This is the River of Lost Souls. Touch it and it will make you lost. Reducing you to a mindless, tormented husk.Hades
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire, and Robert Carlyle.
Being in the Underworld means that Once can go through a protracted trip down memory lane. Next blast from the past? Why, Milah, of course, Rumple’s ex-wife, Hook’s ex-lover, Neal’s mother… The fact that she would have been living in the Underworld would perhaps have been obvious, but it honestly surprised me to see her crop up – probably because her appearances have been fairly forgettable even if they did cost Hook his hand.
I might have expected the flashbacks into Milah and Rumple’s life together to make Rumple a bit more sympathetic. By this point its nigh-on impossible, as he consistently makes the same mistakes time and time again, regardless of how dismissive his ex-wife was of him. Sure, she was pretty harsh to him for quite some time, but if we excuse Rumple for all of the atrocities he committed afterwards just because she bullied him, that’s some terrible white supremacist-type logic happening right there.
To the contrary, the flashback makes Milah – even though she was full on emotionally abusive – a bit more human. They let Milah’s dislike of Rumple go beyond just Rumple being a coward, but to him negatively impacting her life through genuinely not thinking of her feelings when he makes decisions. Not only is she negatively impacted by him crippling himself and falling out of the army, making their family, and her by extension a complete joke, but he is unable to save Bae when he sorely needs help. Milah, in turn, needs Bae to live, as that’s the only reason for her to stay in this marriage while she is full of hatred for Rumple.
Rumple’s deal to sacrifice his second child in exchange for a cure to Bae’s poison is incredibly selfish, and it certainly made Rumple look worse off in that scenario. Rumple’s characterisation in the past has always troubled me. Firstly, we were told that he was always a coward until he became the Dark One, but then we saw that he was actually eager to prove himself in battle until he learned that he would leave Bae fatherless like he had been. He therefore voluntarily opted to cripple himself so that he could be a good father. I find the idea that he cannot kill somebody in order to save his son seems strange to me, and just makes Rumple look a little ineffectual. Maybe that’s just me being completely over Rumple as a character, but it’s wholly frustrating. Moreover, making the decision for Milah that she cannot have any more children to build their life together is not an okay thing to drop into conversation as cavalierly as he does.
It is little surprise, then, that Milah falls for Hook in the way that she does, and the episode makes it clear that it was far from the dramatic betrayal from the poor husband that it initially seemed. Hook is able to give Milah something that Rumple cannot, and Rumple doesn’t demonstrate an ability to provide Milah with what she needs, and it’s not as if Milah isn’t able to communicate that herself.
Milah’s inclusion in the present storyline was also well done, and the way that she expressed remorse for leaving Bae was appropriate. It seems overly convenient that lots of the previous villains are able to achieve such a brilliant level of clarity while in the Underworld, but Milah has had about a century to come to terms with her life, and it’s understandable that she would have regrets. Her appearance also doesn’t seem superfluous, as she does fit into the plot to free Hook, and it is a credible belief from Rumple that Hook could be her unfinished business.
It’s a shame that Milah and Hook never get to interact. It would have been an interesting dynamic considering there was never really a falling out between the two. Milah was the reason that Hook dogmatically pursued revenge against Rumple for centuries, so that would have been certainly compelling. Milah’s interactions with Emma, however, were suitably amusing, and nice of Milah to point out how ridiculously like a soap opera Once can be at times. Where else would you see somebody come face to face with someone who has been with both their son and their lover? At least with all of the strange time lines in Once there weren’t any murky age gaps at play.
Milah’s offing in this episode was undeniably cruel. Sure, she was hardly the model citizen when she was alive, and downright awful at some points. Abandoning her child was pretty extreme, but it’s tricky not to realise that Rumple did a fairly awful job of being a husband to her as well. So, not only has he now killed her in real life, but has also ejected her into the River of Lost Souls, damning her to eternal torment. It’s a horrific prospect, and one that Rumple is far more deserving of. Can he ever come back from this? Well, no. He can’t. But we’ve been saying that for seasons and I reckon that Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz just enjoy Robert Carlyle too much to realise that they have created just about the worst human being to have ever walked the face of the earth, and therefore, even if he is human garbage, he shall continue to be in the show come hell, high water or my steadily rising blood pressure.
Not only did Rumple’s flashbacks show us just how awful he’s pretty much always been, regardless of whether or not he’s wielding enormous amounts of power, but it also set up an important conflict for Rumple. By signing over his second child, even though he killed the man in question, he has now put his and Belle’s future child in danger. Oh yes, Belle’s pregnant. Exactly when this conception took place is anybody’s guess, since Rumple left for the Underworld literally moments after reconciling with Belle, but maybe Rumple has magic – not to mention unrealistically fertile – sperm? Who can say? It’s immaterial, really, as Hades has now pulled Rumple up on that deal and threatens to take away his and Belle’s child if Rumple does not work for him.
I don’t feel bad for Rumple. It seems like karma in a way, but I do feel sorry for Belle. Not only is she entirely unaware that she is even pregnant while everyone else seems to, but she also doesn’t know that Rumple is the Dark One yet again and she’s unaware that Rumple signed away her baby in one of a litany of terrible decisions. Petition for Belle to kill Hades? No? Oh yes, that’s right. Belle does nothing except sit around and wait for Rumple. Silly me. Sorry, Ed and Adam, forgot about your strange way of writing an independent female in a female-led television show.
Short though it was, it was nice to see Cruella in this episode, hilariously quipping that her fur coat was Bambi’s dead mother. It’s nice for the series to poke a little fun at how random some of the character appearances are. I also love that she is now the mayor of Underbrooke, and that she continues to crop up in Team Charming’s adventures.
Regina’s desire to check up on Daniel was appropriate and in keeping with her journey. I’m not surprised that he had already departed, and it’s a shame that they don’t get a reunion, as that would have been hugely emotional, but it was a nice moment for Regina and really touching.
It also turns out here that Hades has selected the souls to remain in Storybrooke, being Regina, Emma and Snow. Quite why it’s these three – and the only women to come to the Underworld – is slightly bizarre, but I supposed it’s geared to make the eventuality ultimately impossible. If there’d been a couple involved, at least there would be the promise of heading to the great hereafter hand in hand, but by splitting up Regina, Emma and Henry, Regina and Robin, Emma and Killian, Snow and Charming, it makes it more of a personal affair moving forwards. Ultimately, I can’t help but feel that this will factor into Cruella’s plan for Henry getting to write her out of the Underworld. There’s no way that Henry will let his mums stay trapped there if he is able to prevent it.
Quite a nice episode, with a speedy rescue for Hook and puts into place several other points of tension for the episodes to follow. With Rumple working for Hades and now posing a dangerous threat to our heroes, not to mention Snow, Emma and Regina unable to leave, there’s a lot of drama still to be had in the Underworld. Obviously our heroes will escape, but I’m sure it will provide diverting nonetheless.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.