This episode, what can I say about this episode? For starters, it was an excellent showcase of character growth all around, but particularly from our Madam Mayor, Regina Mills. Seeing how far the Evil Queen has come, especially in regards to her relationship with Snow White, (one of the most fascinating and complex relationships on the show and personal favorite of mine), really made this episode a treat to watch. The sprinkling of humor in regards to the séance scene and Emma’s magic practice at the diner lightened up an episode that was heavy on exploring the past and dealing with difficult revelations. The audience sees that characters we once thought of as “good guys” might not be the perfect examples we thought them to be (I’m looking at you Princess Eva). This gives the past events of Once Upon a Time an interesting new light, causing the viewer to reevaluate their reactions to past episodes. However, the timeline seems to be slightly muddled, particularly with Cora and Leopold’s relationship.
This episode opens with Regina Mills puttering about the mayoral mansion, when her doorbell rings. Not expecting any visitors, the evil queen is surprised to see a basket on her door step, filled to the brim with green apples. Well isn’t that a sisterly slap in the face? Speaking of sisters, who should poof in like she owns the place, but dear step sister Zelena. They have a bit of a back and forth about the virtue of green apples, Regina remarking that they are “bitter”, just like Zelena. The Wicked Witch, while rifling through almost all of the trinkets on Regina’s mantle, like any sibling would do while invading their sister’s space, emphasizes that the queen never had to work for a thing in her life, that all of the good things she has were simply given to her. Oh if Zelena only knew… The witch continues, accusing her sister of not taking risks or living her life to the fullest. Regina is not impressed with the Wicked Witch’s constant need to harp on how she never got the perceived leg up her sister did and reminds Zelena that while Cora was disappointed in Regina, the witch was the one their mother gave away. This strikes a nerve with the Wicked Witch who comments that Regina knows nothing of Cora’s life. She then finally reveals the reason for this impromptu house call. It was to make sure Regina was kept busy while her pet Dark One retrieved the queen’s heart.
So while this sisterly sass-fest has been going on, we jump to Robin Hood in the woods, holding Rumpelstilskin at bay. The thief reminds the imp that the arrows he wields from his crossbow never miss their target. Unfortunately, Robin Hood’s son, Roland, wanders into the fray, catching the eye of the Dark One, who is trying his hardest to fight the control of the dagger. Rumple states again and again that he does not want to hurt or kill anyone, particularly the Littlest Merry Man, who he has now trapped via magic, but he will. This assurance in his actions is less of a threat from Rumpelstilskin and more of an eventuality. Rumple knows his limits when fighting the control of the dagger and how powerful its hold is upon him. In desperation, Robin Hood fires his arrow, which the Dark One stops in midair. Rumple redirects the bolt towards Robin Hood’s son and reminds the thief of the warning that was issued; that these particular arrows always find their target. Robin Hood finally lays down his bow for the sake of his son and gives Regina’s heart over to the Dark One, who vanishes. It’s especially cruel of Zelena to force Rumple to threaten another man’s son right after he has lost his own. The witch is truly embracing the “wicked” in her title. Regina arrives, too late to save her heart, and assures Robin Hood that Zelena can’t crush it or control her; she’s enchanted the organ against that. Brushing off Robin Hood’s apologies at his failure, the queen muses on what Zelena could want with her heart.
A short while later, Regina is over at the pawn shop, rummaging through Rumpelstilskin’s various collectables looking for a clue as to why Zelena would want her heart and growing more frustrated by the second. Belle enters the room, drawn by Regina’s rather loud search, and when the queen asks for her help, Belle impressively tells Regina to take a hike. This is a moment I loved. The librarian calls the evil queen out on every nasty thing she did to her, from imprisoning Belle in the Enchanted Forest, to locking her in the basement of the hospital during the curse. This is a serious “snaps in Z formation” moment for Belle and it causes Regina to own up to her evil acts. The queen admits to all the wrongdoing she has committed and seeks forgiveness from Belle. She reminds the librarian that Zelena has Rumple under her sway and the only way to get him back is to cooperate. Belle admits she has been doing research into the types of spells that would call for a heart, courage, and brains, but so far she has come up with nothing. Regina has a bit of a brainwave and asks Belle to help her find the candle Snow White used to murder Cora. There is an amusing bit where Regina refers to Lumiere’s candelabra as “Liberace” while they search (I couldn’t let that one go without comment). After finding the two-sided candle, Regina cryptically states that their current trouble is linked to how Cora Mills lived.
This statement segways nicely into a flashback, where we see young Cora waiting tables at a tavern. She seems popular with the patrons, one gentleman in particular who remarks that the miller’s daughter has been working well past her shift. Cora spies a handkerchief on his person bearing the royal crest and the young man admits to being royalty. He states that he wanted Cora to know him for himself first, before revealing his noble birth. He asks for Cora’s hand in marriage and vows to turn the straw ring he ties as a promise to her finger into gold when he returns from his voyage. I see what you did there writers. Cora is practically salivating at the idea of becoming a princess and perhaps too eagerly offers to keep the prince company for the night, in the biblical sense. They head off to his room in the inn together. It’s a foregone conclusion that this will end badly for Cora, however I am thrilled that Zelena’s father is neither Rumpelstilskin nor King Leopold because I don’t think Henry’s family tree could bear the weight of one more messed up branch.
Back in Storybrooke, Emma is warning Hook of the dangers of eating apples in the mayoral mansion. Hook is moody as hell, for good reason as I’m sure the pirate has made it his plan to stay fifteen feet away from the savior at all times due to the curse upon his lips. He has been called, along with Emma and the Charmings, to Regina’s house as the queen has a plan to gather more information on Zelena’s scheme. Snow White and Charming are busy arguing over baby names, but before they can get into their stride with the baby-related bickering, Regina sweeps into the room. She explains that she plans to use the double-sided candle to speak with the deceased Cora and shed some light on their current situation. Normally, speaking with the dead is not often done as one needs to have both the murderer and the weapon they used in the same room. The awkward silence from and directed towards Snow White is almost tangible through the television screen. As the seance commences, a swirling vortex appears over our heroes’ heads. Regina calls out for a sign from her mother, an explanation as to why Cora gave Zelena away. The table they sit around shutters as one would expect in a proper seance, but that was just Hook bumping it by accident. The portal closes without a sign from Cora’s ghost.
In a flashback we see young Cora waiting in the rain for her prince. It seems she has lost hope that he will come, unwinding the straw from her ring finger. As she returns home, Cora cuts through a royal garden and comes across the prince. Only her lover is less than regal, wearing the clothes of a gardener. The ”prince” lied to Cora in order to get into her pants, though he sees it as Cora throwing herself at him. Cora reveals she is with child and begs for something in order to support the baby. The gardener says to hell with that and leaves, despite Cora trying to alert the king’s guards for help and perhaps some justice. The abandoned Cora is not alone for long when she is discovered by Prince Leopold, Snow White’s future father. Leopold and Cora bond over childhood stories and building fires in the woods and the miller’s daughter seems fairly keen on the prince. That is, until it is revealed that Leopold is betrothed to Princess Eva, Snow White’s future mother, a woman he has yet to meet. The pair draw closer and closer as Leopold remarks that Eva was never his choice, implying that he may not go through with the betrothal. Now we see why young Eva antagonized Cora in the season two episode “The Miller’s Daughter”, though as I stated before, it’s a foregone conclusion that Leopold and Cora will not end up together.
Cora’s confrontation with the gardener pairs well with the season one episode “The Stable Boy” by showing exactly what Cora’s issue was with Regina running away with the hired help. Cora had worked so hard to give her daughter everything that gardener had denied her and saw Regina throwing it all away on a stable boy, someone Cora, in her twisted mind, was sure would betray Regina just has she herself had been betrayed. With this new information there is no justification in Cora’s actions now, only a better understanding as to the extreme measures Mommy Dearest went through to “protect” her daughter.
In Storybrooke, everyone is leaving the mayoral mansion for the night except Snow White, who offers to stay and help Regina clean up. We get a great heart to heart between the princess and the queen, a conversation long overdue. Snow White apologizes for murdering Cora, admitting the act preys on her mind everyday. Regina acknowledges this and remarks that while she often thinks about what Snow White did, she understands that her own mother murdered Snow’s. Regina admits that the entire situation is beyond complicated and this scene between these two characters is one of my favorites because it airs the dirty laundry that has built up between Regina and Snow White over the course of three seasons. It’s not an instant fix, but it shows that both parties are willing to see each other’s points of view, that they wish to make amends for the sake of their joined family.
This lovely moment is interrupted by a bump in the night. There is a noise upstairs, but no one else in is in the house. Spooky… The episode takes a turn into the realm of Scooby Doo with Regina and Snow playing Daphne and Velma respectively, as the pair wander upstairs to a disused room and the source of the noise. As Regina clutches the doorknob, the entire door blows off its hinges and reveals that the séance was successful and young Cora Mills is currently haunting her daughter’s attic. Talk about your skeletons in the closet.
Over at Zelena’s farmhouse, the witch has decided to celebrate gathering all her spell ingredients by forcing Rumpelstilskin into a snazzy suit. When the Dark One protests, Zelena basically reminds the imp that he is her puppet and she can make the final days leading up to the birth of Snow White’s baby a living hell if she chooses. What is so special about Snow White’s child? The princess must have a magic uterus, first spawning a savior, now this. I find this exchange between Rumple and Zelena a bit disturbing. It reminds me of how Regina was able to control Sheriff Graham through his heart, causing the huntsman to do her bidding. Now that we’ve seen Regina grow as a character, it causes some of her past indiscretions to seem all the more horrifying, especially when they are carried out with such glee by her sister.
Zelena and Rumple settle down to share a meal, the Wicked Witch of the West sporting cleavage for days. She really is still hung up on getting the Dark One to love her. Rumpelstilskin is indulging Zelena in this charade of a romantic dinner because he wants what we the audience desire as well, to know what the witch’s ultimate plan is. Time travel has obviously been heavily implied and is confirmed here by Zelena to be her goal when she dangles the prospect of reuniting the Dark One with his lost son in the past. However, the means and methods, along with the role Show White’s unborn child may play, are still all a mystery. Rumple scoffs at the idea of traveling through time and if you are familiar with Once Upon A Time‘s short lived sister show, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, you would know that it is even against the very laws of magic to change the past. Jafar, the most powerful sorcerer in the realms, was inches away from achieving this feat and even he failed because as we know, all magic comes with a price.
Over at Granny’s diner, Emma is practicing her magic by poofing mugs of hot chocolate around the eating establishment and teasing Hook, causing his titular appendage to disappear and reappear elsewhere. It should be noted that Emma’s magic is white, as opposed to Zelena’s green, or Rumple and Regina’s purple manifestations. Hook is not amused in the slightest at the savior’s magical shenanigans, hitting the rum bottle rather hard, but before Emma can pry the reason for this glum behavior out of the pirate, Belle catapults into the diner with news. She’s figured out the spell Zelena has in mind for the denizens of Storybrooke, her sister in particular.
While Belle is breaking her news at the diner, Regina and Snow White are still stumped by the ghost of Cora, floating about the mansion. According to Regina, the portal opened in the séance was a limited occurrence meant only to speak with the dead. However, Ghost Cora must have sensed the presence of her murderer and was motivated to cross over to our world in order to settle the score with Snow White. Regina pleads with Ghost Cora to know why she gave Zelena up, throwing herself in front of the specter while vowing that the shade of her mother would not hurt Snow White. Cora’s ghost is more corporeal than previously thought and backhands her daughter out of the way, before possessing Snow White and forcibly showing the princess why she abandoned her first-born.
We see in a flashback that Leopold and young Cora are engaged, only for Cora’s ascent to royalty to be barred by the gardener who betrayed her. Cora’s former lover, knowing that she is pregnant, has shown up to blackmail the miller’s daughter into giving him riches from the palace. I have to say, this guy really ramps up the scumbaggery in this scene. Cora begrudgingly agrees, but is overheard in the garden by a jilted Princess Eva. Later, as Cora creeps through the throne room with royal jewelry concealed in her pockets, she is confronted by Prince Leopold, acting on a tip from Princess Eva. Cora’s treachery is found out and she is carted away from the palace by guards. Needless to say the engagement is off.
I was slightly confused by all this since Cora and the now King Leopold meet again in the season two episode “The Stable Boy” and I initially wondered if the king didn’t recognize Cora. Series creator Adam Horowitz confirmed on twitter that the two did indeed recognize each other, which puts a disturbing spin on both their actions. Cora was so eager to get back at Snow White’s mother that she was willing to push her own daughter into the arms of the man who rejected her long ago. And King Leopold had no problem wedding the daughter of a woman he was formerly engaged to. Did I accidentally switch over to Game of Thrones? Though this does offer a decent explanation as to why King Leopold was so distant towards Regina in their marriage. It’s safe to say that everyone whose name isn’t “Henry Mills” or “Emma Swan” on Once Upon a Time has terrible parents.
In the present, Regina tears the spirit of her mother from Snow White and sends her back to the nether, right as Charming, Emma, Belle, and Hook arrive. While Snow recovers, Belle reveals Zelena’s plan to go back in time. Every time travel spell that’s been attempted has called for the same ingredients: a resilient heart, courage, and a brain. Here, Snow is has enough strength to chime in, explaining what Cora showed her. The miller’s daughter never wanted to give Zelena up, she only did so to give herself her own best chance, a twisted take on Snow White and Charming’s sacrifice from the pilot episode. Snow learned that her mother, who she previously thought of as a wise and virtuous woman, selfishly told a secret that ruined Cora’s life. I love how even the characters acknowledge this parallel to Snow White’s own mistake and the repercussions it had on Regina and her first love, Daniel. Our heroes realize that Zelena is going back in time to kill Eva so Cora would have no reason to abandon the witch, which has the nasty result of Snow White, Emma, Henry, and possibly even Regina never being born. They also realize that Snow White’s baby is the key, an ingredient in this time travel spell that has never been introduced in any of the other failed attempts. It is maddening to not know why or how this unborn child is significant.
At the farmhouse, Rumpelstilskin appears to be warming up to Zelena. This scene is so uncomfortable; the Dark One attempts to seduce Zelena in an effort to lift the dagger off her person. He even takes an extra large swig of wine before doing the distasteful deed, but all his efforts are for nothing as Zelena quickly realizes his goal. In her anger, the witch vows to deny Rumple his reunion with Nealfire, but Rumple assures his former student that his son gave his life to defeat the witch and Rumpelstilskin is set on honoring that sacrifice. As she banishes her puppet back to his cell, we see Zelena’s mask crumbling, the witch appearing genuinely upset that she almost had the thing she wanted most, Rumpelstilskin’s affection, only for it to be a sham.
Back at the mayoral mansion, Snow White is helping Regina tidy up after their foray in ghostbusting. All of their interactions this episode have been wonderful, but this exchange has to be my favorite. The Evil Queen and Snow White comment on their complicated history, the darkness they both found in their mothers, and most importantly their mutual desire to no longer waste anymore time fighting over their past. Snow assures Regina that her heart will find its way to happiness, only she must not let anything hold her back.
Cut to Regina entering Robin Hood’s camp. The thief is surprised to see her and begins apologizing to the queen for losing her heart. Robin’s promises are cut short as Regina grabs his collar and smooches the daylights out of him. Stunned by this sudden affection, the pair wait a beat before going in for another kiss.
And there you have it. How did you feel about tonight’s episode readers? Be sure to sound off in the comments!
This was the ultimate episode for character development. It was extremely enjoyable to see Belle standing her ground and using her wits once again to help our cadre of heroes out of a jam. However, the prize for coming the furthest has to go to Regina. If you compare her motivations from the first season to the ones she has now, you can see a shift from selfish acts to selfless ones. I do not for a second think it was out of character for our evil queen to give into her feelings for Robin Hood so soon. Standing on the brink of annihilation via time paradox, Regina is following Snow White’s advice and spitting in Zelena’s eye by seizing the day and taking a risk, a risk she has run from for so long.
Initially I was confused at Leopold’s involvement in this episode. Without Adam Horowitz’s supplemental tweet I would still be confused regarding Cora and Leopold’s familiarity. One of my favorite moments from this episode, aside from Regina and Snow White’s heart to hearts, ties in with Cora and Leopold’s past. Emma comments that she thought her family was supposed to be the “good guys”, while Regina confirms that life is too messy for such a black and white approach. It is here we see the root of our show, the heart of Once Upon a Time, which is to explore the grey area in the battle between good and evil and find hope there.
This baby mystery is killing me. Rebecca Mader, who plays the Wicked Witch of the West, stated this weekend in an interview at WonderCon that she has been sworn to secrecy regarding the role Snow White’s baby plays in all of this time travel hoo doo. This has to be the best kept secret in Once Upon a Time history as there have been no leaks from set regarding it and very little fan theories focused on the Baby Charming. What role do you think the baby will play?
Tune in next week where we fear for Henry’s well-being in “A Curious Thing”.