The conflict between our heroes and Cora heats up in the Enchanted Forest, as Cora unleashes a hoard of reanimated corpses and kidnaps Aurora to secure the compass.
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.
Blimey, that was an episode and a half! The storyline in the Enchanted Forest is obviously coming to a head, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Emma and Snow weren’t back in Storybrooke before too long, but this is also one of those brilliant episodes where the writers become a bit more experimental. In this case, it involved just one storyline throughout: the quest to prevent Cora from reaching Storybrooke, and there were no troublesome flashbacks to contend with. Rejoice! As a result, I can’t even separate this recap into different sections, as everything slots in so nicely with each other!
Captain Hook finally reaches the bottom of the Beanstalk, to be met by Cora, who demands the compass. She is less than happy to discover that Emma has the compass, especially when he had stolen Cora’s protection spell in order to climb it. Cora makes it clear that she doesn’t want anything more to do with Hook and, instead of killing him, she will punish him by leaving him in the Enchanted Forest, unable to get his revenge on Gold. Cora then appears at the survivors’ camp and uses one of her hearts to reanimate the heartless corpses of the dead survivors.
Emma and Snow interrogate Aurora over the boy Henry in her dreams, and Aurora confirms from a photo of Henry that Emma shows her that it was him who she saw. Emma finds it confusing that Aurora and Henry are in the same dream together, but Snow explains about the effects of a sleeping curse, and that she had encountered the same place after Regina had cursed her. Aurora is slightly angry for Snow not revealing this information sooner (though I could have sworn this is exactly what Snow had told her a couple of episodes before). They decide that Aurora needs to go back to sleep so that she can speak to Henry. Aurora does so, and tells Henry that she is with his mother and grandmother and they need his help.
Henry awakes, and relays the information to David and Regina that Emma and Snow are still alive, though they are under threat from Cora. Regina enlists the help of Mr Gold, reminding him that, though he doesn’t like Regina, Cora’s return would be bad for the both of them, due to Gold’s feelings for Belle giving him a weakness.
Mulan notices that Aurora has burns on her arm, and confronts her about it. Though Aurora passes it off as brushing against some poison ivy, Mulan doesn’t think that Aurora should return to the Netherworld as it is too dangerous. Aurora, however, is keen to have the opportunity to help somebody else, instead of constantly being helped, and is adamant that she will do it, regardless of Mulan’s feelings on the matter.
Henry is desperate to communicate with Aurora again, so they prepare Henry to sleep and travel again to the Netherworld. Gold tells Henry a story about how Snow and Charming had stunned him before, and indicates that on this occasion it was the ink and not the quill that had rendered him powerless. He reveals that there is more ink, which will do something similar to Cora, in his jail cell in the Enchanted Forest.
Aurora and Henry meet in the smoke and flames once more, though they struggle to communicate through the raging fire. Before Aurora is able to work out what Henry is saying, she is sucked upwards into a void and wakes up in the Enchanted Forest once more, discovering that she, Mulan, Snow and Emma are under attack from Cora’s zombies. Aurora and Mulan flee together, but ultimately Mulan is knocked to the ground and Aurora is taken.
Henry awakens with Regina, Charming and Gold and reveals that he couldn’t pass the message to Aurora as she was pulled from the dream before he could do. Regina and Charming are horrified to discover a nasty burn on Henry’s forearm.
Aurora is imprisoned in the pit by Cora, and remains steadfastly loyal, even when Cora indicates that there is nothing for her in helping Snow and Emma, as she does not have a life back in Storybrooke. Aurora maintains that she deserves to have a new life, even though she misses Phillip, but there is no way to bring him back. Cora tries to seduce Aurora onto her side by revealing that the souls of those taken by wraiths are moved to another world instead of being destroyed. Aurora sees through the ruse, and insists that she will not betray her friends, regardless of how many promises Cora makes. Irritated, Cora uses her magic to throw Aurora against the wall, rendering her unconscious.
Cora sends a raven to Snow, Mulan and Emma which reveals that Aurora will be killed unless they deliver the compass to her by sundown. Mulan is insistent that they need to return the compass, but Snow indicates that, if they manage to make more of Mulan’s sleeping powder, then she can travel to the Netherworld and communicate with Henry, allowing them to come up with a better plan to keep the compass and make sure Aurora is safe.
Gold heals Henry’s burns, and Charming and Regina make it clear that Henry should not travel back, as it is too dangerous. Charming realises that if Aurora is not there, then Snow will go instead, due to her past experience with the curse. Charming suggests that he should be put under the sleeping curse so that he can contact Snow, even though Gold warns him that he may never wake up if Snow doesn’t return from the Enchanted Forest.
Aurora awakens in the pit to find Hook standing over her. Though she is wary, he says that he is going to help her to escape from Cora because she double crossed him. He tells Aurora to tell Emma that their deal to go to Storybrooke still stands. Aurora thanks Hook and runs from the pit.
On their way to find the poppies to make the sleeping curse, Emma asks Snow about the Netherworld. When Snow reveals that it is a dark and lonely place, Emma starts to feel guilty for having send Henry there, but Snow rebukes her, stating that she should feel guilty, for starting the argument with Regina that caused the curse in the first place, but that the guilt is not helpful because they need to get things back to normal. Ultimately, Emma decides that Regina is the one to blame for the situation they find themselves in.
Mulan manages to make the sleeping powder and uses it to send Snow into a deep sleep. Meanwhile, Regina has prepared another sleeping curse, which she and Gold deliver to Charming using the needle of a spinning wheel, but not before giving Charming Henry’s necklace, which will protect him while he is in there. Charming finds himself in a pitch black area with only a torch, while Snow finds herself in the burning room, calling out for Henry.
Charming’s necklace begins to glow and he drops it. When he picks it up, he notices the temperature of the floor and realises that he is on top of the fiery room. He uses the torch to break through the floor and falls into the room, where he discovers Snow. Charming manages to tell her about the ink in Rumple’s cell, which they can use to stop Cora. Snow realises that Charming has been put under a sleeping curse, and tries to kiss him to awaken him, but they realise that they aren’t in the physical world so it doesn’t work. Charming assures her that he has faith that she will return to Storybrooke and save him. Snow starts to fade as she awakens in the Enchanted Forest, leaving Charming behind in the Netherworld.
Snow immediately wants more poppy dust so that she can be reunited with Charming, but Emma reveals that all of it has been used, but that they need to focus upon returning to Storybrooke so that Snow can save him properly. At that moment, they realise that Mulan has fled with the compass, and they chase after her. Snow almost hits Mulan with an arrow, and the two women fight, before they are interrupted by Aurora, who reveals that Hook helped her to escape.
Cora discovers that the cell is empty and only Hook is in there. She prepares to cut him open using his own hook, but he tells her to look in his satchel for a present he has brought to her.
Aurora indicates to Emma that she should have trusted Hook, and that he let her go, and that she thinks the reason is because he likes her. At that moment, we discover that the words that Aurora is saying are in fact Cora’s, and that she is controlling Aurora using her heart, which was ripped out by Hook. Through the heart, Cora then learns that the group are headed for Rumple’s cell, causing her to smile.
- Gold reveals the way to stop Cora is through ink that is located in his jail cell in the Enchanted Forest.
- Cora kidnaps Aurora before Henry can reveal this information to her.
- Charming has the sleeping curse put upon him, so that he can tell Snow about the ink.
- Hook lets Aurora go, but not before ripping out her heart and giving it to Cora, allowing them to control her.
I feel like I have whiplash from the sheer volume of plot revelations and action that surfaced in this week’s instalment. The main benefit of this episode, for me, is the removal of any sort of flashback. This allowed for a proper exploration of the quest at hand. The episode didn’t seem to stall at any particular moments either, though there definitely was more action in the first part compared to the second.
The greatest victory of this episode is the characterisation of Aurora. Aurora so far this season has mainly been the type of princess who needs saving, and also has been slightly whiny about either the death of the love of her life, or the nightmares that she has been having. It is therefore such a welcome change that this episode really makes you root for Aurora. Despite these things, she is represented here as being steadfastly loyal, unwavering and courageous. Even when she faces Cora, imprisoned, and knows that the alternative is death, she still does not work with her, but rather rebukes her, and stands by her friends as they strive to achieve their goals, even though they are of no benefit to her. This is in stark contrast to Mulan, who, despite being a great help when it comes to combat, is far more eager than Aurora is to save Aurora’s life: completely sacrificing Snow and Emma’s quest in the process.
This was definitely a more frustrating element of the episode. I love the strength of Mulan and Aurora’s friendship (even though Mulan continues to play it off as a result of the promise that she made to Phillip), and the fact that Mulan is desperate to save her, but I also felt that she was being written into a role to be as inconvenient as possible in this episode. Not only does she encourage Aurora not to go to the Netherworld to help Emma and Snow, but she then actively steals the compass to return it to Cora, despite the fact that there are a myriad other possibilities to free Aurora and also detain Cora. The fact that the highly skilled warrior character is the first one to cave to a threat is slightly confusing. While I will interpret it to be a signal of her devotion and affection for Aurora, and wishing her to survive, I still feel like this is an overly emotional and impulsive decision for a character like Mulan to make.
Charming and Snow finally having a scene together was absolutely welcome, though I must confess by this point I am dramatically tiring from the “I will always find you” line that seems to be chucked out every time they speak. While the scene was performed well by both Goodwin and Dallas, and their chemistry is undeniably insane, these cliched lines do limit the enjoyment of those scenes, I have to be honest.
Ultimately, this episode really hypes up the excitement for the winter finale coming immediately afterwards. The cliffhanger at the end was entirely unexpected and a legitimate twist to the story, leaving me on the edge of my seat for next week as to how they will ultimately defeat Cora (if, indeed, they will).
- I continue to adore Colin O’Donoghue as Hook. The entire character is delightful and I enjoy how he is continually portrayed in shades of grey. There’s something cheeky and uncertain about him, and it’s slightly impossible to predict what side he is actually on. Sure, he is violent and has committed terrible acts, and he is intent upon achieving his revenge against Rumple, so for those reasons we know that there is a certain malevolent streak within him. However, we have also been exposed to sides which suggest that he’ll actually align himself with anybody to get himself to Storybrooke. He is not wedded to Cora, he merely swaps sides depending upon who he thinks he can help win. He is an opportunist, first and foremost, and when the time comes to swap sides again, I am certain that he will do so. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of his plan with Aurora’s heart.
- Speaking of which, since when can Hook take people’s hearts? I don’t believe that he is magical? So what is that all about?
- In regards to that twist, it would be such a shame if Aurora did, ultimately, die as a result of her heart being ripped out, especially after such an episode investing, as it did, in her character.
- The fight sequences in these episodes were delightful. The editing and the impassioned and energetic performances by all involved really elevated it into something far more entertaining and compelling than it might otherwise have been.
- I’m uncertain what is happening with the victims of Cora’s raid on the survivors’ camp. This part of the script seemed like it was just bringing in zombies for the sake of it, because I believed that, if the survivors were, in fact, dead, then Cora must have taken their hearts and crushed them. After all, that’s how we’ve seen characters die before. The actual removal of the heart isn’t what kills the person, but instead the crushing of it. So, if Cora had not crushed the hearts, but rather kept them, then why were all of these bodies on the ground and not still running around? An odd concept that doesn’t really fit in with our understanding of the magic concerning removing hearts, so I’m going to conveniently erase that from my memory to help me reconcile all of those elements.
- I was slightly confused as to the whole “we can’t send [insert name here] back to the Netherworld”, as Aurora and Henry are literally unable to control themselves going to the Netherworld, so as morally conscionable as it may be to say that Henry cannot go back to the Netherworld because it is too dangerous, he will literally still go there anyway, so you might as well use it to your advantage at some point.
- It’s strange that Emma suddenly chooses this episode to decide to be guilty over not believing Henry. It seems an unnecessary addition to the episode, just to set up some tension between Emma and Regina, which will be frustrating. We already know, and have confronted this idea last season with the idea of Emma and Regina at loggerheads and the damaging effect that that has upon Henry. I mean, sure, she’s the Evil Queen and has destroyed Emma’s life, but also, if you’re not going to do anything to her, then you just need to move past it, because you can’t kill her because she’s Henry’s mum.
An action-packed instalment of Once Upon a Time that boasts an impressive cliffhanger twist that is sure to make viewers tune in to the next episode.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.