Wednesday , February 21 2024
After a run of really compelling episodes, "Once Upon a Time" pauses to make the case for Killian Jones and his pursuit of Emma Swan.

TV Review: ‘One Upon a Time’ – ‘Jolly Roger’

Earlier this season, Once Upon a Time looked into Captain Hook’s less stormy past his pirate origin story (“Good Form“). And once again, Killian Jones (AKA Captain Hook) takes center stage as Little Mermaid Ariel returns to the story.

After a run of really compelling episodes, Once Upon a Time pauses to make the case for Killian Jones and his pursuit of Emma Swan. The propulsive motion of the Wicked vs. Evil story is brought in only at the end, when it’s revealed that Ariel (in the Storybrooke timeline) is, in fact, Wicked in disguise, placing on Hook’s lips a moral dilemma. Kiss Emma to steal her powers via magic spell, or watch Zelena destroy all that Emma holds dear.

Hook has become a good guy. We get it. He needs to be reborn as knight noble enough for Savior Emma Swan, and so we learn that back in the Enchanted Forest of last year, Killian had gone back to his pirate ways, but searching his ethical soul. The conduit of that search is the Little Mermaid Ariel, who at first confronts Hook, accusing him of kidnapping her missing husband. But Hook denies any knowledge about Eric, admitting that the Jolly Roger had been stolen.

But Ariel has evidence of who took the ship–the fearsome Blackbeard. And the notorious pirate has sequestered away on a remote island none other than Prince Eric. But faced with the choice of saving his ship or securing Eric for Ariel, Hook chooses his ship.

The parallel plot takes place in the Storybrooke where Ariel turns up, unable to find her missing prince. And because Hook is the only one with intact memories, he is consulted about Eric’s whereabouts. They visit Mr. Gold’s shop, and (magic-averse) Belle conjures a potion to help Ariel find Eric. But Hook knows something about Eric–something that involves him and his unfortunate decision of a year back. Eric isn’t in Storybrooke, because either he is dead–or is yet stuck on his remote island. But all of that story is negated when it turns out that Ariel had been Zelena in disguise.

Captain Hook and Ariel in Once Upon a Time

In the meantime, Emma and Regina begin to work together to beat Zelena. The Wicked Witch may be powerful with her enslaved Dark One, but if Evil and Savior put their magic together, maybe it’s powerful enough (especially if Rumplestiltskin continues resist as much as he can, the pull of the dagger’s command).

In the meantime, Hook gets to play at being babysitter and further develop his feelings for Emma (and vice versa) by being Henry’s companion. For his part, Henry much more enjoys spending time with the swashbuckling Hook than his boring grandparents.

I have to admit, I didn’t really care for “Jolly Roger.” I get that the Wicked vs. Evil storyline needed a breather after last week’s showdown, but to me, the story stopped dead in the water. I understand that the Powers that Be want to make Hook into a bona fide hero, and that’s their right. I do believe, however, that they’ve done an often sloppy job of it, and Hook’s redemption road seems forced and illogical.

Is it the Emma effect that has caused him to be a sudden good guy, even in the Enchanted Forest? Rescuing damsels in distress? And having a crisis of conscience because he chooses his ship over Ariel’s love life? (Because it’s obviously weighing on him.)

So now, Hook is in the position of having enchanted lips (!). One false kiss and Emma loses her magic mojo. Hook must resist temptation to kiss her (or be kissed) or else Zelena’s power will truly be impenetrable.  On the other hand, if he doesn’t cozy up to Emma, Zelena will destroy Snow, Charming and everyone else near to her by unleashing the Dark One to destroy them.

To me, this was the weakest episode of Season 3 (parts one and two). I’m as big a fan of swashbuckling as the next girl, but I thought the sword fight aboard the Jolly Roger was less than impressive. (Perhaps I’m spoiled by Game of Thrones and the recently-concluded first season of AMC’s Black Sails).

Next episode looks good, getting back to the main story, as Zelena’s plans take hold, and Regina and company call upon the ghost of Cora to defeat the Wicked Witch.

I will not be airing my BlogTalk Radio show tomorrow night. I will be enjoying a seder with family and friends in observance of Passover. 

Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

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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. I gave it 3 1/4 stars for the Charming/Emma/Regina scenes. Hook bores me. Actually, if it weren’t for early word out of Canadian OUaT watchers on Twitter that there was more to the ep than Hook, I wouldn’t have watched it.

  2. I am liking Hook as a person, but not the Captain Swann stuff does nothing for me. The producers will rue the day when they got rid of Neal. A much better match for Emma and they shorted him. I am STILL MOST SERIOUSLY DISPLEASED. And why is Emma developing powers quickly? A mortal Emma is much more compelling. And as with most OUAT episodes, its not nearly as good without Robert Carlyle.

    • Agree with you on the last bit 🙂

      I’m ok with Emma and Hook, although I liked Neal better. His death was tragic for Emma and Henry, but most especially for Rumple. As the number one rule of fiction states: when your hero is down…kick him!

  3. I haven’t seen the episode yet, I couldn’t resist the spoilers, but I had a feeling this episode was going to be kind of weak; I didn’t like Hook’s backstory in Good Form. I’m not sure why, I like how Hook is progressing as a character, but parts of his redemption arc seems a little forced to me.

    • I also like where Hook is going in the present time, but I find the backfill arc to make him a really decent guy hurried. It lacks the struggle present both in Regina’s and Rumple’s transformation.

      • Completely agree, there’s no real struggle in Hook’s past, besides the tragic death of his brother. This is unrelated to the article, but the lack of struggle was one of the reasons why I didn’t like the flashback in Good Form. As soon as his brother was buried out at sea he threw down his naval titles and declared himself a pirate, rather than work to expose their king (who lied to them about the true nature of their mission) or go back to port to demand answers. My ideas probably wouldn’t work storywise, but my main point was that Hook’s backstory should’ve shown more struggle (internal and external) and there should’ve been more build up to him becoming a pirate.

        • Now that’s something I would have loved to see! The heroic man struggling against an unjust king, and then when that fails, become a pirate. I could get behind that story

  4. 3B is horrible, full of continuity errors and outright bad writing. It’s like a completely different show.

  5. I love this episode, as I do every episode of Once, but Emma’s magic lessons are progressing much too rapidly for my taste. In less than a day she’s learned things even Regina can’t do, like seeing into other realms through the mirror. But I do love how close Regina and Emma have become.
    Zelena has become a horrible shipwrecker. She’s torturing every ship. She’s taken Fire from Swanfire. She’s taken the Rumple from the Rumbelle. She’s trying to take the heart from the OutlawQueens. She’s searching for the heart of the SwanQueens. And she’s stolen the kiss from CaptainSwan.
    Total shipwrecker. But she’s very scary and a wickedly fabulous actress. I can’t wait till she’s defeated.
    And Emma will soon be faced with a decision. Love or power. Family or magic. Decisions which are very familiar to Rumple and Regina. Henry won’t be happy that everyone continues to lie to him.

    • nicely said. Rebecca Mader is doing a fab job playing Zelena. She’s relishing it entirely. I agree about her role, and that Emma is becoming too magical too quickly.

  6. for me it was a boring episode. its sad that we will never see blackbeard again. i liked hook much more in season 2.
    and i still don´t understand why erics cloak was in the shop.