Once Upon A Time 5×13 “Labor of Love” Recap

Spoilers Ahead 

Snow White is back and all’s well in the world again.

Episode Summary: Bailee Madison reprised her role as young Snow as she became a better warrior due to the help she received from her demigod friend, Hercules (Jonathan Whitesell). In the underworld, Killian helps Megara (Kacey Rohl) escape in order to give Emma a message, but the three-headed beast Cerberus goes after them forcing Mary Margaret to retire her Storybrooke alias because, in order to win, she needs to channel bandit Snow. Hercules, Snow, and Megara slay the beast and the two dead souls are finally given the chance to go to Olympus. While trying to find a map of Storybrooke in Regina’s office with Robin, Henry comes across Cruella (Victoria Smurfit) who tells him that much like the living souls, the quill he destroyed is in the underworld. The quill also has infinite powers and she wants to be written alive again. And in the end, Hades reveals to Killian that with every soul his friends save, he needs to choose which one of them to stay.

Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time knows how to write real, complex women who are strong because they’ve been weak — women who find themselves again after losing battles or falling apart. And it’s no wonder so many of us are in love with this series. Who doesn’t adore heroines who’ve not only taught us so much about ourselves but who’ve inspired us to continue striving towards better? “Labor of Love” showcased the very fact that bravery isn’t the absence of fear, but rather it’s taking risks in spite of the overwhelming thoughts that say failure is more probable than success.

We have missed Snow-centric episodes tremendously. Ginnifer Goodwin is actually a huge reason why we decided to watch the series in the first place. Who doesn’t want to see one of their favorite actresses play a princess? But for a while now, it felt like her character was placed on the back burner — she wasn’t Snow White the bandit queen, she was Mary Margaret — the lost woman. And though this version of Snow has special traits about her, too, she’s most compelling when she’s fighting with steadfast optimism in spite of her fears.

We’re all prone to fear. Whether it’d be something as simple as writing this review and hoping we’ve done an amazing episode justice, taking a chance on opening our hearts, facing a clown, or defeating a three-headed beast. And sometimes, we need another person to remind us of the kind of greatness we’re all capable of. In Snow White’s case, it’s the demigod, Hercules. As per usual, the evil queen wants to turn the kingdom against Snow, but when she runs off afraid to take control of a bandit situation, she meets Hercules and he teaches her the art of an arrow. Snow fails the first time she confronts the bandits, but when Hercules tells her that he too failed his first battle, it inspires her to take a risk again. It inspires her to fight one more time. And during her second attempt, although she hasn’t perfected the bow and arrow skills completely, she’s more confident — she believes in herself. Hercules’ belief in her and his honesty gave Snow the opportunity to see that failure isn’t the end. It takes just as much courage to stand back up as it does to take risks in the first place, and essentially, one must fight until their final breath in life.

Additionally, we need to take a moment to appreciate the outstanding work Bailee Madison does as young Snow — the way she’s grasped Ginnifer Goodwin’s mannerisms is astounding. The Once Upon A Time casting department is always on point when it comes to choosing younger stars for flashbacks. It was nice to see her back.

In the underworld, as the team has split up in order to cover more ground, Snow finds Hercules’ grave and comes to the realization that he hasn’t made it to Olympus. And when they find the demigod, they come to learn that he lost his battle with Cerberus forcing him to reside near his beloved uncle. However, this time, Snow’s the one encouraging Hercules to try again and since the team knows Henry Mills Sr. moved on to a better place, they’ve decided to help Hercules do the same.

Anytime people reunite on this series, there are tears — literally all the time. Therefore, Hercules and Snow’s reunion was no exception landing itself into one of our top scenes. Goodwin’s tearful delivery of the realization that her friend died so young was heartbreaking, plus the addition of telling him she’s now a mother and a grandmother were poignantly bittersweet.

Her life hasn’t been easy, but she’s gotten a chance to live and love unconditionally and at the moment, it’s more than enough. After finding out Cerberus is still in the underworld, Hercules is reluctant to fight him again, but this time it’s Snow’s turn to remind him of his destiny, and the strength he has in order to continue fighting despite the previous failure. And just as it was a bittersweet reunion, it was a heartbreaking goodbye as Hercules once again chose to remind Snow that he was right about her being extraordinary. The tearful goodbye is bound to leave a lasting impression reminding her to ceaselessly be brave enough to take the necessary risks.

“Labor of Love” was great in the sense that one little speech didn’t quickly empower our heroes. It was an ongoing process of trying and succeeding. And despite the fact that it’s now Snow’s turn to give Hercules courage when confronted with Hades, she chose to believe that she’s merely good for hopeful speeches. Mary Margaret may be great at encouraging, but Snow is a fierce risk-taker with a kind, immensely loving heart. At its core, this is a series about friendships and families — it’s about coming together for something greater. It’s about helping people find their best selves and reminding them to remain loyal to their true selves in the midst of trying times. It was lovely to see Regina encourage Mary Margaret to unleash Snow White — the woman who fought tirelessly to defeat the evil queen, but in the end, she chose to see the best in her. She chose kindness and love because it’s the right thing to do. If Snow could defeat the evil queen with no magical powers then surely she’s capable of taking on a mystical beast.

Switching gears here for a moment to say that Snow White is a lot like me. I often feel as though I’m the person who uses my words to encourage people to believe in their best selves. And I, too don’t know how not to see the best in people despite how much they have hurt me. But words are powerful too. And Snow is still powerful with her words while we need the brave bandit sometimes, we also need optimism to remind us of what we’re capable of. And that’s who Snow White is, she’s optimistic, but that doesn’t make her weak, it makes her brave to see the world with kind lenses. It’s that optimism and hope in people like Megara that gave her the courage to take a chance in fighting Cerberus. And at the end of the day, the “we are both” aphorism comes to play best here. Mary Margaret never felt like the Snow we knew because she allowed fear to govern her life as opposed to taking risks despite them.

She kept her optimism, but she lost her bravery. Oftentimes when it felt as though she didn’t understand Emma, it wasn’t due to the fact that she wasn’t paying enough attention, but rather she was trying so desperately hard to be a mother, she’d lose sight of the fact that motherhood is a constant learning experience. And it always felt as though her actions were governed by the fact that fear forced her to try so hard, she wasn’t able to fully grasp the concept that perfection isn’t necessary, but rather trying and being true to oneself is all that matters. It’s okay that Snow’s failed at certain things because what ultimately matters is that she’d lay her life down for her children in her heartbeat, and losing herself to Mary Margaret meant she couldn’t keep a proper balance between who she was and who she is. We don’t always need bandit Snow, but we would get so little of her sometimes it felt as though she’d completely forgotten just how much she’s capable of.

Mary Margaret in the sense was a lost girl — a woman who wasn’t sure how to take on certain things because of a curse that had kept her comfortable. She was kind and welcoming, but she’d lost the fire within her that allowed her to push past her fears. It was absolutely lovely to see a moment tonight that somewhat mirrored Emma’s confession in “Lost Girl”. (Kudos to the lovely Amanda for pointing this out for us.) Snow didn’t have the opportunity to watch her daughter grow — she didn’t know about the pain and suffering that forced Emma to put up walls and close her heart.

However, Emma’s honesty gave Snow the opportunity to remind her daughter of the fact that she’s loved and though they missed a lot of time together, she’s now by her side to make sure she never feels like an orphan again. And in a similar sense, in “Labor of Love,” Snow opened up to her daughter about the risk taker she used to be — showing a side of her, her daughter only knew about to an extent. The first step to change is always acknowledgment and remembering how great it felt to be kind, welcoming, and courageous will undoubtedly be something that’ll bring mother and daughter closer.

We’ve always said that Snow and Emma have similar traits that aren’t so obvious to the eye. They’re both resilient and headstrong, but the love they’re able to give is on an indescribable level. It’s fascinating to hear Snow call Killian “the man my daughter loves” because she now sees that their love is just as true as the one she shares with Charming. She wouldn’t lay her life on the line for just anyone, but if her husband’s life is threatened, she too would go to the ends of the earth for him. And that ability to love with no boundaries, no doubts, and no culmination will perpetually be an unstoppable force that’ll conquer everything.

However, even with the great love, they’re constantly giving, the men on Once Upon A Time have a ridiculously adorable way of getting jealous. Charming’s little showcase of that in the cemetery was an amusing little touch, but it’s the way he called her Snow at the end that had us in happy tears. It felt right in every sense of the word to finally hear that name come out of his mouth. Yes, they are both, but Snow White is the woman he fell in love with after she hit him on the head with a rock. And the smile he wore as he uttered his wife’s name was gorgeous — Dallas’ expression and the tenderness in his voice cobbled with immaculate pride took us back to the Enchanted Forest days when the two were just beginning to fall in love.

And speaking of love, when it’s true, everything makes sense. When one is near, you know — you feel it, you believe it, you rely on the intensity of it, and that’s exactly what a bloody, broken, and bruised Killian authenticated. He may not have been able to respond to Emma when they summoned him by his grave, but he saw her, and he is certain it’s not a vision because he believes in the fact that their love is worth fighting for. He believes in her. He believes in his self-worth which is tremendous growth from when we first met him. Just as he wouldn’t give up on her, she wouldn’t give up on him. Just as he’d go to the ends of the earth for her, she’d go to the ends of the earth (or time) for him. And it’s beautiful to see how profoundly their adoration is etched into the very depths of their being inspiring unwavering faith in each other, and fortifying the belief that their love will always prevail.

A hero’s work is never done and a selfless being is one who’s continuously putting others above themselves. And on Once Upon A Time especially, we know that true character is revealed not in how one behaves when their life is great, but in the choices they make when they’ve fallen. Killian Jones is indeed always a gentleman — a fact he’s not only verbally stated, but one he’s proven to be true through his actions. After he awakes and is undoubtedly in a great deal of pain, Killian helps Megara escape and tells her to find Emma Swan — the woman who’ll help both of them. Killian’s assistance and selflessness towards Meg not only gave her the opportunity to finish her business in the underworld, but it allowed her to see that kindness exists even in a dark world that’s meant to torture and break.

Once Upon A Time is a series that stands on kindness. Time and time again we’re taught that extending a hand changes lives — the smallest act and instilling faith in someone does wonders. And it’s lovely to continue watching our heroes save people from the underworld. What perfect timing to have Killian in the same cell as Meg because departing to Olympus with Hercules made for a gorgeous scene. And her choice to not only give Emma a map but to make sure she thanks Killian for her was a great demonstration of gratitude.

And now that Killian’s been faced with the command to choose a friend anytime someone’s rescued from the underworld, we’re all certain that he’ll find a way to defeat Hades instead.

Everyone’s got unfinished business and while Cruella was killed because Emma was protecting Henry, it feels strange that her story’s not done. Don’t get us wrong, we’re thrilled beyond belief because Victoria Smurfit is absolutely darling, but now, we’re super nervous about the information she’s given Henry. As you all know by now, the author shenanigans were probably our least favorite part of the entire series. Once Upon A Time is constantly establishing that a person’s choices make up their destiny and to have someone write their life away is just disheartening. Henry destroyed the quill once believing that no person should have that kind of power, and we’re hoping he does it again. Cruella’s story isn’t over, but she shouldn’t just be written alive, if that were the case then we could merely rewrite all of history kill Hades and go home.

Worth Mentioning:

  • As per usual, the Once Upon A Time casting department is on point because Kacey Rohl and Jonathan Whitesell were wonderful as Megara and Hercules. Not to mention the fact that Greg Germann continues to give Hades such exquisite mannerisms.
  • It’s really nice to see Regina showcase a lot more kindness than she has in the past. She was gentler in the way she spoke this week with the right amount of sass and it was a lot of fun to watch.

What are your thoughts on “Labor of Love?”


  1. What a beautiful review!

    I adored everything you had to say about Snow. I also strongly relate to her, and I really liked what you said about there being a place for both her words of optimism and support and her brave actions. “We are both” applies to her, too, even if it has felt like a struggle for her to find that balance. You articulated that so well.

    “Once Upon A Time is a series that stands on kindness. Time and time again we’re taught that extending a hand changes lives — the smallest act and instilling faith in someone does wonders.”

    That is just perfect. And it made me more that a little bit emotional. 😉

    1. Thanks a million, Katie! You know how much your kind words truly mean to me <3

      I loved this episode, and I've missed Snow so much it was absolutely to wonderful to see that she's back as Snow again and people calling her Snow especially CHARMING!

      I'm always a fan of making people emotional 😉 ha! But in all seriousness, I just love how much this series focuses kindness and goodness.

  2. Thanks for another great review, your writing is so emotional. Totally agree Killian is such a gentleman, a true hero, I loved the way he saved Meg. Was so glad that he knows that Emma would go to the ends of the earth or time for him since he had his doubts in Season 3. Also loving how supportive Snow & Charming have been & their determination to find Killian. Can’t wait for the reunion of the exquisite CS to see these soul mates together and watch true love conquer all again.

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