‘Once Upon A Time’ Season 5 Episode 15 Review: Colin O’Donoghue Shines In ‘The Brothers Jones’
Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 5 Episode 15 – The Brothers Jones:
Once Upon A Time has been steadily adding characterization to its ensemble in interesting ways this season, and “The Brothers Jones” is perhaps the most successful of Season 5B so far, in this regard. Killian/Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) has been a bit of a MacGuffin in 5B, used largely to drive the story rather than be an active part of it himself. But “The Brothers Jones” shows us why Killian is struggling to find the resolve to truly leave the Underworld — while also allowing him to find that resolve by episode’s end. It’s a terrific episode not just from a storytelling standpoint, but from an acting perspective as well, as Colin O’Donoghue shines in a big way.
The episode tells the story of how Killian’s brother, Liam (Bernard Curry), ended up in the Underworld at the mercy of Hades (Greg Germann). It’s a pretty straightforward story, which is part of why it works so well. It’s Killian discovering that the brother he idolizes isn’t the hero he thought he was, and how that revelation reflects back on Killian’s own reluctance to forgive himself for his weakness. Apparently, the reason Killian is so hesitant about returning to Storybrooke with Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is because of how quickly he gave in to the Darkness when Emma transferred her powers. In essence, he’s come to believe that a life of damnation in the Underworld is precisely what he deserves, despite the fact that he’s witnessed countless redemptive stories first-hand. While it might seem out of character for Killian to be so self-defeating, it makes sense in the context of the story, particularly once the flashback reveals to us just how frequently he would let Liam down. After earning the money to buy themselves out of servitude to Captain Silver (Costas Mandylor), Killian falls for the captain’s tricks and ends up drunkenly gambling the money away. Rather than accept the commission in the royal navy that he’d sought for Killian and himself, Liam chooses to stay with his brother in servitude. However, this ends up leading to a lucky break, as Liam is able to lead the crew in mutiny against Silver once they discover he plans on sailing them into the eye of a storm to retrieve a legendary gem. Hades appears and makes a deal with Liam: if he agrees to give him the souls of the crew, Hades will not only make certain Liam and Killian survive the shipwreck, he’ll give them the jewel that Captain Silver was seeking. With that item, the king will essentially give the brothers whatever the hell they want, including a commission in the royal navy. It’s a classic tale of temptation, and the compromises good men will make in service of the greater good — in this case, the well-being of his brother. While what Liam did was abhorrent, it’s relatable in a way. Plenty of people would risk anything to save their loved ones from certain death, and that’s basically the bargain Liam made, trading the lives of people to whom he wasn’t particularly close anyway. When faced with the peril of a storm they wouldn’t survive, it would have been crazy (and yet far more honorable) for Liam not to have taken Hades’ deal.
Still, Killian is absolutely devastated to learn of his brother’s actions, both in the past and in the present, as Liam is blackmailed by Hades into destroying pages in the Underworld’s version of the Once Upon A Time book. Those pages related to Hades would have given away a secret that Emma and co. could have used against him, and while we don’t find out the nature of the secret until the end of the episode, the betrayal is enough to have Killian suddenly question whether Liam was ever a good man. It’s powerful stuff, considering the nature of the brotherly relationship set before us, where it’s almost kind of a father/son type bond, honestly. What I liked here is that the storyline allows O’Donoghue to explore Killian’s self-effacing nature, since he doesn’t believe he’s good enough for Emma, and he doesn’t feel particularly worthy of a brother like Liam (that is, before he discovers the truth about why Liam is in the Underworld). Worst of all, he doesn’t feel worthy of returning home after all of this is over, believing that his fate is in the Underworld. For a character who’s usually self-assured and swaggering, it’s jarring to see Killian brought so low. But it makes his eventual turnaround all the more poignant. When Hades blows Liam off the side of a cliff overlooking the burning sea, Killian pleads with his brother to hang on. But, much like Killian earlier, Liam is unable to truly forgive himself, even after Killian forgives him for his transgressions. Liam lets go and falls into the sea, only for both Jones brothers to discover that this was apparently what was preventing Liam and the crew of Silver’s ship from moving on. With Killian learning the truth and forgiving his brother, all parties can finally move on — even Killian too, if he wanted. But, in classic Hook fashion, Killian still has unfinished business to tackle: not only does he accept Emma’s proposal to come back to Storybrooke with her, he vows to help her defeat Hades, once and for all. All they have to do is find out what his weakness is. And, from the looks of what was in those pages, it has to do with a past romance with Zelena (Rebecca Mader). That…sounds delightfully chaotic, actually. It should make for a good storyline, even if it doesn’t give O’Donoghue has much to work with as he had here. He’s a solid actor, and I love watching him get opportunities like this to emote, and dig into the underlying pathos of a character who’s just as much bravado as anything else.
But Killian isn’t the only person looking to forgive himself. David (Josh Dallas) learns from Cruella (Victoria Smurfit) that his twin brother, James, blames him for being condemned to a life without love, since David was their mother’s favorite. It leaves David feeling immensely guilty about his lot in life, even as he struggles to think of how he could even make amends for it at this point. I mean, it’s not as if the brothers have ever truly met. And yet, I fully expect this is all leading to a major brother vs. brother showdown, in what could possibly mirror the Killian/Liam conflict. If nothing else, I’m more interested in that than in the ongoing story of Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) attempting to reacquire the powers of The Author in order to absolve Emma from the guilt of having killed Cruella. While I can absolutely identify with Henry no longer wishing to be a passive observer, I just had trouble finding his mission all that compelling. However, I admit my opinion changed at the end when Henry finally realizes that this isn’t the way to become a hero. It shows a remarkable amount of growth for Henry, who no longer needs to be steered towards the mature answer through some moralizing monologue. Rather, he comes to it on his own, after dissecting what The Apprentice (Timothy Webber) meant in his vague speech about the responsibilities of power. I mean, there probably isn’t much difference for some between being moralized to, and being given the clues to come to the moral of the story on your own, but I think Henry is in a position to be a more active hero in the story, now that he understands that you shouldn’t have to compromise your values in service of being a hero.
Ultimately, I think “The Brothers Jones” is a strong episode for characterization on Once Upon A Time, since it illustrates how several characters have both matured and acquired a much-needed sense of self-awareness. I’ve liked other episodes better this season, but I would argue this was one of the best when it comes to pure character study.
What did you think of Once Upon A Time Season 5 Episode 15, “The Brothers Jones”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Once Upon A Time, read our recap and review of last week’s twisty “Devil’s Due”!