‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: Love is a Weapon


Last night on Once Upon A Time, Snow and Charming excitedly (or grumpily on the latter’s part) sent their daughter off on a big date, Emma and Hook proceeded to have the cutest first date ever, Regina and Henry came up with a new potential plan for finding the writer of the book and Anna and Kristoff were reunited in a flashback. Sounds like a wonderful hour of fairy tale television, right?

The Apprentice” definitely had its share of fun, happy moments, but like any episode of Once Upon A Time worth watching, it also had the kind of moments that felt like the writers were reaching into the viewers’ chests and yanking out our hearts. While a lot happened in the episode, it felt more like the beginning of arcs than the fourth episode of the season, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The canvas remains a tad too crowded, but I do give the producers/writers credit for doing their best to keep stories moving even if the air time is far from balanced.

Before we dive into the main story of the hour, let’s talk briefly about the side plots. Will, who I still feel was introduced at the wrong time, accidentally crashed Hook and Emma’s date trying to avoid the sheriff and later found himself on the wrong end of Hook’s fist before landing in jail. He drunkenly fell asleep in the library, clutching a copy of Alice in Wonderland with a picture of the red queen in his pocket. If you watched Once Upon A Time in Wonderland and shipped Scarlet Queen like I did, this was definitely one of those tear your heart from your chest moments. Where is Anastasia? Why is Will separated from her? If you didn’t watch the spinoff, perhaps your interest was piqued or maybe you were wondering who this guy was and why he keeps eating screen time…

Regina and Henry searched her vault for a magical remedy for Marian and came up empty. Henry picked up on the fact that True Love’s Kiss didn’t work because Robin loves Regina (smart kid), but Regina wisely decided not to tell her pre-teen son too many details of her broken heart. Henry came up with an idea of working undercover for Rumple to try and figure out if he knows who wrote the book since he seems to have found a way to a happy ending. While the audience knows Rumple is most likely heading for a fall, this is a decent plan on Henry’s part because Rumple always seems to know more than he lets on. Then again, if Rumple wasn’t currently on my list, I might feel bad for him that his grandson is using his son’s memory to manipulate him.

(Shipper Warning: Non-Captain Swan fans might want to skip this paragraph). I could gush for pages about their date and how perfect it was, even with the interruption and the potentially cursed hand (we’ll get to that!). But I’m going to keep my comments simple and focused on Emma. I’m so proud of her development. There were times last season where I tended to get frustrated with some of her choices, even though I did understand her fears, but now that she’s made the decision to open her heart, she’s not holding back at all and I love it. This is a woman who’s had a lifetime of misery and now she’s finally getting a shot at happiness. She might have rolled her eyes and muttered about her own place, but she obviously loved having her parents there to support her and dote on her as much as they loved being there. She’s smiled more over the last few episodes than she has in the past three seasons combined and watching her choose Hook over chasing bad guys or worrying too much over the Snow Queen was a breath of fresh air. And that good night kiss certainly didn’t hurt anyone…

x01Now let’s talk about Mickey’s hat (yes, I know it’s the sorcerer’s hat and Mickey was actually the apprentice, but when I see it, I think of the Mickey Mouse doll). The episode opened with a flashback to the last Dark One (Zoso) trying and failing to steal the hat from the apprentice tasked with protecting it. The apprentice pointed out that he’s not the first Dark One to try, but none would ever be able to succeed – cut to present day Rumple playing with the hat in his shop. So what’s the big deal about the hat, aside from the obvious magic it contains?

Thanks to the flashback with Rumple and Anna, we learned the reason Rumple wants to claim the power: he believes it can break the dagger’s hold over the Dark One and let him keep his magic without fear of death or control. Now it makes perfect sense why he’s so fascinated by it and why he was willing to take the dagger from Belle again because Rumple is as power hungry as they come and the idea of not being under anyone’s control ever again seems like a pretty sweet deal. But Rumple should know better than anyone that all magic comes with a price. Funny how that lesson constantly slips his mind, even as he loves to flaunt it to other people…

I know it might not seem like it based on the heavy sarcasm in this review, but I am a fan of Rumple’s and I do want to see him grow and change and be a better person. Unfortunately, this episode reminded me of all the reasons I have trouble rooting for Rumple as he once again took true love and used it to manipulate people into doing his bidding. We’ll get to Hook, but I want to start with Anna. The producers teased many times over the hiatus about what happens when someone as sweet and good as Anna meets Rumple, who is basically the devil and this episode more than paid off in that aspect.

Seeing Rumple toy with Anna so he could turn the apprentice into a mouse and steal the hat container was hard to watch. All she wanted was to help her sister and she thought she was doing the right thing by not giving him the mystery liquid, but Rumple anticipated her reactions and preyed on her desperation. Thankfully, Anna got the upper hand and was able to get control of the dagger long enough to order Rumple to send her back to Arendelle, never hurt her or her sister and turn the apprentice back into a person (side note: do you think he followed through with that or was it the curse? Not sure how the dagger magic works and if he has to do what she said even after she no longer possess it).

Rumple also told Anna that her parents came to him because they were afraid of Elsa and wanted to take her magic away. Was he telling the truth or did he just want to kick a puppy one more time? I still have a hard time believing the parents wanted to take Elsa’s magic away, but I’m also more confused than ever now that we know Anna made it back to Arendelle. How did her necklace end up in Rumple’s shop? Is Arendelle close enough to be swept up in the curse? Where are Anna and Kristoff now?

Paralleling Anna’s journey in present day, Hook also needed something from Rumple. No one’s going to pretend Hook has the same innocence as Anna and he did resort to blackmail to get what he wanted. That mistake is on him because he should have known better than to trust Rumple or to think that the Dark One would let him get away with blackmailing him twice. But like Anna, Hook wasn’t being selfish. He wanted his hand back because he feels like Emma deserves a man who has two hands – a man who does not have a weapon that he’s wielded for 300 years on the end of his wrist. He sees himself as broken and he wanted to be better, he wanted to be more, because he believes Emma deserves that.

And Rumple took advantage of that love just like he took advantage of Anna’ love for Elsa. He knows Hook is filled with self-loathing and doesn’t feel like he belongs in Storybrooke or in a family of heroes and he used that, first by telling Hook that his hand could potentially be cursed because it was the hand of a ruthless pirate, not the changed man he’s become. Hook thought he was lying, until he had Will be the throat and angrily demanded that he apologize to Emma. Later, he found himself punching Will in the face with way more rage than the situation deserved and he freaked out and wanted the hand gone.

But it wasn’t that simple. Rumple claimed he gave the real dagger back to Belle and he wanted Hook to make a deal with him. Hook reluctantly agreed and then he helped Rumple rough up the apprentice and let him get sucked into the hat. Rumple gave the hook back and said his hand had never been cursed – Hook just believed it was because that’s who he really is inside, a cutthroat pirate. To dig the knife in deeper, Rumple altered a videotape of the encounter with the apprentice (sound familiar?) and told Hook that he owed him for the rest of his life, any time he needed him. Hook threatened to tell Belle and Rumple reminded him that he’d lose his love if he tried to take away Rumple’s.

Which time was Rumple telling the truth – the hand was cursed or the actions were Hook’s? Honestly, I don’t think it matters. He played on Hook’s insecurities and made him think the worst about himself. Maybe it was just the hand, but now he’s in too deep. Or maybe it was never the hand and Rumple still got what he wanted because he made Hook doubt himself and his place in Emma’s life. Hook should immediately go to Emma and tell her everything – she’ll understand, she’ll believe him and she’ll probably punch Rumple in the face. But that part of Hook that doubts himself, the part that thinks he’ll always be a one-handed pirate with a drinking problem who has no business romancing a princess, will continue to whisper in his ear and make him think telling Emma would be a mistake.

It sounds like gloom and doom either way, right? Except it’s not – the beauty of this show is the theme that hope and love always win in the end. Whether Hook tells Emma next week or the week after or three weeks after that, she’s going to find out and maybe she’s going to be angry that he lied or that he didn’t come to her sooner, but she’s not going to give up on him and she’s not going to let him give up on himself – just like he didn’t give up on her last season when she kept running away all the time.

As for Rumple, how many times can he lie to Belle and screw everyone else over before he finally gets his comeuppance? I’m still holding a grudge over Zelena and I really hope this video trick that he’s pulling a second time will lead everyone to discovering what he did the first time. I’m not sure losing Belle will be enough to make Rumple see the error of his ways. I truly think the only way he’s going to wake up is if he loses his power. Maybe that’s where this story with Mickey’s hat will lead – Rumple’s power will be fed to the hat and he’ll have to survive without magic. Maybe then he’ll be able to find redemption for more than half an episode.

Now it’s your turn. Hit the comments and share your thoughts, feelings and theories with us below!

Mandy Treccia
Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that.

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