‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: ‘Broken Heart’ Takes Us Back to the Start

Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 5 Episode 10 – Broken Heart:

Once Upon A Time kicked off the season with a pretty engaging mystery story: what happened during the six weeks in Camelot that no one can remember? And why was everyone’s memories erased? “Broken Heart” takes us back to the beginning to show how — and, most importantly, why — all of this happened, delivering a compelling look into a fallen hero in the process.

Of course, while the episode told a really cool story about Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) rediscovering his dark side, I feel like it came at the expense of a deeper character study. On the one hand, I understand how Hook would feel betrayed by what Emma (Jennifer Morrison) did to him, turning him into a Dark One (against his wishes) under the pretense of saving his life. On the other hand, it seems like such a dramatic shift in Hook’s character for him to revert back to the Darkness so earnestly, calling Emma a “pretty blonde distraction” from his seemingly series-long mission to get revenge against Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). I suppose it makes sense if we look at this iteration of Hook as a darker version of the villain we first met three seasons ago, but it feels untrue to the reformed man we’ve come to know more recently. And, more troublingly, in making Hook the bad guy, the show pumps the brakes on exploring Emma’s turn to Darkness more thoroughly. In fact, this episode calls into question whether or not she was ever that bad to begin with, since she wiped everyone’s memories not to keep the secret of what she did to Hook, but to erase the memory of what Hook did to Merlin (Elliot Knight).

Once Upon A Time - Season 5 Episode 10 - Broken Heart

Credit: ABC/Ed Araquel

As we learn in the episode’s big climax, it was Hook who crushed Merlin’s heart and put Excalibur back in the stone, all as part of a spell to summon a portal to the Underworld. And it’s a plan he accomplishes in what amounts to one of the best cliffhangers of the season so far: Hook has opened the portal and brought forth ALL of the Dark Ones through, with the intended goal of snuffing out the light once and for all. It’s such a cool way to end the story that I almost forgave the show for essentially rendering Emma’s turn to Darkness moot. The story was much more compelling when we were led to believe that Emma turned as a result of her family and loved ones “failing” her, as she mentioned in Granny’s Diner during her first appearance as The Dark One. That said, we still don’t know how the rest of the story will play out. Perhaps gaining Hook as a full-fledged, Darkness-embracing villain will be worth losing the potential The Dark Swan had as a big bad.

Naturally, there was a lot more to like about the episode than just its conclusion. Sure, I ragged on “Broken Heart” for undermining Emma’s turn to Darkness by essentially erasing the fact that she ever did turn, but the episode featured more of the adventurous, swashbuckling spirit I’ve come to miss from Once Upon A Time. Emma teaming up with Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) to retrieve the stolen Dreamcatchers (which could be used to restore the memories of everyone in Storybrooke) was a lot of fun, thanks in large part to its inclusion as part of a larger action setpiece, as Hook had an exciting duel with Gold. Not only did the duel unearth long-buried plots — such as Hook’s affair with Rumple’s wife, and the longstanding grudge that resulted — it also brought Gold’s redemption full circle. Through embracing his own potential as a hero in his own right, and by putting Merida’s training to good use, Gold is able to actually defeat Hook in the duel. And, in a display that essentially marks him as a fundamentally changed man, he spares Hook rather than kill him, leaving the new Dark One to live with the shame of having been defeated by his most hated enemy. Granted, for all of Gold’s heroism, Belle (Emilie De Ravin) still can’t bring herself to stay with him, stating that she’s spent so much time trying to turn him into the man he is now that she’s lost sight of herself in the process.

It could be seen as a random development, but really, any redemptive arc on this show is going to have an element of tragedy or bittersweetness to it, so it sort of makes sense that Belle and Gold are on the outs. It gives Gold something to strive towards, and it forces him to question whether or not he feels that remaining a hero is worth it without her. I like this development because it’s rooted in character, in much the same way Emma’s redemption (not that she really needed any) is rooted in her connection with Henry, and the inherent trust he places in her. This could have all felt hollow and unearned, and it’s a credit to the writing team that it doesn’t feel inauthentic. Hell, I even felt pangs of sympathy for Zelena (Rebecca Mader), who gets visitation rights with her baby, provided that Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Robin (Sean Maguire) are present. Zelena has often been the easiest villain to hate on this show, but tonight, she truly felt like a real person who might have been decent had her circumstances been different. It’s a dimension to the character that I appreciated, even if it feels like a bit of a cliche to have motherhood bring that out of her.

All in all, while “Broken Heart” had its shortcomings, I thought it was a fun episode for Once Upon A Time. Everyone has their memories back, and we’re right at the point the season started. So, presumably, we won’t be getting any more flashbacks. Rather, the story will move forward, hopefully, and show us just how the Darkness and the Light will clash. Knowing Once Upon A Time, there will probably be some sort of compromise, but I think it’d be bold if the show snuffed out one or the other, just to show us what a world without Light, or a world without plot-driving evil, looks like.

But what did you think of Once Upon A Time – Season 5 Episode 10 – “Broken Heart”? Sound off in the comments!

And for more on Once Upon A Time, read our review of the two-hour epic that preceded this week’s episode!

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