Sometimes when I’m looking through the Harry Hook tag I wonder if we’re talking about the same character. He’s not some sweetheart who’d give everything up because he loves someone. He’s a badly domesticated coyote Uma is using as an attack dog. He’s a fucked up kid, likely abused and emotionally neglected by his father, but this explains his behavior instead of excuses it.
I don’t even think he’s really in love with Uma so much as in love with how powerful she is. Look at him; he worships her. He gravitates around her, watching how people scatter and obey her without a thought, enthralled by the respect and terror she commands. She’s powerful, and he loves it.
He’s constantly looking for someone to attack, someone he can push around and show that he is better and stronger and more important than they are without actually lifting a hook to prove it. He gets a thrill out of it. Everyone he’s antagonized has been helpless against him. He never goes after someone who can fight back because he knows he’ll get his ass handed to him.
He went after Dizzy, as it’s clear he’s been doing for years, and he held out the papers (money, probably) Mal had given her for a good thirty seconds before he finally puts them in his pocket. He’s daring her to take them back. It’s a show of power, that he doesn’t even have to threaten her anymore to get what he wants. She holds no power in this situation, and that’s how he wants it.
He threw a fit, knocking everything off of the counter, when Mal took control of the situation away from him. His breath hitched when Mal grabbed his wrist. He’s not used to that. He’s not used to people actually doing something–fighting back, as it were–when he harasses them, and it likely hasn’t happened since Mal, Evie, Jay, and Carlos left the Isle. He needed to get control of the situation back, so what did he do? Swept everything off the counter to make a mess for Dizzy to clean up. He left immediately after, just to ensure he got the last word.
He only provoked Jay when he knew Evie would hold him back, when he held all the cards and they knew that only way they were going to get Ben back was by cooperating with him. That little jump back, that little laugh after Jay lunges at him was him showing that he was startled by Jay coming after him. He laughed only after Evie dragged Jay back to get control of the situation back and make it seem like he knew it was going to happen.
Watch Carlos in that scene; he’s terrified. He and Harry have a history, and judging by how he flinches when Harry barks at him, it’s not pleasant. Harry’s goal seems to be to terrorize and psyche out the Core Four. Barking at Carlos seems almost like an afterthought, like he realized, “Oh, I forgot one,” and just did what he had always done to freak out the deVil kid.
He went after Ben when the king was tied to the mast, invading his personal space, talking about how much he would like to hook him if only Uma would let him. There was nothing Ben could do to defend himself. The only reaction he had was to act like he didn’t care, and that seemed to frustrate Harry. He wanted a reaction out of him, something to show that his favorite, tried-and-true tactic could work on anyone, from Auradon or the Isle.
The first time we see Harry in a physical fight, he’s easily bested. I won’t get into the whole “hook thrown overboard” debacle, since that’s another post. Harry only gets the upper hand by surprising his foe, but once the surprise is gone, Jay physically overpowered him. Jay has a sword. Harry has a sword and his hook, and he needs to use both to his advantage to stand an even match against Jay.
I don’t think he’s physically very strong or much good at fighting; that’s why they have Gil. Uma is the leader, the brains, the one whose charisma allowed them to amass such a crew. Gil is the brute, the brawn, the sweet if naive teen who seems like he’s only kept around because he’s useful. Harry is the attack dog who uses psychological warfare to make people believe that they don’t stand a chance against him and by extension, Uma, by attacking them verbally and terrorizing them when they’re powerless.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Harry Hook. I think he’s a fantastic character with a lot of potential. It’s just that I think he’s being overly romanticized when it’s clear he’s a troubled teenager with control issues. Don’t mistake his devotion for love, don’t mistake his antagonizing of helpless people for sincere flirting. I agree, he’s pan as all get-out, but don’t romanticize his actions.
I think part of the problem is how accustomed we are to “bad boy” characters like Harry Hook being the love interest of YA romance. We expect a heart of gold, we expect him being in love to show that he’s not such a bad guy. But sometimes there is no hidden heart of gold, and love will never be a substitute for redemption.
TL;DR: Harry Hook is a troubled teen with a manipulative streak who gets a thrill out of intimidating and bullying helpless people. Love will not redeem him; the kid needs therapy to help him understand that his actions were wrong. He’s a bad person but a great character. By all means, write about him, make fanart, talk about how you enjoy his character, but don’t romanticize him.