Recap by Teresa Martin (Teresa__Martin)
Once Upon a Time delivered an intense, devastating episode this week. The full truth of what happened in Camelot was revealed, and Hook embraced his Dark Side in a way not yet seen on the series.
The Camelot portion of the story begins with Hook being reborn as the Dark One. As he transforms, unresolved issues flash before his eyes: hatred for Rumple, losing Milah, Rumple cutting off his hand and later ripping out his heart, and Emma choosing to become The Dark One. To his horror, Hook emerges from this state realizing not only is he alive, but that "Rumple" is inside his head. This "Dark Vision" though wins him over by promising that he can help him get final revenge on Rumplestiltskin.
Hook and Emma have bitter confrontations as the former unleashes on the latter for her decision to make him Dark. Several scenes play out where Hook's anger and Emma's declarations of love abound, and it all climaxes with Hook tricking Emma. In Granny's diner, he has Merlin's heart. Hook wishes to cast The Dark Curse so that he can return to Storybrooke and kill Rumple. Nimue takes over the Dark One form and states a new curse is eminent for, on Hook's behalf, she will kill the thing she loves most: Merlin. Though technically it will be Hook who crushes the heart, it will work because Nimue lives in all Dark Ones. Despite Emma's pleas, Hook crushes Merlin's heart, killing him. However, before the purple cloud reaches them, Emma knocks Hook out and uses the dreamcatchers to take his and everyone's memories, Emma tells DarkVisionRumple that all of it was her fault so she will fix it alone.
The Storybrooke portion of the story commences with Hook and Zelena restraining Emma with the magic-binding cuff. This is the state in which Regina and the Chamings find her. Emma reveals what she did and the plan to murder Zelena, hoping to kill the darkness for good. Her loved ones understandably chastise her not only for planning murder, but also for not keeping them in the loop thereby putting them all in danger. Snow proposes that a solution is at hand by getting the dreamcatchers and giving them back their memories. Charming then informs them that the dreamcatchers have disappeared.
The next day, Hook barges into Mr. Gold's pawn shop and in perfect imitation of Rumplestiltskin's Dark One, challenges him to a duel at High Noon. Rumple accepts. Later, he and Belle join the Charmings and Regina at her office. Their roundtable concludes that they will work together to get the dreamcatchers back. Emma says she can protect both Rumple and Belle if they take the cuff off, Henry steps in with a magnificent "oh hell no" speech bawling Emma out for her attitude and actions which led them to the situation. The team leaves to find a way to defeat Hook. Emma is left behind.
Rumple pulls Belle aside before he leaves for the duel. He frankly tells her that he understands the difference between not wanting him to die, and still wanting to be with him. If he wins the duel, he invites her to meet him at the well if she wants to begin again with him.
Regina breaks away from the group to intercept Zelena who had hoped to steal her baby away from the hospital. But the baby had already been brought to Mary Margaret's by Robin. There the three of them confront their dilemma. Robin and Regina inform Zelena that she can visit with the baby under supervision. Regina pleads with her sister to take this opportunity to allow her baby to inspire her to change, as Henry did her. Robin places the baby in Zelena's arms and she is visibly moved, holding her "little green bean."
While this is occurring, Hook pays a visit to Emma. Brutally calling her nothing but a "blonde distraction" he says she will always be an orphan. Emma asks why he is doing this and he replies that he wants to hurt her in the same way she hurt him.
After this intense scene, Emma arrives at Gold's Pawn shop where Rumple is preparing for his High Noon meeting with Hook. Emma offers squid ink to assist him. Rumple declines declaring he will defeat the new Dark One using honor.
The duel is fraught with intensity, fueled by Hook and Rumple's three-hundred year enmity. Hook almost defeats Rumple, but at the last minute, Rumple bests him with his wits. Given the chance to kill him, Rumple, a changed man, refuses and Hook disappears in a cloud of red smoke.
Later at the well, Belle arrives giving Rumple a false impression that she has chosen to rebuild their marriage. Instead, she tells him that she's not sure she wants to start over and needs to be on her own so that she can focus on protecting her own heart. There she leaves Rumple devastated and alone.
Meanwhile, Rumple's words to Emma lead her to Henry again. She tells him that she "heard" him and is not asking to have the cuff removed, but for his help. "Nobody is better at figuring out how to break a spell than you." Henry assents and takes the lead, saying he will get a locator spell from Gold's shop and they will find the dreamcatchers. He announces the launch of "Operation Cobra, Part Two."
Mother and son find the dreamcatchers in the town's clock tower. However, it is protected by magic. Henry, acknowledging Emma took the first step by agreeing to come with him, removes the cuff and they bring the dreamcatchers to Regina's office. Everyone's memories are returned. Emma with horror says she knows what Hook is planning: to bring all Dark Ones to Storybrooke by opening the portal to hell. The episode ends with exactly that occurring. Hook greets Nimue who says it is time to do what Dark Ones do best: snuff out the light!
And so we are left with a series-changing cliffhanger: The Dark Ones have arrived in Storybrooke, and the Heroes are firmly defined and aligned. What will happen is left to next week's Winter Finale, but it appears it will lead everyone straight into the jaws of Hell.