I’m going to start this off with a big THANK YOU to the writers for a return of recently underutilized minor characters. Ruby, Archie, Granny, and Dr. Whale all finally get back on my screen and I couldn’t be happier about it! Ruby even remembers the way that Henry takes his cocoa (I admit, I may have squealed a little at that). I would have loved to see Mulan among the Merry Men, but with Jamie Chung now on another show, I’ll just keep hoping for cameos…
Blatant fangirling aside, I’ll get back to the meat of the episode.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
We open with the Wicked witch in residence at Regina’s palace. She is remarking on the opulence therein, all the jewels and fancy gowns. There is more than a hint of derision (jealousy?) in her tone as she appraises her surroundings. Eventually she settles on a gown to borrow and tells her monkey to make sure The Evil Queen knows of her presence.
Our group of heroes and royalty are plotting their way into the palace. Regina is revealing a plan when the monkey arrives, seemingly targeting Roland, the young son of Robin Hood. Regina saves Roland by turning the monkey into a stuffed toy. Belle recognizes the flying monkey from reading about Oz and Regina names the Wicked Witch as their latest enemy. She devises a way into the palace but insists on going alone. Because obviously everyone can just trust her by now, right? Right? Robin Hood has other ideas. He calls it paying a debt for saving his son.
Once inside the castle, Regina reveals her true goal is a quasi-suicide by sleeping curse. Robin cannot talk her around, but a run in with the Wicked Witch interrupts her intentions. The witch, who goes by Zelena, reveals that she is Regina’s sister. They share a mother, but the father is left to speculation. This did not come as much of a surprise to the fandom, because honestly, who isn’t expecting that family tree to keep sprouting new and disturbing branches, at this point? At any rate, we learn that Zelena was also a pupil of Rumplestiltskin, once upon a time (heh) but was turned over for Regina. Zelena seeks vengeance against Regina, Cora, and Rumple. This is made more difficult when Regina reveals that Rumple and Cora are both dead. Unfazed, Zelena decides that making Regina miserable is good enough. Ironically, finally having an enemy again gives Regina the strength to go on without Henry. Whatever works, I suppose…
In present day Storybrooke, Snow, Charming, Emma, and Hook are desperately trying to solve the mystery of the last year that was lost. Hook reveals how he was summoned to help, which is mysterious in itself, as no one knows who could or would have reached out for help. The dwarves arrive with news that people in town are going missing. They need to start making sense of things, fast. In the woods, we see a flying monkey grab Little John (who is, of course, a very large man) and drag him off. Later, Little John turns into a flying monkey himself.
Simultaneously, Emma has gathered the whole town to discuss the most recent events and surprise of surprises, everyone is eager to blame The Evil Queen. As the whole town rises up against her, she sends them a minor earthquake and vanishes in purple smoke. Apparently, this is very amusing to a much less green Zelena, who watches from the crowd. This is exactly as Emma and Regina had been hoping. With the whole town suspecting Regina, the actual villain of the piece thinks she is off the hook. Emma and Regina try to recreate the memory potion but to no avail. Then they try to trick the Big Bad into revealing herself, but are again at a loss. They do, however, prove to be much better friends than they previously thought, and Emma even talks Regina into a meeting with no-memory-Henry.
Zelena, for her part, is cozying up to Snow, posing as a former midwife. Snow is just desperate enough to fall for it. You’d think Snow had never had a baby before, with all the nervous energy surrounding this pregnancy. Of course, that may also have to do with the total memory loss as the baby’s conception, the brand new curse from an unknown origin, and the fact that people are turning into monkeys. At any rate, Snow accepts (non-green) Zelena’s help.
Zelena smugly returns to her cozy underground hideout. As most villains do, she has a caged prisoner on hand – a wild eyed and very unshaven Rumplestilskin. His heated reminder of “You shouldn’t have brought me back” is followed by a few moments of crazy disjointed singing about (his own?) madness and then messy porridge-eating.
So… at least he’s not dead?
This episode was full of important revelations and new connections. The dialogue was snappy and the pacing was good, despite constant shifts between the two dimensions/time lines. Highlights included Snow claiming she had been Emma’s cellmate, on account of “Banditry” and Emma’s disbelief at the idea of a real Wicked Witch being met with Hook’s snarky reminder of her own origin.
I also greatly enjoyed the nod to so many ‘ships,’ old and new. Emma’s concern for Neal (who has not yet made an appearance in this new Storybrooke) rankles Hook for obvious reasons. Regina and Robin spend a little B & E bonding time together, discussing the importance of their children in their lives. Emma and Regina have themselves a good old fashioned stake out in the yellow bug (complete with adorable dialogue). Snow and Charming… continue to be Snow and Charming. Belle and Rumple are not yet reunited, but who better to nurse him back to health? OK, that last one is hopeful speculation, but crazy is a lot better than dead!