Six months after the events of last episode, life in Storybrooke seems to be completely normal and blissful. (Who’s running Ingrid’s ice cream shop now? We see it in the background in the opening scene, so it’s still there. Who took over the business after Ingrid died?) Henry and the other school aged children are attending their classes (haven’t seen that for a while, have we?), Snow is teaching again, and Regina is back to being the mayor. (Isn’t this the second time she’s gotten the post back? Oh, well, we do get that humorous moment of her setting fire to the bluebird painting Snow had put up at the Mayor’s office during the Frozen arc.) We even get a brief glimpse of Emma and Killian getting the chance to experience their quiet moments by simply being a normal domestic couple, with Killian buying them coffee before they walk to work together. But there is still a certain degree of unrest. The fairies and the Apprentice are still trapped inside the Sorcerer’s Hat, despite Belle and Killian’s best efforts to research a way to release them. I have to say, I am REALLY loving the friendship that’s developed between these two. Considering how their initial meeting was quite rocky at best, it is quite refreshing to see them being able to put their past conflict behind them, and I’d love to see a lot more of this friendship in season 5. To make this scene even more impactful, Killian shows how big of a man he can be when he reassures Belle that Gold genuinely loved her.
Eventually, Belle hears back from a professor at Oxford (who is later revealed to have actually been Gold using a false identity), who helps her translate an ancient spell that can be used to release the fairies from the hat. The spell works, and all the fairies are freed. Unfortunately, they find out too late that the spell also released something else. (Seriously, how could NO ONE not see that black smoke pouring out and taking the form of a winged creature? It wasn’t exactly hard to miss.) This creature is eventually revealed to be Chernabog, who most Disney fans will remember from Fantasia’s Night on Bald Mountain segment.
Meanwhile, Gold has reunited with Ursula and Cruella, intending to utilize them in his plan to return to Storybrooke and locate the Author. How Cruella can walk the streets without drawing attention,
as she LOOKS like her animated counterpart, completely boggles my mind. Even her CAR is right out of the Disney movie, and her first appearance during the main story-line suggests she was involved in a scandal involving illegally skinned animals getting turned into fur coats, which was her M.O. in all the versions of the story. How can anyone look at her and not recognize her for who she actually was? Maybe this is more of that idiocy/blindness thing that Emma was displaying during the majority of season 1. Anyway, Gold’s plan involved giving Belle the spell to release the fairies from the hat, knowing the spell would also summon up Chernabog. His intention was to use the demon’s appearance to ensure Ursula and Cruella to be allowed into Storybrooke, by having them call up Regina with Gold’s cellphone, claiming they wanted to redeem themselves as well, and say they’d be willing to help offer a suggestion over how to defeat Chernabog (who they faced off against during the episode’s flashback) in exchange for a chance to enter Storybooke. Chernabog is eventually defeated when he’s forced over to town line, where he’s instantly vaporized, as he cannot exist in the Land Without Magic. Because of the deal they’d made, Emma and Regina decide to pass over the old scroll Ingrid used to find Storybooke, which allows Ursula and Cruella to see and enter town. However, Snow and Charming are quite leery over their presence, and as the episode ends, Snow threatens to kill the two Queens of Darkness herself if they tell anyone about their secret history with one another in the Enchanted Forest. And, according to Gold, Chernabog, whose thing is apparently to seek out the being with the greatest potential for darkness, was not targeting Regina the way everyone was thinking, but Emma.
I’m sorry to say that of all the episodes that kick start a new storyarc, this one was quite possibly the most boring. The whole episode can be summed up in a few short sentences. They free the fairies from the hat, but the spell they use also releases Chernabog. They manage to defeat him with information they gain from Cruella and Ursula, and as a reward for their assistance, the pair are allowed to enter Storybrooke. But the pair later go back and help Gold return as well. Oh, and Snow and Charming have a secret history with the Queens of Darkness. It certainly does set the stage for the Author arc, but I still find it quite boring. There’s not a lot more to this episode, apart from Henry continuing to work hard at locating the Author, who Blue seems to have known about this whole time. Why do they even go to Blue, anyway? I know she’s the head fairy and all, and that Henry is pretty determined to solve the mystery of the Author’s identity. But to be brutally honest, I wouldn’t trust Blue with anything. Especially as I’m sure she knows a lot more than she lets on. I once came across a fan theory that Blue would eventually be revealed to have been a villain this whole time, and I admit I can get behind this theory. It would be such an interesting turn of events to eventually learn that the Blue Fairy was actually the Black Fairy in disguise this whole time. I believe there was even an episode of Teen Titians called Spellbound that utilized a story-line like that.
Also, I really don’t understand the point of having Cruella being among the trio. Maleficent and Ursula I get. But Cruella? How does she fit in here? She wasn’t a mystical magic-wielding being like the others. She was just a crazy socialite who wanted to make dog skin coats. It’s like that old Sesame Street song. ‘One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.’ And they seemed to realize that pretty early on, as they just up and gave her the ability to control animals with green vapor breath. You know who they should have gotten instead of Cruella? The Horned King. It certainly would have gotten them some obscurity points. And his talent of summoning up undead armies could have made for some interesting moments and moral dilemmas amongst our heroes. Just imagine the Nevengers being forced to fight against old allies who have died. Like picture poor Snow being forced to attack the resurrected Johanna, or even her late parents, King Leopold and Queen Eva. Or Killian finding himself in a situation where he’d have to fight against a resurrected Milah and Liam to protect Emma and Henry. See? Drama!