The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Season 1, Episode 7
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Airdate December 11, 2011
Written by Edward Kitsis
Adam Horowitz
Directed by David M. Barrett
Episode Guide
The Shepherd
Desperate Souls
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is the seventh episode of the first season of the American fairy tale/drama television series Once Upon a Time, and the seventh overall. The episode was co-written by series creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, while being directed by David M. Barrett. Horowitz and Kitsis had intended to kill off Graham since the pilot episode was picked up, believing that it would add "stakes" to the series and show viewers that the story is "not in Henry's head." The episode is considered significant, as Graham's death reveals that Regina is aware of her fairytale past.

The series takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, in which the residents are actually characters from various fairy tales that were transported to the "real world" town by a powerful curse. This episode's story follows Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) as he remembers his fairytale counterpart, leading to significant consequences that parallel his previous life as the Huntsman. It first aired in the United States on ABC on December 11, 2011. An estimated 8.91 million viewers watched the episode, placing third in its timeslot behind NBC and CBS. The episode received mixed reviews from television critics, as some praised Dornan's character but were divided on the ending sequence. It was the series' mid-season finale.

View the The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter Gallery.


Opening Sequence

A wolf is shown in the forest.

In Storybrooke

In Granny's Cafe, Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) throws darts at a picture of a deer very accurately. Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) arrives but leaves immediately because she has not forgiven him for hiding his relationship with Regina (Lana Parrilla). Emma attempts to avoid conversation, but Graham is insistent on explaining to her he feels nothing for Regina. He kisses Emma and suddenly sees a vision of a wolf, only to have Emma push him away. Frustrated by Emma's lack of understanding, Graham later sleeps with Regina. During the night, he awakens abruptly from a dream of a deer and a wolf. When Graham tells Regina that the dream felt like a memory, Regina tries to convince him to stay, but Graham leaves. As Graham attempts to get to his car, the wolf from his visions appears next to him, startling him before it leaves. As he tries to find the wolf in the woods, he runs into Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle). Graham tells him about the wolf, and Mr. Gold suggests to him that dreams are memories from another life.

The following morning, Emma discovers flowers on the table and throws them out, assuming they are from Graham, but Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) says that they were hers from Dr. Whale (David Anders), with whom she had a one-night stand. Emma is glad to hear that Mary Margaret appears to be getting over David (Josh Dallas). Mary Margaret tells Emma that it is obvious that she has feelings for Graham, but does not acknowledge them because she is putting up a "wall" to keep herself from getting hurt.

The sheriff finds the wolf in the woods, and when he whistles, the wolf goes to him. As he pets the wolf's head, he sees himself holding a knife, about to hurt the woman he only knows as Mary Margaret. Graham pays a visit to her classroom, telling her that he believes they know each other from another life, before Storybrooke. Mary Margaret assumes that the sheriff has been talking to Henry, and while this is not the case, this gives Graham the idea to consult Henry about his book. Meanwhile, at the sheriff's office, Regina shows up and warns Emma to stay away from Graham, apparently jealous of his connection with Emma.

Graham visits Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) and describes his visions, to which Henry replies that he must be the queen's Huntsman. The Huntsman was hired by the Evil Queen to remove Snow White's heart and bring it back to her, but when he does not do so, she removes his heart. Graham later attempts to explain to Emma that he could not feel anything with Regina because he does not have a heart. Graham and Emma then encounter the wolf from Graham's visions, and follow it to a graveyard and vault marked with a symbol Graham saw in his visions and in Henry's book. Looking for his heart, Graham fervently searches the vault, which turns out to be the tomb of Henry Mills. Regina arrives to place flowers on her father's grave and is furious to find them there.

Regina accuses Emma of stealing the sheriff from her, and Emma responds that Regina has chased everyone away. Graham defends Emma, and the women exchange blows. Later, while Graham cleans Emma's wounds, Regina pushes aside the stone inside the vault, which turns out not to be a tomb after all; the stone reveals a staircase. Emma realizes her feelings for Graham and the two kiss just as Regina opens a storage box in the hidden room and clutches Graham's heart, crushing it to dust, showing that she remembers being the Evil Queen. Before he collapses and dies, Graham's last words to Emma are "I remember! Thank you."

In the Characters' Past

In the Enchanted Forest, the Evil Queen mourns the death of her husband, Snow White's father, although she herself is responsible for his death. Snow (Goodwin) and the Queen seemingly comfort each other over the loss. The Queen consults her magic mirror (Esposito) to ask how she can kill Snow, who is beloved by the people but a threat to her bid for the throne. She says that the king's knights will not kill his daughter, and the mirror tells her that she needs a huntsman. As Graham saw in his flashbacks, the Huntsman (Dornan) and his brother wolf seem to enjoy living a peaceful life in the woods. The Huntsman kills only for himself to live, and has no compassion for humans, who do not understand the wild. As the Huntsman and his wolf enter a tavern, the other patrons begin harassing him, prompting him to successfully defend himself. His performance is viewed in the magic mirror by the Queen, who is greatly impressed. She summons the Huntsman to offer him anything he wants on the condition that he brings her Snow's heart. He agrees to this deal, in return asking for the protection of all the wolves in the Enchanted Forest.

Snow and the Huntsman walk together in the forest, and she sees through his disguise and correctly guesses that he was sent by the Queen to kill her. Snow flees, but as the Huntsman catches up with her, he finds her writing a letter, which she requests he deliver to the queen after she is killed. The Huntsman takes out his knife, but instead of killing her, he fashions a whistle out of a bamboo stick, telling her that it will summon help and then telling her to run. The Huntsman then returns to the queen with a deer heart, hoping that she will not know the difference. The queen asks him to read her the letter, which is an apology for past wrongs as well as a request from Snow that her stepmother rule the kingdom with compassion. The queen burns the letter and takes the box with the heart in it to store in her vault. When she cannot open one of her storage safes, it proves that the Huntsman lied to her; the heart is not human. The Queen has her guards drag him down to the vault and she yanks his glowing heart out of his body. She tells the Huntsman that from now on he will be her pet and will do her bidding forever, and if he ever betrays her, all she has to do is squeeze.


The episode was co-written by co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, and was directed by The Mentalist veteran David M. Barrett. Guest actor Giancarlo Esposito made his second appearance in the series as Magic Mirror/Sidney Glass. Meghan Ory returned as Ruby/Red Riding Hood, while Scott Heindl made his only appearance for the series as Bartholomew. Leading up to the episode broadcast, Kitsis and Horowitz noted that "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" would feature consequences of events that occurred in the previous episode. Horowitz explained, "Emma is in a raw emotional place, trying to come to terms with her feelings about what she discovered about Graham. Graham is also in a very raw emotional place because he's clearly conflicted and it's this cauldron of emotions that leads to the kiss." Kitsis added that, "We're really excited that the kiss that you've seen is really just the jumping off point of the story we're telling. It's not like it ends with the kiss, it starts with that and it takes us somewhere that we're excited to show you."

In the episode, the character of Sheriff Graham was killed off, something that actor Jamie Dornan had known would happen since ABC picked up the pilot. It was the first major death of the series. In an interview with E! reporter Kristin Dos Santos, Dornan hinted that while his counterpart in Storybrooke has died, the huntsman could return at some point, as Dornan is still a regular on the series. As much of the episode involves Graham discovering his fairytale past, the writers designed the episode to mislead viewers by having them invest in the character. Kitsis and Horowitz commented that while the death made them "sad," the battle between Emma and Regina requires "stakes and unfortunately, sometimes stakes are people's lives."[10] They also decided to kill the character relatively early in the series in order to show viewers that "it's real. It's not in Henry's head." Kitsis continued, "It’s interesting, but part of the intent was to make you love him and we loved him very much. And the fact that the audience seems to have loved him means a lot to us, in that we feel like we succeeded on that front. If you don’t feel sad, then it was a failure of the execution of the story."

Actress Lana Parrilla believed that Graham helped fill a void for her character, commenting that his loss "was not easy for [Regina]. That’s why, when she crushes his heart, there’s a tear coming out of her eye. She didn’t want to do it, but she had no choice — almost like how she had no choice to kill her father. I’m not saying I agree with it, but for the character, it’s what she had to do." Parrilla also cited "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" as the first episode where viewers see "how the two worlds collided," a reference to Regina's ability to kill Graham by squeezing the heart of his fairytale counterpart. The revelation of the vault, Kitsis and Horowitz explained, "is a very important thing for us in terms of moving forward in the season in that we wanted to send a very clear message that Regina knows what’s going on and has some very clear intentions in Storybrooke." The episode was included in Reawakened: A Once Upon a Time Tale – a novelization of the first season – which was published by Hyperion Books in 2013.


  • The wolf in this episode is the same wolf that Emma swerved to miss when she was trying to leave Storybrook in the Pilot episode.
  • The wolf that played Graham's brother is also one of the wolves used to "design" the werewolves in the Twilight Series.
  • The wolf, can be seen as a version of Snow White (skin as white as snow, lips as red of blood, hair black as night.) The wolf fur is the skin. One eye shows the lips of Snow White and the other shows the hair.
Season 1
PilotThe Thing You Love MostSnow FallsThe Price of GoldThat Still Small VoiceThe ShepherdThe Heart Is a Lonely HunterDesperate SoulsTrue North7:15 A.M.Fruit of the Poisonous TreeSkin DeepWhat Happened to FrederickDreamyRed-HandedHeart of DarknessHat TrickThe Stable BoyThe ReturnThe StrangerAn Apple Red as BloodA Land Without Magic
Season 2
BrokenWe Are BothLady of the LakeThe CrocodileThe DoctorTallahasseeChild of the MoonInto the DeepQueen of HeartsThe Cricket GameThe OutsiderIn the Name of the BrotherTinyManhattanThe Queen Is DeadThe Miller's DaughterWelcome to StorybrookeSelfless, Brave and TrueLaceyThe Evil QueenSecond Star to the RightAnd Straight On 'til Morning
Season 3
The Heart of the Truest BelieverLost GirlQuite a Common FairyNasty HabitsGood FormAriel (Episode)Dark HollowThink Lovely ThoughtsSave HenryThe New NeverlandGoing HomeNew York City SerenadeWitch HuntThe TowerQuiet MindsIt's Not Easy Being GreenThe Jolly RogerBleeding ThroughA Curious ThingKansasSnow DriftsThere's No Place Like Home
Season 4
A Tale of Two SistersWhite OutRocky RoadThe ApprenticeBreaking GlassFamily BusinessThe Snow QueenSmash the MirrorFallShattered SightHeroes and VillainsDarkness on the Edge of TownUnforgivenEnter the DragonPoor Unfortunate SoulBest Laid PlansHeart of GoldSympathy for the De VilLilyMotherOperation Mongoose
Season 5
The Dark SwanThe PriceSiege PerilousThe Broken KingdomDreamcatcherThe Bear and the BowNimueBirthThe Bear KingBroken HeartSwan SongSouls of the DepartedLabor of LoveDevil's DueThe Brothers JonesOur DecayHer Handsome HeroRuby SlippersSistersFirebirdLast RitesOnly YouAn Untold Story
Season 6
The SaviorA Bitter DraughtThe Other ShoeStrange CaseStreet RatsDark WatersHeartlessI'll Be Your MirrorChangelingsWish You Were HereTougher Than the RestMurder Most FoulIll-Boding PatternsPage 23A Wondrous PlaceMother's Little HelperAwakeWhere Bluebirds FlyThe Black FairyThe Song in Your HeartThe Final Battle
Season 7
Hyperion HeightsA Pirate's LifeThe Garden of Forking PathsBeautyGreenbacksWake Up CallEloise GardenerPretty in BlueOne Little TearThe Eighth WitchSecret GardenA Taste of the HeightsKnightfallThe Girl in the TowerSisterhoodBreadcrumbsChosenThe GuardianFlower ChildIs This Henry Mills?HomecomingLeaving Storybrooke
Down the Rabbit HoleTrust MeForget Me NotThe SerpentHeart of StoneWho's AliceBad BloodHomeNothing to FearDirty Little SecretsHeart of the MatterTo Catch a ThiefAnd They Lived...
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