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REVIEW: Once Upon a Time 5×17 “Her Handsome Hero”


Oh, joy – more filler! Once Upon a Time is trying my patience. It’s as if they’re trying their hardest to kill time until the season finale. Why couldn’t they just trim the season down a few episodes, especially since they seem to be stretching the plot so thinly? “Her Handsome Hero” was an average episode, but the filler-ness of it just had me rolling my eyes and wishing it was over. (spoilers ahead!)

This week, we’re focusing on Belle and Rumplestiltskin, who are looking for ways to save Belle’s baby. A desperate Hades recruits a dead Gaston to go after Rumple (the Beast) with some magic arrows. At the same time, Hades tells Belle that he’s willing to cancel the deal over her baby if either Rumple or Gaston throws the other into the River of Lost Souls. Poor Belle is caught up in this sick twisted game of morals as she decides what’s more important: saving her baby, or succumbing to the darkness and allowing Rumple to kill Gaston (or maybe let Gaston kill Rumple, thus defeating the Dark One).

The whole plot is set into motion when Hades begins to find flowers blossoming in the Underworld, which shouldn’t be happening. It’s supposed to be a world of decay, not growth. Therefore, it appears that Hades must work harder to eradicate hope in the Underworld, which he intends to do by stirring the pot of hate amongst Rumple and his enemies.

You’d think that this would be too simple a plan for the Lord of the Underworld, but by the end of the episode, you see just how cunning and scheming Hades can be. Rumple has Gaston magically bound near the docks, ready to toss him into the River of Lost Souls. Belle shows up and uses the Dark One’s dagger to stop him from doing something drastic. Gaston is released, and he uses the opportunity to attack, but Belle jumps to the rescue and knocks Gaston into the river.

Hades shows up and notifies Belle and Rumple that the baby deal still stands. It turns out that, according to the deal Hades told Belle, Rumple had to be the one to toss Gaston in, or vice versa. It goes to show how you really have to read the fine print when trifling with the Lord of the Underworld.

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Even for a one-shot villain, I found Gaston pretty bland. Most of the development we get from him is via flashbacks in the Enchanted Forest. At first, we believe Gaston is supposed to be Belle’s “handsome hero”, but as the episode’s flashbacks progress, we learn that he’s vile and cruel. Was this supposed to come as a surprise? It’s almost as if Once Upon a Time made this show for Disney fans who somehow have never even watched a Disney movie.

What’s interesting about Gaston’s role this episode is how it plays into the overall lore of the Enchanted Forest. Throughout the series, we’ve heard about these “Ogre Wars”, which apparently acted as a catalyst for most of the events that have transpired with major characters (primarily Rumplestiltskin). It appears that there is much more to the wars than we previously thought.

In the past, Belle and Gaston find a young ogre stuck in a trap in the forest, but Belle believes it looks more scared than hostile. Belle discovers a special mirror that will reveal a person’s true intentions in their reflection. They plan to use it on the ogre to see if it truly means them harm or not. When Belle and her father return to Gaston, who was tasked with keeping watch over the ogre, they see that he’s been attacked and that the monster has escaped. Want to guess what happens next?

I saw it coming a mile away. Basically, it’s revealed that Gaston is actually evil, and the ogre is simply lost and scared. This leads to the revelation about what caused the Ogre Wars in the first place. Belle deduces that it was primarily started by her people torturing and harming ogres for their own nefarious purposes. I’m a little surprised we learned this interesting tidbit about the Ogre Wars since I always felt like they were part of an arbitrary plot point with no real meaning. I never thought too much of them, and I assumed they were thrown in purely for character development. I wonder if this means we’ll be learning even more about them in the future.

Stepping outside of the Belle, Rumple, Gaston subplot, we return to our main heroes for a portion of the episode. Emma is dealing with some issues of her own. She has a dream about her, Hook, and Snow going to a graveyard to remove their names from the tombstones. During the dream, a feral beast tracks the trio down and kills Snow. Emma figures the dream is actually a premonition when the exact same scenario begins to play out in real life. Now they have to escape the monster and prevent the premonition from coming true.

This side story involving Emma and Snow is vastly underplayed throughout the episode, almost like it was thrown in as an afterthought to remind the audience about the main characters. I will say that the climax was pretty awesome. Snow shoots an arrow at the beast, seemingly killing it. But when they approach it, they find that it’s a wolf… with a red cape! Red is back! I thought they had completely written her out of the show with Mulan a few episodes ago. Nope! They’re both back, and according to the previews for next week, it looks like they’re going to help the team take down Hades (unless the show decides to just throw another filler episode at us that doesn’t propel the central plot forward).

I also enjoyed the ending moment involving Hades and Zelena. After Belle “kills” Gaston, Hades discovers the flowers wilting again, signaling the return of the decay. He delivers a dead flower to Zelena, who holds it up with a coy smile. I guess this means the two will finally be coming together to defeat our heroes. The question is – how long until that happens, and how much filler will we have to suffer through in the meantime?!

Final Grade: C +

+ I enjoyed the little twist involving Gaston’s “death” and Belle’s baby.

+ I’m pretty happy we’re finally learning more about these infamous “Ogre Wars” that have been mentioned throughout the series.

+ Red!!!

– Filler, filler, filler!

– Gaston was a poor one-shot villain.

– I saw the mirror twist coming from a mile away.

Extra Thoughts:

– So Belle found a huge book that lists all of the magical artifacts throughout the kingdom, such as the magic mirror. I’m wondering how the book will play into the future of the series (since Once Upon a Time absolutely loves its artifacts).

What were your thoughts on this latest episode of Once Upon a Time? Are you excited for the next episode and the return of Red and Mulan? Tell us what you think 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!