Once Upon a Time
Episode 9: Queen of Hearts
By: Carlos Uribe
Once Upon a Time is a show about fairy tale characters who got sent to our reality, which has magic now.
Now THIS is a fall finale.
A fall finale is meant to do two things. The first is ensure that viewers come back after it's winter break. The second is to shake things up enough to at least convey the sense that the narrative is moving forward. This is an episode that accomplishes that in spades because it concentrates on wrapping up a major arc while beginning a new one. Making matters better is that it ensures that the show is able to continue it's modern day fairy tale world by keeping two characters behind. Queen of Hearts is a pretty good episode that helps to launch momentum towards the rest of the season. This isn't to say the episode isn't perfect. There are times where it did drag and there was a moment where the characters had to act too dumb for the plot too work. The writers have also gotten into the habit of making magic the easy solution to overcome obstacles. There are smart ways to work magic into the plot but the show is merely taking the easy way out. Why care if a character gets captured when you know they're only a spell away from escaping? On the other hand, most of the episode was simply fun to watch and it did leave me excited for what was to come. This fall finale might not have been perfect, but it served it's purpose of keeping me hooked. Whatever the case may be, that is at least a success on the parts of the writers.
First let's deal with the fairy tale flashback in this episode. It largelt deals with how Hook and Cora grew to be allies. The flashback begins when Hook breaks into the Evil Queen's castle so that he can rescue Belle. His belief is that Belle knows how to kill Rumpelstilskin. When he realizes she legitimately can't help him, he tries to kill her but is stopped by the Queen. She offers him a chance to kill Rumpelstilskin in Storybrooke, once his magical powers are no longer there to protect him. All he has to do is remove Cora's heart and bring her dead body as proof. He's sent to Wonderland where he discovers that Cora is actually the Queen of Hearts. This is actually pretty genius. His attempt at getting her heart fails but she offers him the chance to join her. She promises the same thing as Regina. He accepts and this is how he was protected by the curse. It turns out that Cora had used magic to protect part of the land. Her plan is to go to Storybrooke once the curse had been broken because her daughter will need her. This flashback helps to clarify Cora's motives while at the same time giving us some important backstory on the Cora-Hook partnership. It makes sense why they have a rocky but solid relationship. It even explains just how Hook was able to rip Aurora's heart out-he had been given the ability by Regina.
This all comes into play in the modern tale fairy tale story. It starts with our gang of protagonsits going to Rumpelstilkin's jail cell and looking for the squid ink. All they find is an empty ink jar and a scroll with the name “Emma” written over and over again. It is obvious from the very beginning that the scroll was written in the squid ink and that they're going to use it somehow. The revelation doesn't come until after Cora has shown up to trap them and take the compass from Emma. Everyone but Emma should have been able to figure out that the scroll contained the ink they needed to win almost instantly. It makes for frustrating television when the characters are so slow to catch up to plot devices that are right under their noses. They use the scroll to escape the jail cell. A fight sequence happens between Cora and Hook. Emma takes on Hook almost all by herself but she's able to beat him. Mulan and Snow take on Cora using a sword that conviently deflects magic. By the end of the battle, Mulan rushes back to Aurora to give her back her heart. This leaves the two characters in the fairy tale land, looking for Philip's soul. Emma is able to beat Cora when Cora tries to take her heart. This moment is easily escaped by the writers because Emma is now conventienly able to use magic to protect herself. Emma and Snow go back through the portal, taking the magical compass with them. It seems like Cora and Hook are left in the fairy tale world, right? Actually they manage to revive the magical realm-hopping bean they have to transport Hook's pirate ship into Storybrooke's harbor. By the way: Storybrooke has a harbor.
What is Storybrooke up to during the entire episode? It's simple. Mr. Gold wants to keep Cora from coming into the world at any cost. He is able to manipulate Regina into helping place a magical spell over the portal that kills anyone who tries to get through. This includes Emma and Mary Margaret. Henry and friends manage to discover their ploy and they rush to stop them from putting the portal in place. Henry is able to guilt Regina into removing the magical trap which allows our protagonists to return safely. It's a basic story that helps to show Regina's evolution through this part of the season but she's clearly threatened by Emma's return. She might just return to her old ways of using magic to get what she wants.
Queen of Hearts isn't a perfect episode but it's a decent enough one that allows the show to enter the winter haitus on a good note. The flashback helps to convey important information about the characters and their relationships while the modern day fairy tale story truly advances. The Storybrooke story pretty much goes as you would expect it but it doesn't detract from the episode's quality. I'm personally excited for what is to come: here's hoping that they're overall better than what this season has been so far.
Some of the acting got really bad this episode-especially in the fairy tale flashbacks.
How did Emma/Snow White/Mulan know how to find Cora and Hook after they escape prison? Do they automatically assume to go to a magical lake that, as far as they know, has dried up?