Zelena is such a horrible person. Forcing Robin to surrender Regina’s heart by getting Gold/Rumpelstiltskin to threaten the life of his son, Roland? Okay, that’s it; this person deserves no mercy. Using a small child? Particularly one as precious and adorable as little Roland? That’s strictly out-of-bounds. I’m still miffed at Nealfire for using that kid as bait in his evil scheme to get to Neverland. Seriously, stop putting this kid in harm’s way!
In order to try and learn more about Zelena, Regina decides to conduct a séance to call up her mother’s spirit. While the séance doesn’t appear to work at first, it does lead to a really good scene with Snow and Regina, which has them essentially putting Snow’s involvement in Cora’s death behind them for good. Regina really has come a long way, with acknowledging the fact that Snow couldn’t really be vilified for it, considering everything Cora had done to her. AND she also apologized to Belle for all the crap she’d put the book-loving woman through. What’s more, we see her actually protecting Snow when Cora’s ghost appears and tries to attack Snow. Seeing this was really enjoyable for me, because you can see they’re actually starting to put their past behind them and becoming friends, something that they always could have been, if their initial meeting was any indication.
This episode features one of the reasons why I believe simply returning Cora’s heart to her chest instead of killing her wouldn’t have stopped her from being a threat to the people of Storybrooke. Because of Zelena’s underhanded trick, Regina’s heart is now in Zelena’s possession. And yet, even though Regina doesn’t have her heart in her chest, she is still acting as you would expect her to act if it was. She is still able to make peace with Snow for the whole death-of-Cora thing and even protects her from her mother’s vengeful ghost. And then, there’s how she acts with Robin. She doesn’t blame him in the slightest for handing her heart over to Gold, stating that ‘nothing's worth the loss of a child,’ and the episode ends with her officially striking up a romantic relationship with Robin. Seeing this does indicate that you don’t need to have your heart in your chest to express and feel real love, and you will most likely still act just as you would have done if you did have your heart where it belonged. If we accept that as fact, what else is to be concluded other than Cora would have simply continued on acting as she had been even with her heart intact. And after seeing the Enchanted Forest flashback, I feel that way even more strongly, as Cora proved she was always a self-centered social climber who was incapable of even putting her own children first, even before Rumpelstiltskin entered the picture.
In the flashback, we get a bit more of Cora’s backstory. Oh, good gravy, and you thought Emma’s family tree was messed up enough already. Now we find out it was veering towards the semi-quasi-incestual zone as well. This backstory informs us that when Cora set Regina up with Snow’s father, she was actually setting her daughter up with her ex-fiancée. Yeah, Cora almost married Snow’s father. At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical cheerleader, I think I speak for all of us when I saw ‘EW!’ However, their engagement got called off when Prince Leopold learns from Snow’s mother, Eva, that Cora hadn’t been honest with him. Months earlier, Cora had been deceived and seduced by a man she met at a tavern, who’d claimed to be a prince but was actually a palace gardener. Unfortunately, Cora found out about his true identity after she became pregnant with the gardener’s child. From what I gather of how things are in the Enchanted Forest, which appears to be a medieval-style world, being an unwed mother in this world is the worst possible thing to be. So Cora was in a sticky spot. When she met Prince Leopold, Cora saw her chance of protecting her reputation and convinced him to call off his betrothal-since-birth to Princess Eva so he’d marry her instead, planning to pass of her unborn baby as Prince Leopold’s. But before their wedding could take place, the gardener returns and blackmails Cora, telling her that if she doesn’t pay him off with jewels from the royal treasure hold, he will tell everyone the truth. Cora decides to accept the terms, but Princess Eva had overheard their conversation and tipped off Prince Leopold, which resulted in Cora being cast out. Of course, when Cora’s ghost informs Snow of this story via possession, she paints the story in a way that apparently vilified Princess Eva. But from what I saw, it was Cora who was more at fault here. Think of what you would do, if you were supposed to marry someone, but he left you for someone else. Then you found out that the woman he’d left you for was a) trying to deceive him into believing he fathered what was actually an illegitimate child and b) was planning to steal from him to keep her deception from being found out. What would you have done? If Cora had been honest with Prince Leopold and told him the truth about the unborn Zelena, he might have gone ahead and married her anyway, especially since he seemed to really care about Cora. In the end, Cora chose to continue lying to him, even after being given the perfect opportunity to come clean, and that was why he dismissed her. Besides, it’s not as if Cora actually loved Leopold. She was just using him as a way to hide the fact she was carrying an illegitimate child. And she was only in the mess she was in to begin with because she chose to believe a man she’d barely met. The impression I got was she only met the guy who turned out to be a gardener the same evening he ‘proposed.’ She allowed herself to believe his promises of marriage and just jumped right into bed with him. That is NEVER a smart move, particularly in this medieval-style world, and even more so after we look at all the other established couples in this show. All of the main True Love couples we’ve seen have taken the time to allow their relationship to progress naturally. And even though it’s implied that Aurora became pregnant before she and Phillip could officially marry, we still get the impression they took their time before progressing to that particular step. In the end, Cora really did bring it all on herself, and it’s really sad how her choice to blame someone else for her mistakes (which seems to be a common habit among this show’s bad guys) left the Nevengers believing Cora’s take on things and thinking Snow’s mother had done something bad. Because from where I'm standing, Princess Eva did the right thing in telling Prince Leopold. Yes, she could have been more sympathetic to Cora’s plight, but Cora really didn’t give her good reason to do so, particularly when she starts insulting Princess Eva for telling Prince Leopold the truth. As for Cora giving up Baby Zelena? Again, I understand that having a baby out of wedlock was most likely really bad in the Enchanted Forest, but she could have left Baby Zelena with a kindly peasant couple or something. Instead, she chose to deposit Baby Zelena in the middle of the woods and essentially left her to die, from starvation, exposure to the elements, or even from wild animals. While Snow and Emma both gave up their children to give their child their best chance, Cora gave Zelena up because Cora was putting herself before her daughter. That is the worst form of selfishness, which makes it even harder for me to feel bad for Cora.
We get a lot more feels from Killian and Emma’s brewing relationship. Killian is still closing himself off after Zelena cursed him in the last episode, but he’s still remaining at Emma’s side. It’s really admirable that he’s doing this. He could have easily commandeered one of the boats in Storybrooke and sailed away to keep himself from harming Emma, but he knew that his leaving would hurt her even more. He knows Emma has had people leaving her throughout her whole life, either by their own devices or not. But he’s made an unspoken promise that he’d not continue that trend. Instead, he’s going to continue to be the one person who sticks by her, the man who always comes back. But at the same time, he has to keep Emma at arm’s length to protect her from his curse, something that’s possibly tormenting him because for the first time, Emma is actually giving him a window of opportunity to act on his feelings for her, and he can’t take that opportunity. She is completely and unapologetically flirting with him at Granny’s Diner as she practices her magic in front of him. She even goes so far as to playfully take his hook from him. Killian’s response to this is not what Emma expects. She knows Killian would quite possibly go along with it and joke around with her, or even show more enthusiasm over how quickly she’s getting the hang of her magic. After all, we all saw him vehemently praising her magic in the last episode. It’s really great that Emma knows something’s wrong with Killian, but unfortunately, Belle interrupts before she can really ask him about it. Which is a shame, because for all we know, Killian might have told Emma about Zelena's curse if Emma had gotten the chance to push the issue. Belle, I know you were excited about figuring out that Zelena was planning to go back in time and change the past, and that it was vitally important, but couldn’t you have waited five more minutes?
There’s a really fun scene when Snow and Charming are going back and forth trying to think of names for their unborn child. When you take the time to think about this scene, it really gives Killian’s moroseness when Emma arrives a new meaning. While I’m sure a huge part of his sour attitude is because of Zelena’s curse, what if that conversation about possible baby names had been going on for a while before Emma arrived? He certainly had this ‘I’m so done with this’ expression when Snow and Charming try to get Emma’s opinions on the matter. Which reminds me, how sweet was it that Emma took hold of Killian’s hook during the séance so casually, as if it was an actual hand? I see that as a small testament to the fact that Emma accepts the hook as simply another part of Killian.
Finally, there was that one moment when I felt really bad for Gold/Rumple when he had to play nice with Zelena, particularly when he tried to get the Dark One’s dagger away from her. It must have killed him to resort to that particular method since this is not only the woman who played a significant part in the death of his son, but I can imagine how he might feel like he’s also betraying Belle in a way. It’s not often that I feel genuinely sympathetic for this character, as a good chunk of his misfortunes are caused by his own doing, but this was one of those times.