Once Upon A Time 5×21 “Last Rites” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

“Keep your chin up, there will be happiness again.”

Episode Summary: When our heroes return to Storybrooke, Zelena is hesitant to believe Hades has actually teamed up against them, and after replacing the Olympian Crystal, Hades attempts to use it to kill everyone in order to create a new kingdom with Zelena. Back in the underworld, a newly deceased Arthur teams up with Killian in order to help the heroes defeat Hades. One soul dies, while another returns.

Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time is a show about hope — a reflection of the real world, only with fairytale characters. And much like in the real world, there are genuinely dark, hopeless times. To be quite honest, when a series like this leaves us in a hopeless state, it isn’t easy to write. And it’s not something that happens often, which is what makes it so jarring and too emotional. Funny thing is, Once Upon A Time is a show that knows how to kill people with closure — especially when it’s a character we’ve grown to truly care for. But perhaps, we’re simply meant to believe that sometimes, there is no closure.

“Last Rites” was simultaneously satisfying and emotionally numbing — two juxtaposing mindsets that feel incredibly wrong together. But that’s life: where there’s childbirth, there’s also death somewhere else. Where there’s happiness, there’s also deep sadness. But on Once Upon A Time though there may not always be hope, True Love is always a strength, and where there’s strength, there is always a natural desire to be selfless. True Love is sacrifice.

It’s a strange feeling to lose a series regular without the certainty that they’ll be returning. And as heart-wrenching as Killian’s 73,210 deaths have been, we’ve always known with a shadow of a doubt that it isn’t final, but not knowing that regarding Robin is making it incredibly difficult to swallow the episode. Robin Hood was introduced to us as an honorable man who tirelessly made selfless decisions for those he loves, and that’s exactly how he passed — sacrificing himself. But how can a man like that just die without the hope of a return? How could he simply fade from existence? No underworld. No, happily ever after. It makes “Last Rites” the eeriest episode in existence for it takes and gives in ways that feel disheartening.

It was great to see that Robin’s moods hadn’t changed since “Firebird.” He didn’t suddenly go from fearing for his child’s safety to being content. And that made the scenes with Regina that much more powerful. The deception Robin faced in Zelena’s hands is painful — daunting and downright unfair. While we’re certain Zelena would have apologized down the line, but for the time being, Regina’s words alone simply aren’t enough. While he can understand that she and her sister have made amends, it doesn’t change the fact that once upon a time, she tried to obliterate them all.

Regina’s love for Zelena came from the return of her memories — when the two women remembered how much they once loved one another, it was easy to forgive and move forward. But Robin doesn’t have that luxury. He doesn’t know Zelena, the woman, he knows Zelena, the Wicked Witch. And their fight at the beginning felt organic — it’s not always rainbows and butterflies because sometimes, an apology doesn’t come at an appropriate time. Sometimes, a person’s state of mind doesn’t allow them to listen promptly, and Robin was too incredibly frazzled to hear anything remotely positive about Zelena. It made sense, and it felt right to escalate his anger further because if we’ve learned one thing, it’s that parents will do anything for their children. It’s completely natural for parents to fight when a child’s life is on the line, and though Regina isn’t the mother, she’s Robin’s partner, and that makes her just as significant in the role. Thereby, lashing out at her made Robin’s concerns and emotions feel real — it’s not fun to see couples fight, but ultimately, disagreements strengthen relationships, and we can only grow when we’re forced out of our comfort zone.

And their resolution has actually landed a spot on our list of favorite “Outlaw Queen” (goodbye, perfect “ship” name) moments. When Regina apologized again, she truly meant it. She did not intend to put the child’s life at risk when she chose to trust Zelena. But having a bit of time to think allowed Robin to see that this is a world about heroes and villains — and the greatest heroes have been villains before. Change is possible. And when he first met Regina, she was the Evil Queen. She too has done indescribably horrible things in her past, but because she’s chosen to change, he knows it’s possible for Zelena too. Sean Maguire and Lana Parrilla were fantastic scene partners at that moment — realizing not only how much they’ve been through since they met but promising a future to one another. Both actors delivered the scene with an abundance of sincere adoration and gratitude making their kiss incredibly heartwarming, and essentially, making the following scenes that much more horrifying.

It’s always been lovely to watch Robin interact with his child — Maguire delivers such palpable compassion it’s ridiculously sweet. As a new father himself, perhaps it plays a role in making his sincerity and cautiousness feel real. However, the moment he and Regina are united with the child, you knew something terrible was coming. You knew it couldn’t be that easy. And though he tells his daughter that nothing will happen now that he’s here, it essentially felt like a death sentence. But Robin is a man of honor — a respectable gentleman who’s always believed in stepping forward and standing up to those who deceive others.

While some might argue that a new father shouldn’t sacrifice himself for anyone but his child, it made perfect sense for Robin to protect Regina. If Regina died, things could have been a lot worse and while he’s willing to give Zelena a second chance, it doesn’t mean he automatically believes she’s a hero. His openness to forgiveness doesn’t equate to letting go of the fact that she still needs to prove herself. And in his eyes, Regina and her magic can protect the child from Hades better than he can. The thing about Robin’s death that feels incredibly jarring is the fact that it happened too soon. There’s always that moment on a roller coaster where it comes too quickly and shakes you up managing to make you scream the hardest. And that doesn’t exactly mean it was enjoyable. Robin’s death was not only undeserved, but it happened so quickly, it wasn’t easy to grieve. And for that reason, Regina’s shock and anger, which Parrilla delivered with the right amount of emotions felt right. How do you process such an intense moment? What do you do?

But perhaps, the most cathartic part of the episode was Hades’ demise. Never have we been happier to see a villain gone. Hades started off as a character we believed in and developed into the character we loathed the most — all those years in the underworld and there was absolutely no hope left in him. No ounce of true goodness. It was incredible to see that though for a moment she was filled with a plethora of hatred again, in the end, Zelena still chose her sister.

True Love isn’t always romantic, sometimes it’s platonic, and the newfound relationship between the Mills sisters is nothing short of remarkable. It was beautiful to see a grieving and lost Zelena choose to find hope in her sister. It was beautiful to see her have faith in the fact that her sister would never lie to her and though they both lost love, for once, it wasn’t either of their faults. And for once, they don’t have to go through anything alone. As they promised Cora, they’d always have each other. We’ve grown to care so much for this relationship and it was gorgeous to see that both actresses care for one another just as deeply; thereby, making their scenes together resonate naturally.

While it’s disturbing and unfair that Robin will never hear an apology from Zelena, it was shocking and pleasant to hear the baby’s name. When we reunited with Zelena after the baby was born, she was still ruthless and unapologetic, but choosing to name the baby Robin showcased just how much his death had impacted her. If it impacts her sister, it impacts her. And at the end of the day, despite the fact that she wanted him to have absolutely nothing to do with the baby, choosing to honor him by naming their daughter after him was gorgeous. For once, a baby name on the series didn’t make us cringe.

Emma and Regina have always been presented as two opposite sides of the spectrum. And though they’ve been on the same page for a while, neither of them are happy together. In an odd way, it reminds us of Harry Potter and Voldermort. And that’s not to say that the ladies will eventually have to duel, but in a sense, when one’s been happy, the other’s been facing some form of a tragedy. And in this week’s episode, Killian’s return couldn’t have been a more evident showcase of the fact. But because Emma’s the kind of person who’d essentially blame herself for the journey to the underworld, it was beautiful to see Snow remind her of the fact that their time there wasn’t a waste. They helped countless people move forward. If it weren’t for that journey, today, Zelena and Regina would’ve never been at peace with one another. Cora wouldn’t have redeemed herself. Hades may still be alive. Arthur would’ve still been a villain. Henry Mills Sr. would be miserable. Hercules, Meg, Liam, and the crewmen would all be doomed. Their journey was anything but a waste, anything but Emma’s fault, and thereby, Snow’s choice to remind her of that was simply perfect.

Emma Swan and Henry Mills are vital new additions to this world. We’ve never known Snow White and Prince Charming’s child in animated films. We’ve never known about the fact that the Evil Queen wasn’t defeated up on a cliff by the dwarves. And because of this, they are two characters whose storylines will often take center stage. Once Upon A Time often emphasizes the fact that Emma Swan is the product of True Love, and as we mentioned last week in our review of “Firebird,” what Killian and Emma have surpassed logic, and it seems only fitting that when the “Product of True Love” finds love, it’d be incomparable to anything else. And as far as we can tell, this is the story the series is fundamentally trying to tell — the story that’s a new addition to the classic tales.

Showcasing just how impeccably profound their story is was their inability to move forward knowing the other isn’t at peace. Emma couldn’t grieve properly because she knew Killian hadn’t moved on as he promised, and because Killian knew they still hadn’t defeated Hades, he couldn’t move forward without trying to help her. Sacrifice served as a significant theme in “Last Rites” illuminating the fact that being selfless is the most honorable road to take. Killian and Emma have been established as kindred spirits from the very beginning, and because of this, unwavering faith has not only made them more likely to trust their instincts but it’s made it easier to trust each other’s as well.

“Last Rites” was an emotional episode for most of the female actresses on the series pushing and pulling them in ways that have even managed to leave us drained. It’s a fact at this point that no one cries as evocatively as Jennifer Morrison. It’s never too much or too little but rather always with the right amount of emotions showcasing that she’s so incredibly in tune with her character, it feels seemingly effortless. Emma is physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained, but she can’t slow down because she knows in the depths of her soul, something’s off. If Killian had actually moved forward, she would’ve felt that, and despite the number of times she was told to let go and grieve, she knew she couldn’t until he did.

It’s constantly fascinating to see just how much power the book has, and its presence in “Last Rites” may have resulted in its most gorgeous appearance to date. With the unlikely help of a newly deceased King Arthur, Killian finds the missing pages in Hades’ story, puts them back in the book and helps Emma and the heroes defeat the god of death.

The slightest ounce of hope can work wonders, and with it, Killian not only authenticates just how far he has come from the hopeless man we once knew, but he corroborates his heroic status by choosing to see the bright side. Bookmarked on the page where they had their first dance, a heartbroken Emma manages to smile a bit remembering the moment when she felt like a princess for the very first time — a moment where she finally belonged. A moment where despite the fact that she was far away from home, she was safe in the arms of someone who looked at her as though she was the world and guided her with unparalleled benevolence. Morrison not only delivered Emma’s brief and quiet happiness with the right amount of emotions, but when she realizes it’s breaking her even further, the quick shift of emotions was perfect. If she continued going down memory lane, she’d lose herself.

However, when the storybook pages have begun turning, slight astonishment was interchanged with hope. Realizing Killian had been searching just as she had was a calming thought. Worlds apart, but they were together again. And for a moment, Emma could breathe again. She could smile knowing just how kindred they truly are.

No matter how many times her mom and dad tried to convince her to take time to grieve properly, Emma couldn’t do so until Hades was finally defeated. Taking rum to his grave was heartbreakingly emotional, but top it off with Morrison’s incredibly raw cries, and we’re left ugly crying. It’s always phenomenal to see a callback to their very first meeting with Killian taking care of her wounds using rum, and Emma leaving a flask behind because she feels he’d love the smell more than roses. In this way, she was choosing to heal him. A gorgeous display of how far they’ve come by healing each other’s wounds. And now there’s nothing left to do but cry — a solid, heartbreaking, and paralyzing performance that Morrison delivered masterfully.

Can we all agree that this has been the best reunion scene of all time? Granted it came at an extremely depressing place and time, but nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that it was beautifully and profoundly heartfelt. It is now a fact that no two actors on this show deliver incandescent happiness and vulnerability the way Morrison and O’Donoghue do. The colossal extent of encompassing emotions both Killian and Emma were filled with was captivatingly stunning. Watching Emma run to Killian though she hadn’t exactly processed how he was back was plainly, simply picturesque. Additionally, the unparalleled elation Morrison and O’Donoghue conveyed as Emma kissed every inch of Killian’s face while he tried to explain his return was unequivocally adorable. When Killian died, a part of Emma did too, but as they treasured one another with embraces and kisses, the immaculate bliss and wonder he ceaselessly inspires could be seen again. They were no longer lost little souls, they were finally home.

What “Last Rites” did impeccably, and frankly, surprisingly, was the way it handled Arthur’s story. How fitting that the man who gave Killian the wound that sent him into the underworld, would be the one to help him move forward. Despite the fact that he was hesitant to help at first, and despite the fact that he essentially killed Killian, both men chose to be selfless for one another. Killian didn’t need to save him from the demons in the River of Lost Souls, but he did anyway. And Arthur’s choice to stay behind as opposed to moving forward was beautifully admirable. It wasn’t easy to care for his character when he was such a horrifying king, but when he chose to see the underworld as the broken kingdom he could repair, it made it easy to not only root for him but to care for him. And now we only wish we could see everyone move forward, but we’re confident in the fact that King Arthur will do things the right way this time. And it was satisfying to see him and Killian respect one another. Calling one another “Majesty” and “Captain” showcased forgiveness in a way that Once Upon A Time writers have perfected beautifully. It was an adventure we had no idea we needed and one that we’re grateful to have seen.

Zeus’ appearance didn’t leave us as excited as we were when the character was announced, but what can we do? At least he made a lovely choice by choosing to send Killian back. And that’s something we’re grateful for as well.

As we mentioned in the introduction, “Last Rites” is an episode that’s left us with a lot of mixed feelings. It was an intense roller coaster of emotions. We want to be happy for Killian and Emma, but it’s difficult too. We’ve loved Robin Hood since the moment we met him and to see such an iconic character dead for reasons we can’t understand is a bit numbing.

Sometimes, TV deaths simply don’t make sense. And sometimes, no matter how we try to look at it, it saddens us. There is no positivity. There’s no hope. As much as we want to focus on the lovely “Captain Swan” reunion, we can’t seem to get little Roland at his father’s grave out of our minds. He may be too little to fully understand what’s happening, but he not only lost his father, he lost his best friend. He lost the man who’d do anything and everything for him. He lost his home. We can’t seem to get the image of arrows covered with flowers. We can’t seem to find positivity in this darkness and that’s rare for this show. In the words of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Ray Holt, “everything is garbage, never love anything”. This was a painful episode featuring an even painfully realistic funeral that drained us. Sean Maguire is one of the sweetest people you’d ever meet, and to have read his interviews where he states Robin’s fate saddened him, too doesn’t help in the slightest. We’re going to miss Robin Hood. And for once, we have no idea what could possibly be in store for the show’s future.

One comment

  1. I always liked your reviews. I liked this episode. SB and UW scenes working side by side.
    I was so surprised at how much i liked the Arthur and Hook bromance, it was all well done and why/how Hook was granted his life back, where he really belonged… always to his Emma. Beautiful scene of them working together even so far away and the emotions and reunion
    I feel sorry Belle. I do not know what is happening there.
    I will miss Cruella and the Blind Witch lol
    i feel differently about Robin Hood here – he was never a fan fave or much use.. I feel the character and actor’s acting was just not ever there, i couldnt connect to it overall . I also feel like yes Robin Hood is iconic but not iconic in OUAT show, and i really did wish their was a much better actor to portray that. I think looking back at the episodes and story and him not being there. It was no surprised, that a barely seen Robin was gone. Writers seem to opt for Mills Sisters. And very much felt this was only about pushing Regina as character.

Leave a Reply