Mar 15, 2021
Once Upon a Time: The Night is Full of Dark Ones and Terrors (S5 E8 RECAP)
Here’s a philosophical question to ponder: if someone is an Asshole, but they don’t know they are an Asshole, does that free them from the usual trappings of Asshole-ism? This week’s first of a two-part special (though the second episode frustratingly had absolutely nothing to do with the first) poses this very question when we learn that Emma, in a quest to save her lover Captain Hook’s life, made him into her Dark One Twin Brother (um, incest much?). The “Dark Swan” accomplished this while, simultaneously, fully succumbing to the trademark bad hair and weird eyebrows that she’d been assiduously avoiding throughout an entire season of flashbacks.
Emma (based on her tragic makeover, mostly) knew full well that she had become a Super Asshole and behaved as such. But Hook (who used to be kind of an asshole back in the day) had no clue he’d been converted into a Super Asshole (i.e. no tragic makeover for him) and, as a result, acted like a pretty nice guy, up until the moment he learned of his Assholeism.
Extend that logic, and it is entirely possible that the only reason Emma’s been acting so sh*tty all season is that she’s really pissed off about her white old-lady bun and having to sport those wacky evil eyebrows.
Confused? Intrigued? Feeling like an evil asshole due to some poor fashion choices you might have made recently?
However you happen to be feeling, let’s review, shall we?
(I say we change things up and start our recap in present day, this time around. This way, we can experience our Big Assholey Reveal at the same time Hook experiences it, by looking inside that fateful dreamcatcher at the same time he does.)
You Can’t Handle the Truth!
When the episode begins, our boys are back in town! Charming, Hook and Robin Hood, a.k.a. The Frat Boys of Storybrooke, are banding together to sniff out that little weasel King Arthur, who is hanging out in his stupid tent with his Stepford Doofus wife. First, they confront him about the whole “trying to burn the mushroom that makes you talk to wizards” thing. Then, they ask him about Nimue. When Arthur is able to offer no helpful information about either, the Fratboys of Storybrooke chase Arthur down in hopes of beating the ever loving crap out of him, something most fans of the show have wanted to do since this douchebag first appeared on screen.
Hook gets into a particularly sexy and homoerotic tussle with King Arthur. But when he starts to lose the battle, Dark One Emma swoops in to rescue her boyfriend’s tight leather pants-wearing ass. “That was really nice of you, Emma,” Hook offers appreciatively. “I’m thinking maybe you aren’t as big of an Asshole as you want us all to think you are.”
“Nope. I’m still a huge Asshole. I just didn’t want to see your sexy body bruised by stupid Arthur and his stupider swordplay games, because he is clearly the worst,” Emma responds dismissively.
“Tell me now, Emma! Tell me why you became a huge Asshole!” Hook demands.
Then comes the weird moment in the episode where Emma Swan morphs into Jack Nicholson’s character from A Few Good Men. In fact, I’m pretty sure she actually says the words, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH,” making the exact same angrily constipated facial expressions Jack did when he uttered that same iconic line. (Which, I guess, makes Captain Hook our Tom Cruise?)
Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
So, there you have it, folks. Jack Nicholson ordered the Code Red on William Santiago, and Emma Swan turned into a Super Asshole just for her boyfriend. And as much as I adore Captain Swan and all their eternal broody sexiness, I’m pretty sure I just set the feminist movement back about 50 years by typing that last sentence.
Captain Hook: Detective of Love!
Fully intrigued by Emma’s Dark One ability to occasionally turn into one of the greatest actors of all time, and also by the shocking and admittedly ego-boosting revelation that he may be entirely responsible for his girlfriend’s Assholeyness, Captain Hook goes on a mission to find out what happened in Camelot that turned Emma into someone who sometimes talks like Jack Nicholson, wears an old-lady bun, and has weird eyebrows.
Hook decides to seek his erstwhile enemy Rumpel’s advice on this, because the former Dark One just so happens to be the resident expert on Love and Assholeism. “Anyone who willingly wears eyebrows like that must be feeling super guilty about something. Find out why Emma feels guilty, and you’ll find out the mystery to why she’s such an asshole,” Rumpel advises sagely.
“Or I could just become Bella Swan and keep trying to kill myself so that my girlfriend (who I guess would be the Vampire Edward in this scenario) will have to save me and hang out with me, and maybe then she’ll tell me why she’s such an Asshole,” Hook explains excitedly.
“That wasn’t what I meant,” Rumpel cautions. “Actually I don’t think that suicide attempts are a healthy way to . . .”
“Thanks, Rumpel, you’re the greatest,” Hook exclaims excitedly, as he runs to go jump off a building, because making good life choices is for pussies and unattractive people.
Emma saves Hook from dying again. And Hook shows his extreme gratitude for this selfless act by . . . asking Emma once again why she’s such an Asshole. Real suave, Hook!
Hook quickly recovers from his faux pas though, by showing Emma his impressive collection of man jewelry. Because everyone knows that nothing helps a guy get into a girl’s pants (and also learn why she’s such an Asshole) like man jewelry.
Hook admits to Emma that, back in the day, he got a new piece of man jewelry every time he did something particularly assholey . . . at least until he ran out of fingers. (Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Hook’s feet, so we can’t be sure whether he’s wearing asshole souvenirs on them as well.) Now, he wears the rings as a reminder that he used to be an asshole but isn’t one anymore.
Emma whistles uncomfortably at Hook’s admission of erstwhile assholeism, and later we find out why. She also shows Hook the ring on a pendant he gave her back in Camelot, which now I’m hoping didn’t come off some dead pirate’s fat finger, because that would make the Gift of Man Jewelry a smidge less romantic than we all originally thought it was, and also a little gross / potentially unsanitary.
Hook still insists on wanting to know why Emma is an asshole, so Emma decides to show him the house he wanted to buy for her back in Camelot, in which she now lives. Then, Emma and Hook start making out, and she roofies him with her tongue, because this relationship wasn’t already sufficiently dysfunctional.
Hit Me with a Baby One More Time
At the hospital, where Zelena is giving birth about seven months too early, Dr. Whale pops by to help to deliver the baby . . . except he looks and acts a lot more like Blaine from iZombie than Dr. Whale. This anomaly, I guess, is an inside joke for all three people in the world (myself included) who actually watch both iZombie and Once Upon a Time. Everyone else watching is just super confused.
As it turns out, Emma roofied her boyfriend so she’d be free to: (1) speed up Evil Zelena’s pregnancy, (2) kidnap her as soon as her baby popped out, (3) instill all the Assholeyness in the world inside her, and (4) then murder her with the Excalibur sword so no one would ever have to suffer the ignominy of being a Major Asshole ever again.
Good plan, right? Because, let’s face it, no one really likes Zelena anyway. The only better plan would be if she did that to King Arthur, because King Arthur is the absolute worst!
Two Super Assholes for the Price of One
In furtherance of the aforementioned plan, Emma kidnaps both Hook and the new mom Zelena and locks them together in her basement. But she doesn’t do a really good job keeping them there because they manage to get out pretty easily, while the rest of the Storybrooke gang is on Emma’s porch, yelling at her for wanting to Super Assholeify and then murder the already majorly assholey Zelena.
For a town filled with reformed villains, Storybrooke folks sure can be awfully self-righteous and judgmental.
Then, Hook freezes Emma with Squid Ink, and Zelena stabs Hook and kills him.
JUST KIDDING. Hook can’t die . . . because he’s immortal. And he’s immortal because he’s a Dark One, just like Emma. Confused? So is Hook, until he watches this week’s episode of Once on one of Emma’s Dreamcatchers, which, by the way, is a way cheaper option for watching TV than paying for cable. Also, everyone knows that dreamcatchers have no commercials.
In Which We Finally Get To See The Rest of That Elusive Flashback
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, folks. We finally get to figure out the real reason why Emma wears an old-lady bun and has creepy eyebrows!
So, when we last left Emma in Camelot, she was all ready to unite the Dark One Sword with Excalibur and cut all the asshole out of her. But in order to do that, she had to light this fire. But she couldn’t use a match to do it, like normal people. Instead, she had to light it using her desire to no longer be an asshole.
A now-mind-controlled-by-Mr.-and-Mrs.-The-Worst Merlin pops by to tell Emma that she needs to give up her unlit fire thing to Arthur or else her family, boyfriend and secret lover Regina will die tied to trees and strangled by mind-controlled Merlin’s Evil Strangling Scarf Magic. This is unacceptable to Emma, who responds by pretending to give the flame to Zelena and then tying her to a tree instead.
Mind-controlled Merlin fights back by lightly choking Emma’s mom with a lovely green scarf that looks totally gorgeous on her neck. Fortunately (or, unfortunately depending on how you feel about lovely green scarves) Emma helps Merlin to break free from the mind control and take back the scarf from Snow.
Then, a newly freed Hook bitch slaps Arthur, and the latter runs away like a toddler who has to go pee pee. Unfortunately, Arthur nicks Hook with Excalibur in the process. Hook recovers quickly from the nick and insists, “Aye, it’s just a scratch,” a la Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet.
Spoiler alert: It’s not just a scratch.
Later, back at Granny’s, Emma is having a lot of trouble lighting her fire, and Regina says it might be because Emma secretly enjoys being an asshole. And if anybody knows about how much fun it can be to be an asshole, it’s Regina. Regina tries to control Emma with the Dark One sword to get her to admit that she likes being an asshole, but this only serves to piss Emma off. It doesn’t make her light any fire, except for the fire of unspoken sexual tension between Regina and Emma.
Then Hook visits, and he and Emma talk about how Hook had contemplated buying a house in Storybrooke with Emma once she was no longer an asshole. Emma admits that she’s frightened by how much she wants a future with Hook, and her commitment phobia is what’s keeping her assholey.
Odd explanations for residual assholeism aside, Hook sticks his tongue down Emma’s throat to successfully light her fire, an action of which I wholeheartedly approve.
But then, when Emma begins the process of cutting off all her Assholeyness, Hook sort of kind of dies from the “just a scratch” shaving-looking cut he got from Excalibur
Refusing to let Hook die, Emma links him to Excalibur, rendering him immortal, but also a Super Asshole, just like her. Then she takes away his, and everybody else’s, memory of her doing this so that Hook’s Super Assholism could remain asymptomatic until she has time to insert it into Zelena and murder it for good.
When Hook learns that he’s been an Asshole this whole time, he’s super pissed at Emma. So, of course, instantly, his eyebrows turn a little assholey.
And you know what that means, folks. Hook will probably be wearing a lot more man jewelry in the future . . . He may even get an asshole nose ring!
And that was “Birth” in a nutshell. I’ll tackle the second episode of this Once Double Feature later this week, because the second episode really did have absolutely nothing to do with the first, which would likely result in this recap becoming even more disjointed than it already is.
[UPDATE: You can find the recap for Episode 9, “The Bear King” here.]
See you then, Onceies!