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Once Upon a Time 2-16: The Miller’s Daughter

Based on the previews for last night’s episode, I was expecting something cataclysmic. Now I won’t say the episode last night wasn’t big and that it won’t have major consequences down the road. But it just wasn’t what I expected.

And I’m okay with that.

Our story starts in Enchanted Forest, where we get Cora’s back story. And we finally get to see a new take on the story that made Rumple so famous. (And can I just say that Rose McGowen was excellent at channeling Barbara Hersey as Cora?)

Cora started out as a miller’s daughter (hence the title of the episode). She was doing all the work since her father was a drunk you did nothing. And when she was delivering flour to the palace, a princess tripped her, yet she was made to apologize for the mess she made. It infuriated her, and she began to find a way to get back at them. (And did I have things correct that Snow’s mother is the one who tripped Cora? If so, that does shed new light on several scenes from last week.)

When we next see young Cora, she is infiltrating a masked ball held in order to find a prince a wife with enough of a dowrey to get the kingdom out of debt. The king spots Cora immediately as sends her away, but before Cora leaves, she tosses off a statement in anger. She can spin straw into gold. Naturally, the king demands to see it, and she is locked in a tower with a bunch of straw. If it’s not gold by morning, she will be executed.

And while she is contemplating jumping out of the tower, Rumple shows up. He has seen in the future that Cora’s first born will be vital to his plan. And so he offers a trade, spinning the straw into gold in exchange for her first born. Cora has a counter proposal – teach her how to spin straw into gold.

Rumple does, tapping into her hatred to perform the magic. Naturally, her life is sparred and she becomes engaged to the prince.

Somewhere along the way, Cora and Rumple have fallen in love. The night before the wedding, they decide to run off together. Rumple even changes the contract to be his first born with Cora. But Cora is going to talk to the king first, steal his heart, and make him watch as she crushes it.

However, the king just laughs at her, asking what is more important, love or power. Realizing she wants the power that comes with being a princess if not being queen, she leaves, but she does have a heart in a box.

She goes to the waiting Rumple and tells him she can’t run away with him. And it comes out that in order to quash her love for him, Cora took out her own heart. That’s the heart we saw. She does marry the prince and have a daughter – Regina.

There for a few minutes, I was very worried that Rumple was going to turn out to be Regina’s father. I don’t quite know why that would have increased the ick factor for me, but it would have.

So Regina was royal all along. I never got that impression before, but it is interesting.

And the dead way that Cora announced the birth of her daughter was very sad. It gives us another glimpse into what Regina dealt with growing up.

So let’s head to Storybrooke. In fact, that’s exactly what the New York crew is doing when we first see them. We see Henry and Neal navigating Hook’s ship back to town. They get there to learn that Cora has Rumple’s dagger. But she has decided that since he is dying, she wants to stab him and get his power as the dark one instead of controlling him. After all, if he dies, his power will just vanish. But if she can stab him with his dagger, she will become the Dark One.

Mary Margaret, David, Emma, and Neal rush Gold back to his shop, where they prepare to make a stand against Cora and Regina. Gold teaches Emma how to create a protection spell by thinking of all those she wants to protect with it. However, Regina and Cora make short work of it, and they use magic to disarm the four trying to protect Gold. Emma and Neal fall back, and Emma creates a new protection spell in the back room.

Before Cora and Regina arrived, Gold talked to Mary Margaret alone. He showed her the candle that she was given years ago to save the life of her mother. And he explains that it is the only way to save him. Despite what he said last week, the magic that is in Storybrooke isn’t enough to spare his life. He will die if she doesn’t use the candle and kill someone else to save him. The obvious choice – Cora. Only her heart is not in her body, it’s in Regina’s vault. And the heart will need to be in Cora’s body to kill her, although Mary Margaret can curse it in the vault.

At first, Mary Margaret refuses, but Gold starts to guilt her by bringing up his new found status as Henry’s grandfather. And then David, not knowing about any of this, tells Mary Margaret they will need to do anything to stop Cora. That changes Mary Margaret’s resolve. Earlier, we had seen her resolve to kill Cora weaken when David talked to her about pursuing justice instead of revenge, but now she is determined. When the battle at the front of Gold’s shop starts, she slips out and heads to the vault.

It takes her a little while to find Cora’s heart, and even when she does, the struggle to do the right thing is almost too much. But in the end, Mary Margaret lights the candle and says Cora’s name. Now, to get her heart back into her.

Cora, meanwhile, has sensed that someone is in the vault and sent Regina to stop them. Regina arrives to find Mary Margaret holding the chest with her mother’s heart. Mary Margaret obviously had something prepared because she makes a great case that Cora has never loved Regina and never would be able to without her heart. For Regina to get the love she wants, she needs to put Cora’s heart back in her. Heck, if I didn’t know better, I’d believe her. Regina falls for it, takes the chest, and takes off.

Meanwhile, David, who was thrown outside during the battle in the front of Gold’s shop, has figured out what Mary Margaret is up to. He races to the vault to find Mary Margaret sitting outside with her head in her hands. When he stops short, saying her name, he looks at her with pure misery on her face. “You were right.”

So in the back room, Gold has called Belle to say his goodbyes. She still doesn’t remember who she is or who he is, but Gold gives a stirring speech about how she always say the best in him and the man in him and it was almost enough to get rid of the beast. It also works on Neal, who, despite still being angry with his father, does grab the hand of the dying man, both of them crying.

With Gold almost dead, Cora has finally broken through the second protection spell that Emma put up and is now in the back room. She quickly sends Emma and Neal to the forest somewhere, leaving her alone with Gold. Before she stabs him with his dagger, he says there is one thing he needs to know. After some prodding, she finally admits that she loved him. In fact, he was the only man she ever loved, which is why she took out her own heart. Otherwise, she would have given in to love over power.

She raises up the dagger to stab Gold, and then stops, taking in a huge gasping breath. Regina has shown up and put her heart back in her. Immediately, her behavior changes, she drops the dagger and turns to Regina, talking about how much she loves her daughter. That is music to Regina’s ears, and the two embrace before Cora suddenly clasps her chest and collapses. Gold, meanwhile, has picked up the dagger. He’s feeling much better. As Regina holds Cora’s head in her lap, Cora dies. And just then Mary Margaret and David come charging in, calling for Regina to wait. They see they are too late, and Regina turns to look at Mary Margaret with fury in her eyes.

End of episode.

Wow, was there ever a lot packed into that hour. And again, we aren’t at a season finale or break of any kind. I can’t wait to see how this plays out over the rest of the season.

I really expected one of the main characters to be the one to die based on the teaser from last week, but I began to suspect it was Cora about half way through. She was a great villain, but I think her loss is going to make the rest of the season stronger as they play out this new wrinkle in the conflict between Mary Margaret and Regina.

Of course, it does continue the recent trend of the show to be darker than last season. I do hope we get something a bit lighter soon.

Something I was thinking about as the episode unfolded. All those who chose power over love have become the villains. All those who have chosen love over power are the heroes. It’s an interesting theme, and I wonder how they will play it out as the show continues.

Don’t think there’s much else on my end at the moment. Thoughts? Theories? Comments? Something I missed? For example, what did Cora say to Regina right before she died? I never did quite understand it, and I ran the scene back a couple of times.