This Sunday, in the midseason finale of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, the Storybrooke heroes banded together in hopes of defeating Peter Pan — but what price might they ultimately need to pay to do so? Plus: Who’s the big bad for the second half of Season 3?
IN ASSORTED FLASHBACKS…. | We see how Hook and Tinker Bell first met cute, with her holding a knife to his throat in Neverland. There, it’s revealed that Hook only risks his life for two things: love (as he does later, for Emma) or
Revenge revenge…. Outside school, when Henry laments to Mary Margaret that he feels like he doesn’t belong, she gifts him with a Once Upon a Time storybook that recently appeared in her closet “like magic.” For an instant afterwards, Henry sees his teacher as Snow White…. Belle finds Rumplestiltskin remembering lost Bae in his birthday…. And we get an encore of Emma birthing Henry but unwilling to look at or hold him.
IN STORYBROOKE…. | At the Storybrooke well, Pan (as Henry) explains to Felix how his plan to re-cast the Dark Curse upon Storybrooke will be a fate worse than death for their foes, since their identity-free “suffering will be eternal.” The only missing ingredient for the spell is the heart of the thing Pan loves most — which Felix assumes is Rumplestiltskin’s. But Pan corrects, “I never loved Rumple,” then explains how “love” can mean many things — including an appreciation of loyalty over the years. Pan thus plucks out Felix’s pumper, crushes it into the well, and a green smoke begins to bellow….
Elsewhere, Rumple explains to the gang how Pan’s plan can be stopped if they destroy the curse’s scroll, though doing so will come with “a steep price.” First step: Swap the boys’ bodies back, which requires the black fairy’s wand hidden at the convent where Blue is lying in state. Hook, Neal, Charming and Tink set out to procure the wand, but are confronted by Pan’s shadow. To trap him in the candle, Tink manages to make the pixie dust work and floats to the rafters, capturing the creature and then destroying it once and for all. Blue is in turn revived, and assures Tink that she has earned her wings back many times over.
At his shop with wand in hand, Rumple explains how he will return Henry to his body, at which point the lad is to bring the scroll to them to be destroyed. (No one thinking for a minute what Felix, who for all they know is alive, would do upon realizing Pan was gone. But anyway….) After casting the spell, Rumple stays behind to tend to “unfinished business” with his father while the others seek out Henry. But when Pan comes to, he scoffs at Rumple’s attempt to mute his powers with Greg and Tamara’s cuff — which Pan aka Home Office himself designed and thus is immune to. Pan renders his son helpless by slapping the cuff on his wrist, and gives him a beating.
Granny, using her nose, leads the group to Henry, but the moment Regina lays hands on the scroll, she passes out. Upon coming to, she explains that she “saw what needs to be done” to pull off their plan — and then Pan pops up to snatch the scroll and gloat. Rumple winds up getting the best of his father by sneaking up on him, declaring, “I have a job to finish” and “a price I’m finally willing to pay.” After essentially saying goodbye to Bae and Belle, Rumple summons his shadow to bring the dagger he left behind in Neverland and plunges it into both Pan and himself. Pan briefly morphs back into Malcolm and futily pleads, “We can start over…,” but Rumple (“Villains don’t get happy endings!”) twists the dagger further, sending them both vanishing in a burst of light.
And then the waterworks begin. (In fact, the streets are suddenly rain-soaked…?) As Belle sobs over losing Rumple, and Neal acknowledges his estranged dad’s sacrifice, Regina reveals the big wrinkle in stopping the curse: “I have to say goodbye to the thing I love most. I can never see Henry again.” As she explains, breaking the curse will “wink” Storybrooke away as if it never existed, while returning everyone — save Henry, who was born in our realm — to The Enchanted Forest. But he won’t be left here alone. Emma, as the Savior, can escape the curse and be with him — though Emma at first suggests they travel with everyone else to Fairytale Land. Alas that’s not an option, because Regina must pay a price. “But I just found you,” Emma cries to Snow and Charming. “I’m not done” restoring happy endings. Snow explains that happy endings aren’t always what we expect them to be, plus now she and Henry can be a family. Even Regina is accepting of the arrangement, admitting, “All I’ve wanted was for you to get the hell away from my son. But really what I want is for Henry to be happy.”
Reconvening at the town line, Emma hugs her folks goodbye, while Henry laments to Regina, “This is all my fault,” having not recognized that his mother did love him and then seeking out Emma in the first place. But Regina takes all blame, saying, “It was my fault to cast a curse out of vengeance…. Villains don’t get happy endings.” But, Henry declares, “You’re not a villain. You’re my mom.”
Emma says bye to her guys, first hugging Neal, who asserts, “This isn’t over.” Hook, meanwhile, first goes for laughs — “It’s quite a vessel you captain there, Swan,” mocking her VW bug — then shares, “Not a day will go by when I don’t think of you.” “Good,” Emma very warmly smiles. (Did it just get hot in here…?!) Regina then drops a final bombshell, that because Storybrooke will have never existed, neither will Emma and Henry’s memories of their time there. To fill the void, Regina grants them “good memories,” a past where Emma never gave Henry up for adoption. “But that past won’t be real,” Emma comments. “But your future will,” Regina responds. And as Regina rips the scroll and zaps the encroaching smoke, Emma and Henry drive off, leaving nothing behind — and we see that in Emma’s revamped memory of childbirth, she did hold Henry.
IN NEW YORK CITY, ONE YEAR LATER…. | The alarm clocks hits 8:15, Lou Reed’s “Charley’s Girl” (aka Neal’s intro song) is playing and Emma sits down for breakfast with Henry — but they’re interrupted by a knock at the door. It’s Hook. “Swan! At last. … Something terrible has happened. Your family is in trouble,” he reports, Doc Brown-like. But Emma, post-mind wipe, has no idea who this guylinered fella in leather is. To (hopefully) jog her memory, he goes in for a “true love’s” kiss, but is forcibly rebuffed. (“It was a long shot,” he admits. “Had to try.”) Poised to call the cops, Emma closes the door on this stranger as he beckons, “You have to remem–.”
THEN, IN THE MIDSEASON PROMO…. | It is revealed that come March 9, when Season 3B opens, Lost looker Rebecca Mader will be playing… the Wicked Witch of the West!
What did you think of Once‘s midseason finale? And how about some props for Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parrilla in those final scenes? And what burning questions would you like me to seek answers to during the 12-week hiatus?