"Swan Song" is the 99th episode of Once Upon a Time.
The dark siege of Storybrooke is underway as all of the resurrected Dark Ones target a living soul for sacrifice so that they can return to the realm of the living. With doom imminent, Gold advises Mary Margaret, David and the rest of the heroes to spend their last fleeting moments enjoying the company of their loved ones; Emma, however, refuses to give up, knowing that it's her responsibility to right all the poor choices she made as the Dark Swan. There's only one problem: Dark Hook. When they face off, with the fate of the town at stake, Hook's actions will devastate Emma in a way no one sees coming. Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was, the Evil Queen tests Hook's mettle by forcing him to confront a demon from his past before contracting him to dispatch one from hers.
Previously on Once Upon a Time...
Hook lay dying in the field of middlemist flowers, with his throat having been cut by Excalibur. ("Birth") Regina expresses surprise and annoyance that Emma turned Hook into a Dark One. Emma argues that it was the only way to save him. ("Broken Heart") In Camelot, Hook exclaims to Emma that he spent centuries quelling his blood lust and then she threw him right back into that darkness. He sarcastically congratulates her on a job well done. ("Broken Heart") Nimue arrives in Storybrooke from the Charon's boat, telling Hook, who summoned she and the other past Dark Ones from the Underworld, that it's time to get to work. He welcomes her to town excitedly. ("Broken Heart")
Hook's dad teaches him a valuable lesson.
A ship makes its way across a dark and stormy ocean in the fairytale land that was, having to deal with large bumps and lightning strikes, all of which contributes to the fear of a certain little boy struggling to sleep inside of it. He stares outward, afraid, at the lantern which provides his and his brother's cabin with light; however, the wind from the storm makes it so that the ever-dwindling flame is finally blown out, and the boy's fear escalates as he begins calling out for his father. It isn't long before Brennan Jones enters through the door, assuring his son that everything's alright, and he swiftly relights the lantern, returning light to the cabin as he says that it's nothing to be afraid of. "Now, remember," Brennan adds as he sits at his son's bedside, "Whenever you feel scared, all you have to do is look inside. We're all braver than we think if we just look deep enough. Before you know it, you're gonna be a man, so I'm just trying to prepare you, 'cause then you're gonna have to answer life's big question: what kind of man are you going to be?" Thinking hard, the little boy finally replies that he wants to be just like his father, which Brennan smiles at, telling his son that that's a nice answer before tucking him in and advising him to find that brave part deep inside himself. "And you don't have to worry about a thing. Your father will watch the light for you. Just go to sleep, Killian... Go to sleep." And, with that, the boy who will one day come to be known as Captain Hook closes his eyes, and drifts off.
Killian learns he's been sold into slavery.
When they open again, it's still the middle of the night but his father is gone, as is the fire in the lantern, meaning the cabin has been plunged into near darkness. Killian sees the empty candle swinging there unmanned before finally getting up out of bed and approaching his sleeping brother Liam, who refuses to wake up despite his sibling's claim that their father is gone. The young future pirate then tries opening the door to the cabin, only for the old ship captain to walk on through and ask him, in an intimidating manner, if he's looking for his father, then telling him to look "out there" because Brennan rode away an hour ago. Killian doesn't understand, wondering why his father would do such a thing, and the captain pushes the young boy back down onto his bed as he himself sits there, explaining to him that his father isn't who he thinks: he's a thief, a fugitive from the law, and heard that there'd be soldiers at the next port, so he bought an old rowboat and left. Killian wonders why he would leave his two sons, to which the captain asks how the boy thinks his father paid for the boat. "He traded you, and your brother, into my service." He stands back up, and Killian follows suit in protest, unable to accept what his father has done. Before leaving, the captain comments that now Killian knows the kind of man his father really is, and Killian is left devastated.
The Dark One taunts his nemesis.
In the present, Captain Hook turns his head stoically as Mr. Gold approaches out in the woods of Storybrooke, Excalibur in tow. "It would appear I've won," the new Dark One announces, but the former Dark One puts this into question, reminding him that the sword in his hand ended up at his neck the last time they fought. Hook points out that Gold won a battle, not the war, telling him that he took the dagger from him and now he has nothing, and he never will. "Watch it, pirate," says Rumplestiltskin before he attempts to cut Hook down with Excalibur, but Hook uses the dark magic he's acquired to poof himself out of the way, reappearing behind the middle-aged pawnbroker when he turns around. He excitedly exclaims that there's the Rumplestiltskin they know and love, asking if that's not why Belle left him: she knows just what kind of man he really is. "And what kind is that?" asks Gold, and Hook replies that he's the kind who loves his power more than anything - more than Belle, and more than his dead son - which is why it's so "bloody satisfying" for Hook to take it away from him, telling him to remember how good it felt. Gold assures that power is only as good as the one who wields it, and Hook's done nothing but parlor tricks. The darkened pirate smiles. "Oh is that right?" he asks, "Well I think you're really gonna like what comes next. The trick where I finally get my revenge." Rumple appears cautious.
Let's split up, gang!
The Dark Swan leads her family and friends through Main Street, with David telling her to slow down because they need to talk about this; they need a plan. Emma informs her father that the plan is to find Hook before he resurrects all of the Dark Ones, asking if he thinks dealing with just one is bad. It's at this point that the dwarfs join the brigade, and Leroy seems both confused and horrified by the idea that there's more than one Dark One. David says that it's a long story but Leroy says in turn that it doesn't matter because there are seven of the dwarfs, at which Happy points out that there are only six because Dopey's still a tree (see "The Price"). "We may be down a dwarf, but we're ready to fight," Grumpy makes clear, but Emma tells him that they won't have to because she's going to take care of this. David asks if she thinks she can talk Hook out of what he's doing but Regina tells the prince that there'll be no talking because they have to hit the pirate with everything they've got. Mary Margaret argues that it's not Hook's fault he's doing this because he didn't want to become a Dark One, and Emma says that he did because of her, but none of that matters anymore. She turns around to face the group and tells them all that Regina's right: they need to hit Hook with everything. Her mother seems wary, for this is a man that Emma loved, but the Dark Swan states that that man died back in Camelot and now only the Dark One remains. "So, no matter how hard this might be," she concludes, "We need to split up, find him and stop him... no matter what it takes."
ONCE UPON A TIME
Zelena comes to talk custody.
Regina and Robin are bypassing Main Street, with the latter telling his love that the alleyway they're currently entering into is the fastest way to the harbor. The Mayor asks if they're just supposed to expect to find Hook sipping rum by the sea, pointing out that he's no exactly a pirate anymore, but Robin is certain that "once a pirate, always a pirate", telling her to take it from a former thief that old habits die hard. Suddenly, a flurry of green smoke rises before them, and Zelena, whose emergence this green smoke marks, agrees that they certainly do. Robin immediately aims an arrow at his newborn child's mother, warning her to be careful of who she sneaks up on, while Regina simply tells her sister to get out of the way because they don't have time for whatever it is she's doing. The Wicked Witch says that she'd like for them to have a little chat about her daughter, at which Robin makes clear that it's their daughter. "'Bout that. I've worked up a teeny alteration to our custody arrangement: I've decided to grant myself sole custody. See, I'd like to raise her by myself without you two getting in the way. I'm going to teach her how to be wicked!" Again, Robin aims his bow, threatening the fire if Zelena tries to take his daughter from him, but she just cackles. She tells him that there's no point in them fighting over their darling baby girl because soon enough they'll both be dead, and then she can just take her. Regina wonders what she means when she says they'll be dead, and the Wicked Witch tells her to "ask them". The former outlaw and Queen then turn to see a pair of resurrected Dark Ones approaching, with Robin telling Regina to get back. The two of them appear awfully frightened as the cloaked figures draw nearer.
The Dark Ones are coming...
David believes that he and Mary Margaret will be able to cover more ground in the truck, running towards his jeep and opening the driver's side door as his wife lags behind a little. As soon as he does this, though, he spots another pair of resurrected Dark Ones tailing her in the side-mirror, quickly warning her of the looming threat. The Charmings huddle together in shock as the Dark Ones approach.
The six dwarfs, meanwhile, are searching the town for Hook like the rest of the heroes... but Dark Ones soon approach them too. Six Dark Ones, to be exact, form a circle around Snow White's allies and prepare to move in.
Emma is unable to save her son from Nimue.
Emma walks into the back room of Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer and announces to whoever's with her that there's no sign of Hook, and that their next stop is the Jolly Roger. "Mom! Help me!" Henry is then heard exclaiming from outside, and she dashes out to save him. But it's too late. Nimue is approaching the boy, and before Emma can so much as wield magic against the first Dark One, she walks straight through him, disappearing on the other side of the street. Emma runs to her son's aid, making sure he's okay, and he thinks he is. The others then regroup and demand to know what just happened to them, at which point Mr. Gold appears and says that he might just have the answer to that. He tells them all to check their wrists, and all those who were attacked by Dark Ones see that they've now been emblazoned by glowing symbols, which Gold explains is the Mark of Charon. Henry knows Charon to have been the ferryman in the old myths who navigated a boat to the Underworld, and Rumple commends his grandson, then informing the others that the Dark Ones that have been brought over only have a temporary pass into this world like a Tourist Visa; the only way for them to stay is the trade places with living souls.
The prospect of the Underworld looms over Storybrooke's residents.
"Meaning us..." David realizes, and Gold tells him, "Exactly. And when the moon reaches its peak, the ferry from the Underworld will arrive and drag us down there." David makes a comment that that doesn't sound good, and Gold now talks as a man who's died and been there when he assures that it's not. Regina wants to know how they stop it, but Gold says they can't. He adds that the Underworld is worse than they can possibly imagine and is going to make them wish that the old stories of fire and brimstone were true; it's going to make them wish for death, and then the realization will hit that death has already come, and this fresh torture is all that's left. Emma tells Gold that he's scaring Henry, but he sees this as good, for they should all be scared. This is death itself. A fight they cannot win. "No!" the Dark Swan protests, "I'm not marked, I'm not going to give up. There has to be something we can do." "You're right, there is something," he says, "Use this time wisely. Use it to say goodbye." He then heads into his shop while the others are left fearing what's to come.
The myriad of resurrected Dark Ones are seen making their way through Storybrooke, led by Nimue. One of them approaches the screen and momentarily turns it to blackness.
Hook, meanwhile, is standing at the town harbor as his plan unfolds, and we see that behind him Regina is approaching, saying that she thought she might find him somewhere with a view of the sea. He comments that there's no use in hiding now, to which she says that he can't go through with what he's doing, addressing him as "Killian". He is astounded, finally turning to face her, expressing his shock that she didn't call him one of her usual playful nicknames such as "Captain Guyliner" or "One-Handed Wonder" and asking where her bon mots are tonight. She tells him that she understands how he thinks Emma betrayed him then asks if he really thinks that dragging her family to the Underworld is the answer, but he points out the richness in this coming from the woman who enacted the Dark Curse to punish Snow White for telling a secret; "You of all people should know how far someone will go for revenge! And, unfortunately for you, so do all the people you've killed who are waiting for you in Hell."
The former Evil Queen reminds the pirate that she's not that person anymore, and he scoffs that she can tell herself what she wants, leading her to say that he may be the Dark One but the both of them both know he's no longer the man he was when she recruited him to kill her mother (see "Queen of Hearts"). "When I... tested you," she recounts, "And when you..." Before she can finish her sentence, a sudden invisible force clasps her throat; it's Hook's dark magic, strangling her, and he tells her as his arm outstretches that she isn't to say another word because the two of them agreed that they would never speak about what happened again. He moves in close, warning her not to test him again; whoever she thinks he is, he's not; she has no idea the kind of man he truly is. Finally, he relinquishes his hold and she backs away, gasping for air. He walks away as the old Queen remains hunched over, temporarily traumatized by the darkened and determined pirate.
We are treated to a shot of the Dark Palace from afar as, in the past, we see the Evil Queen's carriage emerge into the open fields outside, where Captain Hook awaits. He appears bored as the Black Knights take their sweet time getting to him, but finally the carriage comes to a stop and Regina opens the door, in all her gothic glory. He comments as he sips his drink that if he'd known how long she was going to take doing her hair, he'd have had another goblet of wine, at which she exits her carriage so that she's halfway out and comments in turn that she thinks he's had enough. She adds that she wants him sharp for what he must do next, and he recalls the deal she earlier proposed: he will kill her mother, and in exchange she will bring him to a land without magic where he can finally get his revenge on Rumplestiltskin. "In," she takes another step, fully out of the carriage now, "deed. But first, I need to know what kind of man you are. You don't know my mother, she's an expert at one thing: exploiting weakness. And I need to make sure you have none." She runs her hands all over the pirate as she says this and finally takes his goblet away from him. Hook says that her mother sounds lovely, commenting that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but the Queen tells him to shut up as she heads back to her carriage. She reopens the door for him to get in with her, telling him to do as such, and he approaches, saying as he takes his goblet back that he's been a pirate for hundreds of years and his hook has tasted the blood of dozens, so whatever her test is she can trust that he's got the mettle for it. He downs the last of his wine and throws away the goblet, entering the carriage as the Evil Queen snickers and follows him in.
Mary Margaret wants to make her final moments meaningful.
Forward through time and Henry is researching down in his mother's vault along with the rest of his family, assured of the idea that Gold has to be missing something and that there has to be a way to escape the Mark of Charon. David uncovers a fresh load of books while Mary Margaret cradles her baby and Emma rifles through Regina's magical ingredients. The three adults exchange an awkward silence thanks to the young man's ponderance, and finally Mary Margaret suggests that maybe Gold's right in saying that this is a fight they can't win. Emma is shocked, reminding her mother that she's Snow White and saying that she doesn't know how to give up because hope is in her blood. "And I do hope, Emma," Mary Margaret assures, "But... I don't wanna spend what could be my last moments with my nose in a book. I wanna make the most of my moments, with my family." The Dark Swan is taken aback while Henry suggests that they have dinner at Granny's Diner, and David commends his grandson on the great idea. Emma asks about Neal, pointing out that he'll be left there all alone, but Mary Margaret says that he won't be alone because he'll have his sister. She refuses to give up on her own family and, as she cries, Snow hands her baby to her husband so that she can tell her daughter that they're almost out of time, and time is what's most important: time with those they love.
The Dark Swan plans on sacrificing herself.
She kisses her on the forehead, knowing that she won't stop trying and hoping that she succeeds, but... "Promise me that you'll come meet us at Granny's and say goodbye." Emma promises, crying herself, and mother and daughter share a hug for what could be the last time, with the former telling the latter that she loves her and the latter reciprocating, heartbroken. The whole Charming family then proceeds to leave, sans Emma, and the Dark Swan is left crying all alone in the vault; that is, until Regina makes an appearance, questioning why everyone appears to be giving up. Emma says that they're not, not tonight and not ever, explaining that if she can destroy the Dark Ones then no souls will be owed and everyone she loves will be spared. Regina wonders how and Emma asks her if she remembers the promise she made in Camelot to do whatever was necessary to get rid of the darkness (see "The Dark Swan"). The Mayor doesn't like where this is going and Emma tells her that she needs her to keep that promise now, and she needs her to swear not to tell anyone else. "But to get rid of the darkness you still need to put it in someone," Regina recalls, "And sacrifice them... Who?" Emma takes a long pause, and finally says, "Me."
Rumple bids Belle goodbye.
Gold is holding a vial in the back room of his shop, pacing and waiting for Belle to enter the establishment; when she finally does, he turns in relief, happy to learn that she got his message. She tries reminding him of what she told him at the well, but he has no interest in listening, merely handing her the vial and explaining that its contents will protect her from harm when she crosses the town line. Belle grows confused, asking if she's going somewhere, and Gold says that that's up to her. He recalls that she's always wanted to see the world, saying that all of it is "right out there, the other side of that town line". He advises her to go when she can and see all the wonders she's dreamt of, and, when she's tasted it all, maybe one day she'll come back; but she should go today, and have a life. The pawnbroker's wife is curious now, and she wonders if something's wrong. He quickly assures her otherwise with a hug, and she seems to buy it in spite of his crying. He adds that he's just excited for her to live out her dream, before handing her the keys to his car and telling her to take it, say goodbye to her father, and then start living.
The Mark of Charon.
She smiles, telling him that she knew there was a hero in him somewhere, and he tearfully bids her goodbye. "Yeah," she extends in return, bittersweet toward the situation, and finally she leaves with the vial in tow, taking one last look at a nodding Rumple before she opens that shop door... and closes it behind her. Rumple's crying gets worse once she's gone, and he takes a seat on the nearby bed, looking at his wrist. We see that he too bares the Mark of Charon, meaning he's to be dragged down to the Underworld with the others, but his moment of sadness is interrupted when the door to his shop is heard reopening. He heads into the main room, attempting to tell whoever it is that he's closed, but he rolls his eyes when he sees that it's Emma and Regina. The latter refuses to leave when he begs them to please go away, and she vows not to go down without a fight. "I bet there are a lot of people in the Underworld who would be thrilled to see you and me," the former Queen points out, but Rumple points out in turn that they deserve it, and it doesn't matter; there is no alternative. Emma says that there might be, but she will need Excalibur. Gold tells her that the only possible way Excalibur would be of any use would be if...
Excalibur changes hands.
"If Emma takes all the darkness into herself and uses the sword to destroy it," Regina finishes for him, with she and the darkened savior already having hashed this plan out. "And herself," Gold adds, realizing what Emma's willing to do to save everyone, and he proceeds to head back into the back room. Emma and Regina appear uneasy as they wait for him to return, and finally he emerges with Excalibur in tow, handing it to Emma as he comments that it was always destined for the hand of a true hero. "That's it? You don't wanna make a deal or something?" the Dark Swan questions, and Rumplestiltskin answers negatively, telling Emma as she takes the sword's hilt into her grip that she is a brave woman, and commending her for it. As she prepares to leave though, he points out that her plan might not work because that blade chooses whom it finds worthy, and it chooses its miracles. Emma deems this unimportant, for right now all that matters is that she spends time with her family while she can, and she beckons for Regina to come to Granny's Diner with her. Regina tells her friend that she can't because she and Robin need to protect Roland and the baby from Zelena; "I'll catch up with you later." The Mayor heads out of the shop...
Hook is reintroduced to his father.
And the Evil Queen heads into a tavern in the fairytale land that was. Hook follows her inside, having been told that he's there to confront "a man" and wanting further description, but Regina is pretty sure he'll know which one she means. She tells him to face this man and then he'll prove he has what it takes to face her mother, but Hook, looking out at the tavern's customers, begins to say that he's not sure he sees who she's talking about. However, he is interrupted by a massive brawler who exclaims that "pirates ain't welcome here". Hook takes him to be the man Regina wants him to face, approaching the brawler who tells him to get out, but the pirate says it seems they are at an impasse, preparing to fight. Rolling her eyes, the Queen says, "Oh, for heaven sakes," before flaring her wrist and snapping the brawler's neck with her magic. He falls to the floor, dead, and Regina makes clear that Hook isn't there to face him - she turns him around so that he can see who she was really talking about - but him. Hook spots his father, Brennan Jones, serving drinks at the faraway bar. "Father..." he utters, stunned, as the Queen smiles.
Fifty Shades of Green.
Regina barges into her office in the present, with Robin not far behind, and immediately spots Zelena with her feet up at the mayoral desk, going through color swatches. The Wicked Witch sees her child's primary caregivers and greets them as "Gina" and "Robbie", telling them to come on in. She's already replaced Regina's bowl of red apples with her own bitter green ones, and the Mayor of Storybrooke asks her sister what she thinks she's doing. Zelena explains that, at the moment, she's trying to decide what color would look best on her walls, holding up the color swatches - which contain only shades of green - and suggesting Kelly, Hunter and Pistachio, then having the realization that all three are possible baby names; she cackles, commenting that it's all just coming together. Regina takes the swatches from the desk and throws them into the nearby trashcan, which Zelena deems as "cheeky", and tells her that she's not moving in. Zelena agrees that she's slightly premature but points out that in an hour they'll both be dead, so it won't matter anymore, and everything that's Regina's... will be hers.
Regina gets the wand to work. Robin remains irrelevant.
And of course she gets the baby. "No," Robin declares, "See, our child deserves her best chance." "And that's not with you," Regina pointedly makes clear, taking out the Apprentice's wand as she does so. Zelena remembers it as being "the withered knob of that sad old man", but also remembers that the last time Regina tried to use it she wasn't powerful enough to make it work (see "The Dark Swan"). However, Regina holds it up, and it glows purple with her magic. Zelena looks slightly afraid now, while her sister remembers in turn that last time she tried to use it she didn't believe in herself, but now she does, as does everyone in town (see "The Price"). "So, let's go somewhere, just the two of us." She proceeds to teleport she and her sister out of the office in separate flurries of purple smoke, so that a confrontation between the pair may take place, somewhere a little more remote than the office they're both trying to cling onto, and Robin may be left alone to make preparations regarding his newborn daughter.
Once Upon a Time makes its biggest mistake since Frozen.
The two of them, Regina and Zelena, next appear within the roof of the town's landmark clock tower, with the latter pointing out what a letdown it is that Regina didn't use the "thingy", referring to the Apprentice's wand. Regina assures her that she will, telling her sister that she better hang on, and proceeds to use the wand to summon a twister. It can be seen making its way down Main Street outside, leaving little destruction in its wake... that is, until it locks on to the Wicked Witch's location and shatters the face of the clock, attempting to suck her in. Zelena's hat goes in before she does, and she is left clinging to the clock's leftover fragments, screaming that she is not done and that Regina will see her again. Finally though, the cyclone consumes her, and she is carried away in it back down the street. Regina watches excitedly through the broken clock as her sister is taken to a new realm, shouting in response to her vows, "Somewhere over the rainbow!" As the green wind continues to rage, containing within it all that's been making Regina's life hell until the actual prospect cropped up, she adds, "Enjoy Oz, witch." The cyclone disappears into the clouds as Zelena is taken back to her home realm.
Belle says goodbye to a repromoted guest.
Belle is saying goodbye to her father Moe French, otherwise known as Maurice, as she prepares to leave Storybrooke in order to see the world outside like she always wanted. Moe is helping her pack her things into the trunk of Mr. Gold's car, shutting it for her before sharing a heartfelt hug with his daughter. This whole scene is viewed only from afar, from the point of view of Rumple as he watches his beloved wife leave town from the alleyway by Moe's flower shop Game of Thorns. Soon enough, the car engine ignites, and Belle is seen driving her way down Main Street. She heads out of town, quite possibly forever given the dire circumstances that she is completely unaware have befallen the place, and Gold appears incredibly sad as he watches her go.
Emma, meanwhile, leaves behind her own goodbyes.
Sad music is heard playing, emanating from the jukebox as Emma sneaks her way through the back of Granny's Diner, trying to avoid being seen by her family as they share one last ceremonious meal together. David kisses Mary Margaret on the forehead as she cradles their baby in her arms, and Henry is watching in the meanwhile. The Dark Swan appears sad as she places an envelope, addressed "To my family", securely against the blaring jukebox. She then takes one last look at them, with tears filling her eyes, and whispers that she's sorry, telling herself that what she's about to do - as is detailed in the letter she's just provided - is the only way for her to make up for what she's done. We are once again shown the Charming family enjoying each others' company as Emma slowly exits the diner.
Outside, she begins walking away to go do what she must do next, unaware that Hook is watching her from across the street. We see that Nimue is standing behind him, and she tells the pirate that he knows what he needs to do.
Hook is sitting in the back corner of his father's tavern in flashback, waiting for a chance to confront the man who abandoned him as a child; he is the only customer left, while Brennan is tidying up the bar, finally spotting the faraway pirate and telling him that he doesn't want any trouble but they're closed. Hook questions why he might cause trouble, asking if it's because he's a dirty pirate or because he's a boy whose father abandoned him on the high seas, and Brennan finds himself recognizing Killian, uttering his name. The pirate slams down his tankard and gets to his feet, telling his father that he goes by Captain Hook now before reminding him that he once told him to decide what kind of man he wanted to be - and this is who he became. Brennan asks how this is possible, for he left nearly a century ago, and Hook reveals that they both found a way to cheat death. Brennan agrees, and proceeds to ask about the fate of his other son Liam, who Hook says was not so fortunate (see "Good Form"). Brennan is saddened by this, before taking a moment to appreciate the grown up son that stands before him, asking where he's been.
Brennan gives some exposition, and lots of it.
Hook informs his father that he's been in Neverland, having been biding his time until he found a way to kill himself a crocodile - it's a tale of woe and revenge that Brennan doesn't need to be concerned with because it's his tale that matters; "So tell me, father, where does a scoundrel like you run after he's sold his sons into servitude!" Brennan, tearing up, says that he's sorry, explaining that he ran and didn't get far. Not long after he left Liam and Killian, he got caught and put under a sleeping curse. Hook questions this, wondering how the "bloody hell" he's awake now, and Brennan questions in turn how anyone breaks a curse, revealing that true love's kiss did the trick. "Who could ever find a way to love you?" the pirate wonders, angry, and Brennan tells him, "My nurse. I could hear her speaking as I slumbered. Her voice was so kind, so gentle... She made me see the error of my ways. I fell in love with her, and she with me. She changed me. I just... I just wish that I'd known her when we were together. You could've had the father you wanted. The father you deserved. I'm so sorry!" Hook asks where this woman is now, and Brennan painfully admits that a few years after they married she fell ill with a plague and never recovered.
Killian learns he has a brother from another mother.
He sits down as he says this, and Hook finds himself saying that he came there to kill his father, for his life was the price he had to pay to finally get his revenge... but they've both lost too much. Brennan asks if his son is going to spare him, and Hook tells him that he will in a manner of speaking, going on to explain that the world must believe he is dead - the Queen must think he killed him - but he can secure him a letter of transit to take him far from this place, where maybe he can start again. Brennan wants his son to come with him, and Killian says that he'd love to, but his true love was taken from him, and while Brennan can't destroy the plague that took his, Hook can destroy the plague that took his. He must continue on. Brennan understands, hoping that his son finds peace. He addresses him as "son" and places a hand on his shoulder but Hook shrugs him off, saying that they must hurry because any delay will arouse suspicion; he'll bring the letter of transit tonight. Before the pirate leaves, Brennan asks if it would be possible for him to bring two. Hook wonders why, and his father admits, "My wife and I... we had a son." Hook is shocked.
Captain Swan faces off.
Emma bursts into her home, clearly determined, and uses her magic to open the door in front of her, retrieving Excalibur from behind it. "Sorry, love," says Hook, who's sitting at the table nearby, "But I can't let you use that sword." He gets up and blocks the exit, while Emma simply asks him why, thinking it to be so that he can get his "precious revenge". She adds that if she does not do this then everyone she loves will die, at which Hook points out that, if she does, she will die. He then beckons her to hand it over because he doesn't want to hurt her. She seems surprised that now he cares what happens to her, and he says that, like it or not, he owes her. "For what?" she demands, and he points out that if it wasn't for what she made him he would never have become the man he always wanted to be. Emma assures that this is not who Killian wanted to be and that revenge did not matter to him, but Hook disagrees, telling the blonde that she just briefly distracted him. But, now he can finally make the crocodile pay. She asks if it's worth becoming the thing he hates to do it - the thing he spent centuries trying to destroy - and he tells her that if she didn't want him to change then she should have let him die.
Emma falls for... this.
The Dark Swan is crying now, and she whispers an apology, having been unable to watch one more person she loves die; Hook makes clear that now because of that she gets to watch everyone she loves die, but she refuses. She cries out in defiance before running at the pirate with Excalibur, attempting to run him through with it. However, he disappears in a flurry of red smoke before she's able to do so. She turns around, with him having reappeared behind her, and she vows to protect her family even if she has to kill him to do it. She takes another lunge but he disappears again, and when Emma turns around to attack him once more, she sees Henry standing there. She is taken aback, uttering her son's name, and he takes the sword from her with ease. But then there is another flurry of red smoke and we learn that it was in fact Hook in disguise, tricking his former love in order to get his hands on the sword. She then utters his name, begging him not to do what he has planned, but he says that it's too late for that and tells her to enjoy the time she has left with her family, before teleporting out. Emma is left completely defeated.
The Charmings find out what their daughter plans on doing, too late.
Henry stares down at his baby uncle, Prince Neal, as he continues to spend what may very well be his final moments with his family in Granny's Diner. He turns to Snow and Charming with a smile on his face, and they smile back at their grandson before the former gets up to clear away the empty plates. Henry's attention returns to the baby as she does so, and it isn't long until Mary Margaret spots Emma's letter resting against the jukebox, putting down the plates in order to pick it up and read. It explains how her daughter plans on sacrificing herself to save everyone, and so the former princess calls her husband into the backroom; he comes, wondering what's wrong, and she says that it's Emma, handing him the letter. He reads it and becomes shocked, immediately declaring that they've got to stop her. However, before they can make but a mere few steps toward the exit, Nimue and two other Dark Ones appear, blocking it. Nimue tells those in attendance that they needn't worry about stopping Emma because Captain Hook's already seen to that, and, as Henry backs away in fear, she adds that that means there's no way to stop their trip to the Underworld. The first Dark One then outstretches her hand and activates the marks upon the Charmings' wrists, causing them to cry out in pain as a bright white glow - emanating from said marks - overcomes them.
The Underworld awaits...
When the glow dissipates, Mary Margaret, David and Henry find themselves standing before Storybrooke's apparently mystical pond, with the dark magic apparently having altered their attire to better suit the bitingly cold weather, along with the likes of Mr. Gold, Robin and Regina. After the latter shares a hug with her adoptive son, wanting to make sure he's alright, Mary Margaret begins to worry about baby Neal, bemoaning the fact that he's back at the diner. David decides to ask Robin the whereabouts of his son and daughter and the thief explains that they're safe with the fairies, who will take Neal as well; the group proceeds to stare around at the plethora of resurrected Dark Ones who silently surround them, led by Nimue. Henry asks if this is really it, and Hook soon emerges with Excalibur in tow, telling the lad that he's afraid it is. He then points out the arrival of the "S.S. Purgatory", meaning the Charon and his ferry, and the others grow alerted as the fabled hooded figure emerges from the pond's heavy mist aboard his boat, ready to take them all down to the Underworld.
Regina tries forcing Hook to see sense.
Indeed, the moon has reached its peak... and it's time for them all to go. "Mom! Dad! Henry!" Emma exclaims as she makes her way through the assembly of Dark Ones, hugging her whole family at once as she tearfully apologizes for not having been able to save them. While Mary Margaret assures her daughter that it's okay, Regina approaches Hook, telling him that it's time to drop the act and that he can't just sit back and let another family be destroyed to get his revenge. The darkened pirate asks her what makes her think he can't, to which she replies, "Because of what we swore to never speak of again. I know the real reason you don't wanna talk about what you did to your father." Suppressing rage, Hook reminds the old Queen that they've already had this conversation, but she insists that this time he's going to listen because if he doesn't then he's going to regret it for the rest of his life which, in his case, means forever. "So you have to ask yourself the same question you did that night: what kind of man do you wanna be?" Hook thinks about this deeply.
Brennan bids his replacement son goodnight.
The two letters of transit rest in Hook's one hand as he stares down at them within the fairytale land that was. He is about to enter his father's humble cottage, and when he opens the door he's able to see Brennan tucking his young son in for bed. Killian's half-brother tells his father that he's scared, not wanting to leave in the morning, and Brennan knows this, assuring his youngest son that it'll be okay because the two of them will find another home; what matters most is that they're together, for they can face anything that way. He then tells the boy to close his eyes and remember that, whenever he's scared, all he has to do is look inside because we're all braver than we think if we just look deep enough. Hook seems discomforted by the fact that his father is telling his new son the same things he told him as a child, and then Brennan caps it off by saying, "Sleep tight. I'll see you in the morning, Liam." The pirate is taken aback, growing silently angry as his father kisses Liam Jones II on the forehead in order to further wish him a goodnight, and proceeds to step outside, being followed by Brennan. "Thank you, Killian," tries the elder of the two, but Hook quickly makes clear how distraught he is over the fact that Brennan named his boy Liam, after the son he abandoned.
Hook kills his father, unable to forgive the past.
He asks if he was really that easy to replace, but Brennan insists that he was trying to honor the original Liam, not replace him, so that he'd remember never to make to same mistake he made with his first two boys. He promises that he's changed, but Hook grows adamant that people don't do that, having heard what his father said to his half-brother and calling him out on the fact that it was the same thing he said to him when he was a boy; "It was a lie then, and it's a lie now!" Brennan begs Killian to see reason, assuring that he has changed and that he would never leave the new Liam, but the pirate just grows insulted that his father would leave him. He proceeds to throw the letters of transit into a nearby fire, to his father's despair; Brennan asks his son what he's doing. "Deciding what kind of man I want to be!" Hook replies, "You see, if the Queen discovers that I deceived her, I might not get what I need, and I can't have that. You're just not worth it." With this declaration, Hook draws a dagger and plunges it into his father's gut, then throwing it to one side once it's been completely doused in blood and allowing Brennan to collapse to his knees, clutching his wound. Killian pushes him down further, and, as he dies, Brennan utters that it's never too late to change and be a different man. This seems to have an effect on Hook as he watches the life leave his father.
Hook's love for Emma is reawakened by her peril.
With a contemplative expression enough to rival the one he was just seen sporting in flashback, Hook is approached by Nimue in the present, who happily declares that it's time. Those who are destined for the Underworld appear greatly afraid, as does Emma. Unable to let her family and friends go, she finds herself uttering the word "no" before standing up to the Dark Ones, exclaiming that they are not taking the people she loves. However, Nimue simply makes a gesture that resembles strangling someone with one hand, and Emma's throat begins to tighten as the first Dark One's magic takes effect on her. Nimue comments that while she might not be able to kill Emma, she can stop her from interfering, and Emma's loved ones look worried for her as she continues to choke... including Hook. As he watches her unable to breathe, she stares back at him, silently begging for help. This apparently gets to him, because the next thing he does is tell Nimue that that's enough, turning to her in defiance of her plans. Nimue asks the darkened pirate what he's doing, and he declares that he's being the man he wants to be, leading her to say that he can't stop them as she keeps on choking the Dark Swan.
Nimue and the other Dark Ones are drawn into Excalibur.
Hook seems certain that he in fact can do what she says he can't, and he proceeds to hold up Excalibur and channel his magic into the blade, making it so that Nimue and the other Dark Ones are sucked up into it in multiple swirls of darkness. Emma is released from Nimue's hold while the latter disappears into the sword with the rest of her resurrected comrades, filling it with an almost unlimited supply of dark power. Said dark power turns its metal black, while its formerly black markings turn silver, glowing red under the influence of Hook's magic. Emma watches in shock as her true love struggles to contain the sword in his grip, knowing what he's about to do and begging him not to do it. He points out that they both know there's no other way, telling her to hurry because they also both know that the darkness won't stay trapped within Excalibur forever and so she has to take it. She refuses, but he says she has to help him, pleading some more that she take it from him despite her continuing to respond that she cannot, believing that she should be the one to sacrifice herself.
The Dark Swan prepares to do what needs to be done.
"Your family needs you," Hook reminds her as he holds out the shaking sword for her to take, "If anyone deserves to go to the Underworld, it's me!" Her tears grow heavier, and he ends up admitting that she was right in saying that he was weak, wanting to make up for that now by being strong. She utters that she doesn't want to lose him, and he expresses a likewise sentiment, but concludes that she has to let him go; "Let me die a hero. That's the man I want you to remember, please!" The sword is still outstretched for her, and she doesn't stop crying as she ultimately starts to approach. Slowly, she takes a hold of the pirate's solitary hand, removing Excalibur from his grip before struggling to contain it within her own. It continues to shake with the weight of the darkness currently stored within it... but that shouldn't be a problem for much longer. Emma kisses Hook one last time after telling him that she loves him, and he tells her that he loves her too as a brief yet tender moment of intimacy is exchanged between the two. And then she prepares to do it. She begins to lift Excalibur, with Hook assuring her that it's okay; he stares at the blade which he knows is about to end his life and he accepts it.
Emma Swan finally returns to the world... just as Hook leaves it.
Finally, the darkened savior runs him through, and Hook screams as the most powerful sword ever forged pierces through his belly and out of his back. The others struggle to watch as the blade remains buried within him, forcing him to absorb all the darkness as he dies. Emma weeps into his shoulder as she holds it in place, and he soon starts to grow fainter, managing to press his forehead to hers as a sign that he loves her. As the darkness is eradicated, Emma starts to emanate a bright flash from within and, in the blink of an eye, the Dark Swan is gone forever, and Emma Swan in all of her blonde-haired, red-leather-jacketed glory is returned to the world, still pressing her forehead against that of the man she loves. Eventually, she removes the sword, and the bloodstained Excalibur promptly reduces to dust with the darkness having been filtered out of it. Emma looks to see that Hook's neck wound from Camelot has returned and her crying grows worse as he collapses into her arms. Mary Margaret, David, Gold, Robin, Henry and Regina all watch in sadness as Emma lowers her bleeding lover down to the ground and weeps loudly over what is now only a corpse.
Hook's dead body is covered up by one of the paramedics who've arrived on the scene, and Emma continues to cry profusely as she watches the man she loved get carted away on a gurney. She tries holding onto his hand, unable to let him go, but her parents are keeping her held back so that the paramedics can do their job, and so the savior (for that's what she is now, once again) just cries even harder as the pirate's arm falls from her grip - meaning it hangs from out of the side of the gurney - and she succumbs to her parents' embrace. Mary Margaret offers some unheard words of comfort as Emma hugs her, not able to deal with the fact that Killian is dead because of her, and she keeps on watching with tears in her eyes as he gets further away.
Rumbelle's ruined, again.
Autumn leaves are blown across Main Street as the shot shows us the empty-looking town of Storybrooke, with morning finally having arrived after such a long and eventful night.
Mr. Gold is drinking in the backroom of his shop when the front door is heard opening, and he tells whoever it is to get out because they're closed. However, he soon hears Belle's voice calling out his name, and it isn't long before she enters the backroom and he stands to greet her in shock. Stepping out from behind a desk, he asks what she's doing there, and she explains that Henry called and told her everything; she realized that he lied to her again. "Belle..." is all he's able to utter before she plants a massive kiss right on his lips, pointing out to him once it's over that for the first time he was truly selfless. She adds that she doesn't need to see the world to know what she wants anymore... what she wants is to be with him. They share another kiss, finally reconciling as husband and wife.
Uh oh, whispers.
Meanwhile, Emma is struggling to sleep as she lies down on the couch over at her house, still kitted out in her signature red leather jacket as she clutches one of Killian's rings. The reason for her lack of slumber though, is more than mere grief; once again, she's finding herself able to hear the whispers of the Dark One's dagger (see "The Broken Kingdom"), calling to her from afar. She sits up, her tear-riddled expression turning to one of curiosity and fear as she becomes determined to find out just where these whispers are coming from - and how they're still being made after Hook's grand and heroic sacrifice the night before which should have destroyed all the darkness, as well as the Excalibur sword which acted as its beckoning tethers.
Over at Mr. Gold's mansion, Rumple is seen redressing himself after having presumably re-consummated his marriage with Belle, who remains sleeping peacefully in the nearby bed as he watches. Soon though, the pawnbroker grows distracted from his beautiful wife thanks to the buzzing which emanates from his cell phone; he approaches the chair by the bed, where his phone is currently resting, and proceeds to flip up the screen so as to read the text message he's just been sent. It's from Emma, and it seems urgent. "MEET ME AT YOUR SHOP NOW", she has said - all in capital letters and completely lacking punctuation; clearly the blonde means serious business - and Gold appears ever so slightly nervous as he considers the implications of her typed-out words.
Once Upon a Time makes its biggest mistake since Act III.
Emma is already waiting in Gold's shop, still able to hear the unrelenting whispers, and as Mr. Gold himself enters his establishment he makes a comment on the fact that this isn't the library or Granny's Diner or some bus station, but rather it's his shop, and unless the sign says "Open" she's not invited. He makes his way behind the counter as he says this, and Emma replies that she thinks she was invited, explaining that she hears whispering and that it's the dagger calling to her. Gold tries telling her that she's upset and imagining things but she refutes this, becoming sure that the dagger is there somewhere, under Gold's possession. After a pause, the pawnbroker leans down and retrieves something from below the counter which is wrapped in cloth: it's the Dark One's dagger. "Yes, I do," he admits as he lays it down for her to see; the colors may now be inverted but the name engraved upon it is clear as day - Rumplestiltskin. Emma is understandably shocked, coming to the out-loud realization that Rumple is the Dark One... again, and he confirms it, having hoped to keep it a secret. He didn't expect Emma to hear it, but then supposes that most ex-Dark Ones are dead, while Emma is wrapped up in trying to understand how this is even possible. Gold explains:
When you came to me, asking for the sword, I saw an opportunity. A chance I had never imagined would present itself again.
As fate would have it, a small vial of magic was close at hand. One sprinkle, and I knew I could get it all back.
First though, he retrieves a small vial of magic from this cabinet, and pours it over the sword's blade, thus redirecting the course of its fate to suit him.
I turned the sword into a conduit, so that while Hook thought he was destroying the darkness, he was actually... moving it.
Channeling it someplace safe.
Emma asks Rumple for a favor.
"Into you!" Emma exclaims after Gold has explained everything; she is utterly enraged by what he's done, while the old/new Dark One adds that Hook had no idea, and now things are as they should be. The savior exclaims further that Hook sacrificed himself and Gold took that from him, attempting to use her magic against the pawnbroker; however, he uses his own to freeze her hand in motion, asking if she honestly thinks that she can hurt him. He now has the combined power of every Dark One who ever lived, including her. She bemoans the fact that he found a loophole and betrayed them all, again, but he says that it's what he does. It's the man he is. "Well then, Dark One, now that you have your power back... you're going to do something for me," she reckons. He wonders why he would, and she points out that she still has magic, and she's willing to bet that she can get to Belle and tell her everything before he can kill her. Gold warns Miss Swan not to test him, but she warns him in turn not to test her, wondering if he really wants to take the chance that his wife will once again know the kind of man he really is. Rumple stares down at his dagger, contemplating what's been said, and finally asks Emma what it is she wants.
Everyone agrees to not give a crap about Belle.
"You're going to Hell?!" Mary Margaret questions back at the apartment, where she, David, Henry, Regina, Robin and Emma are all crowded around the kitchen counter. The latter defends that she's going to the Underworld, but her father points out the lack of distinction. She says that she's going to get Hook back because what's happened isn't fair to him; Gold tricked him which means that everything he gave up was based on a lie. David asks if his daughter knows how this works, explaining that it's a one-for-one trade and to get Killian back someone will have to die, while Mary Margaret worries about the idea of Emma giving back into darkness after having just returned from being the Dark One. The savior assures that it's not darkness she'll be giving into, but love. She's doing this right, she learned her lesson and now she's taking a page out of her parents' book; "You two share a heart, so will we." Snow and Charming are silent, and Regina decides to chime in, telling them all that Emma's plan could work. Emma insists that it will work, and Robin asks for forgiveness if he's missing the obvious, but... "How does one get to the Underworld?"
And thus we end the
The shot glistens across Storybrooke's own portal to Hell as Mr. Gold stands over it, accompanied closely by Emma and more distantly by those who have decided to come with her to the Underworld. "Do it," Emma orders the Dark One, and finally he raises the dagger and uses it to slice into his palm. As the blood pools, he asks the savior if she's sure about this, and once again she tells him to do it. Making a fist, Rumple squeezes his blood into the mystical pond, thereby activating the faraway mist as the portal opens. David and Mary Margaret wait apprehensively for the Charon to emerge aboard his ferry, while Emma appears somewhat excited and Gold just looks afraid. Robin too is apprehensive while Regina, worried for her son's safety, places a hand on Henry's shoulder, wanting to keep him protected on this upcoming quest. Emma turns to her companions for reassurance as the boat draws nearer, and that's exactly what she gets as they will themselves to smile and nod, genuinely supporting her in what she's trying to do despite their obvious reservations regarding method. Gold wipes the blood from the dagger while Emma approaches the pond's water, the Charon and his boat having come to a halt. She soon begins walking atop the surface, drawing nearer to the boat, and her parents follow, with David helping his wife onto the floor-like liquid. Regina and Henry are the next pair to follow, with Robin and Mr. Gold bringing up the rear. We see from above as all seven of them approach the mist, and then a close-up shows us their feet passing by the screen as they walk on water. "Hook," Emma vows as she and her loved ones prepare to board the Charon's boat to the Underworld, "I will find you. I will always find you." And as they make those final few steps towards their next great adventure, they are consumed by fog, clouding our vision of what's to come...
- The title card of this episode features a group of the resurrected Dark Ones approaching menacingly.
- With this episode, Eric Keenleyside (Moe French/Maurice) is once again credited as a guest star, after having been credited as a co-star for "There's No Place Like Home" and "Family Business".
- A scene (or scenes) featuring King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Merida, Violet and Sir Morgan were seen being filmed, but absent from the episode, most likely cut for time. Presumably these scenes would have tied up the Camelot arc and featured these characters returning home.
- The scene where Emma explains to her friends and family that she plans on rescuing Hook from the Underworld was reduced; the scene's full script was featured in a Tweet by Adam Horowitz.
- The phrase "swansong" refers to "the final performance or activity of a person's career"; by separating the words, the writers have made the title of this episode a reference to the series' leading protagonist, Emma Swan. It is most likely in association with this being the final episode to feature Emma as a Dark One, or rather "the Dark Swan". It could be serving simultaneous reference, however, to the acts performed by Captain Hook before he dies, since "swansong" is known to be the legendary song sung by a swan only before its death.
- The CGI opening shot of this episode is the exact same one used in the opening to "A Tale of Two Sisters", of a ship struggling against a stormy sea.
- Due to the continuous nature of the flashback story featured in "Queen of Hearts", it is almost impossible to place the flashbacks of this episode which feature adult Hook and the Evil Queen. This most likely constitutes a continuity error by the writers.
- Reference is once again made, this time by Regina, to Oz being "over the rainbow", a reference to the song of the same name sung by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
- The title of this episode was officially confirmed by executive producer/co-creator Adam Horowitz, via his Twitter account, on October 17, 2015.
- This episode marks the 27th writing credit for both Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, and the 6th directing credit for Gwyneth Horder-Payton.
This episode garnered 4.56 million viewers, showing a slight increase from the previous week. It should be noted that around 900,000 viewers are rumored to have switched off during the initial airing.
This episode received mixed to negative reviews from critics.
- Lily Sparks of TV.com gave a negative review, stating, "We've watched almost a hundred hours of this soap opera about a small Maine town menaced by purple clouds, but never has a single hour brought me such heights of anticipation and such bottomless depths of disappointment as "Swan Song.""
- Jdg98 of the Once Upon a Time Wiki gave another negative review, critiquing in particular the departure of Zelena, the way in which Belle was handled and the remaking of Gold into a Dark One. The Hook focus was another low-point; the review of the episode itself began with "okay, let's face it, this episode wasn't a swansong in any sense of the phrase; if anything it was f*cking "Hook Song" and I'm just not okay with that, for starters." It ended with, "I hate this show. I really, truly do."
- Nick Roman of Ricky.org was more mixed in his approach, agreeing, "But make no mistake: while “Swan Song” is an undoubtedly emotional hour of television, it’s also incredibly frustrating in how it restores the status quo. The more things change, the more they stay the same."
- The overall appreciation of this episode by members of this wiki's community was overwhelmingly negative.
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the episode.
- ↑ Adam Horowitz tweet #1.
- ↑ Adam Horowitz tweet #2.
- ↑ Once Upon a Time "Swan Song" Review: Headed to Hell in a Handbasket, by Lily Sparks, TV.com (December 7, 2015)
- ↑ 5.11 - "Swan Song" Review, by Jdg98, Once Upon a Time Wiki (December 7, 2015)
- ↑ "Once Upon A Time’ Winter Finale Review: The Ultimate Sacrifice Is Made In Emotional ‘Swan Song’", by Nick Roman, Ricky.org (December 6, 2015)