Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep13 – Labor of Love

This week’s episode of Once Upon a Time tackles the origin story of bandit Snow White, while in the Underworld Emma and the others have to face off against the mythical three-headed dog, Cerberus. Meanwhile, Henry encounters a familiar Queen of Darkness who offers him a deal that could help him purify Emma’s tainted soul.

A lot going on in the episode, as usual, and we have a few glimpses of both a bloody-faced Hook and a sneering, manipulative Hades. We are also introduced to Once Upon a Time‘s versions of Hercules and Megara, characters who seem to be sticking more to their mythological counterparts than to the Disney animated film.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep13 - Labor of LoveApparently, Hercules met a young Snow White (Bailee Madison reprising her role and looking all grown up) back when she was still unsure of herself and her capacity for leadership. He is the one who trains her in archery and helps develop her into the fearless bandit Snow who Charming fell in love with years later. Thanks to Hercules’ encouragement and training, Snow White develops both her fighting skills and her confidence. She was able to confront a group of bandits terrorizing her subjects (under Regina’s orders, of course) and earn the love and respect of her people.

Her friendship with Hercules was an interesting dynamic to watch and it was great to see one of the most iconic heroes of myth training a female character to be just as heroic. There was real chemistry between them that did not have to be anything romantic. As such, the kiss between them at the end of the flashback felt unnecessary since nothing was ever going to come of it anyway. Snow would eventually meet her prince and Hercules would meet his true love, Megara, back in the Underworld.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep13 - Labor of LoveMegara (played by Hannibal‘s Kacey Rohl) manages to escape the underground prison where she and Hook are being held thanks to help from the latter. She informs Emma and the others that Hook is alive and waiting for them but they must first defeat the vicious guard dog, Cerberus.

Snow White, remembering that this was meant to be Hercules’ final labor when she last met him, tracks him down and tries to encourage him to fight, as he once did for her. They realize that in order to defeat a dog with three heads, they need to work as a team. And though I was expecting for this team to be composed of Emma, Snow, and Hercules or even Regina, Snow and Hercules, it ended up being Megara, Hercules, and Snow who vanquished the hell-beast. Hercules and Meg shared a sweet moment before saying their good-byes and moving on to a brighter future on Mount Olympus.

Meanwhile, Henry and Robin are sent on a side-quest to find some maps and schematics of “twisted” Storybrooke back in Regina’s old office. Upon entering the office, Henry meets up with Cruella who is determined to return to the mortal world because she misses all the glamour and the gin. Especially the gin.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep13 - Labor of LoveThe fabulous queen of darkness delivers some exposition about Henry’s powers as the author and explains that even though he broke the magical pen, his authorial powers remain and only he may be able to write her back into existence. And when he questions her about this, she counters by saying should the one person Emma “murdered” (to save her son) come back to life, the stain on her soul may be erased and she might be pure again. A possibility that is clearly tempting to Henry (though this show does play around with ideas of the purity or darkness of a soul based on one’s deeds, but let’s not get into that.) It would be fun to see how the others would react to seeing Cruella again.

There were some touching moments between Regina and Snow, with the former actually encouraging her former enemy to be the strong and courageous hero she was always meant to be. It’s a credit to Lana Parrilla and Ginnifer Goodwin that we see how far their relationship has come after all the years that they treated each other as enemies. The contrast between Regina’s treatment of young Snow in the flashback and Regina’s support of Snow White in the present day was stark, and it’s just great to see how much they have come to rely on each other for emotional support. Despite everything, they have truly become a family. And complicated families are what Once Upon a Time is all about.

The episode concluded without much progress being made on the rescue of Hook, although Hades did leave the poor captain with the unpalatable task of choosing which of Emma’s group would have to stay behind for every soul that they saved. Poor pirate can’t catch a break.

This episode sorely lacked Rumplestiltskin action. Fortunately, next week on Once Upon a Time, the Dark One makes a deal with the Devil: