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Once Upon A Time reveals what’s in its heart in “Firebird”

Illustration for article titled Once Upon A Time reveals what’s in its heart in “Firebird”
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Once Upon A Time likes to throw out a lot of platitudinal concepts like “trust,” and who can be trusted. It’s a veritable trust smorgasbord this episode, as allies form that shouldn’t, while villains turn on everyone because if we know anything from these five seasons of OUAT, we know that’s what they do.

In the unlikely allies category, flashback Emma hooks up with the bounty hunter who’s after her, by the name of Clea Fox (talk about unlikely). This leads to exciting career and wardrobe changes for Emma, and the discovery of the piece of clothing as iconic to the series as Snow White’s wig! The red leather jacket never meant much to me before, not even when Emma went back to go pull it out of her New York closet in season three, but I really like what writer Jane Espenson (no surprise there) brings here. Clea called her leather jacket her “armor,” and at the end of the episode, a turned-her-life-around Emma (with contact lenses and a slightly more enthusiastic ponytail) decides she could use some armor too. Since neither of these jackets are, y’know, actually armor, it’s a nice reminder of the magic in everyday life, things we use in abundance (superstitions, good luck charms like jackets) to help us feel better based on nothing but feeling and faith.


Of course, the most obvious everyday magic is love, something that OUAT, of course, provides in spades, especially when Swan and Hook are around. It’s also helpful that Clea points out that Emma has a hard time letting go because my God, does she: making Hook a Dark One instead of letting him die a hero, then journeying down to the Underworld to bring him back when he dies later anyway. Yes, Emma, nobody likes to say goodbyes, but to we non-magic people, it’s just a part of life. As much as I am dumbfounded by Hook’s decision to stay in the scariest part of hell (bet he finds an ambrosia plant yet), this latest in a series of Hook/Emma goodbye scenes was well done. Although you would think that somebody might have thought about the rotting corpse problem beforehand, that elevator moment also reminds how powerful love can be, magic or no magic.

Like love, trust is an intangible, yet we appear to see it happening across tonight’s episode. Regina has now started to trust Zelena, as witnessed by a number of adoring smiles across groups of people. Which makes sense, especially since the two came to such a powerful reconciliation last week. But trusting Zelena means also trusting Hades, a demi-god with a heartbeat now that his TLK has happened. And as many times as our gullible Storybrookers have walked into similar traps (some set by Zelena herself, actually), in they go again.

Pan ostensibly has more reason to trust Rumple, as they’re on the same side, as well as family. Plus, he’s bargaining with the valuable Pandora’s Box as leverage. But Dark One Rumple is in full force, and he pulls a switch by injecting him with a heart containing that dangerous River Of Souls water. It’s an abrupt and way-too-brief end for Robbie Kay as Pan, but also shows that Rumple’s vengeance plans once again are only beginning.


Pan’s infected heart isn’t the only one in play: This episode may break the record for the number of squishy hearts we see: professional blanket-carrier Robin’s, Pan’s, Emma’s a few times. This was also a squishy concept to try to get across all the way back to the show’s first season, but now we get all the mythology attached to it: That the heart is a red glowy life force, which can be used to control somebody. As unlikely as it may seem, people can walk around without their hearts. You can even split it in two! But crushing it to dust will also kill that person. Robin does get his heart back, in a surprising turn of events. And Emma has to pull hers out to show that she’s worthy of entering the ambrosia garden or whatever, then still has to prove her worth by saving Hook from a flame tornado.

In an episode about trust, Emma’s test is significant. Don’t we wish we could see everyone’s heart? Even Snow’s has a dark spot on it, from when she killed Cora. How much easer it would be if we could evaluate people based on heart color and little tests we set up for them. Of course, in our day-to-day world, these little tests are called “life,” and we just need to trust our instinct (again, even if we don’t have the gift to automatically be able to tell if someone’s lying, like Emma does). We have to be brave, sometimes taking a leap of faith, like Regina. Even when that almost leads to our ruin, like Regina. Like Emma, we have varying degrees of armor that we use to guard our own hearts, but what happens when those defenses go down?


Which is why this episode’s flashback to pre-Storybrooke Emma was so helpful. We see how she tangentially learned how to trust, but also why she was so guarded when she first met Henry in the first place. It was a lot to go from having no one to having this gaggle of onlookers that surrounds her every move, but, as the show points out, an important transition for Emma.

Especially since we see how desperately she was searching for family, and now, she certainly has that in droves. And she also appears to have the thing that everyone else is looking for: True Love. This episode makes a lot of the importance of True Love’s Kiss, as Zelena’s kiss for Hades is strong enough to change an entire realm. Rumple’s kiss to Belle doesn’t wake her from the sleeping curse, so they are not end game? (I wondered if it was because he was the Dark One, so the kiss wouldn’t work, but if Hades can have a TLK, surely the Dark One can?) Hook and Emma’s goodbye kiss at the Underworld elevator was certainly moving, but didn’t appear to have any special additional powers. Remember, Emma’s previous curse-breaking TLK was with Henry, so maybe the family is just what she’s wanted all along. Still, despite his farewell scene #37, I feel pretty certain that this is not the last we’re seeing of Hook, with three hours of OUAT left to go this season.


Stray observations

  • So long Underworld! Things I will miss: Cruella, Pan, the dark curios in Gold’s shop (we saw the shrunken Pinocchio people this week, right?), and the ability to still pull out weird stuff like Pandora’s Box. Things I will not miss: Hades’ blue hair.
  • Anyone else think that they weren’t going to make the portal, so the last few episodes of the season were going to be about finding yet another way out of the Underworld? Very glad to see that’s not the case. I would much rather see how Hades is going to tear up the real Storybrooke.
  • We’ll find out next week, and then the season wraps up the following with a two-parter the following week. It’s the OUAT way.

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