In fairyland past, in a very very spikey castle (therefore evil – evil always has sharp edges, it’s the first rule of evil fashion) Hook is staging a gaol break to rescue Belle (she’s been in prison a while, you can tell by the chalk tally marks. Who gives these prisoners chalk anyway?) he wants her help because her father is under attack by the Dark One – Rumplestiltskin (an enemy of Hook’s). There is a rumour of a weapon that can kill him and since she has spent more time with Rumple than anyone they hope she’ll have an idea.
Belle protests she has no idea how to kill Rumple and wouldn’t even if she could. Hook knocks her out and prepares to kill her with his Hook since she’s useless – when Regina appears behind him, magicking his Hook to her hand. She, after making it clear who is boss, tells him she can help him kill Rumple since she intends to enact a curse that will take everyone to a land without magic where Rumple will be helpless. But there’s one person she’s determined won’t follow her to the new land – her mother.
She enchants Hooks’ Hook so it will take a heart – only one. She has banished Cora to a far off land and to get there Hook will have to use a portal (provided by the Hatter’s hat) to get to her, take her heart and bring her body back. And she’s been banished to Wonderland.
When he arrives, he’s taken before the Queen of Hearts – Cora, of course. Hook stabs her to try and take her heart and she points out she’s the Queen of Hearts, why would she keep hers where everyone else does? Hook reveals that it’s Regina who wanted Cora dead – which rather upsets Cora. She offers a counter to Hook – since Regina’s curse would also remove his memory (something Regina didn’t mention) he wouldn’t be able to get his revenge on Rumple anyway – because he wouldn’t remember him. But she promises Hook his memory and his revenge, if he will get her close to Regina to take her heart.
Cut to 28 years ago and Regina and Hook stand over a coffin in which Cora’s body lies. Hook leaves Regina alone. Alone Regina says she killed Cora because she loved her and, as Cora showed her when Cora killed Daniel, love is weakness. She lays a rose on Cora’s chest and says goodbye and leaves. Hook emerges from the shadows and helps Cora up and asks why she didn’t kill Regina. Cora says there’s a change of plans and they need to protect themselves from Regina’s curse.
She and Hook go to a small part of the land and when Regina’s curse roils over the land, Cora raises a magical dome, protecting the small segment of land. She says she still has a hold on Regina and when the Saviour breaks the curse in 28 years, Regina will have lost everything and she will need Cora. Hook will get his revenge and Cora will help Regina pick up the pieces
Regina is worried that Charming hasn’t woken up and Rumple suggests they take precautions. They don’t know if Charming got the message through to Snow and he won’t be waking up until Snow arrives – so they need to be prepared in case Cora comes through the portal. He suggests they gather enough magic to destroy the portal and anyone coming through it as soon as it appears. Regina protests – what if Mary Margaret and Emma are the ones who come through? Rumple points out it’s a win/win, either they stop Cora – or they stop Mary Margaret and Emma and Regina becomes the only mother in Henry’s life again. Especially since magic is unpredictable in this world – who could blame Regina for a mistake (uh, everyone? Since when does anyone extend her the benefit of the doubt). Oh Rumple, always going back to the evil. Regina protests, she wants to be a better mother for Henry, but Rumple points out Cora is a threat to Henry and a good mother would protect him.
She goes to see Henry (reading allowed the story of Snow White to the unconscious Charming. Is it narcissistic or just redundant to read Prince Charming his own fairy tale?) to tell him she and Gold are going to prepare the portal for Emma and Mary Margaret, that she will do everything in her power to help them get home. Henry remarks that she really has changed. Ouch.
To the mine under the city where the fairy dust diamonds are being mined. Rumple praises Regina for coming to her senses and uses the wand he stole from the Fairy Godmother to take the power from the crystals.
The dwarves and Red notice the missing crystals and tell Henry – and he realises Rumple and Regina lied to him.
Rumple and Regina go to the wishing well, where lost things are returned, where they think the portal will open.
Mary Margaret, Mulan, Emma and the Aurora!Puppet arrive at Rumple’s cell – and Emma learns that Rumple predicted Emma would be the saviour in a prophecy. They also reveal that Rumple was kept alone, no human contact. Emma questions how he kept from going crazy and Aurora!Puppet says he didn’t – handing her a loooong scroll with “Emma” written on it hundreds of times.
Mulan finds an ink bottle - but it’s empty – and Aurora!Puppet grabs it and throws it against the locking mechanism, imprisoning them in Rumple’s cage. Cora and Hook arrive showing Aurora’s heart and Hook mocks Emma with the giant’s withered bean from the beanstalk (which, I’ll wager, has an ulterior motive). Cora magic’s the compass to her hand and they leave.
Time for a blame game. Aurora for her heart, Mulan for failing to protect Aurora (really? Please stop with Mulan the servant and protector of Aurora) and Emma for being a bad Saviour especially with the revelation that Rumple predicted her, she feels her accomplishments are all down to Rumple’s machinations. And Snow being the good comforting mother hen.
Examining the paper, Snow realises that a spell can be bound to the ink and blows the ink from the scroll at the bars on the door. Written in the squid ink, it dissolves the bars (this also means, Snow, that while Rumple was your prisoner he could have escaped at any time.) They leave, but Aurora insists they leave her and tie her up, as long as Cora has her heart she can’t be trusted. Mulan promises to return for her
Cora and Hook go to lake Nostros – where lost things are returned – and she restores water to the dry lake
Storybrooke and Fairyland
In fairyland, Hook pours the ashes and the portal begins to open. In Storybrooke, Rumple raises his wand and the clouds gather and hit the well with lightning. The well glows and rages with green energy – whoever comes through will die.
In fairy land, Mulan, Emma and Snow arrive and it’s time for a fight. Emma combats Hook, Snow shoots arrows rather inaccurately, and Mulan deflects Cora’s magic with her sword (yes this fight is several kinds of epic). In the fight Cora’ nearly drops Aurora’s heart into the portal, but Hook catches it and hands it to Mulan, not wanting Aurora to lose her heart. Snow urges Mulan to take the heart to Aurora, Mulan protests but Snow insists. Mulan gives her sword to Snow – since it deflects Cora’s magic – and leaves. More fighting and Emma punches Hook out (when did she learn how to use a sword anyway?)
In Storybrooke, Henry and Ruby arrive. Ruby is quickly brushed aside by Rumple (“Sorry, dearie” I love how his voice changes between the two roles) and Regina talks to Henry. Regina talks about the danger and power of Cora and Henry insists that good always defeats evil
In fairy land, Emma and Snow try to defeat Cora but keep getting blasted around. To give Regina what she always wanted, Cora tries to take Snow’s heart, but Emma leaps in the way. With her hand in Emma’s chest, Cora laughs “you foolish girl, love is weakness” and tries to pull her heart out – but can’t. Emma looks stunned and replies “no, it’s strength” and a wave of energy pulses out of her, sending Cora flying. Emma and Snow take the compass, leap for the portal and jump in.
Regina tries to restrain Henry from jumping into the well. She grabs him and he tells her he knows Emma and Mary Margaret are going to come through. If she wants to change and be better this is how Regina will – and if she wants Henry to have faith in her she needs to have faith in him. Ok I’m going to rant about this in a minute. Moved, Regina pulls the curse off the portal and collapses.
Emma and Snow crawl out of the well. Rumple leaves. Henry tells Emma and Snow that Regina saved them. Emma remarks that Regina’s mum is a piece of work and Regina welcomes her back. Snow goes rushing to Prince Charming’s side, past his dwarf vigil to wake him up (awww, do you have to? Still a nice reversal of the fairy tale – Prince Charming unconscious surrounded by dwarfs waiting for Snow’s True Love’s kiss)
And Emma goes to see Rumple. He apologises and says he won’t bet against her in the future. Emma says it’s not a bet when the game is rigged. She tells him about the scroll and how he could have gotten out at any time. He says he was where he wanted to be. She says he made the curse and her – but he counters that she’s powerful because she’s the product of True Love and he just took advantage of that, he didn’t make it. What she did, she did herself – including blasting Cora back by magic, that wasn’t Rumple.
In Fairyland, Mulan restores Aurora’s heart and Aurora tells her what Cora said about Phillip’s soul – that a wraith transports the soul to another land, it doesn’t destroy it. They can still save Phillip.
Cora tells Hook they’ve failed. But Hook turns her words against her “really Cora, after all these years why do you still doubt me” and holds up the petrified bean from the Giant. She says it’s withered by Hook points out that Lake Nostros, now flowing again, has regenerative properties.
In Storybrooke Henry affirms that Regina has changed, Ruby calls for dinner at Grannies. And off they go – Henry, Emma, Charming, Ruby, Snow, the dwarfs… and they leave Regina behind with tears in her eyes (damn it, I was sat there chanting “invite Regina”) Rumple arrives and congratulates Regina on uniting mother and son – maybe one day they’ll invite you for dinner. And a pirate ship containing Hook and Cora appears on the horizon.
I know he’s several kinds of naughty but you have to love how long reaching Rumple’s machinations were. I do love an evil genius. I think it’d be wisest if the whole cast just gathered around Rumple and offered to do what he wants – it’ll just save time.
Ok, Henry’s “have faith in me” speech. Ugh the things wrong with this. First of all “this is how you change” what? By assuming good wins just because it’s good? By assuming that a weak force will destroy an immensely more powerful force simply because it’s good? And have faith in him – faith in what? Not his abilities or knowledge or skills or goodness, but faith in the fact that what he wants to be true will somehow be true. This isn’t faith in him, it’s shared groundless optimism.
The treatment of Regina throughout has been beyond shoddy. Many people have reason to have a grudge against Regina – but Henry is not one of them. She continues to extend her hand and goodwill when she doesn’t have to and holds back the magical wrath she could so easily unleash. Notice the same level of contempt is rarely levelled against Rumple. Sure part of that is fear – but isn’t Regina an equal character of fear?
When this season started there was a lot of optimism about the POC inclusion after such a shoddy representation in season 1. Talk about a let down – we had Lancelot for 2 episodes before death hit. We had the disposable Billy. And we had Mulan – a princess without her own story who, after the death of Phillip, becomes a constant protector and champion for Aurora. What about Mulan? When do we see her story, her needs?
And we’re into the second season and still no GBLT characters. This is especially painful on a show about Fairy tales because there are tales are constantly erased with the old meme that GBLT people are apparently “unsuitable” for children. The continued erasure plays into that.
Still, Once Upon a Time built on the excellent foundation of the first season and is still an awesome, extremely fun series that I look forward to watching. Long may it continue after the hiatus – just with more inclusion please.