This second episode serves as a nice bridge between the reset that occurred last week and the new storylines for the rest of the season. Happily, several recurring and left-behind characters got a chance to come out and play.
The seven dwarves discover the hard way that the curse still keeps them from leaving Storybrooke, which becomes a real problem when Regina (Lana Parrilla) gets her hands on her magical powers again. She wants Henry (Jared Gilmore), who goes with her reluctantly after she threatens the townsfolk with magic.
Meanwhile, David/Charming (Josh Dallas) is determined to find Emma and Mary Margaret. He follows a lead (the hat) but ends up having to temporarily abandon his quest in order to quell the town’s panic at Regina’s newfound magical ability. He convinces them to stay together in Storybrooke, to go home and continue with their lives for now.
When David goes to retrieve Henry from Regina’s grasp, she does the right thing for once and sends Henry away. She tells him she wants Henry to love her and want to stay of his own choice.
In the Enchanted Forest’s past, Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) introduces young Regina to her own magical potential. Because her mother is forcing her to marry the king against her will, Rumplestiltskin offers her a way to send Cora (Barbara Hershey) to another land through a magic mirror.
She does so, savoring her first taste of the power of magic. And, much to her horror, maybe making her more like her mother.
And in the Enchanted Forest’s present, Emma and Mary Margaret — having run afoul of Mulan and Aurora — are tossed in the dungeon of the survivors’ camp. There they bump into none other than Cora herself.
Looks like we’ll be seeing more of Barbara Hershey as Regina’s Mommy Dearest. Not only does Hershey do “evil queen” well, but Cora adds to the layers of Regina’s story quite nicely. Props to the series for leading viewers to the wrong conclusion about where Cora ended up going through the mirror.
More Red (Meghan Ory)! She’s such an underutilized character.
With Emma and Mary Margaret out of the picture in Storybrooke, it was nice to have some quality time with the other residents. There was time for the return of Geppetto and Pinocchio, a bit of wisdom from Dr. Hopper, young Snow’s cameo, crossbow-totin’ Granny, and the always-fabulous Grumpy, making for a much-needed ensemble episode.
There was also some nice male bonding between the men in Snow’s family, with the ladies gone. That last scene of Henry and David in the diner was precious.
David/Charming stepped up and (finally) focused on something beyond his own problems. It was very … well, princely. Which was exactly what everyone needed at that moment.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
What exactly were the townspeople thinking when they decided to just head out of town? Sneezy ended up back in town, in his old persona, thinking he had a shop to run. So the rest of them would most likely end up back in Regina’s sphere of influence anyway, but oblivious to the danger. It doesn’t seem like much of an escape plan …
Finally, Charming’s whole quest was a big run-around that seems to have just served to kill time. For all his running and blustering, he ended up in almost exactly the same place he started out. The only change is that he has confirmation that the Enchanted Forest still exists. Which viewers already knew, and he clearly suspected.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
“We Are Both” was directed by Dean White, and it was written by Jane Espenson.
“Once Upon a Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.