We begin - say it with me now- as I always like to begin: with Hook.
We're aboard the Jolly Roger, somewhere off the coast of Neverland, and Hook is looking longingly at the only remembrance he has of Milah, a drawing of her face. He asks Mr. Smee about the lad they pulled from the sea. Smee wonders with obvious fear if the boy might belong to "him." Hook points out that if the lad is indeed the one that "he" is looking for, he could be their ticket out of Neverland.
He heads below to question the lad himself, and discovers to his surprise that the boy is Baelfire, and that means he's the only piece of Milah left in the world. We see an uncharacteristically soft Hook offer the boy a blanket and berth, proclaiming "it's a pirate's life for you."
Forward to Storybrooke, where Henry is playing on the swings at the park under the eye (and crossbow) of a watchful Granny. Unbeknownst to him, Gold is watching as well, and using his magic to make the rope on the swing fray. If it should break loose, Henry will fly right into a large and jagged boulder near the swing (some playground!). He's interrupted before he can do more damage by the arrival of David, Snow and Emma.
While Emma pulls Henry away to tell him about his father, David and Snow break the news of Neal's death to Gold. He's wrecked, of course, but turns immediately bitter when they ask for his help to stop Greg and Tamara from using the trigger. As far as Gold is concerned, the whole town can die in a vortex of suck. He feels responsible for Neal's death, since he brought magic to the world. As far as he's concerned, his death - and everyone else's - is the price to be paid.
Greg and Tamara meantime are down in the mines with Hook, who's finally getting savvy enough to ask some pertinent questions, like: who's the mastermind behind their plans. Greg can't answer that and remains focused on his goal. By using a dwarf's pickaxe, they can activate the trigger. Hook seems uneasy about murdering an entire town full of people, but Tamara points out that the trigger will kill Rumplestiltskin as well. Then Greg asks if he's willing to die his cause. Hook replies with a jaunty "absolutely," but it's clear that he's got some second thoughts. Greg activates the trigger, and the town starts shaking.
Over at the loft, Henry and Emma are home, much to Regina's delight, but then the trigger is activated. They all begin arguing over how to stop this unstoppable thing, when in strolls Hook.
David greets him with a right cross to that beautiful mouth, but Hook isn't here for villainy - he's here to help. It turns out he's not so keen on the "dying for his cause" thing, and he knows where Greg and Tamara are.
Regina says she can slow the trigger down, buying them time and Emma agrees to go with her. Charming and Hook are going after Greg and Tamara to steal back the magic beans. They plan to evacuate the town back to the Enchanted Forest, saving them all. Regina stops to reassure Henry that she won't leave him there all alone (since the trigger will only affect those not born in this world). They all head off and Hook looks back at Henry and remarks, "The things we do for our children..."
Which takes us back to Neverland again, aboard the Jolly Roger. A boat of Lost Boys, captained by a very dark - oh hell, I'll say it - downright evil teenage boy, who demands to search the ship. A special boy was dropped in the sea, and they're looking for him. Smee urges Hook to give them Bae, but Hook says he can't part with him, now that he knows Bae is The Dark One's son.
The Lost Boys search the ship, but don't find Bae, who's got a great hiding place. After they leave, a relieved Bae comes out of hiding.
"I thought pirates only cared about themselves," he says.
"You've a lot to learn, boy," Hook replies.
Forward again to Storybrooke, where the dwarves have descended on Gold's shop to take back Sneezy's drinking stein. Blue has managed to concoct a potion that will give him his memories back, but he has to drink it from a personal memento.
And here's another great moment where the writers poke fun at themselves, because Gold gives them an incredulous look and points out that Blue just now - at the moment when the town is going to be blown to pieces - found an antidote to crossing the town line. Talk about plot convenience, but then again, they have a tendency to use Blue for just that purpose.
Blue made exactly two doses, and Leroy is kind enough to leave the second dose for his old friend, Belle. He tells Gold not to let her die as a skankin' ho.
Flashback to Neverland again, and Hook is teaching Bae to sail, scratching the symbols for Port and Starboard into the base of the wheel. He confesses to Bae that he was abandoned by his own father, who was a fugitive. Bae lets Hook know how his father became The Dark One via the dagger. As he's telling the story, you can see on Hook's face that he realizes his own culpability in all of this.
Over at the cannery, the crime-fighting team of Hook and Charming are ready to take down the villains (and I would seriously watch this as a spin-off, should they ever decide to make one).
David goes after Tamara and Hook and Greg tussel over the magic beans. Unfortunately, the bad guys get away, but Hook managed to snag one of the magical beans.
Down in the mines, Emma and Regina find the trigger, and Emma realizes that Regina isn't going to live through slowing the trigger down. Regina simply asks that Emma tell Henry that in the end, she did the right thing.
Meanwhile, at Gold's shop, Lacey and Gold are about to have a drink to toast the end of the world. He pulls out her chipped cup (now magically repaired) and pours the potion into it, asking her to drink from it. She does as he asks, and becomes Belle again. They share a tender moment as Rumple apologizes for failing.
At Granny's everyone is gathered to head through the portal, and Emma lets Henry know that Regina won't be coming with them. Henry demands that they find a way to save Regina, and strangely enough, the townspeople agree, along with Snow and David. They plan to open the portal and send the trigger through it. Hook, on the other hand, isn't riding the Save Regina train - he intercepts the pouch with the magic bean and plans to walk out with it, not caring to hang around and court death.
Emma makes an impassioned plea:
And she manages to touch on something that Hook hasn't had anyone stir in quite a long time. She begs him to help them, to be part of something bigger than just himself. He hands over the pouch, then asks her why she's really doing this.
Emma lets him know that Neal - Baelfire - is dead, and also Henry's father. Hook is shaken to hear it, too.
Flashback to Neverland again and Smee is all up in Hook's face about Baelfire still hanging around when "he" is still looking for him. Hook becomes furious, screaming in Smee's face, when Bae emerges from below, holding Hook's picture of Milah. Bae has figured out that Hook is the pirate who (he thinks) stole his mother away and killed her. He comes after Hook with a cutlass. Hook then tells Bae the truth about his father.
Bae isn't disbelieving, but it's all a moot point to him. Hook was still instrumental in tearing his family apart, and he can't forgive that. Hook very humbly and with great sincerity offers Bae a home aboard his ship and all the protection he can offer. He says they can be a family, just as Milah wanted them to be.
Bae wants none of it. He sneers in Hook's face and demands to be taken off the ship.
Forward to the mines, where David, Snow, Emma and Henry show up to tell Regina they've got the bean, and they're going to try sending the trigger into a portal. Regina says there's no guarantee it will work, but they're all going to try anyway. Emma reaches into the pouch...and discovers that a crafty pirate has played them all again. Hook has taken the bean, and they're all going to die, leaving Henry all alone.
We flashback again to the Jolly Roger, and Bae is demanding to be dropped somewhere along the coastline. Hook makes one last try to reach him, telling him the ship can be his home and the crew his family - he doesn't stand much of a chance on his own.
"It's not too late to start over," he tells him. "I can change, Bae. For you."
Bae tells him he'll never change, because all he cares about is himself. This cuts Hook to the quick, and he covers his hurt by lashing out. He sends for the Lost Boys and gives Bae over to them. Bae screams that Hook is just like his father, and Hook stares down at the symbols he carved on the wheel base, scratching them out with his hook.
Forward to the Jolly Roger in present day, sailing away from Storybrooke, and a tortured-looking Hook is staring down at the scratched-out symbol, then his fist closes around the bean in his hand.
In Storybrooke, all hell is breaking loose - giant vines are overtaking the town, and earthquakes are shaking everything.
Regina is having a hard time containing the trigger, and they all begin to say tearful goodbyes to each other. For the first time, Emma calls Snow and David mom and dad, and Regina tells Henry she's sorry she's not strong enough to save him.
"You may not be strong enough," Emma says suddenly, "Maybe we are." She puts her hands around the trigger with Regina, and with both of them using their magic, the trigger is deactivated.
The town returns to normal, but the deactivation knocks them all unconscious. It takes them a moment to realize that Henry is gone.
Greg and Tamara have taken Henry. "We came here to destroy magic," Greg confesses, but then we found something more important - you." He and Tamara use a bean to open a portal, and they jump, taking Henry with them.
Emma, Snow, David and Regina see them jump, but are too late to stop them. As they stand at the dock freaking out, Gold strolls up and tells them there's no way to get to Henry without something that makes a portal. And then, off in the distance, they see it - the Jolly Roger! Hook has turned around and sailed back to Storybrooke.
He disembarks, and when Emma says "I thought you didn't care about anyone but yourself," he replies with "Maybe I just needed reminding that I could."
Whoops. There I go again.
He hands her the bean, and then offers his ship and services, Gold gets his magic globe, and then tells Belle she has to stay to keep the town safe. Greg and Tamara weren't working alone - others might follow. He gives her a cloaking spell to use on the town, and then Belle guesses the truth - Rumple isn't going to be coming back.
He reminds her that the prophecy said that the boy would be his undoing, but Henry is also his grandson. He has to save him in order to honor Baelfire's memory. Belle refuses to believe that he won't be back, and they share a tearful goodbye.
Then suddenly we're whisked away to a strange shore, where a man lies face-down on the beach. He's rolled over by none other than Princess Aurora, Prince Philip and Mulan, and the man is Neal - who is still alive.
Then Gold, Snow, David, Emma board Hook's ship. Gold gives Hook the stink eye and asks if he's done trying to kill him. When Hook begrudgingly says yes, Gold magnanimously agrees to let him live. Then at Gold's direction, they take off for Neverland. It's time to (everybody say it with me) save Henry. Gold warns them that the person behind Greg and Tamara is someone seriously evil - someone even he is afraid of.
And we go back to Neverland one final time, where Felix, head of the Lost Boys, asks if Baelfire is the one "he" is looking for. Another Lost Boy holds up a picture, comparing, and replies that Bae isn't the right one. He's taken away with the other recruits. Felix assures the other Lost Boys that it may take time, but they'll find the boy "he" is looking for. Peter Pan never fails. Then we see the picture - and the boy is clearly Henry.
I'm giving this one a full five hooks out of five.
What a great finale! So many warm moments between Hook and Bae, Regina and Henry, Rumple and Belle and the first serious brushings of Emma, reminding Hook of the man he truly wants to be. "You and I, we understand each other..." she said, and a course is set. Now we sail into Season Three, and see just where that takes us.