This one's for all the marbles – the last episode before the break, the moments that will make viewers come back after the break for new episodes. And what do they do? Kill the Sherriff. How does that even make sense? Let's explore.
"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" opens with everyone's favorite Sheriff getting drunk and playing darts. Red Riding Hood poses sluttily in the background as someone bets he can't hit the picture of the deer again. (Seriously, are they ever going to do anything with her? Or is she just a bone for all the boyfriends forced to watch this show?) Miraculously, he does. Tick one for my werewolf theory/hopes.
Emma appears from nowhere – apparently girlfriend likes to have a drink too – and Graham tries to stop her. She shakes him off and he, rationally, throws a dart at her head. It hits the doorframe just seconds before she passes there, which I have to say is not the optimal way to get a girl's attention. He chases her out into the street and they fight then kiss, which prompts him to flashback to his previous life as someone who runs with wolves. Please, please let him be a werewolf.
Emma berates him for kissing her while drunk and for using him to fill an empty place where his heart should be. I think one of them is conflating heart with penis, but either way the point of this is to give the Sherriff his memories and prove that nothing good can happen to Emma without profound repercussions for everyone else. To test his theory that kissing = memories, he goes to the Mayor's house for drunk angry sex. Disney apparently knows a thing or two about unhealthy relationships.
As she kisses him with her eyes open, never a good thing, she flashes back to the moments after her husband's funeral. Snow White is grieving over her father's tomb and they console each other. I was wondering how far back this was, because the Queen seems very sincere in her condolences, but as soon as she gets back to her boudoir the gloves come off and she's back to catwomaning around the kingdom. She plots with her Mirror to kill Snow White as part of her grand revenge scheme... which we still don't know the root cause of. They decide that the only person who can kill Snow White is a Huntsman, due to his lack of compassion and political affiliation.
Said Huntsman has just killed a buck in the forest, thanking him for his sacrifice. He sheds a tear, signifying that the only thing that can touch his heart is sacrifice. Then, the wolf that we've seen a few times comes down to get his noms. I should add that the wolf is vaguely bionic – one eye is blood red, the other black. Also my werewolf dreams were dashed. I shall rally!
The Sherriff wakes up in Regina's bed with the memory of this kill fresh in his mind. He tries to talk to Regina about it, but she just hushes him up. Remember that she is the Queen, and she wants to do everything in her power to keep him from remembering. He decides to leave, and when she tells him to come back to bed he coldly reminds her that she has never wanted him to stay before. These two aren't even fuck buddies, they're just warm bodies.
At Mary Margaret's house, Emma throws away flowers she assumes are from Graham. Mary Margaret pulls the bouquet back out of the bin, because they were actually for her. Emma is shocked when MM reveals that she and Dr. Whale had a one-night stand, but Mary Margaret doesn't really know the protocol on those so she called him. And now they're kind of dating, I guess? Everyone is Storybrooke is getting some, except for Emma who just has too much of a wall up. This is the MID-SEASON BREAK, writers. You need to step up this lame-ass dialogue with at least one joke, because this was the weakest scene I've seen all season.
When he gets to his patrol car he drops his keys and looks up to see the wolf of his dreams. He follows the wolf into the woods but loses it. Instead, he finds Mr. Gold with a shovel and an apron. In a suit. Did I mention he had a shovel? Proving that he is the worst Sherriff ever, Graham chooses not to question Gold about his presence but about whether he saw a wolf. Gold says he hasn't, and then they have a trippy conversation about memories being scenes from past lives. Walt Disney is spinning in his cryogenic chamber somewhere.
The episode flashbacks to the fairy tale world, where the Huntsman and his wolf are eating at an inn. An inn! Finally! One of my favorite fairy tale settings, and it took this long to get one. One of the other patrons has a problem with the Huntsman, who was apparently raised by wolves (half-werewolf then, kind of, right?) and cries over every single kill. The Huntsman dispatches the heckler and his buddies in good ol' inn-brawl fashion, cleanly off-setting all the girly drama stuff that happened in the preceding scenes. It was a nice palette-cleanser. In his haste to murder he picks up a giant shard of glass, which for a second was badass until they showed that the Queen was using it to spy on him. Creep factor: maximized.
In the forests of Maine, Graham is still chasing the wolf. He catches up to it and asks "What do you want?" As if the wolf could answer. Graham's eyes are pretty red, are we sure he wasn't roofied at the bar? The wolf starts to walk away, but he whistles and the wolf comes right back to him. As he pets the wolf, he experiences several LSD flashbacks – including a fleeting image of Snow White's face.
In the fairy tale world we see how the Queen and the Huntsman meet. She has on a lacy red velvet number that is not very forgiving in the midsection, but thankfully the lipstick is more tasteful than usual. They talk about how people are split into two kinds: haves and have-nots. Oh, wait, sheep and wolves. She convinces him to kill Snow White and bring back her heart, which he will do in exchange for the safety of all the wolves in the kingdom. He makes it very clear that he does not want a place at court because he is no one's "pet". Really big mistake, bro; never tell someone with that much black lace on their dress what they can and can't have.
With only his flashbacks go on, Graham finds Mary Margaret and starts rambling about other lives. They realize that they don't really know how they know each other. Mary Margaret tries to pass it off as something that happens when you get older, but the audience knows it's the Curse at work. She also wrongfully, and helpfully, concludes that Graham has been talking to Henry about his fairy tale theory. Graham leaves in search of Henry and more answers.
The Huntsman goes walking with Snow White in the forest. They're talking about the summer palace, which I think they're journeying to. I know times must be tough in whatever kingdom Snow White is heiress to because they can't afford a CARRIAGE for the PRINCESS. Seriously, they keep that line on the budget always. She figures out that the Huntsman is no knight based on his lack of manners and overabundance of armor. She flees from him, but we all know it's just a matter of time before he gets her.
Meanwhile at the police station, Regina does that thing where she shows up and tries to intimidate Emma but just ends up pointing out a flaw that needs to be corrected this episode. It's getting really annoying, because she does it every time something goes wrong in her life. Emma is not your personal scapegoat, not even if she is here to wreck your curse. Blame old Rumplestiltskin for that one, I'm pretty sure revoking the Curse is part of his end game.
In the fairy tale world we learn why the Huntsman did not kill Snow White. Those familiar with the original movie might remember that he simply showed pity on her, but Once Upon a Time takes this moment to further pique your interest about the bad beef between Snow and the Queen. She writes a letter to the Queen and asks the Huntsman to deliver it, recognizing that she is dead whether she runs or not. She chooses to believe her death will be a sacrifice, not a murder, and for that key reason the Huntsman shows pity and takes a deer's heart instead of Snow's.
Graham shows up to talk to Henry about the fairy tale world. Henry shows that his sessions with Archie have paid off by asking insightful questions about Graham's memories, though he gets grossed out when he learns that Graham's kiss with Emma started this whole thing. ("You kissed my mom?" Hilarious, writers. I see what you did there.) But what happened to the Huntsman after his noble act? Why, the Queen took his heart straight out of his chest – omg do you get it yet? Please say you get it because they are really beating us over the head right now. Graham sees the drawing of the Queen in front of her heart vault and recognizes it from his memories, both fairy tale and Storybrooke.
Graham immediately goes to search for the symbol he saw and runs into Emma. He's talking like a madman about his heart and how he needs to find it. She tries to point out that it is in his chest, but he's looking for that emotional heart that allows him to feel. (Side note: I was really hoping he would have two hearts. And be from Gallifrey. Doctor Who, where are you?) Emma agrees to help him because he has beautiful eyes, but mostly because the wolf appears to show Graham isn't crazy.
The wolf leads them to a cemetery where they find the marking from Graham's vision on a mausoleum (perfect place for a Fallout Boy clip, just saying). It turns out to belong to Regina's family, proving they're on the right track. Graham and Emma enter the building but can find nothing. Regina shows up to ask what the hell they're doing and Graham basically breaks up with her. She blames Emma, of course, leading to some truthbombs from Emma and a cat fight. I'm all about this show, but is this really how they hope to get more viewers after the break? I can't even remember this happening on Desperate Housewives, people.
In the fairy tale world, we get the final events of the Huntsman's free life. He returns to the Queen and gives her the deer's heart, having convinced her it is Snow White's. The Queen's heart vault won't open, which shows the heart isn't human and that sometimes a fairy tale needs some Aztec flavor. How many human hearts does one queen need, and how did no one notice she was evil? Like, ever? For revenge, she takes the Huntsman's heart and also his freedom of choice. She pretty much makes him her sex slave, because she can kill him by squeezing his heart too tight.
After Graham and Emma leave, Regina pushes the casket back to reveal her own version of the Batcave. I have a name I would like to call it, but it's not really polite or printable. Emma and Graham talk about their feelings back at the station, and it looks like they're about to make a real emotional breakthrough. So what does Regina do? She takes out Graham's heart and begins to squeeze, eventually turning it to dust. And now Graham is dead. Emma's love interest is DEAD.
...Wait, what? No, the Sherriff is dead. Mary Margaret is dating a guy who is actually named DR. WHALE, and Prince Charming is nowhere to be seen. Oh well, I guess we have a lot to look forward to after the break. In the mean time, rewatch a few episodes and see if you can figure out ol' R-stilt's endgame.
Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long