“You officially have a less tainted relationship with my mother than I did… and you killed her.” – Regina
Every now and then, Once likes to remind us that it’s a family-friendly show by inserting a whole bunch of sexual references instead of stating it outright, and somehow that comes off a lot dirtier. The story of Zelena’s birth is revealed, and it is an unsurprisingly simple barhopping story of: boy meets girl, boy wants to sleep with girl so pretends he’s a prince, gets girl pregnant and then wants to blackmail her. Oldest trick in the book; no true love here. Also, the family tree becomes even more disturbing. But Regina and Snow finally address the giant elephant in the room of Cora’s death, somewhat glossed over last season after the duo who shall not be named joined the plot. But at least one of the ships this season moves forward, while the other is stuck in limbo.
Regina is taking her time getting ready and looking beautiful, because just because your villainous half-sister is out to get you doesn’t mean you can’t look good. Speaking of the devil, Zelena shows up and we get some half-hearted sibling jealousy talk before she reveals that she’s just a distraction so Rumple can steal Regina’s heart. Her heart, as you recall, has been hidden by Robin Hood, who has absolutely no chance against the Dark One. Rumple deflects Robin’s arrow to his son Roland and apologizes but says he’ll still kill him if he has to, and Robin gives up the heart immediately. Regina arrives too late but forgives him when she realizes his son was in danger.
So then Regina goes on a rampage through Gold’s shop, explaining to Belle that Zelena has her heart but she at least has it protected against her being controlled. Belle refuses to help Regina, which I got annoyed at since there’s a Wicked Witch in town, but then Belle brings up the important fact that Regina locked her in a tower and then threw her in an asylum for almost 30 years. Oh yeah, totally forgot. At least someone remembers Regina was evil! But Regina tells Belle she’s sorry for what she’s done in the past and that she is her best chance to reunite with Rumple. Regina then gets an idea and retrieves the candle that Snow White used to kill her mother, Cora.
Cora in her younger days was a barmaid, and caught the eye of a handsome man who inadvertently reveals that he is royalty – Prince Jonathan. He’s been keeping an eye on Cora but wanted her to love him without knowing who he really is. Then he gets down on one knee, pulls a piece of straw from the floor and tells her in 2 weeks’ time he will meet her and turn that straw into a golden wedding band. She says yes, and then says since they are technically married, she will keep him “company” for the night. Oh poor naive girl. She goes to meet Jonathan at the bridge, but he doesn’t show up. She tracks him down in the royal gardens, where it’s revealed he’s not a prince at all – just the gardener. She tells him she’s pregnant and wants money to raise the child, but he refuses and she cries out for help. He flees but then Prince Leopold, i.e. Snow’s father, comes to her aid.
Cora and Leopold bond in the way only fairy tale characters would, falling in love within one day after she shows him how to build a fire. He tells her he is supposed to marry Princess Eva (eventually Snow’s mother), someone he has never met. Cora points out the irony of having power but yet not being able to choose who you can wed. (Game of Thrones says, I know what you mean).
Flash forward and Cora and Leopold are engaged. But Jonathan comes back and taunts Cora, asking if she said ‘yes‘ to Leopold the way she said ‘yes‘ to him that night… multiple times. (Even my keyboard is blushing right now). He threatens to tell Leopold unless Cora provides him with money, and all seems well until it’s revealed that Eva has been listening to the whole conversation.
At Regina’s house, Hook is impervious to Emma’s attempts at humor while Snow and David talk about what to name their baby. She argues for Leopold if only to remind the audience what her father’s name is, while it’s obvious they don’t know whether it’s a boy or girl. Uh, your town doctor is freaking Doctor Frankenstein and you don’t remember the past year. Might it not be a good idea to get a sonogram and make sure your child isn’t a flying monkey? Regina comes in with poison tea and reveals that she wants to talk to her dead mother to understand what Zelena wants. Emma asks if it’s so easy to talk to the dead why not do it more often, and Regina reveals that they need both the murder weapon (the two-ended candle she took from Belle) and the murderer (Snow White). Awkward…
They all hold hands in the seance position, and there is a very brief moment between Emma and Hook when she holds his hook, but then the portal opens and Regina tries to reach her mother but nothing comes. The portal suddenly shuts after Hook admits he accidentally bumped the table, and Regina says it wouldn’t have worked anyway; Cora doesn’t want to talk to her. Emma tells Regina that her magic is getting stronger every day, and Regina tells Emma to be ready. When they leave, Hook guides Emma out with his hand but caves in at the last second when she looks at him and lets her go. (Just tell someone the curse already!). Snow stays behind with Regina, because what better time to bond over killing Cora than after failing to summon her back from the dead.
Snow apologizes to Regina who vengefully says she’s also thought about it every day, but then says more softly, “It’s complicated.” After all, Cora did kill Snow’s mother. (Not to mention Joanna and her quest to control Rumplestiltskin to kill everyone in town only last year). They are interrupted by sounds in the house, and much like any horror movie, young Cora shows up with a spinning wheel and goes for Snow, whom Regina protects. But Regina makes the point that she’s not doing it just for Snow, she’s doing it because she deserves the truth from her mother.
Bad CGI Cora still gets to Snow though and jumps inside, where Snow witnesses what happened with Zelena. Leopold catches Cora roaming the dining hall before their wedding and tells her he’s heard the rumor that she is pregnant, but he will still marry her as long as she tells him the truth. She tells him it’s a lie and that there is no baby, but then Eva turns up and tells him to check her pockets for the rendezvous with Jonathan. He finds jewels and then casts her aside, walking away with Eva, who tells him that he deserves someone who will give him a child as “white as snow.” Afterwards Cora gives birth to Zelena and puts her in a basket to give her “her best chance”, where she is whisked immediately away by a tornado. Did Cora summon the tornado or was this just a really (un)fortunate turn of events? Also, Leopold wound up marrying the daughter of the woman he almost married!
At the diner Emma is focusing her magical powers and moves her cup of cocoa from the counter to in front of Hook. And not just any cocoa, but her special cinnamon-topped cocoa. Hook doesn’t seem enthused so Emma moves Hook’s hook to the lights and starts giggling. Happy Emma! That’s a rare sight! Think of all the additional sexual banter they could have thrown in if Hook wasn’t cursed. (“Is there another appendage your prefer?”) Hook just sighs though and tells her it’s bad form to mess with a man’s hook, and Emma wants to know what’s going on with him. He gets broody and tells her it’s a long story and takes a swig of rum so then she gets serious and starts to talk but then bloody Belle bursts in at the most inopportune time saying she’s discovered what Zelena is up to. She wants to turn back time.
Zelena holds Regina’s battered but resilient heart and puts it along with all the other enchanted items in her trunk, including Charming’s courage. She picks out a suit for Rumple but he says she doesn’t have everything she needs. She tells him the baby will come soon enough and they have to be ready. She prepares a dinner for them and tells him that her big secret will reunite Rumple with Baelfire. She will change the past; she will use the baby to reclaim the life that she deserves, and Rumple can go with her to a place where Bae is alive. He tells her this is impossible and against the fundamental laws of magic, but she has found a way. He goes along with this (I’m 99.99999% sure that Bae/Neal is permanently dead and if they bring him back again that’s bad form). Then he apologizes and admits that he’s wronged her, and makes up for it by starting to seduce her. Zelena starts moaning way too loudly and just as he is about to retrieve his dagger from her ankle, she catches on. He tells her that Baelfire gave his life to stop Zelena, and he’ll do right by that by being the one to kill her. She sends him back to his cell, but she is clearly affected by what just happened.
Charming, Emma, Hook and Belle arrive back at Regina’s just after Cora leaves Snow’s body, and Belle says Zelena wants to go back in time. Snow awakens and says Zelena’s goal is to kill Princess Eva, who got in the way of Cora’s marriage by revealing a secret, much like Snow did. Snow won’t be born, along with Emma and Henry. Emma says she thought their family were the good guys, although I don’t know if being a mean girl qualifies Eva as being evil. David figures out the baby is the key to Zelena being able to pull off what no one else has, but since the baby isn’t born yet, they still have time.
Afterwards Snow stays with Regina and says their history is more complicated than they thought. She wonders what happened to change Eva. Then Snow says Regina will find her way to happiness, and that even without her heart, she still feels more than most. She feels love all right, but also extreme vengeance enough to enact a curse, so yay feelings? Snow says, “Don’t let anything hold you back.” Cue Regina’s arrival to Robin Hood’s camp, where she totally copies Emma’s patented move of grabbing onto a man’s jacket collar to kiss him. And also, this is pretty fast development because they met what, a few days/weeks ago? They haven’t even gotten drinks yet! But at least someone is making out on this show.
So it appears we have finally buried the hatchet between Regina and Snow, while Zelena is in no way headed towards any sympathetic villain or redemptive path. Hook still hasn’t revealed his secret, which will no doubt backfire next episode, and we have so many people that Zelena has pissed off I’m not sure there’s a clearcut favorite in the one to take her down.