“The Jolly Roger” flashes back to Captain Hook’s activities after leaving the Enchanted Forest. It explains what he was doing during that missing year, and what the Wicked Witch has over on him. But wisely, Once Upon A Time doesn’t fill the hole in his heart.
- Director: Ernest Dickerson
- Writer: David H. Goodman
- Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Sean Maguire
Episode Title: The Jolly Roger
Hook has gone back to his pirate ways–almost. He and a skeleton crew are robbing carriages without a ship. In a tavern alley after a score, he’s confronted by Ariel. Prince Eric was kidnapped on the high seas, by the man currently piloting the Jolly Roger, Blackbeard. Hook and Ariel, united by common cause, go after him. In the present day, Ariel washes up on shore in Storybrooke, also looking for Eric, who has vanished since the curse. Snow and Charming explain that Hook might be able to help because parallelism, and they set off for Gold’s shop to find some clues. Meanwhile, Regina’s training Emma in magic the hard way, and Charming decides that it’d be a great idea to teach Henry how to drive his truck in the middle of town. Hook does find Eric’s cloak, but seems oddly unmoved by Ariel’s gratitude. Belle does a locator spell for them, which leads nowhere, except the suggestion that Eric may have drowned. In the flashback, we see why. Hook defeats Blackbeard, who gives him one final, spiteful choice – he’ll cede the Jolly Roger, or reveal Eric’s location, but not both. Hook’s image has gone a little soft, and he self-consciously chooses the ship. In the present day, he finally confesses what happened to Ariel. She’s just as angry with him as in the past, and makes him swear on his true love that if he could take it back, he would. He swears on Emma’s name, which is exactly what Zelena wants to hear. It was the Wicked Witch the entire time in Storybrooke – Ariel actually found Eric and got her happily ever after. The Witch commands Hook to kiss Emma and remove her powers, or she’ll start killing people Emma cares about.
- True Love: Well, now we have our answer about whose heart Zelena would choose for her dastardly deeds. We liked that Hook’s torch for Emma continues to burn from afar – although that spyglass on her at Granny’s was a little much. Colin O’Donoghue’s made Hook’s reformation believable, one foot still selfishly on the deck, one foot ready to leap headlong into anything for Emma. He held down the episode with a haunted and romantic yearning that had nothing to do with his usual air of slouch and leather.
- A Good Twist: Once Upon A Time has a mixed track record with twists, but this was a good one. Just when you though it was safe to grow emotionally or reveal vulnerability, Zelena strikes! The conversation between the witch and the pirate was fantastic. They begin on equal footing, with Hook defiant and able to see through her B.S. But watch Rebecca Mader’s eyes when she threatens all Emma’s loved ones. They menace at Eye-of-Sauron speed.
- The Girls Are Back In Town: Anyone else excited to see Belle and Ariel involved in solving a mystery again? We know this was Hook’s emotional journey and all, but it would’ve been fantastic if Belle were more involved. Although, in fairness, we should’ve suspected it was Zelena impersonating the mermaid in Storybrooke. She was way too focused and on-point.
- We’re Fun!: We remember bad plots of yore where Grandpa Charming tries to bond with Henry by teaching him to ride a horse. What makes him think that driving a car, in the middle of the town, will get Henry to think he and Snow are cool? Regina’s reaction at the end about ‘unlicensed drivers,’ was some recompense for a silly plot, but not much.
- Buckle and Swash: Isn’t the whole point the mostly historical figure Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard) is that he had a massive, black beard — which he would often set on fire to terrify sailors as he was storming their ships? Whoever this bloke was, the beard was not strong with him. Nor was the duel between the two pirates and their guyliners particularly epic. There were a weirdly large number of medium shots for a sequence that needs the cutlasses to fly across frame. The shadow-fighting was a nice nod to Peter Pan but too contrived.
“The Jolly Roger” wasn’t as flashy as you’d think a Hook and Ariel team-up might be. It moves a little slow and procedurally to get to the end. Regina’s teaching tactics were hilariously hazardous, and her admiration for Swan is a great new angle for their relationship. Emma’s well of untapped power, is an intriguing development that might go away just as soon as the writers don’t want to deal with it. But the show’s ultimately worth watching for the heart it reveals out of unlikely, yet familiar, characters. That’s why any episode focusing on Hook has meat to it, and why we kind of want him and Swan to makeout. Damn the consequences!
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
How long will Hook hold out? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.