Once Upon A Time 4×17 “Heart of Gold” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

Moment of appreciation for the fact that no series does plot twists the way Once Upon A Time does. (Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times…well.)

Enchanted Forest Flashbacks: We see Robin’s first acquaintance with Zelena as he attempts to steal a potion from her for Rumplestilskin. And during his journey to her castle in OZ, he meets Will who tells him about his broken heart from grief. The flashback concludes with a beautiful scene of Marian assuring Robin that she’s in it for the long haul with him.

Present-Day Storybrooke and New York: While Robin, “Marian”, and Roland are trying to get used to their new lives in New York, Rumplestilskin pays them a visit, but things go south when he has a heart attack. And once he’s bedridden in a hospital, he asks Robin to find an elixir that can fix the heart from Walsh’s apartment by assuming that Zelena wouldn’t send him into our world empty-handed. However, what he doesn’t know is that the elixir was switched out for cold medicine (probably DayQuil since it was non-drowsy and everything), and Zelena has the real one. As it turns out, Zelena’s still alive and thanks to a six-leaf clover necklace that can transform a person, she’s Marian.

It’s incredible that we’re finally given some backstory on Robin. Also, it’s even more incredible that we’re given a glimpse into the relationship between him and Marian. It’s what makes this entire situation so heartbreaking. As ridiculously entertaining as it is that we have Zelena and Rebecca Mader’s brilliance back, it’s sad on behalf of Marian’s storyline. At the end of the day, one can never forget his/her first true love.

If Daniel were to make his way back into the world safely, Regina wouldn’t be able to turn away from him either. It wouldn’t be fair to him. It wouldn’t be fair to the fact that he died in the hands of her mother solely because he loved her and she loved him. Although not all first love stories are healthy, Robin and Regina’s were. Both Daniel and Marian cared deeply for Regina and Robin — they accepted them for who they were and they were willing to give their all for them. There are a few things about this storyline that have gotten a bit tricky. And the issue with plot holes such as these is that while we often try not to think of them too much because they’re so common, at times it’s difficult. At the moment, we are to believe that Regina isn’t the one who killed Marian. Then who did in the past? Did she still die in Regina’s hands? Did she die of sickness? Where was Robin when she was taken and how long did he spend looking for her until he realized she was dead? Confusing. Very confusing, but we suppose the only thing there’s left to do is move on.

That said, let’s get into discussing the fact that Robin is truly an honorable man and it continues to stun us that he wholeheartedly values his code. While he’s evidently vowed to honor Marian forever, he’s had the opportunity to move forward with his life because it’s unfair to her. It’s unfair to be in a relationship where you don’t love the person with every part of you. However, what he’s done beautifully is remembered the fact that she’s stuck by him during the darkest times. He’s acknowledged that her ceaseless devotion to him has been unparalleled and at the end of the day, he cannot just move on leaving a love like her behind. It’s clear that although he loves Regina deeply, his devotion to Marian is strong as well. And what’s so heartbreaking is the fact that it isn’t the real Marian. It’s heartbreaking that he shows so much love for her and in the end, it isn’t her.

This is the first time in a long time that we’ve actually felt Robin’s love for Marian resonate deeply, and she’s not even the one receiving it although he believes he’s giving it to her. Sean Maguire has done a remarkable job conveying sincerity and vulnerability – allowing us to see the truth behind Robin’s feelings with the expressiveness he wore through and through.

Once again, we’re left wanting to bang our heads against a wall because the villains still believe that the author has more power over their lives than their own choices. The reasons they’ve lost everything aren’t because some authors have written their lives that way. It’s because of the choices they’ve made. Rumplestilskin chose power over Belle. Zelena chose revenge over creating a better life. Regina chose to make everyone’s lives miserable because an innocent child made a mistake. It’s all their choices and we’re desperately hoping that the season ends with the realization that they must continuously choose the high road. And with Rumplestilskin suffering one heart attack, we’re wondering if there will be another one as well.

However, while we want them all to make better choices, we must admit that there’s nothing quite as entertaining as a villainous Zelena. Rebecca Mader is brilliant and we’ve missed her inimitable ways of bringing the Wicked Witch to life. “I’m not done telling you about my evil plan.” That line was hilarious –absolutely hilarious and it’s why Zelena is so much fun to watch no matter how insane she is. Mader has an exceptional way of portraying her. You want to root for her. You hope for her happy ending. You hope for her redemption. And you hope she’s just as hilarious when she’s good.

What was interesting about the final scenes is Regina’s choice. And we’re wondering if this means she’s finally leaning towards the good for the better. We perceived her choice to save Emma as a way of atoning for what she’s done. At the end of the day, Emma’s the savior and the greatest hero there is. If she’s tarnished, there can be no hope for anyone else. This was Regina finally choosing someone else over her own happy ending. And what it means for her is that she’s on the right step towards selfless redemption. She’s choosing to save a person she knows Henry cannot live without. It doesn’t mean she loves Robin any less because at the same time she’s certain that Zelena would never try to harm him. However, we’re also certain that when she tells Emma about the fact that Zelena is really Marian, being the selfless soul that she is, Emma will be willing to help her bring him home safely.

Emma’s still upset with her parents and it’s entirely fathomable. There’s nothing that hurts her more than the fact that two people she’s grown to trust most have been lying to her. And it’s entirely natural for her to believe she’s the way that she is because of what they’ve done. But what we’re continuing to hope for is the fact that even though they were manipulated, the power of choice shines down on these characters as their answers. It isn’t about a magical spell. It’s about choices. And at the end of the day, as we said in last (2) week’s review, the spell didn’t take the darkness away from Emma completely because we’ve seen her get angry numerous times.

While Snow and Charming were manipulated into doing what they did, their intentions were to protect her, and one of these days, Emma will come around to understanding that. But right now, she needs the time to grieve. She needs to feel the aches that destroy her knowing someone else has been harmed. And we don’t doubt that she’ll do everything in her power to make matters right. Morrison did an outstanding job of showcasing the depth of Emma’s pain — we were able to see just how great of a heart she has because of how wholeheartedly distraught she is over another human being suffering. It’s moments like this that remind us that the choices Emma’s made in her life are what authenticates the goodness within her.

It doesn’t matter if her parents were tricked, the fact that someone suffered because of her destroys her. And that is the true sign of a hero — a good person who cannot stand the idea that someone else is suffering. With the least amount of screen time in this week’s episode, Morrison managed to shine the brightest with a heart-wrenching performance. Her ability to convey a whirlwind of emotions is commendable. Although the storyline is breaking our hearts, the intense vulnerability and anger Morrison’s been playing Emma with lately further prove what a spectacular actress she is. And the number of skills she’s been showcasing continues to astound us.

Next week — Cruella de Vil and her backstory. What are your thoughts on this week’s episode?

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