In all the excitement for the upcoming Dark Swan story arc on Once Upon A Time Season 5, there's one thing we haven't really talked about: Hook — or Killian, if that's your preference — and how he'll be affected by Emma's new, decidedly more evil identity. We'll likely be treated to plenty of pirate angst come fall, and whether or not you're a fan of the Captain Swan pairing, you kinda have to feel for the guy. After all, he finally won Emma's affections — affections which she actually gave voice to not 30 seconds prior — and then she turned around and sacrificed her soul to save Regina. That's not an easy pill to swallow, and Hook will be mired in all the feels in the world as he works towards helping her get back.
Given that Killian's past is far from unsullied, there's been a lot of talk as to whether or not Emma's role as the new Dark One might convince him to go back to the dark side, so to speak. After all, his redemption seems somewhat incomplete at this point — or rather, it seems non-existent, so Hook's return to the unsavory side of the tracks isn't necessarily hard to conceive of, even if it doesn't end up playing out that way. Part of me wishes that it would, however, given that the character was so much more enjoyable when he was doing something other than following Emma around like a lost puppy, waiting for whatever attention she sends his way.
You could argue, of course, that that's what love does to you: it makes you a bit boring to everyone else besides the object of your affection (though other besotted characters on the show seem to manage just fine). Part of me sympathizes with Hook, because it's clear that he's got it bad for Emma, to the point where he can't see the light of day. Also, it's interesting to see a love story on the other foot, with the man pining endlessly for the woman to the point that he loses sight of who he is. Of course, Killian wasn't always the dashing rapscallion he now comes to describe himself as, and was indeed a somewhat normal guy, from what we've seen, before the death of his brother many years ago. With that in mind, it's possible that his love for Emma has just reminded him of who he was at his core, a good guy with a good heart. Unfortunately, I'm not really buying it.
One thing that Once has taught us is that redemption has to be earned. It's a long, difficult process and one that isn't automatically complete once you give away your relatively useless ship in what's meant to be a grand romantic gesture. Hook was a pirate, a thief, a murderer, and someone who willingly worked with Cora Mills to satisfy his own vengeance. Is he the worst villain the show has ever seen? Far from it. But unlike, say, the former Evil Queen, who spent years repenting in both words and actions to those she hurt as well as to herself, Hook basically thinks managing to win Emma over (or wear her down, depending on how you look at it) is enough to absolve him of his past atrocities. I don't think so, "love".
While Captain Swan admittedly aren't my ideal 'ship, if you couldn't tell, I wasn't initially completely against the idea. Hook had something about him, particularly in Neverland, that was... intriguing, at the very least. He was arrogant in a playful way that wasn't entirely eyeroll-worthy, and he hadn't yet cast off his pirate identity in favor of playing the swooning suitor. That kiss — you remember the one — after he saved Charming's life got a little smile from me, and I was into it, particularly because it was Emma's choice to bestow it (even if he did kinda beg for it). But things have gone downhill from there, and I've becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the relentless manor in which Hook has worked to wear Emma down despite her many reservations and protestations. Some may call it confidence, but I call it harassment. I'm not doubting that Emma does indeed love him in a lot of ways now, but the way Hook earned that love is questionable at best.
Which brings me back to Season 5. Emma is the Dark One and something tells me romance is going to be the furthest thing from her mind. Hook loves Emma, I believe that, and I doubt even something as major as Emma becoming the darkest and most powerful villain in the known universe would be enough to put him off. But just as in the real world, sometimes love isn't enough, particularly when that love wasn't necessarily going to survive even in the best of circumstances. I don't really think Captain Swan is end game, but I'm at least open to the idea of seeing where things go.
After all, this is the perfect opportunity for Killian to show what he's made of and how far he's actually come. If he wants absolution for all that's come before, there's no better time for him to start earning it. Make no mistake, Hook won't be the hero of Season 5 by any stretch of the imagination — Once is a show about strong women who are perfectly capable of saving themselves (or at least each other), at the end of the day — but he can step up to the plate to not only love Emma throughout this ordeal, but to remind her of the good inside her and to resist his own urges to go bad again just because she has. He can put himself and his fears and desires on the back burner for a while to put Emma first, to help where he can and to trust others to do the job when he can't, without ego. Or he could go back to being the villain he always was — admittedly, that was a little more fun to watch.
It remains to be seen how things will play out, but whatever happens with Hook, someone is going to lose out. If he goes bad again, that's likely an inevitable nail in the coffin of his relationship with Emma. But if he continues on his current path, I'll likely sleep through half the season. Your move, Once.