‘Once Upon a Time’ Season 5 Episode 11 Recap and Review: Swan Song

Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 11 Cast
David-Paul Grove, Jared Gilmore, Mig Macario, Josh Dallas, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lee Arenberg, Michael Coleman, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, and Sean Maguire in ‘Once Upon a Time’ (Photo by Eike Schroter / ABC)

The first half of ABC’s Once Upon a Time season five wrapped up with episode 11 titled ‘Swan Song,’ airing on December 6, 2015. Rumors and speculation swirled leading up to the episode as it was assumed at least one character would die due to Dark Hook’s unrelenting quest for revenge against Rumple, the man responsible for killing his love all those years ago. And in fact a central character did die a shocking death, but Oncers know that dying isn’t necessarily permanent and there’s a chance this popular (my personal favorite character) will return from the dead.

Recap of Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 11:

A ship tosses on the open sea and a boy screams out in fright. His dad comes in and lights a lantern, telling him if he looks inside he’ll find he’s braver than he thinks. The dad says that soon he’ll have to figure out what kind of man he wants to be, and the boy answers, ”I want to be just like you.” As the boy falls asleep his father addresses him as Killian.

Killian wakes and the light’s out so he panics. In comes an old man who tells him his father has left, abandoning the ship because he’s a thief. The man tells Killian his father sold both he and his brother, Liam, into servitude in order to afford the boat.

Flash forward and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) confronts Rumple (Robert Carlyle) at the edge of Storybrooke. Hook tells him he’s already won but Rumple doesn’t concede defeat and instead strikes out at Hook with Excalibur. Hook says Rumple likes power more than he does Belle (Emilie de Ravin) or his dead son, and Rumple says Hook hasn’t done anything with his power yet other than a few parlor tricks.

Emma (Jennifer Morrison) leads the gang (including 6 dwarves) down Main Street, telling them they have to deal with Hook before he resurrects all of the Dark Ones. They argue over how to deal with him and Emma says they have to hit him with everything they have. The Hook she loved died in Camelot and all that’s left is the Dark One. Emma says they have to split up and stop him, whatever it takes.

Robin (Sean Maguire) and Regina (Lana Parrilla) head to the harbor but Zelena (Rebecca Mader) pops up before they get there. She’s absolutely gleeful as she says she’s granted herself sole custody and is going to teach her baby how to be wicked. Zelena says Robin and Regina will both be dead soon anyway, just as two Dark Ones approach. Meanwhile, David (Josh Dallas) and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) are about to head out in their truck when two Dark Ones show up. And back on Main Street, the dwarfs are encircled by Dark Ones.

Emma checks out Gold’s shop but Hook’s not there. She goes back outside and Nimue literally walks through Henry (Jared Gilmore) who’s standing outside.

They gang reunite in the street and Regina demands to know what just happened to them. Rumple shows up and tells them to check their wrists – they all have the Mark of Charon. Henry explains Charon is the ferryman who navigates the boat to the underworld, and Rumple says the only way Dark Ones can stay in this world is if they trade places with living souls. When the moon reaches its peak Charon will return to take the ones with the mark to the underworld. Rumple says it can’t be stopped and they can’t win this fight against death. He advises them to use their remaining time saying goodbye.

The Dark Ones march down Main Street.

Regina finds Hook at the docks and asks if he really thinks killing Emma’s family is the way to get his revenge. “You of all people should know how far someone will go for revenge,” says Hook. She reminds him she’s not that person anymore but she also knows he’s not the man he was when she recruited him to kill her mother. He cuts her off, using magic to squeeze her neck as he tells her she has no idea the kind of man he is.

Back in Fairy Tale Land, Hook makes a deal with the Evil Queen: In exchange for killing her mother, she will send him to a world without magic so that he can get his revenge on Rumple. She agrees, but says she has to test him because her mother can exploit any weakness. Hook finishes his wine and agrees to her test.

Henry, Mary Margaret, and Emma research how to get rid of the mark, but Mary Margaret says this might actually be a fight they can’t win. She wants to make the most of her time with her family, and Henry suggests dinner at Granny’s. Mary Margaret tears up after Emma asks about baby Neal, telling her daughter the baby won’t be alone because he’ll always have his sister. “Time is what’s most important,” says Mary Margaret. She makes Emma promises she’ll meet them at Granny’s to say goodbye. They hug and say they love each another.

After Mary Margaret and David leave with Neal, Regina walks in and asks if they’re giving up. Emma, with a tear-streaked face, says she’ll never give up. She has to destroy the Dark Ones and will do so by sacrificing herself, making Regina swear she won’t tell anyone about her plan.

Rumple returns to his shop and in walks Belle. He gives her something that will save her from harm when she crosses the town line, telling her to leave and go see the wonders of the world. She gets suspicious and asks what’s wrong. Rumple says nothing is wrong; he just wants her to live out her dream. She calls him a hero and leaves, and now it’s Rumple’s turn to get all emotional. Rumple looks at the mark on his wrist and then Regina and Emma barge in. He orders them to leave but of course they refuse. Emma says she needs Excalibur and Regina explains Emma’s going to take all the darkness into herself and then use the sword to destroy it. Rumple gives Emma the sword, saying, “Excalibur was always destined for the hands of a true hero.” Emma’s shocked he’d give it up so willingly, but he does so without asking anything in return, calling her a brave woman. But as they’re ready to leave, he tells them it might not work because the blade chooses who it finds worthy and it “chooses its miracles.” Emma doesn’t care; she just wants to get to dinner with her family before it’s too late.

Back in time, the Evil Queen takes Hook to a bar and tells him he has to face off against a man in order to prove he can face her mother. Surprise! The man is Hook’s father.

Regina and Robin head home and Zelena’s there picking out shades of green for the walls of their house, which she believes will soon be hers. Regina tosses the color samples in the trash and uses her magic to transport she and her sister to the clock tower. Using the wand, she sends Zelena off in a green tornado. As she’s being sucked away, Zelena swears she’ll see her again and Regina responds with, “Somewhere over the rainbow. Enjoy Oz, witch.” One threat down, many, many to go…

Belle drives toward the edge of town and Rumple watches her go.

Emma leaves a letter for her family on the jukebox at Granny’s, just steps away from where Mary Margaret, David, and Henry are sharing a meal. She whispers that she’s sorry and leaves without them seeing her. Down the block, Hook and Nimue watch Emma leave the diner.

Back in time, Hook lets his father know who he is and it’s not a happy reunion. His dad asks how it’s possible since he left nearly a century ago, and Hook says they obviously both know how to cheat death…but Hook’s brother Liam wasn’t so fortunate. Hook tells him he’s been in Neverland but he doesn’t care to elaborate on the details and demands to know where his dad went after selling his sons into servitude. His dad said he ran but didn’t get far, and then was put under a sleeping curse and only woke up after receiving true love’s kiss from his nurse. His nurse taught him to be a better man and he apologizes to his son for his actions, saying the nurse (who he ultimately married) died of the plague. Hook is there to kill him so that he can get his revenge, but he’s had a change of heart after hearing his dad’s story. Hook needs the Evil Queen and the world to think he killed his father, so he’s going to send his father somewhere far away to start over. Hook needs his revenge for the death of his love, but killing his father isn’t the right way to go about it. Hook tells him he’ll bring by a letter of transit that evening and his dad asks for two…he has a son.

Emma goes home and gets Excalibur, but Hook’s already there and he’s not going to let her use it. They argue about what sort of man Killian always wanted to be, and Hook says she was only a distraction from his goal of getting revenge on Rumple. Tears stream down Emma’s face as she asks Hook if revenge is what he really wants, even if it means becoming what he tried centuries to destroy. “If you didn’t want me to change, you should have let me die,” he replies. Emma apologizes and says she couldn’t watch one more person die, but Hook says because of that now she’ll watch everyone die. As she lunges at him with Excalibur he disappears in red smoke only to appear behind her. She tries again and once more he poofs out. She turns around ready to strike but Henry is there instead of Hook. Oh no…it’s only a trick! Hook transformed into Henry in order to get Emma to hand over Excalibur and the ruse worked. Hook has the sword and she begs him not to go through with his plans. He tells her it’s too late. His parting words are, “Enjoy the time you have left with your family.”

Mary Margaret finds the letter on the jukebox and as they’re about to head out to stop Emma, Nimue and two Dark Ones show up saying Hook’s already stopped her. Nimue says there’s no way to stop their trip to the underworld and she uses magic to activate the marks on their wrists.

Once Upon a Time Colin O'Donoghue Season 5 Episode 11
Colin O’Donoghue in ‘Once Upon a Time’ season 5 episode 11 (Photo by Eike Schroter / ABC)

Henry, David, Mary Margaret, Regina, Rumple, and Robin are transported to a grassy area by the river’s edge where they’re surrounded by Dark Ones. Hook shows up with Excalibur and the S.S. Purgatory (as Hook calls it) comes sailing in. Emma runs up, crying that she’s sorry and that she tried. Regina confronts Hook, telling him there’s no way he can sit back and watch another family be destroyed. She breaks their promise to never speak about his father and says she knows the real reason he won’t talk about what he did. Hook doesn’t want to listen but Regina tells him he has to or he’ll regret it forever. Regina says he has to ask himself what he asked himself so many, many years ago: “What kind of man do you want to be?”

Back in time, Hook has the letters of transit and returns to his father in time to see him assuring his young son that he will be there for him. “What matters most is that we’re together. We can face anything that way,” says Hook’s dad to Hook’s half-brother. Hook continues listening and hears his father say the exact same words to the boy as he did to Killian when he was little – words that led to a huge betrayal. And then the straw that broke the camel’s back arrives…Killian hears his father call this young boy Liam. Outside the cabin, Hook demands to know if his brother was that easy to replace. His dad says it was to honor and remember his first two sons, and to make sure he doesn’t make a mistake again. Hook thinks he’s just a huge liar and so he tosses the letters of transit into the fire, deciding to go ahead with the Evil Queen’s order to kill his dad. He stabs him, telling him that he’s just not worthy. As he’s dying his father says, “It’s never too late. You can change and be a different man.”

Back in Storybrooke, Nimue says it’s time and Emma tries to get it all to stop, but she’s no match for Nimue. As Emma’s chocking and gasping for air, Hook tells Nimue that’s enough. Nimue and all the Dark Ones are pulled into Excalibur and Emma cries out, telling Hook he can’t do this. He says there’s no other way because they won’t stay trapped in Excalibur for long. He needs her to take the sword and use it on him, but Emma says she’ll use it on herself. He tells her her family needs her and that he deserves to go to the underworld. “You’re right. I was weak so let me make up for it now by being strong.” They don’t want to lose each other, but Hook says she has to let him go. “Let me die a hero. That’s the man I want you to remember, please,” he pleads. Emma wraps her hands around Hook’s as he grasps the hilt of Excalibur, taking the sword from him and giving him final kiss before running it through his chest. Emma transforms back to her old self and as she pulls away from Hook, Excalibur comes out of his chest and begins disintegrating. Hook sinks to the ground, dying, while the gang hug each – except for Rumple who looks like his mind is racing.

Hook’s body is covered and wheeled away to an ambulance while Emma is completely devastated.

In town, Belle returns and Rumple can’t believe she’s back. Henry called her and told her what was going on, and this time Belle’s overjoyed Rumple lied. She kisses him and tells him for the first time he was “truly selfless.” She wants to be with him and it appears these two might have a happy ending after all.

Emma’s resting on her couch when she hears whispering in her head. She texts Rumple and tells him to meet her at his shop. Emma says the dagger is calling to her and that means he has it in the shop. He pulls it out and it says Rumple on it. He’s the Dark One again, telling her he used magic to make Hook think that while he was destroying the darkness, he was actually moving it – channeling it someplace safe. It’s now in Rumple and he says now things are as they should be. Rumple has the combined power of every Dark One that ever lived. (I take back that happy ending stuff I wrote about in the previous paragraph.) Rumple betrayed them all and Emma says now he’s going to do something for her or she’ll tell Belle what kind of man he really is.

At Mary Margaret and David’s, Emma tells the gang she’s going to the underworld to get Killian back. He was tricked into his sacrifice and gave up everything for a lie. She’s doing this for love and so she won’t give into darkness. She’s going to share a heart with Killian and Regina says it could work, but Robin wants to know how she’ll get to the underworld.

Night falls and Rumple uses the dagger to cut his palm, dripping blood into the river. Mary Margaret, David, Robin, Regina, and Henry watch as the boat approaches. They all walk out into the water to meet the boat, with Emma saying under her breath, “Hook, I will find you. I will always find you.”

The episode ends, however the preview shows the gang back in Storybrooke but now Storybrooke is the underworld. Characters who died in previous seasons will be returning including Regina’s mother and Peter Pan.

Review of the midseason finale:

The episode was extremely emotional, with all of Emma’s loved ones put in jeopardy and Mary Margaret opting for a quiet night with the family rather than partaking in frantic research to find a possible way out of their dire predicament. Colin O’Donoghue as Killian/Dark Hook continues to have his best season yet, displaying more depth than he’s been allowed to in previous seasons. ‘Swan Song’ was one of the best written – and acted – Once Upon a Time‘s in years, and the wait for the return of season five is going to be painful!


Once Upon a Time Season 5 Recaps: Episode 1 The Dark Swan / Episode 2 The Price / Episode 3 Siege Perilous / Episode 4 The Broken Kingdom / Episode 5 Dreamcatcher / Episode 6 Bear and the Bow / Episode 7 Nimue / Episode 8 Birth / Episode 9 The Bear King / Episode 10 Broken Heart

Season 5 Interviews: Colin O’Donoghue & Jennifer Morrison / Lana Parrilla / Josh Dallas & Ginnifer Goodwin / Sean Maguire & Rebecca Mader / Robert Carlyle & Emilie de Ravin