Once Upon a Time: Heroes and Villains Review


By Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

Spoilers Ahead

When it comes to Once Upon a Time finales, even mid-season ones, it is easy to fly up on the wings of anticipation, so much so that upon first viewing, some portions of “Heroes and Villains” left me underwhelmed. It is perhaps unfair to make comparisons to last season’s “Going Home,” which hit all the right emotional and storytelling notes. But upon second viewing, the flaws to this conclusion of the Frozen arc lessened and I could see so much to love: emotional performances; moments of great heroism, sadness, and joy; intriguing story developments; and striking parallels.

It is always difficult when you have an ensemble show with multiple storylines for a show to both wrap up those and set up new ones. In this case, the balance could have been better as far as the flashbacks that involved Rumple, Belle, a convenient plot device in a magical gauntlet, a kidnapping, and the introduction of the “Queens of Darkness” Maleficent, Cruella, and Ursula. These scenes and their purpose could have been done more succinctly to give more time to the current timeline. Although I am already loving this trio of witches (Cruella especially is fantastic), much of the Rumple and Belle material felt too familiar to past episodes, and the gauntlet which can lead to someone’s greatest weakness seemed like a needless way for her to discover Rumple’s treachery in the present, especially when he and Killian have been discussing everything in front of her while she slept. She must be the soundest sleeper in the world!

Saying goodbye to the Frozen characters proved to be quite sad as I have grown to adore them, but their story did reach a satisfying conclusion. I shall miss Elizabeth Lail’s Anna the most as her sweet enthusiasm, mannerisms, and speech were beyond perfection. The way they were able to find a portal in the large lakeside mansion was a bit convenient, but it is plausible for an enigmatic figure as powerful as the illusive Sorcerer to have magic present and able to be discovered. As Emma and her family bid their new friends goodbye, it was sad to see Emma and Elsa part as they have become fast friends, showing each other support, kindness, and understanding. But even though they said farewell, true friends are always together in spirit and never forgotten. And because Anna knew Rumple’s goal was in the past, she was able to clue our heroes in that Mr. Gold has been lying to them in the present. Once back in Arendelle, I was happy to see Anna finally about to marry Kristoff and she and Elsa delight in the smell of chocolate, one final reference to the film. The final image of the two sisters was also lovely. Paralleling the first image we saw of the siblings on screen, we see Anna and Elsa holding hands, walking toward their next journey in life and bookending their story in a way that symbolized their unbreakable bond.

Paralleling “Going Home,” this episode also involved tearful goodbyes at the Storybrooke town line. With some of Ingrid’s magic still lingering, once you cross that line you can never return and no longer see what is beyond it. This lingering magic led to a devastating goodbye for Regina and Robin. Regina’s happy ending seemed to be within her grasp. Marian was okay and displayed true selflessness and heroism in realizing that her husband had grieved and moved on from her. She says something prescient that is also echoed later by Belle: that she wants to be chosen. This demonstrated a powerful theme. Love can only be true if given freely, without uncertainty, obligation, or conditions. You have to choose your person and give them your entire heart and soul. If you don’t, your love will be rather empty instead of full and beautiful. When Marian begins to freeze again, Regina says their only choice is to leave Storybrooke, where there is no magic and Marian can be saved. Now it was Regina’s turn to do the heroic and selfless thing and say goodbye to her true love, and their goodbye was truly heartbreaking. As Robin kisses her one last time, expressing how much he loves her with an unfinished declaration, they hold hands as he steps across the magical threshold, only letting go at the last possible moment. As he reaches the other side, a tear falls from his cheek and his view of Regina disappears. Robin and his family must now venture into a new land with no way to return. But on this show, never say never. If you truly love someone, you always find your way back to each other. Killian was able to find Emma in New York City after believing he would never see her again, so do I believe a happy ending is possible.

An equally devastating town line goodbye was for Rumple and Belle. After Anna exposed to Emma that Rumple had been lying, Belle discovers the gauntlet, which leads her to the real dagger and illuminated not only that he had been lying to her, but also that he still chose power over love. Emma and Snow rushed to stop Rumple but were frozen and his plan was almost fulfilled. It was Belle that was the true hero, saving Killian’s life as Rumple tried to crush his heart. She then orders Rumple to drop the heart, release everyone, and take them to the town line. I was so proud to see Belle finally wake up to what her husband had done, and more importantly, had not done. With Emilie’s De Ravin’s best work to date, Belle was visibly shaking in both anger and heartbreak as she holds up the dagger, expressing the tragic realization that Rumple has not changed. All she wanted was to be chosen and be his everything but she was not enough for him. Despite the sorrow, this showed tremendous growth for Belle’s character. As she orders him to leave Storybrooke, Robert Carlyle expressed such utter despair and fear that you could sympathize with him even if he deserved his fate. With this heartbreaking parting, we see that until Rumple truly chooses Belle over his thirst for power, happiness will remain elusive. I always wondered when magic came to Storybrooke, why True Love’s Kiss did not break Rumple’s “Dark One” curse as it started to in 1×12 “Skin Deep.” Perhaps it is because as much as he loves Belle, he loves his power more. Belle says this is the case, and until that changes he will forever be cursed.

One storyline that was not given enough screen time was the resolution to Killian losing and regaining his heart, especially given the focus and build up from the episodes leading up to the finale. It felt odd and a bit anticlimactic to have no discussion, even briefly, about what he went through, particularly since Emma so significantly sensed something was wrong. But instead of dwelling on what was not seen on screen, I choose to focus on the beauty of what was. When Killian goes to Granny’s to tell Emma about the portal to Arendelle, we see the depth of Colin O’Donoghue’s talents. With Rumple controlling his words, O’Donoghue portrays Killian with a cadence and tone of voice that replicates Carlyle’s Mr. Gold with brilliant perfection. This change in demeanor also illuminated Emma’s suspicions that something was not right with him, furthering solidifying how well she knows this man. As she softly caresses his face, a sweet and comforting that gesture that showcases a new depth to their intimacy, she asks what is wrong and you can see the yearning to say something in his softened expression. His desperation is so potent that he is able to grab Emma’s arm tightly before he leaves. It let her know something was wrong and demonstrated the great strength of his will and his love to be able to break free from control, even if only for an instant.

Seeing Killian’s heart restored was the brightest, most joyful moment of the finale. When he had his heart back in his hand, his look of relief was lovely. He pressed it to his forehead and kissed his heart in a gesture that resembled both a blessing and a symbolic way of kissing the person to whom his heart truly belongs: Emma Swan. When Killian and Emma are back at Granny’s, she is able to put his heart back where it belongs in sweet, private moment. She cradles his heart with two hands, holding it as if it’s the most precious thing in the world, but places it back in with great force – not gently at all. This juxtaposition of varying gestures was a perfect way of showcasing a truth about their relationship. The love that Emma and Killian feel is both is tender and vigorous, gentle and passionate. And when his heart is back beating in his chest, you can see the exact moment he begins to fully feel again as he instantly and ardently kisses Emma, leaning her against the wall as she practicality melts into his arms. Killian reiterates his promise that he is a survivor and they smile at one another with true love and happiness gleaming in their eyes. Without his heart, the feelings expressed between them were strong but incomplete. Now with it back where it belongs, his heart beats in rhythm with hers and they are both overflowing with a growing, exquisite affection and a restored sense of hope.

What is next for our characters is certainly intriguing as both the heroes and villains are in search of someone they believe can create their happy ending: the author of the Storybook. After his plan of simply taking a happy ending failed, he realizes that perhaps Regina was right. He may need help and so he plans to bring Ursula, Cruella, and Maleficent back with him to Storybrooke and get the villains what the 
”deserve.” How they can return remains to be seen, as is how these witches are in our world. But it was captivating to see that Henry discovered a secret room in the mansion filled with blank storybooks waiting to be written, and I loved that Emma (and most likely the rest of her loved ones) will now all be a part of Operation Mongoose. What will be most interesting is if we see that in the end, they discover that they can create their own happy ending for themselves. We may not be able to choose how we enter this life, but our choices can shape our endings. We can control our own destinies and create our own Storybook’s where love, happy endings and dreams can all come true.

Favorite Moments: After Killian suffered so much, seeing Emma literally hold his heart in the palm of her hands and place it back into his chest was exquisitely moving and the kind of moment we rarely get to witness for two people in love, even on Once Upon a Time. Although it was heartbreaking, it was also wonderful to see Belle’s true heroism. She not only saved Killian’s life, but also her own in sacrificing her love.

Favorite Lines:
Killian (To Emma): I told you Swan – I’m a survivor.

Cruella (To Rumple): Shall I get you a step stool so you can look in my eyes when you threaten me?

Belle: I just wanted you. I wanted to be chosen. I tried to be everything for you, Rumple, but I wasn’t. And I lost my way trying to help you find yourself. But not anymore.

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