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TV Review: Once Upon a Time – “Heart of Darkness”

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“Having your heart broken can make you do unspeakable things.” So says the The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) in this week’s Once Upon a Time episode “Heart of Darkness.” And the Evil Queen knows of what she speaks—her own damaged heart. Since the series began last October, we have seen the evil, the revenge, and the damage done in the name of lost love—starting with the queen’s vendetta against Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin). Her actions, as we know by now had been motivated by misdeeds perpetrated against her.

We’ve also seen the damage love’s loss has done to Rumple (Robert Carlyle). We don’t know the real circumstances under which he lost his wife—and we don’t know what happened to his son. (Yes, I know the black knight said it was for cowardice, but we don’t really know why Rumple ran from the battle—or its effect.) But the romantic tragedy that we do know about is Belle (Emilie de Ravin). It is clear from “Skin Deep” that Rumple wants to not feel, but he can’t help it—no amount of guarding, masks or thick, green skin will shield his heart from the pain of that loss (and his feeling that she died because of her association with him).

So it makes me wonder whether that potion he’d given to Snow to make her forget Charming (Josh Dallas) was a potion he, himself had taken to forget the love he has for Belle. And perhaps the appearance of Emma (Jennifer Morrison) in Storybrooke had marked the unraveling of potion’s effect on Rumple, himself (albeit very, very slowly).

The effect the potion has on Snow is interesting. Yes, she forgets Charming as she’d wanted to, but she also loses herself in the process, turning her into a loveless, vengeful woman—in essence a female version of Rumplestiltskin, but without the magic powers or gift of prophecy.

But now, Snow wants to assassinate the queen, and is more than willing to consult Rumple for the means to do it! And Rumple is equally will to oblige, wanting nothing in exchange for his help, which in itself is remarkable. “I’m invested in your future,” he explains to her.

In retrospect, I have to wonder if Rumple really believes that Snow will kill the queen. Rumple can see the future, and probably knows what will unfold—therefore he must know that the key lies in the love between Snow White and Prince Charming. He has undone their love; does he realize that he needs to put it back together? And this little scenario is part of his puppet mastery (recalling his complex series of manipulations to get

After sending Snow on her way to find the queen and do her in, he has an encounter with Charming as well—a very interesting encounter. He blames Charming for destroying the Snow’s love, solidifying in my mind the importance Rumple places on this fragile emotion. Love is elusive to him—the most powerful sorcerer in Fairy Tale Land, and arguably the most powerful being in all the realms. Yet—at least in his own self-image—has made himself the most unlovable of beasts, incapable of being loved. Yet, try as he might to rid himself of that emotion, he cannot—it is more powerful than he can ever be, fragile as it is.

He knows he must make things right between Charming and Snow—because within their particular love lies the secret to breaking some future evil—something he can sense, can see. So he sends Charming off to find her, knowing that he will do anything to save Snow from embarking on a path of evil. As Rumple warns, once she’s starts down that road, there’s no turning back. And he should know (as does the Evil Queen).

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Sharon

    I hadn’t thought of Rumple taking the forgetting potion himself. Interesting idea, and how will that play out in SB with Mr. Gold and Belle? But is it possible that Rumple might be immune to his own potions? Hum.
    Rumple now having the ultimate power potion leads me to think this whole scenario with the curse is some elaborate scheme Rumple may be orchestrating for his own sake. With his clairvoyant sense he may just have.

  • Pamela Anneliese

    You. Are. Fantastic! I adored this review and you actually hit on all of my thoughts on the characters and events this turn. And, don’t feel bad… I have to admit that I loved Evil Snow trying to bash the stuffing out of that bluebird, too. Hehehe! Ginny Goodwin truly deserves an Emmy for her performance this episode, as do ALL of the performers. Hers and Robert’s, though, just shined like a thousand suns over me. This season just keeps getting more and more intense with each episode. Adam and Eddie are doing exactly what they said: slowly having us climb to the top of the hill, like a rollercoaster, and when we get to the top (season finale), we are going to be whipping down at a breathtaking, 200 miles an hour!

  • Pixie Michele

    Wow! Enlightening. Thank you so much! Reading as enjoyable as the episode. You use a wide lens, and lots to see this time. Especially with Rumple as you said, and his plans. Funny how his curse brought the FTL characters to the real world frozen and asleep to slowly awaken. I also love the push/pull between Snow & James and their alter egos. In the same episode, their characters are closer and never further apart. Both of these are a grand thing for the show’s longevity. Nice theme this week of “no easy fixes/kisses.” I wonder what the real world can teach FTL and vice versa. Loving the ride! Gets this CPA away from the desk for an hour during tax season. Must rewatch all episodes when the madness is over!

  • Barbara Barnett

    Thanks everyone for your lovely and kind comments! Please feel free to pass the word about this little corner of the OUAT fandom. I weigh in on the show at least once a week!

  • sara2

    Jennifer Morrison deserves a Emmy! She is absolutely the best.

  • Action Kate

    I continue to be surprised and delighted by how dark this show is willing to be. (I don’t mean going all Fiona on the bluebird… that was hilarious, not dark.) Watching David and MM’s relationship fall apart because he doesn’t have faith in her is really astonishing, because it’s unexpected. I love it.