Enchanted Forest flashback - and it’s the Evil Queen in full regalia with her father, happily ripping out of hearts because she’s especially short tempered due to the anniversary (her dad does try to encourage her to reel it in. It ends badly). Daddy doesn’t approve but she’s a bit bitter at daddy as well.
The anniversary is the date of her beloved Daniel’s death - and someone else has left a flower on his grave: Cora, Regina’s mother. Well that’s a lot of blasts from the past
Cora deciding to re-enter her daughter’s life on the anniversary of murdering her lover is rather tasteless timing, it has to be said. She wants to apologise; she’s super proud of how powerful and amazing Regina has become but didn’t realise how much she’d want love (Cora herself was pretty content with a loveless marriage). She also knows about Regina having a soul mate, Robin, out there and Cora’s going to find him for her. Regina is duly sceptical.
She does this by going looking for Robin and finding the Sheriff of Nottingham. She hears Robin is married which she doesn’t consider an obstacle.
She goes to Regina to announce she’s found her man - and even picked out a dress for Regina (in white!). Regina falls for it and is all happy and shiny - except Cora has just randomly slapped a lion tattoo on the arm of the sheriff of Nottingham (since a lion tattoo is the only way Regina could identify her soul mate and Cora didn’t especially like the sound of Robin)
Nottingham is pretty terrible and talks all about being the big strong man for her tender delicate femaleness. She’s not impressed and exposes his fake tattoo and she has his tattoo magically maul him a bit - Cora apparently wants Regina to have a child. Needless to say, Nottingham and Regina don’t end up happily ever after
Cora wants Regina to build a dynasty so she can hold onto power - but Regina isn’t fooled. She can see herself having a baby and then dying of a “mysterious illness” and Cora becoming regent. To stop this, Regina has taken a potion to ensure she will never get pregnant - if “love is weakness” as Cora says then Regina doesn’t need to be able to have kids. Cora mocks that Regina would ever do this, hurt herself so much - but Regina drinks it, happy to hurt herself if it will hurt Cora more. Cora leaves her with the advice “the only one standing in the way of your happiness is you.”
To the present and New York and the train wreck of Robin with pregnant Zelena and a now very unhappy Regina. Regina is, understandably, pretty bitter while Robin is worried about his son, Roland and the fact he’s about to lose his mother again. Regina suggests a forgetting potion so he forgets the fake Marian appeared. Robin keeps on mourning for Marian being killed just as a tool in Zelena’s plans while Regina is extra sad because she realises Robin’s been put through this trainwreck because Zelena is still a very bitter sibling. Robin does realise that it’s time for Happily Ever After between them again but Regina puts on her best “you didn’t just say that” face - the baby makes things awfully complicated and this child isn’t going away, nor is the connection between Robin and Zelena.
Lily and Emma are alone with Zelena while this is going on - the Zelena who killed Baelfire/Neal but Zelena is quick to use her pregnancy to protect her from the righteous mauling she so richly deserves. Regina announces everyone, including Zelena, is going back to Storybrooke.
In Storybrooke we have a nice get together of Isaac, Gold and Killian - Killian rather clumsily taunts Gold which is never ever going to end well (though in this case he seems to have hit bullseye - Gold did expect Emma to turn dark). Isaac is concerned - they need the dark Saviour to make more ink and Gold is feeling worse and worse with his super poisoned evil heart. Gold needs a plan B - as he can barely stand with the pain in his heart (he still has magic though).
They research alternatives and Gold is in a very bad way, his heart nearly completely black.
Killian, the Charmings and Maleficent welcome Emma & co home, Emma still is giving her parents the cold shoulder and Maleficent is almost heart-breakingly desperate to see Lily. Lily gives Mary Margaret and David the appropriately poisonous look before being introduced to her mother
The gang does have the common sense to lock Zelena up (well, Regina and Emma do, personally I think Mary Margaret and David were probably fussing in a corner about how terrible it is to lock up a pregnant lady). Zelena mocks Regina because she will be in her life forever (Zelena, even if no-one wants to kill a pregnant lady, that buys you 9 months and a quick trip to the corner shop for some baby formula before they remove your head from your body, don’t get comfy). Regina nicely points this out but Zelena points out you can’t murder the mother of Robin’s child.
Regina goes to Gold’s shop looking for the author (her idea after-all, before Gold hijacked it) and finds Gold looking like he’s not so much at death’s door, but waiting in the hallway and taking his boots off. Regina doesn’t believe the Dark One can die just from a black heart - and Gold says she’s right. The Dark One can’t - but Rumplestiltskin can. Which would mean the rest of them facing the Dark One with no humanity to hold him back.He urges her to work with him and shows her the quill he has - they just have to find the ink
Regina takes the pen, she’s not exactly confident in Gold’s current ability to collaborate. She leaves with the author “goodbye Dearie.” Nice.
The author tells Regina about the whole evil ink thing and adds a premise of why Regina is such a compelling character and how she gets screwed over the most (Regina is well aware). She shows him her happy ending page and he did write it for another book - and is surprised Regina has it. He says “something” is looking out for Regina - which is awfully vague as Regina points out
Ominously they still need ink which bodes no good.
Maleficent is all gooshy about Lily being there, so much that she doesn’t even want to waste time seeking vengeance on Mary Margaret and David (awww, not even a little vengeance?). They can be happy about the future or angry about the past. Lily’s not buying that - she wants vengeance and mocks Maleficent for being so weak. Lily decides to leave but Maleficent begs her to stay - she won’t be able to get back in and Maleficent, because she was magically resurrected, can’t leave at all. Lily ignores her and leave
Maleficent goes to see the Charmings (alas, not to kill them. Oh why isn’t killing the Charmings on any of these villain’s agenda? Couldn’t they squeeze it in?) No. She’s going to the Charmings to get HELP. Oh damn Maleficent, you’re desperate. She wants to seal the borders so Lily can’t leave - the Charmings won’t do that so instead it’s all about fluffy emotional talking. (Killing the Charmings and giving Lily her head might help).
Regina goes to see Lily waiting for the bus… this is ominous. Regina wants some of that Saviour darkness all roiling inside Lily - just what she needs for magical ink. Since Lily is hard to talk to, Regina just cuts her and steals some of her blood... she disappears and Lily’s eyes glow ominously green.
Killian and Emma have a moment with Killian trying to convince Emma to be nice to her parents (or drown them? Y’know drowning is an option. Or dragonbait. Hey, I’m eary).
Rampaging dragon time - yaaaay eat the Charmings! Come on Maleficent go dragon and join in - you can have a Charming each? The Charmings and Maleficent hurry after the dragon who may have crash landed since she’s a rather inept flier. She’s not so great with dragon fire either). Mary Margaret, being such a clever lady, decides to run at the dragon and gets thrown into a rock, hitting her head
Alas, Emma arrives and heals her - though it will take time. And now we get Charming and Emma reunion with Emma no longer punishing them (baaaaah) because they’re Heroes and good people (Who cast a dark ritual on a BABY and BANISHED her for crying out loud! Aaaaargh!?). Punishing Mary Margaret and David makes her sad so she now forgives them.
Regina takes the author and the ink to mock Zelena in her cell (no villainous monologues! It’s a bad idea). Stop going evil Regina! Zelena tries to counter she has what Regina always wanted - a child (this does not impress Regina, she has a child). Regina plans to write Zelena out of the story - as if she never existed, with the baby as well, completely removing her from everyone’s memories. Zelena accuses her of being just like Cora
The words get through and Regin remembers again that they’re both their own worst enemies. She decides against erasing Zelena, of standing in the way of her own happiness. Zelena mocks Regina for being another woman who finds her happy ending due to love of a man - and she counters “no my happy ending isn’t Robin, it’s finally feeling at home in the world”. And yes Zelena will be part of it - from a distance, with oh-so-very restricted visitation rights
She doesn’t want the Author to write anything she has her own happy ending
But the Author doesn’t. He writes a passage of him vanishing and appearing with Gold. Gold conjures a new book for the Author to write - to make the villains win.
Maleficent catches up to Lily as she re-assumes human form. She gives Lily the rattle she’s been nursing all this time while mourning the childhood she missed and that Lily no longer needs her; and that Maleficent isn’t the “scary dragon bitch” she wanted. Lily is shaken that Maleficent is a real person, an open person who wants a relationship or a future - and that never ever works for Lily, the darkness in her destroys everything. Maleficent is not scared by some darkness. Lily agrees to stay a week so Maleficent can teach her about being a Scary Dragon Bitch.
Can we hit this whole “Robin will never forgive you for murdering the mother of his child” bullshit? It’s not like Zelena is Robin’s ex! Zelena is his rapist. Zelena is the woman who killed his wife and the mother of his other child. Zelena is the one who manipulated him, moved into his life, dragged him away from his home and the woman he loved and is forcing him to erase several months of his young son’s life so he doesn’t have to deal with losing his mother twice. But the fact she’s pregnant with Robin’s baby-by-rape is supposed to completely overrule all of that and make Robin eternally connected to Zelena? What monumental bullshit is this?
The Dark One going all dark is a much more interesting threat and adds an interesting twist - what is the Dark One without the humanity (and cowardice) of Rumplestiltskin?
And Cora having an interest in her granddaughter? This promises some ominous things about the baby Zelena is having. Sure it could have been just political plotting, but still...
Emma forgives Mary Margaret and David. Well, that’s nice. Except Emma is NOT THE WRONGED PARTY HERE! Can we get over this “waaah they lied to me!” bullshit and focus on the magical experimentation on a BABY? Maleficent and Lily are the wronged parties - NOT Emma Swan.
I want to watch Once Upon a Time without cringing about Regina going dark. Enough with the relapsing. Especially when we see how very self-destructive evil and bitter Regina can be - which is why I loved her decision not to go dark with Regina and Zelena. With Regina accepting that she constantly sabotages herself, with her defining her happiness as being at home in the world (which isn’t just about loving a man which is another nice twist) and with her pointing out that she is a mother (which is an excellent point, especially with her having taken a sterility potion and it supposed to be so utterly devastating - Regina still found motherhood). It really was a supremely epic moment for Regina. Resisting the darkness, evil and vengeance, finding her happiness (and not entirely defining it by being with a man), asserting her motherhood and recognising what constantly stops her own happy ending - and it has nothing to do with the author.
Alas, no-one ate the Charmings