‘Once Upon a Time’ Season 5 Episode 20 Recap: Firebird

Once Upon a Time Colin O'Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison
Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison in ‘Once Upon a Time’ (Photo by Jack Rowand/ABC)

ABC’s Once Upon a Time continues season five with episode 20 titled ‘Firebird’ airing on May 1, 2016. As the season edges toward its finale, episode five wraps up the storyline for one villainous supporting character, moves forward the love story between Hades and Zelena, and finds Robin struggling to accept Regina’s newfound love for Zelena. ‘Firebird’ also brought one fan favorite love story to a crashing end with an incredibly emotional scene that left fans of the fantasy series devastated.

Once Upon a Time ‘Firebird’ Recap:

Regina (Lana Parrilla) admits to the gang she told Zelena (Rebecca Mader) to give Hades a chance. They’re incredulous – as they have every right to be – but Regina says she’s trying to trust Zelena. This sets off one of those enjoyable to watch series of putdowns between Regina and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), with Emma (Jennifer Morrison) trying to referee. Up walks Hades (Greg Germann) who needs their help, hard as it is to believe, because Gold (Robert Carlyle) and Pan (Robbie Kay) kidnapped Zelena. Does this mean the Storybrooke gang and Hades will actually team up? Regina’s ready to jump in and help but Hades wants Emma’s assistance. If she agrees, he’ll remove all the names from the tombstones and they can return to Storybrooke.

Flashback to Maine 2009 and Emma takes a 26 year old newspaper article about a baby found on the side of the road to Chantey’s Lobster House to see if anyone there remembers the baby. She’s told no one there remembers the incident, but a woman joins her at a table and has figured out Emma’s the baby. The stranger says she has a strong sense of intuition, but she’s actually a bounty hunter looking for Emma because she skipped out on her bail in Phoenix. Emma runs off but once she gets to her car it won’t start. The bounty hunter’s booted it and Emma’s caught.

Back in the Underworld, Hades hangs a closed sign on Granny’s Diner. He meets with Gold, Pan, and the kidnapped Zelena who’s sporting a magic restraining bracelet. Hades produces the contract and Gold tells him if he rips it up now, he’ll free Zelena. But it’s a trick, of course. Gold and Pan will give Hades Zelena’s body, but they’re taking her heart. Pan starts to grab it but in pops Emma, just in time. She stops Pan and demands Gold hand over Zelena. Pan wonders why the Savior would side with the King of Death, and she says it’s because he’s helping get her family home. Gold tells her she backed the wrong team; no way will Hades actually fulfill his side of the bargain. Then Emma wonders why, if Hades ripped up the contract, Gold is sticking around. He smiles, says she has a point, and poof, he’s gone. That leaves Pan holding onto Zelena but he too takes off since he no longer has his son backing him up. Hades removes Zelena’s bracelet and she’s amazed he tore up the contract just for her. They kiss and his heart begins to beat! The ground shakes…his punishment is over and he can leave this place forever. He tells Emma there will be a portal in the cemetery that leads to Storybrooke, but it will close at sunset. She reminds him he needs to hold up his end of the bargain and send them all home.

The gang and Hades assemble in the cemetery but now the clock tower is also there with the hands moving speedily. The clock tower is actually the portal according to Hades, but Regina points out their names are still on the headstones so they can’t leave. Hades wipes them all off and Zelena says, “I told you love could change him.” Hook still doubts Hades’ intentions but Emma’s all in. The only way for Hook to return home however is if Emma splits her heart in two, which she does with help from Regina. As she goes to put half of her heart in Hook’s body, Emma doubles over in pain and Regina is forced to return it whole to Emma. Hook thinks it’s all Hades fault, but Hades claims he’s innocent. “There are laws of nature beyond even my control,” says Hades. David (Josh Dallas) says it worked for him; he used Snow’s heart to come back to life. However, David wasn’t dead for long and his soul never left his body. Hook’s been down there too long while his body is rotting away up in Storybrooke, and Hades points out even if he could return to it, neither he nor Emma could stand the smell. Hook tells the Storybrooke crew they have to leave without him, and then Hades recalls a rumor about someone returning once before who had been in Hook’s situation.

This episode’s going to concentrate on a specific backstory: Emma’s. Back in Maine 2009, Emma’s handcuffed to a bed while the bounty hunter takes a shower. She makes quick work of the handcuffs and goes through the woman’s wallet. She sees a photo that has “Tasha – Winter 1999” on the back and then takes the money from the wallet. Her escape is put on hold when she notices a laptop open to a special site that tracks people. She looks up info on her recovery as a baby and thinks the courthouse where the records are kept might have more information. She wants to go there and explains she’ll stop trying to escape if they can stop by that courthouse on the way back to Phoenix. It’s a deal.

Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 20
Jared Gilmore, Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Josh Dallas, Jennifer Morrison, Rebecca Mader, and Greg Germann in ‘Once Upon a Time’ (Photo by Jack Rowand/ABC)

Back in the Underworld, Hades shows the gang a book featuring the only two souls who ever escaped his realm: Orpheus and Eurydice. In order to escape, Orpheus fed Eurydice ambrosia, the food of the Gods. In order to get to the ambrosia, Emma and Hook will need to take a special elevator and even Hades has never been that far down in the Underworld. In order to eat the ambrosia, Emma must be worthy and to prove that she’ll have to offer up her heart for judgment. Emma wants to know how she’ll pull out her own heart without magic, and Hades helps out by yanking it out and placing it neatly in a bag. If she doesn’t pass the test, she’ll die. Hook tells her he she doesn’t have to do it. Emma makes Regina promise everyone will leave without her if she’s not back by sunset. With a final hug from Henry (Jared Gilmore), Hook and Emma step into the elevator.

Back at Gold’s shop, Rumple kisses the sleeping Belle but she doesn’t awaken (of course). He feels a rumble and Pan’s in his store. Pan still accepts his son for who he is and would like to help Rumple get Belle home but since he never got the heart promised to him, he can’t. But Pan has a plan: he’ll let Rumple use Pandora’s box to keep Belle safe for the trip back to Storybrooke in exchange for a heart.

Back at the elevator, those who didn’t step through are anxiously awaiting Emma and Hook’s return. Henry still wants to help the people trapped in the Underworld, but both Regina and Hades explain that without Hades there it will now work the way it was intended. People will deal with their unfinished business without any interference. Henry thinks as the author he can tell people exactly what their unfinished business is. Then in walks Robin (Sean Maguire) who’s shocked to see the gang with Hades and Zelena. Regina tells him it’s okay, and Hades says they all have the same goal. David tells Robin the names have all been removed from the tombstones and Robin asks why they’re still there. They fill him in on the Hook/Emma situation. Regina tells him to take the baby to the portal or give it to Zelena, because they can trust her. Robin thinks Regina’s gone a bit mad but decides to trust her judgment – against his better judgment. Zelena hugs and thanks Regina and off they go to wait by the portal. Robin’s still not sure of any of this and leaves the room in tears. Rumple shows up behind him and grabs his heart, telling him he’ll remember none of it.

Emma and Hook finally arrive in the level of ambrosia.

Back in Maine, Emma’s anxious and the clerks at the courthouse are moving too slow. The bounty hunter tells her whatever they find won’t be the end all, be all. Emma wants to know why the bounty hunter always wears a red leather jacket, and she explains it’s her armor and Emma needs her own armor because she’s too emotional. When the file arrives it only has the old article and a couple of pieces of paper. She’s freaking out and doesn’t want to give up, but the bounty hunter tells her she needs to move on and get her life back together.

In the Underworld, there’s a long line of people waiting for Henry to tell them what their unfinished business is. Cruella crashes through the line. She’s ready to fill the power void left by Hades and she wants the Storybrooke gang to stick around so she can torment them. She’s not powerful enough to accomplish that but the Blind Witch is. She sends our heroes back inside and bars the door behind them. Regina uses her magic but it doesn’t work and Cruella taunts them, telling them they’re locked in until after the portal closes. The Blind Witch says it’s payback for Regina tricking the kids into burning her in her own oven.

Back to Hook and Emma, the instructions for entering the world are written in a foreign language which Hook actually knows. They read, “Only a heart filled with true love can pass.” He doesn’t know what it means but Emma thinks it means they have to weigh her heart to see if her love for Hook is true. “True love is the rarest magic of all,” says Hook, asking her if she’s certain. She’s not sure, but who can be? He asks why she can only talk about her true feelings when one of them is facing death, and she says her armor’s been on for so long she forgets she doesn’t need it with him. She places her heart on the scale and they wait. Nothing happens at first but then Emma begins struggling for breath. Hook is caught up in a swirling fireball but instead of reaching for her heart, she knocks Hook to the ground, extinguishing the fire. She saved him and that opened the door! They figure out that was test and she made the right choice.

And once more back to Maine, Emma sneaks into the courthouse at night to look through the files. She hears a noise and is about to hit whoever it is, and it turns out to be the bounty hunter. She tells Emma she knows things and thinks her parents had a good reason to give her up. Finding out isn’t important; she needs to focus on the present. The police arrive as they’re leaving and the bounty hunter busts a window so they can make their escape.

Hook and Emma make it to the ambrosia and it’s all dead. Hades cut it down after Orpheus used it, and they figure out he didn’t want them coming with him to Storybrooke. He knew it was a wild goose chase.

Back in the Underworld, Regina’s confused as to how the Blind Witch’s spell worked so well. Robin thinks it’s not the witch’s spell and Regina realizes Hades is behind it and wants them all trapped in the Underworld.

At the portal, Hades is insisting he, Zelena, and the baby leave. There’s 15 minutes left and he doesn’t think they should wait, but Zelena doesn’t want to leave her sister there. Hades reminds her they’re heroes and they’ll get there in time. Zelena reluctantly agrees and Hades looks back one final time before stepping through.

Rumple meets up with his dad at the diner and the floor rumbles under their feet. He tells his son to have patience.

The ground is also shaking under Hook and Emma’s feet, and Hook knows time is running out. They have to leave without the ambrosia.

And now we’re back in Maine, with Emma and the bounty hunter running from the cops. The bounty hunter stumbles. Her hands are covered in blood and only then does Emma noticed a huge shard of glass sticking out of the woman’s stomach. She’s dying and tells Emma not to get caught, and that the little girl in her wallet doesn’t know who she is. She gave her up, just like Emma’s parents gave her up. The cops stop at the end of the alley and Emma makes a run for it.

Emma and Hook reach the elevator and Hook stops while Emma gets in. He says he’s not going with her and that he never was. He knows they won’t find anything up there to save him, and this was the only way he could get her to safety. She’s refusing to leave when he tells her he wants to say his goodbye without anyone watching. He also tells her they had more time together than they ever thought they would and that she needs to let him go like she should have in Camelot. He makes her promise not to put her armor back on now that she removed it for him. Tears fall down Emma’s cheeks as they hug. She promises, and then she makes him promise that she won’t be his unfinished business. He shouldn’t wait for her there and instead should move on. “I think I can manage that,” says Hook. He helps her back into the elevator and closes the door. He says he loves her and she says she loves him, they kiss through the bars in the elevator door, both crying. Up Emma goes, leaving Hook behind. They hold hands until they can no longer reach each other. Hook stands alone, lost, heartbroken, and now forever without his Emma.

Boston, 2010. Emma is starting a new job as a bounty hunter but first she has a personal mission to take care of. She finds the girl from the bounty hunter’s wallet at work at a clothing store and shows her the picture. Emma tells her she once met her birth mother, handing over a folder full of information on the bounty hunter – Cleo Fox – and talking about the woman she knew. Leaving the store Emma spots a red leather jacket and dons it as her new armor, just like the bounty hunter before her.

In the Underworld, Emma tells everyone Hook isn’t coming back but wants them all to move on, and they tell her they’ve also been set up by Hades and are trapped. Emma and Regina team up and blow open the door. Before they leave, Henry leaves the book he’s written on a shelf so that people can find it and learn their unfinished business.

At Gold’s shop, Gold gives Pan the heart he stole from Robin. It’s a fake. Gold gave him a wine skin filled with water from the River of Sorrows. He actually returned Robin’s heart to him, only stealing it in the first place in case Pan or his shadow were watching. “Villains don’t get happy endings,” Gold tells his dad as Pan dissolves in front of him. Gold still has Pandora’s box and loads Belle into before stepping through the portal. He’s followed by the Storybrooke gang. Emma stops but David convinces her she did her best for Hook. Crying, she steps through the portal and it closes behind her.

A Quick Review:

I honestly don’t know what to think about this episode. The Storybrooke gang led by Emma went to the Underworld to rescue Hook. Now in episode 20, they’ve left the Underworld without accomplishing that mission, making it seem as though this whole plotline was a waste of time. The entire point of the dangerous trip to the Underworld was to bring Emma’s love back, but instead all it served to do was to open up Emma’s heart and set her free from her armor. Do I actually believe Captain Hook is gone forever? No. While every series is in the ‘kill a major character’ mode recently, for Once Upon a Time to wrap up Hook’s storyline and send Colin O’Donoghue off the show would be a ratings disaster. Hook’s one of the show’s most popular characters and Once Upon a Time needs to keep its ratings up, not send them into a death spiral by offing the sexy pirate. That said, the episode’s goodbye scene between Colin O’Donoghue as Hook and Jennifer Morrison as Emma was one of the series’ most moving moments. When Hook’s fingers slipped away from Emma’s as the elevator rose, followed by that shot of O’Donoghue standing there alone looking up, it was truly heartwrenching.

Episode 20 also proved to be a final farewell to Pan which, although it’s always nice to see Robbie Kay on the screen, is not much of a shocker. Pan’s storyline has played out and there are plenty of intriguing supporting characters to focus on instead. And while Regina was right to trust her sister, ‘Firebird’ showed that act caused a major – and maybe irreparable – rift between she and Robin. Could this be a setup for Robin to turn from friend to foe of the Storybrooke gang? It’ll be interesting to see where they take that particular storyline.

There are still a lot of strings left dangling, with only a couple of episodes left to go. Hopefully, the final answer as to Hook’s fate won’t be part of this season’s cliffhanger. Been there, done that – time to shift the finale focus to a new character in danger.

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