Hook: “Swan? The hell are you doing? You’re depriving me of a dashing rescue!”
Emma: “Sorry, the only one that saves me is me.”
To say I was anticipating this episode is a gross understatement. If the mid-season finale came off as bittersweet, this one is the happily ever after we were searching for. It’s Back to the Future meets Once Upon A Time (complete with Marty McFly reference), as Emma and Hook get sucked into Zelena’s time portal and have to figure out how to get back without setting off dire consequences in the timeline, and Emma has to figure out what exactly “home” is. Spoiler alert: only one of these 2 goals is accomplished. That ending! But first, remember the very sweet and fresh story of how Snow White and Prince Charming met in the first season? Well unfortunately, some of those details are about to get rearranged in a giant Captain Swan fan-service episode. Payoff is a lovely thing.
In case you have not watched the show ever, Emma has been an orphan and running away pretty much her whole life. And we flash back to a home in Boston 18 years ago, where a young girl gets adopted by her new parents and receives an ABC-required Disney reference Mickey Mouse stuffed animal. Is this young Emma’s first home? No, it’s a different girl, and young Emma, although still young is almost a teenager and still living there, much older than the other kids, and still wanting to find a home.
In Snow’s apartment, Emma is wondering what her little brother’s name is, while Charming and Snow declare that in the Enchanted Forest, they wouldn’t reveal the name of the baby until a coronation ceremony. But since they’re in Storybrooke, they’re going to do something low-key, a potluck at Granny’s where they will make a big deal out of revealing their baby’s name. Way to dial it down I guess? Henry busts in with a newspaper with several apartments circled and Emma dodges him by pointing out that her own parents are trying to dodge their new baby’s name.
Meanwhile Regina and Robin Hood are having a most-romantic evening at home, bonding over their lost loves Daniel and Marion. Regina finally admits to him that Tinkerbell had pointed out to her that he was her soulmate, but she got afraid and never met him. He replies, “Maybe it’s all about timing.” Oh, it certainly is my dear prince of thieves.
Rumple is still cleaning up his mess of killing (removing?) Zelena and hides his real dagger in a box, upon which he lays some spell, which he then puts inside another cabinet. Paranoid, much? Belle runs in, telling him that she can’t hold onto the (fake) dagger because it’s too much power. He tells her he’s a changed man now (liar!) and then just casually drops the dagger back in her purse. Because there will be no more bad guys who will try to get his dagger? C’mon Belle!
The “low-key” coronation ceremony is underway at Granny’s, with the Charming family recounting how Snow and David first met (to refresh the audience). It’s a story that’s new to Hook, who wonders why David would choose not to get married to Kathryn, the daughter of Midas, the man who can turn everything into gold. And Kathryn is actually there at the diner! Where have you been the past 2 years? Snow starts talking about how she hid in a farmhouse with Ruby – who is there as well! Cameos galore! Snow mentions how she wanted to run away from everything, and Hook passive-aggressively remarks, “Like mother, like daughter.” And then the cat’s out of the bag that Emma intends to return to NYC. Regina is especially displeased at this news, and Emma runs off. Hook tells them he’ll talk to her and Henry gives him the book, and Charming gives him the nod of approval. Approved by both her dad and son! Doesn’t get more official than that.
Then Henry spies a gigantic beam of light in the distance, which Rumple states is Zelena’s time portal. But that’s impossible so they all head to Zelena’s jail cell, where she is missing. Everyone turns on Gold and he vehemently denies any involvement (this web of lies is going to be hard to maintain). So David then pops in the surveillance footage (which is betamax!!), which allows Gold to adjust the footage so that it looks like Zelena is the one who turned herself into a giant porcelain doll and shattered herself, releasing the magic from her pendant. Rumple advises all of them to stay away from it since any actions could have dire consequences. This is a theme we’ll be hearing a lot.
Obvious jump cut to Emma sitting on a park bench, ignoring David’s call to stay away from the giant portal. Hook comes up to her with the book, asking what she is possibly looking for. She flips through the pages, telling him she’s not part of that life and that home is a place that you miss when you leave. Then they are interrupted for the upteenth time this season when Emma spies the portal and immediately charges towards it. Hook tries to stop her since she doesn’t have her bag of magic with her, but it’s too late. The portal is too strong and sucks them towards it. Emma gets pulled in first and is unable to hold onto Hook, and Hook after getting separated from Emma again jumps after her.
“One of these days I’m going to stop chasing this woman.” – Hook
And voila! Our heroes get dumped back in the Enchanted Forest. Emma finds a wanted poster of Snow and realizes that because she was thinking of the story of when her parents met, they arrived at that time. And they are just in time to witness Regina in full Evil Queen mode, terrorizing a village (with Gepetto and Granny!) and selecting a poor young woman to execute for hiding the location of Snow White. Emma makes to intervene but Hook stops her, telling her not to interfere in any manner with the past. Oh but that would be a short episode, wouldn’t it?
Hook makes Emma change into something more wench-like appropriate for their locale, telling her that a red leather jacket would never be in style. Oh and his black one is? Double-standard! Emma fiddles with her corset, which Hook appreciates, and then they accidentally prevent the meeting of Snow White and Charming, when Snow originally waylaid his carriage and stole his mother’s ring. But Emma and her childlike fascination in watching her parents meet for the first time snapped a branch and interrupted Snow’s concentration. Oops.
Emma starts to panic, understandably, going off on a rant about Marty McFly to Hook, who thinks she’s talking about a wizard. And of course, Emma realizes, they need a wizard – Rumplestiltskin. Yes, Emma finally gets to meet him in his crocodile incarnation, who very much remembers that Hook is the man who stole his wife. But Emma convinces him they’re from the future when she starts talking about Baelfire. So he agrees to help them get back on track, or else he might never see his son again. He tells them he’ll soon acquire a fairy wand to open the portal for them, and shows them where Snow White is, trying to secure passage on Blackbeard’s ship. Of all the cameos to include, I guess we can throw in an unforgettable pirate. Hook then gets the idea to seek out help from another pirate – Captain Hook circa 30 years ago.
So they come up with a plan for Emma to distract Past!Hook, so she readies her sexy parts, which Hook does not like, telling her he was a different man back then. She brushes him off, saying they both know she’s his type, and goes on to flirt/drink Past!Hook under the table. So yes all you kinky peeps who wanted a pirate one-night stand fantasy between them, you get your wish! (I have to believe a small part of Emma enjoyed it) Present!Hook, meanwhile, sneaks onto his ship, where he stops Smee from killing a rat (love that continuity). But Smee wonders what’s with his new vest and Hook tells him to just bring Snow White onto his ship, where he tells her he’ll arrange passage as long as she steals something for him – the wedding ring David was carrying. Emma and Past!Hook head back to his ship for a “nightcap” and Smee is wondering why Hook keeps changing his vest. Emma and drunk Past!Hook start making out in front of other Hook, who gets so jealous of his past self he punches him out. Is Hook going to remember Emma when he meets her before the beanstalk or is she going to be just another tavern wench in his memories?
So the plan is in motion for Snow to break into Midas’ castle, but Emma doesn’t like just waiting around. Rumple poofs in front of them and agrees, transforming them into ball-appropriate attire (with glamour spells to boot so no one will recognize them). And required Disney reference #2, Emma’s alias is Princess Leia. And finally, after Emma’s disdain for all the royal ball stories that her parents talked to her about, she gets into the princess spirit as Hook teaches her how to dance at her very first royal ball. So yes, Emma and Hook in prince/princess attire dancing at a royal ball is now canon! *Swoon*
“It’s called a waltz. There’s only one rule… pick a partner who knows what he’s doing.” – Hook
Snow breaks in and manages to steal the ring, but David comes into the room at the exact same time, trying to fetch his annoyed fiance Kathryn some more comfortable shoes. We get a meeting redux between them, with the same dialogue as before, before Snow jumps out the window. Regina crashes the party downstairs, and Emma and Hook make sure that the theft goes off as planned. Unfortunately Snow dropped the ring, and Emma knocks down one of Regina’s guards before he’s able to shoot Snow. Hook tells her to get to Snow while he takes care of the guards, but Emma is caught for helping Snow escape and gets taken to Regina’s castle.
Our second flashback of the night features dearly departed Neal, teaching Emma how to pick a lock on the day they first met, and getting them into an amusement park. She asks him what his story is, and he tells her he had a good family life once, and that it was home. Cut to Emma in her jail cell – where they dressed her back in shabby clothes? – and she meets the woman she had intended to rescue earlier from Regina. The woman won’t reveal her name because it’s the only thing keeping her safe, but she talks about family and how hers is probably long gone. And this makes Emma more sympathetic and she decides to ignore Hook’s advice and picks the locks, freeing both of them.
Snow and Charming are having another parallel meetup where she gets caught in his net (literally), and Hook interrupts them, telling David she doesn’t have the ring. His ‘princess‘ does, and they need to go rescue her from the Evil Queen. Snow says she can help, and David cuts her free again. Hook and David have another epic bromance conversation where Hook admits he’ll go to the ends of the world (or time) for Emma, but he doesn’t know if she feels the same way, or even if her parents approve. David says with everything he’s done, how can they not approve? Hook got Daddy’s approval in the past and present. He’s good as gold. Snow enlists Ruby’s help to take down one measly guard, and as Hook charges to save Emma, she’s already escaped, with her new jailmate companion. Hook is not pleased, but they don’t have much time to argue as they find Snow has failed in confronting Regina, who’s about to burn Snow alive at the stake. Everyone is too late to stop her, and Emma watches horrified as her mother dies and all Hook can do is hold her.
Hook tells her about when his brother Liam died, and how all they can do is just live in the now, but then Emma realizes that she’s still there and hasn’t faded out of existence yet so Snow must be alive. They are interrupted by an annoying flying bug, and just when they’re about to squash it, David stops them, saying Snow must have used the black fairy dust on herself. Then Blue appears (where were you against the Zelena, huh??), knows Emma isn’t who she says she is, and then transforms Snow back into a person. Emma is so relieved she bear-hugs Snow, who only looks at her with a stranger’s eyes. Emma despairs at this but Hook reassures her that they’re back on track.
Then they talk about the woman Emma saved, with Hook telling her this woman could have some murderous offspring or accidentally ride down one of the dwarves. So Emma tells him the only logical choice is to take her back with them. They try to convince the woman they’re time travelers but since there’s no Tardis the woman is doubtful, so Emma clubs her over the head with a log. Good form, Swan. Then Snow makes off with the ring again, and finally Snow and Charming’s love story is back on track, with cuts between the first season edited between the current episode. Surprisingly it’s not as jarring as you would think. Hook thinks they’ve failed when Snow and Charming start to walk in opposite directions, but Emma reassure him that they took a long time to find each other.
“I guess that runs in the family.” – Hook
So Hook and Emma are ready to head back but Rumple tells them he can’t send them back even with his newly acquired wand because he didn’t open the portal, so they’re kind of screwed. Rumple is ready to drink a memory potion so he won’t remember them and Hook thinks he’s going to kill them, but instead Rumple sends them to his super secret locked room with the darkest of magical items. Hook starts exploring the room and taking out ominous objects like a giant sealed urn, and then they get into an argument about Emma’s magic and how it should have returned once Zelena’s magic was unleashed. He tells her that it’s just easier for her to head back to NYC if she doesn’t have any magic but she tells him she’s run away her whole life. But after seeing the way her parents look at her now, with no memories of who she is, she realizes how much she misses them. And Savior!Emma returns! She opens the portal and Hook and their kidnapped rescued passenger jump through, but Rumple stops Emma at the last second, wanting to know what happens to his son. She tells him the truth, Bae dies a hero but that she loved him and wanted to save him but his death shouldn’t be in vain. He lets her go and they arrive back in Storybrooke.
Emma tells Hook to take care of their guest and runs back to the diner to hug her family and tell them that she’s not running away. Storybrooke is home. Finally Snow and Charming announce to everyone that their son will be named after a hero who saved them all – Neal. I kept guessing throughout the episode what his name was going to be and never did I think it was going to be Neal, so good one, show, for keeping that a twist. Then Emma realizes she misses Hook and goes outside to find him. They talk about how everything seems to have gone back to normal, even though Emma is in the book now. Not just Emma, but Hook and Emma dancing is an actual page in the book! And Hook admits that he doesn’t remember kissing her – it must have been the rum. Finally Swan asks what all us shippers knew the answer would be, how Hook was able to find her. He told her he outran the curse with his ship, and only needed a magic bean to find her. All he had to pay for it was the Jolly Roger. He gave up his ship, his life for the past 300 years just to get back to her. (I totally called it in 3×11!) Emma, I think you can trust him, so kiss him already!! And then finally Emma does kiss him. Not a giant true-love-break-the-curse type kiss which I was expecting, but a long, gentle been-in-love-the-whole-time kiss. (Which they totally were that whole time adventure). And we don’t get the same recycled Hook/Emma theme; we get something rather new and lovely. I love you, delayed gratification. And then just as I was getting pissed they were panning away to frame in the Storybrooke sign, we get one final montage.
Emma: “And what was that?”
Hook: “The Jolly Roger of course.”
Emma: “You traded your ship for me?”
Rumple and Belle get married secretly, with Archie officiating, and as they state their vows, the cuts could not be more obvious. Belle’s sweet and pure love speech cuts to Snow and Charming and their baby, while Rumple’s speech of once feeling unloved with walls up cuts to Emma and Hook still making out (kindred spirits!). Then Regina and Robin walk down the street with Roland back to the diner, and all seems well until the mysterious woman sees Regina. Emma tells her Regina is different now, and then goes to warn Regina, and at this point I have no idea who this woman is. But it’s Maid Marian, Robin Hood’s wife. So Emma just ruined Regina’s happiness again like Snow did. Regina looks pissed and tells Emma she doesn’t think about the consequences. Yes, Emma should not have saved that woman, but to be fair, Regina was the one who sentenced her to die in the first place so… pot, meet kettle. Moral of the story: don’t ever save anyone’s life if you travel back in time. Oh Robin Hood, your message about timing could not have been more appropriate.
Regina says she hopes they didn’t bring anything else back with them. Guess what? Hook messed up too! That big urn he was playing with in Rumple’s dark room? Contains Elsa from Frozen? Seriously? Have we run through so many Disney fairy tales we need to jump into last year’s movies now? And it’s another powerful sorceress. And Regina’s happiness is taken away again. This means she and Emma are not going to get along next season. Sigh, after all that progress. The end of the first half of season 3 could have worked as the series finale, and so could this episode. Up until the final 2 minutes. Way too early to speculate, but I just hope we don’t go around in circles. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to rewatch this episode over and over again.