Oh, hi, Prince Phillip and Aurora! Welcome to our ever-growing all-star cast! Same goes for you, too, Mulan. Although, where exactly have you left Mushu and Crik-ee? Or do they only exist in the animated Disney version of your story?
So, everyone’s memories have been restored, but for some reason, no one is returning to the Enchanted Forest (and Henry was released from the hospital incredibly fast). However, Emma and her newfound parents have to focus on a more pressing dilemma. Namely trying to ensure the people of Storybrooke don’t form an angry mob seeking Regina’s blood. For everyone’s protection, Emma and the Charmings place Regina into a cell at the sheriff’s station. Meanwhile, Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold is left fuming at the knowledge that Belle has been alive in Storybrooke all this time and Regina had intentionally kept it from him. Even though he promises Belle he won’t give in to his anger and kill her in retaliation, he conjures up a wrath and marks Regina to be its victim. As this show explains, a wrath is a shadowy entity that removes the souls of whoever has been marked with a particular amulet. Kind of like a subspecies of the Dementors from the Harry Potter franchise. And good gravy, the wrath is beyond creepy! Give the people responsible for designing that thing standing ovations! (The first time I caught a glimpse of the wraith in the episode’s title card, I was all ‘Whoa! What’s that?!’)
Anyway, Emma, Snow White and Prince Charming arrive just in time to drive the wrath away, but Regina knows it will return. They decide to use Jefferson/the Mad Hatter’s hat to send the wrath to the Enchanted Forest, which they believe no longer exists. Thus, they believe that the wrath will be sent into oblivion. (And why was Regina acting like she didn’t know who Jefferson was when Emma mentioned his name? Particularly since Regina did indeed call him by that name frequently.) However, while they do succeed in banishing the wrath, Emma and Snow White are pulled through the portal as well, leaving a distraught Charming to console Henry, and start to fulfill the role of his grandfather at last.
The subplot with Phillip, Aurora and Mulan might seem a bit strange and possibly out-of-place, although it did have a sad ending with Phillip falling prey to the wrath. However, there were multiple points to this subplot. Not only does it give us a chance to get accustomed to the wrath, but it also gives us a chance to learn some important facts. First, Regina was wrong when she said the Enchanted Forest was gone- it’s still there. And there are plenty of people who are still living there; they were never pulled into Storybrooke by Regina’s curse. However, the people who were spared from Regina’s curse and remained in the Enchanted Forest were in a state of suspended animation, until time started up 28 years later (in other words, the moment Emma decided to stay in Storybrooke). This subplot is also notable for being the first time an Enchanted Forest subplot is not a flashback. Instead, it’s occurring at roughly the same time as the events in Storybrooke. This is confirmed when Mulan finds an unconscious Emma and Snow White shortly after Phillip’s apparent death and realizes that they are the ones who had brought the wrath there.
Throughout this episode, Emma is finding herself in the difficult position of trying to take everything in. While she finally does believe, she hasn’t had much of a chance to let it all sink in, seeing as she was focused on saving Henry’s life throughout all of the last episode. And it is a lot for everyone to take in, let alone someone like Emma. Not only does she have to properly deal with the fact that fairy tales are real, her parents are Snow White and Prince Charming. And they’re the exact same age as her. Plus, there’s that little detail of the roommate she had been developing a friendship with was actually her mother this whole entire time. This is crazy stuff, people. It doesn’t exactly help that all Snow White seems to want to do at this point is make up for lost time and have mother-daughter bonding time. So much so, she ignores Charming’s warning to not push it. You do gotta get a little laugh at Charming’s reaction to hearing how Snow had a fling with Dr. Whale when the curse was still in full-effect, and Snow pretty much being ‘shush, dear; I’m talking to our long-lost daughter right now’. Although, you better not make this a whole pot-meets-kettle thing, Charming. As I recall, there was a moment when Kathryn/Princess Abigail thought she might be pregnant. Don’t pretend that didn’t happen. Somehow, I doubt she was thinking that possible pregnancy was caused by Immaculate Conception or something along those lines.
Also in this episode, we get our two main villains, Regina and Rumpelstiltskin, beginning to face the knowledge that they cannot continue on acting the way they have been. With Regina, Henry catches her in the act of attacking Charming right after Snow White and Emma have been pulled though the portal after the wrath. He informs her that he doesn’t want to see her again unless she helps bring Emma and Snow/Mary Margret back from wherever the portal sent them. As for Rumpelstiltskin, Belle overhears him talking about sending the wrath after Regina and is rightfully furious for his deliberate lie, storming out and ignoring his apologies. While she does come back after blowing off some steam, you’re left wondering how many chances Belle will give him.
More foreshadowing for the win! Jefferson’s magic hat doesn’t activate until after Emma crouches down and touches Regina’s shoulder. You can’t help but love the little touches they throw in there. The ones that you can easily miss if you don’t know what to watch for.
Of course, this episode isn’t without its mysteries. We do learn that Dr. Whale isn’t from the Enchanted Forest, and that no one recognizes him, even with their memories restored. But he does not reveal who he is. At least, not yet. And then, there’s the currently unnamed man we saw in the opening scene, which is set in New York. A man who seemingly knows about the existence of Storybrooke. (And all first-time watchers of this show are left asking ‘and you are….?’ At least, that was my reaction on my first viewing of this episode.)