In which Emma is uncharacteristically stupid.
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, and Meghan Ory
Following Charming’s proposal, after which he and Snow resolved to claim back their respective kingdoms from Regina and King George, their campsite is attacked by George’s forces. Snow is captured by Sir Lancelot, who brings her to King George, who tricks Snow into drinking a potion that will prevent her from having children. Lancelot (who has had an abrupt allegiance-change) and Snow arrive at Ruth’s (Charming’s mother) farm, where she and Charming have been attacked by King George and Ruth has been shot by a poisoned arrow. Charming remembers Lake Nostros, where he used the water to revive Frederick from being turned to gold, and they set off to find it. On the way, when given a gypsy’s medallion that will reveal the gender of an unborn baby, Snow reveals to Ruth what King George has done to her, and Ruth reveals that the waters of Lake Nostros will cure them both.
Unfortunately, the lake is now dry as a result of Charming killing the Siren. Lancelot manages to find a small amount of water in a shell, and Snow insists that Ruth drinks it. However, Ruth is not healed when she consumes it. With the clock ticking, Snow and Charming have a small wedding ceremony for Ruth to see before she passes away. The medallion then starts moving in Snow’s hand, and Snow realises that Ruth hadn’t actually drunk the water, but Lancelot had put it in the chalice used by Snow during the wedding ceremony. To this end, she is now cured of the curse and the medallion indicates the baby will be a girl.
The Enchanted Forest
Inside the pit, Snow warns Emma against Cora, explaining that she is Regina’s mother and even worse than Regina is. Snow and Emma are released from the pit and taken to the leader, Sir Lancelot, who explains that, for some reason, these parts of the Enchanted Forest were not taken in the curse, and that now ogres roam the land. Snow begs to go in search of a portal, and Lancelot agrees to her request, provided that she takes Mulan. Aurora is irritated by Lancelot’s permissive attitude towards Snow and Emma, but Mulan begs her to put her faith and trust in him as a leader. Later that night, Aurora tries to kill Snow, but Snow easily disarms her and warns Aurora that she and Emma were not responsible for Phillip’s death, and that she needs to find some other way of dealing with the tragedy. Emma, misinterpreting the situation, fires a bullet into the air, attracting the attention of a nearby ogre. Emma trips over while running away, leaving her vulnerable to the ogre, until Snow shoots him through the eye with an arrow.
The four women arrive at Snow and Charming’s palace and make their way to Emma’s nursery, where the magical wardrobe is. Emma and Snow try to work out a way to move the wardrobe, as Lancelot appears. When Lancelot mentions Henry by name, Snow immediately feels suspicious and exposes Lancelot as Cora, who is the only person that Emma had told about Henry. Cora transforms back into herself, revealing that she had killed and taken Lancelot’s identity a while ago so that she could follow her daughter. Cora uses her magic on both Emma and Snow, but Emma succeeds in setting the tree on fire using the gunpowder from her bullets. Mulan then steps in and helps protect them from Cora’s attack, before Cora flees. Mulan asks Snow to be the leader of the survivors, and Emma breaks down, admitting that she isn’t used to being put first by somebody, but Snow encourages her to accept it now that they have been reunited. Once they have left, Cora appears and takes some of the ashes of the wardrobe, which glow magically.
Charming tries to get on with finding a way to bring back Snow and Emma, but is insistent that Henry isn’t involved, as it is too dangerous. Completely ignoring Charming’s wishes, Henry goes to find Jefferson and asks him to help. Jefferson indicates that he cannot help personally, but does let slip about Regina’s vault in the cemetery. Henry lures Regina out of her office by offering to meet her for lunch at Granny’s diner, so that he can take her skeleton keys and sneak into her vault. In the vault, Henry finds a box and unlocks it to find the Agrabah vipers. At that moment, Charming appears and secures the vipers inside the box, revealing that Regina had phoned him when she had noticed the missing keys after Henry hadn’t showed up for lunch. Charming tells Henry that they will find a way to get Emma and Snow back together, and then starts teaching Henry how to defend himself with a sword. As they train, King George’s Storybrooke counterpart watches them from a distance.
Meanwhile, Jefferson is finally reunited with his daughter, Grace.
- In the past, Ruth sacrifices herself so that Snow can have children, after she was cursed by King George.
- Emma and Snow find the magical wardrobe, but they are attacked by Cora, leading to Emma destroying the wardrobe.
- Snow becomes the leader of the survivors, while Cora secures some magical ashes of the wardrobe.
- Charming allows Henry to be a part of bringing Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke.
There’s finally a conception with this episode of the direction that Once is going in this season. It seems like the show is going to continue to balance its fairytale flashback portions, while we navigate both the fantastical Enchanted Forest and the more mundane aspects of real life in Storybrooke. It’s a nice balance, and still more satisfying than the first season, in which everybody’s character development was somewhat hampered by their cursed personas. It’s also a structure that allows for a much pacier storytelling, which does much better at holding viewers’ interest for the full time, and I can see more longevity in this compared with last season. Furthermore, with less time within the episode being dedicated to the flashbacks, and more traction in the present storyline, I feel like the plot is gaining more forward traction, instead of stagnating.
Having said that, I couldn’t really see the point in this week’s flashback. Sure, it was nice to see Snow’s desperation to have a child and how this was temporarily robbed from her. The linking of Lancelot in both the past story and the present was similarly a nice touch, presumably a small red herring to make us believe that his presence in the present storyline could lead to more plot significance than eventually arose. However, ultimately the past storyline was ineffectual for me. The death of Charming’s mother sped by too quickly and with too little consequence for it to have very much emotional impact upon the watcher, and making Snow infertile was immediately an unnecessary inclusion, as the viewer already knows that Snow had Emma. If this had been a greater point of struggle for Snow in the past, involving her doing a lot in order to gain back her ability to have children, then this might have made the point more successfully. I’m assuming that the purpose of the fairytale flashback was merely to emphasise the extent to which Snow longed for Emma, only to have the joy of bringing her up robbed from the two of them, which is still a point of struggle for both of them, even if they are now reunited.
The character development in Emma here is significant. We have perhaps seen her cry on a handful of occasions during the series, despite her undeniably tragic and turbulence upbringing. Indeed, the only time that I can remember is when Henry died at the end of Season 1. For her to be vulnerable here, as she is throughout this episode, is a huge change for her. Something that has always been true of Emma is that she is fiercely and doggedly independent, so it’s quite the abrupt change to see her out of her depth here, and more reliant upon Snow. This is certainly helpful for them building a familial relationship, as within Storybrooke, this likely wouldn’t have happened. It’s also a nice development for Emma to see, as Snow is a far cry from the meek schoolteacher that was/is Mary Margaret Blanchard. Having said that, it was slightly frustrating to watch the heavy-handedness of this “Emma doesn’t understand the magical world” storyline. I mean, sure, she isn’t used to ogres, but I refuse to believe that using a gun is less effective than a bow and arrow. If anything, Emma’s mistake was not looking where she was running. Another mistake that she made was failing to realise that shooting a gun (which makes a noise) would alert ogres to their presence, despite the fact that it was clearly established that ogres are sensitive to sound and that’s how they find their prey. So, it was actively frustrating to see Emma pigeon holed into this storyline, just so that she could be more dependent upon Snow to help build up that motherly protection. Emma is impetuous and impulsive, we have known that to be true before, but she has never before been stupid, and that’s what we were being presented with in this instalment. However, nothing can take away from the brilliance that is Emma and Snow’s scene in Emma’s abandoned nursery. To start with, the setting is absolutely stunning and horrendously poignant, as both Emma and Snow are confronted with the childhood that could have been. For Emma, it’s a sign that, despite the fears and anxieties she has had her entire life, she was wanted and anticipated, as opposed to abandoned and pushed away as she had believed. It’s hard for her to accept that somebody could care for her and put her first and foremost within their thoughts. For Snow, meanwhile, it’s the knowledge that she fought hard and wanted a child, and ultimately was unable to be a mother to that child, who was forced to grow up alone. Even though they are now reunited, it will never quite be the same to make up for that lost time.
Speaking of wonderful settings, the past Enchanted Forest storyline is absolutely beautifully shot, with dappled sunlight playing in most of the scenes and really enhancing the gorgeous landscape in these moments. Having said that, however, I was momentarily taken out of the scene by the fact that Lake Nostros is quite clearly an entirely different location than we saw last season. I understand the complexities that they cannot actually drain a lake, but Lake Nostros was previously surrounded in trees, which looked completely different here. I’m just asking for a bit more detail, that’s all, guys.
Slightly frustratingly, Aurora has so far been portrayed as supremely irritating. Not only does she spend the vast majority of her time complaining (which she did even before Phillip died), but she doesn’t even have any skills to speak of. She’s just sort of furniture. So I hope that the writers actually have some sort of development planned for her character so that it isn’t a complete disappointment.
- It was a shame that Lancelot hasn’t continued as a recurring character, as branching out into Arthurian ideas might have been interesting, but with a show already cluttered with far too many characters to properly explore, perhaps it’s for the best.
- I’m failing to see why Cora even bothered being herself in the pit, if she was masquerading as Lancelot. What did she actually gain from this? Or was it just because they wanted to end last week’s episode that way?
- Jefferson’s storyline this episode was a little bit random. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that he and his daughter are reunited, but it just seemed a little bit of a random thing to insert.
- I hope next week’s flashback seems a little bit more coherent with the plot. This week’s felt a bit tangential and ultimately didn’t serve to enhance much about the episode, in contrast to last episode’s, in which I felt that Regina’s flashbacks revealed a lot more about her character and her drive in the present storyline. The past flashback here actually wasn’t too focused upon Snow and her emotions, but rather the trying to save Charming’s mother element of it all. Snow, in fact, had a relatively muted reaction to the news, which might have benefited from a bit more beefing up so that the audience could truly feel like she had truly wanted Emma in the first place.
- This is now episode 3 of Emilie de Ravin being regular cast, and she has not appeared in two consecutive episodes. Clearly she and Raphael Sbarge have the same agent.
Ultimately, a delightful episode with some great character development, though future episodes should work on trimming unnecessary storylines in what is already an overly busy script and premise.
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