Well, the Once Upon A Time midseason break is upon (no pun intended) us now. However, the finale goes out with a bang. After a bit of a slump the past two weeks, this week continued with some big reveals, including some stuff you probably didn’t know you were curious about (unless you’re a huge nitpicky nerd like me). We delve into the unexpectedly complicated relationship between Cora and Regina, and see the many sides of in some ways anti-hero Killian “Captain Hook” Jones. This week we also return to Enchanted Forest flashbacks. This week I’m leaning more towards “recap” than “review” because of all the important plot points that are laid out this episode.
We start out in the Enchanted Forest of yesteryear. Killian has broken into the Queen’s palace and rushes into the room where Belle is being kept captive. He tells Belle that he there to rescue her, that Rumplestilskin is threatening her father, but he heard that she knows how to kill the Dark One. When she tells him she has no idea to kill Rumple, he tells her then he isn’t here to rescue her and knocks her unconscious. He is then confronted by Regina, who has a proposition for him: to help her kill Cora. In return, she will allow him to kill Rumple after they are all taken to the new land, where this no magic for the Dark One to protect himself with after the curse.
Regina sends Hook to Wonderland to kill her mother. She has enchanted his hook so he can remove one heart, her mother’s. Hook is brought before the Queen of Hearts, who you will remember captured Jefferson and turned him mad back in Season 1, and it is revealed that it is Cora (my nitpicky nerd side has wanted to learn more about the Queen of Hearts since that first season episode). Hook attempts to taker her heart, but she mocks him, saying she is the Queen of Hearts, why would she keep her heart where everyone would know how to get it? Cora strikes another bargain with Hook; take her back to the Enchanted Forest so she can kill Regina.
However, Cora passes up her chance to kill Regina. As Regina looks at what she thinks is her mother’s dead body, she explains that her mother had to die because she still loved her mother, so she wouldn’t be able to be free in the new land while her mother lived.
Cora tells Hook that she couldn’t kill Regina because Regina would need her again. It is revealed that Cora protected the portion of the land that Mulan referred to as their safe haven. She tells Hook that he and the others will be frozen for 28 years, and then they can take their revenge together after the savior breaks the curse.
We don’t see too much of Our World this episode, which is a bit disappointing if, like me, you were hoping to see some movement on storyline involving Neal, Henry’s father. The townspeople are awaiting the return of Emma and Mary Margaret, while fearing the possible return of Cora. Rumple, however, has different ideas, since David is in a sleeping curse, and they have no way of knowing if he got the message about the squid ink to the Enchanted Forest group. In order to prevent the possibility of Cora coming to Storybrooke, he enlists Regina’s aid is sabotaging the portal, so that anyone attempting to come through will be killed. He tells Regina that even if it is Emma and Snow who are killed, it is win-win as Cora will be trapped and Henry will be all Regina’s.
Meanwhile, the Enchanted Forest gals go to Rumplestiltskin’s cell under Snow and Charming’s castle, searching for the squid ink. Aurora finds a scroll with Emma’s name written on it over and over. Mulan finds an empty vial of ink. Aurora throws something to slam the gate shut, trapping them inside the cell. She throws the compass to Cora, and Cora reveals she was controlling Aurora via her magically removed heart. Hook tells Emma she could have prevented this by not betraying him, which she counters by saying he would have done the same things as her, which he denies.
Cora and Hook travel to Lake Nostos, the site of Charming’s battle with the Siren and also his mother’s death. Cora tells Hook the waters there can revive the ashes of the enchanted wardrobe, but Hook comments it is just a dry, empty lakebed. Cora uses magic to wrench water from underneath the earth.
Back in the cell, Snow stares at the scroll with Emma written on it. She recalls sneaking into Cora’s chambers and seeing her practice spells in her spell book. She then blows on the scroll and the ink floats into the air. The group realizes that Rumple wrote the scroll in squid ink. The bars on the cell melt. Aurora tells them they have to tie her up and leave her behind since she can’t be trusted as long as Cora has her heart. Mulan ties her up, promising to get her heart back.
Cora and Hook are about to go through the portal when the group arrives and knock the compass out of Cora’s hands. Emma begins to duel with Hook (showing a surprising amount of skill against her highly trained opponent for somebody who had never held a sword before she had to kill dragon-Maleficent). Cora disappears in a puff of magic; her satchel containing Aurora’s heart goes flying into the air. Hook snags it before it goes into the portal. He gives Aurora’s heart to Mulan, who gives Snow her sword to ward off Cora’s magic and leaves to rescue Aurora. Emma defeats Hook, and tells Snow it is time to go home. During this scene Cora tells Snow that she has to get to Storybrooke because Regina “needs her” to help her daughter, which complicates this seemingly straightforwardly homicidal relationship we saw before.
Cora reappears and attempts to remove Emma’s heart by reaching into her chest, but is unable to grab her heart. She is then blasted back by a wave of magic that seems to come from Emma. Emma and Snow jump into the portal.
Back in Our World, Rumple and Regina, who have stolen all the magic from the diamonds in the mines, have arrived at the wishing well. They use the magic to skew the portal vortex, when Regina is confronted by Henry. He appeals to her that if she is really a good person she won’t let this happen, as he is convinced Emma and Snow will triumph over Cora. Regina risks her life to fix the portal, and the two women finally return home. Snow wakes David from the sleeping curse.
But Cora and Hook cannot be counted out. Hook uses the waters of Lake Nostos to revive the magic bean. The episode ends with him and Cora on his ship, sailing into the harbor at Storybrooke.
All in all a great episode. It neatly wraps up several plot threads, while opening more. And, while I would have preferred to have learned more now, we can definitely look forward to seeing the almost certainly explosive reunion of Neal and Emma when the show starts up again in January.