"Swan Song" is the eleventh episode of Season Five of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton. It is the ninety-ninth episode of the series overall, and premiered on December 6, 2015.
The dark siege of Storybrooke is underway as all of the resurrected Dark Ones target a living soul for sacrifice so that they can return to the realm of the living. With doom imminent, Gold advises Mary Margaret, David and the rest of the heroes to spend their last fleeting moments enjoying the company of their loved ones. Emma, however, refuses to give up, knowing that she is responsible for righting all the poor choices she made as Dark One - there's only one problem, Dark Hook. When they face-off with the fate of Storybrooke at stake, Hook's actions will devastate Emma in a way no one saw coming. In a Fairy Tale Land flashback, the Evil Queen tests Hook's mettle by forcing him to confront a demon from his past before contracting him to dispatch one from hers.
One stormy night, aboard a ship on the sea, a young Killian Jones, scared of the dark calls out for his father, who enters the quarters to relight the doused lamp. He tells Killian that everyone is braver than they think and if one should ever feel afraid, all they have to do is look inside their heart. A reassured Killian goes back to sleep.
The same night, Killian awakens again, only to find his father gone, worried, Killian wakes up his brother. He opens the door, only to find an old sailor coming into his quarters and tells him that his father was a fugitive and traded his sons and the ship to the sailor for a row boat; so he could escape from soldiers waiting at the next port.
In present day Storybrooke, Hook awaits a brave Mr. Gold, he mocks him for taking his powers and that now he has nothing. Mr. Gold replies that he bested Hook, Hook counteracts this by telling him that he may have won the battle, but not the war. An infuriated Mr. Gold tries to stab him with a sword but Hook only poofs up behind him to tell him that now he shows his true self; a lonely and power-hungry coward. Hook states that now he will finally have his revenge.
On Main Street, Emma and the heroes argue over a plan. David states that they need a plan. Emma states her solution; to find Hook before all the Dark Ones are resurrected . Regina states that they need to use everything against him. Mary states that Hook was forced to become a Dark One. Emma states that everything is irrelevant and agrees with Regina.
Mary Margaret argues that this is a man Emma loves, But Emma sadly states that the man she loved died in Camelot and that there is only the Dark One left of him.
Near Granny's Diner, Robin and Regina set out for the harbor to find Dark Hook and are interrupted by Zelena. Zelena argues with Robin over the custody of their child but Zelena states that soon they will be dead anyway and then their daughter will be hers. Seconds later the duo face a group of Dark Ones, after Zelena disappears.
David and Mary Margaret are also faced by Dark Ones as they rush to his truck. The six drarves are surrounded by Dark Ones too .
In Mr. Gold's pawnshop Emma signals Henry to enter, he cries for help and Emma rushes outside only to find Nimue facing her son. She immobilizes Emma and walks right through Henry and disappears. A worried Emma rushes to embrace a startled Henry.
They are soon joined by the other heroes who look just as confused. Regina asks about what happened, to which Mr. Gold states that he has the answer. He tells them to check their wrists to which everyone but Emma finds a mark imprinted on their flesh. Mr. Gold states that this is the Mark of Charon.
Henry immediately enlightens everyone with the information of the situation, that Charon is the ferryman to the Underworld.
Gold warns the heroes that the Dark Ones are only here in Storybrooke temporarily and in order for their stay to be permanent, they would have to trade places with the marked heroes as passengers of Charon, and Gold also gives a bigger warning: that their death is going to be most unpleasant.
Emma however refuses to give up on her family and asks if there is a way. Gold sarcastically replies that they have time; time to ponder on their deeds and spend their last moments with their loved ones.
A while later an army of undead Dark Ones prepare for the final battle.
Regina meets Hook at the docks and argues that revenge is not the answer. She also reminds him of their past dealings long ago to which an angry Hook chokes Regina before walking off.
Long ago in the Enchanted Forest on the grounds surrounding the Dark Palace, Hook awaits the Queen's carriage, they review their deal about assassinating Cora in exchange for a passage to a Land Without Magic.
Back in Storybrooke, at the vault, Henry, Emma and the heroes sift through books of spells looking for a way to remove the Mark. A sad Mary Margaret states that she doesn't want to spend her last moments this way.
Emma surprised at her mother losing hope is told that hope is something one should hold on to but none can escape death.
Henry remarks that they should have one last dinner together as a family at Granny’s Diner to which everyone agrees. Regina meets Emma and she tells Regina that she will take the powers of all Dark Ones in order for her family to be spared and warns her that this must be kept a secret.
Later an ignorant Belle who is unaware of the situation, meets Gold who gives her the keys to his car and urges her to leave Storybrooke and see the world. Mr. Gold weeps as he sees the mark on his wrist.
Regina and Emma enter the shop and ask Gold for Excalibur. Gold now realizes that Emma will use it on herself to vanquish the darkness forever. But he states that Excalibur can only be wielded by someone worthy.
Emma ignores this and goes to meet her family while Regina goes to rescue Robin's children from her deranged sister.
At Regina's office, Robin and Regina confront Zelena who is viewing different shades of green. Regina uses her magic to transport Zelena and herself up to the clock tower where Regina summons a cyclone to send her wicked sibling back to Oz.
At Granny’s all enjoy a family meal except for Emma who leaves a note and then departs from the restaurant as she bids a tearful goodbye.
Back in the Enchanted Forest Hook learns that his father fell in love again and had a third son. Infuriated at this betrayal, he kills his father who pleads him to change with his dying breath.
At Emma's house, Emma pleads Hook not to take revenge but he doesn't heed and goes through with his plan.
At the lake leading to the Underworld all the heroes are joined by Emma who apologizes for failing. Regina tries to talk Hook out of sacrificing them but fails.
Nimue proceeds to choke Emma, moved by love and pity, Hook orders her to stop and absorbs the Darkness of all Dark Ones into Excalibur and orders Emma to kill him.
A reluctant Emma states that she wouldn’t lose love again but he pleads with her and overcome by sadness she does so and weeps incessantly.
A happy Belle rushes to embrace Mr. Gold after finding out the truth about his selflessness.
Grieving in her home, Emma starts hearing whispers from the dagger agan. Emma texts Gold to meet her at his shop, where she tells him that she can hear the dagger calling to her. Gold confirms that he created a second dagger; he didn't know Emma would be able to hear it since previous Dark Ones are usually dead. He tells her that he became the Dark One after Killian passed on, as he could not pass up the chance of reaquiring his power and now he has the combined power of every Dark One that had existed - including Emma herself.
Emma infuriated at his actions tries to harm him, but is stopped by his magic. However, this only serves to further fuel Emma's anger; she's expreinced losing loved ones more times that Gold has, and she's willing to break his heart by telling Belle that he's once again relapsed and become a villain again. Gold wonders if Emma could really do such as thing; in her state of mind, all Emma can say is "Try me." Seeing that he can't win, Gold asks what Emma wants in exchange for her silence.
At the loft, Mary Margaret is shocked to hear that Emma is planning to head to the Underworld to bring back Hook. Both she and Regina caution Emma against giving into the darkness; however, Emma tells them she's giving into love. She's bringing Hook back, the same way they brought back David; Emma is going to split her heart in two and give half to Hook.
At the lake, Emma, Mary Margaret, David, Henry, Regina and Gold have gathered. Gold cuts his hand, letting blood fall into the lake. Charon arrives, and they board his ferry to the Underworld.
Camelot's group departure
Planning the trip
At the loft, Emma explains her plan to go to the Underworld. David and Mary Margaret prepare to join her, but Emma doesn't want anyone to risk themselves for it. Regina convinces her to accept the heroes' help. Although both of his mothers won't allow it, Henry, too, offers to journey with his family and points that he was able to find Emma in Boston when he was just ten, meaning that, if they don't agree to take him, he will find a way himself. The scene follows as aired, with Robin Hood asking how Emma plans to cross realms.
- The title card features a group of Dark Ones.
- The title of this episode was announced by Adam Horowitz via his Twitter account on October 17, 2015.
- The swan song is a metaphorical phrase for a final gesture, effort, or performance given just before death or retirement. The phrase refers to an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song in the moment just before death, having been silent (or alternatively, not so musical) during most of their lifetime. This belief, whose basis in actuality is long-debated, had become proverbial in Ancient Greece by the 3rd century BC, and was reiterated many times in later Western poetry and art.
- The computer-generated opening shot with the ship being tossed about by the waves on the stormy sea is exactly the same shot that was used in the opening scene with Gerda's ship in "A Tale of Two Sisters".
- Andre Tricoteux, who plays the Massive Brawler, also plays Argyle in the episode "Tiny".
- Charon's mark is shaped like a beetle, but has the wings of a fly.
- Colin O'Donoghue found the scene where Emma kills Hook very hard to film.
- As Hook is collapsing, you can see him reach past Emma's head and weakly point in the direction of Mr. Gold, a subtle clue that everything is not as it seems.
- The morning after Hook's death, there is an establishing shot of Storybrooke where the leaves are blown across Main Street. The same shot is later re-used as stock footage in the Season Six episode "A Wondrous Place".
- The shot of Charon coming through the portal in the Storybrooke Heritage Park is stock footage from "The Price", but with a different color hue.
- The Enchanted Forest flashbacks occur in various places of the overall timeline. (For more details, see the Enchanted Forest timeline)
- The Storybrooke events take place after "Broken Heart" and before "Devil's Due". The final scene where everyone leaves for the Underworld, takes place after the scene where Mr. Gold says goodbye to Belle in "Souls of the Departed". (For more details, see the Land Without Magic timeline)
- Hook's father abandoning him as a child was first referred to in "And Straight On 'Til Morning".
- Killian and Liam escape from servitude in "The Brothers Jones".
- Hook makes a reference to Regina's past nicknames for him; "Captain guyliner" from "Family Business" and "The Dark Swan", and "one-handed wonder", a spin on Regina's "hand-less wonder" comment from "A Curious Thing".
- The Dark Ones can only be restored in exchange for another life, which was previously established in "Quiet Minds".
- Hook says that while he found a way to cheat death, his brother Liam was not so fortunate, referring to events in "Good Form".
- Hook tells his father that he has been to Neverland, biding his time until he found a way to kill a crocodile, referring to events in "The Crocodile", "And Straight On 'Til Morning" and "Going Home".
- Hook says that he had a love that was taken from him, referring to Milah's death in "The Crocodile".
- When Regina summons a cyclone to take Zelena to Oz, she refers to it as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Zelena also referred to Oz as a place "over the rainbow" in "The Dark Swan".
- Zelena returns to Storybrooke in "Our Decay".
- What happened to Hook's little brother after the death of his father, is revealed in "Dark Waters".
- In "The Bear and the Bow", Merlin, who can see the future, recorded a message, saying that Nimue could help the heroes defeat the Dark One. This comes true in this episode, where Nimue's actions makes Hook change his plans and sacrifice himself, removing the Darkness from himself and Emma in the process.
- Hook is brought back to life, and returns to the Land Without Magic, in "Last Rites".
- Emma blackmails Mr. Gold into helping her by threatening to tell Belle the truth about him, just like Hook did in "Rocky Road" and "The Apprentice".
- Belle finds out the truth about her husband in "Our Decay".
- Emma and Hook are reunited in "Devil's Due". The plan to split Emma's heart is tried, and fails, in the same episode. It fails again in "Firebird".
- Emma and her family arrive in the Underworld in "Souls of the Departed".
- When Emma sets off to find Hook, she says, "I will find you. I will always find you." Her mother says the same thing to Prince Charming in "Heart of Darkness", and the same line is uttered by Prince Charming when he sets off to find Snow White in "A Land Without Magic".
Fairytales and Folklore
- This episode features Captain Hook from the Peter Pan story, the Evil Queen from the Snow White fairytale, Robin Hood from the ballad, the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz story, Nimue from the Arthurian Legend and Charon from Greek Mythology.
- The Underworld from Greek mythology is mentioned.
- Mr. Gold says that the Underworld will make everyone wish that the old stories of fire and brimstone were true. "Fire and brimstone" is a figurative expression of signs of God's wrath in the Bible.
- Hook refers to Charon's boat as the "S.S. Purgatory".
all pay for my mistake.
Deep down, you know I'm right.
So please, promise me you'll
move on and find happiness
and help Henry grow into
the best man he can be. That's
enough for me. To die knowing
the family I always wanted
I will love you all forever.
By the grace of the King this constitutes a document
of passage. A pass per unit. For passage and safe [illegible]
to pass through any portus* or gate and permission [illegible]
liaise to pass through the dominions of any king, prince
baron or Earl. This also is a decree to ensure
unmolested passage even though what may be an enemy [illegible]
a [sic] antagonistic realm. This document [illegible] all [illegible]
concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without [illegible]
and to afford the bearer such assistance of [illegible]
- Excalibur's blade is normally silver-colored with black markings, but after the Darkness is absorbed into the sword, the blade becomes black, with silver markings. This is best seen as the sword disintegrates in Emma's hands. The new version of the Dark One's Dagger has the same color scheme.
- When Zelena is in Regina's office, the apples on the table are green instead of Regina's red ones.
- When Belle returns to Storybrooke, the sewing machine on the pawnshop shelf behind Mr. Gold is the same prop that was used for Cruella De Vil's sewing machine in the Season Four episode "Sympathy for the De Vil".
- The mirror in Belle and Mr. Gold's bedroom is the same mirror hanging on the wall in Regina's foyer in the Season One episodes "Pilot" and "The Stranger".
- Young Killian's nightshirt is the same one worn by young John Darling in "Second Star to the Right".
- The dress worn by the Evil Queen is the same dress that she wore when confronting Snow White and Prince Charming in "Lost Girl" and during the conference where she and her allies discuss breaking into the Dark Castle in "A Curious Thing".
- When Brennan is reunited with Hook, he says, "How is this possible? I left nearly a century ago."; suggesting that Brennan left Killian sometime after 1883 (the curse was cast in 1983). This, however, contradicts what Hook says in "Family Business" (which takes place in 2013) and "Murder Most Foul", where Hook states that he is two hundred years old.
- The cabin where young Killian and Liam are sleeping, is a redressed version of the cabin aboard the Jolly Roger from "The Cricket Game", "The Outsider", "And Straight On 'Til Morning" and "The Heart of the Truest Believer". However, Edward Kitsis has specified that it is not the same ship as the Jolly Roger.
- The Enchanted Forest flashback scene outside Brennan's cottage was filmed by a pond in Surrey, British Columbia.
- The exterior of Brennan's cottage is a redressed version of the Apprentice's cottage from Season Four, which was also used as one of the cottages in the village of Camelot in "The Broken Kingdom". The wooden floor on the Apprentice's front porch is replaced by a stone floor and climbing plants have been added to the walls to make the cottage look different; however, the architecture, the window panes and the pattern of the brick stones (the ones around the window are easiest to compare) are a giveaway.
- The same set doubles as the exterior of the Woodcutter's cottage in "Sisters". Although the cottage was heavily redressed to double as the Woodcutter's home (most noticeably, the roof of his cottage has a completely different shape, and the chimney is in a different position), the door, the window panes and the pattern of the brick stones (again, the ones around the window are easiest to compare) are the same.
|French||"La Marque de Charon"||"The Mark of Charon"|
|Italian||"Un uomo migliore"||"A Better Man"|
|Portuguese||"Fim próximo"||"Near end"|