Picking up immediately where the last episode left off, everyone’s goal is to stop Pan from recasting the curse that created Storybrooke. The only way to do so is if Regina destroys the scroll the curse was written on. Knowing the scroll is currently in Pan/Fake Henry’s possession, their only chance of getting it back is to undo the body swap. In order to do so, they need to obtain the Wand of the Black Fairy, which the Blue Fairy has kept in her possession ever since the Black Fairy was exiled, supposedly years ago. Makes sense, but it does raise a few questions. There was a Black Fairy? Who was she? Is she anyone we know from our world’s bedtime stories? What exactly led to her exile? Are they going to expand on that particular story? No? Okay. Anyway, Charming, Hook/Killian, Nealfirebagelperson and Tinkerbell head off to the Blue Fairy's memorial service to retrieve the Black Fairy’s wand, but get held up when Pan’s shadow attacks them. They eventually manage to recapture the shadow when Tink gets her mojo back, who then promptly kills the shadow by throwing it into a firepit. When Pan’s shadow is killed, the Blue Fairy comes back to life (cue collective groans from the viewers). I guess this means all the shadows it obtained returned to their owners. Does this mean that Greg Mendel came back to life, too? Then again, there was what Tinkerbell said in ‘Nasty Habits.’ ‘And the other guy... well, there wasn't enough left of him to find anything useful.’ I guess we’re supposed to conclude the Neverland fauna made a meal of his lifeless body, so there’s nothing for his shadow to return to. What a way to go. Anyway, the resurrected Blue Fairy rewards Tinkerbell by restoring her wings, stating ‘I might have been overly strict.’ Yeah, understatement of the stinking millennium.
So, once they obtain the wand, Gold/Rumpelstiltskin is able to return Henry’s spirit back to his body. To make sure Pan won’t pull a fast one on them, he slaps Cora’s old wrist cuff onto Pan’s body before fixing the body swap. And while that was a clever move, Gold clearly didn’t think it through. Greg and Tamara may wrist have altered the cuff to nullify magic, but Gold must have forgotten who they’d been working for in the first place. Needless to say, the magic nullifier doesn’t work on Pan, and he manages to escape after forcing the wrist cuff on Gold and reclaims the scroll. Just as he’s about to kill Nealfirebagelperson out of spite, Gold steps in at the last moment. And this is where things get weird. Gold calls back his shadow from who knows where, and the moment he gets the Dark One’s Dagger back in his hand, Gold uses it to kill himself and Pan at the same time. Again, how exactly did that work? I’m still at a loss at trying to understand what’s going on. When did they ever establish the only way to kill Pan was if Gold killed himself as well? Not only that, how exactly was Gold keeping his grip on Pan long enough to kill him? Is he really that physically strong that Pan couldn’t break away? Pan still has magic, so what was keeping him from telepathically shoving Gold away or something? While this whole scene is a really good one, particularly when we see Gold/Rumpelstiltskin willingly sacrificing himself to save his son and girlfriend, as well as everyone else to a lesser extent, it still leaves me feeling confused, wondering exactly what just happened. (That, and why no one is even bothering to comfort Belle, who is in tears after seeing her True Love die. No, seriously. Why is no one comforting Belle?)
Unfortunately, even though Pan is defeated, he’d already cast the curse, and it’s quickly approaching the town, as Grumpy/Leroy loudly informs everyone. (Is Grumpy Storybrooke’s town crier? Every time something happens, he’s the one who comes running through the streets shouting about it.) The only way to stop it is if Regina destroys the scroll. But Regina, upon touching the scroll, realizes that destroying the scroll will mean that Storybrooke will be erased from existence, and everyone will instantly be taken back to the Enchanted Forest, or wherever they originated from. All except for Henry, who was born in the Land Without Magic. When Storybrooke vanishes, he will be left on his own. The only one who could avoid being brought back is Emma, since she gets the free Savior pass. (Although, couldn’t Neal and Hook/Killian have also left as well? You know, seeing as how they were never caught up in Regina’s curse. Same with Pinocchio, who also escaped the original curse through the Magic Wardrobe. But I guess that doesn’t really matter.) The catch is, once Emma and Henry leave the town limits, all memory of their time in Storybrooke will be erased from their memories. Regina, showing remarkable growth as a character, expresses her desire for Henry’s happiness, and as a result, gives Emma and Henry the false memories that lead them to believe that Emma never gave up Henry and decided to keep him after giving birth.
The scene at the town line where everyone is saying goodbye to Emma and Henry is really heartbreaking, especially since reason says that this goodbye is most likely forever, and that Emma and Henry will forget everyone the instant they cross the town line. It really plays out like a movie’s bittersweet ending. However, there were two goodbyes that really stuck out the most to me. The first was the one between Henry and Regina. In this moment, Henry realizes that Regina had always loved him and he fully accepts her as his mother. Regina, in turn, acknowledges that she’d been wrong when she cast a curse out of vengeance, and that her loosing Henry is her punishment for that transgression. The other goodbye is the one between Emma and Hook/Killian. Notice that this is arguably the last goodbye that Emma makes. From a writer’s standpoint, it goes without saying that the most important goodbyes are saved for last. But what’s particularly noteworthy is what they say to each other.
Hook/Killian: There's not a day that will go by that I won't think of you.
Let’s start with Hook/Killian’s words. Does what he says here remind you of anything? If you’re drawing a blank, go back and watch the ‘7:15 AM’ flashback again. In the letter Charming sends to Snow via the dove, he wrote ‘I must let you know, not a day goes by that I have not thought of you.’ I tell you, the parallels are just seeping through the screen. But what is even more promising is that Emma responds by saying ‘good.’ Emma is not the type of person who gives people false hope. With just one word, she is basically giving Hook/Killian her permission to love her, and he clearly picks up on that, if his sad smile is any indication. In contrast, Emma doesn’t give a response to Neal’s statement that he’ll see her again. If you want even more proof that the writers are making it known where Emma’s heart is leaning to, just pay attention to that final shot when the purple curse cloud is washing over everyone as Emma and Henry drive off in the yellow bug. The last people we see are Snow, Charming, Regina and Hook/Killian. The fact that these are the four people who stand out at that moment seem to indicate that they’re the four most important people in Emma and Henry’s life.
AAAANNNDDD that brings us to the episode’s ending scene! Emma and Henry are living the American Dream in their New York apartment. Right off the back, there are a few things we notice. First, Emma has clearly set her alarm for 8:15 AM. Could this be her subconscious mind trying to remind her about who she really is again? You know, like how her apartment in Boston had phrases like ‘cast a spell’ written on the door, and how her wrist tattoo seems to resemble the flowers on the Charming family crest? What’s even more interesting is that she still has Graham’s bootlace tied around her wrist. I do have to wonder if Amnesiac Emma ever stopped to wonder about why she kept a bootlace tied around her wrist. It could be similar to how cursed Mary Margret still kept her peridot wedding ring that had originally belonged to Charming’s mother, but I still am curious about what sort of fake memory Emma might have had that explained the bootlace. Anyway, those observations aside, we see Emma and Henry are just sitting down for a Saturday breakfast when Killian (and yes, I’m going to simply call him Killian from this point on, as his Hook persona was born out of his desire for revenge against Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, which he has given up on) suddenly shows up at their door with the news that Emma’s parents are in trouble. Now, of course there’s the obvious question of how he managed to make his way back out of the Enchanted Forest and into the Land Without Magic again. However, that’s not fully explained until the end of the season, so we can just put that on the backburner for now. The bit that really gets me is how he managed to track down Emma in New York. Yes, he managed to track down Rumple and company on his last visit to the Big Apple back in ‘The Queen is Dead,’ but I don’t think these two instances can be compared with each other. The last time, there was never any indication how he tracked down their exact location, but he somehow knew precisely where they’d be. In the case of finding Emma and Henry, we don’t know how long Killian had been in New York before reaching their door, let alone how long he’d been actively searching for them. I might be just imagining it, but when Emma first opens the door, Killian almost looks tired, like he’d been up all night. It just gives me a mental image of him going around, knocking on every single door in the apartment complex until he found the right door, much like Prince Edward did in Disney’s Enchanted when he was trying to locate Giselle. Tell me you couldn’t see him doing that. And his 'at last' does seem to hint at him doing something along those lines. What makes this even more amazing is how we see in the next episode that Emma and Henry’s apartment complex is gated. Meaning Killian had to perform the modern-world equivalent of crossing the castle moat before making it up to their door.
Of course that brings me to the big moment- when he tries to restore Emma’s memories by utilizing True Love’s Kiss. Even though it didn’t work, it really doesn’t matter for two reasons. First, it’s a perfect parallel of a moment in Snow and Charming’s past, when Charming attempted to restore Snow’s memories with True Love’s Kiss after she’d taken Rumpelstiltskin’s forgetfulness potion. Just like with this moment, Charming’s attempt failed, because True Love’s Kiss doesn’t work when memory loss is involved. This was also the case with Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, when he failed to restore the amnesiac Belle’s memories back in ‘In the Name of the Brother.’ So it only makes sense that True Love’s Kiss wouldn’t restore Emma’s memories anyway. But there’s something that’s even more important than the obvious parallels. Killian actually attempted True Love’s Kiss! It was with this act that he declared once and for all that he considers Emma his True Love. For him, it’s either Emma or nothing; there is no going back for him. And this was after he’d spent a whole year without seeing her face or even hearing her voice. Let’s put this into perspective- unless I’m mistaken, in OUAT’s timeline, the amount of time that had passed from when Emma and Killian first met in the Enchanted Forest to the moment they parted at the town line was less than a month. All Killian had was a month of knowing her followed by a whole year when they were separated, with him having nothing but his memories of their time together. But that was enough for him to believe and hope that True Love’s Kiss would help restore Emma’s memories. That is just epic, and nothing will convince me otherwise.
Unlike the flashbacks in the other episodes, these flashbacks have no real connection to each other, with the exception of two. In the first of these two, we see Charming and a very pregnant Snow, discussing their plans of sending Baby Emma through the magical wardrobe, with Snow voicing her worries of how Emma will know what to do if they can’t remember who they are, let alone let her know of her destiny. (Wait, wasn’t the original plan to have Snow go through the wardrobe while she was still pregnant so she could make sure Emma grew up knowing what she had to do? They only ended up sending Baby Emma through alone because Snow went into labor before the wardrobe could be finished and the original plan had to be scrapped as a result. But oh well.) Anyway, Blue reassures them that when the time is right, ‘our story will reveal itself to her.’ This leads to the final flashback in the episode, where we see how Henry’s life was like before he sought out Emma. He’s noticing that there’s something up with Storybrooke, stating his observation that everything is always the same. When he announces how he feels he doesn’t belong there, Mary Margret reaches out to him by giving him the storybook that started it all. As she gives him the book, she admits she found it while cleaning out her closet and cannot remember where it came from. This statement indicates that the book magically appeared to Mary Margret, regardless of how Henry and Mary Margret are reluctant to even consider that possibility. This glimpse of the past helps us see how Henry first came to believe in the curse, which is shown when he sees Mary Margret bears a striking resemblance to the illustration of Snow White in the book. The rest of the flashbacks, which include Hook/Killian’s first meeting with Tinkerbell and Dark One Rumpelstiltskin discussing his lost son with Belle, are quite random and only serve to accent particular scenes in the episode.