'Once Upon a Time' 5x12 review: 'Souls of the Departed'

Once Upon a Time returned on March 6 to premiere the second half of its fifth season, with much anticipation.

Not only was this midseason premiere the show’s 100th episode, but it also debuted the realm of the Underworld. When the show left off, Hook had just sacrificed himself for the good of the group. His soul subsequently traveled to the land of Hades, which is incidentally much like purgatory. As Cora (Barbara Hershey) explained to Regina, it is a place for souls with unfinished business, but one that they can leave for a worse place or a better one.

Part of the reason a trip to the underworld was so exciting for Once Upon a Time fans was the opportunity to see deceased characters able to interact with the core group in the current time line, not just in flashbacks. There has been much speculation as to who would be included, and when they might pop up.

After hearing that Milah (Rachel Shelley) would be returning to the show, many fans wondered if Neal (Michael Raymond-James) would also make an appearance. Their curiosity was baited when an Instagram photo of “Neal’s Warning” was leaked by one of the composers, as reported by International Business Times. Even though the image was deleted, the secret was out and fans were sated with his appearance early on in the episode.

Who’s there?

Neal appeared to warn Emma not to follow through with her plan as it would not work out the way she hoped. He explained to her that he was not in the Underworld, because he had no unfinished business. Rather, he is someplace happy. That’s good, but you could see the conflict and pain in her eyes. The SwanFire feels were almost too much to bear, but did she listen? Nope! And after Hook she went.

After disembarking from Charon’s boat, the gang realize that they are in an alternate Storybrooke, but as Regina pointed out, it’s not in Maine. Shortly after arriving, they agreed to split up to try and find Hook faster. This is where they began running into old friends, family, and enemies.

We knew that Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit) was slated to return, but all we got from this episode was a glimpse of her car. Gold did, however, remind Emma that Cruella was there because of her. Maybe we’ll see her next week, darling. Just maybe.

We did get to see the blind witch (Emma Caulfield) and Prince James, David’s twin brother, freak Mary Margaret out a bit in a devilishly humorous stop at Granny’s.

We also got to see Peter Pan (Robbie Kay), as a sharp dressed young man, claim to want a relationship with Gold. He followed his claim with a proposal that Gold bring him back to the land of the living in place of one of the others. Cheeky miscreant!

Arguably the best part of the episode was when Regina reconciled with her father, Prince Henry (Tony Perez). After helping her realize that she was on the right path, the path of redemption that he had always hoped for her, he was given the opportunity to go to a better place. Before he left though, he got to meet his namesake, and gave Regina the inspiration to help others stuck in the underworld finish their business and find their way out.

As the gang regrouped, Henry queried who was ready for Operation Firebird, which is apparently a two fold mission to save Hook and all the other souls they can along the way. Let’s just say that this is contrary to Hades’ desires. He had wanted Cora to get Regina to leave, but since Cora failed, he told her she could spend eternity delivering flour as the miller’s daughter. How fitting!

 

There’s more!

The writers of Once Upon a Time are great at creating parallels, and there was one in particular that I have to point out. In the beginning of the show, it was Emma’s arrival in Storybrooke that brought a positive change, one that was marked by the movement of time on the town clock. In the underworld, the “tick tock” of the same clock marks the leaving of a soul, and was brought on by Regina’s presence.

In a flashback to one of Regina’s birthdays as the Evil Queen, her father’s entrapment in Wonderland was explained. In case you don’t remember, in the first season, Regina has Jefferson take her to Wonderland to retrieve her father. He was being kept from her by her mother, whom she had banished there. To bring her father back, she had to leave Jefferson there, which led him to go crazy attempting to create a new realm hopping hat, landing him the nickname “the mad hatter.”

Next week’s episode, “Labor of Love,” brings with it a few new characters. In addition to Hades (Greg Germann), who we met at the tail end of “Souls of the Departed,” we will also get to meet Hercules (Jonathan Whitesell), and presumably Megara (Kacey Rohl). At least the promo gives us a taste of a showdown between the muscle man, Snow White and Cerebus, Hades’ three-headed guard dog.

Hopefully, we’ll get to see even more of Regina’s positive character development and get a better idea of what is going on with Hook, other than just that he’s being physically tortured. A sneak peek shows him helping a woman, whom I believe is Megara, escape. He tasks her with finding Emma and telling her to find him. I can only guess that he knows Emma is there due to her attempt to summon him at his Underworld grave. I also wonder if it will be too soon for us to see Milah.

Please share your thoughts and theories below. Also, if you follow Once Upon a Time on Twitter, then check out our live-tweet account @celcafe_live Sunday nights at 8 pm EST.

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Carissa Shuman

Carissa is a writer, editor, and artist with a love for science and science fiction.