(Beware, spoilers below– scroll down to skip the recap!)
This week on Once Upon a Time we see Cora once more and we start off my seeing Regina unhappy about some villagers marrying on Royals lands. Her father begs her not to crush the young man’s heart, but it’s too late. the reason for her grief is that its the anniversary of Daniel’s death – and surprise surprise Cora appears at her beloved’s old grave. In New York Regina and Robin stew in their awkward situation. Regina offers a forgetting potion to help Roland and whilst Robin is hopeful for the future the presence of Zelena’s pregnancy… complicates things.
Hook goes to Granny’s diner and manages to convey the great news that Emma is coming back and isn’t dark. The author says that without Emma’s dark blood the ink won’t work but Rumple says all will work out. The gang arrive back in town and after Emma greets her family – sans parents – Lilith and Maleficent meet at last. But we flash back first to the Enchanted Forest, where Cora apologises for her actions. She’s back because she wants to help Regina find love and reveals she met Tinkerbell, so she knows all about her failure.
In Storybrooke Regina shuts away Zelena in her hospital vault where the latter maliciously states how she knows Regina will never murder her, as it will lead Robin to hate her. Gold staggers in his shop when Regina shows up, having figured out his problem with his heart: when his heart dies Rumplestilskin will, and this means only the Dark One will be left. He asks her for her help but she takes the quill off him and whisks away with the author on her own as Gold collapses to the ground.
Cora goes to enquire about Robin Hood and makes a deal with the Sheriff of Nottingham in order to find him. Regina talks to the author and reveals to him the page with her and Robin on it. He reveals that he wrote this in a little experiment that he never got to write properly and tells her that something is looking out for her. She tells him not to worry, that she’ll be able to find the ink. In Granny’s Diner Maleficent tells her that she doesn’t want to waste time on revenge but Lily is angry and taunts her about how the Charmings managed to get past her. Lily walks out of the diner threatening to leave forever.
Maleficent shows up on the Charming’s doorstep begging them to seal the borders so Lily can’t leave. Though Snow can’t do this, she begs them to help now. Regina talks to Lily but first back in the Enchanted Forest Cora finally has the good news that Robin Hood is on his way right now. However, this gentleman isn’t Robin… but the Sheriff. As their date continues she sets his tattoo on fire and gets him to reveal that Cora wanted her to have a child.
As Regina and Lily talk the former cuts her hand so that she has blood to drop into the inkwell. Lily’s eyes begin to glow and as the Charmings plus Maleficent drive around we see a dragon – Lily! Regina fumes at Cora for what she’s done, knowing that her mother never wanted her happiness whilst in the present day her and author go to see Zelena, because Regina has a great plan. At the same time Hook talks to Emma about her parents, encouraging her to forgive them.
The Charmings and Malefincent finally find Dragon Lily but the latter fumes out of control. The dragon knocks out Snow and takes to the sky. Snow’s alright though, and Emma finally makes up with her mum. Lily takes with Maleficent about how things have never worked out with her because of her darkness, and her mother convinces her to stay for a week. Zelena tries to spit threats at Regina but its not working. The latter says that she’s going to write out Zelena forever so it will be like it never existed. In the past Regina reveals that drank an infertility potion so that her mother can never control her future offspring.
Back in the present Regina changes her mind and decides that she’s finally found her place in the world. She tells the author he doesn’t need anything to be written, but he does, and spirits himself away to Mr Gold who has a new book ready for the author to write in.
The episode manages to delve into a whole plethora of mother-daughter relationships, with a stark contrast between Cora/Regina and Maleficent/Lily. With Snow’s fractured relationship with Emma and Zelena expecting if there’s anything we’ve learnt its that there’s no one right way to parent: but Maleficent’s giving it a good shot. She’s shaping up to be one of most likeable and complex villains since Regina, with plenty of untapped potential for further storylines. Lily’s character has perhaps less revealed beneath the surface, mainly emphasising the pain of her childhood. Whilst this might seem too heavy handed for some I think they’re dealing with the topic with the appropriate gravitas.
Emma and Mary Margaret summed up the resolution of the troubles of mother/daughter love, and though Emma’s problems with her dad has not been as focused on the ability of the show to determine and explore the relationships between women means gives it a strength which helps this episode to stand out beyond the plot setups for the Season Finale. It was a quiet and subtly beautiful episode, and I cannot wait for next week. We were almost in a good place at the end of tonight: trust Rumple to turn it all on its head.