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‘Once Upon A Time’ Season 5 Episode 20 Review: Did That Really Just Happen?!

Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 5 Episode 20 – Firebird:

So…did that really just happen? Once Upon A Time has taken it easy on the character deaths (well, at least the major ones) in recent times, but “Firebird” suggests this might really be the last we see of the man who, for the most part, is the show’s de facto romantic lead. And if that’s the case, then this episode could be a real turning point for the series.

Granted, I don’t actually buy that this is the end for Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), even though the narrative does its damndest to convince us it is. That goodbye scene between Hook and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is heartbreaking stuff, and all the more so because of the profound chemistry that exists between the two actors. I actually bought that this was tearing them up inside, which I don’t always get from similar TV romances. The story of Emma trying to save Hook by securing the ambrosia he needs to rejuvenate his soul, which will then allow him to return to the living world, was kept afloat by being centered not on the mission itself, but on how Emma has grown as a result of the mission. The episode takes the present day Underworld story, and contrasts it with a flashback story on how Emma learned to start letting people in. It’s not the most riveting tale in the world, but it offers insight into how Emma has changed, showing that she was initially reticent towards allowing anyone to get too close. Hell, the flashback even shows us how Emma gets her trademark leather jacket, which essentially becomes her emotional armor from then on. It’s all used as setup to contrast the Emma from the past with the Emma of today. Emma isn’t the guarded person she once was. If anything, she wears her heart on her sleeve, such as when she chooses to save Hook rather than her own heart, or when she refuses to let Hook stay behind, right up until the bitter end, when she tries to go back for him. Emma is a passionate character, and I think that’s why the relationship with Hook has worked so well. He’s a passionate guy too, and while he might not always be as outwardly expressive as Emma, he’s capable of immense feeling as well. Case in point, when Hook realizes he’s been in the Underworld for too long to be allowed to return to life, he resigns himself to a fate spent in the Underworld. It’s his pleas that convince Emma to finally go, and the epic, emotional nature of their farewell is the only reason I might buy that this is really it for Hook.

'Once Upon A Time' Season 5 Episode 20 Review Did That Really Just Happen

Credit: ABC

But it feels like we’re not entirely done with the Underworld yet. Sure, Zelena (Rebecca Mader) successfully restarts Hades’s (Greg Germann) heart with True Love’s Kiss, while Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) leave behind the Storybook so the other lost souls can figure out their own “unfinished business” and move on. And hey, we even get Gold (Robert Carlyle) pulling off a twofer: he gets Hades to tear up the contract for his unborn child, AND he destroys Peter Pan (Robbie Kay) for good by giving him a fake heart made of a wineskin filled with water from the River of Lost Souls. And in the bargain, he gets Pandora’s Box, which allows him to transport Belle (Emilie De Ravin) without any hassles. It all builds to the climax, with all of our heroes leaving the Underworld through a portal of Hades’s creation. So we should be able to leave the Underworld behind now too, no? In theory, yes, but since this is Once Upon A Time, it’s clear that certain matters still need to be dealt with before the season ends. For example, the story with Cruella (Victoria Smurfit), who now plans to be the new ruler of the Underworld, feels unfinished. This is to say nothing of how the heroes, just before leaving the Underworld, come to the realization that they’ve all been tricked by Hades. There was never any ambrosia for Hook in the depths of the Underworld. It was all a trick to trap them there for good, since Emma was never going to leave without her true love, and none of the heroes would willingly leave without Emma. So it stands to reason that Hades still needs to get his. I’m guessing the trade-off will be that Hades is returned to the Underworld, and since a person can only leave if one life is traded for another, one of our heroes will kill Hades so Hook can live again. If nothing else, that’s the prediction I’m going with — well, for now.

With that having been said, I like that Once Upon A Time still offers stories with enough bite to them that we can still make predictions like this. I could say a lot of things about the Underworld storyline, but I can’t say it’s really been predictable. That touch of unpredictability is part of what makes “Firebird” as strong an episode as it is. With the season nearing its end, we can only hope the remaining episodes follow suit.

But what did you think of Once Upon A Time Season 5 Episode 20, “Firebird”? Sound off in the comments!

And for more on Once Upon A Time, read our review of last week’s emotionally engaging episode, “Sisters”!

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