Once Upon A Time 6×12 Review: Drama for the sake of …drama?

You almost had it, Once Upon A Time. Before the last few seconds of this episode, I was ready to crown this the best episode of Season 6. After all, it was entertaining, the message was on point and yet, not overwhelming, the acting was as good as ever, and though the balance was off, it somehow felt like things were falling into place.

Charming’s emotional moment felt earned, Hook’s turn as the hero felt like the inevitable conclusion to a storyline the show has been developing for years. It was all good. It was time for the next step. It was time for Hook to propose to Emma and make these two men …well, family.

And then you ruined it, and all for the sake of …what? Shock value? Drama?

Because we already know what’s coming. Hook will fret over this for a few episodes, and then he’ll tell Emma. Emma will understand that the man she’s with now, the man she loves, is not the same man who did all those horrible things, just as she’s able to separate this Regina from the Evil Queen. Maybe they’ll tell David, maybe they won’t. And we will have learned nothing from this.

For all that Once Upon A Time is, more often than not, a show that makes silly continuity errors and sometimes relies too much on clichés, this is the first time in a while I’ve finished an episode with this sense of disappointment in the writing. This is season 6. The shocking twist that Hook was really the one who killed David’s father was just …that. Drama for the sake of drama. It adds nothing. It doesn’t make the characters grow, it doesn’t deepen any relationship.

It’s just an OMG moment.

And it kind of taints what was, otherwise, a great episode, with a ton of emotional scenes for Josh Dallas to nail and a Captain Swan ring that would otherwise have me salivating, because yes, it’s been a long time coming, and yes, those two deserve it.

But I’m going to try to breathe and look at the big picture, even if the big picture is kind of obstructed right now. Because that’s what I’m here for – to point out the good, and the bad. Plus the weird. And sometimes the nonsensical.

So, let us delve into “Murder Most Foul,” and examine the Captain Charming adventure, the whole mess with Robin and where exactly all of this is going.

DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

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To begin with, let us dispense with the notion that this changes anything about Killian. It doesn’t. He didn’t kill David’s father, though he did. At the time, he didn’t know who he was killing, and he had no way of putting 2+2 together till August delivered those pages. The redemption arc he’s gone through, the choices he’s made, the man he’s become – none of that changes because we now know one of those people he killed was Emma’s grandfather.

Why, you ask? Well, I’m tempted to say because it just doesn’t – it happened many, many years ago, after all, but I’ll explain my reasoning anyway. It doesn’t especially, and most importantly, because of Hook’s reaction to the knowledge.

How does Hook react? He feels guilt, obviously. He pulls out the ring, the one thing he’s dreamed about for ages, his happy ending taken corporal form and you can sort of see that he reconsiders whether he should even propose. And just the fact that he can feel all of this means that he’s not Captain Hook anymore – he’s not the man who committed that murder. He’s changed. He cares. Not just about what he did, but about the people he hurt with his actions.

Obviously, we already knew he’d changed. This revelation feels like retreading on old ground, but here we are, and we might as well make the best of it. After all, you can’t really appreciate how far a character has come till you’ve seen him at his lowest. That moment, with David’s father, that was Hook the ruthless pirate. The worst side of him. This – Killian Jones, is the best. He’s come a long way.

And yet, that doesn’t mean this is a bombshell the show can just drop and never mention again. No, it needs to be addressed. Not just with Emma, though I have a feeling Hook will confide in Emma before he dares to confide in David. But it needs to be addressed with David too, because Killian clearly respects him, even cares about him and you can’t go on with your life, can’t ever truly be happy or at peace if you’re keeping a secret like that from someone you care for.

David has always been a voice of reason – he’s always been the embodiment of Prince Charming, even if he wasn’t born a prince and Snow would argue that he wasn’t even that charming in the first place. In this episode, when he needed someone to pull him back from the edge, to keep him from doing something unforgivable, Killian was there. A revelation like this will be hard – on David, on their friendship, but if this show has taught us anything is that the truth is always preferable to lies and that these characters are really, really selfless, kind and understanding people who can, and will get through something like this.

What was it that David said: “With a little bit of hope, nothing can tear this family apart?” They’re going to have to prove it now.

But hey, they forgave Regina. That says it all.

SWITCHEROO

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The thing about heroes is that they’re not perfect. They’re not meant to be perfect. Perfection wouldn’t be in the job description for a hero, if such a thing were to exist. Being a hero is not about doing the right thing all the time, it’s not black and white. Instead, being a hero is about trying, each and every day.

Which, in a way, ties into Robert and what he did at the end. He wasn’t a bad man, and maybe he wasn’t the best father or husband he could have been, but he tried. And though Charming would have probably preferred a happy ending, just knowing that he tried means something.

Sometimes, being a hero is also about having someone to pull you back from the edge. In this case, for David, that person was Hook. Killian. The former pirate he abhorred and now he respects, now he cares for. The man who’s, officially, going to become part of his family.

(He is. Don’t let the drop of momentary angst distract you from the goal. He is.)

David is no less of a hero because, this time, he wanted revenge instead of justice, and Killian is not less of a hero because, all those years ago, he was…well, a villain. Yes, David was about to do something he would have regretted forever. Yes, if Killian hadn’t stopped him, he would have. Does that make David a villain? No.

Yes, Killian did a whole host of villainous things in the past. We knew this already. Does that mean he can’t be a redeemed man in the present? Of course not.

Sometimes being a hero is about making the right choice. Sometimes being a hero is about knowing that you made the wrong choice, and trying every day to be better. And sometimes being a hero is about surrounding yourself with people that will push you towards the right choice, even when you don’t want to listen to reason.

The Captain Charming adventure might not have ended the way we wanted it to (looking at you, Once Upon A Time writers), but that doesn’t mean the message we learned from it as any less important, that doesn’t mean that Charming’s approval and Hook’s place in the makeshift family these people have built together is any less assured. It just means life sucks sometimes. But, when faced with that inevitability, what do heroes do?

They keep fighting.

THE RING

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I’ve been speculating a Captain Swan engagement was coming before it was fashionable to do so, and I’m going to take this moment to gloat and say I was right. The writing was on the wall. After taking Emma through a journey, getting her to a point where she accepted that she deserved this, where she was no longer afraid, and where she finally realized that happiness was something that could be achieved if she only reached for it, this was, of course, the next logical step. Hook, after all, has been ready for a while.

The thing with Hook is – he’s both a modern man and a very antiquated soul. He believes in Emma’s independence and he would never question her strength, would never stand in her way, but yet, he still needs to go through the rather old-fashioned notion of asking her father for a blessing, not because he thinks Emma would need it, but because he understands that marrying Emma is not just marrying Emma. She’s a package deal. She comes with Henry, her parents, baby Charming (ha, you thought I was going to use his name) and even Regina.




Marrying her means marrying all of them, in various degrees. It means officially becoming part of this family. And so what he’s asking David is not really – do I have your permission to marry your daughter, what he’s asking is: will you accept me as part of your family?

And in this regards, David’s answer couldn’t be more obvious. Yes. Because Hook already is part of the family – the ring is just a formality. And though the last twist might have thrown a wrench into our proposal plans (for like, two or three episodes, tops), that just means we get more time to speculate on how he’d do it.

What would you prefer? On the deck of the Jolly Roger? On a quiet moment at home, alone together? Candlelight dinner? I have always been partial to quiet moments – but Hook doesn’t really seem like the quiet moment type, does he? He seems like he’d want to go all out.

Unless, of course, the sheer relief he feels after confessing what he did and being forgiven leads him to just blurt it out. Another possibility. Either way, a proposal is coming. And, if I’m Captain Swan, a wedding is coming right on the heels of that. With all issues out the way, why would they even wait?

ROBIN OF LOCKSLEY

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I can already feel my heart sort of breaking for the possibilities – and that just takes me back to my last big disappointment with the writers of Once Upon A Time: the treatment of Robin Hood.

His death was atrocious, but the way the character was treated for the two seasons before that was at least as atrocious, if not worse. Everything that Robin has gone through for the past three seasons or so has been about Regina, and when they brought him back from the wish-real, I sort of hoped this time, this storyline could be about him.

At least in that regard, it feels like I’m going to get my wish – but it all feels so anticlimactic that I’m not even sure my wish was really what I wanted in the first place. I’ve jedi-mind tricked myself. Maybe what I wanted, what I’ve always wanted, is for Regina to find peace, whether that is with a man at her side or not. Maybe what I always wanted was to have a chance to see this character that I always adored so much grow into the man he could have been.

Back then, in season three, when these two first met, I really wanted them together. I felt the spark; I saw the beginnings of a good story. I wanted the writers to make good on that promise. They didn’t. And now, it feels like what I’m getting is scraps of what could have been. And those are never enough.

If Robin is going to leave – if he’s going to be a villain, make the fact that you brought him back mean something, writers. Please. If not, what was even the point?

THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST

  1. Was Hook just casually looking out the window at the beginning of the episode or was he was lowkey worried about David and spying on him?
  2. How much hidden treasure did Hook have to afford THAT ring? Or is it like an old ring he’s been carrying around for ages? If not, where did he even buy it? Inquiring minds want to know.
  3. I thought no one talked to Zelena – how did she find out that Regina was back, and with another version of Robin?
  4. Why would Pinocchio take out THOSE pages from the book?
  5. Will the timing on this show EVER make sense? If Hook was in the EF when David was 6, how can he LOOK the same age as David? Wasn’t he supposed to be in Neverland? WHY AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES ABOUT THIS?
  6. Who’s babysitting Baby Charming? They must be getting paid a fortune. Is he even alive? Quick, someone check his pulse!

OTHER THINGS TO NOTE

  • Casting is so easy in Once Upon A Time land – just make everything that happened in FTL Rumple’s fault, and voila! No need to bring in new actors.
  • Or Pirate Hook’s fault.
  • If not, there’s always Regina. Or Cora.
  • That should do it.
  • I SEE HOOK DRINKING HIS RUM, EMMA. Ha. No water!
  • #CharmingSwanJonesMills family?
  • The Snow/Regina friendship has been one of the best parts of Season 6. It always made sense for them to be friends – more so than Emma and Regina, even.
  • Snow with the truth tea. It’s scalding.
  • I didn’t know I needed a Hook/Archie scene till I got it. Thank you, Once Upon A Time.
  • I have no decided I need an Archie and everyone scene. Can he have a go at Rumple and Belle?
  • While we’re at it, NO RUMPLE AND BELLE THANK THE LORD.
  • Ghosts never tell you what they want, David. It’s a rule of life. Or TV.
  • The level of sympathy I felt for David’s father was unexpected.
  • The legalities of baby Pistachio’s (yes, that’s what I’m calling her) custody are giving me a headache.
  • Canoeing? Really? I can’t imagine Emma canoeing. Also, WHERE EXACTLY WOULD THEY GO?
  • Boat safety, Killian! Boat safety is important!
  • Since Emma didn’t call him out for lying – that means we can assume Killian’s feelings in that scene were real.
  • Also, I’d forget why I was even there after kissing Colin O’Donoghue too.
  • It’s like no one remembers Roland exists!
  • The scene with David and Killian trying to work the spell is comedy GOLD.
  • This use of August is perfectly acceptable, Once Upon A Time.
  • God, I bet King George escaped.
  • Charming pointing out that it was Emma’s approval he needed, not his, was a perfect touch.
  • Microwave popcorn and milk duds mixed in is a thing I need to try.

NEXT, ON ONCE UPON A TIME

What did you think about the episode? Did you love it? Hate it? Share with us in the comments below!

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

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