Once Upon A Time 5×16 “Our Decay” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

Love is enough … or at least for some.

Episode Summary: In flashbacks, we learn that at the time when Zelena was first concocting her time travel spell, Hades was there to help her; only instead, he fell in love, but Zelena chose to carry on with her plans. In the present day, Belle, “baby green bean,” and Zelena are teleported to the underworld where Hades and Zelena unite and Henry’s time as the author isn’t as peachy as imagined.

Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time is always here to remind us that love is not only a choice that’s always possible, but it’s also always enough. And in “Our Decay” we were given the opportunity to see two men take two completely different routes in their journey of love allowing us to fully understand that at the end of the day if love is true, it’s eternal. No matter if it’s romantic or platonic, love and only love are the strongest force of all. In what may have been one of the most surprising episodes in Once Upon A Time history, “Our Decay” did an astounding job of baring characters in a way that’s bound to permanently alter things.

“Our Decay” focused heavily on the importance of the truth. And through Rumplestilskin’s somewhat shocking confession, it allows us to believe that perhaps Hades was being honest as well.

That’s the thing about true love – it endures. It can’t be broken.

Who would’ve ever imagined that one day we’d be watching Hades and the Wicked Witch of the West fall in love? It fits in every sense of the word — they’re both vindictive, twisted, dark, and absolutely ridiculous. And in this version of the story, instead of Persephone being Hades’ for all eternity, his dreams were Zelena.

The thing is, while we aren’t entirely certain he’s as in love as he believes, there are parts of us that do. However, surprisingly Zelena hasn’t. While we all know why Zelena needed to go back in time, in “Our Decay” we learn that in order for his heart to beat again, Hades needs True Love’s kiss. Interestingly, Hades is a man that respects agency, or at least Zelena’s agency. The choice to leave right as she commanded him to was interesting. You’d expect the god of the underworld to be in a state of complete rage at a moment like this, but instead, Greg Germann played Hades with deep heartbreak. Additionally, as it turns out, the reason the underworld resembles Storybrooke is entirely for Zelena — knowing how desperately she wanted what her sister had, Hades forged Regina’s world for Zelena. This is actually something we figured we’d learn at the end of the arc, but the reveal makes the fight toward freedom that much more interesting.

The reason it’s easy to believe Hades is actually in love is that when we’re in love, we do everything in our power to make the other person happy. We listen to them. We fight for them. And at the end of the day, we put our selfish desires aside. For the time being, Hades’ choice is Zelena — for the time being, she is enough.

On another note, a mother’s love is incomparable to anything else in the world. And in unexplainably beautiful ways, a child can mend even the darkest, most broken hearts. Zelena is questionable and untrustworthy. She will be as long as she chooses to be a villain. However, when it comes to the unnamed “baby peanut,” Zelena’s love is undeniable. She’s the last character we ever imagined we’d shed tears for, but Rebecca Mader delivered one of the most poignantly powerful performances revealing a side of Zelena we’ve never seen. Zelena’s cried before sure, but she’s never cried out of love. She’s never broken with such agonizing pain.

Most importantly, she’s never seen herself as the problem. Mader made us believe that the profound love that runs through Zelena’s entire being for her daughter is unparalleled to the darkness that once governed her. Zelena’s flawed in countless ways, there’s no denying that, and there’s also no denying that no one is safe around her, but she’d never harm her child. And when she accidentally does, it shattered her to her core. When it comes to the baby, there’s absolutely no question where Zelena’s intentions lie. The choice to leave the child with Robin as she sobbed her way into the house was Zelena selflessly choosing love. Because her magic is unstable, the child isn’t safe with her, and choosing to let go despite how desperately she wants to hold on was as courageous as Zelena’s ever been. The distinctive vulnerability in Mader’s delivery was a great way of reminding viewers that there’s light in even the darkest hearts.

However, now that she knows Hades isn’t after the child and he can perhaps help her with her magic, will Zelena endanger the life of her baby again? It’s a question we can’t wait to see answered because, despite her horrendous flaws, we’re almost certain she’s capable of making selfless decisions for the baby.

Unfortunately, on the other side of the spectrum, we have Rumplestilskin — the man unwilling to let go of power. But perhaps the most shocking part of “Our Decay” was the fact for the very first time in 103 episodes and 300 somewhat years, Rumplestilskin was honest. When Rumple and Belle unite, he bares it all. He states that while he loves her, he loves power just as equally, and he has no plans to change. Did anyone else question whether their hearing was intact? And we suppose this is what justifies our hatred of him, but as we’ve said before, we love having him as the primary villain of the series — Robert Carlyle is simply fantastic.

Rumple not only reveals he’s the dark one again, but he tells Belle about the deal that was made years ago. Ultimately, we anxiously hope she chooses to end things for good, but the choice is entirely hers. She’s no longer walking in darkness blindly believing he’s a good man. She’s no longer searching for the best within him because he’s blatantly admitted that he has no intentions of improving his flaws. While love can work wonders, you have to want it to. One person cannot inspire a change in us if we don’t want to see it. In order for others to help us, we must also be willing to help ourselves. Rumple isn’t. He’s proud of this version of himself.

And as massive Beauty and the Beast fans, it breaks our hearts to say this, but the reality is, Adam learned how to love unconditionally. Power and royalty didn’t matter to him as much as his love for Belle, but for Rumple, he wants both. He knows what the difficult, perfectly everlasting choice is, but it isn’t enough for him. Some people crave power — they always will. And though it’s too soon to tell, we often wonder what’ll happen to Rumple if Hades is defeated. Long ago a prophecy was made that the boy would be Rumple’s undoing, and well, he hasn’t exactly been undone, which then makes us wonder if his second-born child could be the one? We’re aware that this is a storyline that’s already been covered, but there’s got to be someone that defeats him right?

Rumple isn’t a healed man because he’s never fully chosen love. He’s never chosen the hard path, but Emma Swan always has.  A single person’s love can bring unsurpassed ease. And as Snow mentions to Emma, perhaps she would’ve felt more at peace if she had known she was loved all those years. She wouldn’t have always been a lost girl. Thereby, it was lovely of Emma to smile and read the story of baby Charming’s peaceful sleep. It’s beautiful to know that Emma loves her baby brother so unconditionally, there’s no part of her that resents him for the fact that he gets to grow up with a family. And that’s what has always differentiated her from most villains that have had similar childhoods, while they wanted to destroy the happiness of those who have it good, Emma’s intentions were to make sure no one lived through the pain she has.

As it turns out, Henry doesn’t seem to remember how the stories have made their way into the book which makes us wonder if the author’s job is actually a legitimate task. If he doesn’t remember writing, could it be possible that the stories just document themselves as the events occur? In some ways, it seems way too easy for him to simply write them out of the underworld. And if Emma isn’t able to split her heart, could true love’s kiss do the trick? We’re certain Killian and Emma are true loves but do they need to be aware of the reason they’re kissing for it to actually work?

When love is real, and the strongest driving force, it’s easier to make difficult choices. And as Regina states, when family needs us, we must be there for them. A selfish life solely focused on vengeance will be dissatisfying at the end of the day. It’s never enough, but love is always enough. The reason they’re all down in the underworld is that Killian is family. He’s been family since the moment he turned his ship around in “And Straight On Til Morning.” Of course, it wasn’t easy leaving the children behind, but they believed they were in safe hands. And frankly, they all believed it wouldn’t last as long as it has. Regardless, it’s lovely to know that none of them regret their choice because the way these groups of people love one another is eternal. They’re in the underworld, but they’ve managed to make it feel at home. And that’s exactly when you know the right people surround you — when you’re far away from what’s comfortable, but you aren’t miserable.

Further proof that love is enough was seen through Dorothy’s determination. Much like the way Snow always escaped Regina’s schemes and had the respect of the kingdom’s respect, Dorothy is a beloved member of Oz. And no matter what Zelena does, she’ll never break her, not because she’s indestructible or as (supernaturally) powerful, but because she’s admired, and the love the town has continuously shown her, has made her braver. It is that very love continues to be the force that governs her, and thus, solidifying the fact that where there’s love, there’s immense strength.

Worth Mentioning:

  • Robin will now be in the forest with his little peanut, but we’re still not certain if it’s a good idea.
  • And speaking of Robin, though brief, how hysterical was the moment where he and Killian smirked as their ladies made comments about raising a teenager? It’s little moments like this that really make this group feel like a real family.


  1. This was a FANTASTIC review, Giss!

    I loved the way you talked about Hades honoring Zelena’s agency, because that really stood out to me, too. There was a real emphasis on giving women a choice in their relationships in this episode, which might be part of the reason why I liked it so much. The way he respected her choices was the thing that sealed the deal for me in terms of his sincerity, and I’m really hoping I’m not wrong to think he genuinely loves Zelena.

    I was also thinking the same thing about Rumple’s unborn baby and the prophecy. I wonder if they’ll ever bring that up again, or if they’ll ignore it like they’ve done with a lot of things from the “dark days” of late Season Two. 😉

    You did such an excellent job of highlighting how important honesty is—not just for this episode but in all relationships. The only way that love can be true is if it’s honest, and I’m just so happy that we don’t have any of the manufactured angst that comes from one character lying to another hanging over our heads right now.

    1. I’m so sorry, I’m just responding to this, it’s been a hectic week.

      Thank you so much, lovely. Honesty is something I value strongly so when I get to write about it, I make sure to bare it all and emphasize everything so I’m glad you felt that area was well done! It means a lot to me!

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