You have no idea what you just let crawl out into this world.Victoria
Starring Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West, Dania Ramirez, Gabrielle Anwar, Alison Fernandez, Mekia Cox, and Robert Carlyle
Episode 7: Eloise Gardener
In the first six episodes of its seventh season, it’s surprising just how much new information we’ve found out, even though we’re still no closer to understanding the particulars of how everybody ended up cursed in Seattle. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop the seventh episode from answering a bunch of questions that I didn’t realise we even had, principally: Who is Eloise Gardener? What is the identity of Victoria Belfrey’s mysterious prisoner? Who is Hook’s daughter that he mentioned in Episode 2? And who was her mother? This episode answers all of these, and shows that the writers still have plenty of twists up their sleeves, and that maybe getting an entirely new cast and characters might have been quite a savvy move.
Watching this episode, I must confess that I balked a little bit upon realising that it was a Hook-centric flashback. Not because Colin O’Donoghue is anything other than charming, I suppose it’s just because we’ve had so many, and I still can’t quite get over the loss of the Hook/Emma dynamic. I was also temporarily confused by the presence of the Evil Queen, who had apparently been bested by Snow and Charming and was now powerless.
For those as confused as I was, to recap, the Hook who we see in Season 7 is not, in fact, the same Hook that we have known for the past few seasons, but rather one born out of a wish that Emma made, to “not be the Saviour”. In this version of reality, Emma was a Princess, while Snow and Charming had bested the Evil Queen and caused her to flee. Therefore, no Dark Curse. Apparently, before all of this happened, Hook encountered Rapunzel in a tower, and romance ensued. Personally, I found this a little confusing purely because I believed that the Wish Realm had only existed once Emma had made the wish, as opposed to it always being around. I’m now also slightly confused as to how Hook and Alice even escaped this Enchanted Forest. I’m going to need to do some Once Upon a Time wiki searching as soon as I’ve finished writing this review, because that’s going to get on my nerves.
Update: apparently I must have not been fully paying attention during this episode. Alternatively, the writers play fast and loose with the rules of these magical realms, which is also infinitely possible. Turns out that Hook, while searching out the flower for the Evil Queen for reasons I forget because, as I say, I mustn’t have been paying attention, are in the New Enchanted Forest, so Hook travelled there from the Wish Realm using a map. Because apparently getting to new realms is now as simple as maps. Who knew?
The benefit of the timing of this flashback, not least because it helps explain how Alice is now an adult, is that it means that this is the point where, essentially, Wish Realm Hook is the same as the Hook we already know from flashbacks. Up until this point, their history is shared. That is, Hook’s backstory with his brother and with his father, going to Neverland, helping to raise Bae, losing Milah and having a huge vendetta against Rumplestiltskin. It’s starting to get a little bit messy, but this is where the distinction between the two characters is minimal.
Seeing Rapunzel and Hook grow close to each other, it has all of the makings for a classic Once romance, and definitely steered the audience into thinking “What happened to Rapunzel? Is she somebody we’ve already seen in Hyperion Heights? Is she Eloise Gardener?”. However, we got far more than that. In a surprisingly saucy turn of events, Hook sires a child with Rapunzel, who isn’t actually Rapunzel at all, but rather Gothel in disguise – Gothel being the woman who Victoria has captured in Seattle. She needed a baby so that she could escape the tower, which kept her tethered there with blood magic. With the baby, she could now flee.
As for the baby? As it transpires, Hook names the baby Alice, and sends the Evil Queen off with his second in command Smee, while he abandons his hopes of revenge in exchange for raising his daughter, who is confined within the tower. While we still don’t know everything, like how Hook supposedly got his heart poisoned as he mentioned in Episode 2, it definitely fills in the blanks, and makes Tilly and Rogers’ relationship all the more tragic in Hyperion Heights.
The twist on Rapunzel’s tale was so majorly unexpected, it took me a while to actually wrap my head around. It’s less surprising that Victoria’s prisoner is Gothel, as her costume was fairly reminiscent of the one that Gothel wears in the film. It is also quite neat and convenient that it is Victoria’s prisoner is Eloise Gardener, as it helps to resolve Rogers’ mystery, at the same time as making some meaningful headway in the quest against Victoria Belfrey.
All of these expository dealings aside, Regina now has to deal with keeping Jacinda and Henry apart from each other, to prevent them from breaking Drizella’s curse with True Love’s Kiss, for reasons that have yet to become apparent. This storyline is more frustrating than it is actually interesting, not least because it relies upon the audience actively rooting for Henry and Jacinda to get together. While Andrew J. West seems to knock every scene out of the park, and could probably be charming to a brick wall, there’s not very much to persuade the audience that he and Jacinda should be together, other than the fact that we’re told they should be.
I maintain that this storyline would have been far more interesting if Ivy herself were trying to prevent the two from uniting by inserting herself into Henry’s life and forming a relationship with him. Over time, she would find that her feelings had become genuine and then surprise they would share True Love’s Kiss and the curse would be broken. The drama would be delicious, and I am irritated that this is not the direction that it is going, not least because Adelaide Kane is about 300% more engaging and interesting as a character than Ella/Jacinda is. Sorry not sorry.
At the end of the episode, we are left on somewhat of a cliffhanger, as I suppose we generally are, as Victoria is arrested for kidnapping of poor Eloise Gardener, who warns Ivy against the evil that she has unleashed upon the world, and Lucy is taken away into child services. While the first is understandable, and I’m not remotely sympathetic towards Victoria, it is worrying what sort of damage Gothel can do, and I’m not sure if Ivy is as in control with her as she thinks she is. As for second point, though, I am confused by Lucy being taken away. Social services said “Victoria was given custody of Lucy for a reason”. As far as I recall, the reason was that she bullied Jacinda into giving up custody, and there was no formal legal proceedings whatsoever, so this feels like unnecessary drama for drama’s sake, but what do I know?
With Eloise Gardener, also known as Gothel, now on the loose, who knows what will come next for the lives of those in Hyperion Heights? It seems that Ivy’s evil machinations may still come to pass, whatever she has in store for her older sister Anastasia just to get revenge on her mother.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. Seasons 1 – 4 are now available on Disney+ in the UK. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.