Everything comes down to the last episode of 2012, an enchanting adventure with a few game-changing moments.
When they reach Rumplestiltskin’s (Robert Carlyle) jail cell, Emma, Snow, Aurora and Mulan are ambushed by Cora and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue).They take the compass and head to the portal.
Realizing that Aurora is a liability, the other three leave her behind.They make it to the dry lake bed where Cora (Barbara Hershey) opens a portal between worlds. Just in time, they battle Cora and Hook for the portal.
When Cora gets her hands on Emma (Jennifer Morrison), she tries to rip out Emma’s heart. For some reason, though, she can’t. Emma, it turns out, has some magic in her, and she fends off Cora with it — much to everyone’s surprise.
In Storybrooke, Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Mr. Gold fear the possibility that Cora will find her way to Storybrooke. Convinced that Cora will beat Emma and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) to the portal, they decide to sabotage the portal entrance (the wishing well) with magic. No one knows whether Snow and Emma will return or if it will be Cora and Hook. But whoever comes through the portal will be killed.
When Henry (Jared Gilmore) finds out that Emma might be killed if she comes through the portal, he convinces Regina to return the portal to a safe state. He believes that Emma and Mary Margaret will defeat Cora and asks Regina to trust him. She does.
Emma and Snow do, in fact, defeat Cora and Hook and make it through to return home to their loved ones. Mary Margaret wakes up David with True Love’s Kiss. Mulan stays behind with Aurora to search for a way to save Philip.
But as the townspeople are celebrating their victory, a ship appears off the coast of Maine. Captain Hook and Cora are spying out this new land to which they have found their way …
Let’s face it, this episode was exciting. As everything came to a head, there was a sense of a ticking clock on both sides of the portal.
A lot of past threads were touched on. From the wishing well to the dry lake bed to Wonderland, the episode paid off for viewers who have been paying attention all season.
Just when Emma becomes convinced that her specialness ended with her birth, the Savior discovers hidden magic within herself. The shock she felt when she prevented her heart from being ripped out mirrored the audience’s. We can’t wait to see what else she can do!
Mulan and Aurora’s temporary departure — but with room to return -– was a good choice. They were underutilized and never fulfilled their potential, so it was better that they disappear for a while. Perhaps if they show up again, the writers will have a better sense of what to do with those two.
Wonderland. It’s always a pleasure to visit Wonderland. Too bad we never get to stay very long.
Regina’s struggle to be Henry’s mom was well-played by Lana Parrilla. Regina has wormed her way into our hearts this year, and it was truly saddening to see her left behind by Henry’s real family. That rejection might just set the stage for a return to her old ways in the future.
And finally, Hook’s personal sense of betrayal by Emma. When he told Emma that she had acted in a way that even one of Fairytale Land’s most infamous villains wouldn’t have done, that hurt.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Not a lot failed to work. The episode was pretty good, actually. It wrapped up the current arcs very nicely and set up the next set.
However, Emma’s sword skills have to be called into question. How does a modern New England gal like her learn to wield a sword almost as well as a career pirate? Maybe she has some unknown sword-fighting magic? But it does seem a little improbable.
Most of the season has spent a lot of time focusing on there being one -– and only one -– way back to Storybrooke. So it was a bit of a let-down that Regina and Hook were immediately shown as having found another way back. It will be interesting to see how that happened, and the arc promises to be a lot of fun come January. But it was still a lot of wasted energy fighting over one portal.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
“Queen of Hearts” was directed by Ralph Hemecker. It was written by series creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.
“Once Upon a Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.