Roughly 90 minutes before Once Upon a Time’s midseason finale started up on my TV here on the West Coast, I accidentally some saw Oncer reactions on Twitter. They weren’t positive. Having now seen the episode for myself, I say my feelings are mixed. Overall, this is one of the stronger episodes of the season, which really isn’t saying much. We do get some token resolutions as well as some forward momentum on continuing storylines and something else I won’t allude to because, spoilers. Then again, the set up for the Queens of Darkness is somewhat clumsy. So take that as you will and let’s meet some “Heroes and Villains.”
Introducing the new villainesses: Tonight’s flashback takes us to the Enchanted Forest for a change. Belle is still Rumple’s maid and The Dark One shows off a magic gauntlet he’s brought back from Camelot. It’s capable of locating anyone’s greatest weakness. Pretending like he doesn’t totally love “the help,” Rumple magicks Belle outside to do the laundry. Then an adorable Dalmatian puppy lures Belle into the woods and she is promptly kidnapped. Maleficent orders Rumple to hand over the gauntlet in exchange for her. Arriving at the swap spot, Rumple puts the force choke on Maleficent, but the witch isn’t alone. There’s Ursula and her tentacles and Cruella and her… menacing eyes. With Belle being strangled to death, Rumple finally concedes and gives them the gauntlet. But later we see him meeting with the trio again and recovering the artifact with a flick of his hand.
The town line strikes again: With Ingrid dead, Elsa can now use her brand of ice magic to bring down the wall surrounding the town. Anna is ready to skip across the town line and head for home, but Emma’s spidey, er, magic senses are tingling. There are some lingering effects of Ingrid’s magic so the Arendellians are going to have to return home via portal. Hook slips away during this conversation and gives Rumple a full report. Leaving town means you can never come back. Concerned that the longer Anna is in town, the more likely she might run into him or Belle, he magicks a wardrobe portal into being at that giant mansion we keep seeing. Around this time, Henry arrives in the shop with vital information about the town line, which Belle breezes past. While helping her look for a bigger suitcase for her second honeymoon to New York, which Rumple had just promised her, they stumble upon the Camelot gauntlet.
Shot through the heart…: In Regina’s vault, Outlaw Queen reinserted Marian’s heart now that she’s unfrozen. Robin embraces his wife while eyeing his mistress. Later, Marian meets up with the other woman and reveals she’s remarkably understanding about their situation. She wants to be “chosen” by her husband rather than an “obligation” so she’ll let Robin decide and stand by his choice. I suddenly have a newfound respect for Marian. Shortly after, Outlaw Queen cements their complicated relationship. That moment is utterly ruined when Marian collapses because some remnant of the ice coma spell has lingered and has infected her recently replaced heart. The only hope now is sending her across the town line where there is no magic. Since shoving her over on her own seems cruel, Robin and their son will have to go with her. Why does this show hate Outlaw Queen?
The end of a ship: At the town line, Regina watches in her car as Robin and his family prepare to leave. Rumple stops by to bid farewell to her and tell her he knows Henry has been snooping in his shop. She tells him the ridiculous premise of Operation Mongoose and Rumple, somewhat sadly, agrees she won’t get a happy ending. When he tells her “being good doesn’t mean good things will happen,” Regina realizes Rumple hasn’t really transformed. He encourages her to “take” her happy ending the way he did, in this case, meaning she should kill Marian. But Regina’s transformation from villain to hero is real. She takes the high road. After sending his wife and son over, Robin lays one final glorious kiss on Regina then steps over too.
The redemption of a ship: With Rumple doing the talking via walky talky heart, Hook reports to Emma that he’s found a portal to Arendelle. Emma knows her man is acting weird and tries to quiz him on it. With a lame peck on the lips, he brushes her off. No time to investigate odd boyfriends though! The Charming family takes the Frozen peeps to the portal and Anna proves her helpfulness one last time. Just as she’s about to leave, she finds out Mr. Gold’s real name and says they did in fact know each other. Our heroes now know (this should read: remember) he’s a big liar and has his own agenda. Duh. They arrive in the clock tower just after Rumple has finished his sorcery with the hat, but he freezes them. With great relish, he starts crushing Hook’s heart then finds he can’t…. Because Belle wielding the real dagger has commanded him not to! She makes him drop the heart and release everyone and then transport them to the town line so they can have their marital spat in private.
Belle rediscovers her everything: Alone at the edge of town, Belle finally lets her husband have it. She’s opened her eyes and used her brain, well really the gauntlet, to find the real dagger. “Your True Love is power,” she tells him. Rumple is desperate; he pleads he’ll change, he’s sorry, he wanted them to “have it all.” Belle’s reply? “I just wanted you.” Knowing that he never actually changed and the man she saw in him has been completely eclipsed by the beast, she commands him to leave Storybrooke. Rumple panics. “I don’t want to lose you!” “You already have,” she tells him. As he inches slowly over the line, Belle turns away, and his last words are, tellingly, “I’m afraid.” Then Rumbelle is separated and he crumples to the ground weeping.
Operation Mongoose gets a new member: Emma slams Hook’s heart back into place and he gives her a wholehearted thank you kiss and a grateful Captain Swan fandom sighs in relief. Then she goes to hang out with her new bestie, Regina, who isn’t in the mood for a pep talk. Emma promises that that’s not why she’s there. “Besides you don’t need a speech. Shots?” But sadly Henry bursting in to say he’s found something amazing waylays this. Back in the mansion, he reveals a hidden library full of blank storybooks, meaning the house must belong to the author (who may also be the sorcerer?). When mother and son tell Emma about Operation Mongoose, she happily joins in. I think I hear the Swan Queen shippers cheering…
Getting the band back together: Six weeks later, Rumple strolls through New York and locates Ursula working at an aquarium. He’s now come to believe villains can’t have happy endings, even him. So he’s willing to work with these three evil ladies to locate “the author” and take Storybrooke by force.
- Wrapping up the Frozen arc, Elsa has reclaimed her kingdom and walks Anna down the aisle to finally marry Kristoff.
- My problem with Rumbelle this season: A summary-
Hook: “You can’t have your blissfully ignorant wife-“
Rumple: “lose her bliss or her ignorance.”
- My problem with Rumbelle this season: An explanation?
Belle: “I lost my way trying to help you find yourself.”
- Rumple tells Ursula they’re looking for someone called “the author”. Her reply: “Pretentious. I hate him already.”
- In the flashback, Rumple explains to Belle he saved her because “if anyone’s going to crush your heart, it’s going to be me.” Hello foreshadowing, so good to see you.
- Rumple: “Cruella! Thought I caught a whiff of desperation and gin.”
- Cruella to Rumple: “Shall I get you a stepstool so you can look me in the eyes when you threaten me?”
- Regina: “I know I did the right thing. I know because I’m miserable. Again.”
- I know Regina isn’t some kind of magic doctor but knowing that Ingrid’s magic lingered on the edge of town, no one thought to check Marian for remnants of the curse before reinserting her heart?
So that’s it Oncers. We’re left to stew, and wonder how the Queens of Darkness ended up in our land but not in Storybrooke, until March.