Note: This review is for the Once Upon a Time mid-season premiere episode, which aired on Sunday January 12th. The review for last night’s episode will be up tomorrow. Some of the points I make in this review are explained/resolved in last night’s episode but I will save all of that for the next review, to avoid spoilers for those who are trying to catch up. Update: The review for this week can be found HERE.
Last Sunday Once Upon a Time returned with a bang and a puff of smoke. If the theme for the first half of the season was reunion or redemption, it seems like thus far the watchword for the rest of the season is deception. We had some exciting plot threads set up, with a couple of troubling developments. At least they were troubling to me. There is still no reunion with Neal, Henry’s father, which disappointed me at least. Fans hoping to see Mulan or Aurora will be disappointed as well.
But we do get some background on the final Enchanted Forest interactions of Regina and Snow. This, to me, comes off as unnecessary at this point. We know why Regina enacted the curse; we know why Rumple needed her to. Did we really need more exposition at this point? And it sets out another secondary reason Regina cast the Dark Curse, but at this point in the story it just falls flat. We’re here, in Storybrooke, can’t we just focus on that for now? If you feel the need to give us more of the Enchanted Forest, either make it about somebody else or show us Mulan and Aurora’s quest to resurrect Prince Phillip.
Cora and Hook have arrived in Storybrooke on Hook’s ship. Cora wastes no time establishing her status as the Queen of Crazy. When someone comments on their ship and starts asking questions when she makes it invisible, she turns them into a fish, which Hook kicks into the water. Cora warns Hook that since magic is back, his plan of “Find Rumplestilskin and beat the crap out of him bare-hooked”, may not work out so great. She reiterates that she is here to “help” Regina, and, because she is crazy, decides the best way to do this is to totally destroy Regina’s life and attempts to reconcile with the townspeople so that when Cora finally approaches her Regina will be so desperate she latches on to Cora. Cora proceeds to kill Archie/Jiminy Cricket while magically disguised as Regina knowing that Regina will be blamed.
Earlier, while everybody is celebrating Emma and Snow’s return to Storybrooke, Regina shows up to the party. When everybody freaks out at her presence, Emma comes to her defense. She invited Regina to the party, in thanks for, well, basically not murdering them as they came through the portal. When Regina leaves, she and Emma have a heated argument about spending time with Henry. Emma tells Regina that Archie has told her about Regina attempts to not use magic and be a better person. The next day, Regina, feeling betrayed by Archie, confronts him in front Ruby. Ruby also witnesses Cora disguised as Regina enter Archie’s office before he is seemingly killed, because she witness the argument between Archie and Regina, this seems to lend credence to Regina being the killer.
Emma, using her super Lie Detector power, initially believes Regina when she proclaims her innocence in the murder. But, prompted by Gold’s suggestion, she uses her nascent magic powers to see the memories of Archie’s dog Pongo and witnesses what appears to be Regina murdering Archie. She and her parents set off to confront Regina once and for all.
Back in the Enchanted Forest of yesteryear, Regina and King George’s armies are defeated by Snow and Charming’s forces. When Regina attempts to kill Snow, she is ambushed with fairy dust and rendered temporarily powerless. Regina is initially going to be executed, after a brief discussion. But at the last moment Snow spares her life, because she still remembers the good Regina who saved her life all those years ago. Aided by Rumple, she sets up a test to see Regina can be redeemed. Regina proceeds to fail that test miserably. In the course of this, she is cursed so that she can never harm Snow or Charming while in this land ever again and is exiled to her castle. Rumple appears to her and explains that the curse is very specific, and she can harm them if they all travel to a different land. This is the previously mentioned second reason she is forced to enact the Dark Curse.
When they confront Regina back in Storybrooke, they try the same fairy dust ambush that worked previously. This time, however, Regina is prepared for that and foils their attempt. After Emma tells Regina she will never see Henry again, Regina swears revenge and all that stuff and disappears in the standard puff of smoke.
Back on Hook’s ship, Cora reveals to Hook that Archie is not dead. She has captured him and he is a gift to Hook, as if anybody will know Gold’s weaknesses it is Archie. This leads to my favorite line of the entire season. When Hook asks Cora who she killed and disguised as Archie, Cora replies, “How should I know? I’ve only been in town a day.”
Overall, a solid episode. Some missteps, but they average out. My only fear was that the rest of the season would be Cora doing bad stuff from the shadows that keeps getting blamed on Regina.