Here’s my problem with this “Broken Heart” episode, and it’s something that troubles me often about Once Upon A Time: When actualities just get in the way of whatever plotlines the showrunners are trying to cram down our throats. Dark Hook takes center stage this week, which is fun and Colin O’Donoghue is obviously reveling in the opportunity to do something other than trail along after Emma, puppy-dog-like. But if Hook really wanted revenge on Rumple, he’s the Dark One now, and Rumple has no powers. Hook could do anything, but winds up engaging in a duel that ends with Rumple alive? It makes no sense. If Hook needs Rumple’s blood to call forth all the Dark Ones, fine, but after centuries of ruminating about revenge, there should be no way he would let Rumple off that easily.

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Same with Emma’s “I’ll do anything to protect my family, except for creating another Dark One that could kill my whole family.” Yes, sure, she likely hoped that Hook would fare better when he went over to the Dark Side, but the fact remains that he expressly told her that he wouldn’t, that he spent actual “centuries quelling my bloodlust.” So why would she think this would turn out any differently?

Similarly clunky: Hook goes off on being led around by Rumple, and she counters with, “I know exactly how that feels!” What? “My whole life, everyone I loved abandoned me.” Huh? First off, not what Hook was talking about and second off, Emma, yes, you had a rough childhood, but now you are literally surrounded by an goofball Scooby gang of characters that refuses to let you alone even when you’re the Dark One.

At least this circles back to what has been a critical moment for Emma, all the way back to Neverland, where she learns that she doesn’t actually define herself as the savior, but as an orphan. A lot gets played up this week with how Emma’s trust issues helped snowball this whole predicament in the first place. So when Hook calls her out by saying, “That’s why you’ll always be an orphan,” we know that he is completely and totally the Dark One, because it’s most painful thing he could possibly say to her.

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When events don’t make sense, though—like the Hook/Rumple duel—it’s always jarring enough to take me out of it. Especially when some scenes play so much more realistically, like Belle and Rumple at the well. After everything he’s put her through, it makes sense that Belle would finally have had enough, with “too much broken heart, broken trust,” as she puts it, tying in with the episode title. “I don’t know that I want to make it work.” Harsh. But, like Rumple, I’m sure we’re all flabbergasted at the timing. He finally isn’t evil at all anymore, and now she gives him the old, “Ummmm…” It almost makes you wonder whether the Beast part was more enticing for Belle to begin with. Rumple without his powers, bless him, is kind of bland, lacking any bad-boy appeal for romantic Belle.

Hook, however, has that bad-boy appeal in spades, which makes him so effective at playing Emma that he wrangles Excalibur away from her. Again, O’Donoghue expertly played all sides of the newly minted Dark One: confused, lost, momentarily united with Emma, and then mad as hell. And did everyone in the world groan when Emma handed Excalibur right over to Hook? He told her himself he wasn’t strong enough to embrace the darkness, and plying him with promises of a “happy ending” (give it up, show) aren’t going to mean anything to someone who can transport away from any situation in a cloud of red dust.

At the moment when she turned Hook into a Dark One, Emma made the wrong decision, and a cruel one. Wanting to save Hook from the darkness, she instead opened him up to it completely. It’s understandable, but unfortunate. But also nicely builds up to next week’s half-season finale. When Emma was so cold to everyone at the beginning of the season, she thought she was protecting them. This time again, she’s going it alone. By now we’ve had enough previous episodes of her growing up in foster care to understand why she would take this tack. But even the imaginary Rumple in her head knows that she’s not going to be able to pull all of this off by herself.

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Stray observations

  • The parental pull on this show is one of its heaviest overarching themes. Even when Rumple was the Dark One, his love for Neal helped keep him focused on his primary goal. Regina this episode remembers how Henry helped quash the evil within her, and Emma and Henry also have a nice moment, as he is the only member of her family who decides to trust her, even in her dark state (Operation Cobra part two, though. Ugh.) So maybe that cute baby could actually help stop Zelena from puling all her shit, because judging from Rebecca Mader’s effective performance in the hospital, it looks like she wants to. Still, Regina is being awfully nice to Zelena considering her pulling out the dreamcatcher is what helped us into our current conundrum. What if Hook was still blissfully unaware?
  • Now I just hate the fact that Merida is even around. Every time she shows up, she’s an afterthought, clumsily shoehorned into the scene. Even the purple fog is like, “Meh. I guess we’ll just take her.” She appears in Emma’s living room just to get blown away by Hook. What is the point? Does Disney/ ABC have some extra Brave merchandise they’re trying to get rid of? Is there talk of a completely unnecessary Brave sequel, Braver?
  • Regina’s present-day hair is fast overtaking Snow White’s wig as my least-favorite hair on the show. A few weeks back, I called it David Cassidy-worthy; now David Cassidy himself would be like, “Get a frickin’ haircut.”
  • Baby Hood. Ha.
  • When Emma told Merlin “rest in peace” and then made him dissolve, my kid said, “More like, rest in pieces.”
  • Then when everyone extracted their memories from the dreamcatchers with that yellow light, I said, “This is one weird show.”
  • Hey, maybe Lancelot’s mission to find his mother will be the out-of-nowhere Hail Mary that saves all of humanity next week. Fingers crossed!
  • Similarly, right now I am also at a loss as to why Merlin (RIP) keeps pushing Nimue as a solution to this mess when she seems pretty happy to darken out all the light, everywhere. But there may still be a twist in store, so am willing to hold off on judgment of that effort.
  • “Once you go green, you’ll never go queen.” “Regina. We talked about this.”
  • Hello, cute baby that actually looks like a newborn! Wonder where that other baby is! Or who has him! Or Robin’s other kid! Anything!
  • Next week: Winter finale that looks like it’s going to take us straight into Hades, because isn’t that where we end up if there’s no light anymore? However, OUAT has a pretty good finale track record, so see you next week.

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