Monday , December 4 2023
Once Upon a Time's villains have all been layered: good people who followed an unfortunate fateful path to the dark side. Is the same true for Captain Hook?

‘Once Upon a Time’ – The Rehabilitation of Killian ‘Captain Hook’ Jones

When Once Upon a Time first introduces Captain Hook, he is but Killian Jones, pirate-at-large (“The Crocodile“). He steals wives and plunders for gold. Ironically, he plunders Gold’s (AKA Rumplestiltskin), stealing his wife Milah, then humiliating him.

once upon a time hook and arielAt the time, Rumple is yet years from Dark One status. He is a but a humble peasant with a young son and a wife who neither loves nor respects him. And Killian is merciless towards him, flaunting wife Milah in Rumple’s face and challenging him to a sword fight he is ill equipped to accept. But when Rumple becomes the Dark One, meeting Killian years later, Rumple has his revenge, killing Milah and slicing off Killian’s hand. And thus is born Captain Hook.

By then, the series showrunners must have realized what a catch they had in the darkly handsome, guy-liner-wearing Captain Killian “Hook” Jones. But what to do with him? Keep him Rumple’s worst enemy or redeem him–turn him towards the light?

It’s not unusual on Once Upon a Time for a villain to find a path towards redemption. Certainly Rumple has been on that path, especially since finding his Belle alive and well. So has Regina, turning from evil, murderous and happy-ending denying to the one for whom we root in the wicked vs. evil showdown between the Wicked Witch of the West and The Evil Queen.

So why not Captain Hook? Now, I’m not saying I completely buy the revisionist version of the pirate, but I’m willing to give the Powers That Be benefit of the doubt as they continue to retrofit his backstory to match the new, and much more heroic, Killian Jones.

His personality change has been certainly more abrupt than either Rumple or Regina’s (hard to forget “Crocodile,” his cold attempt on Belle’s life (“The Outsider“), the fact that he’d been cahoots with Cora, etc., etc. This is not a nice guy. It’s as if one day, he suddenly realizes, after centuries of blood lust for Rumplestiltskin that revenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Been there; done that. Let’s forget all that baggage and move on.”

This change of heart comes just before Hook offers his ship to traverse worlds and rescue Henry from Neverland. From there on out it seems he never really remembers what a blackguard he’d been.

And so Hook has joined former adversary Rumple–and Regina on Redemption Road. Come season three, Hook becomes an asset, saving Charming’s life, and we learn the story of how the naval officer Killian Jones comes to be a pirate in the first place. Aha! So a very long time ago, Hook had been a good guy. Like Regina. Like Rumple. He has a story, and if only he can find a way to put his murdering and pillaging behind him (I suppose as have our other two nominal villains), he, too can be a heroic character.

One of the things I’ve liked about Once Upon a Time’s villains is that they’ve all been layered: good people who followed an unfortunate fateful path to the dark side. Regina had been forced into it by her mother Cora, only really turning to evil after Snow White inadvertently destroys her love and her life; Rumple: a good man, turned into the Dark One out of desperation. Even Cora is not completely evil; she’d ripped out her own heart so she could remain ruthless in her ambition and quest for power.

I am not sure, however, that Hook’s story is quite so well put together and thought out. To me, it seems a bit retrofit to make him worthy of Emma Swan. Regina and Rumple’s paths seem to me to have been far more nuanced and interesting. Don’t get me wrong. I like the chemistry between relationship CaptainSwan. Their banter is clever and sharp and adds spark to the series (and to both characters).

But how can the characters (let alone us mere observers) forget last season’s “The Queen is Dead” and Hook’s attempt on Rumple’s life? On Belle’s? What he does to Archie? All is forgiven and forgotten? That’s what doesn’t quite add up for me. And this is what makes it different than either Rumple’s or Regina’s redemption arc.

I suppose I need to give it more time. After all, Hook does bring Emma the memory potion? Where does he get it? And what does he risk to bring it to her (other than the stares of 21st Century New Yorkers?). I suppose we’ll find out as the Storybrooke narrative and the Enchanted Forest narrative converge while the season draws to a close next month.

In the meantime, we’ll learn much more about Captain Hook’s adventures (and how he comes to know the Little Mermaid Ariel) in this week’s Once Upon a TimeJolly Roger” airing Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

What are your thoughts on Captain Hook? Do you think he and Emma are “made for each other?” Do you like his redemption story arc? Or do you think he’s progressed a little too quickly to “good guy?”

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About Barbara Barnett

A Jewish mother and (young 🙃) grandmother, Barbara Barnett is an author and professional Hazzan (Cantor). A member of the Conservative Movement's Cantors Assembly and the Jewish Renewal movement's clergy association OHALAH, the clergy association of the Jewish Renewal movement. In her other life, she is a critically acclaimed fantasy/science fiction author as well as the author of a non-fiction exploration of the TV series House, M.D. and contributor to the book Spiritual Pregnancy. She Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (

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  1. There is an error. It is Emma’s son, Henry, that Captain Hook and co. follow to rescue from Neverland, not Baefire/Neal. Neal is believed to be dead at this point.

  2. DeeDee. You are right of course. I misspoke and will correct.