In fairytale land we have a flashback of Regina’s life – her trying to flee before her loveless marriage and her mother determined to keep her with magic. She doesn’t want to marry the king, she wants to be free – but her mother tells her that power is freedom. Later Regina fantasies about telling young Snow White that her true love died because Snow couldn’t keep her secret, how Snow was weak and caused her loved one’s death. But she holds back actually attacking the girl, even as she considers it.
She protests to her father that she needs to get away, that Cora, her mother’s ambition is corrupting Regina, making her like Cora. Her father protests that Cora just wants Regina to have what she didn’t – but Regina wants her own life, not Cora’s. She asks how Cora got this way and he says she met a man before she met him and he gave her the book of spells.
She sneaks into her mother’s room during the night and takes the book. Opening it she finds a name and summons the man who gave it to Cora – Rumplestiltskin. He knows Regina – Regina assumes through Cora and that she looks like Cora did when Cora was young. Rumplestiltskin denies the resemblance. He remarks on her kindness and her potential for power – Regina doesn’t want magic, doesn’t want to become like her mother and doesn’t want to hurt anyone. So Rumple has another option – a portal to help her escape, a giant mirror.
Her mother comes in the next day to spread some spite and lay out her plan for the kingdom – the king is weak she’s sure Regina can take over – and that involves raising taxes and forming an army. Regina tries to push her mother into the mirror but her mother uses magic to stop her. In the mirror Rumple mimes pushing – and in rage, Regina lashes out with her own power, pushing outwards with her magic, knocking Cora into the mirror. After she passes through, the mirror shatters.
She starts to leave again – and runs into Rumple. She gives him his book back (“not a gift, it was mine to start with!”) and he coaxes her into saying how wonderful magic felt. He says he can teach her more, so much more and in return, one day she will do something for him. She worries about becoming her mother – and he says that is entirely up to her.
Leroy/Grumpy is taking the dwarfs on a mission to see if they can… leave Storybrooke! As we’ve seen before, none of the fairytale characters could leave the town – with the curse broken, can they leave? They draw lots and Sneezy steps forward
There’s a panic in the town, the curse breaking caused considerable damage and destruction. Fairy tale characters are finally realising who they are and looking for loved ones. Homes are damaged, people are panicking. Ruby/Red Riding Hood, Mother Superior/Blue Fairy and Archie/Jiminy Cricket are trying to restore calm and order and putting their faith in the Prince to fix things.
Prince Charming/David (ok, this is getting long – fairy tale names from now on) and Regina have a little meeting where the animosity flares – he points out that she’s still having magic trouble despite her wallpaper trick last episode and that the only reason she’s still alive is because Henry wants it. Who’d have thought the rather damp David could pull out the menace? He wants answers about the hat. She wants him to spend more time looking after Henry – he snarks about her raising of him but Regina’s not having that. “I will not take childcare lectures from a man who put his daughter in a box and shipped her to Maine.” LINE OF THE NIGHT. More antagonism and Charming finds his own come back “if you have to use magic to keep your son, you don’t really have him.”
Prince Charming returns to the town, pushing past the many people trying to mob him with questions and pleas for help, to ask the Blue Fairy if it’s possible to use a tree to go to fairy tale world after Emma and Snow, the same way that Snow came to this world. Blue Fairy says it’s impossible without fairy dust – and the dwarfs return with some terrible news. If you leave the city limits, you forget your fairy tale selves, your cursed self becomes all you are and Sneezy has forgotten who he is, he thinks he’s a town chemist again.
People begin to gather and shout, and Charming promises he’ll have a plan in two hours if they’ll just be calm. It settles them down, but as Red asks Charming, he doesn’t actually have a plan and he has 2 hours to find one.
Regina searches Rumplestiltskin’s shop for the book – her mother’s book of spells – to get her power back and to get Henry back. Rumple mocks her for needing a book to get her power back but she says she has no time. He tries to make her leave by invoking their “please” clause, but since the curse has been broken it no longer works. And we find out that the enchanted forest, fairy tale land, still exists – but she and Rumple are keeping it a secret, because Rumple still has business in the real world. She threatens to tell people if she doesn’t get her book – he gives it to her but he has a parting shot; once he said he didn’t think Regina looked like Cora – now he sees the resemblance.
Regina takes the book and pulls some of its magic into herself – behind her, her withered apple tree grows to life again.
Charming is panicking about the speech he has to make to calm down the townsfolk, snow was the one who made the speeches. Henry is there to help but Charming largely ignores him – but Henry recognises the broken hat as the Mad Hatter’s hat but doesn’t know who that is in the town. Charming rushes off to go see Rumplestiltskin who is busy packing a bag full of road maps. He wants a spell from Rumple, something to help him find people but won’t tell Rumple who. He gets his potion in exchange for agreeing not to interfere in any of Rumple’s plans – and he also tells Rumple that they can’t leave Storybrooke – which sends Rumple into one of his very rare rages.
Using the potion on the hat, it flies off and Charming follows it to find Jefferson, the Mad Hatter, caught in his car wreck. In doing so he ignores his phone.
On the end of that phone is Henry who is with Red at the town meeting – where Charming should be. Without him being there even granny’s crossbow cannot stop Regina, full of magic again, storming into the room and causing havoc. Henry agrees to go with her so long as she doesn’t hurt anyone.
Charming questions Jefferson who is his usual depressive self who confirms that the enchanted forest is still there – but he can’t get to it. He runs when Charming starts threatening – he gives chase but he’s stopped by Red telling him people are panicking, scared of Regina and about to leave town. He tries to chase Jefferson to get Emma and Snow back but Red stops him again – the town is falling apart.
The minute Henry arrives at Regina’s he runs upstairs and tries to leave by the window – and is caught by a barrier spell, the same kind Cora used to control Regina. Pulled back inside he says he’s a prisoner – she says she rescued him – he points out she let everyone think he was crazy for believing in magic. She says he can now live in a house with magic and she can teach him – he says he doesn’t want to be like her.
At the border, Charming swerves his truck into the incoming traffic, preventing people from leaving> When they get out of the car to complain he jumps onto the truck and gives a big impassioned speech. It’s nothing special, basically amounts to “just go on living as you did before!” but with more oomph. The one point he does make is that they are all composites of both their sides – not just Charming or David, but both and they have the choice to live entirely magically, entirely mundanely or both – it’s all open to them in Storybrooke. Hurrah hurrah more flannel.
Sword in hand he storms Regina’s house alone and she turns him into a pumpkin and squashes him like a bug, hah, no, heroic foolishness is never punished. He demands Henry be returned – she pushes his sword away and calls Henry down and tells him she wants him to go with Charming. She says she doesn’t want to imprison him, she apologises for her mistakes, tells him how bad she’s been at love and says she wants him to be with her because he wants to be, not because of magic. Now that’s a much more powerful speech. She also tells Charming that the Enchanted forest still exists – but if he’s going to go on a heroic quest, he must also look after her son.
Storybrooke begins to rebuild. The dwarfs return to mining, hoping to find fairy dust to restore Sneezy. Henry tells Gippetto about August/Pinocchio and he goes to August’s hotel room looking for him. Rumple looks angst ridden at the border of town. Regina nearly burns the book, but in the end locks it away and Charming assures Henry that the Enchanted forest exists and Emma and Snow are ok.
In the Enchanted Forest, Aurora and Mulan have taken Emma and Snow prisoner and are pulling them behind their horses to their hidden refugee camp. Snow is knocked unconscious in an escape attempt and they are both dragged into “the pit”. Where they meet another prisoner – Cora.
There’s one interesting dynamic which I think is often missed in fairy tales that this episode hints at: Red, Jiminy and the Blue Fairy are desperately trying to calm and help the panicked townsfolk while Prince Charming runs around looking for his family, ignoring people’s pleas for his help or their expectation that he will fix things. Royalty and nobility were supposed to have duties to the people they lead – not just run around having adventures
That said, I’m not sure what kind of plan the townsfolk want or need? Other than getting Snow and Emma back what is urgently needed? Order and fixing things – that doesn’t need a grand plan. Are they trapped in the town? Yes – but they always were.
I’m assuming Rumplestiltskin’s plan is to leave Storybrooke to try and find his son, since Augustus wasn’t him and that was his motivations all along.
I would say “oooh look at all the parallels between Regina and Cora” but the writers have already done that. Again and again and again. They’re not exactly subtle, are they? But maybe this will be turning corner for Regina’s character