Snow and Charming’s dark secret is finally revealed. Because Snow was so unnerved by what Maleficent said, about how unborn Baby Emma could grow up evil, she convinces Charming to help her track down a unicorn, because apparently there’s this legend that says touching a unicorn’s horn could give you a glimpse of how your child could turn out. This legend does seem rather random to me. Almost like someone just pulled it up out of nowhere. But I guess they had to get the plot rolling somehow, so whatever. The weird thing is that the unicorn horn gave them different visions. While Charming saw a precious baby, Snow saw a corrupted child who had no qualms about literally crushing her mother’s heart. I do wonder how Snow and Charming got different visions, but I suppose it’s possible that unicorn horn prophesy, or whatever it’s called, is subjective, and what you see will depend on your current state of mind. Kind of like a magical Rorschach test. After all, Snow was the one who was the most fearful about the possibility of their child ending up evil. If she had shared Charming’s confidence, she might have seen something different. But then again, who knows. However, when they meet the Apprentice after being directed to his cottage by a peddler they happen to encounter on the road, he gives another explanation which makes just as much sense. As I said in my last episode analysis, all babies are born as blank slates, and the unborn Baby Emma is no exception. But Snow can’t accept this, so she’s very quick to listen to the Apprentice when he explains that there’s a spell that can transfer Baby Emma’s potential for darkness into another unborn vessel. They decide to select the egg that has just been laid by Dragon Maleficent, using the warped logic that anything that hatches out of the egg will be evil anyway. Because apparently, even though a reputed hero's child has the potential to be born evil, it's impossible for a villain's offspring to turn out good. Yeah, I’m sorry. I can’t really defend Snow and Charming on this one. While I can totally get behind wanting to do what’s best for your child, you don’t just go around sacrificing someone else’s kid. This really was a boneheaded move on their part. Particularly when the full nature of the Apprentice’s spell is revealed. The spell wouldn’t just place Baby Emma’s dark potential into Maleficent’s egg, but it would also banish the egg into another dimension, because nothing with that much dark potential could be allowed to remain in Fairy Tale world. Meaning they’ve now also broken the promise they made to Maleficent to bring her egg right back. Okay, Snow, Charming? THIS is what happens when you jump blindly into something without asking questions! This is the same lesson that Greg and Tamara will one day learn at the cost of their lives. This whole mess might have been avoided if Snow and Charming had just taken a second and asked the Apprentice about what would happen to the egg afterwards. But of course, they don’t ask the right questions, and Maleficent’s egg is yanked through a portal into another world. And so are Ursula and Cruella, who chose that exact moment to pop up and start yelling at Snow and Charming. Which was kinda stupid on their part. Instead of biting off Snow and Charming’s heads, which wasn’t exactly uncalled for at the moment, wouldn’t it have made more sense to try and save the egg first? You know, since it was clearly right next to the swirling portal vortex that led to who knows where. Regardless, Ursula, Cruella and Maleficent’s egg all fall through the portal together, which we know brought them into the Land Without Magic, which finally explains how Ursula and Cruella ended up in our world (but doesn’t explain how they hadn’t aged in the past three decades). We also learn in this episode that Maleficent’s baby wound up in an orphanage, where she was later adopted by a couple who named her Lily. As in Emma’s childhood friend, Lily. (Plot twist, ho!) But how come Ursula and Cruella didn’t raise Baby Lily when they reached the Land Without Magic? They were sorta friends with Maleficent, after all. So you’d think they would team up to raise their friend’s kid. Is this just some ‘there’s no loyalty among villains’ thing? Eh, whatever.
In present day Storybrooke, Killian fills in Emma, Henry, Snow and Charming about how Gold was plotting to turn Emma dark to ensure the villains would finally become the winning side. Emma is quick to wave off the news that has everyone else visibly concerned, stating she’s the only one who can decide who she is. This confidence goes back to what she said in ‘The Price of Gold.’ We all remember her famous speak to Ashley/Ella, right? ‘People are going to tell you who you are your whole life. You just got to punch back and say, ‘no, this is who I am.’ However, despite Emma’s words, Snow is still feeling uneasy due to that incident in the past. She pretty much runs out of the house, with Charming going after her, leaving Killian and Emma visibly confused over what Snow was so upset about because they were obviously so absorbed in their hug, they didn’t hear the conversation that was going on a few feet away. (Almost like how they didn’t notice Past!Charming walking right by them as they danced at King Midis’ ball. Gotta love these two besotted idiots.)
Meanwhile, Regina has been tasked by Gold, Cruella and Maleficent to obtain the page containing the illustration of the Author’s door from the rest of the Nevengers. Knowing that the illustration IS the actual door and that Gold mustn’t ever get his grubby hands on it, Emma magically conjures up a counterfeit page, but they quickly realize that won’t work, as Gold would spot the switch in no time. So Regina takes a picture of the door with her phone’s camera and brings that picture to the Anti-Nevengers. But because magic can apparently show up in photographs, Gold figures out immediately that the illustration is the door. So the plan to keep them from learning that particular detail backfired pretty quickly. To obtain the actual page, Maleficent places a sleeping curse on the whole town, which gives them free reign to infiltrate the loft apartment. Except when they arrive, all they find is Emma and Killian passed out together on the couch. The page containing the Author’s door is gone. Because Henry took the page and hightailed it out of there right after the sleeping curse hit. It turns out that people who have already been under a sleeping curse cannot ever be affected by it again. Which means Henry, Snow and Charming all escaped the town wide curse. Come to think of it, Aurora should have been left untouched, too. But since she has no purpose in the current storyline, she doesn’t even get a passing mention. Which kinda stinks, considering her history with Maleficent. If Ariel could get a cameo in the episode that focused on Ursula, shouldn't Aurora also be appearing in in this story arc, too? Was actress Sarah Bolger busy with another project during the filming of the Author arc? I honestly don't know; I don't make it a habit to keep track of stuff like that.
So, Henry, taking advantage of being one of the only people who escaped the town-wide sleeping curse, makes his way to the Sorcerer’s mansion to hide out. While there, the door illustration suddenly becomes animated because the key that can be used to open the door is nearby. Before Henry can use the key to open the door, Regina shows up, with Maleficent and Cruella tailing her. Now this obviously places Regina in a tight spot, as she has to continue making the other two women believe she’s on their side, but she cannot betray Henry. So, after a brief nonverbal conversation, Regina gets Henry to pass over the counterfeit page instead of the real one. But, true to their earlier fears, Gold realizes it’s a fake the moment he gets the page in his hands, resulting in him figuring out that Regina’s been a spy this whole time.
As for Henry, after Regina, Cruella and Maleficent left the Sorcerer’s mansion, Snow and Charming show up, and Henry shows them that he found the key to the Author’s door. But Charming stops Henry before he could unlock the door, instructing him to simply give the page to them, pointing out that releasing the Author was what Gold wanted. When Henry leaves, Charming is all set to simply burn the page, thinking it is the only way to ensure Gold won’t get near the Author and darken Emma’s heart. But that’s when Snow decides she’s had enough. She’s done with trying to cover up what they did through non-stop lies and rationalizing. She points out that they’d promised long ago to stop acting the way they have been and justifying it by saying it was for the greater good. And so, they decide to reveal their sordid past to Emma, who takes the news about as well as you’d expect her to. She is positively livid that her parents not only condemned another person’s baby, but also lied about it. I imagine the lying thing only made the situation that much worse for Emma to deal with. As she said in a previous episode, she’s felt her superpower going off since the moment Ursula and Cruella arrived in town. Now she knows it was because her parents had been lying to her repeatedly to cover up their past sin. As angry as she is at her parents, there’s got to be a small part of her that’s angry at herself. Once again, she must have been ignoring her superpower going off because of Snow and Charming’s lies, because she firmly believed her parents wouldn’t lie to her. Since this arc began, she’s probably been telling herself that her superpower was just being faulty again and thus purposely ignored her instincts. which was quite possibly a huge leap of faith for her, considering how following her instincts was how she survived the first 28 years of her life. And now, she's found herself in a position where she chose to go by faith instead of those instincts and got rewarded with this bombshell. So, this could have the potential to disrupt all the progress Emma's made in lowering the walls surrounding her heart and allowing herself to trust and love again.
In any event, Emma storms out of the loft apartment, needing to be alone to process what she’s just learned. She retreats to the Storybrooke Pier, where Killian later finds her to inform her that August has woken up after spending the majority of the episode in a feverish sleep. (Apparently getting repeatedly de-aged and then aged again can put a strain on you.) If you’ll forgive me for going off on a tangent, I really loved Emma and Killian’s interactions this episode. Earlier, when they were pretty much alone at the loft apartment (it’s more or less implied later that Henry was on the apartment’s upper level during this scene), Killian attempts to casually bring up August, inquiring about his well-being before asking Emma if she cared about ‘the wooden man-child.’ Emma, however, is very quick to reassure Killian that he shouldn’t be jealous, as she thinks of August as a friend, and nothing more. To which I say, thank you, show writers. Thank you for letting us know there’s not going to be another ridiculous love triangle. It’s also nice that they included Emma stating how she considers August a friend, because if he’d kept his promise to Geppetto and remained with Baby Emma, August would have essentially been Emma’s older brother in all the ways that count. And then there are Killian’s actions when Emma learns of what Snow and Charming did to Maleficent’s child. When Emma pulls her hand away when he tries to reach out to her in comfort, he immediately backs down. And when Emma storms out, he doesn’t go after her until he’s tasked with the job of informing her that August had regained consciousness. (In a related story, I really appreciated how Snow and Charming actually had Killian go to Emma. Through that act, they're basically showing they're finally accepting the fact that Killian has a permanent place in Emma's life, which is a satisfactory 180 from Charming's attitude at the start of the Neverland arc, when he verbally announced his intentions to keep Killian away from Emma.) Killian just knows Emma well enough to know that what she needed the most was her space, so he willingly gave her that space and didn’t try and make her stay or force his presence on her. And when he did approach her later on, he simply hugged her, to let her know he was there for her to give her strength and comfort.
And that brings us to what August reveals to Emma at the end of the episode. It turns out the Author wasn’t just one person. It’s a title that’s been passed down from person-to-person throughout the years, and the long line of Authors ultimately included a man named Walt. (As in Walt Disney? Because that just explains so much, particularly since this show is not always subtle with the Disney movie references.) The position of the Author was originally supposed to be about simply chronicling the lives of the people in the Enchanted Forest and neighboring kingdoms. However, the last Author broke that rule and actually began to manipulate the stories to play out the way he’d wanted them to. The final straw came when the Author in question forced the Apprentice to perform the above-mentioned spell on Maleficent’s child. As punishment for breaking the rules tied to his position so horribly, the Apprentice imprisoned the Author within the page of the book. For some reason, even after being told how this current Author was a bit of a jerk and pretty much deserved his imprisonment, Emma still decides to release him from the page, because she ‘wanted answers’. Shock of all shocks, the Author was the very same peddler who directed Snow and Charming to the Apprentice’s cottage during the episode’s flashback. Which wasn’t a complete surprise, as I had a feeling even the first time I saw this episode that that wasn’t a normal peddler. Something just seemed off about him, so I wasn’t too surprised to see I was right. And of course, the Author doesn’t stick around to give Emma the answers she was so desperate for, as he immediately does a runner. Because Emma very quickly loses him, there’s now a possibly unstable person who can manipulate everyone’s life paths running around Storybrooke unchecked.