Once Upon a Time Fall Finale Recap: 'A Heart I Shall Have!'

[The following contains major spoilers from Sunday’s fall finale of Once Upon a Time.]

Jennifer Morrison had told TVLine that the fall finale of ABC’s Once Upon a Time would feel “almost like a season finale, there is so much going on” — and she was right. In the course of the breakneck, over-too-soon hour, we witnessed Sheriff Graham begin to remember his “other life,” share a kiss (or two) with Emma, consult with Mary Margaret and Henry for clues on his hazy part, and then ultimately make a truly heart-wrenching decision, to break things off with Regina.

TVLine’s Guide to Fall Finale and Winter Return Dates

Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was (as ABC likes to call it), we learned that the sheriff (as widely speculated) was in fact the Huntsman, and that the Evil Queen, in the wake of the death of her husband (aka Snow’s father), recruited him to dispatch with her “beloved” stepdaughter. The Huntsman, though, could not bring himself to do it — especially when the goodbye letter Snow tasked him with bringing the queen after her death brought a tear to his eye. Instead, he made an ill-fated attempt to pass of a stag’s heart as Snow’s.

But when that ticker failed to open a “deposit box” inside the queen’s vault of hearts, she called the mercenary on his bluff and promptly plucked his own pumper from his chest, assigning her governance over him “forever” — up to and including the decisive moment the Regina, scorned, retreated beneath her dead father’s mausoleum and squeezed the life out of her ex-love remotely. And she did so just as Graham acquired full lucidity over his fantastical past, but decided to go in for another Emma embrace before getting all exposition-y with her. Drat that.

TV’s Midseason Report Cards: Which Freshman Shows Are Making the Grade?

But wow, what an eventful episode, just as compelling as Morrison promised, starting with Graham’s very first flash upon kissing Emma early on. “I’m looking to feel something,” he explained. Graham’s flashes began with the image of a wolf — one eye “blood red, the other as black as night” — and we saw that the Huntsman, “raised by wolves” as he had been, had been befriended by said wolf back in the day. Egged on by Rumplestiltskin to ponder his possible other life, Graham first checked in with Mary Margaret, who also appeared in his flashes, and the most they could agree on was their odd inability to remember when it was that they met there in Storybrooke. Hmmm. Graham then went to ask Henry about his fairytale book — namely, “Am I in it?” There, he got the info dump about the Huntsman’s impossible assignment and grim fate.

In the end, the Storybrooke wolf led Graham and Emma to the mausoleum that matched his flash of the queen’s vault. Their initial investigation came up empty, but Regina sure found something — the two of them all cozy in the darkness. Graham then broke up with the mayor, explaining that feeling “nothing” was better than what he felt with her. (Ouch!) Regina tried to blame Emma, but Ms. Swan wasn’t having any of it. She instead brilliantly noted that Henry and now Graham both went running from her — wonder why? And… cue catfight-slugfest. Graham and Emma were back at the cop shop, tending to her scrapes, when his epiphany arrived, followed by the sweet kiss… and abrupt death.

Matt’s Inside Line: Scoop on the Introduction of Another Rival for the Evil Queen

A few other notes ‘n’ quotes:

* Separately, the Evil Queen said of her beef with Snow, “They don’t know what she did to me” and “I shared a secret with her and she couldn’t keep it – and that betrayal cost me deeply.” What are your theories on what she is getting at? (Jennifer Morrison, who live-tweeted the East Coast airing, said that backstory would come at a later date.)

* It was a pretty sweet scene when Henry (who hereby falls under the “less is more” rule of screen time) noted that Emma basically owes Graham aka the Huntsman her life, since he spared her mother, Snow White.

* Regina did warn Emma to stay away from Graham, that she was ” putting thoughts in his head that will lead to his destruction.”

* “Graham, you are not fine. You just went to see a 10-year-old for help.”

* “The time for mourning is over. I simply found that black suits me.”

* Morrison tweeted that when Graham gave Regina the hook, and stood up for himself, was when Emma first started to fall hard for the guy. Sigh. Timing is everything.

What did you think of the Once Upon a Time fall finale?

GET MORE: Finales, Recaps