We start way back into the past of Fairy land - to when Snow is a child and a princess and covered in sparkly things. It’s her birthday which calls for a ball in her honour with even more sparkly things – and this is before Snow’s mother died. And Snow’s mother is good and kind and chides young Snow for berating a servant. Johanna, for trying on her tiara – because everyone deserves love and respect and everyone is equal (says the Queen of an absolute monarchy). Being royal doesn’t make you better than anyone else and how she must always be good and kind and not mince peasants up into soup for funsies. Clearly the gods disapprove of this message because she staggers in pain afterwards and needs to be helped to stop her collapsing.
Modern day Snow White finds David/James/Charming/Needs-to-pick-a-name suspiciously making breakfast. She grills him over this and is most unhappy by these suspicious pancakes. The confusion becomes less murky when a present from a mysterious unknown arrives – it’s Snow’s birthday and she’s trying to keep it underwraps. Inside the present is a tiara – the same one she got for her birthday as a child (the one with the grubby peasant fingermarks all over it). Speaking of grubbyer servant fingermarks, there’s a card inside saying the tiara is from Johanna. Oh Johanna, I’m sure Rumple/Gold would have let you hock that for a nice chunk of change. Snow just realises that Johanna came over to Storybrooke and Charming points out they’re still all finding each other (how big is Storybrooke anyway?)
After some more worry about how her birthday makes Snow sad, they go to work. Wait, Charming works? Yes, he’s the Sheriff while Emma is away because there are no employment standards for the police force of Storybrooke at all! When he arrives (complete with gun – he knows how to use a gun? Really? Since when? He’s been a medieval prince or a coma patient for most of his life) Hook leaps out and hits him over the head. Ahhh, it’s a Joffrey slap moment, let me rewind that and watch it again. I think it’s going to be a while before that gets old.
With Charming unconscious, he reclaims his Hook.
Snow goes to see Johanna, busy in her garden (and she calls Snow “Snow” as well). They hug and it’s a big happy reunion – and it turns out she found the tiara in Rumple’s shop (ah so that’s why she didn’t pawn it). They get all weepy as they discuss the garden Johanna has planted to honour the old queen when a noise cuts through the hugging and crying. Snow enters the woods and spots Cora and Regina, together, consulting the map to find where Rumple’s dagger is buried. They worry over the authenticity of Hook’s translated map which leads to Cora both offering to use magic to make a better map – and to conveniently info dump their nefarious scheme, overheard by Snow.
She rushes to see Charming to wake him up from sleepy land and tell him about Regina. This calls for a cunning plan. Alas, Charming and Snow are about as far from cunning as it’s possible to be – Snow decides that she needs to seed doubt between Regina and Cora.
To New York where Henry is bonding with Bael/Neal and Rumple and Emma are feeling left out. Rumple wants Emma to convince Bael/Neal to come to Storybrooke and he has a great hook for it. If Bael isn’t in Storybrooke, how long before Henry gets on a bus to find him the way he did with Emma? Emma tries to insist she lied to him to protect him but Rumple points out that that’s probably what Regina said to Henry about Emma. He also suspects that Emma would love another chance with Neal/Bael.
Snow goes to see Regina to confront her over her lies in the worst possible way. She starts with threats about a “war coming” and follows up with how lucky Regina is to have earned goodwill with Snow. Regina refuses Snow’s definitions and says she was always the Queen, it was Snow who added evil to her name (oooh nice). Regina points out how little playing nice and trying to earn forgiveness has got her and that while Cora hungers for power, power is how you get things done. Snow protests that Cora doesn’t care about Regina or Henry but Regina’s come back is “what do you know about mothers?”
Back to fairyland and Snow’s mother is laid in bed, gravely ill, while Snow and Johanna look on. The doctor tells Johanna to call the king to cancel everything and hurry to his wife’s side (that’s not a good sign). Snow goes with Johanna, weeping and Johanna proposes using magic to cure the queen since medicine has failed (this is apparently nefarious and naughty). Johanna tells Snow there’s a fairy who can grant a wish if your heart is true (what does that even mean, anyway? Sincere? I mean I could sincerely hate someone, does that make my wish ok?)
Back to New York where Henry wants to know whether to call Rumple grandpa (he does adapt quickly, doesn’t he?) and Emma and Neal/Bael have an awkward conversation with Emma trying to convince him to come to Storybrooke. He dodges the question and they get separated going into the subway – which is when Hook attacks Emma and Rumple (seriously? Rumple beat Hook with a stick on his own, earlier.) knocking Emma aside and stabbing Rumple with his hook. Emma rises behind him and knocks Hook out with a big heavy object just as Neal and Henry come running. Of course, seeing Rumple bleeding softens Neal.
They drag him to Neal’s flat and Emma reassures Henry – but Rumple blames Henry, saying he caused it, he brought them here (this is because of the prophecy and Rumple being out of his mind. But I guess we know how Rumple’s going to react to his new grandson).
It seems Hook puts his own special poison on his Hook, one that has no cure on Earth – they need to get back to Storybrooke and magic as soon as possible. Which means taking Hook’s cloaked pirate ship which is apparently super-duper fast – which means they need Neal to play captain since Emma doesn’t know how. Which means he will go to Storybrooke with them to save daddy. Awww.
In Storybrooke, Snow and Charming rush to the Mother Superior/Blue Fairy who senses a great disturbance in the force. They need her to use her magic to find Rumple’s dagger before Cora can use the dark side of the force to do the same.
To Fairyland! Where Snow travels into the woods in the middle of the night to find the Blue Fairy (in my version of events she finds a large, angry bear instead. My version’s better). The Blue Fairy says that cheating death is dark magic and fairy magic is, alas, very very shiny happy hippie magic. Wait, healing is black magic now? She’s still alive, it’s not like it’s Necromancy! She has only one possible way of curing the queen – with forbidden magic that can only be used when it’s really really important – apparently this counts. She gives Snow a wicked looking scented candle and warns her it will come with a price – someone must die in order for the queen to live. Snow gets to choose who. Snow protests she can’t – because her mother always wanted her to be good.
To the present, to New York and the bleeding Rumple. We have a hint of how Neal knows how to pilot a ship – Earth wasn’t his first stop when he fell through the portal, if it were he’d be 200 years old by now. And Henry rushes in with a message from Snow about Regina’s nefarious scheme. She tells Rumple, clearly expecting him to tell her where the dagger is so Charming and Snow can get to it first. Rumple says no (and I can’t say I blame him. Those 2 with ultimate power?) Emma lays down the law – he’s dying and needs to trust someone, so he better start with family.
In Storybrooke, the Blue Fairy’s wand just doesn’t work on Rumple’s shop because his protection spell is too strong. Snow asks Blue to use dark magic, because it’s so vital – as she once told her she could which Blue tries to deny. But that’s when Emma calls Charming and tells them that Rumple has told them where his nifty knife is so they won’t have to sacrifice someone to the Blue Fairy’s dark magic (awww… I wanted to see the Mother Superior ritually sacrifice Archie. C’mon, who doesn’ t want to see that? What if you dropped Pinocchio’s wooden body into woodchipper would that count?)
Back to fairytale land past where Snow (who, amazingly, was even MORE annoying as a child than she is as an adult) runs weeping to her mother, Queen Nameless the Impossibly Perfect to tell her she couldn’t bring herself to sacrifice someone to save her – and how very sorry she is. Queen Nameless the Impossibly Perfect doesn’t demand she sacrifice a scabby peasant as nearly every royal for several thousand years would have done, and instead is so very very proud that her daughter is strong enough not to murder people. What can I say, she’s easily impressed. C’mon folks you’re so uncreative – aren’t there any ogres, did the fairy say it had to be human? Anyway, Queen Nameless the Impossibly Perfect assures Snow that she will never leave her so long as she holds the spirit of goodness in her heart, prompting all of the various attendants to spontaneously develop diabetes as a result of the sheer sacchirineness of the whole thing. Having gasped out her last words, queenie kicks the bucket (and who lays in their death beds with diamond earrings? Just saying, queenie had a thing for the bling).
Back to Storybrooke present when the two brains of Storybrooke find the dagger in a crafty hiding place (it’s not in a box with “no knife in here” written on it. That would only fool them, it’s stuck on one of the hands of the clock). And they’re joined by Regina and Cora. Charming dramatically announces “you’re too late”. Why? What did you call bagsy or something, oh magicaless man? Snow declares that good has won! (Errr, what’s to stop Regina and Cora just killing the pair of them? Or pinning them down and taking it?)
Cora waves a hand and makes Johanna appear and points out it isn’t good or evil that wins – it’s power and Regina does the heart-rippy thing. Now they have to make a choice, give the evil ones the magic knife of ultimate power so they can go on a rampage and kill lots of people, or let one person die
Let’s have another flashback before we face their obvious answer. Snow’s bedecked in the black of mourning, with Johanna there to support her (hey, kingy, did you take a “can’t be arsed with mourning” holiday?) to go preside over her mother’s funeral (hello, kingy, are you there?) again with Johanna’s support.
But when they leave the body, Cora appears – she was disguised as the Blue fairy (guess she didn’t offer dark magic after all) and comment on how she poisoned the queen (she has an odd form of Tourette’s that requires her to mumble plot points across the 4th wall). Over the body she declares how she will turn Snow White’s heart black as coal, so it won’t just be Queen Nameless the Impossibly Perfect she’ll destroy, but also her legacy.
Except back in the present, Cora’s terrible exposition trait means she reveals that she was the fake Blue Fairy to Snow. There’s a dramatic moment where it’s all out on the floor, Cora killed Snow’s mother so Regina could be queen, her being the Blue Fairy – followed by Snow choosing between one of the last connections with her mother (and a person, Johanna, let’s not forget) and letting Cora win again until Snow cracks and gives up the dagger.
Regina put’s Johanna’s heart back – but Cora kills her anyway, throwing her out of the clock tower. Regina and Cora leave in a puff of smoke “see what good gets you.” Snow collapses in grief.
At the mayor mansion, Regina and Cora are back, no longer in hiding. Cora complements Regina on her awesome decor, but Regina is troubled by Cora’s history with Snow’s mother. Regina realises Cora also manipulated the whole rescue of Snow, Regina being in the pasture, Snow losing control of her horse and Regina being ready to rescue her. Cora doesn’t understand what the point is – but it’s revealed her manipulation and Regina sees a problem with her goals – the whole reason she wanted the dagger was to force Rumple to kill Emma, Charming and Snow without Henry knowing. They can’t do that now because everyone knows they have the dagger – so what is Cora’s REAL plan? Cora just urges patience.
New York time – and they’ve left Hook behind. Again. Emma question’s Neal’s changing motivation but he says there’s a difference between running from your father and letting him die in front of you. They reach the car Neal is borrowing – from a “friend”. And that friend shows up and she hugs him – she’s his fiancée.
At Johanna’s grave side, Snow is having a crisis of faith about holding on to goodness and then losing people. She’s tired of justice, she’s tired of thinking people will change and resolves that it’s time to kill Cora.
My gods, I actually agree with Snow about something!
Regina’s line: “what do you know about mothers” would be so perfect if it weren’t for the show obviously linking it to Snow’s own dead mother (therefore trying to cast it as an aspersion on Snow’s dead mother, oh you evil woman). I actually re-edited my recap to mix the fairy land and storybrooke together just to show how they’re linking that line because it’s important.
Because there’s absolutely no reason that Regina’s little dig there should be related to Snow’s mother’s death. To do so puts Snow’s context – her grief over her mother’s past death and the anniversary of it – above the actual context of what is currently happening in Storybrooke.
Regina (and Cora, for that matter) are the only mother figures in Once Upon a Time who have actually raised a child. Snow gave Emma up as a baby to send her to the real world and Emma had Henry adopted. Regina raised Henry to the age he is now, he is her mother by not just law but by long association and by forming a family with him. And then in comes Emma, a stranger to him, and she’s already “mom” in an incredible short space of time
And in season 2 with the curse breaking that just develops further. Regina and her son Henry now have Emma, the long lost mother with Snow and Charming there to play long lost grandparents; they’re inserting themselves not only into her family but pushing her out of it on the basis of zero family ties not only with Henry – but with each other as well.
And then these people have control of Henry? They’re the ones who decide whether she’s allowed to see her son? They’re the ones who judge her relationship with her own mother?
“What do you know of mothers?” is an apt question in the circumstances – because what do they know of the mantle they’ve claimed and are trying to deny Regina?
Also killing Johanna… why? Kick the puppy moment? Has the treatment of Regina grown to become too sympathetic so we need a massive reassertion of evil? And while I can understand Regina returning to Cora as the only person who is remotely sympathetic to her, the level of trust is dubious. I felt like the writers want to cast Regina as a villain mid-redemption and are being heavy handed with it. in fact, I'm not happy with the way Regina redemption has been handled anyway - I'd be much happier if, from the very beginning, Snow just said "no, she's tried to kill me over and over - I owe her nothing, she's evil, I'm done with her" rather than this carrot being dangled but being so unreachable.