Once Upon A Time 5×12 “Souls of the Departed” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

100 episodes. 100 beautiful stories told.

Episode Summary: In flashbacks, we learn about the time Cora took Snow White’s heart only to have Henry Mills Sr. return it, which then sends Regina into a fury, and she shrinks her father. In the underworld, we learn that the souls of the departed found each has unfinished business. Cora tells Regina to leave or she’ll send her father to the worst part, but when Henry Mills Sr. convinces Regina to do the right thing by helping her friends, he finds himself finally free to rest peacefully in the best place.

Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time has always been a series about hope. It’s been there time and time again to remind us of the fact that even in the darkest hours, hope is never lost. It reminded us that even the vilest of villains could find redemption when they finally choose to make honorable choices. It reminded us of the fact that forgiveness is possible. And most importantly, it’s shown us that where there is love, whether platonic or romantic, there’s always hope.

To be frank, for the 100th episode, “Souls of the Departed” was a bit underwhelming and that’s entirely due to the fact that Emma is our favorite character but there wasn’t enough of her. However, other than that, the gorgeous theme of hope presented within the episode followed by the heartfelt moments made up for it all.

Regina Mills isn’t always our favorite character, but it’s fascinating to see how far she’s come. The Evil Queen, on the other hand, is unfortunately not as fun for us. It’s always the same old story with her — revenge, revenge, revenge, oh and did we mention revenge? And thereby, despite the fact that Regina shared a beautiful moment with her father in the underworld, the flashbacks pale in comparison. It would’ve been much more evocative if we’d perhaps gotten a flashback of Regina’s regrets in Storybrooke — moments where she truly missed her father to bits. We always knew she loved her father the most, but we’ve never gotten a chance to see her fully grieve. We’ve never gotten a chance to see her regret the decision — have it consume her and shake her up reminding her of just how far she’s come now given the lengths she’s taken to get here.

When we arrive at the underworld, it doesn’t exactly feel as though there’s hope, let alone light. (The orange is the most unpleasant form of light there could be.) And when Regina meets with her controlling mother Cora and realizes her father’s life can be in danger again, it begins to get even darker. Forget what we said about Peter Pan being the worst parent, truthfully it feels Cora should wear the crown proudly and never worry about someone taking it. It was interesting to see the two sides of the argument with Emma pushing Regina to leave and her father encouraging her to stay. We don’t exactly need Regina — Emma’s got powers, too, but in order for Regina to continuously redeem herself, she needs to make the hard choices.

She needs to choose her family. She needs to choose to help Snow and her family because she’s spent so long trying to ruin her life. She’s got 28 years to make up for after all. And when she was able to talk to her father by his grave, we can’t exactly say we were surprised by his response. Henry Mills Sr. has always been a delightful character. If he’d raised Regina on his own, something tells us she would’ve been just as delightful. The fact that she couldn’t even look at him, in the beginning, was heart-shattering. It felt right to exhibit that shame — as far as she may have come, it’s always been evident that murdering her father would be the one thing she’d never forgive herself for. But as all great fathers, Henry Mills Sr. had already forgiven his daughter — he knew she was too far gone in the past. He knew she was lost and weak. He knew she was incapable of making the right decisions because of how terribly she’d been brainwashed. And after all these years, he’s held on to the heartache of never being able to help her see the light. Love isn’t weakness, love is strength, and Regina’s finally come to learn that lesson.

Sometimes when it comes to Regina, her apologies feel forced — as though she’s doing them simply because she knows it’s the right thing to do, but at this moment, she’s never been more sincere. And Lana Parrilla’s performance felt natural — from her physicality to the cracks in her voice, you were able to feel each of Regina’s emotions. And what felt most organic is the fact that Regina didn’t just believe him right away. She kept questioning whether or not she was truly forgiven. She kept wondering how he could be so good. She kept asking how he was able to because what she’s done is the worst of the worst. It’s those questions and the delivery of those lines that made the scene that much more heartrending — this is Regina’s greatest regret, and she’s sincerely floored by the fact that her father’s ability to open his heart to her after everything she’s done. What a ray of light that Henry Mills Sr. is. His openness is inspiring.

But perhaps the most poignantly beautiful scene was where we were able to see the restoration of hope — the promise that we can save people from eternal suffering. Regina’s scene with her father right before he departed to a better place was a gorgeous, tear-jerker we had no idea we needed. When Henry introduced himself to his grandfather there was an overflowing of love in that scene: two people who’ve never known each other but believe so ardently in the goodness of a person’s heart. And that is hope at its finest — the belief that unwavering faith in someone can save them. Henry’s an extraordinary kid, he always has been, and the fact that he was given the opportunity to meet the good parent Regina’s known was lovely.

Perhaps, what Regina’s always needed most is her father’s forgiveness, there’s still unkindness in her heart — the “sass” doesn’t always come at appropriate times, but maybe, hopefully with her father’s forgiveness, there will be more room for a surplus of kindness in her heart. “Never forget who you are” was a nice little play on the whole Mufasa/Simba homage. (Or did no one else think of that when that scene occurred? Just us?) There is always hope. And all a person needs to believe in that is people who love them. For we know for a fact, love can shake the earth and engulf the soul in the most unexplainably immaculate ways. Regina’s got a lot of sincere apologies to give out and we’re really looking forward to seeing that happen. Tonight’s episode may have been our favorite for her character. We honestly never thought she’d get a chance to apologize to her father. It’s beautiful, in every way it could’ve been, to know Henry Mills Sr. serenely moved on having seen change and hope in his daughter.

Some fathers are open to love and forgiveness — others just care about their youth. While it was great to see the incredibly talented Robbie Kay back on our screens, we’re not entirely sure his visit’s going to end for the better. Is there really hope for Peter Pan? Just as we feel there’s not much hope for Cora, we feel the same for Pan. However, the series has proven us wrong before, and thus, we’re looking forward to that. However, with Rumple still being the dark one, we’re certain things will get ugly before we can see any light with the Stiltskin family.

And speaking of family members, King James is in the underworld, too. (Okay is anyone else really looking forward to learning what James and David’s actual last names are?) David didn’t know much about James other than his unpleasant reputation, and therefore, it’ll be intriguing to see the two of them interact with one another on top of figuring out a way to save him. But really, we’re also looking forward to Charming throwing a punch for James kissing Snow.

The Charming family is now stronger than ever and as per usual, the perfect beacons of hope. It’s downright impeccable to see the fervent support towards Emma’s quest to save Killian. He’s not just the love of Emma’s life, he’s family. And it was lovely to watch both Snow and David continuously remind Emma that they aren’t going anywhere — she needs them, but most importantly, they’ve all lost a hero who’s sacrificed himself for their protection.  And we’re definitely looking forward to more scenes with them defending Killian’s honor while reminding Emma of the fact that this family never gives up — where there’s true love, there’s always unwavering hope.

We’re not ready to talk about Killian Jones, but we’ve avoided it long enough. Kudos to the makeup department for making Colin O’Donoghue look like he’s suffering from harsh burns. It was unequivocally heart-shattering to see him in such a horrific state knowing his act was so selfless and brave. And the inability to communicate with our heroes made it that much more disheartening. Jennifer Morrison delivered Emma’s perplexity so well — the genuine fear and concern in her conveyance allowed us to see how broken she is over the possibility of Killian thinking he’s stuck there forever. She was in pain because he was in pain and the delivery of that reveal was subtle brilliance. True love is felt all throughout the heart, mind, body, and soul — even when one half isn’t around. When one of them suffers, the other one suffers just as badly.

However, we know that with the amount of hope now residing in her heart, Emma’s never giving up on Killian —  no matter who tells her, too. As the lovely Genelle pointed out (she makes excellent fan videos, friends — check them out): “It’s kinda ironic that Neal told Emma to not go find Hook, kinda like how a complete stranger told him to send Emma to prison and stay away from her.” (Original Post.) We wanted Neal’s presence to leave us with something a bit more heartfelt, but the best part of it was Emma telling him about how much Henry’s grown. Except the warning, as mentioned above, just didn’t fit.

We’ve spent 100 episodes being reminded of the importance of true love and the fact that when it’s found, you never let it go. We can’t give up on it now just because the road may be dangerous. And while first love holds a special place, in this case, it isn’t always true love –showcasing the very detail of why Emma Swan would never give up Killian Jones. It’s impossible to; no matter how hard you try, physically and emotionally you aren’t able to. It wasn’t in Neal’s place to tell her not to risk everything for true love. Ultimately, we truly wish this reunion with Neal actually featured Henry — he may not have unfinished business, but he passed at a time when Henry had no memories of him. It would’ve been an incredible scene if it had actually focused on their father/son relationship especially since it was a running theme throughout the episode.

True love is the strongest force in existence and in this world, it comes once in a lifetime. Killian is Emma’s true love. He came into her life at the time she needed hope the most and from that moment on, he’s done everything in his power to anchor the idea that she’s worth fighting for, traveling through realms for, and dying for. She is worthy of the unparalleled kind of true love that ignites flames and breaks curses. When love is able to break through walls and adore the scars away, it’s eternal — come hell or high water, it must be fought for, treasured, and chosen above all things. Emma will find Killian. She’ll bring him home, no matter the consequences, and until the end of time, she’ll adore him for the noble man he is — flaws and all because she is his and he is hers.

And finally, Greg Germann’s debut as the infamous god of the underworld Hades was superb. Kudos for what seems to be the millionth time to the impeccable casting department. He appears to be just as snarky and ridiculous as he is in Disney’s Hercules, and we’re looking forward to him wreaking havoc amongst “underbrooke.” Plus, the blue hair is pretty cool, too. Knowing Once Upon A Time, Hades’ origin may be completely different than the Greek Mythology version, but we’re still looking forward to learning how he became king of the underworld.

Though it’s only the beginning, something tells us this arc will take the message of hope to a whole new level. If there’s one thing this series excels at, it’s delivering beautiful life lessons in a fantastically realistic way. We’ve all learned a lot from the fairytales we grew up with, and we’re wholeheartedly grateful for the way this series has used them in order to help us in our adulthood.

Worth Mentioning:

  • It didn’t really make sense for the blind witch to make an appearance in this episode, but perhaps there’s still a reason for her we’ll see later?
  • Regina and Robin shielding Henry from Killian was so heartbreaking — it made complete sense for them to do so, the kid deserves to see him well and standing, but it was still so sad to watch.
  • We could spend 6,578,402 hours talking about Emma’s gorgeous ankle booties! And here’s the brand, if you desperately need them as we do.


  1. What a beautiful review, Giss! Welcome back to the OUAT fun! I’m so excited to have your posts for this show back in my life (even if work always makes me dreadfully late when it comes to commenting!).

    I’m also happy you articulated your wish for the Neal scene to have been with Henry in the context of the overall thematic arc of the episode. It was an episode so strongly focused on parents and children—especially fathers and their children—that it felt strange to have it start with Emma and Neal instead of another moment between a father and his child. But I’ve always believed Neal’s story was much more about his role as a father and son than it was about his place in Emma’s life.

    Finally, thank you for the link for more info on Emma’s ankle booties! I adore them, and I’m always looking for ways to incorporate the styles of my favorite TV ladies into my life.

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