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Once Upon a Time - Heartless - Review

“Heartless” is the kind of episode that reminds me why I watch Once Upon a Time. The pacing was excellent with this story, though I felt once again the flashbacks didn’t add much to the current plot. Since we are so late in the series there is only so much new information the audience can receive from this story telling device. The present day plot was interesting and came with some real consequences. I’m intrigued to see how things will play out with these new developments. I’m normally not a big fan of episodes heavy on Snow and Charming, but all the references back to season one brought on a sense of nostalgia. “Heartless” felt very final; it reminded the audience what they love about Once Upon a Time but in doing so almost seemed like a sendoff. I don’t know how many seasons this show as left, but episodes like these do make me hope for more.

The flashbacks with Snow White and Charming were fine, though I feel that showing the pair “meeting” before they actually meet lessens that initial interaction. Snow and Charming’s journey together from the first season has become iconic in Once Upon a Time, so meddling with that wasn’t exactly welcome for me. Also, they could have made the story work without Charming suddenly having a dog that we’ve never seen before. The woodcutter seemed like a formidable foe and I wonder if perhaps this character is Charming’s long lost father. There is just something about him and the fact that Charming appeared to end his life that makes me think this might be the link back to the secret the Evil Queen dangled in front of our hero a few episodes ago. If that’s the case, then I look forward to seeing Charming sort through this.

The scene with Emma and Hook in the vault was a short one, but very sweet. I find I enjoy these characters more on their own than as a couple, but that isn’t to say that the genuine care between them can’t be appreciated. There was an emphasis put again on the idea that being the savior is who Emma is to her core which bolsters my belief that she won’t be dying. Somehow Emma’s saviorhood will be her salvation not her end. It was rather sweet of Hook to use The Book remind Emma of everything she and her family has been through and it was nice seeing The Book again since it was so central to the Once Upon a Time story in earlier seasons, particularly season one.

I was so glad to see the Blue Fairy back, not only in the flashbacks but in the present day as well. Long time readers will know I hold a sort of grudge against Mother Blueperiour and think the Blue Fairy is eternally shady and will prove to have a hand in some sort of major conflict by the end of the series. Whether it’s for the sake of the plot or because of this theory, she again popped up with a convenient piece of magic that could have solved many problems earlier on. Everyone knew the Evil Queen was running around Storybrooke, where were the fairies when this was happening?

Zelena is finally getting wise to the reality of having the Evil Queen as a sister and I cannot wait to see more. Now she has a direct conflict with Rumple which will spell bad news, so for the sake of her baby will she try to reconnect with Regina or tough it out on her own. I appreciate the fact that Zelena was already suspicious of what the Evil Queen was doing (which by the way I never have to see again. I agree with Emma: “Regina, oh my god” indeed) and I loved the touch of her beginning to go green again. There is a lot of potential here for Zelena to make her choices and decide really who she wants to be.

Speaking of Rumple, that short scene with him and Belle in the pawn shop packed such a punch. Belle couldn’t give a Dark One’s dagger who Rumple is shacking up with; she’s more concerned about the poor choices he seems to be making regarding their son. Belle said it perfectly; his usual excuses don’t work anymore. I know many want to see this conflict resolved but I think that would be a disservice to the writing and characters to return to status quo. A truce of sorts is what I’d like to see, but only if Rumple actually does what Belle hopes and becomes the man he could be. Rumple is a character that has gotten so many second chances it’s refreshing to see him flounder and not win back everything he wants through his manipulations. It’s taken a while to get here, but I think this conflict is breathing life back into the drama of Belle and Rumple’s relationship. It’s fleshing out Belle and allowing Rumple’s almost untouchable status to be explored. He has power, but what is that without love?

The direction in this episode was fantastic. There were so many enjoyable shots, like the Evil Queen silhouetted in the forest during the opener, how the action with the woodcutter’s axes were shot, or the split screen effect used during Charming and Snow’s conversation through the wagon door. One in particular that stands out to me was when all our heroes were sitting contemplating the dreaded vial and the camera pulls back rather quickly. There was something dynamic about that shot, it made it seem as if there was action even though no one was moving physically. We felt all of the wheels in each character’s head turning to come up with a solution even though no one budged.

“Heartless” was very heavy on the nods to season one with regards to Snow and Charming. The flashes of all their scenes in past episodes were nice to see, though a bit much for me. Other elements, like the return of the glass coffin and Charming and Snow remembering where they first met under the curse, were more subtle and welcome. I love the twist on the sleeping curse, so much so that I’m willing to forget the rule that people who are put under a sleeping curse become immune to it. I suppose it’s because the curse was put on the heart they share. The Evil Queen actually came off as sinister in this episode, she’s finally made good on all those threats. Now that she has succeeded with Snow and Charming and given them a taste of the loneliness she suffers, I can’t wait to see what she has in store for Emma and Regina.

Tune in next week for “I’ll Be Your Mirror”!