‘Once Upon A Time’ 5X21 Review “Last Rites”

I don’t even know how to feel. Do I feel happy? Do I feel sad? Do I feel disappointed? Do I feel hopeful? Is it possible to feel all the things at once, to be a mess of hopes and dreams and desires? To want to so much, to need so much that you don’t know which was is up and which way is down?

Of course it is.

This show has made us feel things before. Some of them have been bad; some of them have been good. But, even when we’ve been mad, even when we’ve raged, we’ve always felt like things made some sort of twisted sense. We understood the reasoning, even if we didn’t like the results. We saw the logic, even when there were flaws in the execution.

Not today.

Robin Hood deserved better. I almost hesitate to use this line, as  it’s been used so much lately that it’s almost lost its punch, but yes, Robin Hood deserved better. Regina deserved better. Outlaw Queen fans deserved better. Hell, all of us did.

If this is the end (and I might have lit a few candles to the possibility that it’s not), then Once Upon A Time has failed us all. Which is why I’m going to choose to believe it’s not. That it can’t be. That it’s just too simple, too neat. I’m going to choose to believe that a show about happy endings and hope won’t deprive us of both. I’m going to choose to see the good.

Let’s hope my faith is rewarded.


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In a way, it’s easy to look at Zelena from the outside and repeat the oft-mentioned phrase. Because, yes, love is blind. Often deaf as well. We see what we want to see. We believe what we want to believe. We’re all guilty of it. It’s half love/half self-protection. In Zelena’s case, being wrong about Hades it not just being wrong about Hades, it’s being wrong about herself.

She, the woman who has never felt loved, the one who wasn’t enough for her birth mother, or for her adoptive parents, wants to believe she can change a man. It’s not just about her love, or his love, her predicament ties back to who she is as a person, to her fears, to her childhood. If she isn’t good enough to do this, then she just isn’t good enough.

And that’s a lie – we are never what other people see in us. We, like Zelena, need to understand that self-worth is not an outside thing, its inside. It’s us. It’s doing the right thing, despite our fears, despite our pain …despite our love. It’s what Zelena did when she ended Hades. The easy reading would be that she chose her sister over her love, but that’s oversimplifying.  She wasn’t choosing Regina in that particular moment, no. She was choosing herself. And that’s always the most important choice you can make.


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This might get a bit preachy, but I think it needs to be said. Grief is a very personal thing. Emma shut down, refused to deal with it. Regina didn’t cry at the funeral. And that’s okay. We all experience grief the way we want to experience it. No one should demand anything of us, and we shouldn’t feel like we have to conform to anyone’s expectations. Grief is not a group thing. It’s a deeply intimate one. And we all deal the way we need to deal.

I’ve heard it often – it’s been so and so, you should be doing so and so. Or you should be feeling so and so. I’ve let it define me for so long. I lost my father and I spent weeks, months, acting like people expected me to act. Crying because all eyes were on me, and that’s what they thought I should be doing and then not crying when I wanted to because, well, because crying it’s only okay in the immediate aftermath.

Because after, the only thing you can be is “strong.”

So, I’m here to say that Emma’s avoidance, Regina’s lack of tears, Emma’s breakdown later, at Hook’s grave, the fact that she jumped into his arms when he first appeared, it’s all okay. You do grief the way you want to. Let these characters do grief the way they want to. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.


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Can this possibly be the end of Robin Hood? I’m of two minds about this. Half of me thinks it’s ridiculous, that it can’t be this easy, that it’s bad storytelling. The other half of me sees the sense of finality they tried to give to this, the message, and can’t comprehend how they could bring him back without compromising that.

I can’t decide which of these two sides I want to listen to more.

Fact of the matter is, for now, at least, Robin Hood is dead. And what a waste it’s been. We expected many things when we were first introduced to our favorite outlaw. We expected a hero. We expected a love story that would rival Captain Swan’s. We expected friendships. We expected fireworks.

We didn’t get any of those. Instead we got a character who was only used sparingly, and when he was, it was to further someone else’s plot, be it Regina’s or Zelena’s. We got a man who suffered and yet whose sufferings were disregarded because they didn’t fit with the idea the show wanted to project. We got a doting father who never really got a chance to show how good he could be. And we got a man in love with a strong, powerful woman, a man who always seemed to be a sidekick, never a partner.

As I said before, Robin Hood deserved better. We, the audience, deserved better. And now we’ll never get it.


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And now we’ve come to the only relationship this show has always respected, the one they’ve taken care to cultivate, the only one that actually works all the time, without exceptions – Captain Swan. Did anyone ever doubt these two were going to be reunited? If you did, shame on you. Because this is TRUE LOVE. Shout it from the rooftops – TRUE LOVE! And death cannot stop true love; it can only delay it for a while.

But you want to know what I really appreciated about Captain Swan’s story-line this episode? That it had nothing to do with their love. It was about Emma’s grief, which we already explored, and about Hook’s heroism. He didn’t earn the chance to come back because he really, really loved Emma. Lots of people really, really love others, and they don’t come back. No, Hook earned his second chance at life because he was a true hero. Because he was selfless. Because he didn’t work to find a way to defeat Hades hoping/expecting to come back to Emma.

How very far we’ve come – from fearsome pirate who only cared about revenge to the type of hero even the Gods can recognize and grant favors to. And how very far we’ve come for Emma, from a woman who didn’t know how to love, to a woman open enough to love and lose. To accept. To do what’s best. To go on despite the pain.

There is no happily ever after in this show that doesn’t include these two – no path that doesn’t end with Emma and Hook together. And that’s not just okay, no, that’s great. That’s why we keep watching. Why we keep the faith. Why, even when the show throws curve-balls at us, we still believe in hope, love, and happily ever afters.

Other things:

  • How old is baby Charming supposed to be again? And am I ever going to find his given name not weird?
  • The answer to the later is probably no.
  • Isn’t it amazing how good Jennifer Morrison and Ginnifer Goodwin are at playing mother and daughter? They’re almost the same age! May they get more chances to explore this relationship next season.
  • The Killian/Arthur adventure that we got this episode almost makes up for the fact that Arthur was an ass for most of the season. Almost.
  • “Denial. Grief. Anger. Can we just get to acceptance?” Oh, my sassy love, Killian Jones.
  • Belle’s father is almost as bad as Rumple. Wait, hes’ worse. At least Rumple is mostly upfront about the fact that he’s a villain. This man cares more about his issues with Rumple than he cares about Belle.
  • Why didn’t Hades just destroy the pages? I’d make a far better villain than half the villains I’d see on TV, just by the fact that I’d destroy anything and everything that could be used against me.
  • The show did Robin a disservice by doing away with his history with Zelena. She took advantage of him. She never even apologized. The fact that they made him seemingly forgive her is ridiculous.
  • Older brother looks gooooood. The Underworld hasn’t been kind to Hades’s skin at all. Talk about premature aging.


Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.

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