Well, wasn’t this an interesting episode? We find out how Hook’s quest to kill Rumpelstiltskin got him involved with Cora in the first place. It turns out that when Regina pushed Cora through the mirror portal, she wound up in Wonderland. (Oh, I get it. Through the Looking Glass. That’s clever!) But Regina knows that her curse will undoubtedly suck up Cora anyway, so she enlists Hook to travel into Wonderland himself in order to kill Cora once and for all. Which brings me to my main grievance with Evil Queen Regina in this episode. You claim you know all about who Hook is, and yet you give him the one-time opportunity to remove someone’s heart? You even have the gall to remind him he’s seen it done before?! Lady, what is your problem? You of all people should appreciate how that’s undoubtedly a touchy subject with him. ANYWAY, upon entering Wonderland, we see Cora has done a great job of intergrading herself in that world, even becoming the iconic Queen of Hearts (how fitting). But because Cora had hidden away her own heart in an undisclosed location (you can do that?), Hook is unable to remove it from her. Cora convinces Hook to join forces with her instead, and she creates a magical barrier that shields a portion of the Enchanted Forest from Regina’s curse. Which explains how Phillip, Aurora, Mulan, and the people who once lived at the refugee camp remained behind.
That was a really clever move Mary Margret/Snow used to get out of Rumpelstiltskin’s cage. But it did remind me of something.
Yeah, Rumpelstiltskin could have used the squid ink to get out of that cell whenever he wanted. I suppose it’s not too surprising, considering who we’re talking about here. And I understand he wanted to be taken up in the curse, which would explain why he stuck around. But that means he left that scroll behind, knowing that Emma would one day be in that predicament and would need the squid ink to escape. Well, if he’s that omnipotent, he must know that they would succeed in getting out and eventually stop Cora from taking the portal to Storybrooke. Which just begs the question of why he’s trying to close the wishing well portal. What does he have to gain from keeping Emma and her mother from returning? Especially since he ends up needing Emma’s help in a few more episodes.
So, let’s talk about the best scene in this episode- the fight at Lake Nostros. First of all, so much for your vow that you were done with Emma, Hook. Let’s think about this for a minute. On the one hand, we have Emma. Someone who, prior to this moment, has only used a sword once when she was fighting Cora’s army of heartless zombies (I’m not counting the fight with Dragon Maleficent, since Emma pretty much rejected using the sword until she threw it at the dragon), and it’s certainly her first time in an actual duel. On the other hand, we have Hook- a professional pirate with 300+ years of experience under his belt. I think it’s safe to say he’s not just a sword master, but a grandmaster. I’m fairly certain, unless a future flashback proves otherwise, the only time he hasn’t won a duel was when he went up against Dark One Rumpelstiltskin, and that probably shouldn’t even count because Rumple kept cheating by teleporting himself out of the way. Criminy, this is the same man who we’ll see in a future episode taking on a dozen of Evil Queen Regina’s soldiers by himself and coming away without a scratch. So yeah, Hook was either letting Emma win or at least going super-easy on her. While I’m no expert, there were plenty of opportunities where he could have killed her had he wanted to. Instead, he chose to not only take a quick time-out to prevent Aurora’s heart from falling into the whirlpool (while using Emma’s leg as an anchor to keep himself from falling into the whirlpool as well; even when those two are on opposing sides, they still manage to make a great team), but also be all smug and throw out a blatant double entendre at Emma. Even the part when Emma appears to knock him out. We find out in a later episode that he witnessed the moment when Cora tried to remove Emma’s heart. How could he have seen that when he was supposed to be lying unconscious? Try and explain that one, you big faker!
Speaking of the scene when it’s revealed Emma’s heart cannot be taken, that was the moment when they decided that they were done being subtle with Emma having powerful magical abilities and just hit us over the head. Remember the electrical wires that sparked when Emma first arrived in Storybrooke? Or how Jefferson’s magic hat didn’t activate until Emma touched Regina’s shoulder in ‘Broken?’ The fact that those little hints kept popping up keeps me from labeling it as a Deus ex Machina moment. It was also nice to see that little conversation between Emma and Gold/Rumpelstiltskin at the end, when Emma was thinking that she was nothing more than a pawn in all of this, prompting Gold to inform her that he simply took who she was into consideration when he was planning everything out. That scene just reminded me of a quote I came across once. Something about how we’re only destined to do the things we would have done anyway. I’m not quite sure who said that originally, but I rather like that quote. And it’s so fitting for this scene.
This episode was a really good character development moment for Regina. Throughout this season, she has been trying to prove to Henry that she can be a better person, and a much better mother to him. Here, she faces her first real hurtle in her transformation. With David/Charming still under the sleeping curse, they have no way of knowing if Mary Margret/Snow got their message about the squid ink in Rumpelstiltskin’s old cell. As a result, Regina is left unsure if Emma and Mary Margret/Snow can defeat Cora and make it back to Storybrooke. She knows it’s entirely possible that they could fail and Cora could come through the portal into town, which is something she doesn’t want to happen, and for good reason. This leads to the episode’s moral dilemma- She could either do nothing in the hopes that Emma and Mary Margret/Snow will succeed in defeating Cora or she could take no chances and simply force the portal back to Storybrooke to close permanently. The second option would undoubtedly kill whoever was traveling through it at the time, meaning it is entirely possible that Regina would kill Emma and Snow by closing the portal. It doesn’t help matters when Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin starts going all Grima Wormtounge on her by pointing out that if Emma doesn’t make it back, then she will go back to being Henry’s sole mother. Because of his manipulation, they very nearly force the wishing well portal to close. (Was Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin using the same wand he’d taken from the Fairy Godmother in ‘The Price of Gold’ in this scene?) Thankfully, Henry manages to convince Regina to do the right thing in the end, and it all pays off. But seriously, there was no reason why they couldn’t have invited her to go with them to Granny’s. I think I’ve made it clear how I felt about this character throughout season one, and how I nearly raged at the screen whenever she popped up to muck things up again whenever the protagonists were enjoying a small victory. But here? That was kind of insensitive of everyone to just go skipping off together while leaving Regina in the lurch. For the first time since the show began, you actually feel bad for her. And that’s something.