Gothel is casting her apocalypse spell and things are looking ominous.
Lucy is quick to fill in Regina including that Henry and Jacinda kissed and the curse didn’t break and Henry doesn’t have his memories. Gothel also drops in to basically say how evil she is and how all humanity will die. Y’know just in case we missed that this spell was a bad thing
Regina’s not having this, of course: but Gothel also happily lays out why the curse didn’t break. It seems Henry’s belief isn’t strong enough because he’s suffered too much pain: he beliefs his wife and child are dead. He’s an adult now without the faith he has as a child
This is where we also have a lot of recaps of young Henry and Regina. There’s a lot of Regina both trying to hang on to her boy but also accepting she needs to let go and he needs to be able to live his own life - even if that’s outside of Storybrooke. Even if that’s in California. While Henry has his own conflicts - he doesn’t want to stay in Storybrooke not just because he wants to move on and see the world but because he’s the only person in Storybrooke who didn’t have a cursed identity. He is of this world more than any of them and he wants to be part of it
At the same time when applying for college he realised everything he’s writing is a lie - and he’s not entirely of this world either. The magic and wonder of Storybrooke is equally part of him and not something he can ever live or experience in the outside world - which is also complicated
And I want to know where Granny learned how to fix cars.
Back in Hyperion Heights, Regina continues to struggle to find some way to stop Gothel - and Rumple arrives offering help. Regina is not amused to see him given his betrayal - but Rumple has a peace offering - a memory potion which may work on Henry. He has been doing some thinking - he’s beginning to accept he may new reunite with Belle. In which case he needs to do the best he can with the family he already has.
Which is nice to have him back on side, at least for a little while until Rumple has yet another of his many many changes of hearts.
Unfortunately when Regina goes to Henry with this potion it doesn’t work. More, despite all this theorising last episode, Henry has gone back to completely disbelieving in magic; that he can’t be Lucy’s father, that there is no special magic or woo-woo at all. Every doubt he has he rationalionises… like an adult. Everything Regina says, Henry has a reasonable explanation for. Because he’s not a wide eyed child, not the Truest Believer (which has always struck me as a bizarre title - like “I’m the man with the least connection to humanity!”), he’s a man who has suffered losses and faced brutal, bitter reality. And, also, saying “I’m your mother, here’s the adoption papers” isn’t exactly an easy sell.
And Regina realises that his pain is based on solid reality - because those his wife and child didn’t die, he did lose them and he wasn’t able to protect them. Even the Storybook which she and Lucy dig up from Victoria’s grave doesn’t break the curse.
Of course part of why it’s so unbelievable is not just fairy tales - but time travel. This curse, to succeed, didn’t just curse them and drop them on Earth, but also moved them back in time. This was necessary, per the show, to stop people like Snow White and Emma from intervening once Henry, Regina et al fell off the map. Which sounds like a decent way to explain where these people went, I guess. All those flashbacks aren’t actually flashbacks - young Henry debating going to college with Regina is happening now - but on the other side of America. They’re in Storybrook (New England) along with Emma, Snow, et al which is why none of them are riding to the rescue
Yes it’s going to get confusing
Henry walks out on Regina because this is all so ridiculous to him (on account of being, well, objectively ridiculous) but he’s still faced with Lucy’s fury. And Regina has dropped the adoption file she dug up on him… so he calls the number
And gets hold of Henry. His younger self. I’m sure we’re all supposed to scream paradox or something here. It doesn’t break the space time continuum but it does shatter the curse entirely, leaving him with all his memories. And the ability to give himself a creepy pep talk about home being family and since his family is always going to be with him he shouldn’t worry about leaving Storybrooke because they’ll always be there like a magical Deus Ex Machinae.
Before the curse breaks we have a minor storyline - Sabine and Jacinda go looking for Naveen and end up kidnapped by Facilier
And Killian tries to stop Tilly from casting the human genocide spell. Especially since as the spell progresses the coven members turn into trees - which is kind of ascension since all humans are going to die and they get to live on as magical foliage. Yay… I guess?
Tilly won’t listen to Killian (she’s now entranced by Gothel) especially since proximity seems to be triggering the whole heart poison thing - and he runs to Rumple. Who gives him a quick guide - yes magic is real, fairy tales etc etc. And Killian is more inclined to agree than Henry because he just saw someone get turned into a tree. Which is convincing. Rumple also calls him Captain which rather hugely amuses me
They follow Rumple’s plan, grab Margot at the bar and run back to the cave to have Margot reach out to Tilly. True love is, of course, a staple of this series
And, yes I do love that one of the most powerful, world saving forces of this episode is the love of two women. I love that their relationship is presented as that powerful, that meaningful and that important and equal. However I can’t help but point out this is the seventh season and there are only 2 episodes left, so let’s not go all praiseworthy when a firm “it’s about time” may be more appropriate. Especially since their relationship could have done with a little more development here to make it feel more pivotal. But I’ll take it, I’ll cling to this one
Tilly continues to use magic against them - shrinking them.
Regina goes to confront Gothel alone, with nothing but a stick. It goes exactly as badly as you’d expect. Regina is unconscious and Henry arrives, late, to be all tearful and heartbroken that he didn’t believe sooner. And he loves her - and kisses his mother
Yup, that would be True Love’s Kiss. And I have to love how Once Upon a Time has continually upheld the power and importance of True Love’s Kiss but rarely held it forth as being a romantic kiss. Family has been upheld as something immensely more powerful to the story and magic.
The curse is broken, everyone has their magic and memories back
And in the Cavern, Margot - now Robin - manages to bring Tilly - now Alice - back from the circle of magic and Gothel’s control. And there’s a lovely romantic kiss from Alice and Robin which is all joyful as we move into the final confrontation.
Regina stands up with all magic to confront Gothel - but her magic alone is not enough
Now in my head cannon, we then get Rumple, Zelena, Regina (hey throw in Facilier) standing together and nuking Gothel down to ash with so much magic that that ash still glows. Because I’m 5 and I still like big explosions and awesome arsekicking
Instead we get Alice, bolstered by the love of her girlfriend and father, adamantly rejecting her mother. Insisting she isn’t alone, an orphan or abandoned, she is loved and has a family that has her back: she choses love not bitterness (look, it’s fairy tale land, it’s allowed to be twee). She’s also duly pitying to Gothel; sorry that life has turned her so and has been so cruel to her, remembering that Gothel is a victim and turning her into a tree. Which is probably not a fate Gothel would entirely object to
Until someone needs to build a new shopping centre there, anyway.
And she even has flowers grow around her base in a nice gesture of hope, forgiveness, understanding and genuine tweeness. Young Henry even starts up in a nice shiny affirming monologue but I’m rapidly reaching the end of my tweeness tolerance here. And besides I’m not entirely sure if “choose love not hate” is a message I’m all keen on. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not behind human genocide. But Gothel was a woman with legitimate grievance beyond mere hate. And love isn’t going to grow her grove back
Oh remember Tiana and Cinderella (they have their memories back, they’re not Sabine and Jacinda any more) who were literally locked in Facilier’s cupboard to keep them out of all the action and not even pretend they’re relevant characters any more? Well, they escape with all their memories back and attack Facilier with sticks… and he runs away
Why since he now has all his magic, I have no idea
But we’re not finished - Facilier goes to Rumple’s house to steal his… photo album? I have no idea why. Rumple follows up furious that Facilier has messed with his personal possessions and memories of Belle. Especially since he’s finally acknowledging that he may never get back to her. But despite some beginning magical strangling (because the Dark One has his powers as well) he stops because he really is trying to be a better person
Facilier mocks him - he must be the worst possible version of himself. After which he is stabbed in the back with the Dark One dagger
By Rumpelstiltskin - a second Rumplestiltskin, all golden skinned and Dark-Oney. This is the Wish Realm Rumpelstiltskin and totally bad and evil and the big bad we’re actually going to face…
..apparently? I mean some foreshadowing would have been nice. And there’s only 2 episodes left. That’s a bad time to derail everything to try and introduce a new storyline. It feels almost like they finished the season and then turned round and yelled “shit we got two more episodes to fill?! How did we not see this”? Or they are trying to set up the big villain for season 8 only season 8 isn’t actually going to happen.. Are you going to end on a cliffhanger, Once Upon a Time?