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REVIEW: Once Upon a Time 5×13 “Labor of Love”

Written by Alex Reale

I’ve been looking forward to this episode of Once Upon a Time for a while. “Labor of Love” was supposed to introduce us to the one and only Hercules, as well as finally revealing what’s been happening with Hook since his journey to the Underworld. All I can say is, boy, what a disappointment. (spoilers ahead!)

So Hook is stuck in this dungeon-like portion of the Underworld along with a young woman who warns him of the perils of trying to escape. Hook tempts fate by stepping out-of-bounds, which summons Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of Hades. He selflessly attempts to hold off the hellhound while the woman escapes. At this point, we don’t really see Cerberus, so we’re stuck to just hearing loud growls and roars and using our imagination to fill in the rest. Yeah, I realize that it’s difficult (expensive) to portray a three-headed dog on television, but the show has been teasing him for a week; the least they could do is give Cerberus a bit more screen time. I wanted to see more of the beast. But hey, let’s just watch clips of Hook all bloodied and bruised – that’s totally the same thing, right?

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The captive woman is rescued by Emma’s group, and she notifies them that the Underworld is being guarded by the three-headed dog. Mary Margaret states that they’ll need the help of Hercules to defeat the monster.

As you can guess, we learn about Hercules via flashbacks. It turns out that he and Mary Margaret/Snow White have a history together. When she was a young princess reigning over the Enchanted Forest, Snow took up the task of personally ridding the kingdom of a horde of bandits who have been harassing the village folk. During her quest, she’s rescued and befriended by Hercules, who is completing a set of labors to earn his demi-godness. It’s revealed that Hercules is responsible for teaching Snow White how to use the bow, which I thought was a neat little twist to the story. I always wondered how she became such a good archer, and it looks like her teacher was none other than Hercules himself!

Jonathan Whitesell is an okay Hercules, but I expected so much more from him. In the universe of Once Upon a Time, he seems so insignificant and underplayed. I would’ve loved for him to be a more integral player. Obviously, since we’re on the fifth season, it’s a bit difficult to add someone to the main cast. It’s a shame they couldn’t make the demigod more important when he’s such a great character outside of the show.

Sorry for being rude, but Bailee Madison is a poor flashback-Snow White in this episode. I don’t recall having issues with her in her earlier appearances, but tonight, I was cringing when she said her lines. They sounded so forced and unnatural. It could’ve just been an off episode for her, but it was enough to take me out of the experience.

While half the team is busy finding Hercules and convincing him to fight Cerberus, Robin Hood and Henry go to Underworld-Regina’s house to get the town maps so they can find Hook. Henry encounters a furious Cruella de Vil. Cruella makes a bargain with Henry by telling him that his Author powers can bring her back to life, and by doing so, Emma will never have murdered her, thus making her “good”. Wait a minute – didn’t we spend the entire first half of the season watching Emma cleanse herself of the evil-ness? I’m a bit lost about this whole situation…

Anyway, I enjoyed the cameo from one of my favorite villains from last season, and it’s great that Cruella’s going to be around for a while.

Last week, we caught a glimpse of the big bad himself, Hades. A lot of people were unhappy with Greg Germann as the lord of the Underworld. We had only caught a brief clip of him last week, so it was hard for me to make an accurate assessment. Tonight, he gave a stellar performance in his larger role, showcasing his abilities to be a sleazy yet threatening villain and foil for our beloved heroes. Germann truly stole the episode.

We finally see Cerberus by the climax of the episode, and he’s defeated thanks to the combined efforts of Hercules, Mary Margaret (now fully embracing her identity as the bad-ass Snow White), and the young woman prisoner, revealed to be Megara. What a disappointing end to Cerberus. He’s the guardian of the Underworld. He’s the beast that killed Hercules. How was he taken down so quickly? I would’ve been totally fine with this plot spilling into a second episode, with Hercules and the group struggling to eliminate the hellhound. I guess the show didn’t want to focus too much on Herc’s backstory since he’s such a minor character. Once again, it’s a shame they underplayed him so much.

Hercules and Meg’s souls, now at peace, are allowed to leave the Underworld and go to Mount Olympus. Hades is unhappy with all these prisoners escaping Hell, and at the end of the episode, he tells Hook that for every soul that is liberated, another must take its place. I’m interested to see how this plays out in the next few episodes. I’d love for the show to actually keep one of the characters in the Underworld forever. It’s a cop-out that Once Upon a Time barely kills its heroes off permanently. They should throw a curveball this season and kill off someone important. I can see Hook trying to get Rumpelstiltskin to stay in the Underworld due to their personal vendetta, but he’s such a great character that I’m afraid to see him leave the show.

I’m a little underwhelmed with how the second half of the season is going. It’s the freakin’ Underworld. I expected it to be more harrowing and dangerous. Let’s pray that things get more challenging and entertaining in the next few episodes, or else I’m going to have to start reconsidering my love for Once Upon a Time.

Final Grade: C +

+ The eerie Underworld vibe is still going strong.

+ Cruella is back!

+ Greg Germann is a fantastic Hades.

– All that hype for Cerberus, and that’s all we got?

– CGI was ba- oh what’s the point anymore?

– Bailee Madison’s performance was not the best this episode.

Extra Thoughts:

– What other characters can we expect to see in the Underworld? I feel like we’ve seen all the main players already. Cruella, Peter Pan, the Blind Witch… who else is left?

How did you feel about tonight’s episode of Once Upon a Time? What do you think Hook will do about Hades and his demands? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Alex Reale

From a young age, Alex knew he was destined to be a writer. He also harbored a deep infatuation with superheroes and comics. Luckily, he was able to combine these two passions through his role with A Place to Hang Your Cape, where he works as Junior Sidekick and Social Media Hero.

When he’s not writing for AP2HYC or working full-time as a content manager for a small business website, Alex is diligently at work on other creative projects including a fantasy novel collection and an independent comic series.

You can find Alex's first book, Dodger's Doorway, on Amazon!