But before they could explore this new aspect of the character, it got thrown out in an instant. Bad writers. Bad, bad writers.
So Emma made him a deal. If he would use his blood to open a gateway to the Underworld so they could go retrieve Hook, then she wouldn’t tell Belle he was still being a scumbag. So he cut his own hand and bled into the water, summoning the boat to Hell. Emma, Mary Margaret, David, Regina, Robin, and Henry all stepped out to cross over. So Hook isn’t gone for good. It looks like the second half of the season will be the search for Hook.
There wasn’t really any other major plot points in this episode. All in all a good episode with a few niggles. I’m still disappointed about what they did with Rumpel at the end. And the first half of the season has been good overall, but with some clear down points. Probably the most glaring was the inclusion of Merida. Although portrayed quite well, the character was only truly useful for a single episode and seemed shoehorned in by the writers the rest of the time. Let’s just hope the last half of the season is also written well, without the awkward shoehorning of characters and situations just to try and fill some gaps. With the reported inclusion of Hercules, I’m not holding my breath.