Welcome to another wonderful Once Upon a Time episode. Heartless was written by Jane Espenson who my favorite writer in the Once Upon a Time crew. That being said, her episodes are a big hit for me, most of the time. With the exception of a very cringe worthy side plot I would say this episode was pretty fantastic. This episode saw a return to the things that made season 1 so intriguing to watch. What is great about these Espenson episodes is that she focuses on the character dynamics rather than just the action and the story is all the better for it. Heartless gave us a classic Snow and Charming adventure with a beautiful twist that just added more layers to their already wonderful story. We saw our heroes come together in Storybrooke when the Evil Queen gives them a seemingly impossible choice and we once again get reminded of what makes Captain Swan so special. Let’s face it Espenson’s episodes remind us of why we fell in love with this show in the first place and “Heartless” is no exception.
It’s Snowing in November
One of the many virtues of this episode was that it reaffirmed our love for Snow and Charming, otherwise known as Snowing, and their epic love. I admit I had a tiny reservation during the flashbacks because I didn’t know if they were gonna retcon their first meeting again but I’m very glad they didn’t. I’m actually very surprised at how they managed the flashback without breaking any ideas of what we already know of their timeline. But I’m getting ahead of myself first we need to talk about what led them to this point.
On her side is Snow; this is a Snow before her days as a bandit. The timeline is as mysterious as ever but if I had to guess I’d say that not a long time had passed since Graham/The Huntsman had let her go and she escaped into a forest. In these scenes we see a Snow who is very worried and unsure of herself, something Ginnifer Goodwin portrays beautifully. Normally in the flashbacks we see a Snow that has found her footing, she knows what she wants and how to get it. She doesn’t mind being a bandit because she has a code. Here, we see what comes between the frightened teenager running from a despot and the fearless bandit. “Heartless” gives us a Snow that is unsure and is slightly depressed because of everything that has happened.
She is forced to sell precious heirlooms to crooked men and is chased by a man called “The Woodcutter” who wants to capture her and take her to the queen. She sets out for Longhorn to escape the kingdom but never gets there as The Woodcutter captures her; she is trapped with no escape until a mysterious man saves her. A man that restores her faith and reminds her of something very important, she is more than capable of protecting herself. A man that shows her she is not alone, because someone believes in her. That man of course is Charming.
In Charming we see a man who is dedicated to his mother and wants to help in any way he can. The farm is not doing so well at the moment so Ruth feels she has to sell so David sets out to find a buyer. Sadly the long hair (which I lovingly called Grunge Shepherd) is gone but we do get to meet a furry companion by the name of Wilby. David is also headed to Longhorn and on the way encounters a stranger, with the help of the best sheepdog in the world. While this episode showed us a disillusioned Snow we also got a slightly naïve Charming. The Stranger offers to walk with him to their shared destination but gives Charming drugged water. Charming this is why we tell people not to accept things from mysterious strangers.
It turns out that the stranger is the Woodcutter and he uses Wilby to track down Snow. Wilby being the wonderful dog that he is later wakes David up and takes him to where Snow is being held in the Woodcutter’s cart. Despite not knowing who she was or what was going on David sets out to help Snow. It’s nice to see how even without knowing each other they still work together beautifully. Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin should always be allowed to share screentime because their scenes are like magic. It’s this scene and their conversation that inspires Snow to be a bandit and Charming gets the money to save his farm for the meantime.
Earlier in the review I talked about not knowing how they were going to handle the flashbacks and the way they did it was incredible. They helped each other but they never saw each other’s face and their hands only touched for a tiny second. This show has absolutely gorgeous cinematography and between last week’s underwater adventure and this week’s flashbacks, it just blows everything out of the water. During Snow and David’s conversation we get a dichotomy of light and dark, free and trapped. David’s side is full of light and on the outside because he’s free despite his worries. Snow’s side is darker and she’s an enclosed space, because she’s not sure where life is taking her and she feels trapped and out of options. It’s a wonderful scene that helped shape our characters into who they were when we first met them.
They touched for a single moment and the spark fell to the ground and created a sapling of true love. Once they touched the sapling they got a gorgeous montage of all the important moments together. And it was thanks to that montage that current day Snow and Charming connected the dots about their unofficial first meeting. The scene was beautifully acted by both Goodwin and Dallas and it reminded us once again why we fell in love with Snow and Charming during the show’s first season.
The Product of True Love
This whole mess started with the Evil Queen of course, she woke up Snow in the middle of the night, complained, then gave her a vial and an ultimatum. If Snow and Charming don’t surrender their hearts, remember they share one heart that is connected, by a certain timeframe she would destroy the entire town. Regina discovers that it’s water from the River of the Lost Souls and they try in vain to find a solution. Belle finds nothing in her books and then Blue tells them of the sapling. They all split up, Snowing and Regina following the beacon while Captain Swan goes to the vault to pack up all the potions. As that is the place they intend to keep the Evil Queen and they can’t leave her there with all the spells and potions.
This leads us to what I consider the best scene of the episode, probably even the best scene of the season. It’s a scene that is at the start hilarious (magic little baby tree thing, you kiss me with that mouth) while still the most nuanced and romantic scene we’ve seen of the two of them to date. We see Killian and Emma bickering about the names and contents of the things in the vault and then Killian notices Emma’s hand is shaking. He immediately goes to reassure her, to her that her parents will be alright and that they’ll defeat the evil queen once again.
She’s still worried so he grabs her hand and gets here to sit down, gets out Henry’s put and sits down in front of her. She lets out a small “Killian” but he shushes her in the most adorable way possible. And let’s face it I was imagining him saying that to their future children when he’s telling them a story and I melted. Jennifer Morrison portrays Emma’s small trepidation in that moment perfectly as Colin O’Donoghue gets a childish joy in Killian telling a story to the woman he loves.
He goes along telling her parts of the story as he turns the pages. We see the images of Snowing’s first meeting, the sleeping curse and of course Killian and Emma’s time travel adventure. And little by little you see Emma’s small smile appear. His devotion is clear as he says the words she needed to hear in that moment:
“Once upon a time, the evil queen vowed to kill Snow and separate these two, but no matter what she tried they always found each other. And…they found you. And you inherited the strength of that love, so that even when they couldn’t find each other, you made sure they did. True love can break any curse, but so can you, because that’s what you’re made of. You’re the Savior, because you were born of their love. And they’re in love today because you brought them together. You…You can overcome these visions, you can overcome…anything. Now remember who you are: The product of true love.”
Emma’s eyes shine with love for this man, her pirate. He is her biggest supporter and the man who will love her till the end of days. And she will love him just as much and just as strongly. These two are as much true love as Snow and Charming are. They are the perfect example of two broken souls who came together to love one another as they hadn’t been loved before. There is no one that can doubt their absolute devotion to each other and if they do, I’d point them to this scene, because this scene says it all. With just a few words Killian managed to return a little bit of peace to Emma’s heart. She is the product of true love, she is basically true love personified and he is her true love. So of course they would get a speech as gorgeous as this one. Having their theme in the background just made it all the more touching and perfect. Jane Espenson is a genius when it comes to writing speeches like these one. It’s so pure and perfect that I’m afraid I’m not even doing it justice with my own words.
Emma and Killian’s relationship has put a lot of emphasis on their hands. It’s through their hands that their love shows. It started way back at the beanstalk when Killian healed her hand then in the same place Emma grabbed his hand and locked him up because she was afraid to trust him. Even when they were on opposite sides of hero and villain or in a dispute of some sort, even though their words said something their eyes and their hands said something else entirely. We saw that once again during the heartbreaking moment where Emma had to let go of Killian for the last time in the Underworld. He kissed her hand as she went up the elevator and he kisses her hand again in this episode. He tells her to remember who she is and in that moment her hand stops shaking and then he says “the product of true love” and gives her a light kiss on her hand before the scene pans away to the storybook drawing of Snow and Charming’s post curse kiss. Morrison and O’Donoghue are masters at adding these little nuances by now but they still take our hearts away every single time. Especially when you can see the love Emma and Killian have for each other reflected in their eyes.
Snow, Charming and Regina find the sapling but as it tends to happen just as they were leaving the Evil Queen appeared and stole it back. She mocked them for a bit and destroyed the sapling, of course she did. The frustrating part of that scene was that Regina just stood there, what’s the point in having magic if you’re not gonna use it? She didn’t even attempt to use her magic. It was one of those “because plot” things that will always manage to drive us crazy. Snow and Charming being who they are of course sacrifice their hearts to the Evil Queen but the result isn’t what anyone expected.
She gloats for a bit then puts their hearts back in their chests but there’s one caveat, Snow fell under a sleeping curse and then she is poofed away by the evil queen. They look for her in the loft and she is not there so they go so they go where she during the original sleeping curse, the forest. The editing team did a fantastic job in this scene because we see current day David approach Snow and it cuts away to scenes from the original breaking of the sleeping curse. It is a beautiful and heartwarming moment, the scene cuts back and forth from present day to the past and has the Snowing theme playing in the background. Snow wakes up and in that moment Charming falls into a sleeping curse.
Regina realizes that the Evil Queen has cursed their hearts and until it is broken the two will not be awake at the same time. I commend them on the twist because that was a clever trick and I was not expecting it. But the truth is that well this could be easily solved as we know they have more true loves than each other. They have Emma and they have Henry and familiar True Loves Kisses have happened multiple times in this series. So I’m torn between kind of impressed and being like the logic just doesn’t work but that’s just me. I do think it might get solved sooner rather than later but that’s because that seems to be the pace this season. But let’s face it I would pay a lot to see a familiar TLK from Emma to Charming.
Killian Jones: Knew it, never trusted the stuff. Rum would never do that
Snow White: Knowing you believe in me means I’m not alone
Killian Jones: What is adders fork?
Emma Swan: Snakes tongue. There’s some of that in the thing I had to drink to find Aladdin.
Killian Jones: And you kiss me with that mouth?
Killian Jones: Once upon a time, the evil queen vowed to kill Snow and separate these two, but no matter what she tried they always found each other. And…they found you. And you inherited the strength of that love, so that even when they couldn’t find each other, you made sure they did. True love can break any curse, but so can you, because that’s what you’re made of. You’re the Savior, because you were born of their love. And they’re in love today because you brought them together. You…You can overcome these visions, you can overcome…anything. Now remember who you are: The product of true love.
Belle French: That’s just being too weak to be good
*Was Killian’s “Remember who you are” a little Lion King? Maybe so but it definitely worked.
*I love how we are getting Belle constantly standing up to Rumple about his treatment of her and this episode was the best one yet. Belle found out about the shears (from Zelena) and confronted Rumple about them. She defended herself and defended her son. She had a response for each and every one of Rumple’s weak excuses and called him out on his cowardice. It’s not that he can’t be good, it’s just that he doesn’t want to and that’s what makes everything worse. Let’s just hope they don’t give us all these amazing Belle scenes for her to go back to him in the end.
*Wilby the dog was definitely the MVP of the episode I’m just saying.. Also can we get a Wilby/Charming reunion.
*Shady was back this episode! It’s always nice to see shady Blue, who’s still totally shady.
*Evil Queen being mad at Snow got a pony at 15? Are you kidding me?? Your own father pampered you a lot more than Leopold pampered Snow… So that’s not a card you can play here.
*Again highly disgusted at /that/ scene honestly why do the writers think we want to see that?
Images via ABC.