Her Handsome Hero Review | Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 17

Show me you can be that man.


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 17: Her Handsome Hero

After bringing her into the Underworld proper last episode, “Her Handsome Hero” made some effort to put Belle in the centre of the action. Though highlighting her many positive qualities, the episode also seemed to suggest that Belle was foolish or naive for holding these beliefs in what is a bizarre tonal shift for the show. Belle made strides forwards this episode to save her child from Hades’ clutches by breaking Rumple and Hades’ deal. This deal also saw her ex-fiancé Gaston reintroduced to the show.

With a brand new face, and not a bad one at that, Gaston was portrayed as far more redeemable than the original film. Though his previous appearance had made him unnecessarily flashy and a bit of a show off, here the relationship between him and Belle seemed far more promising. He genuinely appeared to like Belle, instead of being attracted to her purely because of her disinterest and intelligence. In turn, Belle also seemed to be quite taken by Gaston, until she learned of his true colours.

Belle’s virtues are displayed in full force here. Not only her independence, but also her strength of character and her resolute determination to always do the right thing. It’s observe both in the past storyline, as she dogmatically tries to protect the ogre child and refuses to accept that it is automatically evil just because of the nature of its birth, as well as in the present where she tries to find a way for her and Rumple to break the deal with Hades without resorting to killing Gaston.

Another plot point this episode is the idea that Belle is drawn towards monsters, but I find that to be a damaging framing of the truth. I don’t believe that Belle is drawn towards monsters. Even though she finds herself trying to help the trapped ogre, almost gets married to Gaston and falls in love with Rumple, saying that she’s attracted to monsters or gravitates towards them makes her seem like a naive, stupid schoolgirl, which is far from the case.

Belle is very trusting, optimistic and sees the best in people. Perhaps these qualities mean that this allows less virtuous people to take advantage of that, which then leads to her having men like Gaston and Rumple in her life as she’s determined to see the best in them. Even Belle admits here that she has been blinded by her optimism, especially towards Rumple. It’s like she interprets every sign she can as indicative of the goodness, and discards everything else, but saying that she’s got a thing for monsters makes her seem as if she’s masochistic in some way. It also seems to be slightly like blaming Belle for her experience with both Gaston and Rumple, as if getting involved with monsters is somehow on her, instead of a result of their villainous actions.

Overwhelmingly, this episode seemed to suggest that Belle was stupid, overly optimistic or naive to hold her beliefs that doing the right thing was always the best course of action. In the past, it’s suggested that by letting the ogre child go, she instigated the Ogre War, leading to her feeling forced to accept Gaston’s marriage proposal, while in the present, trying to prevent Rumple from killing Gaston led to her accidentally committing the act herself, meaning that the deal for her unborn child is still active and binding.

It’s ridiculously frustrating that twice it’s been made to seem that Belle’s strong code of conduct is responsible for these things happening. We’re faced either with the prospect of Belle abandoning all of her convictions, or her suffering the consequences of trying to be virtuous and heroic, which is strange considering how many of our other characters have strong moral codes as well, yet never seem to suffer as a result of them. Robin, for example, or Snow and Charming. It overwhelmingly just seems to be an episode that condemns Belle for trying to do the right thing even though she’s in love with Rumple, who is evil.

That was another frustrating moment here. Belle asserted that Rumple couldn’t see their baby and have anything to do with them if he was going to use dark magic. Yet, she contradicted herself by the end of the episode. Not only did she ask him to use his magic to help her, but she also kissed him and professed her love for him right when he was about to murder Gaston. It’s ridiculous, and irritating, for Belle to continue to have these roundabout revelations. She’s abhors Rumple’s actions, and she is not a villain. She actively tries to do what is right, and Rumple has no such qualms. He’s committed atrocity after atrocity, and it’s a disservice to the character of Belle that she keeps on being pulled back into his clutches.

But I’m shouting into the ether, because Kitsis and Horowitz clearly don’t care what I think, and clearly don’t know an abusive relationship when they see one either.

The other intriguing subplot of this episode was Emma believing that she had a dream about Snow’s death, but it turns out it was actually a dream to help her protect and save Ruby, who has, somehow, materialised in the Underworld. It was nice to see Meghan Ory again, though her surprise appearance was somewhat undercut by the credits that roll at the beginning of the episode. I’m sure it’s a contractual thing with all of the actors, but it would be so much more helpful if some of those were held back until the end credits so that the audience are caught completely unawares.

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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