For its winter finale, Once Upon a Time pulled out all the stops with magic and mystery. It answered season-long questions and set up an explosive second act. Everybody’s back in Storybrooke!

The Players:

  • Director: Ralph Hemecker
  • Writer: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Michael Raymond-James, Colin O’Donoghue

Episode Title: “Queen of Hearts”

In Fairytale Land, the fab four (Snow, Emma, Aurora and Mulan) pulled off the escape of a lifetime. Thanks to Rumpelstiltskin’s squid ink they found Cora and Hook just as they opened a portal. Meanwhile in Storybrooke, Regina and Mr. Gold took matters into their own hands for what they believed was the greater good. But their decision puts Snow and Emma in grave danger.

The Good:

  • Queen Cora: When Regina banished Cora to another dimension, it was obvious that Wonderland was her destination. After all, Regina’s primary world-jumping cohort at the time was the Mad Hatter himself. Given the episode title, it wasn’t a surprise that in Wonderland, she ruled as the Queen of Hearts.
  • Aurora and Mulan: It teases the realm of romantic/sexual undertones, but the budding relationship and affection between these two is one of the best parts of the show. They’re very different, but are forging one of the most authentic, healthy female relationships on TV. Cheers to that!
  • CGI: Clearly, Once was saving a chunk of its effects budget for this episode. The sequences of magic are among the most convincing of the series so far. Now, if only they could keep it up for the rest of the season.
  • Regina’s Love: Regina has been fighting to turn over a new leaf and prove to Henry that she’s worth loving. It’s been a struggle and she doesn’t always do what he wants. But she does always try to do what’s best for him, which is a good mother’s job.

The Bad:

  • Henry the Whiny: If Henry were a fairytale prince, the world would probably be better off. Fairytale princes are known for their stoic silence and a less talking would do Henry some good. He was one of the breakout stars last year and he’s lost nearly all our support as he becomes increasingly useless. Come on, Once, give him something not annoying to do or say. Just to switch things up.

Overall:

“Queen of Hearts” was one of the most enjoyable and well-paced episodes, not just this season, but overall. Some threads from the first half were tied up neatly as new plots were hinted at. The worst thing about this week’s episode is knowing we have to wait until January for another one.

Rating: 9/10

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

What did you think of this week’s episode?