In fairy land in the past, there’s a war council – Prince Charming (James), Snow White and Red Riding Hood (and others I don’t recognise) are seeking to get the kingdom back from King George (that would be Charming’s fake-father, since Charming’s actually a shepherd who pretended to be a Prince so George could scam Midas for some gold. It also puts some doubt on getting the kingdom “back” but they’re the good guys, so let it lie and assume George has no right to his kingdom, unlike the shepherd boy he bought.)
George has a new general – the Leviathan, who specialises in surprise attacks and wasting arrows accurately pinning maps to tables. Realising they’re under attack. Charming and his crew decide to split up, Snow White to meet him at the cabin. But as she runs to safety she runs into the Leviathan himself – Sir Lancelot, formerly of the Round Table.
He takes her to King George where Georgy holds a pity party about his lost son and Charming being so selfish and not being obedient. Also he was cursed when his wife took a potion making it impossible for them to have children – which is the worstest fate ever (this man lacks imagination – we’ve had people locked up in golden statues, eaten by dragons, cursed to turn everyone to gold – there’s lots of worst fates!) And Charming was so mean in not being a good obedient son after he bought him and ripped him from his family with threats of death and torture just made his pain woooooorse! WOE IS HIM! To have his revenge he has spiked Snow’s drink – cursing her also to remain childless (the worst fate ever! For medieval royalty they’re really ignorant about inventive torture techniques).
She’s dumped back at the campsite, cursed. But Lancelot also rides back – after Snow smacks him off his horse with a branch he assures her he’s on her side. He has honour left and disapproves of Georgy the Whiny’s actions. He tells her he knows that Charming is at the cabin where he is hiding his mother – and so does George the Whiny.
At the cabin. George’s men surround Charming in a circle designed so that when they fire their crossbows they can shoot the guy opposite – which happens. There is a dramatic fight sequence in which the baddies nicely line up to be sliced and diced and Charming is victorious – but his mother has been shot. This is when Snow and Lancelot arrive. Mummy Charming isn’t dead – but she is poisoned (and she has an arrow in the chest). They need to get an antidote and Charming remembers the magic waters he got for Katherine. Lancelot prepares a wagon and they set off for the cure (to the poison – the sucking chest wound doesn’t seem to be a problem).
Along the way, they move at a leisurely stroll, Charming asks how Lancelot came to be working for George the Whiny. Lancelot says it was because of a woman – and they both move off to scout (to get them away from the delicate ears of Snow and Mummy Charming, no doubt). Snow stays to treat Mummy Charming’s sucking chest wound by blotting her sweating brow. Since they’re stopped (and not hurrying for an antidote at all) Mummy Charming also wants Snow to use a charm to predict the gender of her first child. It doesn’t work – because she’s cursed. Snow tells Mummy Charming about the curse and she tells her not to worry, the magic of Lake Nostos should cure them both (shame George the Whiny didn’t know about it, really).
They arrive at the lake – to find that it’s dried up. James blames himself for killing the Siren, but Lancelot is sure there may still be water. He finds only enough for one single sip of water. Mummy Charming instantly says she wants Snow White to have it – willing to die for her fertility, but Snow White refuses, maybe it’s best if she isn’t a mother (or, y’know, cure the imminent death condition now and then you have many many years to find a cure for the curse. There’s always Rumplestiltskin).
But the magic doesn’t work, she is not healed (or, maybe, the sucking chest wound is killing her, I’m just saying) there is no more magic in the lake. Charming wants to find more but she says there is none and she doesn’t want to spend her last moments desperately seeking a cure (you have something better to do?) Her only regret is that she didn’t get to see Snow and Charming marry – Snow appeals to Lancelot, asking if a former knight of the round table can still marry people – he agrees. They get married and Mummy Charming dies.
At the grave, Charming gives Snow his mother’s necklace, saying they’ll build a new family. Snow starts to explain, but the necklace swings – Snow will have a child. As Charming prepares to leave, she asks Lancelot what happened – says he changed the water and Mummy Charming only pretended to drink so he could put the healing water in her wedding cup. Lancelot denies all knowledge.
In present day fairy land, Cora (Regina’s mother), Emma and the unconscious Snow are in the prison. Cora tells Emma about the land being ravaged except for this one island of safety and she reveals that she has been imprisoned for being… dum dum dum, Regina’s mother, whose curse caused all the damage! Cora assures Emma that she’s very different from her daughter. But then Snow wakes up and counters that – however bad Regina is, Cora is much much worse. Cora protests that Regina has been lying about everything and Emma is torn, suggesting that, as their only ally, they should give Cora a chance. It’s at this point they’re interrupted by a guard telling them the leader wants an audience (clearly they have not grasped the concept of prisoners – you don’t request an audience with your prisoners).
Out of the cage, Snow is irritated with Emma for talking to Cora – she knows this world, she’s lived there, she understands it – Emma hasn’t and doesn’t. Emma counters that she’s not helpless and questions if Snow joined her in the portal because she thought Emma couldn’t look after herself (um… low blow and, really, Snow’s right Emma. You have never lived in this world, Snow does know better). The leader of the island joins them – Lancelot. He greets Snow with a hug.
Aurora watches this and pouts mightily, blaming Snow and Emma for Phillip’s death. She’s furious and wants “justice.” Mulan is there to stamp on that – vengeance is not justice, Aurora hasn’t been there and doesn’t know how much Phillip trusted Lancelot and his judgement. She stares Aurora down but Aurora continues to glare daggers at Snow and Emma and draws a knife hidden under her clothes.
At dinner where Emma is picking over the odd fare (though I giggle at comparing Chimera to Turducken) and Lancelot fills them in on the world – only this region of the Enchanted forest was protected and now the ogres are back. There are no portals and only the island is safe. But Snow knows where a portal is – but daren’t say them aloud where Cora might hear, even if she doesn’t have her magic after the curse. She just wants permission to leave the island – Lancelot agrees but only if they accept Mulan as a protector. Emma protests, they don’t need anyone to protect them – but Snow accepts.
Emma snarks at Mulan, she killed a dragon she can take absolutely everything no matter what. Mulan has no time for that bullshit and sets her down before they set off to find the Tree. Yes, the tree where Emma was placed to take her to Maine. Which means they have to go to Snow White’s old home. When they stop to camp, Emma’s ignorance again raises its head when she questions Mulan’s decision to start a fire because it’ll be visible, but Snow informs her they’re blind and hunt by sound. Snow gently tries to ask her to stay still and safe – since she’s out of her element – while Mulan and she gather firewood.
Aurora has been following them and seizes her chance – leaping out of the shadows to hold a knife to Snow’s throat. Snow huffs, she must have mistaken her for Her Dampness Mary Margaret of the Wet Lettuce. Grabbing Aurora, Snow flips her over her head and pins her to the ground. Tells her they’re not responsible and to channel her rage more protectively. Mulan swoops in and grabs Snow and drags her off Aurora, telling her not to speak to Aurora that way (what? She was quite polite about it, I thought). Mulan snatches up the dagger and Emma decides to intervene – shooting her gun into the air and pointing it at Mulan, telling her to drop the weapon.
Hey, remember those ogres that hunt by sound? Y’know what’s really loud? Gunshots. What, Emma, did you see Aurora and think “damn, I’m not the greatest liability in this group anymore!”? They run and decide to split up (whyyyy? Why do the good guys ALWAYS split up?) and Emma realises she’s a blonde woman running through a forest so quickly trips and falls. And an ogre emerges (wow, I thought they were running so they wouldn’t have to bother with the CGI – they done spent some money!) knocking Emma’s gun away and destroying it. Snow arrives to unleash her level of Badass and shoots the ogre through the eye with an arrow and asks Emma to start listening to her.
They wander on with Aurora bringing up the rear in impractical clothes and Mulan not having much time for her whining. She complains of being cold and Emma offers her her jacket (what, Emma’s wearing a tank top under there, Aurora’s wearing 4 or 5 layers of ankle length cloth). Aurora is confused since she tried to kill Snow, but Emma’s confident that Snow can look after herself and, besides, feels sympathy for someone who is screwing up as much as she is. They arrive at the ruin of their castle.
At the castle, Emma recognises the scene from Henry’s book – Snow reminisces about the room which was supposed to be Emma’s nursery – and the life she had envisaged and the family they never got to have. Emma says they have a family – in Storybrooke. They find the wardrobe and Lancelot arrives acting all kinds of shifty and he mentions them going back to their family, to her son, Henry. Snow smiles and draws her sword – holding Lancelot at swordpoint. She never told Lancelot Henry’s name; the only person she told was Core. There’s a cloud of purple magic and Cora assumes her real shape. She says she killed Lancelot a long time ago and was posing as him – and uses her magic to knock Emma to the floor and pin Snow to the wall. She wants to use the portal to go see Regina. By the wardrobe, Emma opens up a bullet to pour gunpowder on wood then sets fire to it. Cora turns and pulls the fire away into a fireball which she then throws at Emma, only to have it blocked by Mulan leaping into the room. Outnumbered, Cora leaves – but the wardrobe tree is now on fire (hey, anyone want to thank Mulan?)
In the aftermath, Mulan wonders what they will do since Fake!Lancelot was their leader. They decide to tell the truth – that he was slain by an evil fiend (albeit with fudged timing). But now they need someone to lead them in protecting themselves and finding and defeating Cora. Aurora scornfully asks “and who will lead us, you?” I say yes – go Mulan! But Mulan nominates near-complete-stranger Snow White to be their leader. They’ll help her find a way home but in between she can lead them. Uh-huh. Aurora agrees to have a leader who she tried to kill not a day ago.
When they leave, Emma says she had to torch the wardrobe to stop Cora getting to Henry. And she and Snow have a moment, Emma saying how she’d always been angry for being left but now she can see how much Snow gave up for her. They have a massive, powerful, emotional, tearful bonding moment.
When the nursery is empty, Cora ghosts back in to take some of the ash from the wardrobe.
In the real world, James/David is still looking for Emma and Snow, but is also trying to keep Henry out of the loop to keep him safe. Henry appears to accept but we know he’s not having that. He finds Jefferson/The Mad Hatter who is moping around the pier with a picture his daughter drew looking for her father. He says he can’t help, that maybe Regina has something in her vault – Henry never realised her vault was in Storybrooke. Jefferson hasn’t gone to see his daughter because he left her and she must hate him – Henry tells him that he was left as well – and not knowing is worse. From there he goes to Regina’s and calls her to go to lunch with him. She ecstatic, stops packing up the office (she’s been asked to leave) and rushes out to meet him. Henry then sneaks in to steal her keys. That was low Henry, realllll low.
Henry goes to the crypt and finds the coffin of Regina’s father who he is named after. He notices the drag marks next to the coffin and pushes it aside, finding the tunnel down to the vault. There he finds Regina’s wall of hearts and several lock boxes. He opens one of them – and snakes rise up hissing until Charming slams the lid on them. He tells Henry Regina figured out what was happening when he stood her up at lunch and she noticed her keys were missing – she didn’t come because she didn’t think Henry would leave with her.
In the aftermath, Jefferson meets up with his daughter, Grace, who is very happy to see him. And Charming lets Henry help him – even getting 2 practice swords so he can teach Henry. But they are watched – by King George the Whiny/Albert Spencer
Ok, I like strong independence, I do, but Emma annoyed me this episode. Her attempt to refuse help from Lancelot, her wish to trust Cora, her resentment at anyone suggesting they know better than her. “Don’t you think I can look after myself?” No, Emma, I don’t. You’re in a foreign land with not just different customs, but magic, ogres, giants, fairies and annoying moralising crickets. You cannot look after yourself. You don’t lose badass points for realising you’re in over your head, you’re not less of a kick-arse awesome character because you need a guide or help, or someone who knows how to use medieval weaponry. Seriously, Mulan should have given her a slap upside the head.
I’m glad we’re seeing more of Mulan and that she’s the sensible one while Aurora is the petty one. But I’d like to see her in a non-service role. We need to see her story, her actual story, not have her as part of everyone else’s
Also, Lancelot as a POC? Most excellent. I hope we see more of his story and I’m pretty confident we will since it mentioned he leaving the round table over a woman – we wouldn’t get hints if it’s not going to be followed up. Cora also had better have been lying about killing him – introducing him already killed off is shoddy. He better be coming back!
And Snow as the leader now? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Mulan doesn’t know her! As far as she knows she brought the wraith through! No, let Mulan lead! GO MULAN! It’s not like Mulan even recognises Snow’s noble titles or anything – and Aurora has the same title anyway.
The idea of Mummy Charming dying for the sake of Snow’s fertility doesn’t sit with me either – her life isn’t ruined because she can’t have kids and it’s not like they couldn’t have found another solution in the magical world.