Once Upon a Time's "Souls of the Departed" Lives Up to Hype
I'm often very bad about watching my TV shows within a reasonable amount of time. So despite the long mid-season break, I didn't watch "Souls of the Departed" until four days after it had aired. I'd already heard from several people that the episode was amazing, so the hype was building. Would the episode be able to live up to the rave reviews?
The answer, obviously, is yes.
There were several truly beautiful moments in this episode, but I'm going to start with the one that made me cry - Regina's reunion with her father, his immediate forgiveness of her, his joy at seeing her happy, his sacrifice yet again and his happy ending.
Even though I called it from the moment Cora brought up her evil plan (which was a bit bizarre - never got a good explanation for why Cora "had" to do that if Regina stayed, other than Cora being ordered to), it didn't make the moment any less impactful. This is a character who put up with the Evil Queen's moods and stuck by her even though it broke his heart and ultimately lost him his life. He finally got the chance to see her as she always should have been, and Regina got the chance to know, for sure, that her father loves her still and is in a better place. Her father even got to meet his grandson! We've had some great moments on Once, but this one would definitely rank in my top five and perhaps even take first place.
Another beautiful moment was Regina's refusal to leave the Underworld, even when Emma insisted that she do so to stay safe. She has grown so much as a character, particularly over the last two seasons, and I think we can safely say now that she has left her evil past behind (though the Evil Queen flashbacks are still as enjoyable as ever).
The plot was fairly straightforward - initial exploration of the Underworld-Storybrooke, discovery of Cora and then the drama surrounding her attempt to force Regina back to the real world. But it was solid and gave the episode the foundation it needed to introduce the new setting and ratchet up the emotional drama level.
Hats off to the writers as well for using this episode to bring back several deceased characters. Prince James was a nice twist, but the real deal was Cora and Peter Pan returning to the show. Cora always throws up red flags, and this episode was no exception. She is one of the most truly villainous, unredeemable characters on the show, which is often refreshing.
But Robbie Kay was the bigger treat for me. His Pan has permanently ruined the character for me (I mean that in the best possible way). His peace overtures to his son open up a very interesting avenue for the show to explore in the rest of this season. Is he sincere? Or is he just being as manipulative as Cora? And if Rumple believes him, who will he "sacrifice" to leave behind in the Underworld?
This episode did raise a very big question: are they going to focus solely on the Underworld story, or will we see Storybrooke and the characters who stayed behind? While I greatly enjoyed the Neverland arc, I did miss the occasional appearances by secondary characters (particularly Belle, who always seems to get left behind).
Finally, I'd like to end this review on the single most exciting piece of the episode for me: that last scene. HADES IS HERE. As someone who LOVED the Hercules movie growing up, that last scene made me positively gleeful. I cannot WAIT to see how he hampers the main characters. This is the most excited I've been about a villain on the show since Pan. Now if only they would introduce Pain and Panic...
Basically - two thumbs way way up for this episode!