(Beware, spoilers below!)
Once Upon a Time always involves a kick-ass recap so if you’d like to skip it, scroll further down. We return to Once Upon a Time at last as the Queens of Darkness meets in Maleficent’s home. The women tussle until Rumplestiltskin appear and tells them it’s time their happy endings came about. However all seems as normal as can be in Storybrooke with everyone going about their business. In the library we learn that Hook and Belle are trying to figure out a way to release the fairies from the hat. The two commiserate over their actions as Belle hopes that wherever he is, Mr Gold has found whatever it is he’s looking for.
Speaking of, Mr Gold is hanging out at Ursula’s apartment in New York and the two go to visit an old friend – Cruella. Even though she’s doing a tad better than the others Mr Gold convinces her to take them to Storybrooke. Flashing back to the Enchanted Forest we see Rumplestiltskin convince the queens that he knows what each of them wants and in Cruella’s car today he tells them that the existence of the author now gives them an edge where they’d failed before.
Emma goes to visit Regina and she finds the picture which didn’t come from the book. Just then Hook and Belle rushes in saying that they’ve found a way to release the fairies from the box. With Regina’s help they finally manage it and the fairies are free once more. However, when they aren’t looking a black mist is emitted from the box and flies away. Back in the Enchanted Forest Rumplestilskin takes the queens to the source of the curse and with the help of the Queens the manage to overcome the traps set in place and Rumplestitskin runs off with the curse, trapping them inside. Mr Gold isn’t having as much luck in Storybrooke as both Ursula and Cruella cannot see the town and they’re starting to mistrust him even more.
However, he once again convinces them to follow him and his plan. Hook is still guilty over what happened to the Apprentice and the fairies, but Emma assures him that everything is ok, and that he really is shaping up to be a hero. Regina’s actually making sue of the freed sisters as she tries to quiz Blue over who the writer of the book might be. Blue tells them that she’s never met the writer of the book, but that her and the Sorcerer are two very different people. Just then a roar shakes the diner and the team rush out to the find the black shadow – now in the shape of a dragon – attacking the town.
We flash back to Storybrooke as the Queens battle the darkness demon, one who’s priority is to go for the heart of the one with the darkest potential. Emma and Regina use their magic to ward the beast away whilst the Queens of Darkness also find a way to beat the beast. Outside Storybrooke’s town line Ursula and Cruella plead with Regina to let them into the town. The Hell Bat is still wreaking havoc and the Sea-Queen uses this in order to barter with Regina to be let into the town if they can give advice which will help defeat the beast. Maleficent helps divert the beast as the two remaining Queens flee and then help save her.
Emma decides that their best bet is to drive the beast across the town line since that ought to make the beast turn to dust. The plan works and the best is no longer a problem: as both Henry’s moms are ready to give Ursula and Cruella a second chance. Even though David and Mary Margaret warm the duo not to do it, Regina and Emma agree that the women deserve a second chance to find their happy endings too.
Night descends on Storybrooke and Mr Gold waits all alone: until a scroll allowing him to cross the town line comes across. As he reveals how he orchestrated the whole plan – from the release of the beasts and fairies to being the professor who translated the runes – he tells the Queens that Emma Swan’s heart was the one the beast was after. The Saviour’s currently sitting in a diner wondering where her parents are. It turns out that Mary Margaret and David are out threatening the queens. If they breathe a word of what happened with in the Enchanted Forest, Snow will rip out their hearts herself…
What a slam bam return to Storybrooke that was. Robert Carlyle makes the most of the storyline placing him front and centre, though Storybrooke is a sleepy town indeed if absolutely no one noticed Mr Gold strolling down the street at the end. Perhaps not everyone knew he was gone and so didn’t think anything of it? Unlikely. The little twist at the end with Snow was indeed interesting but without greater context it seems a little out of context. It’s great seeing how many of the relationships have moved on just as per the time frame. Emma and Regina are a new friendship that was cultivated well over the earlier part of Season 4 and the two seem to have let the events bring them closer. This episode does plenty of setting up for the next season and even though this means there is less performance showcasing involved, there is at least no compromise on drama or fun. I’m so excited and glad Once Upon a Time is back … let’s see where the season takes us!