With their road trip/mission of mercy complete, Emma and Regina return to Storybrooke, bringing Lily, Robin, Roland and the captured Zelena with them. (They’ve once again utilized the magic-nullifying wrist cuffs we last saw at the end of the Neverland arc to keep Zelena’s magic in check, which was pretty clever, but didn’t Zelena lose her power when her emerald amulet got taken away?) And Killian cannot resist going up to Gold directly to tell him his plans to turn Emma’s heart dark had failed. While it could be argued that Killian was being overly-cocky or immature by gloating, I say he’d earned this, particularly after everything Gold’s done to him and the people he loves. While there’s really no question that Killian has moved on, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’ll always feel a certain degree of resentment over what happened to Milah, but more importantly is what Gold’s done recently. Gold tricked and manipulated Killian into helping him imprison the Apprentice within the Sorcerer’s Hat and then blackmailed him into helping him in the future, attempted to also trap Emma inside the hat, magically captured Killian’s heart when he arrived on the scene to try and save Emma, turned him into a puppet and made him do his bidding, was perfectly willing to sit back and do nothing when Storybrooke was nearly wiped out by Ingrid’s curse, came THIS close to crushing his heart, and then tried to corrupt Emma’s heart with darkness. And then there was the issue of him repeatedly lying to and tricking Belle, who has pretty much become Killian’s new BFF. After all that, I really feel Killian rubbing Gold’s failure into his face was warranted.
When Emma and Regina return to Storybrooke with their list of passengers, we see there is still a dark cloud over the reunion. Emma is still not ready to forgive Snow and Charming, and Lily, even though Maleficent is visibly overjoyed at seeing her daughter for the first time, is not really receptive to her mother. Now that they’ve been reunited, Maleficent is so grateful, she’s willing to put her grievances with Snow and Charming behind her and simply focus on building a future with her daughter. Lily, however, cannot get past her grudge, and this places a giant wedge between the two, with Lily refusing to stick around town, even though she and Maleficent might never see each other again if Lily leaves Storybrooke. If Lily leaves, she can't come back without Ingrid's scroll. Maleficent can't leave at all, because if she tries, the magic keeping her alive will be severed, and she'll return to ash.
So, how does all this family drama get resolved? Well, to explain that, I’m going to have to go off on a brief tangent, so please be patient with me. Okay, I said in my analysis of ‘Sympathy for the De Vil’ that I would discuss my thoughts on Regina getting her happy ending later, and this is the episode when I feel I can properly discuss my feelings on the subject. For some time now, people have been saying she’s not a villain anymore and deserves to get a happy ending and what not. From time to time, I do agree she seems to have improved her attitude and I can get behind her efforts to aid Emma and the Charmings. But then, we get episodes like this that proves she hasn’t really changed at all, and still acts like everything revolves around her. We’ve just found out that Zelena is pregnant with Robin’s child because she’d been impersonating Marian for weeks, and Robin’s realized he was essentially being raped by Regina’s psycho B-word of a sister who knows how many times. Imagine how he must feel about that. I suspect he’d possibly be feeling betrayed, violated, unclean, and all the other emotions rape victims would experience. But Regina doesn’t even consider what Robin might be going through. No, all she can talk about is how Zelena’s pregnancy inconveniences her, and how hurt she is at the proof that Robin had moved on and slept with someone else. Lady, come on! You really need to remember that not everything is about you. As cute as their scenes together can be, I sometimes wonder what Robin sees in Regina.
And then we have the flashback story, which makes me disappointed with Regina on a whole different level. In this flashback, we see Evil Queen Regina getting into a funk on the anniversary of Daniel's death. So much so, she takes it out on a hapless young couple who are about to get married and ends up killing the groom-to-be. But things get worse when we see that Cora has somehow gotten back from Wonderland, because she got help from a ‘white rabbit.’ (Then why did she seem to be otherwise trapped there during the ‘Hat Trick’ and ‘Queen of Hearts’ flashbacks? Both times, it was suggested that she could only return to the Enchanted Forest with the aid of Jefferson’s hat. Now you’re telling me she could have just recruited the White Rabbit again? So why didn't she just do that?) Anyway, Evil Queen Regina is reasonably ticked off upon seeing her mother again, and even more so when she sees Cora actually placed a rose on Daniel’s grave (which really was impudent of her, I must say). Cora goes off on her usual spiel of how she now sees she was wrong and now wants to help Regina. Yeah, like we haven’t heard that one before. But this time, Cora has somehow met up with Tinkerbell and learned of the Man with the Lion Tattoo/Robin. To try and prove to Evil Queen Regina that she’s changed, Cora attempts to locate Robin, but instead meets the Sheriff of Nottingham. Deciding that the Sheriff would be a much more suitable match for Regina, Cora attempts to pass him off as Regina’s fated soulmate, but upon their meeting, the Sheriff proves he can’t fake his attitude, and his poor choice of words tips Regina off. After learning from the Sheriff that Cora’s ultimate plan was to get Regina to produce a child, Evil Queen Regina surmises that this was actually an elaborate plan to help Cora take over the throne by means of her biological grandchild. To make sure this never happens, Evil Queen Regina drinks a potion that will forever leave her barren. Which explains why she ended up needing to adopt a son. And it sorta explains why she’s taking Zelena’s pregnancy so hard- because she knows she will never experience that with Robin. (Although, that’s no excuse for completely ignoring the fact that Robin is just as much of a victim in all this. Plus, it could be possible for Regina to get her magical hysterectomy reversed. I’m pretty sure Lake Nostros is filled with water again. If they found a way back to the Enchanted Forest, Regina could just drink some water from that lake, and have the potion's effects nullified. After all, it helped restore Snow’s fertility after she was cursed to remain barren back in 'The Lady of the Lake' flashback. For all we know, the same could work for Regina.) But the thing that makes me disappointed with Regina after seeing this flashback is the fact that, even AFTER she went through the experience of having her mother try and set her up with a fake soulmate because the real soulmate wasn’t suitable enough, Regina STILL allowed herself to fall back into believing her mother’s phony claims during the second half of season 2. Hate to say it, Gina, but that’s really pathetic. It’s like that scene from Animals are Beautiful People when the baboon keeps looking under the same exact rock and constantly fainting when he sees the snake is still beneath the rock.
But getting back to the episode, Regina is so focused on how Zelena’s pregnancy inconveniences her, she decides to force Isaac to simply write Zelena out of existence, without even taking a moment to think of the consequences her actions could bring about. Remember how Gold’s heart is now almost entirely black, and the only thing that can save his life is if Isaac writes him a new happy ending? When Regina finds out that Gold’s heart is starting to give out, and once it does, the man Rumpelstiltskin will be dead, resulting in the Dark One to pretty much be let out of his cage, she’s all ‘not my problem,’ and teleports out of there with Isaac and his magic quill. Even though having an undiluted Dark One running around town should be EVERYONE’S PROBLEM! She then goes up to Lily, who’s waiting at the bus stop (how are busses able to service Storybrooke? Because it’s not like they can come and go freely, due to the magical barrier around the town), and forcibly takes some of Lily’s blood, stating that since her body contains what should have been Emma’s dark potential, Lily’s blood would serve the job that Emma’s blood would have had she gone dark. Yeah, it’s finally revealed that the enchanted ink Isaac needs to write requires a sample of Emma’s dark potential, which is why Gold wanted to turn her dark. That seems to be a bit iffy to me. What did the previous Authors use for their ink before Emma was born? They've more or less implied the role of the Author has been around since the birth of mankind. Seriously, what did they use for ink in the past? Either way, Regina just up and leaves Lily without even a by your leave after taking her blood. Regina’s actions at this moment force Lily into such a frenzy, she instantly transforms into her dragon form and runs (well, flies) amok. So, thanks to Regina, there’s now an emotional, angry dragon on the loose. Who must also be confused and scared, too, as this is most likely the first time she transformed in her whole life. And this is why I’m hesitant to say Regina really deserves a happy ending. While I won’t deny she’s made some effort to change, she just keeps going back to this whole ‘it’s all about me’ mindset, and shows no regard to how her actions in securing her own happy ending might negatively affect other people.
When Maleficent, Snow and Charming, who seem to have decided to truly let bygones be bygones, try to locate Dragon Lily and eventually track her down in a field somewhere (with Baby Neil completely unaccounted for again), Snow ends up getting hurt with a really painful looking head wound because she, for some stupid reason, decided to try running towards Dragon Lily, despite knowing full well Dragon Lily had wanted her dead. Really, Snow. What were you thinking? When Emma and Killian stumble across the scene, Emma is finally able to forgive her mother for omitting the truth, because she’s taken what Killian had told her earlier to heart.
In the scene in question, Killian had taken Emma down to the coastline, feeling that sitting by the water will be calming for her. The fact that he does this indicates that Killian has been paying attention and took note of Emma’s obvious penchant for coastlines. When she was worried about Henry’s odd behavior, and wanted to avoid her lunch-date with Neal at the end of the Neverland arc, Emma went down to the beach to think. After first learning about what her parents did to Baby Lily, Emma retreated down to the Storybrooke pier. And some of her old childhood drawings that Ingrid kept depicted a coastline. Emma really was made for an old seafarer like Killian. Anyway, as Emma and Killian talk over sharing Killian’s flask of rum, Killian discusses the rift that has been growing between Emma and her parents, encouraging her to remember that Snow and Charming were simply trying to make sure Emma grew up happy, and even though they did a bad thing, they’ve worked hard to make up for it and become the parents Emma could be proud of. A line I particularly enjoyed during this moment was the following exchange:
Emma: Oh, we talked about this.
Killian: I talked, you walked away.
That was such a married moment between the two, which made the scene even more believable. In the end, Killian’s words do the trick, and Emma is able to forgive her parents. As for Lily, she also manages to mend her relationship with Maleficent, with Maleficent offering to help Lily master her dragon form.
Now, what happened with Regina? In the end, she decides against erasing Zelena from existence, deciding a better punishment for her sister would be to simply force her to watch Regina move forward with her life and make her own happiness that way. But that’s when Isaac is all, ‘see you, suckers!’ and he returns to helping Gold by writing a brand new story called ‘Heroes and Villains,’ which would allow the villains to come out on top. And so, the stage is set for the two-part finale of season 4.