Just as the show did with Regina, it now tells her mother’s backstory to give the audience some sympathy for the devil.
Young, poor Cora (Rose McGowan) vows revenge after being humiliated by the king and his entourage. Her revenge involves winning power and wealth through a royal marriage. However, to do so, she ends up forced to try to turn straw into gold. Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) arrives and offers to help her. Very quickly, the two are seriously into one another.
Sadly, Cora has to choose between getting everything she wants or running off with Rumple. To choose power over love, she rips out her own heart and gives up on love entirely.
Back in Maine, Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Neal (Michael Raymond-James), Henry and a dying Mr. Gold arrive home. They prepare a defense against Cora (Barbara Hershey) and Regina, trying to prevent the two ladies from finishing off Rumplestiltskin and taking his power as the Dark One.
When Rumple offers Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) the secret to killing Cora outright (that candle from “The Queen is Dead”), she does so. Even though she repents soon after her mortal act, it’s too late.
Cora is struck down fatally, dying in Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) arms. Rumple is rejuvenated. But Regina realizes that Snow White is responsible for her mother’s death, which can’t be good for Snow’s continued health …
Rumplestiltskin’s heartfelt phone call to Belle and his reconnection with a still-angry Baelfire was really beautiful. And in a different way, so was the scene between him and Cora at the spinning wheel. Disturbing, but very well-done.
Rose McGowan did a good job as the young Cora, especially toward the end. To emulate Barbara Hershey is not an easy job, but she did well without going overboard.
Well, now it appears that Regina might have a legitimate reason to be pissed at Snow. She does seem to have a knack for ruining Regina’s life. And this time, she has a lot more to answer for.
Once again, the show manages to take a familiar part of a fairytale and twist it around into something interesting. This week, it was Rumplestiltskin and the young lady forced to spin straw into gold.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Did it not occur to any of our intrepid good guys to maybe bring a gun to a knife fight? Or a wolf? Or a whole mob of angry dwarves? Granted, anything still might not have been able to stop Cora, but they might have been better than some swords …
After weeks of build-up, this “big showdown” between good and bad in Storybrooke was kind of lacking. With a town full of magic, unique characters and shotgun-toting grannies, this should have been a much more exciting confrontation than it was. And it was a bit of a confused mess. It seemed like the writers got all the characters in the same room and then realized they were going to have to figure out what to do with them. The fight was muddled and it took too many easy ways out.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
“The Miller’s Daughter” was written by Jane Espenson. It was directed by Ralph Hemecker.
“Once Upon a Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.