‘Once Upon A Time’ Midseason Finale Review: ‘Heroes and Villains’


As promised, Once Upon A Time said goodbye to one story in last night’s midseason finale and opened the door to new possibilities with the introduction (and reintroduction) of three well known villainesses. Appropriately titled “Heroes and Villains”, the episode reinforced one of the major themes of this season and the show as a whole: when all is said and done, can a villain get a happy ending?

Rumple certainly believes so. Continuing from last week’s episode, he arrogantly insisted to Hook (and later Regina) that he didn’t have to change his ways. He could have the power that came with being bad and still get everything he wanted from his life with Belle. There was one pesky problem standing in Rumple’s way and one final task he decided to bestow on Hook before he crushed his heart: they needed to find a portal back to Arendelle and send the trio back before Anna realized Mr. Gold and Rumplestiltskin were one in the same.

Goodbye, Frozen

Anna and Kristoff told Elsa about Hans and Company conquering Arendelle, which meant the queen needed to get back immediately. Once Rumple forced Hook to tell Emma about the portal, the Charming family accompanied Elsa, Anna and Kristoff to the honeymoon mansion where the sorcerer’s door portal stood ready and waiting to take them home. Elsa and Emma shared a beautiful goodbye as the queen thanked Emma for everything and then she stepped through the portal, followed by Kristoff. Anna hung back for a moment to ask who Mr. Gold was back in the Enchanted Forest and once she learned the truth, she pointed out that he was a liar.

Back in Arendelle, Elsa and Anna shared a sisterly moment before it was time for Anna to walk down the aisle. I can’t say that I’m going to miss these characters taking up so much screen time (the final scene was completely unnecessary – none of us doubted they’d be happy once they returned home), but I will miss the actors and their spot on performances.

Robin’s Choice

The Snow Queen’s death undid the spell on Marian and Regina returned her heart. Marian surprised Regina at the diner to tell her that she would step aside if Robin wanted to be with Regina because she didn’t want him to stay with her out of obligation – she wanted to be chosen. I loved Marian for being mature and understanding that a lot more time has passed for Robin than it has for her. Regina still didn’t think Robin would choose her, but he did because he’s in love with her. She worried about how Roland would take things, but Robin assured her they could work it out – and that’s when Marian collapsed.

Apparently the spell was still inside of her and now it would reach her heart. The only choice was for her to go over the town line where there was no magic, but she could never come back and Robin needed to go with her and Roland so they wouldn’t face the world alone. Rumple popped up at the town line to taunt with Regina with all of his happiness and attempted to corrupt hers by suggesting she just go ahead and take her happy ending (by killing Marian). For a brief moment, the Evil Queen returned and fixed a deadly gaze on Marian, but then Regina snapped out of it. She’s not that person anymore (so much kudos for Lana Parrilla for the way she changed Regina’s entire demeanor with one look and no dialogue).

Marian and Roland crossed the town line and she was healed, but Robin stayed back for a second for one final goodbye kiss with Regina. He started to say that he loved her, but she cut him off with an ‘I know’ and they held hands until he was gone. Regina pulled out the storybook page of their kiss and tore it to shreds (If you need me, I’ll just be over here tearing out my own heart). On the bright side for Regina, Henry found a clue that points to the sorcerer being the author of the book and Emma decided to join Operation Mongoose. I have to assume they’ll find a way to bring Robin back to Storybrooke because Regina has come too far not to get her happy ending. She’s shown so much growth this season and this episode in particular. She made the selfless choice and she accepted help when it was offered to her. Good things will come to her eventually (right, writers?).

Queens of Darkness, Hook’s Heart and Belle’s Moment of Truth

The bulk of the finale focused on Rumple’s attempted rise to full power. While Henry hilariously called Belle ‘Grandma’ at the shop, they discovered an object, which kicked off the Enchanted Forest flashbacks. Rumple returned to the Dark Castle after a trip to Camelot with a gauntlet that allowed him to see people’s true loves, which were their biggest weak spots. While out hanging laundry, Belle got lured away by a Dalmatian (puppy!) and kidnapped by the Queens of Darkness – Maleficent, Ursula and Cruella de Ville (I’ll give you a minute to pick a favorite or three favorites if you want). The ladies wanted the gauntlet from Rumple and if he didn’t turn it over, they’d kill Belle. Rumple did as they asked, which surprised Belle, but Rumple told her that if anyone was going to crush her heart, it would be him (hello, heavy-handed foreshadowing).

Back in present day, the broomstick led Rumple and Hook to the honeymoon mansion and the portal so he gave Hook step-by-step instructions through his heart to tell Emma. This scene turned out to be one of my favorites in the episode for many reasons. The first, the fantastic acting choices by Colin O’Donoghue as Rumple spoke through Hook. O’Donoghue channeled Robert Carlyle with his gestures and expressions and even the tone of his voice as he relayed the message Rumple spoke into his heart. It really sold the scene because Hook is not the man Rumple thinks he is. Rumple thinks he’s just a lowly, unintelligent pirate. The line about not being able to repeat Rumple’s explanation showed just how little Rumple understood Hook’s true nature. The man is smart and let’s be honest, loves the sound of his own voice (as do we) so he would have told Emma the entire story, not just rushed to the end.

Emma knew something was wrong. She’d had inklings of it before, but here, she could see that his words and actions were not his and as Rumple gave Hook the final instruction, he ignored him. That’s how strong he is, something else the Dark One never counted on, that Hook’s love for Emma could be stronger than Rumple’s power over his heart. So instead of parroting the goodbye line, he grabbed Emma’s arm with a shaking hand and stared into her eyes, silently willing her to see that nothing was okay, no matter what words were coming out of his mouth. The brief glimpse of Killian Jones beneath the surface of Rumple’s puppet made this scene powerful and tragic because once again, Hook assumed he was seeing Emma for the final time.

After Anna’s warning, Emma and Snow (random – it seems like David would have been the more likely candidate to rescue their favorite pirate) raced to the clock tower where Rumple was already in the middle of his spell. He froze Emma and Snow and then started to crush Hook’s heart, only to be unable to finish. Confused, he tried to figure out why he couldn’t do what he’d wanted to do for centuries and that’s when Belle spoke up from behind him – with the real dagger in her hand, she’d commanded him not to. She ordered him to drop the heart (maybe next time suggest that he hand it over gently?), release everyone and then take them to the town line so they could be alone for what came next. Can we all bow down to Belle French, BAMF?

Before we get to what came next, let’s wrap up Hook’s heart story quickly – which sadly, is exactly what the show did. You can write it off as shipper bias if you want, but I think the scene of Emma returning Hook’s heart deserved more screen time. Yes, Emma shoving it back in, their hot kiss and Hook’s reminder that he’s a survivor were great and classic Captain Swan, but I still think we should have gotten more of a reaction from Emma. In “Rocky Road”, she confessed she’d been holding back because she was so scared of losing him and now she almost did, she almost had to witness his heart being crushed and we don’t even get a few lines of dialogue from her? This story could have packed a much bigger emotional punch and instead it felt rushed and sloppy and the resolution came and went much too quickly. I feel cheated, show.

On the other hand, the Rumple and Belle fallout was better than I could have dreamed. I’m a big fan of this pairing – I have been since Belle’s introduction. But it’s been next to impossible to root for them ever since Rumple gave her the fake dagger as he asked her to marry him. I’ve been waiting for Belle to wake up and see she married a monster, who loves power more than her and she finally did. How? The gauntlet she found in the shop – seeing that Rumple still had it even though he gave it back to the Queens made her realize that all the signs she’d been ignoring were true. She asked the gauntlet to show her Rumple’s true love and it brought her to the real dagger. Rumple pleaded with her that he could change, but Belle was done buying that lie – she didn’t see the man behind the monster anymore, only the beast remained. She held up the dagger and ordered him to leave Storybrooke. Rumple told her that he was afraid and couldn’t come back and didn’t want to lose her, but Belle told him he already had as he was forced over the town line and then crumpled to the ground without any magic to support his leg.

Talk about powerful acting – Robert Carlyle is the absolute best and even after everything, when Rumple’s face crumpled and he said he was afraid, I felt bad for him! I know losing his power is the only way to make him change and I still wanted to cry for him when he collapsed. Of course that sympathy went out the window when the show jumped forward six weeks and showed Rumple in NYC tracking down Ursula, who works at an aquarium (what?!). He wanted to put the band back together and complete the mission the Queens of Darkness had started in the Enchanted Forest – happy endings for villains instead of heroes. All they have to do is get the heroes out of the way. Oh Rumple, you will never change and I take back the hug I wanted to give you. That being said, I am definitely looking forward to the villains arriving in Storybrooke (and if they can find their way back, there’s hope Robin can too).

Unanswered Questions

Even though I had some issues, I enjoyed the finale. But these are things that are bothering me and if anyone has answers or thoughts, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

How did the spell remain on the town line after Ingrid died?

Why can people leave town and keep their memories when they couldn’t before?

How did the spell leave Marian’s body only to come back? Again, with Ingrid dead, shouldn’t her spells be undone like Zelena’s?

Why is Michael Socha a series regular if they were only going to use him for two minutes every three episodes or so? (Give us more Will!)

How did Ursula (and presumably Cruella and Maleficent) end up in NYC in the first place?

Did they let the fairies and the apprentice and anyone else out of the hat?

(See you guys in March for 4B!)

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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  1. Agreed.

  2. In Rumple’s eyes, true love is a weakness to exploit. But considering Belle’s speech, I do think the writers wanted us to believe his dagger and the power that comes with it is the most important thing to him as opposed to his weakness.

  3. Thank you!

  4. That’s what I was thinking too – he somehow banished them. But considering the pains they’ve gone through to explain how people travel between worlds, I hope there’s a good explanation. Then again, I’m still waiting to know how Will got back to Storybrooke.

  5. That’s my assumption as well, but I don’t like that they haven’t specified. We shouldn’t have to guess.

  6. hold on, the gauntlet does not show TL. According to rumple, it pointed to people’s weakness which in most cases (according to him) was their TL. But isn’t it obvious for a dagger that can completely control a person be that person’s ultimate weakness no matter what?

  7. Episode felt rushed

  8. In pretty sure the memory loss thing was only in play with Regina’s storybrooke curse. Under snow, it’s not an issue. The only reason they couldn’t cross the line when they first went over was the flying monkeys, and now there’s the Ingrid stuff.

  9. I feel like it was implied Rumple sent them to NYC when he went back to get the gauntlet back and told them they would be punished. But that doesn’t make sense because you can’t just magic people into other worlds. Although, OUaT has made the supposedly impossible traveling to other realms surprisingly easy, so…

  10. No answers to your questions, sadly. Great review!

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