Storybrooke is taken over by Dark Ones in the Once Upon a Time winter finale, “Swan Song.” As Hook gets one step closer to carrying out his revenge on Mr. Gold, Emma prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her loved ones.

Meanwhile, flashbacks introduce Killian’s father and a question Hook must answer in the past and the present: what kind of man is he?

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Meet Killian’s Father

When Killian is just a kid on a ship, he calls out to his father, Brennan, during a storm. His father assures him there’s nothing to be afraid of and tells him, “We’re all braver than we think if we just look deep enough.” One day, he’s going to have to answer the question, “What kind of man are you going to be?” Killian wants to be like his father … but his perception of his father is completely changed when he wakes later to see that his father is gone. It turns out Brennan is a thief and a fugitive and sold his sons to pay for a boat to escape soldiers at the next port.

Years later, the Evil Queen finds Hook and enlists his services to kill her mother — after he shows her the kind of man he is by proving he has no weaknesses for her mother to exploit. She brings him to a tavern to face a man to prove he can face her mother, and that man turns out to be none other than his father.

Brennan gets a look at the kind of man his son became, and Hook finds out what became of his father after selling his sons. He was caught and put under a sleeping curse, and his nurse fell in love with him. She woke him with true love’s kiss. And where is this nurse now? Dead. But the time he had with her changed him, and if he had known her while he was with his sons, he could’ve been a better father. Hook tells him that he’s there to kill him, the price he must pay to get his revenge, but instead, he’s just going to fake his death and send him away to start over.

However, Brennan had a son with his wife before she died, and when Hook returns to him with the letters of transit, he overhears him assuring his son that they’ll be okay, using the same words he used with Killian back on that ship. Oh, and he named his son Liam, to honor Hook’s brother, he insists, not to replace him. Still, Hook just sees all this as a sign that people don’t change, and he burns the letters of transit and kills his father.

Prepare for Worse Than the Worst

In Storybrooke in the present, Hook visits Mr. Gold basically to brag that he’s about to finally get his revenge. Belle left him because she knows the kind of man he is, the kind of man who loves his power more than anything, one of the current Dark Ones tells the former Dark One.

So how is Hook getting his revenge? Well, just as Emma declares that they have to do whatever it takes to stop him, the Dark Ones march on the town and pass through Regina, Robin, Mary Margaret, David, the dwarves and Henry.

When Mr. Gold joins them, he explains that they all have the Mark of Charon (the ferryman). The Dark Ones only have a temporary pass into their world; in order to make it permanent, they need to trade places with living souls. When the moon reaches its peak, the ferry will arrive to drag them down to the underworld. Since he knows what to expect, Mr. Gold warns them that they’ll wish for death, but death will have already come and the fresh torture will be all that’s left. It’s a fight they cannot win, and all they can do is use the time they have to say goodbye.

Regina finds Hook and tries to reach him, going so far as to call him Killian. She’s not the Evil Queen anymore, and he’s not the person she was when she recruited him to kill her mother.

Meanwhile, instead of spending her last minutes with her family buried in books, Mary Margaret wants to make the most of them. Emma refuses to just give up, and though her mother gets it and hopes she finds something, she also doesn’t want her to miss out on saying goodbye since she has not been marked. When Regina finds Emma, Emma tells her her new plan: put the darkness in and sacrifice herself.

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Will Emma Sacrifice Herself to Save Her Family?

Mr. Gold sends Belle off to see the world, to live out her dream, all while keeping what’s really going on from her. She knew there was a hero in there, she tells him before leaving. As he mourns over what he’s losing, Emma and Regina show up at his shop to retrieve Excalibur in order for the new plan to work. He warns Emma that it may not work; the blade chooses who it finds worthy.

Regina and Robin then find Zelena, who has declared that she’ll have sole custody of her daughter soon, picking out the right shade of green for the mayor’s office. But if she thinks that being marked for a trip to the underworld is going to stop Regina from sending her back to Oz, well, she’s wrong. And so Regina summons a twister to take her sister “somewhere over the rainbow.”

Rather than join her family for a goodbye dinner at Granny’s, Emma leaves them a letter on the jukebox. “I’m sorry. It’s the only way I can make up for what I’ve done,” she says before leaving. Hook’s watching from across the street, with Nimue in his ear telling him, “You know what you need to do.”

That means when Emma goes to retrieve Excalibur, Hook stops her. He owes her, he explains, because without her, he wouldn’t be the man he wanted to be. He tricks her into giving up Excalibur by taking Henry’s form, which, really, is much too easy. Hook was just trying to stop her, and all of a sudden, she believes that’s Henry standing there and just lets him take the sword?

Back at Granny’s, Mary Margaret finds Emma’s note just as Nimue and a few other Dark Ones show up and bring her, David and Henry to join Regina, Robin and Mr. Gold to the river to wait for SS Purgatory, what Hook calls the boat to the underworld, as it approaches the shore. Regina tries to get through to Hook again, bringing up his past with his father and telling him to ask himself the same question he did that night: what kind of man does he want to be?

As Emma refuses to let the Dark Ones take the people she loves, Nimue stops her from interfering, but as Emma chokes, that’s when Hook decides that’s enough. What is he doing? Nimue asks. “Being the man I want to be,” he says before taking the darkness into Excalibur and turning to Emma to do what needs to be done. Her family needs her, he insists. If anyone deserves to go to the underworld, it’s him. Let him die a hero, as the man he wants her to remember, he tells her.

Emma takes Excalibur, tells him she loves him and kisses him. He tells her he loves her too and it’s okay. And then she stabs him. (Please tell me I’m not the only having flashbacks to Buffy and Angel?) As Hook dies, Emma’s back to being Emma and not the Dark Swan anymore (complete with red leather jacket) and Excalibur disintegrates. Then EMTs show up to take away his body, while Emma cries in her mother’s arms.

Can Emma Save Hook?

Belle returns to Storybrooke and kisses Mr. Gold after Henry calls her and tells her everything. “For the first time, you were truly selfless,” she says. What she wants is to be with him. But that may not last very long because after their reunion, he receives a text from Emma to meet at his shop. 

The dagger has been calling to Emma, she explains, and she knows he has it. What she doesn’t know, as she finds out, is that his name is on it once again. When she came to him for the sword, he saw an opportunity, he explains, and he just so happened to have a vial of magic close at hand. With one sprinkle of magic, he turned the sword into a conduit so that Hook wasn’t destroying the darkness but rather moving it back into him. Understandably upset since Hook sacrificed himself, Emma threatens to tell Belle everything if he doesn’t do something for her.

As Emma tells the others, she’s going to the underworld to get Hook back. When David reminds her that someone else has to die for her to get him back, she explains that she’s taking a page out of her parents’ book. They share a heart, and so will she and Killian.

Mr. Gold then opens the portal to the underworld, and as Charon’s boat approaches the shore, Mary Margaret, David, Regina, Henry, Robin and Mr. Gold follow her to it. “Hook, I will find you. I will always find you,” Emma promises.

Once Upon a Time season 5 returns Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 8pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Meredith Jacobs

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

If it’s on TV — especially if it’s a procedural or superhero show — chances are Meredith watches it. She has a love for all things fiction, starting from a young age with ER and The X-Files on the small screen and the Nancy Drew books. Arrow kicked off the Arrowverse and her true passion for all things heroes. She’s enjoyed getting into the minds of serial killers since Criminal Minds, so it should be no surprise that her latest obsession is Prodigal Son.