Emma fans rejoice! This episode is chock full of Emma it will be radiating everywhere. This week Once Upon a Time continues its consistent streak of enjoyable episodes. We get a lot of questions answered this week, some new ones raised, and get to see Hurly from Lost! (He is like the only one besides John Locke that I remember from sometimes watching that show. There was a blonde right? Australian, maybe? The Island was a kid’s finger-painting? Anyway I’m getting off track here.) We finally learn who the mysterious postcard receiving man was in the season premiere, who HENRY’S FATHER IS, how Emma got that yellow punch buggy, went to jail, etc. Lots going on this episode.
We start out in the Enchanted Forest. Killian Jones has led the ladies to the bean stalk, which they must climb to get the magic compass he told them about last week. After correcting Emma’s fairy tale history of Jack and the bean stalk (turns out Jack was a guy who led a terrible war to kill off all the giants and plunder their treasure), he explains there is one giant left, the most powerful of them all. The bean stalk has been enchanted against intruders; Killian has only two enchanted bracelets that will allow them to climb the stalk. After debating who should go with Killian, Emma ends up winning the argument. She instructs Mulan, while keeping this from Snow, that if she is not back in 11 hours, Mulan should cut down the bean stalk. Mulan has also given Emma a bag of “poppy powder” designed to knock the giant out.
We transition to flashbacks of Emma’s past with the Mysterious Man, whose name turns out to be Neal. Emma meets him in the process of stealing the yellow VW Bug she currently drives. She initially thinks it his car she stole, only to learn that he stole the car in the first place. A few months, or possibly years, later, Emma has wholeheartedly joined Neal in his life of petty thievery. They eventually decide to give up this life of crime, and decide to randomly settle in Tallahassee, Florida. So, in a moment we will finally get the answer to the question Regina asked Emma in season 1, “What did you like so much about Tallahassee?”
Emma and Hook reach the top of the stalk, a devastated castle. Hook suggests they wait for the giant to fall asleep and then sneak past. Emma suggests using the poppy powder instead. Emma asks about his tattoo of “Milah,” from his answer she can tell it’s a love he lost and realizes that Rumplestiltskin is responsible for killing her. She admits she was in love once.
Neal tells Emma that he found a wanted poster for himself at the post office. He is wanted for a theft of jewelry store, where he stole some very expensive watches. He and Emma decide to fence these watches to finance new lives and identities Neal gives her one of the watches and leaves to go meet the fence and makes plans to meet her at 9 p.m. Neal walks down the dark street with the bag and notices a man walking behind him. The man chases him and tackles him. It turns out to be August. August says he’s Emma’s guardian angel. He tells Neal that Emma has a destiny and Neal’s going to keep her from it. August shows Neal something in a box to prove magic is real (we do not know what Neal sees). August explains there’s a curse that needs to be broken. He has a story for Neal and after that he has to decide whether to do the right thing.
Later, Emma checks her watch and calls Neal, but his phone is disconnected. A police officer arrives and tells her Neal called in a tip to check the surveillance at the train station and left her to take the fall.
At the top of the beanstalk, Emma and Hook disable the giant with the poppy powder. They commence searching the giant’s treasure for the magic compass. The giant runs out, his heavy footsteps cause rubble to collapse on Killian, and then he grabs Emma.
Emma tries to explains, saying she needs the compass to save her son. The giant shows no sympathy because his own family was massacred by humans. Emma bites on his hand and he drops her. She runs to Jack’s sword and the giant follows, stumbling over a trip wire that Killian and Emma noticed earlier and a giant cage crashes down around him and traps him. Emma demands the compass, but he refuses, saying Emma will kill him just like humans killed his whole family. He gives her the compass from his pocket. “See? I’m not the bad guy.” He gets up, easily breaking his cage. He opens a hole in the wall for her and tells her to go before he changes his mind. Emma frees Killian from under a rock but then cuffs him to the wall. He tries to make the case that he’s been honest with her, but she doesn’t want to take the risk that she’s wrong about him. She’s sure the giant won’t kill him; she just wants a head start. She gets this from the giant by telling the giant she had two opportunities to kill him but didn’t, so he owes her two favors.
In prison, Emma gets a package from Phuket (where August told her he was when she arrived in Storybrooke and started breaking the curse). Car keys, on the key chain Neal stole for her. Emma is also holding a positive pregnancy test.
Earlier, at the base of the bean stalk, Aurora tells Snow that she does not sleep because of nightmares ever since she awoke from the sleeping curse. Snow tells her she went through the same thing after Regina’s sleeping curse, and that Charming used to light a candle for her to help keep nightmares away. Aurora describes a nightmare to Snow after awakening.
Henry wakes up screaming from a terrible nightmare. David lights a candle for him, like he used to do for Snow. Henry describes a red room with no doors or windows and curtains that were on fire and someone else there, staring at him through the flames. It’s almost word for word what Aurora described to Snow.
All in all, as I said, this was a good episode. Lots of exposition and background on Emma. With one exception almost no look at Storybrooke.