Firebird Review | Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 20

I guess my armour’s been on for such a long time that sometimes I forget that I don’t need it with you.


Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 5
Episode 20: Firebird

“Firebird” was instructive in getting a lot of the characters where they need to be in preparation for the season finale in an episode’s time, but in getting them there, it created a lot of frustrating, out-of-character moments.

Some of the character beats made a lot of sense. Regina giving Zelena the benefit of the doubt and allowing her to have her baby was a massive step forward. Not only was it indicative of Regina trusting her big sister, which is a massive deal for their relationship, but also an understanding of why Zelena wants a bond with her child in the first place. It was unfortunate that it created such a divide between Regina and Robin, but, seeing what happened with Hades, it’s far more important to keep Zelena on side than not.

Speaking of which, in order to create new drama, it was necessary for our heroes to trust Hades. For the viewer, however, the culmination of the story isn’t exactly unexpected, and it’s irritating to have to watch the characters discover this as if it’s brand new information. Of course Hades double crossed them. He might now be in a relationship with Zelena, but they should know better than to trust villains so readily. Unfortunately, the habit of the show for reforming its nefarious characters backs our heroes into a corner when a villain appears to change their stripes. Ultimately, however, it plays out how we’d expect it to.

It’s a shame that Zelena’s been caught up in the cross fire with this, but at least she’s got her baby, and hopefully her new bond with Regina is enough to persuade her to come to the side of good against her new love. Having said that, Hades did make quite a point about Regina only being the doting sister for mere hours, so he may still have time to poison Zelena against her younger sister.

The backstory this week explored Emma’s past before Storybrooke. It wasn’t precisely a necessary flashback, but Emma-centric episodes are always far more varied than the Enchanted Forest counterpart, and they can be a bit more gritty. I did find the backstory, while charming, a bit jarring though. It was a nice touch that Emma had affected having armour, and building up her defences, due to the huge influence of this woman she met, Cleo. However, in the past seasons, I’ve always attributed Emma’s guarded nature as being a result of her transient upbringing in the foster care system, instead of an intentional self defence mechanism. In a way, it makes Emma slightly less complex. She created the armour herself, so it’s strange that, just one year later when she enters Storybrooke she’s suddenly rid herself of the need to get answers about her upbringing. It seems a little inconsistent to attribute this character trait to this very simple encounter, but the relevance and symbolism of Emma’s leather jacket was a nice touch, even if every time she wears it it looks a mite too small.

Emma’s actions in the present also led to her and Killian parting ways once more. It’s a small moment in quite a busy episode, and nothing makes a goodbye worse than having a ticking time bomb on the horizon. Knowing that there’s only fifteen minutes to get to the portal makes the audience more itchy for Emma to escape than they are sad that she has to say goodbye to Killian, so that ruined the potential impact of that moment. What’s more, it’s one of several goodbye scenes the characters have had thus far, what with the bed of flowers in Camelot and the scene in the park with the Dark Ones. Especially since this exit also doesn’t appear to be very permanent (as if Killian wouldn’t be the central focus in his final episode), it meant that the scene didn’t hit as hard as it should have done, regardless of how well Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue played it.

Elsewhere, Rumple’s union with Pan was fortunately short lived, and Rumple found a way to destroy Robbie Kay and his overactive eyebrows to the unhappy hereafter. He did, however, decide to trap Belle in Pandora’s Box for reasons best known to himself. Perhaps he didn’t fancy carrying her to the portal, but I seem to remember that it’s quite difficult to extricate people from the box. Perhaps I’m being nit picky.

Another nice touch was Henry writing the happy endings of the other inhabitants of the Underworld using his new talents as the Author. It’s good to see him using these skills, even if his new role has been severely underwhelming. To see Stealthy was also an amusing addition, but it was also clear from this appearance that the Underworld has run out of relevant characters. Having said that, it really was a missed opportunity not to include either of Snow’s parents in the Underworld, not least because of the discomfort it would put Snow and Regina in at having to confront the fact that Regina killed Snow’s dad. Seeing Snow and Eva reunite, considering Eva’s shady role in Regina’s past would also have created great drama for these characters.

Ultimately, Firebird serves to return our characters – or most of them, anyway – to Storybrooke, where I imagine that Hades’ sinister plan will be revealed. With a two-part finale on the horizon, I imagine whatever he gets up to will set the stage for whatever bonkers trip we’ll go on to end this year’s collection of stories.

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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