Warning: Spoiler Alert
The last episode before the double-episode season finale. I’m nearly sick to my stomach just thinking about it. THIS SHOW. IT IS DOING THINGS TO MY LIFE.
This week’s installment is entitled simply “Mother,” which would seem like it would give some clue as to what characters we’ll be dealing with, but really everyone in this show has serious mama issues so it really could be any one of them.
Or, well, it’s kind of all of them.
We begin in the Enchanted Forest, sometime after Regina has assumed the throne after killing her husband. She’s tearing around the countryside with her father in a carriage when she stops and sees a gathering of peasants beside the road. She halts her envoy and gets out to greet them. They all look so happy! It’s because they’re having a wedding! Everyone is so very happy indeed!
Except for Regina. The peasants are trespassing on royal lands, and she’s not having it. And, because she’s The Evil Queen, she rips out the groom’s heart to prove she means business. Her father tries to reason with her, reminding her that she’s only feeling sensitive because it’s a certain day. Dude, you had a wife and you have a daughter, how the hell do you not know that you *never* blame a woman’s mood or actions on a particular day? Regina, insulted by her father’s patronizing and condescending words, crushes the groom’s heart in anger. She then leaves him to walk home as she tears off in the other direction.
Of course, it is a certain terrible day for Regina. It’s the anniversary of her beloved Daniel’s death, suffered at the hands of her mother, Cora. So when Regina visits Daniel’s grave and finds Cora waiting there for her, she’s less than pleased.
Okay, but hold that thought, because this launches into a plot grinding episode early. In present-day New York, Regina and Robin have a very up-front and heart-wrenching conversation about their current predicament. Robin is completely thrown, and Regina is twice as bad. She’s having more trouble accepting that Robin was moving on with Marian than she realized. They’re both outraged that Zelena used Robin and Roland as pawns to hurt Regina. Robin, for all that he’s suffered, still has feelings for Regina that he doesn’t want to ignore. Regina isn’t ready to dive headfirst into a man who’s about to have a baby with her sister, The Wicked Witch of the West. Hard to blame her.
They decide their best course of action is to get back to Storybrooke, where they can lock up Zelena and reunite Lily and Maleficent. They return to the apartment to pack as much as they can and get back as soon as possible. Zelena is an obnoxious, mocking bitchface the whole time.
Back in Storybrooke, Gold and The Author are apparently just walking around like nobody would dare mess with them. They appear to be right. The two are in Granny’s having what appears to be a late breakfast when Killian enters and saunters over to their table. Gold looks less happy to see Killian than he usually is. Killian looks so delighted that he can only be bringing them bad news. And he is! He wants
to report that he’s heard from Emma about their road trip, and he knows that she didn’t turn dark, and now Gold’s whole plan is ruined and Killian is nearly giddy. He takes leave as abruptly as he entered.
The Author immediately begins panicking. They need the darkness in Emma’s blood (since she’s The Savior and therefore the supplier of happy endings) to give the ink the kind of magic it needs to work. Gold, obviously having a very magical heart attack, mumbles some things about loopholes and tries to walk out of the restaurant. He’s too weak, so he magicks himself and The Author away instead.
Meanwhile Emma, Regina and their magic refugees (and one prisoner) arrive in Storybrooke. Emma has an emotional reunion with Killian and Henry, but refuses to give her parents anything but a dirty look. Maleficent is waiting at the edge of the crowd, trying to get a glimpse of Lily. Emma leads Lily (who glares daggers at Mary Margaret and David, since she knows that they’re really Snow White and Charming and responsible for her entire terrible fortune) from the car to her mother. Maleficent, tearful, embraces her. Lily doesn’t look like she knows how to react, but tentatively returns her embrace.
The two have a rather uncomfortable, brief lunch at Granny’s. Lily wants to know about Maleficent’s plans for revenge against Snow and Charming, and is disappointed when Maleficent dismisses revenge as a waste of time. Maleficent tries to explain that she’s just so relieved to be reunited with Lily that she isn’t interested in anything but building a future with her. Lily, angry that her mother is being such a pushover, storms out.
Maleficent is despondent that her daughter isn’t interested in a positive relationship, and so she goes to Mary Margaret and David for help. Which is admittedly weird, since their own daughter isn’t speaking to them about the very reason that Maleficent is struggling with her own daughter, but Maleficent has witnessed how heroic Snow White and Charming were, even after they did that terrible thing to her daughter, and they kind of owe her anyway for doing that terrible thing in the first place. Mary Margaret is, of course, eager to help.
But where could Lily be? And what could they even tell her when they find her?
Maleficent and the Charmings aren’t the only ones looking for Lily. Regina has kidnapped/absconded with The Author from the pawnshop where he and Gold had been looking for dark savior blood alternatives. She arrived on the scene just as Gold was in the midst of another magical heart attack and left him collapsed on the floor, taking the magic quill with her as she left. After The Author explained why they need The Savior’s darkness for the magic ink to work, Regina has an idea. Emma doesn’t need to turn dark, she just needs some of The Savior’s potential for darkness. And Lily is that, in the flesh.
Regina tracks her down at the sad joke of a bus stop, waiting for a ride out of town. She greets Lily, and Lily promptly tells her that she holds Regina as responsible for her damaged fate as she does Snow White and Charming and that she doesn’t want anything to do with her, so she can shove off. Regina knows these bad-girl tirades when she sees them. She’s had enough of them. Unfortunately for Lily, Regina is Queen of Sass in Storybrooke and won’t deal with an immature smartmouth with a chip on her shoulder. Lily warns her off again, but Regina has her exactly where she wants her.
See, with The Savior’s darkness all riled up within Lily, all Regina needs to do is slice her palm with a dagger, smear some blood on the blade, and scrape that blood into the inkwell to complete the magic ink The Author needs for her happy ending. Striking quickly, that’s exactly what she does. Before Lily can react, Regina has summoned The Author, completed the ink, and vanished. Lily’s eyes flash yellow.
Cause, yeah, Lily is Maleficent’s daughter. Which means she’s got that dragon-thing going on as well. She transforms and begins tearing around the forest, presumably trying to figure out how to leave Storybrooke. Mary Margaret, David, and Maleficent catch up with her on the edge of town. There’s a tense confrontation, and Mary Margaret gets thrown head-first into a rock. Satisfied with that bit of havoc, dragon-Lily takes off over the trees but appears to be injured.
Luckily, David had the sense to call Emma and Killian away from the cuddle-and-talk-about-forgiveness-date they were on and in as backup before they confronted the dragon. Emma arrives as David is clumsily trying to attend to Mary Margaret’s head wound. She rushes in and heals her mother. The two go back and forth but Emma eventually admits that she can’t do anything but forgive her parents because she knows they were trying to do the right thing. And also because she loves them so much. There’s a lot of hugging and crying.
Maleficent didn’t stick around to watch the reunion. She figured Lily couldn’t have gotten far, and she was right. She comes upon Lily as she’s transforming back into a person. Lily is aggravated to see her mother—she’s not the badass dragon bitch that she expected her to be, and it’s just another terrible disappointment in her miserable failure of a life. Maleficent refuses to hear her daughter say such negative things. She assures her daughter that she doesn’t mind her dark streak, as she has one of her own, but reminds her that their darkness doesn’t mean that they have to hurt other people. They have a chance at a great future. There is more hugging and crying.
So. Many. Mama. Issues.
Back in town, Regina has taken The Author to pay a visit to her pregnant sister, who’s being kept under magic, lock, and key in Storybrooke’s rather grim psychiatric ward. She really has the chance for her happy ending. She has The Author. The Author has the enchanted quill, and Lily’s blood has done the trick to make the ink enchanted as well. She wants Zelena to witness what she’s gonna do.
And what’s she gonna do, Zelena taunts. She’s carrying Robin’s baby! She’s the mother of his child and he’d never ever forgive Regina if she did something to harm her. Well, Regina explains, that won’t matter, because she’s gonna have The Author rewrite the story and eliminate Zelena entirely. Poof! She’ll be gone and no one will even remember her.
Zelena, more incensed that her sister is getting one over on her than she is at her own demise, continues to taunt Regina, accusing her of acting just like their mother and throwing away whatever was inconveniently in the way of whatever selfish things she wanted.
We were talking about mama issues? These two sisters have the market cornered. And this all reminds Regina of the time that Cora came to visit her at Daniel’s grave, once upon a time.
Cora came back and talked a bunch of reconciliation nonsense with Regina, even going so far as to divulge that she knows of Tinkerbell and Regina’s potential soulmate, the man with the lion tattoo. Regina remains suspicious, but when Cora appears a few days later, magicking Regina into a beautiful pale slate-blue-and-white gown (in which Lana Parrilla looks STUNNING. ABSOLUTELY STUNNING.) and leading a man with a lion tattoo into the room. Regina, not knowing that it’s The Sherriff of Nottingham and not her potential true love, because didn’t see Robin Hood’s face when Tinkerbell tried to show her, is overwhelmed. And beautiful. The two go for a fairytale courtship type walk around the garden. Lana Parilla looks beautiful. The Sherriff begins to reveal what a jackass he is. Regina, beautifully, grabs him by the arm and realizes his tattoo is magic. Panicked, Nottingham spills the truth—Cora hired him to pretend to be her true love because Cora wants Regina to have a baby.
Regina is disgusted, but not surprised. She throws Nottingham in the dungeon, changes back into her (also-dead-sexy) Evil Queen wardrobe, and stews in her chamber. Cora enters and demands to know why Regina looks so unhappy. Regina confronts her mother and accuses her of only wanting Regina to have a child so she could then murder Regina and become Regent to Regina’s child’s throne. Cora denies wanting to assume the throne herself, but she’s also Cora, so she of course admits that she has been trying to manipulate Regina into being happy with her power and positon. Regina is sure this is part of a power-grab, and produces a potion to make her sterile so that her mother will never be able to use her children against her. Cora begs her to reconsider, but Regina drinks it.
Cora, who might be the closest thing to distressed as a narcissistic greedy witch can be over seeing Regina’s painful reaction to the potion, leans down to try to explain to Regina one last time—she wanted Regina to be happy, and she was just a terrible failure at doing so. But Regina, in reacting to whatever she assumed her mother was up to, became her own worst enemy and only hurt herself in the end.
Cora goes back to Wonderland.
And so that’s the kind of mother that Regina and Zelena are dealing with. Zelena might resent being abandoned, but Regina resents being raised by that psychopath. And then Regina has a villainous moment of clarity.
Their mother was a monster, but their worst enemy is truly themselves.
She doesn’t want Zelena to be written out of the picture entirely. She will just believe that she and Robin (who has shown up, for some reason) will be strong enough to handle whatever the future will bring. Her happy ending isn’t about being with Robin or any man. It’s about finding her own place in the world, where she fits in and has relationships with people, including her son and her son’s biological family. And Robin, too.
So there’s Regina’s self-proclaimed happy ending. And she didn’t even need The Author for it. And, The Author notices this, and promptly peaces out with his magic quill and ink, returning to Rumpelstiltskin, who is barely breathing on the floor of the pawn shop.
Gold is stunned to see Isaac, but doesn’t even want the details of how he’s managed to return to him with the necessary tools to write these happy endings. But, Isaac has done so, so Gold bids him to start writing on a book that appears before him on the counter.
The book, similar in dimension to Henry’s storybook, but bound in black leather with silver lettering, is entitled “Heroes and Villains.” The author opens to a blank page, and begins to write, “Once Upon A Time…”
THE END. NOT EVEN KIDDING, THAT’S JUST THE END RIGHT THERE.
So Emma hasn’t turned dark, and has forgiven her parents, and Gold doesn’t even need her to go dark now that the ink has been enchanted by other means. Lily’s plans for revenge have at least temporarily been derailed by a possible bad-ass mama-and-daughter relationship that she never thought she’d have. Regina realizes that she can’t keep letting other people’s mistakes cause her to act badly, and takes responsibility for her own happy ending. Possibly finding out that it wasn’t exactly fate and an Ice Queen that ruined her happiness, but her crazy-ass sister plotting against her the whole time, has emboldened her to take control of her own fate. At any rate, NONE OF THIS ADDRESSES WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO RUMPELSTILTSKIN AND BELLE, AND IF THEY DON’T GET BACK TOGETHER I MIGHT ACTUALLY DIE.