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Once Upon a Time - Heroes and Villains - Review

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Satisfied. If I had to sum up my feelings on this latest Once Upon a Time episode in one word I would say “satisfied”. The Frozen arc has come to a close and as I said before, I was not ecstatic about its introduction at first but it grew on me to the point where I’m a bit sad to see these characters exit. However, there is now a new threat, a darkness on the horizon that I personally cannot wait for. This episode gave us so much in regards to Regina and Robin’s story, the ongoing mystery of the storybook’s author, and in my opinion the most interesting development, the future of Rumpelstilskin and Belle. I felt there were a few bumps in this episode, particularly regarding Robin, Regina, and Marian. I didn’t find this episode as “fun” as the last one mostly because of the quieter, somber tone, but still enjoyed it none the less. “Heroes and Villains” didn’t leave us with much in terms of a shocking mid-season cliffhanger, but I don’t think that was ever its intention. The episode was less of an end to the Frozen arc and more of a beginning to this new villain-centric chapter in Once Upon a Time.

The episode begins with Emma and her family accompanying Elsa and Anna to the town line. The ice was is still up, though not for long as Elsa has mastered her magic and uses her powers to bring the wall crashing in a spectacular avalanche. The way appears clear, but when Anna goes to step over the town line she is abruptly stopped by Emma. Emma explains that the town line has its dangers and that some remnants of the Snow Queen’s plan remain, namely an enchantment on the borders of the town that would prevent any who crossed it to never be able to return. That town line has always been tricky. Emma decides a better course of action would be to find a magic bean or portal of some sort to transport the sisters back to Arendelle. And time is running out, for as patient as Elsa wants to be in finding their way home, Anna urges that they hurry and reveals Hans and his brothers’ hostile takeover. Now there are two things here that we have seen time and time again: realm jumping and the town line. I’ve come to accept that both of these things will return time and time again to hinder or help the heroes of Once Upon a Time. Storybrooke isn’t supposed to exist, so naturally the town line would continue to be a hazard for those coming and going. I could be annoyed with the fact that they are trapped within the limits of the town once more, but I enjoy seeing them in Storybrooke so I personally don’t mind.

Over at the pawn shop, Rumpelstilskin is putting the squeeze on Hook’s heart to convince the pirate to spill about the recent movements of the town’s heroes. The Dark One laments that his next move would have been so much easier had the Snow Queen succeeded and the majority of Storybrooke’s residents were out of his way. Rumple is most concerned with one person in particular, Anna. Hook realizes that Anna must somehow know what Rumpelstilskin is up to for the imp to be that concerned over a mere girl. It is true that only Anna knows about Rumpelstilskin and the hat, and the Dark One has made sure he has stayed out of the girl from Arendelle’s sight. So now it’s Hook’s duty as pet pirate to keep Anna away from the pawn shop and Rumple. The Dark One reiterates that once the stars in the sky align with those on the hat, he will be free to leave Storybrooke with Belle. Rumple claims he is going to give his wife “the life she always wanted”, clearly referencing Belle’s traditional portrayal as someone who wants adventure and more than a “provincial life”, but one has to wonder if Rumpelstilskin is justifying his own actions through the supposedly kind gesture towards Belle.

Flashback to the Enchanted Forest with Belle in the Dark One’s castle, rooting around in his cabinet of curiosities. The last time we saw this cabinet was back in season 3 when Nealfire was searching for a way to get to Neverland. Before Belle can really explore or test out the cool sword she found, Rumpelstilskin catches his maid in the act, having returned early from a trip. The dialog in this scene goes on the establish that these events take place very early on in Belle and Rumple’s relationship, since the imp is nothing but cold and snarky to his maid. Belle was simply curious about all the treasures Rumple has collected since the Dark One has seen much of the world, something she wants to do very badly. In order to live vicariously through her captor, Belle asks Rumpelstilskin about his trip to Camelot. Camelot, hmm, anybody else now think that the Sorcerer might be Merlin the wizard? Anyway, Rumple shows her what he took from Camelot, a gauntlet that locates a person’s greatest weakness. Belle, thinking Rumple’s power is enough to conquer any foe, gets a quick lesson in Dark One-ism. It’s about manipulation and I love that Rumpelstilskin, the chess master himself, acknowledges his famous modus operandi. Most commonly a person’s weakness is the thing they love most. If Rumple can find that thing, he will have power over his enemy.

Back in present day Storybrooke, Regina and Robin are in the vault, ready to resurrect a thawed Maid Marian by putting her heart back in its place. I feel as if Marian was literally put on pause this season to make way for Frozen, but I don’t know how the writers would have been able to draw out that storyline for eleven episodes, so it’s probably for the best. Marian wakes when her heart is restored and immediately jumps up to hug Robin Hood, while Regina awkwardly hangs back. Later on, we see the Evil Queen moping at Granny’s Diner. Someone approaches and at first Regina believes it’s one of the Charmings ready with a pep talk, but no it’s Maid Marian! Robin’s wife thanks the Evil Queen for saving her life and gets right to the point; she sees how her husband and Regina look at each other. Even though it’s only been a short time for her, Robin’s heart has moved on. Maid Marian is willing to step aside and let the couple be together. To me this seemed like an awfully tidy way to clean up this whole story line, but then I thought about what Marian said. She wants to be chosen, to be someone’s number one, so it makes sense she would step back. She doesn’t want Robin to hang around out of obligation or honor. Remember, her initial issue with Robin and Regina being together was mostly with the fact that Regina was the Evil Queen. Now that Marian sees what Regina has become, I think that's what is making this decision easier.

Across town, the magical walking broom is once more leading Rumpelstilskin and Hook to something of the Sorcerer’s. This time it’s to that mysterious mansion in the woods. I wonder why the Sorcerer’s home decided to come over in the most recent curse. Was this the doing of the Snow Queen or did the Sorcerer want to be in Storybrooke for some reason? Rumple explains that the Sorcerer’s magic is exceptionally strong if he was able to bring the Snow Queen into our world and more likely than not the portal he used could still exist, providing the Dark One an easy way to dispose of his Anna problem. And it looks like the imp with the limp has hit the nail on the head, for concealed in the mansion’s main drawing room is a door similar to the one the Snow Queen went through.

With his plans in place, Rumpelstilskin is ready to act. The first order of business, however, is breakfast in bed with his lovely wife, as he finally rouses Belle from her slumber by tickling her nose. The Dark One certainly is a charmer and I find myself almost going “aww” over his actions, until I remember all of the skullduggery he has and is currently engaged in. Rumple suggests to Belle that they have a “real” honeymoon and offers to take the librarian to see New York and bid her to get packed. A short while later Belle is stuffing clothes into her suitcase when Henry drops by, greeting the librarian with a casual “hey, Grandma”. Grandma Belle, I do love that. Anyway, the boy asks about Belle’s trip, revealing that the Snow Queen had left the curse of no return on the town line. This seems to give Belle pause, though she quickly dismisses anything that might be bothering her by reasoning that Rumple must have concocted a way around the spell. Henry still seems concerned and tells Belle about The Book and his worries regarding all the bad things that happen to people like Regina in it. Belle very wisely assures his step-grandson that Regina is on a much better path that she was, and I like the usage of the word “path” to describe Regina’s journey since it implies that there is more than one way she could have reached the point she is at now. Belle continues packing, noticing she is running low on space in her bag. So Henry goes to unearth another suitcase under the mounds of trinkets stacked in the shop, causing one precarious pile to upend. As Henry scrambles to help Belle pick everything up, the gauntlet from the past is among the mess. Now Belle is visibly concerned, claiming she didn’t expect to see the gauntlet here.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, Belle just won’t let go of the idea of Rumple and his collection of trinkets. She believes he gathers items to fill a void in his heart, though her psychoanalysis of his hoarding tendencies is interrupted by the impatient imp magically poofing Belle away to do his laundry. A bit put out at being dismissed so easily, Belle mutters to herself as she hangs up the Dark One’s socks. Grumpy Laundry Belle is quite amusing and her laundering is soon interrupted by an adorable Dalmatian puppy. Playing with puppies is way better than rinsing out the Dark One’s unmentionables, so naturally Belle scampers after the puppy when it runs away. This proves enough distraction for an unseen figure dressed in black to sneak up on Belle and snatch her away. Personally, I think that this new villain shape shifted into that puppy to lure Belle away from safety. I also wonder that if spotted dogs are this new foe’s calling card, what does that mean for Archie’s dog, Pongo?

In Storybrooke, Hook enters Granny’s Diner and eagerly tells Emma that he’s found a portal to Arendelle and solved everyone’s problems. As the pirate celebrates with a swig of rum, he goes on to explain that Rumpelstilskin told him where it was. And much more it seems, for the scene cuts quickly over to the pawn shop where we see the Dark One is actually controlling Hook, making him tell Emma what he needs her to in order to get the sisters back to Arendelle and away from his plan. That explains why Hook so uncharacteristically poured his rum into a teacup instead of roguishly drinking from the bottle. Now that we know Rumple is in charge, it’s very obvious he’s controlling Hook. The pirate takes on the imp's way of speaking and even unconsciously mimics one of the sweeping hand gestures Rumple so often does. It's a great addition to the scene, very subtle, and really sells the fact that Hook is not himself. And Emma can sense this as she seems a bit wary of her boyfriend’s words. Rumple forces Hook to assure the savior that all is well and the portal is safe, but the pirate manages to regain control of his hand and desperately clutches Emma’s wrist as if somehow trying to warn her.

Elsewhere in Storybrooke, Robin and Regina are sharing a park bench, watching Roland play with Maid Marian. Regina is very staunch in her stance that children come first, thinking about Marian’s words in the diner and the woman’s role as Roland’s mother. Robin is a little confused, insisting that it’s ok, he chose Regina. Even when Regina pushes back a bit, Robin insists that yes explaining everything to Roland will be difficult, but if the Prince of Thieves went back with Marian he’d be living a lie, which is a worse example for his son. It’s good that the characters acknowledge the messy and difficult journey for what it is. And it seems that things are about to get even messier when Marian collapses. She’s still freezing, a sliver of the spell must still be somewhere inside her. Regina realizes that the only way to stop this magic is to eliminate it all together and the only way to do that would be to send Maid Marian across the town line into the magic-free real world with Robin and Roland to help her. However, as we’ve recently learned, once you cross the town line you can’t come back. So after a moment of happiness, a difficult choice must be made.

Quickly, the group prepares to leave Storybrooke for good. We see that Marian is much worse for wear as she, Roland, and Robin Hood are saying their good-byes to the Merry Men at the town line. Regina has opted to let them have their moment and is waiting in the car. Rumpelstilskin of all people slides in the seat next to her, not coming to gloat but to bid Regina her own farewell as he and Belle are about to go on their trip. Rumple makes it very clear that he is fully aware they won’t be able to return, keeping the details of his plan to himself. He asks Regina for one favor, that she tell Henry he will be missed. So I guess Rumple realized that he couldn’t smuggle his grandson along with and abandoned the idea of taking him along. Rumple also remarks on all the snooping Henry did while working in the shop, revealing that he did indeed know that his grandson’s intentions weren’t innocent at all. I wonder if Rumple was secretly proud of Henry and his actions.

Regina explains how Henry was looking for clues and the concept of this mysterious Author. It’s pretty obvious Rumple finds the idea of the Author intriguing and actually hasn’t a clue who wrote the storybook. Regina, still convinced that villains don’t get happy endings asks Rumple how the Dark One has seemed to achieve his. Rumple explains that he wasn’t given a happy end, he took it, and calmly suggests that Regina do the same. Rumpelstilskin remarks on how if Marian were to die, the Evil Queen’s problems would be solved. However, Regina is firm; that is no longer who she is. Regina also remarks that all of this thirst for power and taking what you want talk is awfully reminiscent of the old Rumple. The Dark One explains his recent change in attitude and behavior as his “evolving”; that coming back from the dead and having his mind stole by the Wicked Witch did a number on him. This does explain why Rumple has been just sneaky and conniving this season. Rumple assures Regina that even though he is a villain, he can still get what he wants and in a moment of sincerity clasps Regina’s hand and says he wants that for her as well, that old student/teacher relationship springing forth, With that, Rumple leaves the Evil Queen alone in the car to think about his words before joining the group outside.

At the town line, Regina fusses over Robin, making sure he has all the maps and parting instructions he needs. Marian is growing worse and worse, so she and Roland quickly step over the line. Marian is instantly healed and I like the effect they use when someone crosses the town line now. It looks as though that person is stepping through a wall of water. Marian and Roland turn and wait for Robin Hood, though they can’t see him due to the enchantment. Honestly, for a few moments I was concerned here that Rumple’s pep talk would have more of an effect on Regina, causing her to do something desperate in order to hang on to her love. Thankfully, Regna’s character has officially progressed past that as she lets Robin go, not before the Prince of Thieves lunges forward and shares one final kiss. As she watched Robin disappear down the road, Regina takes out the storybook page that showed her potential happy ending and shreds it to pieces.

In a flashback to the Enchanted Forest, Rumpelstilskin is searching the wooded laundry area, thinking Belle might have run off or escaped. Instead of finding his maid, however, Rumple encounters a raven that drops a sand dollar at his feet. The sand dollar reveals a message for Rumple, showing him an image of Belle that explains the Dark One must bring the gauntlet or else that’s the end of her. I like that the hologram sand dollar from season three has made a return appearance. Those little bits of continuity that flow throughout the series are my favorite. Rumpelstilskin is greatly vexed by Belle’s mysterious captors making demands. It appears he knows who is threatening him because when Rumpelstilskin arrives at the designated location with the gauntlet, he’s less than surprised to see Maleficent popping out from behind a rock. Thinking he can easily dispatch his enemy, Rumple immediately puts the squeeze on Maleficent, who has just enough time to croak out that she isn’t alone before our other villains are revealed. Ursula the Sea Witch snakes a tentacle around Belle, keeping her captive while Cruella De Vil saunters out from behind another boulder to dispense some sass.

To me, Cruella De Vil is the most intriguing of the trio since she and Rumple seem to have the most history, as evidenced by that “gin and desperation” line. But also this is the character the creators of Once Upon a Time are taking the most liberties with. If you’ve seen 101 Dalmatians, you know Cruella isn’t magical, just crazy. I wonder what interesting things we will see from her character and how she will now fit in a magical reality. Rumpelstilskin was not going to give up the gauntlet to these three Queens of Darkness until Ursula began squeezing the life out of Belle, forcing the imp to hand over the magical item. Now that they have what they want, the ability to find their enemies’ weaknesses so they can win for once, the trio vanish, leaving Belle and Rumple alone, the former wondering out loud why her master cares for her.

In Storybrooke, Emma and company arrive at the mysterious mansion hopefully about to send the sisters and Kristoff back to Arendelle. Henry is impressed with the building and goes off to explore. As the door to Arendelle is opened and the Frozen characters say good bye to their Storybrooke friends, Elsa and Emma’s good bye hits me the hardest. I really will miss seeing these two together on screen. Emma needed a friend, one that wasn’t a family member or former enemy. She needed a person who saw her for her first, someone to connect with during a difficult time. Since this portal seems rather permanent, I wouldn’t mind seeing Elsa pop back over once in a while to visit Emma. Their friendship is something I’d like to see continue on this show. Anna is the last to leave and before she can slip away into the portal she mentions how she would have liked to meet “Mr. Gold” and thanked him personally for his help. She wonders out loud if Gold was a force for good in the other realm, like a fairy godfather. The only godfather I would associate with Rumpelstilskin would be the mafia type. Charming explains that Gold was far from a kind and benevolent being in the other realm, telling the girl from Arendelle that he is not other than Rumpelstilskin. Anna is shocked and reveals that Rumple lied about knowing her. This causes Emma’s savior sense to tingle; if Rumple lied about that, what else has he been hiding? She realizes he must have been playing them all the entire time.

Jumping over to the clock tower where Rumple and Hook are done playing games. Rumple opens the top of the clock tower, exposing the sky before setting down his dagger and reaching for the hat. As the Sorcerer’s hat opens, a gorgeous star field springs into the air above Rumple and Hook’s heads. This is a breathtaking bit of CGI and looks phenomenal. Emma and Snow White rush to the clock tower and try to stop the imp, but Rumple freezes them in their tracks and goes to complete the spell by crushing Captain Hook’s heart. Only as he squeezes the organ, Rumple finds that he is unable to finish the deed. Upon my first viewing I believed that Emma was able to get a spell in before she was frozen, but the reason Rumpelstilskin can’t act is far better and more satisfying. As Rumpelstilskin wonders why Hook isn’t dying, a voice over his shoulder pipes up and says “Because I commanded you not to”. It’s Belle, clutching the dagger while shooting a pair of her own out of her eyes at her husband. Belle commands that Rumple drop the heart and step away from the spell, releasing everyone and causing the stars to zoom back into the Sorcerer’s hat. Then, very evenly, Belle commands that Rumpelstilskin take them to the town line as they will need privacy for what comes next.

Poofed over to the town line, Belle admits that she is finally facing the truth. Rumple does everything he can, begging to his wife, but the librarian stands firm. She goes on to say how she thought she saw something good in the Dark One, but today when she found the gauntlet she realized all the signs she had been ignoring were right. Rumpelstilskin would never give up power for her. The gauntlet pointed to Rumple’s weakness, the thing he loved most, and that was the true dagger, causing Belle to realize that Rumple’s True Love is power. Rumpelstilskin is still trying to talk his way out of the situation, telling his wife that they could have had to all, but for Belle just having Rumple was enough. Belle, like Marian earlier in the episode, just wanted to be chosen. Belle goes on, saying that despite Rumple’s assertion that he can change, the Dark One never did and now Belle can only see the beast in him.

Belle tearfully commands Rumpelstilskin to leave Storybrooke, knowing full well that once he crosses the town line he will be powerless and unable to return. Rumple is terrified and unwilling to lose his wife, but Belle assures him that he already has. And with that Rumpelstilskin stumbles over the town line and collapses to his knees. This entire scene has to be my favorite of the episode, if not the season so far. It was incredibly appeasing to see Rumpelstilskin finally get called out on everything he has been doing these past eleven episodes. And not only that, Belle is the one to put him in his place. She finally is willing to see what’s been right in front of her, unable to ignore the evidence any longer. This was the right thing for her to do, and yet it was the most painful. I do believe that Rumple loves Belle, but I think he loves his power more. I’m just so glad that we finally were able to see this since anyone who reads these reviews knows I’ve been waiting for a fallout all season, and I really enjoy the fact that the episode spent so much time with the scene. This is game changer got the time it needed to properly unfold.

In a final flashback, we get a warm ending to the Frozen portion of the tale. Elsa and Anna have succeeded in taking back their kingdom from Hans and his evil brothers, so now Anna is finally able to wed Kristoff. I have to say Anna looks stunning in her wedding dress and I do love the final shot of the sisters clasping hands before Anna enters the ceremony, only this time Elsa’s hands are bare as she is unafraid. There are also a few smaller details that make this scene enjoyable, including the painting of the three Arendelle royal sisters and Anna and Elsa’s spot on recreation of the famous “chocolate!” line from the Frozen movie. All this was nice to see, and yet I feel that it wasn’t 100% necessary. Upon my first viewing I was much more interested in Rumpelstilskin’s drama and grew impatient with this scene, whereas on repeat viewings I can better appreciate the scene for wrapping up Frozen once and for all.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma is at the diner not so gently returning Hook’s heart to its rightful place in his chest. Despite the jarring, Hook immediately smooches Emma when his heart is restored and reminds the savior that he is a survivor. Across the diner, Regina is once again moping at the counter when Emma approaches her. The Evil Queen is quick to head Emma and any “hope speeches” off, saying she doesn’t want to hear it, but the savior has a different method of dealing in mind and suggests the pair do some shots. While I don’t want these two women to be utterly best friends, I enjoyed this moment of levity and normalcy with two allies deciding to throw caution into the wind and alcohol into their bellies. Unfortunately the shots will have to wait because Henry burst into the diner with some interesting news. He gets his mothers over to the mystery mansion, where he had been snooping. Inside, Henry reveals a secret room, a library, with books identical to his storybook from floor to ceiling. Only these books are all blank, inside and out. I don’t know if it was just me, but for some reason the idea of all these potential stories, this sea of blank books, was kind of unnerving to me. The vastness of the potential for stories as fun and tragic as those found on Once Upon a Time to be created over and over again with no known purpose is just creepy to me. Regina lets Emma in on Operation Mongoose and the savior is all for helping them find the author since she vowed to bring back everyone’s happy ending, including the Evil Queen’s.

Just when you thought the episode was over, we jump ahead six weeks where we see Rumpelstilskin slumming it in New York City. He even has his cane again, going to show just how mundane the Dark One has become. Rumple is traveling somewhere, he’s on a mission, and while he’s on the move we jump between the present day and a flashback to the imp retrieving the gauntlet from the Queens of Darkness. The trio insists that villains never win and invited the Dark One to join them in trying to succeed for once. Oh how the mighty have fallen when we see present day Rumple approach the person he was seeking, a washed up Ursula who currently is employed feeding fish at the aquarium. I do question how Ursula got to our world and how Rumple was able to find her. Rumpelstilskin admits that he learned the hard way the rules apply to him too, that villains aren’t granted happy endings. However, the imp uses what he learned from Regina, namely the existence of the Author, and proposes that Ursula join him in finding this mysterious writer and getting the heroes that stand in their way out of the picture. Rumpelstilskin comments they have two more stops to make before they can begin their plan and I wonder about this since the last time we saw Maleficent she was that wraith-like being trapped under Storybrooke. Unfortunately, these and many more questions will have to wait as the episode and this half of the season draws to a close.

There it was, “Heroes and Villains”. What did you think of the mid-season finale?

Like I said before, this episode was satisfying. Instead of being tortured with a massive cliffhanger that would eat at us over the hiatus, we were given a solid introduction to the next step in the story. I’m intrigued and will definitely be tuning in, but I’m not chomping at the bit or frantically theorizing and I like that change in pace. While it was sad to see the Frozen characters go, I’m glad we are moving on to a much darker themed second half of the season.

Rumpelstilskin and Belle’s big scene this episode was the crown jewel and highlight in my mind. All season long everyone, I included, have been taken aback by the levels of skullduggery Rumple has displayed and for all his plans to backfire and leave him worse off, is great. I love that Belle tried to see the good in him, but finally accepted that perhaps there isn’t any and took matters into her own hands. Belle made the hard choice because she knew it was the right one, as opposed to her husband who made the easy choice in chasing power even though it was wrong. I do think that these two are in love, but a relationship is give and take. Belle even said that she was tired of putting herself on hold for Rumple’s agendas. Sometimes a person can use you up and no even realize it until it’s too late.

Now that Rumpelstilskin is exiled and on his way back, we’ve got new faces returning to Storybrooke. I love the Evil Trio’s costume designs and looks. Obviously, who isn’t thrilled with the more traditional take on Maleficent outfit and I love what they did with Ursula’s gown, making it look like something you would find on the bottom of the ocean or seaweed or something. Cruella, for me, is an interesting case. She is by far my favorite of the Queens of Darkness and yet, initially, I wasn’t a fan of her look. I felt it was too close to the animated style, just a touch too cartoony with the eye makeup and such. But when she opened her mouth, all my worries went out the window. Cruella in action is a hundred times better than a still photograph and I think that’s what will sell the character. I wonder what will happen when the Evil Trio come to town and I’m excited to find out what plans they have in store for the citizens of Storybrooke and our heroes.

Time to go under a sleeping curse! I’ll see you Oncers back for the season 4B premiere “Darkness on the Edge of Town”. Be sure to tune in for it Sunday, March 1st!

About the Author – Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Galavant, as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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