Once Upon a Time 2-9: Queen of Hearts

I had some expectations going into tonight’s winter finale of Once Upon a Time. Those expectations were met, but we got some interesting pieces of the puzzle along the way. Once again, I am impressed by how the writers of this show are weaving together threads into a coherent whole. I don’t know how long they can keep this going, but the ride is so much fun along the way.

Oh yeah, and they made me feel sorry for Regina. I know. I never thought I would utter those words unqualified last year.

We’re going to start with the flashbacks. There wasn’t much to them, but what was there was pretty interesting.

The episode started with someone breaking into a castle. It was Hook, and he was looking for Belle. This was while she was being held by Regina after escaping from Rumplestiltskin. Anyway, Hook comes in and starts trying to free her, telling her that Rumple is on a rampage, and she has to help Hook kill Rumple. But when Belle says she doesn’t know how, Hook knocks her out and plans to kill her. Only Regina walks in and stops him by magically removing his hook.

She then tells him and she has a better plan for getting revenge of Rumple. Go with her to the new land without magic. There it will be easy to kill Rumple. Hook goes along with it. The catch is he has to do one thing for her – kill Cora. And where is Cora? In Wonderland, of course.

I honestly don’t remember who it was who first suggested that Cora was the Queen of Hearts, but they were right. Of course, I guessed that when I saw the title of tonight’s episode.

Regina sends Hook to Wonderland with the power to take Cora’s heart – he can take someone’s heart once. But Cora has hidden her heart, so Hook fails. Then Cora uses Hook’s heart to learn everything, however, she doesn’t take it. She wants Hook’s help but needs it willingly given. She then explains that the curse will cause him to loose his memory, so he is better off throwing in with her.

So they head back to Enchanted Forest with Cora pretending to be dead so that she can then kill Regina. But she changes her mind when she learns the curse is already under way. Besides, she figures she will be there to pick up the pieces when Regina is defeated. Always scheming, isn’t she. So she and Hook go to a remote part of the kingdom and she puts up a barrier to keep them and those around them from succumbing to the curse.

So, in this small section, we’ve learned why Mulan, Aurora, and Phillip among others weren’t pulled into the curse. And we’ve learned why Hook was able to take Aurora’s heart last week. 28 years later, he finally used that one time magic.

So now let’s go back to the present day. Once again, we’ll need to bounce back and forth, so hang on.

In Storybrooke, David is still asleep at Gold’s. Gold convinces Regina that they need to break the portal. Otherwise, when Cora comes through, everything will be lost. So the two of them set out and steal the rest of the magic from the cave. They take it to the portal – the well on the edge of town – and use it to create a barrier. Whoever comes through will be killed. Regina is very concerned that it will be Snow and Emma. Yes, concerned. Mainly, I think it is because she knows what it will do to Henry and their relationship. But she is still concerned. Still, after Gold talks her into doing this, she lies to Henry before they set out.

Of course, their theft of the magic diamonds doesn’t go unnoticed. It is soon discovered by Grumpy who tells Red. And they and the dwarves go to Gold’s where they tell Henry. He declares they must be stopped, and he sets out with Ruby to do just that.

Now let’s take a gander over to Enchanted Forest present. Our four heroines are searching Gold’s cell for the magic ink they can use to defeat Cora, but they are having trouble finding it. They do find a scroll with Emma’s name written on it over and over and over again. Before they can fully process that, Mulan finds the vial that used to hold the ink. That’s right – it’s empty.

About that time, Aurora throws a rock at the lever holding the bars to the cell open. As the other three are shocked by this turn of events, we see Cora and Hook walking down the corridor. They explain that Cora now has Aurora’s heart. They magically take the compass and set off.

Emma spins into despair. She is the savior, yet she’s done nothing since breaking the curse. And, they are trapped. Plus she feels like she is just a pawn in a larger game, most likely Gold’s. Snow tries to talk her out of it, saying that good always triumphs over evil. And yet that doesn’t go much good until Snow recognizes the fact that the scroll with Emma’s name written on it over and over again might have magical properties. She breaths on it, and it puffs off the page, breaking the bars that were holding them. Aurora insists on staying behind since Cora still has her heart, but the other three take off to stop Cora and Hook.

That duo, meanwhile, has gone to the dried up Lake Nostrus. Cora uses magic to find some of the magic water that can restore what once was lost. They dump in the wardrobe ashes, and a whirlpool forms. They both grab the compass, but just as they are about to jump in, Snow shoots the compass out of their hand.

Naturally, a fight ensues with Emma taking on Hook and Snow taking on Cora. Cora tries to throw Aurora’s heart into the whirlpool, but Hook grabs it and saves it, giving it to Mulan. Snow sends her back to Aurora with it.

Meanwhile, Hook has knocked Emma on her back and thinks he’s won. However, Emma is on the compass. In the distraction of this revelation, Emma knocks him out. Now to defeat Cora.

Snow is doing her best, but it’s hard when your enemy changes into a puff of smoke and moves around. At one point, Cora disappears, and Snow and Emma try to make a run for it, but then Cora appears in their way.

Cora is going to defeat them by taking out Snow’s heart, but Emma knocks her out of the way at the last second. With Cora’s hand in Emma’s chest, Cora repeats her familiar phrase that love is weakness. However, when she tries to pull out Emma heart, she can’t. As Emma tells her that true love is strength, Cora is blasted back. Snow and Emma quickly both grab the compass and run into the whirlpool.

But wait, back in Storybrooke, Gold and Regina have put that magic on the well that will kill them when they walk through. Henry and Red have shown up, but they aren’t getting through. Regina and Gold are still convinced that this is the best since Cora will be the one to come through first. But Henry finally gets through to Regina, who goes and takes the magic off the well. I’m guessing she drew it into her self, but whatever she did, it looked painful.

She did it just in the nick of time, too, because Emma and Snow emerge from the well. Henry and Red joyfully reunite with them, and then they rush back to Gold’s shop, where Snow awakens David.

In the midst of this happy reunion, Emma goes to confront Gold. She accuses him of using her for her entire life, but he says that’s not the case. He wrote her name on the scroll to make sure she was powerful enough, but everything she has done, including defeating Cora just now, was her using the power of true love.

Henry, meanwhile, is hugging Regina and thanking her for her part in getting his family back together. And then everyone (the dwarves, Snow, David, Red, Emma, and Henry) heads off to Granny’s to catch up over dinner. They leave behind Regina with tears in her eyes. Gold, nice guy that he is, comes in and points out how they left her alone even after what she’d just done for them.

And yes, my heart broke for Regina. I mean, Gold had a point, and I wish the characters had seen that on their own.

But we aren’t done yet. Back in Enchanted Forest, Hook and Cora come to at a pond of calm water. The whirlpool is gone. But Hook still has a trick up his sleeve. He has an old, shriveled magic bean. They can use the water to restore it and grown a portal to Storybrooke. And that’s just what they do, because in the last scene of the episode, we see Cora and Hook approaching the harbor of the town.

Phew. A lot happened.

Oh yeah. We did get one more scene with Mulan and Aurora. Mulan managed to put Aurora’s heart back in, and the two set off to try to get Phillip’s soul back.

Okay, now I think I’m done for real. I was glad to see this last bit since last week I was expecting a very tragic ending for Aurora and Phillip.

I found the conversation Emma had about how she’s done nothing since breaking the curse funny considering that was discussed in the comments here last week.

I’m wondering when Belle is going to go after Regina for locking her up in Storybrooke and Enchanted Forest.

And, of course, Regina is going to go back to her old self now that everyone ignored her in the after math of their happy reunion. I can understand her hurt, although she needs to remember that they have had years to not trust her. Repairing that rift and earning their forgiveness will take time.

And Cora and Hook are in Storybrooke. This is going to be interesting to say the least. I wonder if anyone knows quite what they are in for.

I liked how they wove in the answer to the plot hole from last week involving Hook taking a heart and how they answered the question about why that one corner of Enchanted Forest was spared. I wonder if we’ll see more of Aurora and Mulan and Phillip or if we’ll be left to assume they had a happy ending. Will we go back to Enchanted Forest present at some point?

And I’m wondering if they made a mistake or if there was something I’ve missed. When Snow recognizes the writing on the scroll, she says she recognized it from sneaking in as a little girl and watching Cora practice magic. Since Cora was banished when Regina and Snow’s dad got married, shouldn’t that be Regina? Or was Cora around long enough for Snow to watch more than once? It sure sounded like something she did on a regular basis.

And Gold pretty much admitted he is using the curse and everything going on around them for his own purposes, which is why he didn’t escape from the cell way back when. (I’d wondered about him having that ink in the cell.) That confirms my theory all this was really his attempt to get to our world and meet up with his son again.

We’ve got a month to wait for new episodes, so I’ll see you back here on January 6th.