Labor of Love Review | Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 13

You’re right. Mary Margaret can’t help. In fact, we don’t need her anymore. We need Snow White.


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

Season 5
Episode 13: Labor of Love

I suppose it was only a matter of time after Hades’s introduction that Hercules too would appear, though I must confess I was caught off guard by how soon it was. New characters can go one of two ways in Once. Either they completely detract focus from the rest of the cast for their own episode, which can be refreshing, but with the habit of half-season story arcs is often frustrating, or they enhance one of our existing cast with their story. Hercules falls into the latter category, and brings Snow to the centre of the episode which seems a long time coming. I’m not sure if there’s been a Snow-centric episode since she became pregnant in Season 3B.

Hercules story was a nice addition here, even if it was slightly disarming that he was, well, dead. Furthermore, Snow insisting that he face his destiny by destroying Cerberus is, perhaps, a tad on the nose considering that’s precisely how Hercules ended up in the Underworld in the first place.

The flashbacks this week saw the return of Bailee Madison as “young” Snow. I say “young”, mainly due to the fact that Bailee looks like she’s grown about a foot since the last time we saw her, so perhaps teenage Snow is more apt these days. She and Hercules had wonderful chemistry, and it was nice to see the impact that Hercules had upon fashioning the prim and proper Princess Snow into the fierce and independent bandit we have been more used to since Season 1. It’s an integral part of her story, and it doesn’t seem a convoluted element of her past. In fact, it’s such a well-done inclusion that I was surprised we hadn’t seen this part of Snow’s history before.

Hercules also helps Snow in the present. It’s the reminder of their past together that helps Snow realise that it’s time to move on from her Mary Margaret days, stop preaching about hope and actually start getting stuff done. Snow has been stuck in a rut recently, and is definitely more passive and preachy in Storybrooke than she ever was in the Enchanted Forest, so I’m glad that not only the character, but also the writers are acknowledging this. Hopefully this will lead to a marked change in the character moving forwards, instead of being an instalment that we simply forget about. Snow shedding her Mary Margaret name seems quite a big deal though, not that I ever called her that in the first place.

While it was nice for this positive development in Snow’s character, especially since she’s been largely in the background these past few seasons, I did feel like it was a bit of a waste in potential for classic characters like Hercules and Meg. For them to be introduced and unceremoniously depart all within one episode seemed quite a rush, especially when some characters with less interesting and more well known stories, like Aurora or Cinderella have had much more focus.

Not only was Hercules a little bit limp (and slightly unusual looking, sorry) but I also felt that this episode did a disservice to the certified Queen of Sass that is Megara. Here, she was horrendously watered down and really just fulfilled the role as vaguely generic female cutout character who progresses the plot. She gets Hook’s message to Emma, she needs to be saved by Hercules. Boom. That’s essentially all there is to it. As for why she’s in the Underworld is anybody’s guess. It seems that she had no unfinished business other than being tied up by Hercules for what must be at least 28 years and then being saved by a burly man before being taken to Mount Olympus where, oh yes, she’s not even allowed in to. Justice for Megara.

On the positive side, at least now we actually have some clarity and answers about who is threatening Hook, and it turns out that it is Hades himself. I hope that it doesn’t take too long to rescue him, but Hades’s plan to kill off another Team Charming member to permanently join the ranks of the Underworld obviously isn’t going to happen, which somewhat limits the stakes in the plot line.

A more promising idea moving forward is Cruella’s proposal to Henry. Firstly, Cruella is back, so let’s celebrate that.

Finished cheering? Thank you.

Victoria Smurfit continues to be a delight, and it’s delightful that she’s back. The plan that she gives Henry is intriguing. The creatives clearly love Cruella as much as audiences did last season, so it will be interesting to see if they actually do bring her back to life, but I can see that causing problems with Henry abusing his power as the Author. Cruella certainly has the right idea by using Emma’s darkness against him. Henry would genuinely do anything to protect his mother and act the hero, so this one is more difficult to call.

Ultimately, this episode provides some well needed forward traction for Snow, as well as with Hook’s current whereabouts. As for the threat of Hades, we’ve had so many we already know that he’s going to exit the show without making much impact. Cruella, however, is an entirely separate matter.

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.

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