Enchanted Forest: Our story is set during Regina's youth. She's the daughter of landed gentry and in love with her family's stablehand, Daniel (Noah Bean). Her mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey), is a/the miller's daughter and a social climbing witch (literally). King Leopold and a young Snow White (Bailee Madison) are traveling through the area. Cora arranges for Snow's horse to go out of control. Regina saves the little girl's life. Leopold proposes marriage to the one woman who has shown concern for his motherless daughter. Cora accepts on Regina's behalf.
Since Cora is so ruthless and powerful, Regina and Daniel decide to run away and get married. Snow catches them kissing in the barn. At first, she's devastated because she was really looking forward to having Regina as her step-mother, but Regina explains true love to her and wins the child over. She asks Snow to keep her secret. Snow promises she will.
Cora manipulates Snow into spilling the beans. Snow knows what it's like to lose one's mother, so Cora works that angle. Snow is certain that if Cora learns Regina and Daniel are in love, she'll back their union. Snow is certainly wrong. Instead, Cora rips out Daniel's heart and squeezes it into dust, much like we saw Storybrooke Regina do to Sheriff Graham MacHottie. (And no, Horowitz and Kitsis, I still haven't forgiven you for that.)
As Regina is preparing for her wedding to King Leopold, she learns Snow is the one who tipped off Cora. She lies to the child that Daniel ran away, and pretends she will be a loving step-mother, but a great hatred is born. Yes, it's crazy that Regina blames this child for Daniel's death, but at least now we know the source of her loathing. The episode goes to great lengths to shore up the theme that evil isn't born, but made. Let me tell you though, Regina is simply deranged. Sure, her mother "made" her that way. Seriously though, Queenie, your misplaced hatred of Snow is insane.
Storybrooke: Mary's Margaret's situation looks worse than ever. King George Charles Widmore is the D.A. in Storybrooke. On advice of counsel, Mary allows him to interview her before the trial. He is relentless and riles up Mary to the point where she admits that of course she wanted Kathryn gone.
Emma is spinning her wheels, trying to find evidence that Regina has framed Mary. August helps her look at the case from a new perspective. They go back to the t(r)oll bridge, where Emma finds a piece of a shovel. With Henry's help, they break into the Mayoral garage. Lo and behold, there's a broken shovel, and the shard is a perfect fit.
Emma gets a warrant to search Regina's garage, but by the time she gets there, the broken shovel has been replaced with a brand new one. Emma turns on August, assuming he set her up. Later, Emma learns that Sidney bugged her office. I am so disheartened -- not by this episode, but by the fact that Emma has been duped by Sidney all this time. I was really holding out hope that she was onto him, and playing along for fun and profit.
By episode's end, Emma finds August at Granny's diner and apologizes. Their conversation is interrupted by Ruby's scream. They rush to the scene and find Kathryn -- disoriented but alive!
I don't even know if there are Emmy awards for casting coups, but there should be, because Bailee Madison is perfect as a young Snow White. I'm half convinced the OUAT's casting director went back in time, grabbed a 12 year old Ginnifer Goodwin, brought her to the present day and magicked up a new identity for her. It's not just her physical resemblance to Goodwin that's uncanny. It's speech, mannerisms -- the whole package. I do know there are Emmy awards for costuming, and if OUAT doesn't win, it will only be because there are dark forces at work. How gorgeous was pre-evil Regina's Enchanted Forest wardrobe? And that wedding gown? Oof.
"The Stable Boy" has me more than half convinced that August (who I still think is our story teller/narrator) is Pinocchio, especially once he had that "shin splits" episode, when he and Emma were at the t(r)oll bridge. His continued insistence that he doesn't lie pushes me further in that direction. While he's no Sheriff Graham, I've taken quite a shine to him. I think Emma might feel the same way.
This is a strong, enjoyable episode. I'm looking forward to digging into it in the recap. The Storybrooke scene between Parrilla and Goodwin leaves me breathless. I remain disappointed by the fact that Sidney had Emma fooled this whole time. Her so-called super-power aside, Emma should be too street-smart to be taken in like that. It's in the past though, so I'll trying to leave it there. Maybe.
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 everything is your mother's fault.
Storybrooke, Mayor's Office. Flashback. Regina, clutching a ring, is lost in thought until Mr. Gold arrives. He wants her to make his legal problems (from when he beat Mr. French to a pulp) disappear. In exchange, he'll help her torment her mortal enemy, Mary Margaret Blanchard. He points out that if something were to happen to Kathryn Mary would be blamed. Regina salivates at the idea of Mary's ruination but says a trial could be messy. Gold suggests that once Mary is locked up Regina can plant her jail cell skeleton key in the cell. Mary will use it to break out and flee.
Gold: We all know what happens to people who attempt to leave town.
Regina: Give me one good reason why should I trust you.
Gold: I always honor my agreements.
Audience: Yes, but he's all about the letter of the law, not the spirit, Regina. You really shouldn't trust him because.... Oh, wait. You're evil. Never mind us. Trust Gold!
Enchanted Forest. Regina is probably in her twenties here. I've seen people suggest she's as young as 16, because women used to be married off when they were but girls. That's in our world history, folks. Lana Parrilla is a gorgeous, youthful woman in her thirties. In these flashback scenes, I can accept her Regina as a twenty-something, but teens? Come on. The thing is I don't need to see her as a teen, because again, on this show, the fairy tale reality is not our world's Middle Ages. While there might be some similarities everything does not need to map, and in fact does not map, so I do not have to pretend Parrilla is playing someone half her age. Sorry to digress so early. Let's get on with the show.
Anyhow, young Regina rides her horse. Her father, Henry, cheers her on as she makes her jumps. When she is done, doting daddy raves about how beautifully she rides. Regina's mother Cora (Barbara Hershey) is another story. She's disgusted that her daughter "rides like a man" and without a saddle. Mother says Regina is becoming an old maid. No one will want to marry her. Daniel (Noah Bean), this episode's titular stable "boy" (also played by an actor in his thirties, whom I will accept as a character in his 20s), offers a saddle to Regina. She cuts him off mid-sentence, says she's done riding for the day, and tells him never to interrupt her and her mother, again. Dejected, Daniel leads the horse away.
Alone with her parents, Regina complains that her mother is always criticizing her. Mommy Meanest insists she's not criticizing just helping. Regina starts to walk off. Cora snaps, "Don't you walk away from me," and then uses her magic (and surely evil) powers to suspend Regina in mid-air. Daddy Henry sneers and looks as if he's going to grab Cora, but then he seems to remember his wife is a witch. Cora sort of flies Regina over to her. Regina complains that she hates when her mother uses magic. Cora laughs. She doesn't like insolence. She'll stop using magic when Regina starts being obedient. Regina asks why she can't just be herself. Cora says, "Because you can be so much more." Confession: I truly enjoyed watching this episode, but writing it up, it's making me angry. Yes, mothers are evil, controlling witches who rear their daughters to also be evil, controlling witches. Wait, isn't that a John Mayer song? Bleeeeech. I have to get past this feeling, because I know the show isn't saying all mothers (or women) are like this. Snow White's mother was probably a lovely woman. Snow herself is, and will be a great mother, once she realizes she is one. This is just hitting me the wrong way, today.