Warning :Spoiler Alert
In writing about any other show, I would absolutely not use the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night,” but this is Once Upon A Time, a soap opera about fairytales, and there are some witches about to meet up and raise some hell. Could there be any other kind of night for that?
And so, Regina bursts into Granny’s with a gust of wind and flash of rain. The Queens of Darkness, all done up in some really amazing retro wardrobes, offer her a night of drinking and debauchery. But after all Regina has done with the heroes, is she up for it? Regina scoffs, takes the shot Maleficent has handed her, downs it, and crushes the glass like it’s someone’s heart. While property destruction is not okay, I want to say that I absolutely love bad girl and I am really digging these boozy, feisty witches. Even if they’re baddies, I want them to have happy endings somehow. This story arc is really allowing the characters to be the complicated, unexpected people that we started to get to know before Disney played a Frozen commercial every week instead of my beloved Once Upon A Rumbelle Time.
Anyway, back to this week. The girls head out in Cruella’s car (I also super-dig how much they’re using the car. It’s badass and I love accessories and details like that) to the train tracks for a game of Evil Magic Chicken. A train approaches, and the car parks over the track. First one to save them all loses. Regina of course loses but manages to talk herself out of it. Maleficent believes her but the others are unconvinced. Regina offers that they get out of there and go have some real fun. Oh, never mind about a train that goes through a town that’s hidden from the rest of the world in rural Maine. This is a thing that has happened and I am okay with this because of everything else in this episode.
And fun she must have had, because she was late checking in with Mary Margaret and David. Because they are The Charmings, they panic and call Emma over to immediately admit everything in their plan. (Except of course the part where they destroyed Maleficent’s life that is still a secret. Soap! Opera!!!) Emma is furious and frantic. She doesn’t believe Regina has the chops to go undercover like that, brokenhearted and desperate as she is. She demands to know when she’s supposed to be making contact with her handlers, and her parents admit that she’s an hour late.
So, they begin to search! The Charmings head off in the Charming Truckster while Emma meets Hook at Granny’s. He got Regina’s last known location. He got an earful about the Queens of Darkness’ antics, and rushes Emma off to continue searching. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret and David have found something on the outskirts of town—a burned out sheriff’s car. They pull over to investigate and Regina approaches them, looking exactly like one looks after an all-nighter with some wild, reckless women. I may or may not have a lot of personal experience with that look.
David demands to know what has happened, but Regina doesn’t have much to relay other than a night of drinking and big mysterious talking. Mary Margaret is disappointed, but Regina maintains that she made steps in earning their trust. She’s gotta go deeper undercover, she explains.
The Queens of Darkness are nursing their hangovers in style in Gold’s cabin. He’s intrigued to hear about their night out with Regina. Cruella remains unimpressed by Regina’s so-called return to darkness, but Maleficent and Rumpelstiltskin both know that she’s been through some terrible pain recently and have all-too-keen experiences with the strength that the rage of a broken heart can give you. He wants Regina in on the project and orders the ladies to continue to bring her into their plot.
Maleficent goes to meet Regina as she cleans up her vault after last night’s party. The two have a bit of a tense conversation about their future together, in which Maleficent reveals that she and the others are working to find The Author as well. Regina is unimpressed—she’s been looking for that dude for months and can’t find a thing. Except Maleficent has some new leads and some pretty powerful magic that she wants to share with Regina. If, that is, Regina can pass another test to prove her loyalty to the Queens of Darkness.
Regina alerts David and Mary Margaret that they should make contact before she goes out. But The Charmings are still not super-great at being sneaky, so they bring Emma and Hook along, as well. Emma points out how terribly things are going and how much worse they could possibly become. She insists on tailing Regina when she goes out, and won’t hesitate to rush in to back her up if things go badly. This is how Operations with Henry go, she proclaims. Regina isn’t happy with close supervision, but agrees.
On a similarly dark and stormy night, Cruella’s car rolls into town. Regina approaches it and realizes no one’s driving. The interior is brightly lit, and the doors swing open. Maleficent appears behind Regina (because that’s one of the best villain tricks ever and should be used whenever possible) and asks if she’s ready to party like it’s old times.
Old times, like back in The Enchanted Forest. Regina is queen and married to King Leopold, playing doting stepmother while Snow White blunders blissfully along, happy as a motherless girl can be, winning at everything and kind of insufferable about it. Regina’s lessons with Rumpelstiltskin are frustratingly slow. She takes another look through her mother’s old magic things and manages to find a spell book belonging to Maleficent.
Rumpelstiltskin of course, busts Regina studying someone else’s magic. Regina protests that she’s beginning to find Rumpelstiltskin’s methods a bit ineffective and she’s tired of seeing Snow White so happy while she’s so miserable. He reminds her that she’s still a student. She doesn’t even comprehend the kind of power that someone like Maleficent has, even if she has been reading her spell book. He shows her a forest that Maleficent-the-Dragon devastated. It was years ago, but the fire was so hot that there is a tree still burning. Powerful revenge requires powerful magic. Powerful magic takes time. Regina must be patient and put the work in to gain the power it takes to destroy someone’s happiness as thoroughly as she wants to destroy Snow White’s.
Regina continues to stew over her lack of progress. Rumpelstiltskin, who is always known for his patience and clear instructions, responds by dumping her in front of said burning tree outside Maleficent’s castle and abandoning her there.
So now we know how Regina and Maleficent meet. Bad girl bonding time! I am maybe a little too excited about this.
Regina finds Maleficent a little too drunk and a little too sad do be up to much powerful magic. Her nemesis, Briar Rose, was able to defeat her, and Maleficent has been devastated ever since. So much so, that she’s lost her ability to turn into a dragon entirely.
Regina isn’t having it. Maleficent is supposed to be an all-powerful sorceress and she was wronged and deserves her revenge! She shouldn’t stop until she has it! Maleficent is initially dismissive of Regina’s cheerleading but eventually gives in and gets dressed in that awesome headdress and cape, complete with staff. They go to the tree that still burns from Maleficent’s previous curse, and she manages to regain her fire. They’re quickly taken upon by her old nemesis, Briar Rose’s husband, who has come to lock Maleficent the hell up before she can interfere with his daughter Aurora’s wedding. Maleficent tries to transform and roast them alive, but she can’t quite manage. The men restrain Regina and Maleficent and begin marching them towards some prison or something no one really mentions.
Regina tries to burn her ropes away, and Maleficent warns her that there’s no escape. Regina isn’t going down like this and she doesn’t care if she’s doomed. She manages to free herself and set off a good fireball before her magic fizzles. The men round on the witches to recapture them, but Maleficent manages to dragon efficiently this time. She transforms, and it is quite impressive, and then she roasts those dudes like they are chickens. That she is mad at.
Now that they’re free, Maleficent and Regina ambush Aurora, who is being a princess and brushing her hair at her vanity table while admiring her wedding gown. Maleficent has a beef with Aurora’s parents, it seems, and at first she was just going to kill the two of them, but then she realized that torturing their child would be way worse. She knocks out Aurora with a sleeping curse and the two go on their merry, vengeful way.
And that’s how Maleficent got her groove back. So now we’re gonna watch Regina get hers.
In the car, the women chat about the good old days. They soon arrive outside Gepetto’s/Marco’s house where he lives with Pinocchio. They know that August knew something about the book, and could very well know something about the author, so they need to get their hands on the boy. Regina already tried that, she reminds Maleficent. Maleficent knew that, but also thinks that Regina’s methods were a little lacking. Regina’s “prove-it” mission is disclosed: she’s to kidnap the little wooden boy and turn him over to the Queens of Darkness for further questioning.
Regina isn’t happy, but she can’t back out now. She walks in on the two bonding over sanding a toy in the garage and knocks the both of them out cold. She’s still having a bit of a crisis about what to do next, since kidnapping really wasn’t something she wanted to do, when Emma bursts in to check up on her.
Emma is outraged that Regina is taking things so far, but Regina insists she can handle herself. She’ll keep an eye on the boy and protect him somehow. She’s The Evil Queen. She’s torn out hearts and fought Zelena and Peter Pan and her crazy-ass mother and she’s the only one still standing. If the villains are acting like heroes and banding together, the heroes need to act like villains and break some of the rules. Emma refuses to back down, and agrees to let Regina take Pinocchio only if she keeps her phone’s GPS on so she can tail them.
Regina agrees, but as she’s helping load the unconscious kiddo in the car, she ditches her phone. She leaves Emma a message, changing her screensaver to read “I got this.” Regina is not messing around about this. She wants The Author and she’s too desperate to turn this down.
With Emma tailing Regina all evening, Hook has some free time. He decides to use it by interrupting Belle’s date with Will Scarlett. Belle isn’t pleased at the interruption, but what he learned about the powerful magic the Queens of Darkness bragged about has gotten him thinking and he needs to speak to her right away.
In the back of Granny’s, Hook relates what Regina told him and the others about the powerful magic Maleficent had told Regina about. If it’s powerful magic they’re after, it’s very possible they’re going after The Dark One. Belle still has the dagger that could summon him at any time. They’ve got to get that dagger in a safe spot, far away from where it could ever be found. Belle agrees. But where in the world will they be able to hide it, she wonders. Well, pirates are very good with buried treasure, Hook reminds her.
The two drive out into the field where Belle had apparently hidden the dagger. Upon confirming that it hasn’t been disturbed, Belle admits that she’s relieved that Killian is going to take it. She’s worried about what could happen if Rumpel (she still calls him Rumpel, by the way) would return to Storybrooke after everything that’s happened. She seems more than a little afraid, but he reassures her that she’ll be safe. She hesitates again, struck by a powerful but admittedly irrational fear that somehow Rumpel is already back in Storybrooke and that he’s been waiting for a chance just like this. Hook suggests she try to summon him with the dagger, just to see. She tries, but Rumpelstiltskin does not appear. Belle quickly hands the dagger over to Hook and hurries away, agreeing to meet him at the pawnshop once the dagger is hidden. I have a moderately severe cardiac event because Hook has The Dark One’s dagger and I am not sure I’m okay with that pirate having that kind of power.
No worries there. It wasn’t Hook at all. It was Rumpelstiltskin the whole time, and Belle just handed his dagger right back to him. He doesn’t look as happy as a dark sorcerer could be to get his incredible powers back underneath his control.
He waits a bit, and then goes to find Belle. He looks exactly as miserable as you’d expect, spying at Belle through the slatted blinds. She’s admiring a rose that has been left on the counter for her. His face twists and his heart breaks further, which I wasn’t sure could even happen. Oh, Robert Carlyle, you’re just about perfect, aren’t you?
He transforms back into Killian as he opens the door and enters the shop. He reports that the dagger is safe (technically not a lie) and insists that the two swear a pirate vow to never speak of this again, even to each other, in order to keep the secret safe. Belle agrees, and Hook takes her hand, holds it with his hook over his heart, and arranges their other hands the same way on her own chest. Colin O’Donoghue deserves a ton of credit for this scene, because he very much looks like he is Rumpel on the inside, destroyed by his love for Belle and her honest, fearless trust in who she believes to be Killian.
He can’t help himself, either, when he asks if the rose on the counter came from her new beau. She admits it was Will but doesn’t elaborate. Awkwardly, he asks if the two have become serious. Belle, assuming that Killian is only asking out of concern for her broken heart, something he has also experienced at Rumpelstiltskin’s hands, admits that she’s not sure where the relationship is going, but it’s new and refreshing and she’s been buoyed by it. He presses further—is she over him? He can barely
manage the words and it’s a good thing Belle isn’t disturbed by people’s odd behavior or she’d notice that he’s almost swallowing his own tongue. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever be over Rumpelstiltskin, she confesses, but he’s gone and Will is here and Will makes her smile, and that’s enough for now. Still barely able to breathe, Rumpelstiltskin/Hook turns to exit. As he’s walking away, Belle asks him why there has been so much animosity between himself and Will.
Barely audible, he growls, “He took something I care for.”
But Rumpelstiltskin can’t spend all evening nursing a broken heart, even if he does look like he’s been punched in the stomach when he transforms back into himself. He’s got an Author to track down.
Maleficent has taken Regina and still-unconscious Pinocchio back to Gold’s cabin. They’re just settling in when Regina asks why the Queens of Darkness decided to use this particular cabin as their quarters, when he man himself walks in, carefully tilting the dagger back and forth between his hands.
Regina is happy to see him, as she was when Maleficent returned her home after she got her magic back and returned to torturing her enemies. (Maleficent dropped her off at home after they cursed Aurora, and Regina and Rumpelstiltskin got over their teacher/student spat, and Regina used a sleeping curse on Snow White’s prize horse, we learn.) Anyway he begins his villain soliloquy about wanting to turn Pinocchio back into August because August had to have known something about Henry’s book and The Author. He challenges Regina to stop him, if she wants to be a hero, but she steps aside to let him work. In a cloud of magic, Pinocchio is turned from annoying kid back into August Booth, Scruffy Babe and Motorcycle Rider.
Does he know anything about The Author? Has Regina allowed Pinocchio to be harmed in some way? What’s Rumpelstiltskin’s endgame, because assuredly he did not hit rock bottom and decide to stay there.
This show is back to giving me the best possible stomachaches.