We begin with a little flashback to the past with Cinderella, newly escaping from the ball with the murdered Prince, looking for Henry. And instead she finds a knight with a big sword and armour trying to kill her in the name of Victoria. She’s saved by Tiana in a floofy dress
And I’m all for women kicking arse in floofy sparkly dresses but I question how either of these women can navigate woodland wearing these things.
Tiana is a leader of the resistance against the Royal Family and Victoria and all the badness and she believes Cinderella isn’t responsible for the prince murder. Cinderella hits back asking where the Resistance was when her dad was murdered. At which point from here I have to insert my own dream dialogue because Tiana really should have slapped her a couple of times here.
Tiana: really lady, you’re putting that on us? We’re a resistance movement, not god, we’re trying here. What were you doing?
Ahem - Tiana expresses condolences but thinks that they have a unified cause, join the resistance for justice, freedom and bringing Victoria down. Cinderella turns her down because it’s not her fight
Tiana: Are you actually fucking kidding me here? You complain because we weren’t doing enough to fight Victoria and we need to do more, she’s just framed you for murder and you’re on the run - but you’re not stepping up?
Ahem again - Tiana tells her that not only did the prince murder Cinderella’s father but Victoria was involved as well, Cinderella decides to give this resistance thing a go. So they both get on the motorbike to drive to the resistance camp
Yes, that’s two women in giant floofy dresses managing to ride a motorbike. They have super powers. There they learn that Victoria-who-doesn’t-have-magic is transferring lots of magical artefacts from the king’s castle to her own vault in preparation for war. And one item they don’t recognise but are worried over - Cinderella does recognise it but decides to keep quiet
Thankfully a reluctant and not helpful Cinderella is joined by Regina, Killian and Henry - and Tiana is especially happy to have Regina on side because she has magic, killer fashion sense and generally kicks arse. So time for a battle plan which, bizarrely, puts completely new member Cinderella leading part of the attack…
Side note: did I catch some bubbling chemistry between Tiana and Killian there? Because I think I saw something
That night Cinderella sneaks out to see Victoria and the big box she was carrying. Which was apparently Victoria’s plan and the whole thing was a trap to lure her out. Inside the box is Anastasia, Victoria’s daughter, Cinderella’s step-sister who is almost-dead and kept alive by magic (magic which Victoria doesn’t have but keeps using because she’s a terrible Regina knock-off). Oh and Anastasia being not!dead is all Cinderella’s fault so she can feel guilty about being Victoria’s whipping girl, kind of like how Snow White was all super guilty about being responsible for Regina’s True Love David/Daniel/I neither remember nor care got himself icked. Let me say now that I’m growing rapidly tired of any scene with Victoria in it because she’s just Diet Regina with no class or development.
To save Anastasia, Victoria needs the heart of Henry because He’s the Naive Kid who Believes Any Fecking Thing (the heart of the truest believer which has been a thing before now and is apparently good rather than proof of using waaaaaay too much PTSD, but whatever). Which will be acquired by Magic which they Do Not Have and Do Not Need but still use all the fecking time because this show has put zero effort into developing Victoria and if this keeps up I’m just going to call her Diet!Regina because I’m going to forget her name.
Cinderella returns to the camp and just can’t bring herself to rip out Henry’s heart because he’s way too hot and instead decides to rip out the heart of Jeremiah, a random cobbler who seems to be a decent guy and totally dedicated to the resistance but, hey, isn’t nearly as hot. Thankfully for Jeremiah, Regina is nearby and puts a kibosh on any heart ripping because she’s been there and nope, she’s not doing this. Cinderella points out she has to kill Jeremiah so she doesn’t kill Henry and Victoria doesn’t squish them and he’s dedicated to the resistance so it’s a totally reasonable sacrifice, right?
Regina, with far more gentility and kindness than you’d expect, says no. She used to think that. When she was evil. Not being evil now this is definitely not ok - and she dispells the heart ripping spell on Cinderella’s glove because unlike knock-off-Victoria she doesn’t need props to do her mojo. She invites Cinderella to confide in her so she can go to the palace and show Victoria how a real Queen does things, but Cinderella declines.
Instead she has a whole guilt fit because she doesn’t deserve to be here with the Resistance with her evil heart ripping ways. To which Regina heroically doesn’t roll her eyes and instead tells her that people can forgive a lot. She knows - she doesn’t add “but you have to stay put, do good and earn it” which is a shame because this is a major element of Regina’s redemption. So Cinderella spills out her story and Regina tells her she really needs to stop punishing herself if she wants to move on and make a difference she needs to forgive herself. Again, Regina really knows this
So the next day she warns everyone not to attack the castle because Victoria is expecting them - and they know this because of Regina’s magic because she’s totally willing to cover for Ella - who is dropping the Cinders as a mark of moving on from her Guiltness
Ok there were so many opportunities for people to give Cinderella a much deserved dragging here and all was missed - so to the present.
Out heroes, Roni, Killian and Henry are all plotting together against Victoria with Ronio keeping her ear to the ground and noticed Victoria is doing Nefarious Things with city planning people. Killians decides to stake this out and find proof of Nefarious Things. Henry wants to join in but on the whole isn’t taking things quite as seriously as everyone else. He kind of recognises this and is a little apologetic when people point it out, in a kind of adorkably gormless kind of way. Once Upon a Time kind of nicely points out that Henry just really doesn’t have any skin in this game - it’s not his livelihood or neighbourhood on the line and he can afford to treat it as a game
Jacinda is reduced to writing letters to Lucy and leaving them in the well at the community garden because this is the only way she can communicate with her. Seriously this is the worst custody arrangement ever - at some point we’re going to need a reason for this; because I call shenanigans unless Jacinda ate her previous two children and then ground up their bones to mix with her cocaine.
Victoria decides to build a great big tower block on the community garden because it’s kind of ugly and also fucktons of money and also pettiness. Because we all indulge in huge real estate investments out of pettiness.
Not knowing what to do, Jacinda goes to Roni and Roni pulls out her law book of building codes! Turns out that a big enough petition can totally stop Victoria and her bulldosers - which must be chaos in Seattle because you can get people to sign any damn thing. Roni is, as she puts it, a regular Queen and no-one disagrees
While she’s doing that Lucy is trying to convince Henry that his dead family never existed which, honestly, is kind of awful? I mean, I get the whole curse thing and all - but what we have here is a small child telling Henry his wife and dead child never existed and Henry having to be nice about this gut wrenching cruelty because it’s a kid doing it and seriously, Jacinda come collect your monster child and raise her better because this is not ok. Anyway, she decides to leap into a hole in the ground that opens up under the community garden because she’s decided that since Henry’s book had Regina hide something underground then so too much Victoria because Victoria is a cheap knockoff
Personally I’m wondering more about this well that has apparently been placed over the Seattle tunnel system and has zero chance of ever actually having water in it and this is why there are no plants and we should build condos. I also wonder what surveyor signed off on building condos but apparently missed the honeycomb of tunnels under the site, so close to the surface that a small, poorly supervised child can jump down without any injury (and, presumably, later climb back up again)
Anyway they explore the tunnels looking for a big secret and find a chunk of glass. Lucy decides that this is actually one of her mother’s slippers and PROOF of everything. Except the chunk of glass doesn’t really look like a slipper. And, hey, Henry should you be letting this child run around with a shard of glass? Y’know more and more Victoria’s custody of this child makes sense.
Anyway, at the advice of Queen Roni, Jacinda gets a gazillion people to sign it and is all ready to take Victoria down when Victoria arrives with An Offer She Cannot Refuse. She will give Jacinda a flat in the condo and let her have Lucy so long as she burns the petitions. Despite having zero guarantees at all Jacinda burns the petitions
See, this whole episode is one big lesson on why Regina needs to take Jacinda in hand.
Lucy sees this and is heartbroken because she doesn’t want to be with Jacinda if this is the cost.
Lucy goes to our Queen Roni to confess all and Roni understands (and is surprisingly forgiving of Jacinda screwing the whole community for her personal gain) especially as Jacinda struggles with Lucy’s expectation of her to be a hero, when she’s not a hero - she’s a person
I think this is such an important thing - because the burden of a hero is huge; I think this may be the theme of Once Upon a Time this season: normal people in normal situations being expected to be heroes and how really that’s impossible to ask. I mean, how many here would decide to fight for a city-lot garden rather than get a free condo and uncontested custody of their child? Tell me you wouldn’t take that offer (and I’ll call you a liar. Or someone who doesn’t like kids, which is fair). Roni, of course, has sound advice - it’s not about Lucy and her expectations but about Jacinda and what she can live with. How much is she willing to give to Victoria because Victoria will keep taking and taking and taking
It neatly matches the lessons of the flashback: what will you give? What will you sacrifice? What lines will you cross? And ultimately is it worth it?
Jacinda steps up and gathers the whole community together so she can make a stirring, inspiring speech, apologise and ask everyone to sign it again (and that would sound totally dodgy to anyone wanting to challenge this petition in court, but hey).
This inspires Lucy because her mother is AWAKE and fighting and maybe doesn’t need the chunk of glass to inspire her so maybe Henry can have it so she doesn’t cut herself. Also Henry is her mother’s prince and it’s totally not creepy that she’s trying to set them up like this. She also again points out he totally won’t find the graves of his dead family
Except… he does. Which lays on ALL the sadness.
Killian also tries to take on Victoria’s bribing ways but Weaver/Rumple foils him because SHENANIGANS
Meanwhile it turns out there was something buried under the garden which Victoria now retrieves for her tower - Anastasia’s box. And to raise her she can’t rip out protected hearts so she’s going to destroy everything Lucy loves and that will do it. Apparently. So she says to a woman with Big Hair who she has chained in her tower. The woman seems distinctly unfussed, she’s convinced she has the upper hand, doesn’t care about Anastasia and is convinced it’s only a matter of time before Victoria Gets Hers. She says it in such a sinister fashion I’m sure she’s going to be Team Bad Guy, possibly the villain for the second half of the season or a distantly hoped for season 8
And I hope that Victoria does get replaced because I can back everything about the reboot except her. Henry is cute and adorkable and finding his way, Weaver and Killian have something going on that I’m interested in. I don’t love Jacinda but she’s a very real character with some nice conflict and difficulty and I’m totally here for her story. Regina is proving to be a true queen with each episode with wisdom, power and grace that is a joy to behold
But Victoria? She’s nothing. Her storyline, her motives are all cribbed from Regina’s and she has no magic except when the story needs her to because she is, basically, a cut price Regina. And it’s sad because Once Upon a Time has had some quality villains - Regina, Zalina, Cruella, Rumple, Cora, Maleficent, Peter Pan. Ok Gideon, Arthur and Hyde were lacking but Victoria doesn’t hold a candle to them. And fairy tales NEED a good scary villain