This episode felt somewhat like Exposition Sunday, after a fashion. I know that after the time out taken to explore character-driven episodes, there had to be some return to actual movement of plot, but this episode felt like a very pointed attempt to drive the story forwards as opposed to anything else. What we ended up with, then, was a series of scenes that seemed hastily put together in an episode that felt more rushed than anything else.
There are three storylines running throughout the episode: Hook and Cora’s quest to cross over into Storybrooke, Snow and Emma’s search to make contact with Henry and return to Storybrooke, and Charming, Gold, Henry and Regina’s attempts to open up a portal to get Snow and Emma back. While these three storylines are connected, the scenes that moved them forwards appeared stilted and stiff and I still can’t figure out if that was due to the dialogue, the performances, or just a timing issue.
What I DO know, however, is that the addition of Barbara Hershey to the show is one of the best decisions Eddie and Adam have made in a long while. She’s not only terrifying (WAY more Evil Queen than Regina ever was) but sinister and seductive in a manner that serves the show well. Because with Cora and Hook plotting and scheming together (as well as tricking one another and engaging in some grade A flirting) there’s an added frisson to the show that I think it probably needs in the season right now.
The opening scene between Hook and Cora is wonderful. He’s just got back from being trapped at the top of the beanstalk where Emma left him, and Cora’s none too pleased with the fact that he helped Emma in the first place: “You chose her and the consequences of that decision.”
Odd, that there’s a whole undercurrent of “choice” in this show. But it’s related to emotional choices, especially those that correspond to loyalty. Cora even uses the word “betrayal” here to indicate just how egregious Hook’s decision to help Emma was. They have wonderful chemistry, those two, and I can’t help wondering if their relationship is a little more than forced allies because I know it’s not just me who saw sparks fly, right?
Cora poofs herself away and goes off to raise some zombies. Yep, that’s right. Talk about straddling as many genres as you can, show. Or perhaps it’s just that you know zombies are my weak spot – I’m a sucker for a good zombie flick. Unfortunately, this wasn’t it. Using her shiny heart collection (and what a lovely Christmas gift that would make – heart in a box), Cora raises some of the Fairy Tale Land citizens that she killed. So…their bodies were just left lying around. I’m pretty sure that’s not sanitary.
Snow confesses to having seen the burning room before (she kept that secret until it was plotworthy) and our erstwhile gang decide that they have to find a way back for Aurora so that she can communicate with Rumpelstiltskin through Henry, thinking that it might provide a way home for them.
Unfortunately, that communication tells Regina, Charming and Rumple that Cora is on the warpath, so Belle and Rumple’s cosy burger (and don’t get me started on the WRONGNESS of that ‘date’) is interrupted by Regina’s arrival at the diner. And can I just say that Granny is once again proving her awesomeness by telling Gold that their burgers are delicious and “didn’t take any dark magic either”? I suspect Granny’s more than capable of holding her own – in or out of the kitchen.
I’m less than impressed by Gold’s passive-aggressive mentioning to Belle that Regina is the woman who “locked you up” for all those years. Yeah, she locked Belle in the asylum, but you know what? She didn’t kill her. Not like that poor, dumb maid that Rumple offed back in Fairy Tale Land. Still, a bargaining chip is a bargaining chip and it’s the threat against Belle, whom Rumple cares about, that encourages him to help Regina. Because nobody wants Cora to come to Storybrooke. And I can’t help but feel like the show has spent an entire season telling us how bad Regina is, only to present us with another, bigger bad here. Can’t say I’m surprised but I am a little thankful because when Regina brings Henry his blanket from home I find that I might have a little something in my eye. Oh come on – she LOVES him! Like, proper love. And my mommy issues may be showing but Lana and Jared are doing a great job of exploring the mother/son dynamic here.
Henry says that he’s “done reading about heroes” and now he wants to be one. Rumple sends him off to sleep with a bedtime story about squid ink. For some reason, I rather enjoy saying that out loud. Squid ink. Try it. The ink is in Rumple’s jail cell and our intrepid band back in Fairy Tale Land have to go and find it. But Henry and Aurora’s communication is interrupted as the ladies are ambushed by the aforementioned zombies and Aurora is kidnapped.
I really liked Aurora in this episode. When she’s held hostage by Cora, she doesn’t back down, even when Cora is so certain of Snow and Emma’s behavior. “You may not know them but I do. Snow and her daughter just can’t help themselves. No matter the personal stakes, they won’t let an innocent die.”
Oh god, she’s right. And in some ways, she manages to point out the predictability of good and evil in fairytales AND in this show, which I think I’m beginning to have some issues with. But more about that another time, I suspect.
Cora sets up a trade and sends word to Snow of her plan by crow. Yes, by CROW. Snow goes all Dr. Doolittle and interprets what the crow is saying which is, by all accounts, pretty hilarious. Mostly because of Emma’s FACE as she watches her mother communicate with a BIRD.
However, Snow says that she’ll use the sleeping powder Mulan had to go into a deep sleep herself and communicate with Henry in Aurora’s absence. So…uh…Snow’s going to use the essence of a plant to put herself into a trance and travel to a nether realm? Um, okay. Does this come under recreational drug use or is it something else? Because I know that Snow definitely inhales. I SAW IT.
Henry wakes up from his visit to the nether realm with another huge burn on his arm, that Rumple heals with magic. But he says that Henry has to go back if their plan is to be successful – both Charming and Regina say no. “We’d be monsters to even consider it again,” Charming says. But Rumple calls Cora a “true monster”. I have a feeling we’ll come back to this idea later on. I hope so, as I’m starting to see the familial parallels here between Cora and Regina and honestly, one of them is really bad and the other is…kind of broken.
Charming insists that he be put under a sleeping curse to go to the fiery room because he KNOWS that Snow will be there, and she’ll kiss him and wake him up and we’ll all dance around with hearts and flowers and puppies. Well, maybe not that last bit. But you know, I kind of preferred Charming when he was silly David Nolan. He’s so RIGHTEOUS as himself and tends to ignore a lot of the things that people say in his own determined quest to save Snow. I GET that they’re our ‘true love’ couple on the show but these days, I’m finding them a bit irritating.
“I faced you,” he tells Regina. “How bad can it be?” Er…except you didn’t really face Regina, David. It was your wife who stood up to the Evil Queen. You just did what you were told. And I think we all know who wears the pants in THAT relationship…
Hook sets Aurora free and wants her to tell Emma that “the deal’s still on”. Yeah, because a pirate’s REALLY trustworthy, isn’t he? Particularly this one. I know that Hook is gorgeous and sometimes I can’t hear his deceit over his pretty eyes and rugged good looks. But I think he likes to play for his own team, if you know what I mean, and I wouldn’t trust a word that comes out of his mouth, even if he does send Aurora back on her way again.
Snow and Emma have a conversation about blame. Snow ACTUALLY takes some responsibility for the way Regina is, mentioning Daniel and my faith in her is restored a little. Sure, she didn’t actually kill Daniel, but her failure to keep Regina’s secret started this whole thing off, right? What’s hilarious about this scene is that she might as well have been talking in crow for all Emma listens, because at the end of their chat, where Snow says that everyone is a little to blame and that entering into “the blame game” won’t help anyone, Emma pops off with “Regina’s to blame.” Talk about coming out of nowhere. The thing that bothers me about scenes like this is that it feels like the writers have to keep reminding us that Emma’s the Savior and Regina’s the Evil Queen – her nemesis, so to speak. But without a decent lead-in, comments like this just seem awkwardly shoved into the dialogue and have little to no weight when it comes to apportioning REAL blame. Also, considering what Snow’s just explained to Emma, I have to wonder if our Savior understands…you know, LANGUAGE.
Back in Storybrooke, Regina is concocting a sleeping potion with her school science set. If she’d only worn glasses and a lab coat, I might have been able to indulge in my whole ‘hot for teacher’ fantasy. This is actually a very sweet scene, where Henry sees her using her powers for ‘good’ and is nice to her. God, that hasn’t happened in an age. She calls him ‘sweetheart’. Squee. But I think that’s the first time she’s been honestly affectionate with him and there’s a wonderful vulnerability in this scene where she tells him she’s “really been trying” not to use magic. For a few moments, I actually forget how sad Regina makes me. But I fear it won’t last.
Henry thinks it should be him going back into the burning room, but Regina tells him that risking his safety isn’t worth it. “If I know anything about your grandparents,” she says, “it’s that they always find one another.” Oh god. THAT again. I would gladly go the rest of the season without hearing that, even from Regina, who to her credit, manages to say it without a hint of irony.
David pricks his finger on Gold’s spinning wheel (which apparently pre-dates apples for the enactment of curses) and enters a chamber that’s not the burning room. He has to find his way to Snow, who has inhaled the magic powder and is already in the burning room. The room David enters is interesting – it’s lined with mirrors, each one presenting a version of David to confuse him. I like the analogy here, that each character on the show has been fractured and the ones who crossed over to Storybrooke were almost a mirror image of their true selves – the same but not the same, you know? It’s a nice little touch, if intentional, of how what we see isn’t always the real thing, reflected in images of who these people really are, and reminds me of Charming’s “we are both” speech back at the beginning of the season.
Smashing through the floor of the mirrored chamber, Charming finds himself in the fiery room with Snow. He leaps through the flames to get to his true love. Hey, just like Emma did back in Season 1 to get to…oh. Regina. Seriously, show? Are you showing me parallels that aren’t there, or are you just messing with me? Because Emma’s nothing if not her father’s daughter.
Passing on the information to Snow about the squid ink (hee! squid ink!) and indulging in some “I will always find you” chat (and I’m starting to wonder if Snow and Charming EVER had a conversation where this didn’t crop up, and how boring would THAT be?), Charming finds that Snow can’t kiss him because they’re in a nether world and not corporeally there. Ooops. So the only way Snow can set David free is to get back to Storybrooke and kiss him for real. Which means…he’s stuck asleep in Storybrooke until that happens.
Snow wakes and is hysterical at the thought of Charming being under a sleeping spell. Like, she REALLY loses it. And all thoughts of returning to Storybrooke, of getting the squid ink and opening up a portal are forgotten. I really hated Snow in this moment. I UNDERSTAND that she wants to get back to her husband and all, but come on, bigger things are happening right now. This time, it’s Emma who shows a little faith and I have to admit to cheering inwardly. I like it when Emma’s a proper hero. Now if only she could work on those language skills…
Mulan, however, has stolen the compass and gone off to trade it for Aurora’s life. Stopping her, Snow tackles her in the forest and threatens to kill her. Wow, these ladies sure do like to beat up on one another, don’t they? Can’t we all just be friends, girls? Please?
Cora finds Aurora missing and Hook in her place and, in a scene which I’m sure was meant to be threatening but was actually kind of hot, she tears off his hook and uses it to pull his shirt apart. I shouldn’t find that alluring, should I? No? Okay then; moving on. Hook tells Cora that, instead of killing him, she should be thanking him because he’s taken Aurora’s heart. Oh. Nice. So…is that something that ANYONE can do now or does he have special skills or something? Hm.
“You took a heart,” Cora says. “And now you have a princess,” Hook answers. Oh, the imagery. Because…well, never mind. My flights of fancy probably aren’t appropriate for this recap.
In the woods, Aurora turns up and explains Hook’s intentions to Emma, saying that “he cares for you”. Ew. Because he really doesn’t. And I refuse to listen to all the shippers who want to see them together. She can do better, you know? He’s gorgeous, but he’s slimy.
So now the girls have the compass and know where to go. But what they DON’T know is that Aurora is being controlled by Cora, through her heart. Eep. So everything she’s saying, hearing and doing is under Cora’s control. Well, I suppose it just gives credence to that old adage of why do something yourself when you can rip out someone’s heart and get them to do it for you, right?