WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS POSSIBLY MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE CURRENT EPISODE OF ONCE UPON A TIME. It is intended only for those who have seen the episode or do not mind spoilers.
Just like with the season premiere, I had to watch “We Are Both” quite a few times to get a bead on just how I felt about this latest episode. And once again, every viewing made me feel more and more positive about it. We got some important time exploring, and setting up, what is looking to likely be the major themes for this season. Redemption is the word that keeps running through my mind. Redemption and revenge. Still no Captain Hook though…
Right off the bat you need to know that we get next to no time with Emma and Mary Margaret/Snow White this episode. We seem them for a few minutes at the end, but otherwise the entire episode takes place in Storybrooke or the flashbacks to the Enchanted Forest.
The episode begins with the newly reawakened dwarves standing at the city limits, determined to figure out if the curse still strands them in Storybrooke. After drawing straws to determine who will cross the barrier, Sneezy is then pushed over the line, with disastrous consequences. It seems that when a cursed person crosses the barrier, their memories of their previous life are erased, permanently trapping them as their our world self. As David tells Rumple “Looks like we are stranded here.” This causes Rumple, who was obviously planning a trip, to start trashing his shop in frustration.
All of the recently reawakened fairy tale characters are panicking. The town is in shambles. David/Charming is determined to discover a way to get back to the Enchanted Forest to rescue Emma and Mary Margaret. Desperate, he enlists the aid of Gold’s magic to use the ruined Wonderland hat to find Jefferson. Jefferson, either unable or unwilling to help fix the hat, rebuffs David’s pleas for help. David goes on to inspire the townspeople, most of whom are willing to try to drive through the barrier so they can forget their old lives and have some peace of mind, to start patching up the town, getting back to work, and not giving up hope.
We discover that, for the most part, Regina’s use of magic at the end of the season premiere seems to be a fluke. She attempts to light a candle with her mind, with limited success. This is where we start getting the exposition from the old world. Turns out Cora, Regina’s mother who last season tortured her with magic and killed Regina’s true love, obtained her magic from a book given to her by Rumplestilskin. Regina enlists the aid of Rumple to help her overcome her mother, ultimately banishing Cora to what Rumple calls “An annoying little world.” Back in our world, Regina basically browbeats Gold into giving her the spell book, which she uses to “rescue” (kidnap) Henry and bring him home with her. Eventually, after some prompting from Henry, she relents and allows him to live with David, telling him she hasn’t been able to love for a long time and is committed to learning how to do so again without force. She is about to burn it, then locks it up in a cupboard instead.
It is pretty obvious that for at least the first arc of the new season, Regina is being set aside as a villain. Assuming her sudden reversal concerning Henry is not an act, and I don’t believe it is for now, she seems committed to not being a raging psychopath, throwing fireballs down Main Street. Her hiding the spell book rather burning it is definitely a moment of foreshadowing; we have NOT seen the last of the Evil Queen. This brings up the question who will be the big villain for this season? I would say Rumple/Gold, but I have a feeling that he is going to be on the periphery, pulling what strings he can now that he is stranded with the rest of the town. We have yet to see much of Emma and Snow’s journey, though the preview for next week claims that they will be fighting ogres at some point. We do meet Cora at the end of the episode, imprisoned with Emma and Snow, so that is a possibility.
While I’m not entirely sure we needed more exposition on how Regina became the Evil Queen. I will admit, I was curious to learn how she went from despising magic when her mother Cora used it, to using it herself; but I wasn’t clamoring for an episode-long explanation. Ultimately, this was a solid and enjoyable episode. I am looking forward to seeing more of Emma and what’s become of the Enchanted Forest next week.