In the Enchanted Past, Regina enlists Hook to travel to Wonderland, steal Cora's heart and kill her. Since Cora is now the very Queen of Hearts, herself, that is a feat easier said than done. Cora grabs hold of Hook's heart, forces him to confess everything he knows about life back in L'enchantement, including the not small detail that Regina intends to cast the Dark Curse, and then returns with him.
Cora and Hook trick Regina into thinking Hook killed Cora. After mourning her mother for a moment, Regina returns to her evil plans, leaving Cora free to cast a barrier spell that will protect part of the realm from the Dark Curse. She explains to Hook that he will remain in stasis for 28 years, until the savior breaks the spell -- at which time they can begin their quest to travel to Regina's strange new world without magic and exact their revenge.
Enchanted Present. Team Princess travels to Rumpy's cell, where they find a strange scroll that contains only one word, written over, and over, and over again: Emma. They do find the bottle of squid ink, but alas, it is empty. Before anyone catches on, Aurora triggers the cell doors, trapping Team Princess (herself included) inside. Hook and Cora appear, reveal what they've done to Aurora, steal the compass, and set off on their Storybrooke quest.
Seeing her name on Rumpy's scroll drives home the fact that Rumpy engineered his own capture as well as the Dark Curse; Emma is devastated. She is certain she is no savior, only another one of Rumpy's dupes. While studying the scroll, Snow remembers Cora's grimoire and that magic dwelt in its very pages. Playing a hunch, she blows on the scroll. Because it was written in the coveted squid ink, magic pours off the parchment and opens the cell. As Teams Princess sets off to reclaim the compass, Aurora demands that her comrades tie her up and leave her behind. With her heart still in Cora's possession she knows she would only do them more harm than good.
Team Princess finds Cora and Hook at Lake Nostos, where the witch has magically drilled down to the source of the restorative waters, and used the wardrobe ashes to open a portal. During the battle, Mulan retrieves Aurora's heart. Snow and Emma tell her to return it to its rightful owner. Mulan leaves her sword with Snow -- explaining it can repel Cora's magic.
The sword doesn't do a bad job, but it's Emma who is truly repellent... er, in a good princess-y way. After knocking out Hook and grabbing the compass, she takes on Cora. When the witch reaches her hand into Emma's chest, she is unable to rip out her heart. Emma realizes there's a power within her and is able to magically throw off Cora. Snow and Emma waste no time in grabbing the compass and jumping into the portal. They're on their way back to...
Storybrooke. When Charming doesn't wake from the Sleeping Curse, Regina and Rumpy fear he might not have even been able to find Snow. Although Regina is reluctant at first, Rumpy convinces her that they must destroy the Storybrooke end of the portal to ensure that Cora will be unable to enter their new world.
When the dwarfs and Red discover that all the magical diamonds have disappeared from the mine, they know Rumpy and Regina must be at fault. They find Henry who, along with Red, ventures out to the wishing well. Regina explains to her disappointed son that they have to destroy the portal, in order to keep him safe from Cora. Henry reminds Regina that Good always defeats Evil, so Snow and Emma will surely best Cora. He pleads with Regina to stop the spell she and Rumpy have cast on the portal -- the spell which will kill anyone who tries to enter Storybrooke via that well.
Finally convinced, Regina grabs hold of the well and absorbs all of the magic. When she slumps to the ground, it seems it has all been for naught, but then Emma and Snow climb up out of the well. Hooray!
After a touching reunion, everyone rushes to Gold's shop, so that Snow can wake Charming with true love's kiss. She does so, which kicks off another touching reunion. Henry is grateful to Regina for her help, and hugs her, but is glad enough to leave her and head out to supper with Emma, the Charmings, Red, the Dwarfs, and anyone else who isn't Regina. Once he's alone with his pawn, Rumpy wastes no time in rubbing salt in Regina's wound.
Meanwhile, back in L'enchantement, Hook has possession of the giant's now blighted magic bean, but since Lake Nostros has reappeared, it won't remain blighted for long. Good may always defeat Evil, but Evil is nothing if not resilient.
As the Charmings make their way down the streets of Storybrooke, a ship appears on the horizon. Hook and Cora have reached Storybrooke. Let the games begin... you know, after more than a month's hiatus.
"Queen of Hearts" may already be one of my favorite episodes. I know I'm sort of an easy sell, because I've been pining for the family to be reunited, but there's so much more to it. I'm glad to see that Regina enchanted Hook's hook, which is how he was able to rip out Aurora's heart, and she limited the enchantment, too, so we won't have him ripping out hearts willy nilly. I love both that Emma is powerful in her own right and that she is profoundly touched by the fact that she is powerful, and that she's the product of true love. Regina's desire to redeem herself in Henry's eyes gives her character so much depth, as does her pain at watching her boy leave with his biological family. Her Majesty's road to redemption with be nothing if not rocky, particularly with Mommy Dearest coming to town.
I'll be back with the whole story, in the full recap. In the meantime, please grade the episode at the top of the page and then come on over to the forum, where good always conquers evil, if TWoP Tennison has anything to say about it, and she has everything to say about it.
Wow. I just want to turn this recap into one big love letter to Once Upon A Time, and perhaps I shall. Because of how TWoP deadlines fall, because of my silly home life, and because of the wonky way in which my brain works, I'm always jumping back and forth between my two shows (OUAT and The Vampire Diaries).
I write recaplets right after an episode airs, but I need a couple of days to rewatch repeatedly, take notes, and let my thoughts stew, before I start the full recap. There are some benefits to this method. For example, this season, when OUAT was moving too slowly for me (especially where the Charming family reunion is concerned), TVD's breakneck pace satisfied my need for instant gratification. When TVD moved too quickly -- when it shorthanded development or plotting -- OUAT was there for me, painstakingly planting seeds and deliberately developing its upcoming revelations, with tender loving care.
I was about 3/4s of the way through with this week's OUAT recap, when I sat down to watch TVD last night. Today, I'm so glad I have OUAT to return to, because my palate is in serious need of cleansing, after the misogyny-fest that was last night's TVD.
People like to talk about the sexism (and other problems) inherent in fairy tales. I know it's there and am not trying to minimize it. The thing is, I try hard not to judge stories of the past (or people, for that matter -- I'm looking at you, Thomas Jefferson) ONLY by present day standards. Like for instance, I believe that, regardless of when it took (or still takes) place, slavery is evil. That's a no-brainer, I know. That said, I don't think someone like Jefferson can only be defined in light of his participation in that evil institution. He took part in it willingly, even though he had moral problems with it. He let it corrupt him. The thing is, we're all corrupt to some degree or another. Think back to when you were four years old -- or whatever age at which you were still your best self. Don't you do things now that four year old you would have been appalled at? I sure do. I try not to, but I'm fallible. I'm full of conflicting desires and principles. I get lazy, selfish, greedy, or filled with self-pity. I am often not the woman four-year-old me would have considered my best self.