Someone dies; someone has a one-night stand. Neither are who you think!

By Shaunna Murphy
April 30, 2015 at 08:42 PM EDT
ABC
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Well, there you have it. Once Upon A Time‘s producers have been teasing a major death for weeks, I just never thought they’d be so cruel as to kill one of the best (albeit most ridiculous) characters on the show. The sweater-vest-loving, hopelessly conflicted sheriff with the inexplicable Irish accent is no more, undone by the simple act of falling in love. On a positive note, his death proved once and for all that Regina is just as eeeevil in Storybrooke as she was back in Fairytale. Her actions will definitely have consequences, so yay for plot development! On a negative, much deeper note, Emma (and Shaunna) may never fall in love again, and I thought that this episode, and Graham’s death, felt rushed. I would have preferred a slow-burning mystery spread out over several episodes over this dramatic, Nikki and Paulo-style stand-alone sendoff. But, as Emma said, “Not feeling anything is an attractive option when what you feel sucks,” so I’m going to turn off my heart-switch and mourn the jaunty sheriff-man at a later date.

We began, as we typically do, at the diner. What is this, New Jersey? At night the diner turns into the local watering hole, and this is where we found our doomed hipster sheriff — hitting bulls-eye after bulls-eye in a solo game of darts. Storybrooke’s intrepid reporter Sydney (remember him?) seemed to be very interested in Graham’s dart skills, which leads me to believe that he might be one of the few people in town who is at least partially aware of the curse. If not, then he’s a terrible reporter. I hope we’ll see more of him soon.

Emma was still angry at Graham for his late night tryst with Regina, and tried to pass off her hurt feelings as total indifference. She was unsuccessful. “You don’t know what it’s like with her,” Graham insisted. “I don’t feel anything!” That excuse doesn’t work on women with at least average levels of self-esteem, so Emma rebuffed his advances. Good girl. Graham went in for the kiss regardless, but as soon as their lips touched, his brain flashed back to Fairytale. Whoa! “Did you see that?” he asked Emma, clearly upset. She did not, and made it perfectly clear that he wouldn’t be “seeing” more of her anytime soon. Predictably, the hurting Graham ran straight into the arms of Regina, who stared directly at the camera with some seriously shifty eyes. At that point, you had to just know. Shifty eyes are a litmus test for cruel intentions. That makes sense, right?

In Fairytale, the beautiful Evil Queen stood on her balcony, gazing down at her pathetic plebeian subjects from her insane evil fortress. Elsewhere in the castle, Snow was crying over her recently deceased father’s coffin. The Queen approached, and the two women shared what appeared to be a genuine hug. “I may only be your mother through marriage,” the Queen said, “But I’m here for you, dear. Truly, and forever.” So now we know that the Evil Queen is also the Evil Stepmother, ticking off two major boxes in the fairy tale villain checklist.

Later, the Queen (sans Snow) consulted her magic mirror. “One down, one to go,” she sneered. We knew that the Queen hated Snow for a yet-undisclosed crime, but what could Snow’s father, who I thought was the love of the Queen’s life, possibly have done to ignite such an insane rage? “The kingdom is still loyal to her,” the Queen said of Snow. “They don’t know the wretchedness inside her as I do.” God, I can’t wait to find out what she did. The Queen told the mirror that she needed Snow dead, but she wasn’t going to send one of her own knights to do it. “I need someone adept at murder, bereft of mercy,” she said. “Someone with no heart,” the mirror replied. “You need a huntsman.” So the theory that pretty much everyone had from day one was correct. Good job!

NEXT: Someone has a one-night stand. It’s not who you think!

In Fairytale’s magnificent forest, the Hipster Huntsman shot then ritualistically thanked a deer for giving him life, telling us instantly that this man was not actually bereft of mercy. His hunting companion was the same wolf that Graham had seen in his kissy flashback with Emma — one creepy red eye, one slightly less creepy black one. Hipster Huntsman assured his companion that he would not go hungry that night … and Sheriff Graham awoke with a start. The hunt wasn’t just a flashback, it was a memory-dream! He remembered everything, and (stupidly) shared it with Regina. She told him to go back to sleep, as it was clearly only a dream. “It didn’t feel like a dream,” he said. “It felt like a memory.” He left her bedroom in a huff, but things got even weirder when the wolf appeared next to his cop car. Sheriff Graham was losing his mind! Or was he?

Over at Chez EmmaMaryMargaret, Emma angrily tossed a bouquet of flowers into the trashcan, thinking they were a make-nice gift from the Sheriff. Hilariously, they were not. “Those were mine,” Mary Margaret said, with equal parts pride and embarrassment. See, sweet-faced Mary Margaret had done the unthinkable — she had sex! With Doctor Whale! In a purposeful one-night stand! Thankfully, commitment-phobe Emma was the perfect daughter gal-pal to trust with this scandalous information. “One nighters are as far as I ever go,” Emma said. “Yeah, but that’s because you’re…” Mary Margaret tried to stop, but it was too late. She had to confront Emma with the hard truth — everyone knew she was building walls so she wouldn’t get hurt, and she obviously had feelings for Graham.

Unfortunately, Graham was currently insane. He frantically ran through the woods, eventually running into the ever-so-mysterious Mr. Gold. Did anyone else think that Mr. Gold was burying a body in this scene? The apron and the shovel and the sneaking through the woods would suggest yes, but Graham didn’t give it a second thought. Gardening, right. Great detective work, Sheriff. Graham told Gold that he was pursuing a wolf he saw in his dreams, and Gold seemed to get a kick out of this. “You know Sheriff, they say that dreams are memories,” he said (knowingly?). “Memories of another life.” He wished Graham the best of luck, and sent him on his way. (Do you think that Gold goes to Regina when curse-related incidents like this happen? I’m beginning to lean strongly towards ‘no.’ My current theory is that Gold is not on anyone’s side — much like Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, his only motivation is chaos. But hey, we’ll see. I love him.)

Graham finally located his wolf, and as soon as they touched, his brain flashed to his horrible past — the dagger, Snow, the wolf, a mysterious vault bearing a strange sigil. Seeing Mary Margaret’s face was too much for Graham to bear, so he confronted her in her classroom. “I think we know each other,” he said. “Not from here. Not from Storybrooke.” She looked at him like he was insane, but couldn’t answer when he asked when and where they had met. “I can’t remember when I met you, or when I met anyone,” he said. “Isn’t that odd?” Thank you! Sheriff Graham — unlikely voice of reason. He asked her if he had ever hurt her, and if she believed in past lives. “You’ve been talking to Henry,” she said. “He has this book of stories, he’s been going on about how he thinks we’re all characters from another land.” Graham perked up at this.

In the woods of Fairytale, the Hipster Huntsman brought his wolf to a rambunctious town tavern. The local yokels picked on him, conveniently providing us with some exposition. Through their taunts, we learned that Hipster Huntsman’s parents threw him to the wolves. He was raised by them, and now he loves animals much, much more than he loves people. “I heard he cries over his kills!” shouted drunk bully no. 1. “What kind of a man cries over an animal?” wondered drunk bully no. 2. Questioning a man’s manliness is never a good idea, so Hipster Huntsman beat the men into a bloody pulp. “He’s perfect,” the Queen said as she watched the fight through her mirror. “Bring him to me.”

And bring them to her they did. “I always felt there were two kinds of people — wolves and sheep,” she said to the confused Hipster Huntsman. “Those who kill, and those who get killed.” Hipster Huntsman, who had previously only killed for himself, was hesitant to drink this crazy woman’s Kool-Aid. But she persisted, saying she needed “Someone who will have no qualms carving a heart out and bringing it back for my collection.” Her initial reward offer — a place in her court — was of no interest to the Hipster Huntsman. He would only do it if she would outlaw the hunting of wolves. How sweet?

NEXT: Someone finally listens to Henry

Hipster Huntsman disguised himself in the Evil Queen’s official armor — armor that had a magnificent six-pack carved over the abdominal area. I was instantly obsessed with this. He led a very chatty Snow through the woods, to her apparent doom. Luckily, our Snow is so smart and intuitive that she sniffed him out almost instantly. “You’re not a knight, are you?” she said. “You’re going to kill me.” “You have good instincts,” he replied. Snow spoke softly, but she was carrying a big stick, which she then awesomely whacked him with.

Still, Snow knew that she would never be a match for the skilled hunter. He found her waiting patiently on a tree-stump, writing a goodbye letter to the Queen. “No matter what I do, I know how this ends,” she said. “Tell her I mean every word.” Snow peacefully and honorably accepted her fate, causing Hipster Huntsman to finally see her as more than human. She was more like his beloved wolves — noble, innocent, and wise — than the terrible human beings he had encountered over the years. He let her escape, giving her a reed whistle to use if she ever needed help. I think he said that blowing the whistle would alert the wolves, but sometimes Jamie Dornan’s accent is hard to understand.

Back in Storybrooke, Regina headed to the station to taunt Emma about her relationship with Graham, but also about the fact that Emma was a commitment-phobic lowlife who would never amount to anything, ever. This scene was pretty much your standard “back off my man” fare, with an ominous, foreshadow-y threat thrown in for good measure: “You are leading him on a path to self-destruction,” Regina warned. “Stay away.” As if this wouldn’t lead to exactly the opposite.

Meanwhile, Graham headed to Regina’s manse to see the all-knowing Henry. “It’s about your book,” he said. “Am I in it?” Dr. Henry flipped through the book as he patiently listened to Graham’s symptomatology. Ahhhh, that’s right. Right under “narcissistic personality disorder” is “you are the Huntsman”! Henry figured it out when Graham said that he remembered almost stabbing Mary Margaret. And as for that wolf? “It’s your friend,” Henry said. “Your guide. He’s trying to help you.” Henry also said that kissing Emma, who was connected to Graham because he spared her mother (thus allowing her to be born), caused the flashbacks. Oh, and one other thing — “The Queen took your heart,” Henry said. “She ripped it out. It’s kind of her thing.” He flipped to a page that showed the mysterious vault from Graham’s earlier flashback. This vault contained Graham’s heart. Easy, then! (Seriously — how was he planning to get it back in? This is not Dr. Whale’s specialty.)

Graham ran into Emma as soon as he left the manse, because, again, Emma likes to do exactly the opposite of what Regina tells her. He told her that the wolf from his dreams would lead him to his heart, and Emma used this as an opportunity to get super-romantic. “You have a heart,” she said. “I can prove it.” She lovingly put her hand on his chest. “See? It’s beating. It’s real.”  This was a very sweet moment, which was instantly killed by the wolf. Only this time, Emma saw it too. They chased the wolf through the woods and its dilapidated cemetery, eventually meeting him at the vault.

NEXT: A tight squeeze

Dramatic! Intriguing! Therefore, this was the perfect time to interrupt the action by flashing back to Fairytale. Ugh, so very Lost. Hipster Huntsman handed the gleeful Queen the letter, which went a little something like this: “Dearest Stepmother, By the time you read this, I will be dead. I understand that you will never have love in your life, because of me. So it’s only fitting that I’ll be denied that same joy as well. For the sake of the kingdom, I hope my death satisfies your need for revenge, allowing you to rule my father’s subjects as they deserve — with compassion and a gentle hand. I know what you think you’re doing is vengeance. I prefer to think of it as sacrifice, for the good of all. With that in mind, I welcome the end, and I want you to take my last message to heart. I’m sorry, and I forgive you.”

Okay, so that maybe answers something about Snow’s unspeakable crime — it somehow led to the Queen never being able to have love in her life. This is why Regina is so focused on Henry back in Storybrooke. She wants the happy ending that only she (and the numerous, nameless plebeians) was never able to have in Fairytale. But I digress. The Huntsman handed over the heart, but the fact that the vault didn’t magically open to accept it unearthed his deception almost instantly.

Back at the present day vault, Graham and Emma came this close — again — to sharing a kiss. But, alas, Regina the moment-killer showed up with “flowers for her father’s grave.” Regina told Graham to come home with her, as he looked terrible. Instead, Graham broke up with her using a clever variation of a classic way leave your lover: “It’s not me, it’s you!” He twisted the knife deeper and deeper, until Regina started screaming at Emma for bringing utter chaos to Storybrooke. “Henry came and found me,” Emma replied, perhaps a bit too tauntingly. “Graham kissed me.” Regina took this as her cue to deck Emma in the face, and of course our favorite grumpy-face bailbondswoman-turned-sheriff responded with equal force. In all honesty, I was very impressed with both of their right hooks. This was not your standard television ladyfight — with a bit more training, I would put my money on either of these women if they joined the UFC. Or I guess Strikeforce, since women still aren’t able to join the UFC. Write your congressman!

Later that night, Graham nursed Emma’s wounds at the station while Regina examined her father’s tombstone. She gave it a solid push, revealing a hidden staircase that could only possibly descend into MADNESS. We then flashed back to Fairytale, where we were finally able to see the Queen ripping the Huntsman’s glowing heart straight out of his chest. He was okay, though. “You’re now mine,” she said. “My pet.” She moseyed over to her vault, the very same vault that Regina was currently entering in Storybrooke, and threw his still-beating heart into one of its many drawers. “And this is your cage. From this moment forward, you will do everything that I say. If you ever disobey me, if you ever try to run away, all I have to do is squeeze.” When she squeezed, the Huntsman fell to the ground in unspeakable pain. “Your life is now in my hands — forever. Bring him to my bedchamber!” So the Queen used the Huntsman as her sick little sex-toy, just as Regina used Graham over in Storybrooke. The same Graham who was currently disobeying Regina by cavorting with Emma.

Regina opened a drawer and removed his heart, as Emma and Graham (finally) passionately made out. This was (no pun intended) heartbreaking, but also one of the coolest sequences we’ve seen so far on this show. Regina is so cuckoo-bananas-evil! As they kissed, Graham remembered everything. Not just flashes of tiny details — the whole darn story. So, time to die. He held Emma’s face lovingly in his hands, then dropped to the floor as Regina squeezed his heart into a pile of ashes. Lights out.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this game-changing episode, viewers. Introducing a character as a series regular for several episodes then unceremoniously killing them off has certainly been done before, but this was, by far, Once Upon A Time‘s darkest moment. Do you like this darker, more twisted version of Time? Will Emma have a new love interest now that Graham is out of the picture, or will she be a sad old spinster forever? Will the show suffer without him? Do you think that Jamie Dornan’s Huntsman was even half as handsome as Chris Hemsworth’s? Man, I’m excited to see that movie.

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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