Once Upon a Time's Fall Finale: New Conflict Ahoy, Me Hearties!

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Once Upon a Time S02E09: "Queen of Hearts"

What an episode! You know, every so often (mid-season and season finales, bascially) this show gives us a one-two punch of forward momentum and emotional justice, and that's what we got with "Queen of Hearts." All the wallowing and flailing and time-wasting was set aside and things went off! We got all the characters in one dimension (except Mulan and Aurora, who pfft do not count)! We also got a lot more dimensions out of our characters. For example, did you know Captain Hook wears crushed velvet and beats women?

I could not believe Belle's thigh-bearing dress slit or her scribbled scratch-calendar all over the walls. Like, how many months had she been there? Did Regina DEMAND she wear a cocktail dress in captivity? But before I could get done asking a Tumblr's worth of questions about her situation, she got socked in the face by Captain Hook. Annnnnd I'm done. I know we all agreed he was a sexy minx before, but the minute you punch a woman in the face I am done with you sir. Forever. DO YOU HEAR ME CHRIS BROWN? Ahem.

The sartorial surprises had only begun with Regina reappearing in her Evil Queen garb looking truly more ridiculous than ever. That hair! That flock-of-seagulls-meets-Grace-Jones'-flat-top updo!! How many empty cans of hairspray were rolling around the floor of the wig styler when the OUAT hair team put that together? It was a thing of beauty. I was so distracted by her hair I honestly didn't hear a word that came out of her mouth, except of course for the thing about Hook going to Wonderland to kill her mom or whatever.

A lot of you brilliant, brilliant commenters guessed that Cora was the Queen of Hearts weeks ago, and I bow to your deductive skills. Also I really enjoyed going back to that over-the-top Masqued Realm. After all, Cora's advice to Regina on how to be Queen, it was interesting seeing her take on it: totalitarianism, matchy-matchy red velvet everything, and rubber floor tiles not unlike what you'd find on the floor of a children's indoor obstacle course. (Think just outside the ball pit of Chuck E. Cheese's.)

Cora instead enlisted Hook to help her fake being a corpse when they returned to FTL. (You'd think this plan would fail the moment Regian asked to see her mother's heart or noticed she was breathing and warm, but whatever. Cora found a way around it. I don't know if you've noticed, but Cora is practically omnipotent: Not only did she create a biodome, protecting a square of FTL from the Storybrooke curse, but she spelled out the entire first season of OUAT to Hook like Miss Cleo. I get that she's magic, but 28 years this and savior that and it's like, are you clairavoyant? Where are you getting this? Oh yes, it's in the script.

Anyway, the most notable thing about the scene where Cora swore up and down that she had to basically kill her mother because she loved her so much (just like her dad!) was the headgear on Regina. Good gracious, being evil plays hell with your fashion instincts. I know it was a throwback to the original Disney Evil Queen, that perfect Marlene Dietrich cartoon whose marvelous lips Lana Parrilla is a perfect match for. Didn't make it any less weird.

Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, villains were doing what they do best: plotting how to kill all the main characters. Nice that Regina was at first sort of against it but Mr. Gold quickly talked her into making the long hike up to the ole Wishin' Well and slamming the portal betwixt worlds closed via green lightning. They did so by stealing all the magic from the diamonds, although if fairies can do that, why do dwarves bother grinding the diamonds into magic dust? Shhh brain, shhh, we're watching OUAT. I don't need you right now.

In FTL, Aurora, Mulan, Snow, and Emma frantically searched for ink and found a dry inkwell and a scroll with a buch of mediocre calligraphy. Cue Cora entering, grandstanding about her fine plans, and locking them into a prison cell with some of the widest-spaced bars on any prison door in the world. Look at those bars—there's no way one of them could wriggle through? Take off those shoulder pads and get to it, Mulan, we all know you only weigh 98 pounds.

Emma had one of her Reluctant Heroine moments before Snow remembered seeing Cora do magic and spellbooks and blew on the sheet and the ink opened the cell (I got very confused, as I thought the special squid ink was meant to open a portal, not dissolve big ol' prison bars, but I'm not here to dissect glitter.)

Meanwhile in Fairy Tale Land, Henry followed Not-so-Nice Regina and Mr. Gold and gave an impassioned speech and then legit rassled with Regina (he's getting so big now, poor Lana Parrilla was S.T.Rugglin' to restrain him). Then of course came the big speech about good and evil. Such a character moment! Um, here's a question: Regina's a sociopath, right? She's killed hundreds of characters outright. Like, if she has the emotional capacity to start feeling bad about it, shouldn't she pretty much go insane? Eh, whatever. After 28 years of wearing pantsuits, administering as mayor, and reading a fair share of help books, she must have figured out how to deal with that baggage.

The newly freed lady warriors took off after Cora (after they hilariously tied up Aurora) and had a long and tedious fight around a CGI wading pool. Hook did a lot more of what he apparently does best: hand-to-hand combat with women. And then Cora almost ripped out Snow's heart, but Emma got in front of Cora's hand like it was a bullet and took a heart-squeezin' for her mom.

In a well-plotted move, Emma's heart blasted Cora as though she'd stuck a fork in a toaster and we got the sense that being the Savior has a little more to it than just kissing foreheads. Which, nice, something to build on in the mid-season finale, since we certainly won't see anything groundbreaking between now and the end of the season. If I were to come five years late to this party, I would only watch season premieres and mid-season and season finales and save myself a lot of strain on my eye-rolling muscles. You would be able to catch up no problem, is the sad thing.

So Reluctant Heroine Regina back in Storybrooke took a sh*tload of lightning so Henry would love her and Snow and Emma crawled out of a well somehow (don't ask, shhh don't ask) and finally, finally everybody was reunited. Ruby woke up from her concussion in a timely manner, and then everyone went down to the old Pawn Shop to wake up David.

Getting old, you two, but whatever. Gold gave Emma a pep talk about her abilities coming from her, not him, which was whatever, but it did make me laugh that they had this long, drawn-out conversation and then when they walked back into the room Snow and Charming were still making out on the cot while the dwarves looked on. Like what? Were they just writhing around in bed as everyone beamed at them and listened to the lip-smacks?

We were then made to feel bad about Henry abandoning Regina after only giving her one hug, and to a large degree I do think Henry is effed up in the way he interchangeably calls the woman who raised him and the woman he's known for, oh, three months "Mom" when it emotionally effects them the most. He manipulates Regina, which is very sad, yet at the same time should we really feel bad for a sociopath whose bodycount is on a par with that of a third-world dictator? I'm conflicted.

So the "good guys" walked, like they do, through the middle of the town's single street (gas stopped being delivered weeks ago, I guess) for all-you-can-eat burgers at Granny's, and then of course the show had to complement a giant leap forward with a burgeoning conflict, showing Hook and Cora on a boat headed toward Our World.

Won't they both be disappointed by the clothes?! Or are they going to be marching in and out of city offices and coffee shops in their crushed-velvet capes? That would be pretty great.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the craziest part of this whole episode: Mulan just put Aurora's heart straight back into her chest. At first I thought they'd just carry it with them or she'd end up, I don't know, swallowing it, but it was much easier that all that. While taking a heart out means having access to magic, putting it back in, eh, it just takes a good shove. Maybe wash your hands first? Not essential. Just hope all the ventricles are lined up and smack it in there!

For a moment I thought Aurora was going to literally drop dead but luckily she was okay and rewarded Mulan's loyalty with the news it was time to find Philip! Fingers crossed by the time they do they are in a hardcore, loving lesbian relationship. Anyone down to 'ship Mulora with me?

This week's ratings:

Product Placement: Nicely done! We got in a reinforcement of the Evil Queen brand. Three stars!

Character Development: Sorry but I absolutely hate that Hook punches ladies in the face. I hate that it happened on TV on a family show, even if it is the action of a villain. I also wanted to believe he would be a romantic interest for Emma, and the show ruined that idea with the punch. One star.

Razzle Dazzle: Pretty entertaining and yet more than a little confusing. There was some fudging, plot-wise, that was sort of distracting in places, so I can only give this four stars.

Annoying References to Bigger Story: Actually the tie-in to Wonderland was nicely done. Possibly it's one of three or four twists the writers planned out before writing anything. Or they just got lucky in looping back to something they'd deliberately kept veiled so they could keep it as a free space into which they could tuck any character. Five stars!

So, 13 stars, not bad! But what did YOU think of the episode?


1. How do you feel about Nice Regina? Should we feel sympathetic toward a mass murderer?

2. Is Henry a jerk a lot of the time?

3. Are we supposed to believe Emma naturally has really long lashes, or do we just assume her character is able to apply false ones even when strolling around another dimension?

4. Regina's hair: Would you dare wear that style?

5. What will Cora and Hook do when they land? Open confrontation or sneak into Storybrooke?

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