Once Upon A Time 5×17 “Her Handsome Hero” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

Once again, do not make the deals with the devil, kids — there’s always a trick with him.

Episode Summary: Flashbacks reveal Belle and Gaston’s first meeting followed by an adventure that showcased what a powerful team they could’ve been if their story evolved further. However, when they’re reunited in the underworld, Gaston reveals she was a weakness and his quest to kill Rumple is the unfinished business he’s doomed with. And unfortunately, when Rumple’s involved, souls don’t move forward to eternal bliss, instead, they decay in the “River of Lost Souls”. In an attempt to stop the men from destroying each other, Belle accidentally pushes Gaston into the river, but despite the fact that a soul departed in Hades’ preferred way, because it wasn’t Rumple’s doing, he will not allow Belle to keep the child. Emma believes her dreams are visions leading to Snow’s death, but what the heroes come to find is the fact that a beloved friend has found her way into the underworld — now whether dead or alive, (hopefully the latter) next week’s episode is bound to be extraordinary with Red and Mulan.

Review | Analysis: From an early age, fairy tales were meant to paint gorgeous pictures of significant lessons, except sometimes, instead of dragons and witches, the demons are internal battles. Once Upon A Time and this arc especially, emphasize the vitality of hope in a masterful way. It’s been scientifically proven that positivity and laughter can play an enormous role in a person’s physical health. In the same way, negativity can do the exact opposite. “Her Handsome Hero” touched on perspectives inspiring us to once again be certain of the fact that though a hero’s life isn’t always easy, it’s not only always worth it, but it strengthens hope and ensures happiness in beautiful ways.

When we’re presented with three solid, healthy relationships constantly blossoming on our screens, it’s acutely difficult to judge Rumple and Belle with any form of positivity. Sure, we’re certain he loves her as he’d never let anyone harm her, but in this area, love isn’t enough. She isn’t enough. And when love isn’t enough, it’s difficult to see the relationship as anything but toxic. Plus, the most frustrating aspect is the constant back and forth making us question whether or not there will ever be a resolution.

There’s always hope for a storyline on Once Upon A Time, but it isn’t easy to see the silver lining here. Rumple spoke so diligently of perspectives, but the absence of self-awareness in his life almost makes his statement laugh-worthy. If we aren’t willing to shift our perspectives, we’ll never go far in life. Of course, we all have morals we must stick to when tempted by them, but the reality is, we’re not always right. And as human beings, we’re nowhere near close to perfect.

For instance, Killian and Regina needed to shift their perspectives in order to come to the realization that solitude and the constant thirst for revenge never bring happiness. And while the road isn’t always easy, the willingness to shift gear for a moment is a solid start. Unfortunately, Rumple’s never been willing to see another’s perspective — dark one lies, and the dark one tricks. Rumple has deeply rooted issues of abandonment cobbled with cowardice that he feels he cannot live with. And while that’s tragically understandable, it doesn’t make any of this okay. It’s clear that without power, he’s afraid, and surely we all know how daunting fears can be, but the life of those around him should be proof that it’ll be okay. Instead of choosing the hard road that’ll give him control over his demons, Rumple chose to hide behind the dark one’s power. And choosing to take the easy route by avoiding hardships instead of facing them head-on isn’t a solution, it’s rather a game of hide-and-seek until life catches up and finds you.

In life, we’re supposed to treat people the way we want to be treated. We’re supposed to treat them better than they treat us and at times, even themselves. The reality is, as hard as the honorable road is, it’s the one that needs to be taken every single time. Belle’s chosen that road time and time again, but sometimes, we must also look out for ourselves. Sometimes, the honorable road is choosing to walk away from something we love in order to save someone else. Sure, Snow and Charming never gave up on Regina, but they fought against her for so many years until she began showing palpable evidence of change and heroism. They didn’t consider her a friend until it became clear she wouldn’t turn around and murder them the moment they closed their eyes.

We don’t want to bring religion into the discussion, but for us, as Christians, we’re taught that we must love our enemies and do right by those who harm us. And while it’s easy to love people even when they’re flawed, it’s not always right to keep them in our lives. There’s a massive difference between loving someone unconditionally even when they’re wrong and continuing to stand around watching as they knowingly make mistake after mistake. As human beings we’re all prone to making mistakes — we make them in our day-to-day lives, but in Rumple’s case, he isn’t learning from them, and he doesn’t care to.

Although Belle isn’t making mistakes as obviously horrific as Rumple, continuing to stand by his side as he chooses the life of a dark one isn’t helping him either. It’s entirely understandable that she has not stopped loving him, and she never will, and frankly, we don’t expect her to, but in order for Rumple to truly change, she needs to stop trusting him the way she does. Optimism is fantastic, but there comes a point where we need to shift our perspective to realism. Belle could leave Rumple while reminding him she loves him and has faith in him without standing by his side.

While hope and encouragement can do wonders for a person, if one isn’t willing to also work on themselves, there’s nothing another party can do. It’s easy to be brave when someone else believes in us, but if we choose to only follow the one flawed vision in our heads, then we’re essentially headed nowhere. Yes, desperate times call for desperate measures, but when it comes to Rumple, he almost always takes the dishonorable road. A person can be persuaded differently — Belle is proof of that in flashbacks. And perhaps, if we’d gotten to know Gaston further, he might have grown as well. If he did in fact provoke the ogre, he was wrong in doing so, but again, mistakes are made and when given the chance, he fought for Belle prior to Rumple killing him.

Despite how charming they were, we don’t want to spend too much time on the what-ifs regarding Belle and Gaston, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the fact that instead of handling things like a normal person, Rumple has resorted to murder. Instead of allowing Milah the freedom to do as she pleases with Killian and raising Bae as his own, he resorted to murder. We know that the dark one’s curse is excruciatingly powerful, but we’ve also seen it used for good in the hands of Emma and Killian. We’ve seen it controlled, and more importantly, we’ve seen love win. And as much as we want to believe Rumple when he says he wants to use it for good, and he’ll do so after today, it’s difficult to.

Despite our admiration for agency, we loved watching Belle take control of the dagger, but it, unfortunately, didn’t last long. When it comes to Rumple, he has no control. And that’s the issue, things won’t be changing unless his perspective does. Hope is an everlasting promise that the sun will always come up, but optimism and positivity are choices, and sometimes those choices require selfishness. Belle needs to separate herself from Rumple because the kind of stress he brings isn’t healthy for a regular person, let alone a woman carrying a child. It’s great to see the best in people because it inspires them to see the best in themselves, but when a person isn’t willing to change, there’s nothing more another can do. She needs to focus on herself because the beautiful optimism she walks with isn’t doing her any good with Rumple.

She could continue believing there’s good somewhere deep within him, but she needs to focus her positivity and optimism on herself. When you love someone, you don’t give up on them, but sometimes, when they aren’t willing to be helped, letting go is all you can do. She can continue believing he’d find the light one day, and she can continue hoping as we know that’s an immensely powerful weapon, but she needs to let go — truly let go. And if he finds it in his heart to change by genuinely trying, then perhaps there’s hope, but standing where we are now, he needs to fight for himself before anyone else does. He needs to atone for his mistakes. He needs to be willing to change. Rumple merely says what Belle wants to hear.

Perspective is key to infinite situations, but there is no question where life or death is concerned. And although one can argue it’s a matter of self-defense since Gaston wanted to kill him first, we’re certain that if another approach was taken, it would’ve ended with Gaston moving on to somewhere better. That’s how you shift your perspective — especially if you’re the dark one. Rumple could’ve stopped each of the arrows with magic leaving Gaston defenseless forcing him to actually listen. There are other ways. And that’s what it means to shift your perspective on life.

A proper example of a man shifting his perspective and ending up exactly where he needs to be is Killian Jones. Killian needed to explore the idea of losing the only home he’s ever known, a place connected to dreams and freedom with Liam in order to bring Emma to hers. And as we continuously say, he chose the honorable road despite not knowing where he stood with her. She may not have returned the same feelings, but at the end of the day, it came down to doing the right thing in order for the woman he loves to have the kind of happiness he was never able to — a family. And today, Killian’s the man worthy of saving. Killian is family.

One small decision to turn his ship around changed his entire life for the better. His life is now not only of great importance to Emma but to her family as well fortifying the fact that he’s not only a hero but a member of their family. And families fight for each other. They find each other. They save each other. Snow White is a pure soul — it’s in her name, and to have her state that Killian’s worthy felt right. Snow and Killian haven’t bonded in the same way they have with others, but Snow’s able to see him for the man he truly is. The man who’d find her daughter, love, and protect their family at any cost because of the magnitude of his heart.

He’s worth it as he’s proven to be time and time again. Heroism doesn’t equate to perfection but rather willingness — compassion and forgiveness. And when someone forgives us, we must be willing to try for them. When someone shows us compassion, we must be willing to do good for them. And that’s exactly what Killian’s done — he’s atoned because of the hope Emma’s shown him in “And Straight On Til Morning.” It wasn’t always an easy, flawless journey, but through persistence, choosing the hard path has become easier. Killian has made countless mistakes and surely he’ll continue to, we all do, but what makes him a hero is the fact that he’s ceaselessly fighting off the darkness by choosing love and hope. For Killian and the rest of the Charmings, love and hope are always enough.

On another note, it’s interesting that Emma’s dreams turned out to be a vision, and it makes us extremely curious about whether or not it’s tied to her magical abilities. Is this simply an underworld ability or a new power she’ll have? Most importantly, when it comes to Emma Swan, it’s always lovely to see Killian and her loved ones fiercely showcase their faith in her. Often times we don’t realize the immense impact we can have until someone reveals it to us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” And by saving him, she helped him save Liam. By saving him with her acceptance in the past, she’s helped Ursula reunite with her father. It all began with Emma’s choice to offer Killian the chance to be a part of something. And that choice resulted in making more than one life breathe easier.

Emma Swan is the kind of hero that genuinely doesn’t realize the kind of impact she’s had on people’s lives and when her centric episode approaches, we have a great feeling about what we’ll see. When love is true, healthy, and selflessly compassionate, it has the power to immaculately inspire greatness. Killian and Emma’s unwavering faith in one another is a force to be reckoned with. It was beautiful to hear that no matter what happens and no matter how dark conditions seem, Killian, will never question Emma’s instincts or abilities. And for a woman who’s constantly been shunned in the past, his ceaseless faith in her fuels her magic with even more purity and strength.

Love in its truest form inspires goodness and light, and that’s exactly what the love shared between Killian and Emma continuously does. It heals. It strengthens. It uplifts. It saves. Allowing the profound adoration they share for one another to guide their hearts, Killian and Emma have defeated the darkest, governing power together. And today, they continue to uplift each other by reminding one another of the light within that always makes them worthy. Emma’s magic is a result of the pure love shared between her parents, but mastering it the way she has is due to the love she’s experienced. paralleling how often her parents save one another, in the same way physically, mentally, and spiritually, Killian and Emma do the same proving that when love is chosen, it’s always the best choice.

As you all know by now, scenes regarding the Charming family are absolute favorites here. Jennifer Morrison’s delivered Emma’s exhaustion and fears in such palpable ways this week, it gave us the chance to not only see the sleep deprivation in her physicality, but we were able to once again see how deeply rooted her fears of loss are. To find a family years after dreaming about it is great, but our minds have the power to play tricks on us, and for someone like Emma who’s dealt with abandonment issues, it’s common to fear losing those closest. Ginnifer Goodwin responded to Emma’s concerns with the awe-inspiring optimism that’s effortlessly able to heal all aches. She understood Emma, truly and felt for her, but fiercely defending their choice to be there was exactly what Emma needed to hear. There are no regrets, only an adamant desire to defeat Hades in order to get her family home.

And on a completely adorable note, the whole “don’t argue with your mother” statement coming from Charming was nothing short of wonderful. We could watch an entire hour with the Charming family having random conversations. How about they all sit down and watch the Disney version of their lives then compare and contrast to their reality? Yes, please.

Some people thrive and live off hope while others live for decay. And while we’re not sure why Hades wants to go back in time if he has his “perfect” world with Zelena in it, it provides the necessary excitement that often comes from uncovering our villain’s motives. And speaking of Zelena, it was lovely to see her respond to Regina’s openness with vulnerability only to realize this conversation is for selfish reasons. We’re certain that if the two tried, they can be great sisters, and hopefully one day everything can be put aside for this, but for a brief moment, their time at Granny’s was just right. Before any of this can happen though, Zelena needs to work through her issues with the dark side.

To be quite honest, this was one of those episodes that’s genuinely left me confused. I tried various different approaches, but I keep coming back to this puzzlement regarding Rumple and Belle. I don’t know if I’m supposed to root for them, hate them, be angry about them, or just let the story unfold. I don’t know or understand the intent to where they fit in at this moment and that’s a bit frustrating as a writer. Additionally, when it comes to a show like Once Upon A Time, there are countless ships which often worries us as we never want to offend anyone with our viewpoint, but canonically, their story doesn’t paint a healthy picture. And believe me, when I say I desperately want it to since Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites, but for the time being, I honestly don’t know how to feel about the pairing.

Worth Mentioning:

  • Anytime Killian must showcase his immense faith in Emma, Colin O’Donoghue delivers the words with impeccably heartfelt sincerity. Although words alone have great power, the heart also reveals itself in one’s tone of voice and the adoration that’s worn in their eyes — the sincerity O’Donghue conveyed through his delivery managed to give the words more strength. And thus, Emma could not only hear what Killian’s saying, but this way, she’d be able to truly feel the faith he carries.
  • If Emma was able to take off their names from the tombstone, will she be able to split her heart now, or will we take the true love’s kiss approach? We’re sort of thinking it’s the latter.
  • Robin was missed this week, but hopefully, he’s as good as he says because knowing Zelena, if she had Hades team up, we have a feeling the baby will be found.


  1. Your last paragraph perfectly expresses my feelings on Rumple and Belle’s story. I just don’t understand what the writers want me to do here. I have not been able to root for them for quite some time, but now I can’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just baffling to me.

    1. It seems a lot of us are on the same page with this area. I suppose we’d have to wait for the finale to properly judge, but the sad part is, we’ve said that before.

  2. You did such a great job with this post, Giss! This episode was so hard to write about, but I think we all did pretty gosh-darn well, if I do say so myself. 😉

    Your last paragraph echoes all of my sentiments about Rumple and Belle. I don’t mind ambiguity, but, let’s be honest, Once Upon a Time is not an ambiguous or really even all that subtle kind of show. So I’m torn about whether I’m supposed to believe that these two characters are going to keep coming back to each other or eventually separate. I’m getting tired of constantly thinking that THIS is going to be the moment when Belle finally stands on her own two feet, only to have her run right back to him. Is this supposed to be a tragic portrayal of an abusive relationship, a story in which Belle ultimately gives in to her own darkness, or a genuine love story? If it’s the last option, I’m not buying it. But if it’s either of the other two, that’s sad, too, especially for those of us who grew up loving Belle and Beauty and the Beast in general.

    I loved what you had to say about the honorable path sometimes being the path leading away from someone instead of toward them. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to walk away from a toxic situation. It’s wonderful to love others, but you have to love yourself, too. And that’s especially true for Belle now because it’s not just about her—it’s about their baby. She needs to do the right thing for that child, and the right thing may be choosing to distance herself from the child’s father.

    1. Thank you so much, lovely. It means a lot coming from you especially since we all struggled with this review.

      I wasn’t planning to write this way, but I suppose my own personal struggles inspired it. For a very long time, I believed that loving someone meant you could never give up on them, but I needed to learn the hard way that sometimes there’s just nothing more left for us to do. And in order to help someone, we must stop trying to change them even if it’s for their own benefit. Also, just because we walk away, doesn’t mean we’re giving up. I take it as a way of letting them learn for themselves. I believe one of the best experiences in life is learning how to help ourselves and we do so when we’re at our most desperate moments. It’s rewarding to know how far you’ve come. It’s great to ask for help, but we need to know how to take care of ourselves too. And at this point, Rumple just doesn’t want to. Until he learns how to, there’s ultimately nothing more Belle can do without hurting herself.

  3. Wow beautiful summary of Killian & Emma, you actually made me emotional reading it. Love that as you say Killian is flawed but still a hero, the way he & Emma support/comfort each other through their unconditional love just steals my heart, absolute adore how much they convey with just a look. Glad to see Killian tell her she saved him because they have been saving each other from the very start in so many ways.

    Loved the moment with Snow telling them love is worth it, I actually feel even though she hasn’t had too much interaction with Killian she has been a supporter of their relationship, still love her reaction to their first date, loved in 5A when David was questioning Emma saving Killian and she supported Emma telling David that Emma chose love its what they would have done they take risks its why they share a heart, that David should have faith in Emma.

    I’m really hoping your right and that’s its TLK that saves Killian as after three failed attempts they truly deserve it, I will be very upset if it’s one of the new romances that get’s TLK as per some of the rumours.

    On a lighter note loved how Killian used his hook to flick his hair in the vault & the snide remarks he and Regina share

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, sweetheart. It’s always rewarding to hear that our words have brought upon emotions and feels ;). It’s what we set out to do (haha!). They’re really such a lovely example of what a healthy couple should look like.

      And I agree about Snow — they may not have interacted but she’s seen how far he’s come. She’s seen how much she’s changed because let’s not forget that apart from Emma, she’s the only one in the Charming family that’s seen him for the pirate he used to be. The change is so very clear to her and if someone’s willing to become better for her daughter, then she’d support that relationship to the moon. It’s beautiful to see how far her adoration and respect for Killian has come.

      And we’re hoping for a TLK too, we won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen, but at this route, it seems it’s one of the only ways we can actually bring him back. All we know is that whatever way they manage to do so, it’ll be lovely.

      Aren’t the little nuances Colin O’Donoghue brings to Killian’s character fabulous? That scene was a hysterical little treat.

  4. I agree with you, the healthy thing for Belle to do is completely walk away from Rumple and raise her baby on her own. If he’s unwilling to change for her, I don’t think he would change for his own child. I think, if anything, him knowing Belle is pregnant with his baby, makes him want to cling even tighter onto the darkness.

    I also think Rumple made a very valid point two weeks ago when he said that Belle loves who he is as the beast. As much she hates the things he does under the influence of the darkness, she does love him and will turn a blind eye to the evil things that he does for her own sanity.

    There was a moment in the beginning of the episode where she specifically stated to Rumple, they’re going to save their baby but no dark magic. And then when they break into Gaston’s place of work and Belle needs to get inside his locker, she asks him to use his dark magic. It’s such a hypocritical moment in the episode; where Belle doesn’t condone Rumple’s magic but when she needs him to use it, she will ask him to because she needs something from him.

    I also think it’s sad what the writers’ are willing to do to Belle’s character, in order to put her on the same level scale as Rumple. Belle is not Rumple; she doesn’t have the same values as him but the writers are completely okay with her killing someone to protect Rumple, to make her see that evil always wins and there’s no hope in hoping that good will win.

    I’m seriously not holding my breath when it comes to this relationship. It is toxic; it’s toxic for both of them. What is going to happen to Belle going forward? Has she just lost hope completely and will be okay with Rumple being the bad guy?

    This episode has left me so confused.

    1. The episode has definitely left a lot of us confused. This was actually the first time in years where we debated if we should even write a review because we genuinely weren’t sure what we’re meant to believe.

      Additionally, part of the reason why season 4B was the most nerve-wrecking is because we were terrified they may fully turn Emma evil and disregard the fact that she’s a hero, the ultimate hero, because she shares the same past as most villains. But thankfully, they managed to make her arc with the darkness superlative and left us even more in awe of the character.

      For that reason, we have hope that they won’t have Belle’s character do a complete 180 and just continue giving in to every little thing Rumple does, but we’re waiting until the end of the season to make a decision about where we stand with the couple. They’re completely toxic right now. And it’s so heartbreaking to watch because we’re such fans of Beauty and the Beast. While desperate times call for desperate measures, what frustrates us the most is the fact that Belle didn’t turn to the heroes to help. And hopefully she may do so next week? It’s a long shot but we’ll continue hoping.

      Lastly, we’re desperately hoping and praying and sending out all the positive vibes into the universe to make sure those souls are freed at the end of this arc. It would be absolutely heart shattering if they remained in the River of Lost Souls forever. Both Milah and Gaston deserve their freedom!

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