Once Upon a Time: Heart of Gold Review

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By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

This week’s Once Upon a Time was aptly titled “Heart of Gold” and like many episodes of the series, the title has multiple meanings, referring to both the physical and the abstract as well as more than one character. What I enjoyed most about the episode is that it was not only the first true Robin Hood centric back-story, but it also featured a wicked plot twist which revealed the return of a fantastic character we thought was gone forever. When we hear the phrase “heart of gold” we naturally think of someone whose heart is undeniably pure and good. In this case, it is Robin who possess such goodness as we see in both the past and present him act in ways that live up to the code he vows to live by- to be a man of honor. In present day New York we see Robin, Marian, and their son Roland trying to adjust to life in this new and confusing world. For Robin, his struggle is that his heart is one of honor but it lies somewhere else because he is still in love with Regina. But he made his choice and is trying to move on for his family. The Hoods take up residence in Neal’s old apartment and are surprised when Gold shows up, demanding they leave (he had planned to stay there himself). But his demands are cut short when he collapses in pain. Robin rushes Gold to the hospital where they tell him he has suffered a heart attack, revealing the other character the title refers to. The heart of Mr. Gold, which was protected by magic in Storybrooke, is now failing him in the land without magic. And his ailment is not purely physical, as he says all of his bad deeds have poisoned his heart. Out of desperation he applies to Robin’s humanity and sense of honor and asks him to steal the “Elixir of the Wounded Heart,” (which he had also asked him to steal in the past) suspecting Emma’s false flame Walsh most likely had some out of precaution. Robin agrees despite Marian’s objections and idea that they should think of the greater good and let him die, an obvious clue to her real identity. Robin steals the elixir from Walsh’s furniture store “The Wizard of Oak” (got to love the puns), but unbeknownst to Robin, Marian switches the vials and bides her time waiting to reveal herself to Gold. In a rare vulnerable state, Gold drinks the potion, confused why it fails to work, until Marian enters his room and treats us to a delicious plot twist. Marian is really Zelena in disguise and has been ever since she returned to Storybrooke. Zelena reveals that she did not truly die- that her spirit went through the time portal with Emma and Killian and she simply watched the couple from the sidelines waiting for an opportunity to present itself. And when she saw their plan to bring Marian to Storybrooke she knew this was her chance to ruin her sister’s happiness. When Emma and Killian left an unconscious Marian unattended to help Snow and David, Zelena killed Marian and took her form, thanks to a glamor charm. Of course her diabolical plan hit a roadblock when Robin could not forget his love for Regina, so she too seeks the author and trades the elixir to Gold in exchange for inclusion in his plan to get the author to write them all happy endings.

Being the decent man that he is, we see Robin waiting for Gold outside of the hospital, offering him some of Neal’s belongings. Gold refuses, not wanting to be reminded of his failures and in a rare moment of clarity and humanity, he offers Robin wise advice: if he knows where and with whom his happiness lies, he should run to it, hold on tight, and never let go. What I love is that these words can be associated with all the characters. Snow and David always find each other and their devotion never falters, while Emma and Killian are realizing how much they mean to each other as we see them so often cling tightly to each other, ever resistant to let go. One would think this advice would lead Robin back to Regina. But much to Zelena’s delight, Robin vows to his “wife” that he loves her and is choosing to stay with her and make a life for them in this new world. This may be difficult to see especially if you adore Robin and Regina’s love story, but from Robin’s perspective his choice is not only one of honor but one of love. Yes he loves Regina, but he also loved Marian, and since as far as he knows she can only survive outside of Storybrooke, his choice is the right one. Of course, this is Once Upon a Time and the audience is often ahead of its characters. Imagine poor Robin’s reaction when he learns that his wife is really a wicked witch.

“Heart of Gold” had many fine attributes one of which was the fantastic performances. Rebecca Maders’s Zelena was always a great favorite of mine and her death did feel unresolved. Now we know why and her return means the return of Mader’s brilliant characterization. She plays Zelena as a truly evil villain- someone who takes great joy in causing pain to others, and the scene where she lords over Gold with sadistic pleasure in his suffering, smiling in wicked delight, Mader shows us just how psychotic Zelena is. She is cuckoo for cocoa puffs crazy and it is fabulous to watch. In the first true Robin centric episode, Sean Maguire got his chance to shine demonstrating his character’s struggles and admirable qualities with both bravado and subtle nuances. From a heroic horseback chase to catch a purse snatcher and internal struggles with heartache, to the sweet flashbacks with Will and Marian, Maguire beautifully showcases the truth of Robin’s heart and soul with great depth. Speaking of flashbacks, these were some of my favorite moments. Having always adored the folklore of the outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, who bested the Sheriff of Nottingham, and loved Maid Marian, all with cheeky charm, I delighted in seeing these iconic moments brought to life in new ways. It was also wonderful to see Oz again if nothing but for aesthetic reasons, and I loved that they were able to give a wink to the audience with a reason why Robin appeared different in a Season2 episode when the character was played by another actor. Robin’s interactions with Will were also a lovely highlight. Robin was able to steal elixir from Zelena for himself but none for Will, and lies saying he left empty handed. But Will thanks him for his efforts, tells him how honorable he is, and that he is lucky to have someone that understands and accepts him so fully as Marian does because he knows what that is like. He had that once and lost it- his sister who fell through a frozen lake and drowned. Unable to move on from his sorrow is the reason Will sought the elixir and being the good man he is, Robin slips the vile into Will’s pocket when they hug goodbye. This not only demonstrated the selflessness of Robin’s character, but also gave a glimpse into the heart of Will Scarlet. We have not seen Michael Socha that much this season which has been a shame for someone like myself who adored Wonderland and his character. So for those unfamiliar they have not truly seen his greatness; but this scene definitely gave us a glimmer. Lastly, although it was sad to see Marian’s fate, I adored seeing what her character was truly like. We know the good person Emma saved was truly her so her instincts and motivations remain pure and justified. Moreover, despite her untimely death, her fate helps to keep her relationship with Robin pure. Their love remains the same- untarnished and lovely. And seeing the wonderful person Marian was makes Robin’s present day actions understandable. I also find it interesting that her death creates another connection between Robin and Regina. Regina’s first love Daniel died young and unjustly but the love they shared remains pure of heart. In an interesting parallel, Robin and Regina’s first loves were killed by a sadistic member of Regina’s family- her mother Cora and sister Zelena.

The concept of choice, not only a main theme for the season, was also a major theme for the episode. In the end, Gold tries to force Regina’s hand and she is horrified when she calls Robin and hears her sister on the other line. Gold says she must choose between helping him darken Emma’s heart or save the life of the man she loves. What her choice really is, however, is whether to stay on the right path or not. The plan to corrupt Emma also gives the term heart of gold another meaning and could certainly refer to Emma’s good and compassionate heart. Emma and her loved ones only shared a few brief moments of screen time but they were significant. While Emma, Killian, Henry, Snow and David search the woods for the Author (whom Gold finds and persuades to join him), Emma understandably expresses anger towards her parents for not only lying to her, but also because she only became the savior at the expense of someone else’s soul. Even though they were manipulated down that path, they still made their choice, and Emma has not yet forgiven them. Despite this moment being very brief this proves to be crucial to the story. Even if we are led, sometimes pushed down a dark path, our choices are still our own. But they are learning that these do not have to define them forever and that there’s always hope for forgiveness. Morrison played the moment perfectly, conveying a sense of anger, heartbreak, and self doubt, proving that no matter what may happen, the true heart of Emma Swan is undeniably strong and good. As this story continues the tension between Emma and her parents will no doubt last, and the support she may need and seek will undoubtedly come from, as Zelena’s calls him, her one-handed lover Killian. Their main scenes may have only been flashbacks to their adventure to the past, but the way they were incorporated into the episode were wonderful, aesthetically and story wise, giving their romantic escapades another layer of significance. It also beautifully solidified their bond as a team and a couple which will surely continue to grow and remain significant for the rest of the season.

Favorite Moments:
Seeing Robin Hood in the forefront has been a long time coming and I adored the moments where we saw his heroism and heart of gold. I especially loved the flashback between his first meeting with Will Scarlet, which also gave the audience a glimpse into the depth of the fellow thief. The return of Zelena was also a fantastic twist on the story and Mader’s performance as the sadistic wicked witch was deliciously delightful. Lastly, the flashbacks to Emma and Killian’s journey were a lovely reminder why that episode remains my favorite, and gave their adventure a new layer of significance which I greatly appreciate.

Favorite Lines:
Robin: A thief who steals from those in need has no honor.

Will: It doesn’t seem right to ask someone for their heart until I can fix my own.

Mr. Gold: Maybe you should take a piece of advice from a man who’s pushed away every chance at happiness because it was never enough. If it’s within your grasp, if you know where it is, and who it’s with- then you should run to it, grasp it, and never let go.


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