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Once Upon a Time – Heart of Gold – Review

Plot. Twist. Who saw that one coming? Wow, I really enjoyed this episode of Once Upon a Time! The twists in “Heart of Gold” fit so well into the story lines of previous episodes, it certainly didn’t feel as if the writers were pulling rabbits out of hats. I always said that I would have preferred Regina to have family in Storybrooke and well I got my wish, though this is certainly not to Regina’s benefit. The performances in this episode were exceptional, every monologue either fantastic fun or emotionally moving. And my my, that Author seems to be on everybody’s list. I’m glad we got Robin Hood’s back story, but at the same time, that was the least interesting part of the episode for me. “Heart of Gold” was also a bit confusing to watch since the main action was in a flashback and then we flashed back even further to the Enchanted Forest, though this does improve when rewatching the episode. Now that there are so many players involved with the goings-on on Once Upon a Time, I wonder just how it will fit together in the end. We are in for a massive cliff hanger I know it, and if the remaining episodes of this season are as good as the ones we’ve seen, we are also in for a few more shocks.

The episode begins right where the last left off with our heroes in hot pursuit of the escaped Author, tracking him in the nearby woods. So far Emma and her family are without luck in finding this crafty character. During a pause in the search, Snow White blurts out that she and Charming knew the Author once upon a time, explaining how it was he who put them on the path that lead to their separating Maleficent from her child. I love that Emma calls out her parents here, exclaiming that they’ve been constantly lying and telling Charming and Snow not to down play their actions. Emma points out with frustration that the only reason she is the savior is because the Charmings pretty much meddled with her state of being and did so at someone else’s expense. Charming claims that they are only human, wont to make mistakes and didn’t understand the weight that their actions carried, and Emma simply replies that she doesn’t care. Back to the task at hand; our heroes must find the Author before Rumpelstiltskin does.

Speaking of the Author, he is frantically making his way through the woods, trying to find safety. Inspiration seems to strike as the Author grabs a stick off a tree and begins to whittle what looks like a pen. Rumple appears, as he tends to do, and smugly tells the Author his plan won’t work; enchanted quills like the one the Author uses on The Book can only be crafted from enchanted trees and there are none in Storybrooke. The Author is beyond frustrated at this point and moves to leave, but Rumple entices him to stay by revealing that he holds the enchanted quill in question. Now, how did the Dark One get that? I love that the Author calls Rumpelstiltskin the “biggest pain in the ass he has ever had the displeasure of writing about”. Talk about the understatement of the year. I wonder if the Dark One’s magic prevents him from being manipulated by the Author. Rumple tells the Author that he is going to craft a “whole bunch” of happy endings for the imp. We know by the end of the episode why Rumple wants more than one, but why a “bunch”? Could it be that he will actually keep his bargain with Maleficent as well or is it because the lives of so many in the Enchanted Forest are so intertwined that many stories must be factored into fashioning his own happy end? I also just want to remark that the music in this scene really sets the mood; it’s very tense, speaking of the danger present when Rumple finally ensnares the Author.

A short while later at Regina’s vault, the mayor wakes to find herself shackled and powerless with Rumpelstiltskin gloating over her. He clues her in to the fact that the Author has joined his side. Regina reminds Rumple that he once wanted her to find her own happy ending, but Rumple counters that it shan’t be at the expense of his own. The imp with the limp goes on to tell Regina how she will lose everything she holds dear just as he had and shows the mayor a scrap of paper he found in her pocket, one that has Robin Hood’s phone number on it. Regina ignores his mocking, demanding to know what the Dark One did to her beloved, so Rumple offers her a cell phone and tells Regina to ask him herself.

We flashback to nine weeks prior, where most of the action in “Heart of Gold” takes place. The audience gets a quick recap of Robin and Regina’s tearful good bye at the town line before we jump ahead in time to Robin, Roland, and Marian navigating through New York. It’s loud, dirty, and frightening, especially to poor young Roland. Robin is trying to find their way to Nealfire’s old apartment. Regina gave him the keys since it wasn’t in use. But when Marian is distracted with picking up the weary Roland, a purse snatcher comes by and grabs her bag. Robin gives heroic chase, stealing a horse from a nearby carriage to run down the thief. There’s a great bit of stunts here with Robin leaping off the horse to tackle the suspect, very “Enchanted Forest”. After catching the thief, Robin sternly tells him that those that steal from people in need have no honor, setting us up for the focus of Robin’s back story.

We jump back in time to Sherwood Forest, where we see Robin and Marian running a tavern together. Little John shows up and tries to get his former leader to join in on some highway robbery, but Robin refuses. Since he wed Maid Marian, Robin has vowed to stay on the straight and narrow. The Sheriff of Nottingham arrives, played to oily perfection, and reminds Robin that his taxes are due. Marian is great in this scene, standing up for herself and giving the lecherous sheriff a good amount of sass. Robin is destined for debtor’s prison unless he can come up with his taxes in two days, so the former thief promises to somehow get the money.

Back in New York, we see the Hood family in Nealfire’s old apartment. Marian is not happy with their current situation and blames herself, but Robin reassures her, reminding his wife that she would have died had they not crossed the town line. Robin made the choice to come with them. Marian knows this and talks about how honor is the thief’s biggest strength, and yet he is not with the woman he loves. Before this can be explored further, the door knob jiggles and the front door unlocks, revealing Rumpelstiltskin. The Dark One looks disheveled and is confused as to why Robin is in his son’s home. This must be right after Rumple was exiled by Belle. The Dark One wants them out of the apartment, but Robin refuses wondering why he is even in New York in the first place. Rumple mysteriously refers to business he must attend to, but Robin is sly enough to realize that Rumple is referring to finding the Author. The Dark One explains that if he doesn’t succeed, Regina won’t get her happy ending with Robin either, but the thief doesn’t trust his new house guest. The two continue to argue, but this proves to be a strain on Rumpelstiltskin, who collapses.

Back at Robin Hood’s tavern, it looks like the Sheriff of Nottingham has scared off most of the patrons, as the bar is empty. Well, save for one brave soul, but I’m sure Robin isn’t pleased when the visitor reveals himself to be Rumpelstiltskin. The Dark One has been searching for the best thief in the land to do a little job for him and all fingers point to Robin. Wisely, the thief wants nothing to do with Rumple, but the imp offers gold straw to pay his tax debt. All Robin has to do is go to a faraway land, one where Rumple isn’t welcome, and steal something called the Elixir of the Wounded Heart. Robin leans on the fourth wall a bit by commenting on the ridiculous name for this potion as Rumple explains it is able to mend hearts, both emotionally and physically. And to retrieve this elixir, all Robin has to do is travel to the Land of Oz.

In New York, Robin is in a hospital waiting room, staring at his phone with Regina’s number pulled up as if contemplating giving her a call. A nurse arrives and tells the thief his “friend” is awake. Rumpelstiltskin is all laid up in a hospital bed, looking rather grumpy to be there. Perhaps he needs some jello? The imp explains that while the doctors prattled on about diet and exercise, believing Rumple to have suffered a heart attack, the Dark One knows the real cause of his affliction. Years of evil deeds have blackened his heart so thoroughly that it has begun to fail. I mentioned this as a possibility in my last review and am pleased that we are being shown some serious repercussions from letting one’s heart be poisoned by evil. In Storybrooke, Rumple held this eventuality at bay with magic, but outside of the town line he is powerless to stop it. So Rumpelstiltskin has been living on borrowed time, no wonder he is always so desperate. However, the Dark One already has a solution. Magic can’t be created in the “real world”, but magical items apparently can still function. This might explain some discrepancies we’ve seen in past seasons. Rumple reminds Robin of the Elixir of the Wounded Heart and may know were some is located in New York. Robin looks less than amused, wondering aloud at why he would help such a great enemy. Rumpelstiltskin reminds Robin that it’s the same reason he left Regina; he’s a man of honor and is bound by that to save a dying man like Rumple. It looks like Robin’s greatest strength is also his greatest weakness.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, we see Robin entering Oz through a curtained portal door. How is this portal created and why can Rumple travel to this land so easily? Robin is surprised by none other than the Knave of Hearts, lying bound in the middle of the yellow brick road. The Knave was lucky enough that when Robin’s door arrived, it landed on the guard, knocking him out. Those legs sticking out from the curtain are a fun Wizard of Oz shout out. Robin lets the Knave loose and explains his mission, which the Knave finds silly. The Knave doesn’t believe Robin is risking all this for just a tavern and he’s right, Robin is risking so much for what the tavern represents. The thief promised Maid Marian a better life when they were wed and the honest living managing the tavern is just that. The Knave wants in on the potion as well, offering to keep the unconscious guard out of Robin’s hair in return for a vial. Robin agrees and steals the guard’s uniform.

In New York, Robin is once again on a mission for Rumple. He’s standing outside a store called “The Wizard of Oak”, which tickles my punny bone, and remarks that this was “his” cover in Oz as well. Over the phone, Rumple explains that yes the Wizard was brought to our world as well by Zelena in order to keep an eye on Emma and surely a henchman of the Wicked Witch wouldn’t travel through realms unprepared. I like this tie in to the events of season three and I’ve been thinking more and more about how I appreciate the writers going back and using details from past seasons in current stories. It keeps with the idea that these events are history to these characters, that they aren’t just going on adventures and them moving on, never to revisit past dealings again. Robin deftly picks the lock on the front door, but unfortunately trips the alarm and begins to frantically search the store front, trying to find the potion before the authorities arrive. The thief spies a unique door in the side of one of the cabinets and opens it, revealing a manner of potions, including the elixir he seeks. The police arrive right as Robin makes his discovery and the thief if forced to flee via defenestration out the back alley.

Back at the apartment, Marian is less than pleased with the risks Robin took. Roland is adorable here and it offsets the intense argument his parents are having. Robin tells Marian not to doubt that she and Roland are what’s most important to him, but Robin’s code prevents him from turning his back on a dying man. Marian doesn’t want Robin to have anything to do with Rumpelstiltskin, thinking to would benefit the greater good if they let him die. While this may be true, it’s rather blood thirsty, and even Robin mentions that this is not the Marian he knows. We shall see how this all fits in, but for now Marian simply states that everything has changed.

Back in Oz, Robin in his guard disguise is rifling through the Wicked Witch’s drawers in the Oz throne room. This is one of my favorite sets on Once Upon a Time, I just love the way it looks, especially how the lighting plays against the giant glass vials of bubbling green liquid. This is one of the best looking digital sets on the show in my opinion since it’s so dynamic and interesting to look at. Robin starts pocketing items he finds and soon comes across the elixir. He manages to fill up one vial, but is interrupted in filling up the one for the Knave by the Wicked Witch herself, who has just swept into the throne room. Zelena knows something is amiss, so Robin goes on the offensive, grabbing the bow and arrow we’ve seen in a previous episode, the one that always hits its mark, and turns them on the Wicked Witch. Zelena uses magic to multiply herself and throw Robin off, realizing only Rumple would dare send someone to her realm. She prepares a fireball, demanding to know why Rumple sent the thief, but Robin lets the arrow loose and it bounces around the room before striking one of the tubes found around the chamber, filling the area with steam and providing the thief cover to escape. Robin quickly reunites with the Knave and flat out lies that he was unable to retrieve any potion. So much for honor among thieves.

In New York, Robin returns to the hospital and gives the elixir to Rumple on the condition that the Dark One move on and never bother Robin or his family again. Robin leaves and Rumple eagerly downs the potion, only to find that it doesn’t work. This is when Marian enters, acting uncharacteristically smug. She explains that what the Dark One drank wasn’t magical and shows Rumple the real vial. She duped the Dark One with Robitussin! Maid Marian shows Rumple a pendant hanging around her neck and transforms into none other than Zelena. What a delicious twist, one that makes sense considering how aggressive and forgetful Marian has been in this episode. The latter evidence is one that I appreciate more because it was done so subtly with Marian claiming she “said many things” instead of actually remembering her exact words. At first this just sounds like a woman who has been through so much unwilling to remember her past, but on second viewing it comes off as such a sly way for Zelena to avoid revealing herself.

And boy does Zelena reveal herself in a dastardly villainous monologue. Zelena explains that like Walsh, she never travels through realms without some imported magic. The pendant around her neck is a powerful glamour spell. Zelena then explains how she cheated death with the help from some clips from season three. When Rumple stabbed Zelena in the jail cell back in Storybrooke, we are reminded of how her life force fled her body and set off the time portal. It seemed Zelena’s manic determination to get her way continued on. When Zelena realized that Emma had planned to save the real Maid Marian from Regina’s dungeon, the Wicked Witch killed Marian and took her place. Zelena was still stuck on ruining Regina’s happiness and so far no one had been the wiser. This explains why “Marian” gave up fighting for Robin so easily, though I wonder if it was within the Wicked Witch’s powers to fake a relapse of the Snow Queen’s freezing curse. Zelena can’t get enough of taunting Rumple about how he failed at getting his vengeance and drives the Dark One into cardiac arrest. As Rumpelstiltskin flat lines, Zelena puts on a good show for the doctors, but can barely contain her glee.

The only problem with all this fabulous monologue-ing is that it’s simply for exposition’s sake. I love seeing Zelena chewing up the scenery, and I admit I laughed out loud when she imitated Rumple rolling his R’s when saying his name, but while writing this review I realized she does go on for quite a while. Anyway, the doctors are able to save Rumpelstiltskin and have him on a respirator while Zelena looms over him, set on continuing to explain her plans. She even mentions how easy it would be to pull the plug on the Dark One, but she wants to get the final word in first. Zelena’s grand scheme was to use her glamour and pose as Marian in order to steal Robin away from Regina. God, they have such a sisterly feud. In the end, however, Zelena just simply couldn’t win his heart. It was as if fate or destiny was blocking her way. So Zelena wants to get a piece of that Author action and have the scribe force a happy ending for her as well. That’s why she’s not suffocating Rumple, she needs him to persuade the Author to write her happy end. And what does Rumple get out of all this? Well, Zelena is still in possession of that vial of elixir so, as much as it pains the Dark One, he agrees on their deal.

Back in Oz, the Knave of Hearts and Robin Hood are about to part ways when the Knave thanks Robin, even though he didn’t succeed in retrieving the elixir for him. The Knave says Robin is honorable because he did the brave thing for those that he loved even if he didn’t reach his goal. At least he tried and that is an inspiration. The Knave then goes on to talk about that sister he lost, the one that fell through the ice many years ago. This is a great call back to the events in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and speaks to the Knave’s state of mind, that perhaps he believes could have done more to save his sister and blames himself. The Knave wanted the elixir for his own heart, claiming that it isn’t fair to ask for someone else’s if he can’t fix his own. Could this speak to the mysterious falling out the Knave had with the Red Queen? The pair of thieves embrace as brothers and go their separate ways, wishing each other luck. However, as Robin leaves, we see that the Knave got the upper hand and lifted the potion off of his friend. What a sneak. I hope we find out how this development turned out. EDIT: Apparently I misinterpreted this scene. I assumed that the Knave had pick-pocketed Robin, not Robin reverse pick-pocketing the Knave which is what actually happened. My apologies and thanks to the comment section for pointing that out, it definitely gives me a better appreciation of Robin's back story now.

In New York, Robin is waiting outside of the hospital for Rumple. There’s a poster for Aladdin on Broadway it looks like. Could this be foreshadowing to new characters arriving on Once Upon a Time? Robin wanted to makes sure Rumpelstiltskin was well and to give the imp Nealfire’s possessions from the apartment. Rumple declines taking them, stating that these things are not Baelfire’s but Neal’s, a lost boy who was alone because his father was a coward. Rumple doesn’t want any reminders of his greatest failure, the proof that he couldn’t recognize the happiness he had. Robin understands where the Dark One is coming from; he wished for so long that Marian would return and when she did he found himself in love with someone else. Robin feels that Marian is almost a stranger to him now. More than you know, friend. Robin Hood married Maid Marian because he believed that she was his happy ending, but now he isn’t so sure. Rumple, out of whatever kindness is left in his black heart, offers some advice, advice from a man who pushed away happiness because he didn’t think it was enough. He says if it’s within your grasp and you know who it’s with, you should run to that happiness and never let go. This has to be one of the most honest things Rumpelstiltskin has said in a long time and despite his general dastardly behavior, it’s moments like these where I sympathize with the Dark One.

Flashback to Sherwood and Robin’s empty tavern. The Sheriff of Nottingham swans in, smug as ever that he finally has Robin where he wants him. The thief doesn’t have the gold to pay his taxes, but before Robin can be carted away, the Merry Men pop out of the woodwork to defend their leader. Robin takes the sheriff’s purse and explains that he can be a thief and have honor by robbing the rich and giving it to the poor. Cut to the Merry Men making it rain gold, giving the riches to the eager peasants. Robin and Marian are off to the side, watching the merriment and the thief talks about changing his name to Robin Hood, claiming it’s symbolic. Marian is concerned that Rumpelstiltskin will kill Robin on sight since he never received his potion, but Robin has a solution for that. He presents one of the times he lifted from the Oz throne room, the same pendant we saw Zelena wearing. Should Robin and Rumple’s paths ever cross, the thief will simply change his face to hide. While this is a retcon, it’s still a nice way of explaining the change in actors for the role of Robin Hood. Robin apologizes for keeping his plan from Marian and explains that he believed reclaiming the tavern was what was important, but that simply isn’t who he is. Thievery can be put to good use and goes on to explain that when you steal for yourself you are a thief, but when you steal for others, you’re a hero. I have to disagree with Robin on this one. Despite that flawed logic, Robin wants to make a difference and he warns Marian that the road ahead won’t be easy. Marian doesn’t care, she want to be with Robin no matter what.

In New York things are a little different. Marian calls for Robin, displeased that Regina’s number is still in his phone. Robin apologizes and Marian flat out asks if her husband truly wants to be with another woman. She feels as if he is there but not and tells Robin he must make a choice. Marian, or rather “Marian” even gives Robin the option to leave, laying on the guilt. Robin tells her he wants to be with her, that she gave up everything for him once. Robin talks about how it’s a miracle that Marian is back and even goes as far as deleting Regina out of his phone before the pair kiss, though in the mirror we get a striking reminder that Robin is being deceived, for we see Zelena reflected there. Robin changing his mind, honor or not, is a bit harsh. I personally thought that he would take Rumple’s advice to mean he should go back to Regina. When Zelena’s disguise is revealed I expect a huge confrontation and fall out from all that has happened in this episode.

And so we jump ahead nine weeks to the present day, right as Regina is dialing Robin’s number. But it isn’t Robin who answers, it’s “Marian”, who quickly drops the act and delightfully reveals herself as Zelena. Regina is practically knocked off her feet when she recognizes her sister’s voice and demands to know how Zelena survived. Zelena isn’t in the monologue-ing mood it seems and when Regina demands to know what her sister did with Robin, the Wicked Witch simply goads Regina on, teasing all of the wife-ly things she is doing for the thief. Before hanging up, Zelena is sure to mention that she will be seeing Regina again very soon, so I wonder if Zelena will somehow bring Robin back to Storybrooke, or if she will simply show up by herself to wreak havoc. Regina is furious, turning on Rumpelstiltskin. Rumple has the power here, reminding his former pupil that with one phone call he can end her beloved’s life. Regina is amazed that Rumple would work with the woman who murdered his son, but Rumple obviously wants to keep Zelena’s hold over him and his weakness a secret and waves this off. All Regina has to do to ensure Robin’s safety is help the Dark One turn Emma to the side of evil. Regina is firm that despite the monster Rumple created in her, she won’t let that happen to Emma. So Rumple asks the ultimate question: is Regina choosing the savior over Robin Hood? The episode ends before Regina even hints at an answer.

And there it is “Heart of Gold”. What did you think, leave a comment below!

Not very much happened in this episode and yet so much was revealed. It was also interesting that it was extremely light on our heroes, focusing more on secondary characters and still doing a great job. I absolutely love that Zelena is back since I was so unsatisfied with her “death” in season three. I hope the writers keep her on at least through the end of the season, and hopefully into the next. It would be fun to have such a maniac running around Storybrooke, keeping everyone on their toes, not that they need it though. Zelena is such a campy, fun villain, as we saw in in this episode, who just gnaws on the scenery and seems to wallow in being evil to such a degree that you can’t help but root for her a little. I wonder what her happy ending would be, probably to take over Regina's life.

I seriously need to rewatch the season three finale, as well as the beginning of season four to see if it’s possible to pick up on the hints that Marian was not what she seemed. It all makes a ridiculous amount of sense, why Robin couldn’t wake Marian with True Love’s Kiss, Marian changing her attitude toward Regina and Robin’s union. I want to keep a look out and see if I spy that pendant in some of the earlier episodes. However, I have to say that the Zelena bits were the best parts of “Heart of Gold”. While I liked getting Robin’s back story, this was a bit of a filler episode, setting the stage for the next bout of action. That being said, I usually like filler episodes less but the Zelena factor was enough to keep me entertained.

As much as I would like Zelena and Regina to reconcile, now that Zelena has been posing as Marian, I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t know what it would take for the two to make peace, unless their endings were rewritten as such. And I must give it up for the cast in this episode, everyone gave such wonderful performances. I think it shows a true understanding of an actor’s character when they can pretend that someone else is in their skin, like Zelena as Marian, or Rumple as Hook and pull it off so flawlessly, If Emma does go dark, I think we will be seeing much of the same with her character, as if an evil entity took hold.

Tune in next week when we get Cruella’s back story in “Sympathy for the De Vil”!

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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