The goal of our protagonists in this episode involves them trying to figure out who the Wicked Witch is within Storybrooke. But I am at a loss why everyone is so clueless when it comes to figuring it out. Gee, I don’t know, guys; how about you start questioning the people you don’t recognize from the original curse? Maybe the one with the giant green gem on her neck? I know I shouldn’t be surprised that Snow is so quick to trust the mysterious midwife, given her nature, but what’s Charming’s excuse? He IS sort of an unofficial deputy in the town, and he clearly is cautious. But all it takes is Snow saying ‘but she knew my old nanny,’ and the he’s all ‘oh, all right then.’ No, seriously, I’m asking. How is the fact that she knew Snow’s old nanny, Johanna, proof that she’s trustworthy? You know who else knew Johanna? Cora. Was Cora trustworthy? Yeah, didn’t think so. Besides, just LOOK at Zelena in the scene when she’s with Snow and Charming in their loft apartment! How can they not tell she’s bad news? All that woman needs is the big twirly mustache! Even the tone of her voice is a dead giveaway. And word to the wise, if ANYONE is smiling like that when offering you something to drink, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re about to get Mickey Finned.
The main message in this episode seems to be about overcoming your fears. Back in the Enchanted Forest flashback, Charming, after learning of Snow’s second pregnancy, is nearly overcome with trepidation. Which makes since, what with happened with Emma. They never got the chance to be proper parents to her, what with them having to send her away almost immediately after she was born. And when they found her again, they struggled with figuring out how to relate to each other, since Emma was now fully grown and had long-since learned to live without a parent. So of course, Charming would be questioning his ability to be a good father to the new kid. And since he’s forgotten everything that happened in the past year, he’s having those same fears now, even though he denies them until the end of the episode.
After learning from Robin about an herb called Nightroot that is said to help anyone overcome their fears, Charming decides to head off and find this herb. While I do understand why he’d be so inclined to do so, this does seem like a slight de-evolution of his character. Think about it for a second. He just up and decides to head off in pursuit of a magical plant that’s rumored to be the solution to his problems. Just thinking about that statement; it just gives me a sudden sense of Deja-Dreamshade. You know, the plant that Killian and Liam were once told was a super-awesome-cure-all, when it, of course, was the exact opposite? What’s more, look at the names of these two plants. Dreamshade? Nightroot? I can’t be the only one who sees the similarity in these two names. While I’m not suggesting that Nightroot is deadly to the extreme, you would think that Charming would be a wee bit hesitant about magic plants with peculiar names after his bought of Dreamshade poisoning. Anyway, he goes off to find this magic root and in the process, stumbles across a woman who was locked up in a doorless tower. A woman with very long hair that can be utilized as a climbing rope. Yep, it’s Rapunzel. I admit I was a bit surprised to see this variation of Rapunzel, as every version of the story I’ve heard all stated that Rapunzel had blond hair while OUAT’s version had her portrayed by a black woman. I guess they were going for racial equality or something? If so, that’s fine; I’m cool with that. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time OUAT deviated from the original source material. Rapunzel explains that a witch trapped her in that tower when she came to search for the Nightroot herself, on account of her fears of acceding to the throne, particularly after her older brother and their kingdom’s heir apparent died in a tragic accident. When the witch returns, Charming, upon seeing her face is identical to Rapunzel’s, realizes that the ‘witch’ is actually Rapunzel’s fears. He figures out instantly that when she took the Nightroot, it conjured up a manifestation of her darkest fears, and she can only escape from her tower if she can gather up the courage to face those fears. Which she eventually does with Charming’s encouragement.
And that brings us to Charming’s present day storyline. Because Zelena drugged his tea with a bit of Nightroot she stole from Gold’s shop, Charming was forced to face his fears that he wouldn’t be able to be a proper father to his unborn child. When he finally manages to accept the fact that he has those fears but decides to face them anyway, he manages to defeat the Nightroot entity. And it’s in watching this scene that I think it’s such a shame that his encounter with Rapunzel occurred during the missing year. Because if he remembered that moment, he would have realized that what he just encountered was the result of being drugged with Nightroot, since he’d previously seen the effects first hand. If he’d remembered that, he might have stopped to think about how he’d gotten Nightroot into his system and possibly remembered the tea Zelena made him drink. You know, maybe these people should have kept a diary or something. Then maybe, they could have looked back and figured out enough from their entries to figure stuff out. Unless any diary they might have kept wouldn’t have been transferred over with the new curse. Which is doubtful, because we’ve already seen that a lot of the Enchanted Forest denizens had their belongings automatically wind up in Mr. Gold’s shop. So any diary they could have kept during the Lost Year would most likely have appeared there.
When Charming does defeat his fears, Zelena magically steals Charming’s sword. Upon hearing this, Regina surmises that the Wicked Witch stole Charming’s sword because it’s a symbol of his courage, which he displayed when he conquered his fear. They also discover, by searching the farmhouse Emma and Killian stumbled across earlier, that Zelena has Gold/Rumpelstiltskin held hostage. Though, how he got out of his cage I can’t quite figure out, as I doubt Zelena had taken him out for a walk.
While Charming did sorta hog the whole episode, there were also some touching moments from other characters. Regina takes the amnesiac Henry out for some ice cream and the two of them have a discussion that ends with his desire Henry voicing to have more than just Emma and him, particularly during the holidays. It’s a really sweet moment because, like Regina, we all know that Henry has a large extended family that is just waiting for him to remember them, so his wish is going to be more than fulfilled. And of course, we get the only major moment between Emma and Killian within this episode as they’re searching the woods for signs of the Wicked Witch. They end up talking about Emma’s most-recent ex, Walsh, with Emma admitting she was seriously considering marrying him. In this moment, they both say vitally important things. Emma states that Walsh, like everyone else, ‘wasn't who he said he was’ and it resulted with her heart being broken. With this statement, Emma reveals what kind of man she really needs- someone who is always upfront and open with her, who won’t ever pretend to be something he’s not. (Hmm, who do we know who fits that description?) With Killian, his defining moment is when he tells Emma that if her heart ‘can be broken, it means it still works.’ At face value, this statement might seem a bit strange, but it makes sense when you remember exactly who Killian is. This is a man who has had his heart broken more times than anyone should. Think about how many loved ones he’s lost throughout his life. First when his father abandoned him as a boy, then when he had to watch his beloved older brother, Liam die- twice. I’m sure he was also hurt by whatever happened to his mother, even though that’s currently an unsolved mystery. And of course, there was Milah, who was murdered before his eyes. After all that heartache, and the anger and thirst for vengeance it left him with, he must have spent such a long time believing he was incapable of loving again. But then he met Emma and, after a short period of time, he realized that he was falling hard for her. Even then, he still suffered a great deal of heartache. First from the (slim) possibility that she would end up choosing Neal, since he was the father of her son, then when he was forced to say goodbye to Emma before Storybrooke was erased from existence at the end of the Neverland story arc, with no hope of ever seeing her again, and finally the knowledge that she very nearly ended up finding love with someone she met in New York during the course of the Lost Year. Because of all that, he knows better than most that having a broken heart simply means that your heart is still capable of feeling something, and therefore it is possible for your heart to mend. This moment also seems to set up an ongoing theme that continues throughout this Wizard of Oz story arc. At various moments throughout the remainder of season 3, Killian will make multiple attempts at reaching out to Emma when he feels she might be getting off track, using his own life experiences to try and nudge her back on the right path. He’s already figured out that he and Emma are cut from the same cloth, and like Emma said at the end of season 2, they understand each other. He knows perfectly well that if a course of action didn’t work out for him, it will most certainly not be one Emma should even consider, so he does whatever he can to keep her from making the same mistakes he made before she actually makes them, as well as sharing with her the wisdom he’d gathered from his own trials when he sees she’s going through a similar one. That is the action of a man who always has Emma’s best interests at heart. How could that not make you melt?