Warning: Spoiler Alert
In the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and Charming are running frantically through the woods. Snow is ahead of Charming, gaining distance as she runs. She’s tracking something. She pauses to examine a patch of earth and David catches up with her. They’ve been tracking a unicorn, and they seem to have found it. If they can approach it and touch its horn, they’ll be able to see their daughter’s fate. They reach out and make contact at the same time, but have two very different visions.
David sees Emma as a happy, cooing baby in a basket along a path in a strange looking forest. He approaches her and she continues to make docile baby noises as he picks her up. He’s so relieved, everything is going to be fine! Except, Snow’s vision isn’t quite the same. It’s in the same forest, but Emma is a teenager—a scowling, petulant teenager who rips out Snows heart and crushes it, simply because she can. They awake from their visions, and Charming is elated, while Snow White is horrified. She’s so disturbed and astonished by David’s elation, she can only breathe “it’s evil.”
So we begin this installment with a mystery, because immediately after the open, we switch to Storybrooke in the present. Emma and Regina are trying to figure out how The Author is trapped in the book. Regina is stressed because she needs to get back to the Queens of Darkness (minus Ursula) and Gold because she’s been gone a really long time. Suddenly, though, August’s condition worsens. Emma, Regina, and Henry take him to the fairies/nuns. Mother Superior examines him and finds that he’s suffering from the extreme magic he’s been subjected to. He may survive, but he’ll have to be very strong.
Regina is relieved that August isn’t actively dying, but she’s pressed to get back to Gold and she needs to take him something to show for all the time she’s been gone. Emma conjures a forgery of the page. Henry is impressed, but Regina is certain it won’t fool Gold. Instead, she takes a picture of the page with her iPhone, hugs Henry for longer than a teenage boy likes to be hugged, and rushes back to meet the bad guys.
As Regina leaves, Emma and Henry goes to The Charmings’ loft to meet Killian and debrief about what they’ve all learned. Killian explains what Ursula disclosed last episode—The Dark One wants to turn Emma’s heart dark to un-Savior her so to empower The Author to give villains their happy endings. Emma scoffs, not only because if this weren’t Fairytales of our Lives the whole plot would be ridiculous, but because she trusts in her family’s love for her and the goodness of their hearts. Killian cautions her that darkness has a way of sneaking up on someone, but Emma rebuffs him. Mary Margaret and David, with two of the worst poker faces in the world, fret in whispered tones about their sketchy past and how it may affect Emma. The two depart, hoping to find a way to intercede with The Author. His powers to grant the villains happy endings shouldn’t be reliant on Emma’s good heart and Savior status, and they have to convince him of that.
Emma is concerned about August, and Killian is jealous. Emma doesn’t find his protectiveness about her endearing. Still, she assures Killian that August is special to her because he was one of the few friends she made since her childhood trauma with Lilly (the girl from the video tape in the story arc that we are otherwise pretending didn’t happen). Killian seems placated, and the two are about seal their reconciliation with a kiss when a purple haze rushes through the window, knocking them out cold.
When Regina returned to Gold, Cruella, and Maleficent, she produced the photograph of the picture of the door. However, instead of being left with nothing to go on except the picture, Gold notices a glare on the photograph as a sign of magic. He quickly determines what August told The Heroes—that the page is the door and the author is trapped within the book. They need to get the real page. Regina cautions that since her son Henry has the page, they’ll have to be extremely delicate in procuring it. Maleficent, on the other hand, has a slightly different idea. She sets of a sleeping curse that knocks out all of Storybrooke. With the town incapacitated they’ll be able to find the page easily.
As the group walks into the cursed town, Maleficent pulls Gold aside. She knows she’s more valuable than Cruella or Ursula, especially since he doesn’t seem to be at all concerned with Ursula’s happy exit. Since she’s more valuable, there’s something else that she wants from Gold. He knows what it is, but they don’t mention it specifically. He concedes that if she can get him the page with The Author’s door, he’ll give her what she seeks.
The villains go to The Charmings’ loft, finding Emma and Killian passed out on the couch, but no sign of the page. Gold quickly realizes that Henry would have been immune to the sleeping curse since he had already been placed under one. Henry has taken the page, and they must find him. Again, Regina asserts that she’ll be the only one to deal with Henry. Gold agrees, and lets her go to find him. After she leaves, he tells Cruella and Maleficent to tail her to make sure she’s doing what she’s supposed to. He, on the other hand, has something to take care of.
Mary Margaret and David realize the sleeping curse has hit the town as they’re arguing in the street about their next course of action. Mary Margaret is distressed by their lying, knowing that their deception will only hurt Emma if she finds out the truth. David, though, thinks there might be another way. If The Author is gone entirely, Gold will have no reason to turn Emma’s heart. They can find Henry, get the page, and destroy it before they release The Author. Mary Margaret isn’t thrilled with the plan, but they notice Regina taking off from the loft and Cruella and Maleficent tailing her just as Henry calls Mary Margaret to tell him that he’s also been unaffected by the curse and is hiding at The Sorcerer’s mansion. It’s their perfect chance, isn’t it?
As Henry hides under a table in the mansion, a ray of sunlight hits the illustration of the door. The illustration begins to shine, golden light pouring from around the door and through the keyhole. The light makes contact with a keyhole on an adjacent desk, and Henry scrambles to open the drawer. The drawer holds only a small key, which shines like the illustration as he picks it up.
He hears someone entering the room and, thinking it’s Mary Margaret and David, he begins to tell of his discovery. He realizes its Regina and grows silent. She asks him for the page before she can explain what’s happened, and Henry hesitates. As he does, Maleficent and Cruella enter, mocking Regina about her parenting skills. Regina demands the page from Henry, but gives him an eyebrow waggle as she does so. He hands over a page and the three witches depart, Regina leaving last and casting another long, meaningful look to Henry.
Henry has handed her the forgery. It’s not a good plan, but it’ll buy Regina a bit of time with Cruella and Maleficent. Henry’s still sighing with relief as Mary Margaret and David find him, and he tells them of
their switch. He produces the picture with the key and moves to unlock the illustrated door. David stops him, claiming it would be dangerous, and takes the illustration and key from Henry. He sends him off so that David and Mary Margaret can examine them. Mary Margaret isn’t happy with yet another lie, but she nods to Henry and he gives them some privacy.
But of course those two aren’t the only ones with secrets. Gold left Cruella and Maleficent for business, and he does go to his pawnshop, but he isn’t interested in the antiques. He sees Belle collapsed on the floor. Distressed to see her slumped over so carelessly, he picks her up and carries her to the couch in the back. It’s a good time for a villain soliloquy, and Robert Carlyle never disappoints. He holds Belle’s hand tenderly as he tries to explain himself. His magic comes at a price, and his debts are unmanageable as they stand. He’s got to try to find a way to change the world, and he has to do it quickly, because other things are changing and he’s running out of time. He flinches here, reaching underneath his tie to press his chest in discomfort. He’ll come back to her if he can, he promises, and leaves.
Cruella, Maleficent, and Regina are waiting for him outside the shop. He quickly dismisses the illustration Regina shows him as a forgery and accuses her of deception. She tries to defend herself, but he knocks her out with magic and orders Maleficent and Cruella to take Regina to follow him to Regina’s vault.
At The Sorcerer’s mansion, Mary Margaret stands behind David, who crouches before a fire holding the illustration. Mary Margaret stops him before he can burn it and trap The Author in the book forever. They can’t start lying to Henry any more than they can keep lying to Emma. She has to know the truth about the horrible thing they did to Maleficent and how it will affect her heart. Reluctantly, David agrees.
They return to the loft to find the sleeping curse has worn off. They have a story to tell Emma…
Once upon a time, in the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and Prince Charming were worried about the fate of their baby. Their child has the capacity for good, but also for great evil, and they need to make sure their child doesn’t become evil. The unicorn gave them no good answer, so they set out to return home and formulate another plan.
Along the road, they meet a peddler whose cart has become stuck in the mud. Charming leans into the cart to help and soon sets it free. The peddler is appreciative, and they begin to chat. He notices they’re returning west and warns them that the way ahead is dangerous. Maleficent has turned herself into a dragon, laid an egg, and scorched the forest for miles around to secure her clutch. He advises that they head the opposite direction. They don’t know the way, they protest. That’s fine, he assures them, and gives them directions to a cottage. The man inside will be able to help them further. In thanks, Snow White gives the man a small bottle of brandy to warm himself on the cold road ahead.
Snow White and Charming find the cabin with no trouble, and who does the man in the cabin happen to be but The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. He seems to know of their plight, and offers a very dangerous but sure way to make sure their child does not fulfil an evil destiny. He can take the capacity for darkness out of the blank slate of a baby, so long as he has another blank slate to put it onto. Charming refuses, because
they won’t put that kind of darkness into another child. But Snow remembers what the peddler said about that dragon’s egg. An egg’s a blank slate, too, right? They confirm with The Apprentice that it will do the trick, so they set out to steal the egg.
They find Maleficent’s lair being guarded by Cruella and Ursula (what a crappy baby shower!), so they knock those two out and enter the lair. They find treasure strewn about the floor, and a beautiful golden egg laying on a nest of rocks.
Charming moves to retrieve the egg, and the nest twitches alive. Not rocks. A dragon, instead. Maleficent goes all fireball on them, but Snow grabs the egg and warns that if she toasts them, the egg goes, too. Maleficent stops and transforms back into a human, begging Snow and Charming to return her baby. Snow can’t return the egg, she explains, because she needs it to save her child. Maleficent continues to beg, mother to mother, for Snow’s mercy, but the couple run away without reply.
They turn the egg over to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who performs the spell to cast the darkness out of Snow’s baby and into the egg. Oh, and in addition to transferring the darkness, he’s also going to banish it to another realm where the darkness can’t hurt anyone like it can in the Enchanted Forest. Snow and Charming are frantic—they told Maleficent they’d bring the egg back! But it’s too late, and the spell can’t be undone. As the panic continues and the spell strengthens, Cruella and Ursula rush the scene, trying to get the egg back, but they’re sucked into the portal along with the egg, just before it closes.
But Snow White and Charming’s baby is safe, The Apprentice reassures them, and her darkness will be banished as long as Snow and Charming raise her in the light to be a good-hearted person.
Upon hearing their tale, Emma is stunned and heartbroken. Her Superpower has been right all along—her parents have been lying and keeping this from her. She’s appalled at her parents’ deception, and runs off to process things.
In Regina’s vault, Cruella and Maleficent stand over her unconscious body, sneering at being deceived. Gold, though, isn’t fussed. He’s got something that she’ll do anything to keep safe. She’s safely unconscious now. He turns to search another area of the vault and Maleficent follows him.
She made Regina produce a page, and therefore she wants the answer she’s asked for. Gold admits that, even though the page was a forgery, Maleficent did fulfil her part of the bargain. But he’s hesitant to fulfil his. Once she sees what he has to show her, there’s no going back.
But Maleficent is desperate. She wants to know the fate of her baby. She doesn’t know if it was a boy or a girl or if it even survived being banished here. Gold, hearing the familiar pain of a parent who has lost their child, relents and shows her a scene: A tiny, dark-haired baby, squalling and wriggling in a man’s arm. A woman in a business suit smiles warmly, assuring him that the adoption has gone through and the baby is now his daughter. The man smiles as the baby continues to cry with healthy, powerful lungs. He’ll name her Lilith, he says. He and her mother are going to call her Lily.
LILY. EMMA’S BEST FRIEND FROM THAT VIDEO TAPE. THAT’S MALIFICENT’S DAUGHTER.
Emma is staring at the picture and the key as she sits on a bench at the harbor. Killian finds her, sympathizing with her struggle. He assures her that her parents meant well, and tells her that August has improved and is now awake. She goes to see him at the convent, explaining that they’ve found the key and they have the illustration. She wants to free The Author, because she has some questions about her own story that she wants answered, but August stops her. He’ll only be able to help her if he wrote her story.
See, The Author isn’t a person. It’s a job title. There have been dozens of authors over the years, across the realms, recording the best stories that ever happened. But the most recent Author (named Walt) didn’t do a very good job. Instead of recording the stories, he started to alter them. And so the Sorcerer’s Apprentice trapped him in the book where he could do no more harm.
Emma, though, wants her answers, and even if The Author isn’t a good guy he’s still her best chance. She uses the key to open the door, and in a puff of magic, The Author is revealed.
Upon seeing him, it seems very plausible that he is, indeed, The Author that Emma is seeking. He altered Snow White and Charming’s story, sending them to meet The Apprentice, instructing that he tell them of the spell to ensure their child’s good heart. He planted the seed for where they could find another blank slate to take their baby’s darkness, too.
THE AUTHOR IS THE PEDDLER. HE STILL HAS THE BRANDY THAT SNOW WHITE GAVE HIM THAT DAY ON THE ROAD.
BOMB NUMBER TWO HAS REACHED ITS TARGET. MY HEAD ASPLODE. (This is a Homestar Runner reference and usually I try to not mishmash my pop culture but it works way too well here to avoid.)
And The Author is still the jackass that he was when he was trapped in the book. Mary Margaret and David stumble to recognize him, and are still reeling with recognition when Emma says that she has some questions for him.
“I’ll bet you do,” he replies. With a cheeky grin, he pulls the curtains off the window onto the heroes and takes off running. Emma struggles out of the fabric and chases after him, somehow winding up in the middle of town before she realizes where she is.
Okay, I’m going on record as saying that I absolutely love this season, and the plot twists are as fun and intriguing as I am accustomed to with this show, and I am totally going to crack in half because I have to wait two weeks for the next episode.
See you then!