“Birth” was an episode that Once Upon a Time fans have been waiting for for awhile. “Birth” provided much needed answers to Dark Swan’s motivations and creation. Long awaited reveals can often be disappointing but was Once Upon a Time‘s latest twist? Did you love the development of Hook becoming a new Dark One or absolutely hate it? Has Once Upon a Time just ruined or saved the Dark Swan saga?
The Case for Dark One Hook
First of all “Birth” might just be Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison’s best episode yet in terms of acting. I’m not a huge fan of the Emma and Hook dynamic. I’ll take a scene of Regina and Emma over those two any day. Still, Hook dying in the field of flowers where he shared such a happy moment with Emma was beautiful. There is also a nice thematic resonance now that all the Dark Ones (that we know of) have turned because of their love for another. Emma making Hook a Dark One hits a lot of solid, gut-wrenching emotional beats.
The reveal that Hook became a Dark One in Camelot doesn’t quite make for the indeterminable slog that is the flashback story. Arthur still has to be one of the most feckless and irritating villains Once Upon a Time has ever had but it did explain some things. The twist of “Birth” gives a lot more context to those very romantic Emma and Hook scenes beyond mere fan indulgence.
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It also does a lot to explain Emma’s vagueness and lack of any real evil so far this season in Storybrooke. The Dark Swan’s chilling demeanor has made this mostly a non-issue. Dark Swan was on a path to being a villain with a lot of (impressive) bark but absolutely no bite. All of it, the resentment, the closed off nature, the memory curse, worked in the end. “Birth” had a lot of questions to answer and they managed to have the answers all make sense, at least from Emma’s side.
The Case Against Dark One Hook
The problem is the twist is a complete mess when you look at it from Hook’s side. Once Upon a Time clearly had this story line plotted out from the beginning. The Dark Swan side wouldn’t have worked out quite as well if there was no planning. Yet there was not even the slightest hint that there was something wrong with Hook. He didn’t seem particularly dark or even more aggressive than usual. Hook was just regular old snarky romantic Hook.
Yet once Hook does find out that he is a Dark One, he goes from zero to evil real quick. He’s definitely been betrayed by Emma and has a right to be upset, but that wasn’t Hook talking, that was the new Dark One. There’s something to be said for keeping it a secret. The emotional impact of the reveal wouldn’t have been as strong if it was heavily implied before then that something was wrong with Hook. There should have been something though that showed he wasn’t alright. Especially since Once Upon a Time went all in on Dark One Hook, the second the audience knew.
Once Upon a Time has a notorious problem with defining the rules of their magic. The only guideline is that magic comes with a price but what that price is and how it manifests itself is pretty arbitrary. So five seasons in, we really shouldn’t take Once Upon a Time to task for not clearly defining Dark One powers. Still there was no set-up that there even could be two Dark Ones. I suppose you could argue Arthur controlling Merlin with his half of Exacalbur was it, but that’s pretty flimsy. There is an overall feeling that the reveal of Hook as a co-Dark One prioritized shock over substance. It wasn’t important that everything (or anything) made sense if the surprise was there.
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To Once Upon a Time‘s credit, the emotions do work and that’s all I really need from the show. If I wanted a show with highly ordered rules for magic, I wouldn’t be watching Once Upon a Time. As I said, the history with magic rules is shaky at best. If the character dynamics work and the chemistry between actors is there, then none of the logistical stuff matters. “Birth” was an incredibly moving and touching episode, even if a lot of what happened didn’t make complete sense. I’m also extremely interested to see where the story goes from here as long as that future doesn’t include Camelot.
Once Upon a Time season 5 airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC
(Images courtesy of ABC)