Heart of Gold Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 17

Maybe you should take a piece of advice from a man who has pushed away every chance of happiness because it was never enough. If it’s within your grasp, if you know where it is and who it’s with, then you should run to it, grasp it and never let it go.


Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Michael Socha, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 4
Episode 17: Heart of Gold

Just as the Author storyline hits a massive point, Once swerves us away in an exposition-heavy instalment. Though it features one hell of a massive reveal, and was delightful and engaging in its own right, the huge departure from the main season arc really put a halt on the forward momentum.

“Heart of Gold” as a title obviously has a dual meaning. Not only does it refer to Gold’s heart problems in New York (apparently the darkness of his heart is causing it actual physical damage), but heart of gold can also be used to describe Robin, and his own personal code of honour, upon which much of this episode focuses.

The flashbacks here help show us where this personal code derives. It’s always nice to see Sean Maguire, especially after him not being on our screens for a while, but ultimately the flashbacks were a bit of a stretch narratively. I’m not sure why we needed to see this story at this point and, other than seeing where the six leaf clover came from, which apparently made Sean Maguire look like Tom Ellis, it didn’t add too much that we didn’t already know. Even in the past storyline, there still wasn’t much of a believable chemistry between Robin and Marian.

Elsewhere, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t speak about the speech that Gold gives to Robin when they part ways. It was surprisingly heartfelt, and it’s the first time that we’ve developed a sense that Rumple actually regrets his actions as he encourages Robin to go after his happy ending. Yet, at the same time, Rumple also continues to seek the author to fix his troubles instead of actively attempting to make amends, and is now working with Zelena.

Zelena?! I hear you gasp. Oh yes, Zelena. She’s back, in what was a genuinely surprising twist. The fact that Zelena has been impersonating Marian the whole time since she’s returned from the past is a massive shock, and what’s more, it actually makes sense considering the role that Zelena’s “death” played in opening the portal to the past. Quite why Zelena didn’t go through with her initial time travel plan in eliminating Snow’s mother is another matter entirely, but perhaps the opportunity to mess with Regina was just too strong.

Having Rebecca Mader back is a genuine treat. She delights in being evil and devious, and her lines throughout the episode are just simply hilarious. The way that she taunts Regina over the phone about a meat loaf in the oven, purely to annoy her, is delightful to watch. It also helps to strengthen the idea that Regina’s happy ending was actively taken away from her as a villain, furthering my idea that getting the Author to solve all of the problems is entirely missing the point.

This episode was punctuated by Lana Parrilla’s brilliant performance as Regina right at the end. She’s barely in the episode, but her tearful reaction to Zelena spiriting Robin away from her, as Gold threatens her with pain to Robin unless she complies in turning Emma evil, was superbly played. The way that she swaps from breaking down to finding a steely resolve is spectacular, and mesmerising to watch. It’s also commendable and a massive step that, despite what she’s being threatened with, Regina still protects Emma, and refuses to work with Gold. That’s what we call character development.

Ultimately, “Heart of Gold” served us a massive twist by reintroducing Zelena to the story, but came at a frankly bizarre point in the Author tale. Hopefully the next episode helps to reignite the trajectory of this story as the heroes try to wrest the Author back away from Rumple’s clutches.

Once Upon an Additional Brainthought

  • I liked that Emma held her parents accountable for their actions in the past, but I don’t like that they continued to justify themselves. What they did was wrong, and they need to just own up to that fact. Regardless of what they’ve done since, it was a terrible act for them to do. They continue to moan about the actions that other people have done, and judge Emma for her actions being villainous, but they also ignore their own transgressions as if they’re not the same as everybody else. It’s hypocrisy, plain and simple, and not fair for Emma to have to deal with the guilt that her being the Saviour is only due to ruining somebody else’s life. How can Charming and Snow never have been compelled to actually follow up on what happened to the child?

You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Serena says:

    I’m afraid I did not have the same reaction to Zelena’s return as you did. The writers don’t seem to understand that a “plot twist” is only valid when it interprets the rules of internal logic in a way that is surprising, yet still consistent with established canon. That is not the case here, as there was zero evidence from the season three finale or from the established rules of magic to support this “twist”.

    How exactly Zelena survived Gold turning her into porcelain and then shattering her into pieces is never justified. As a viewer, I feel that my trust has been violated. Do the writers actually want me to swallow that “somehow” Zelena was able to turn into a disembodied life force that opened the time portal (she didn’t even have any magic at the time as her pendant was in Regina’s vault), then she “somehow” kept the portal open until Hook and Emma went through (why?), then she “somehow” hovered around unobserved during their adventure rather than enacting her original plan (again, why?), then she “somehow” as a noncorporeal entity without magic was able to perform a magical spell that vaporized Marion, then she “somehow” rematerialized again so she could physically take Marian’s place, then played along as Marian during the whole Frozen arc? Wtf?!? In terms of both the motivation for, and the execution of, these actions, nothing makes sense. Plus Zelena’s God-like abilities pulled out of thin air are the mark of inept writing.

    After this preposterous retcon, how can any death be considered valid on this show? Did Graham and Neal stay dead simply because the writers didn’t like the actors? Obviously someone liked Mader enough for her character to be forcibly re-inserted into the show, though in the most repulsive way possible.

    Repulsive is probably not a strong enough word. The writers had Robin’s wife’s murderer not only impersonate his murdered wife, but also act as caregiver to the son (Roland) whose mother she murdered! Between rape and child endangerment, this “plot twist” is both heinous and revolting. I don’t watch fantasy to have my stomach turned.

    My reaction to this whole mess is: yuck. It ruined my enjoyment of Robin Hood’s story, and that is unforgivable!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mark Goodwin says:

      (I haven’t been ignoring these comments, I promise – work has been super busy)
      It’s so strange, because I thought it was a bit tenuous the first time and whether they had sort of retroactively decided, but apparently it had been their intention since bringing Marian back in the first place! Which makes the whole jeopardy of leaving with Marian have much less of an impact. I suppose I’m more forgiving just because I like Zelena in the first place, so I suppose I’m biased to see her back, as opposed to thinking it’s necessarily a good or credible twist. I think the suggestion is that her pendant had something to do with that magic. I’m not confident it’s ever explained, but clearly she managed to survive because of that, as she escaped via green magic from her pendant which activated the time travel spell.

      Well apparently Neal was let go, but I haven’t found much of a substantive basis of evidence anywhere for that. I agree, though. Sometimes the writers don’t think through the suggestion of their writing, and just do what they want because they like the people.


  2. Serena says:

    Isn’t it annoying when real life gets in the way of blogging? No worries, I’ve had to slow down my viewing schedule for the same reason 😉

    If the writers actually planned for Zelena to come back, then they are being disrespectful to the audience by not actually supporting this plot development in any plausible way.

    I think it is more likely that the writers are inept, and didn’t want to admit it! The writers also seem to be oblivious to pushing another rape storyline (first Graham, and now Robin). Someone please sit them down now and give them training on the meaning of consent — this show is aimed at children after all!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s