A flashback – Once Upon a Time has way too many flashbacks to way too many times and way too many places. This is to “a long time ago”, so it’s good that the time line is being carefully guarded with such precision.
An older man is clearing up rubble in impressive castle/tunnel/RPG surroundings when the Dark One arrives – the old man is a sorcerer’s apprentice and the Dark One is apparently just one of the Dark One’s he has fought – which he does with a great big sword. The Dark One chooses to use magic and the ability to throw people around the room is generally more dangerous than hand held sharp things. The Dark One – NOT Rumplestiltskin, so his predecessor –tries to claim the box the apprentice is guarding (the same nifty box Gold finds in the conveniently abandoned mansion) and is thrown back by an enchantment cast by this mysterious sorcerer. It can’t be broken by anyone “who has succumbed to darkness”. The apprentice also tells us that every Dark One tries. These guys should keep diaries.
Cut to the present and Storybrooke where Gold appears to have opened the box – or turned the box into a nifty wizard’s hat complete with swirling galaxy.
With such grand revelations, clearly we need to focus on Emma’s love life – and Henry pushing Emma towards the sexy Hook and the leather trousers he never ever changes. Lots of intense flirting, Emma asks Hook out and Hook insists on planning the evening. Without pillaging and plundering. Or possibly with.
Everything seems shiny – but there’s a suspicious puddle of water under Emma’s car while the rest of the town is bone dry.
Hook goes to see Gold (which is never wise) building on his previous blackmail (which is really unwise) to have his old hand reattached so he can have a romantic date with Emma and hug her with both hands. Gold warns Hook that his old hand is an evil pirate hand that will turn him back into an evil pirate who is evil and Hook laughs at the idea (strike three. Hook, you have done something irredeemably foolish, you now deserve whatever terrible thing Gold will do to you).
Time for a different flashback – the Enchanted Forest and Anna meeting Rumplestiltskin. Rumple, in addition to being his creepy best, reveals that Anna and Elsa’s parents visited him. Rumple makes a deal with Anna to tell her about the visit if she puts some unknown substance in an unknown man’s tea – and he has a contract. The old man turns out to be the apprentice from the previous flashback.
She returns to Rumple to claim she dosed his tea – when she didn’t. Which is unfortunate because Rumple poisoned him the day before and the dose was the antidote (Rumple is hilarious in this scene). The apprentice is turned into a mouse. Anna tries to outsmart Rumple and it’s painful to watch- he just pulls out awesome contingency plan after contingency plan until he has Anna facing the darkness inside and turning away; just what he needs to open the box. Damn he’s good.
He reveals that Anna’s parents were looking for some way to remove Elsa’s magic (worst parents ever, remember) and that no-one could do that – without the box and the hat within. The hat steals magic and Gold intends to use it to supercharge himself. All perfect – except the mouse jumps on his hand, bites it and makes him drop the dagger – which he just happens to be carrying – and Anna picks it up.
With control of the dagger and her suddenly knowing how it works, she commands him to send her and the box to Arendel, not attack her or her sister and to turn the apprentice back. We also get Rumple’s motivation for wanting the hat – to gain enough power to be free from the dagger’s control.
Of course Anna, back in Arendel, doesn’t have good news either – she set off to prove their parents didn’t think Elsa was a monster and weren’t afraid of her - and kinda proved the opposite.
Emma gets all dressed up for the date with her parents all cooing, Elsa commenting and it all being awkward before Hook arrives; he’s wearing leather. But it’s modern leather. Yes. Do want. And he has two hands. Now I have to call him Killian. David plays the over-protective dad again which is really unappealing
They go to a posh restaurant but Emma is still very focused on the Snow Queen (and the suspicious puddle under her car). To make the date even worse, Will is hiding in the restaurant and tries to leave when he recognises Emma – his clumsiness results in Emma getting wine on her new dress. Killian grabs Will by the collar and hisses all threatening at him which Emma finds disturbing (and Killian stares at his hand so we’re doing the evil-hand thing). Will runs when Emma recognises him. Emma briefly considers chasing him but she refuses to ruin her date. But Killian’s angst over his evil hand may push it
The date goes well and they go back to Emma’s for sexy talk and being unable to go in because Emma shares a home with a bazillion people. Including her parents who are embarrassing for parents of a teenager and really need to have a word with themselves pulling their nonsense to a grown woman.
Hook comes across Will trying to break into the library – and hits him. Evil hand strikes again! He runs to Gold and tries to blackmail him into removing his hand again. But Gold claims he swapped the dagger back, giving Belle the real one to deny Killian the leverage he has. Now he has to make a deal – and bonus, only Gold’s magic can remove it. Killian’s evil hand responds to this by stabbing Gold with his Hook (which he happens to be carrying?) which, of course, does nothing. Killian agrees to Gold’s terms – to help him “with anything”. Oh when will people stop saying that to Gold?
He meets Killian at the dock and animates a broom (aaargh, Fantasia? Really? C’mon Disney, you need to step back on this one) to lead him to the apprentice’s house – and uses the hat to suck the apprentice into it while Killian holds him down. Completing their deal, Gold removes Killian’s hand – but considers the debt unpaid. Killian tries to go back to blackmail – after all, he just saw Gold use the dagger so Belle can’t have it – but now Gold has nice CCTV evidence of everything that happened – with Gold magically erased. Blackmail back the other way. Then throws in more pain on Killian – the hand isn’t cursed. It didn’t affect his behaviour, it just gave Killian the excuse to be who he really is.
Checkmate there Killian.
Emma is taunted rather randomly by the Snow Queen (reminding us she exists?) and belle calls her – Will is in the library having broken through the window, unconscious, bloody and holding a book.
Will wakes up in the cells, quipping away. He denies all knowledge of everything – including why he was found with a copy of Alice in Wonderland and why he had a page with the Red Queen on it ripped out. When Killian arrives though, Will generously doesn’t reveal it was Killian who hit him
To the Snow Queen plotline, David, Mary Margaret and Elsa’s research confirms that the Snow Queen didn’t get to Storybrooke through the curse(s)4
Henry and Regina are in the family vault playing with magical ingredients to try and cure Marion (I want to see lots and lots more of Regina and Henry practicing magic!) and Henry has guessed why Robin’s True Love’s kiss doesn’t work on Marion – because he loves Regina. Henry thinks this is a good thing but Regina knows it’s more complex than that, especially with Robin being loyal to Marion.
But Henry does have a lead on who wrote his storybook – his granddad, Gold (Regina is duly sceptical at the idea that David knows… well… anything). After all Gold was a villain and he managed to change his story and get his Happily Ever After. And Henry’s going to learn that by getting close to grandpa – asking for a job and playing on the “you’re the closest thing to my dad” idea. He becomes Gold’s apprentice
I say again, Henry getting magic lessons from Regina and Gold would be awesome.
And today’s lesson is “Gold will win. Gold always wins.” Except when random mice drop from the ceiling and make him drop a dagger he’s carrying around and flourishing despite the fact he never ever does that. This was some of the clumsiest, clunkiest writing we’ve seen for a long time.
Bemusingly Elsa asks Emma “is that the corset, where’s the rest of it?” which would make sense, I guess, if we assume a medieval time period for her opinions on clothing – except Elsa is wearing a dress that doesn’t cover a scrap of skin more than Emma’s does – except maybe a bit of gauze. The line is silly and should have been instantly obvious as such.
We’ve had a few moments of David trying to protect his daughter from Killian and it’s getting old. It’d be dubious in any event, throw in that Emma is an adult, far more capable than David and the fact David has only actually known her as an adult and it’s infantilising and all kinds of nasty.
Sorcerer’s apprentice. Turned into a mouse. I see what you did there Disney. You can stop now.
This season needs more Regina. A lot lot more Regina.