ONCE UPON A TIME’S Mid-Season Finale Bids Goodbye to the Darkness & …Hook? in “Swan Song”
By Meredith Loftus
Just like that, we are halfway through Season 5. In the mid-season finale of Once Upon A Time, the Dark Swan arc formally takes a bow in “Swan Song.” Darkness leaves Emma and Killian once and for all, but transfers back to the hands of a previous Dark One. Tears were shed over heartfelt goodbyes and the stage has been set for the second act of the season. Now audiences are just hoping to get their hands on a sleeping curse that will wake them up March 6th, when the hiatus ends and the season resumes.
We say goodbye to this arc of Season 5 with a few goodbyes throughout the episode. After being marked by the Dark Ones and left with a grim fate, the heroes are left to make their arrangements. Rumple, unbeknownst to the heroes, has also been marked by the league of Dark Ones. Being the hero that Belle believes him to be, he selflessly helps her leave Storybrooke so she can start living her life, even if it means doing so without him. On the other side of town, Regina and Robin decide they can live without Zelena. Robin has struggled with doing what is best for his daughter, thinking what that means is having Zelena active in her life. However, he has been a father a long time and being the responsible one that he is, he wants to give his daughter her best chance, finally understanding that should be without her biological mother, who plans to turn their daughter wicked. Regina summons a little twister to take Zelena back to Oz. This may look like a farewell trip over the rainbow, but it’s is probably not the last we shall see of the Wicked Witch.
Emma also had to face her own share of goodbyes in this episode. The always optimistic Snow decides that she will not spend her last moments looking for a solution when she can use that time to spend with her family one more time. She entrusts Emma in looking after her baby brother and simply asks for Emma enjoy one more quiet moment with their family in Granny’s. Looking at everything Snow has gone through, the battles and quests have taken their toll on precious family moments, and the things she has been denied for too long. Charming once said in Season 3 that life is made up of moments and even in the midst of the bad ones, you must always look for opportunities for the good moments. This dark sentence is looming and Snow takes her chance for one last good moment with her husband, her children, and her grandson. Emma doesn’t give up that easily, fighting until the last minute trying to find a way to save them. She forgoes her quiet moment in Granny’s but she is able to say goodbye by the pond, embracing her parents and her son for what could be the last time. In this brief moment, we are reminded that this show is about family and the lengths they go for one another. All of the past transgressions are forgiven and they revel in the moment of being together as a family. This goodbye is difficult, but nothing can prepare Emma for her hardest goodbye of the night, the one that involves saying goodbye to her true love.
What Kind of Man Will You Be?
Throughout this episode, and subsequently in his life, Killian Jones has been faced with this inquiry. What kind of man will he be? In a rare glimpse into his childhood, we see that Killian was a just an innocent boy full of love and admiration for his father, Brennan Jones. To him, his father was a brave man who could chase away the terrors of the night as well as teach him that he was braver than he thought. That perspective changes when Brennan leaves his sons in the middle of the night to fend for themselves, and Killian discovers that his personal hero is nothing more than a coward and crook. It’s this same view Killian holds while Regina tasks him with confronting and killing Brennan, now a bartender in a local pub. His father has turned over a new leaf, becoming a better man after true love changed him. Having learned that Brennan has lost his true love, Killian sympathizes and decides to show him mercy, choosing to be a better man in this situation. However once he finds out that Brennan has a new son named Liam, all the pain of his abandonment comes back. Killian believed he was doomed to lose the people he loved, never being good enough to keep around. Even though Brennan tries to prove his new character, Killian is clouded by his betrayal and stabs him. However His father expresses his love for his son as he offers Killian some parting advice: “It’s never too late. You can change. Be a different man.”
Back in Storybrooke, Killian has succumbed to the Darkness as Dark Hook, believing he is the man that he was always meant to be. Darkness has blinded him to the man he became once he let go of revenge and let love enter his heart. In the same way as Brennan Jones and so many other characters, Killian was forever changed by true love when he met Emma Swan in the Enchanted Forest. He could never have predicted that he would find light in the darkness in his quest for revenge. The love he held for Milah was good but it did not radically change him in the way Emma inspired him to. With her, Killian wanted to be a better man, one worthy of the love of a savior. Killian became the hero she believed he was capable of being, even to the point of death in Camelot. So when he became the Dark One, Darkness tried to cloud that love and amplify the hurt and anger he carried for centuries. It isn’t until he is standing before Emma, the love of his life, as she is being choked by Nimue that Killian Jones fights back. In our weakest moments, love is the strength that allows us to get up and punch back. In the end when it really matters, love can overcome all darkness. Staring into Emma’s eyes realigns his perspective of the man he really is and the one Emma has always believed him to be: a hero brave enough to defeat any evil that threatens the people he loves most.
Like his father told him many years ago, Killian Jones is in fact braver than he thinks. It’s that kind of courage that shines through as he makes the sacrificial decision, taking on all the darkness and having Emma destroy it and kill him. Killian does not want to lose her, but he wants to give her a future. Emma has given him the greatest privilege we all hope to encounter: to love and be loved by someone who inspires us to be the best version of ourselves. We are not entitled to this kind of transformative love and it is hard to repay that person for the impact they have on our lives. Killian asks Emma to let him die the hero he’s become, the same death he was denied in Camelot. He wants her to remember him as her hero, one who isn’t fueled by pride or vengeance, but by love. With a heavy heart and a final exchange of love, Emma stabs Killian with Excalibur and he dies in her arms. Killian Jones died a man of honor.