The Jolly Roger Review | Once Upon a Time Season 3, Episode 17

I would give anything to take it back, to make make things right.

Captain Hook

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, and Jared S. Gilmore.

Season 3
Episode 17: The Jolly Roger

Captain Hook’s depiction ever since his introduction has been one of the more captivating. His status as a morally loose anti-hero certainly makes him an interesting character to watch, and the other principal Hook-centric episode, “Good Form” helped to cement him first and foremost as a man of honour, whose roguish pirate persona was in fact a front in his attempt to rebel against the betrayal of his king. Throughout his interactions with Emma Swan, however, we have seen this veneer slowly peel away to reveal the edges of the honourable, good natured and open hearted Killian Jones. His early suggestive flirting with Emma to manipulate her when they were working against each other has given way to a deeply earnest and honest confession of his feelings towards her. His connection to other characters, such as Henry and Neal further cements the idea that Hook is a far cry from the traditional cruel pirate from the source material.

Through this episode, we tackle the conflict that Hook experiences in adjusting back to his old existence when cursed back to the Enchanted Forest. Unlike Regina and the other fairytale characters who remain united, Hook has no ties to this group and ventures off on his own. In a similar way to Regina floundering without Henry, Hook is similarly lost without Emma and quickly slips back into his old habits as a pirate. He feels the pressure to live up to his old moniker in order to persuade those in the Enchanted Forest that he hasn’t changed through his association with the Charmings, even leading to him paying off a prostitute so that his crew mates don’t know that he hasn’t slept with her.

This conflict comes to a head when Hook is presented with a choice either to save Prince Eric or to regain the Jolly Roger. He chooses the latter, completely ruining Ariel’s happy ending in the process. Through this story, we have seen Hook be cagey about his past year in the Enchanted Forest and here we can clearly see why. He is deeply ashamed of his actions here and his slip back into his old routine, to the extent where he feels compelled to confess to Ariel about his misdeeds.

While this episode appears tangential, it is held aloft by a commanding performance by Colin O’Donoghue. He manages to pay his pining and love for Emma without his character coming across as needy or pathetic, and scenes featuring him continue to be a delight. This episode also features the glorious return of Ariel, who continues to be wonderfully endearing throughout her storylines.

The twist ending that Zelena has, in fact, disguised herself as Ariel was completely unexpected and has definitely made a compelling plot moving forwards. The fact that Hook and Emma are seemingly on a romantic collision course has put Hook in a massive quandary, either to kiss Emma and to strip her of her powers or to be responsible for the deaths of those around her, including Henry. It’s truly a situation that Hook cannot win. He spends the entire episode using the Jolly Roger as a substitute for Emma and now that he has confessed his love out loud, he finds himself further than ever from her by the close of the episode. Here’s hoping that Hook can find his way out of the dilemma sooner rather than later.

This episode also has some delightful subplots. A rather humorous one is Snow and Charming trying to prove to Henry, and indeed to themselves, that they are fun – a wonderfully on-the-nose plot considering the feelings of the vast majority of the audience. Scenes with Snow and Charming are never as fun as the ones with Regina or Rumple. There’s something far more interesting about anti-heroes. Elsewhere, Regina starts teaching Emma to use magic, which highlights for us just how much of a powerful threat Emma could be in the future.

It isn’t without its logical flaws. Zelena’s plan to neutralise Emma seems to come out of nowhere, considering we have never before heard Emma’s name come out of her mouth. If Emma is truly such a massive threat to Zelena, then why didn’t she make some moves to stop her before now? Also, why did she curse everybody back to Storybrooke? If they had remained in the Enchanted Forest with Emma’s memories still erased, then Zelena would’ve been free to enact her evil masterplan.

In Short

  • In The Year That Time Forgot, Ariel seeks out Hook to help her find Prince Eric who has been kidnapped by Black Beard on board the Jolly Roger.
  • Hook, Smee and Ariel seek out Black Beard and Hook duels him, but ultimately chooses gaining his ship over finding Ariel’s true love.
  • In Storybrooke, Ariel turns up trying to find Eric and Hook is enlisted to help the operation.
  • It seems that all is lost, leading to Hook confessing what he did to Ariel.
  • It turns out that Ariel was in fact Zelena in disguise, forcing Hook to confess his true love for Emma so that Zelena could curse his kiss and strip away Emma’s powers.

Other thoughts

  • It’s strange how selectively worried the characters are about Henry, and yet they let him go to the store by himself at the beginning of the episode as if there isn’t a murderous witch on the loose.
  • Regina’s comments about baby parts in potions was equal parts amusing and terrifying.
  • Snow’s worry about “Nobody’s spotted Zelena or Rumple since the duel! We should figure out what they’re up to and stop them!” makes complete sense until Regina indicates that the duel between her and Zelena only happened the previous night. Chill out, Snow. Not seeing somebody overnight is not cause to worry. And if you were going to worry you would have done it before sleeping.
  • Why would Charming think that almost killing Henry would make him fun? Overcompensating.
  • Why is nobody protecting Belle? All of the others are within a protection spell at Snow’s apartment, but they just leave Belle to fend for herself in Gold’s shop? Speaking of which, whatever happened to her job at the library?
  • Regina’s face when she thinks she’s accidentally killed Emma was disarmingly amusing.
  • The most bizarre moment of the episode is probably when Black Beard’s crew are watching Hook take on the evil pirate and a sheet falls in front of them. Instead of picking up the sheet and peering around it, the crew seemingly stand on the other side in complete silence. That must have been entertaining viewing.
  • Regina’s outrage, and subsequent awkward playing off, at Henry driving the car was priceless.
  • Ariel’s storyline has been nicely wrapped up in a bow, which is a shame as she is an enjoyable character, but at least it’s one less recurring character for the show to have to juggle.
  • It’s lovely that Regina finally got that family meal with Henry and the Charmings, after she wasn’t invited early in Season 2.
  • Henry is truly so much more likeable as an ordinary teenage boy than he was as a believer. Obviously he will ultimately regain his memories, but this plot has definitely done a lot in the way of maturing the character to match Jared Gilmore’s actual age.
  • Why is it that Emma is such a threat to Zelena? Is she the Saviour for this curse as well? Is she able to break this one and prevent Zelena’s plot?


A character-driven episode for one of the more complex and captivating characters in the show, with a game-changing and devious twist thrown in for good measure.

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.

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