You know, this might be the first time since season 1 where I was more interested in the Enchanted Forest flashback than what was going on in present day Storybrooke. But to be honest, season 1 started off strong, got a bit weak in the middle, and then got strong again at the end. This Author arc, on the other hand, seems to simply be starting off kinda weak, which is a shame. Thankfully, it picks up again as it progresses. I guess it's better to start off weak and then get better than the other way around.
To figure out what the Queens of Darkness are up to, Regina agrees to become a mole by convincing them she wants to go back to being a villain again. As an initiation ritual of sorts, Cruella parks her car on some train tracks with everyone inside it. The test is to see if Regina would chose to save everyone. Okay, hold up. When has there been a train that runs through the Storybrooke town limits? Did they cross the town line and use Ingrid’s scroll to come back later? That can’t be it, since Regina’s magic clearly was in working order. Anyway, Regina apparently fails that test by magicing them off the tracks before the train can hit them. Which isn’t what I’d call an indication of Regina playing hero, but more of simple self-preservation. But Cruella obviously felt it was enough to prove Regina had gone soft. Thankfully, Maleficent vouches for her, stating that it’s just because she’s gotten rusty. And as the night continues, Regina apparently makes up for the failed initiation ritual, and the four women wreak havoc over town, by trashing Granny’s Diner, and even torching a squad car. In the end, Regina convinces the others of her sincerity and they reveal to her their plan is to find the Author as well and force him to shift the balance so villains win and heroes always lose. Emma, wanting to help Regina out, tries to keep tabs on their whereabouts using a GPS in Regina’s phone (which she apparently had installed off-screen at some point) so she could come provide her backup if things went pear shaped with the undercover job. But Regina, insisting she can take care of it on her own, rejects Emma’s assistance and eventually ditches the phone so Emma can’t follow her. In the end, Regina finds out that the plan is to kidnap Pinocchio in order to grill him about the Author’s identity. At First, Regina poo-poos that idea, pointing out that she already tried that and got nowhere. And that’s when they reveal to her that Gold is back in Storybrooke. The episode ends with Gold, who tricked Belle into giving him the Dark One’s dagger by impersonating Killian and taking advantage of their new friendship, turning Pinocchio back into the adult August, with plans of torturing him for information about the Author.
The flashback in this episode was possibly the most interesting part of this episode. It’s back in that period of time when Regina is still training under Dark One Rumpelstiltskin but has yet to actually become the Evil Queen yet. Frustrated with how long it’s taking her to master magic under Rumple’s tutelage, Regina decides to turn to the infamous Maleficent, whom she learned about through one of Cora’s old books. And the backstory for Maleficent was just incredible. From what we learned, Maleficent didn’t just try and go after Phillip and Aurora. That feud began with Aurora’s parents, when her mother, Briar Rose, was placed under Maleficent’s sleeping curse, until she was awoken by Aurora’s father, Stephan. (I guess history really does repeat itself, but are we going to actually hear that story?) After Briar Rose was freed from the effects of the curse, Maleficent apparently lost her mojo, and pretty much became a wasted stoner. No joke, we actually see her shooting up with some concoction that was essentially a sleeping curse diluted with seawater and who knows what else. She spends a good chunk of the flashback bemoaning about how pointless it is to try and beat the good guys and whatnot. Not even Regina bringing her news that Briar Rose and Stephan’s daughter, Aurora, is about to get married to Phillip gets Maleficent out of her funk. That doesn’t happen until the end, when Regina’s attempt to help Maleficent get her internal fire back results in King Stephan and his soldiers capturing them. Regina manages to burn off the ropes binding her wrists together with her signature fireball move, and then, even though she’s clearly outnumbered and hasn’t fully mastered the fireballs, even tries to take on King Stephan’s soldiers. Seeing Regina’s refusal to give up apparently gave Maleficent the inspiration she needed, as she regained her ability to transform into a dragon again. The flashback ends with Maleficent placing Aurora under the sleeping curse, feeling that forcing them to see their daughter in that state would be a more satisfying punishment for Briar Rose and Stephan than simply killing them. She also vows to have a special curse in store for Phillip. (Yaguai time!) And with that, the stage was set for both the Enchanted Forest subplot in ‘Broken’ as well as the flashback in ‘The Outsider.’ Again, this was a very entertaining backstory, but I would like to learn more about what Maleficent's grievance with King Stephan and Queen Briar Rose was.