Once Upon A Time 2.09 “Queen Of Hearts” TV REVIEW(opens in new tab)
Writers: Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz
Director: Ralph Hemecker
THE ONE WHERE In the past: We see how Hook and Cora first, erm, hook up, and discover how they managed to stay in the Enchanted Kingdom despite Regina's spell. In Storybrooke: Gold and Regina join forces to close the portal from the other realm, just in case Cora comes through – much to Henry's consternation, because he's convinced that Emma and Snow will (which they do). In the Enchanted Forest: Our heroes are imprisoned by Cora and Hook in Rumplestiltskin's old cell, but break out and fight to get through the portal.
VERDICT Wow, it's all happening this week! It's always a wonder that Once Upon A Time manages to layer so many stories on top of stories without getting confusing, and by showing us Hook and Cora's past and present at the same time – across three realms, no less – it's a credit to the writers that it works. Of course, Barbara Hershey and Colin O'Donoghue help a lot; both actors are chock-full of gravitas, charisma and a palpable sense of enjoyment (Hershey in particular: you really feel that she adores playing Cora), and they make a fabulous double-act. If you want to look up the word “dastardly” in the dictionary, there's a picture of them both sitting by it.
The plot of “Queen Of Hearts” simply flies along, not once falling foul of Once 's occasional habit of getting bogged down in talky, sentimental scenes. It starts with a bang – Hook grilling Belle over how to kill Rumplestiltskin – and ends with another, louder bang: Cora and Hook sailing into Storybrooke on his pirate ship. Things are definitely going to get interesting...
One thing, however: Hook's not a good guy, we know that, but it seems very harsh that he was going to cold-bloodedly skewer an unconscious Belle on his hook until Regina intervened. What a nasty fellow!
The storyline with Snow and Emma isn't quite as interesting, with them locked in a cell for most of the action – but this is more than made up for by their final confrontation with Cora and Hook. Emma's swordfight with the pirate is glorious, and the neat twist that Emma has magic is a bit of a shocker. Cora must have been right peeved.
Snow's reunion with Charming, and Emma's reunion with Henry, are very satisfying, bringing to an end nine episodes with the gang split apart, and hopefully heralding the second half of a season that isn't quite as spread out. Writing action across three worlds for all of this time must have left the showrunners' heads spinning!(opens in new tab)
FAMILY AFFAIRS Imagine spending Christmas with Regina and her mother. One minute Regina's all “You must kill Cora!” and the next Cora's saying, “I will kill my daughter!” And then Regina's telling her mum that she loves her too much, and that's why she had to die, and Cora's giving her kid a second chance and waiting until she needs her again. An hour in this family's house and you'd be so confused you'd be calling a cab home.
WAS IT JUST US, OR...? Did anyone else breathe a sigh of relief that the heart Mulan stuffed back into Aurora's chest was actually hers? We wouldn't have put it past Cora to take someone else's and switch it when nobody was looking. That would've been interesting.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
INTERIOR DESIGN Belle's cell contains an impressive floor which seems to have re-used some of the Saturday Night Fever floor panels from the fiery room the episode before. Also, check out the fantastic tiles in Wonderland – what twisted genius created them? They'd look great in my lounge...
ORF WITH HIS HEAD! Making Cora the Queen Of Hearts in Wonderland is a stroke of genius – and it's a shame we didn't get to see more of her in the role. Boo.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
FASHION PARADE Regina wears some extraordinary outfits this week. Her hair is humungous, too.
BOY IN THE BUBBLE Hook stands in amazement as Cora casts a spell to keep them safe from Regina's spell. A giant dome forms over a section of the Enchanted Forest, which not only explains why a chunk of it was unaffected by the spell, but also looks seriously cool.
RISKY BUSINESS “When I was a little girl I used to sneak into Cora's chamber and watch her practise magic,” says Snow. Wow, and we thought roller-blading was a risky thing for kids to do...
ON THE DOT Gold and Regina arrive at the portal at the very moment it's being opened from the other side. After nine episodes, that's pretty amazing timing, isn't it?
THIS WEEK'S OPENING CREDITS IMAGE A geyser of water shooting up out of the vanished lake.
Regina: “You remember Claude?”
Hook: “Can't say that I do.”
Regina: “You killed him in the cellblock.”
Hook: “Oh yes. I didn't recognise him without my hook in his neck.”
Cora: “I'm the Queen Of Hearts. Do you really think I'd be so careless as to keep my heart where everyone else does?”
New episodes of Once Upon A Time air in the UK on Channel 5, Sundays, 8pm