We really get great Regina and Robin bonding moments in this episode during the Enchanted Forest flashback. While Outlaw Queen is not my OTP within the context of this show, I still support these two as a couple, as they really do play extremely well off each other. And you can already see something brewing mere hours after they meet. It all starts when she saves Robin’s son from a flying monkey. (Roland is such a little cutie! Even his voice is precious.) And you can see how much being Henry’s mother has helped nurture Regina’s maternal instincts when you see how good she is around Roland, something Robin clearly takes notice of. So much so that he ignores Regina’s wishes to infiltrate her old castle alone and goes with her. As they make their way through the secret passageway, they began to bond over the fact that they’ve both lost someone close to them. Robin had lost Maid Marion, and Regina, as we all know, has been separated from Henry for what she believes to be forever. However Robin tries to reassure Regina that it is possible to find something new to live for. And it makes perfect sense that he’d be the one to tell her this, and not just because, unlike them, we know that Robin is the same man Tinkerbell had tried to set Regina up with years ago, and is therefore someone Regina could live for someday. Practically anyone can identify Robin and Maid Marion as one of the well-recognized literary couples, so of course losing her would leave Robin devastated. But it’s clear that the existence of his son, Roland, was able to help snap Robin out of his state of mental chaos and got him into full-father mode. Not only does that show remarkable strength, it also makes him the perfect person to tell Regina that it is possible to find a new reason to live. However, Regina is not receptive to Robin’s words and plans to put herself under a Sleeping Curse after lowering the barrier preventing the others from entering the castle, so she won't have to continue facing a life without Henry. She almost goes through with her plan when she comes face-to-face with the Wicked Witch, who reveals she’s Regina’s long-lost half-sister, Zelena, who was abandoned by Cora years ago. The knowledge of Zelena, and how she intends to wreak havoc, gives Regina the motivation she needs to have second thoughts about the sleeping curse, as she now vows to bring Zelena down,
Back in Storybrooke, Emma and her parents get to work on figuring things out. It turns out that the new curse did more than remove everyone’s memories of the past year, with the exception of Killian (who broke off from the group shortly after they’d returned to the Enchanted Forest and claims he’d received an anonymous letter via bird messenger that instructed him to bring Emma back with the enclosed vial of memory potion). People have been disappearing without a trace from the moment Storybrooke came back into existence. The reason for the disappearances are discovered by Robin when he’s out hunting with his men and Little John gets snatched up by a flying monkey. He’s later found with a severe bite on his neck which is quickly revealed to have the properties of a traditional werewolf bite when Little John transforms into a flying monkey. To get to the bottom of things, Emma calls an emergency town meeting. At the meeting people all start turning on Regina, accusing her of being behind the new curse. Regina, however, insists she had nothing to do with it, pointing out that if she had, she would have restored Henry’s memories of her. At first, it looks as if Emma is siding with everyone else in accusing Regina, but it turns out that it was planned between them. In reality, Emma believes Regina’s claims of innocence and they purposely made everyone think Regina was the guilty party to trick the real culprit out of hiding, and to give them time to try and replicate the memory potion that Emma got from Killian. Which is a really clever move on their part. And it is great to see these two women actually working together. Unfortunately, their plan to lure out the culprit is unsuccessful, as she vanishes in a cloud of smoke the second she’s cornered. However, that and the fact that people are being turned into flying monkeys give them enough information to know that they’re dealing with the Wicked Witch, who, as we see in the final few seconds has a very-much-alive Gold/Rumpelstiltskin locked up in a basement somewhere. And he is just as unhinged as he was in the Enchanted Forest. He’s even speaking in his Dark One voice.
You really feel for Present Day Regina in this. Because Henry hasn’t gotten his memories back, everyone has to virtually tiptoe around him. Everyone has got to feel very awkward around him because while everyone in Storybrooke has known Henry for his whole life and watched him grow up, he has forgotten everyone. Because of that, people have to be very careful to pretend that they’ve only just met. But of course, there are bound to be slip-ups, like with Ruby/Red bringing him the cinnamon hot chocolate without even asking. And Henry’s memory loss is particularly hard for Regina. Imagine how you would feel if the child you raised and then lost no longer recognized you when he reentered your life. All you’d want to do is to hug him, but you know you can’t because he wouldn’t understand. And poor Regina is understandably frustrated when her attempts at recreating the memory potion in order to restore Henry’s memory fails. Your heart just breaks for her when she’s ‘introduced’ to Henry as an old friend of Emma’s and all he does is hold out his hand for a casual handshake.
Not only that, but the people of Storybrooke are once again very quick to turn on Regina at the town meeting. While this would be a perfect opportunity for Regina to go back to her season 2 mentality in moaning about how no one will ever give her a chance, she is clearly in a much healthier state of mind this time around, and instead focuses on recreating the memory potion in order to prove her innocence (hooray for character growth). I’d like to think a part of her decision at this moment stems from her understanding that the Storybrookers really couldn’t be blamed for immediately being suspicious of her. After all, none of them were in Neverland to see how much she helped out, and since the last thing everyone remembers is Emma and Henry driving over the town line, they’ve obviously forgotten anything Regina had done to assist them during the missing year (like helping them get back into her old castle, for instance..)
On a final note, Grumpy/Leroy really IS the Storybrooke town crier, isn’t he? When Emma and Regina come up with the plan to make the true culprit believe they’re making progress on the memory potion, Regina announces she knows just who to tell to ensure the culprit would overhear the message. Your first thought would be that Regina was thinking about Snow, which would make sense considering Snow’s track record for keeping secrets. But seconds later, it’s revealed that Regina was actually thinking of Grumpy/Leroy, which is an unexpected moment of humor.