The Miller’s Daughter Review | Once Upon a Time Season 2, Episode 16

What does Cora want?

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Jared S. Gilmore, Meghan Ory and Robert Carlyle.

Season 2
Episode 16: The Miller’s Daughter

This might be one of the most thrilling instalments that Once Upon a Time has ever graced us with. Full to the brim with character moments, massive plot developments and a highly instructive and interesting fairytale flashback, it really shows the huge potential that Once has as a show.

“The Miller’s Daughter” finally reveals Cora’s backstory, showing us how she became the heartless, power seeking mother of Regina. Rose McGowan plays this younger version perfectly, and though she does not resemble Barbara Hershey much in regards to looks, her icy demeanour echoes Hershey’s performance brilliantly. The barely contained anger displayed when Cora is forced to bow to the snooty noblemen who oppress her ultimately ends up being her source of power, as Rumple teaches her to spin straw into gold. This soon results in her succeeding in winning Prince Henry’s hand in marriage.

It’s her relationship with Rumple which is the source of many of the episode’s highlights. The scene in which Cora spins straw into gold for the first time is highly erotically charged as Rumple nuzzles into Cora’s neck and she regales how she wants her enemies knees to crack and backs to break from bowing. It is interesting and illuminating, therefore, that much of Cora’s motivation comes from rising up and subjugating others in the way that she has been treated up until this point. Her vendetta against Queen Eva is also revealed, as this is the Princess who trips her at the beginning of the episode, though there must be even more of a story to be told on that front.

Cora realises that her love for Rumple could get in the way of her quest for power, so she uses the skills Rumple has taught her to remove her own heart to prevent her own love becoming an obstacle.

Meanwhile, the present storyline is similarly eventful. Upon realising that Rumple’s name is fading from the Dark One’s dagger, Cora and Regina’s plan changes to Cora taking on the mantle of The Dark One to prevent Rumple’s power disappearing with his death. The Charmings set to protecting Rumple, using a protection spell around his shop, while Gold leads Snow to discover that he possesses the candle that Cora tried to get Snow to use to save her mother.

As Neal, Charming and Emma fend off Cora and Regina, Snow sneaks to Regina’s vault and locates Cora’s heart, before lighting the candle and whispering Cora’s name. Cora, alerted to somebody near her heart, sends Regina to protect it, at which point Snow tells Regina that her mother will never love her without her heart. Just as Cora is about to use the dagger on Rumple, Regina puts her heart back in, and Cora dies in her arms.

There are many brilliant parts to this episode. Not only is the development of Snow’s character to not only murderer, but also to her cold-hearted manipulation of Regina to ensure her mother’s demise highly interesting to watch, but Gold’s gradual decline is emotionally conveyed. His phone call to Belle (who still has no idea of who he is), in which he admits that she makes him want to be the best version of himself is highly touching, as is his reunion with Neal. It’s also the first proper hint that we have had that Rumple could be capable of redemption. After all, having Neal back in his life now may be a powerful enough motivation for him to have a lasting change.

Meanwhile, it looks like the only way for Regina’s character to go is backwards. Though she had a wonderful reunion with her mother, the calculated manipulation of Snow’s is only going to add to Regina’s hatred of her, and keenness to eliminate her once and for all. It’s even more of a blow, considering the complete change in demeanour of Cora once she had been reunited with her heart. If only Snow hadn’t used the candle, perhaps they would have been able to neutralise Cora without killing her. Still, Cora was a huge threat to the inhabitants of Storybrooke, and Snow’s guilt is misplaced. Feeling guilty for manipulating Regina into doing it herself I can understand, but the actual act in itself was for the greater good.

In Short

  • In the Enchanted Forest, Snow’s mother dies.
  • She is given the option of Dark Magic to save her, but does not take it.
  • Cora and Regina search for The Dark One’s dagger.
  • Hook stabs Gold with poison in New York.
  • Snow and Charming find the dagger first, but Cora and Regina manage to get it from them.
  • Snow vows to kill Cora.

Other thoughts

  • At least Henry is out of the way in this episode, being looked after by Ruby. I would have thought that Ruby might have been of good use against Cora and Regina, but no matter. Plot convenience, I suppose.
  • Cora batting the phone tap off the desk with her hand like a cat will never not be funny.
  • I’m surprised that Regina went along with Cora’s plans as long as she did. I understand that she loves Cora as her mother, but alarm bells should have rung much louder when Cora said that she wanted to take the power of the Dark One for herself.
  • Cora reacted to somebody being near her heart before we actually saw Snow being near her heart, which was incredibly strange, and perhaps an editing oversight.
  • It’s a shame that whenever we seem to form an attachment or an understanding of a character, they are whipped away. The exact same happened with Belle in “The Outsider”, where we learned more about her character than ever before and appreciated her in a brand new light, before she had her memory erased and her storyline was brought to an end. It’s a similar scenario here, with finally getting to grips with who Cora is as a character before being whipped away. It’d be interesting to see what sort of a mother she would have been with her heart. Perhaps all of the heartache could have been avoided.


A brilliant and tense instalment, with brilliant character moments and superior acting throughout.

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.

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