So, we're back after a winter hiatus (and Gallavant!) for what looks to be an uninterrupted run of 10-11 episodes until the season finale. Whether you think it's better to run a season in two uninterrupted blocks, or smaller blocks, is up to you.
Anyway, Gold is "putting the band back together" as he finds Ursula and Cruella, orders fast food, and deals with microwave dinners. That's probably the funniest part of this episode, watching a down-on-his-luck Gold turning up his nose at ordering his food at a drive-thru fast food place.
We only get Ursula and Cruella in the present this week. They don't really impress. Ursula has... umm, tentacles. And Cruella controls animals. Presumably all their evil makes up for their low-power magic. Maleficent shows up in just the flashback, and acts all evil and nasty. None of the three Queens of Darkness impress much so far.
As for our regulars, apparntly we're going to see more of their dark sides. Gold says that Emma has a heart of darkness. Mary Margaret makes some evil threats and David goes along with her. Apparently they're hiding something dark and evil in their paths.
Other parts, it's not so clear. Regina uses the Dark One's dagger to free some fairies and looks at it like a junkie after a fix. A newly-freed Blue Fairy (Keegan Connor Traacy) twitches and grimaces a bit, but it's hard to tell if it's the actress or the writers.
So overall it was a pretty good reintroduction to the series. The Queens of Darkness don't seem that promising, so hopefully they'll make up for it with the "darkness" in the regulars and Robert Carlyle's always-villainous performance.
The Forbidden Fortress: Many Years Ago
Ursula disposes of a guard and enters the palace. Maleficent appears and demands to know who she is. Ursula attacks her and Maleficent easily parries the attack. The sea witch says that she was invited there, but Maleficent has no idea what she's talking about. Cruella arrives with two of her dogs and demands to know why she was summoned there. Rumplestiltskin appears and explains that he summoned them. He points out that they are all villains and that it's time that they get their happy endings.
Six weeks after Gold is banished from Storybrooke, the townspeople have returned to their normal lives. Henry spends time with both Regina and Emma. Granny babysits Neal. Mary Margaret goes back to teaching. Regina reclaims her office. Emma and Hook have coffee in the morning before she goes to work at the sheriff's station.
At the library, Hook and Belle try to find a way to free the fairies from the Sorcerer's Hat. Hook finally explodes in frustration and Belle assures him that they're doing everything possible. He continues to blame himself for letting Gold trick him, and Belle points out that they were both weak. The pirate admits that Gold was right about love being a weapon, and assures Belle that her husband did love her.
In New York, Ursula comes home to her loft apartment and finds Gold making a microwave dinner. She's not convinced that he can give her a happy ending, and Gold points out that her life is crap. Ursula figures that Gold doesn't care about her, and he admits that he doesn't but that their problems align. An email comes in and Gold tells her that it's the beginning of the end of their misery.
Gold and Ursula go to Great Neck, Long Island, where a crowd has gathered outside a manor. FBI agents are leading away Cruella's husband and taking away all the possessions to cover his debts. Gold and Ursula approach her and she demands to know why they're there. Cruella wants nothing to do with them, but Gold tells her that things have changed since their last alliance. They've all lost everything they had, although Cruella reveals that she still has her roadster. Gold points out that she'll just end up where she is now, and offers to get everything that she's had and more. Cruella points out that will be a challenge in a world with no magic, but Gold says that there is magic in the world. After a moment, Cruella tells them to get in and Gold says that they're heading to Storybrooke.
The Queens of Darkness don't believe that Rumplestiltskin is powerful enough to give them their happy ending. Cruella snaps at him, saying that she doesn't appreciate being dragged around on false promises, and Rumplestiltskin assures her that he knows exactly what they all want: to win. Maleficent says that no spell can accomplish what he promises, and Rumplestiltskin says that they're not looking for a spell but a dark curse.
As they wait at a fast food drive-thru, Cruella wonders why Gold's new plan should work any better than the old one. He says that once they find the Author, they can change the odds. Gold explains that the Author dispenses justice as he sees fit, and all they need to do is find him. As they order, Gold says that the Author is in Storybrooke and they have to find him before the heroes do.
Emma brings takeout to Regina as she goes through one of the storybooks, and Regina figures that the author doesn't want to be found. Emma looks through a drawer for a bottle opener and finds a storybook page picture of Robin and Regina, torn up and taped back together. Regina explains that the page just appeared to Robin, and he thought it represented hope that things would work out for her. Emma asks if she's heard from Robin, and Regina admits that she hasn't.
Hook and Belle arrive and explain that they found an Oxford professor of linguistics online who could translate an ancient incantation for them. They go into the woods to have Regina perform the spell over the Sorcerer's Hat using the Dark One's dagger. Regina performs the ritual and a burst of energy shoots forth from the Hat. The fairies emerge and everyone welcomes them back. As they hug, they're unaware of a creature made of black essence floating out of the Hat and drifting off into the sky.
Rumplestiltskin directs the Queens to a tunnel deep in the mountains and explains that the curse afflicting them resides there. There are several magic obstacles that they must overcome to get to it, each matching their magic talents. The first door is covered in bloodthirsty beetles. Cruella uses her magic with animals to dispel them, and the door opens to reveal a chamber beyond. Inside is a wall of flame protecting an altar, and Rumplestiltskin has Magnificent absorb it with her magic. Ursula then grabs the curse sphere with her tentacles and gives it to Rumplestiltskin. The cavern starts to shake and Rumplestiltskin tells his former pupils that the Chernabob is the final guardian, and it feeds on evil. As he walks out, the demon emerges from the altar.
Cruella drives to Storybrooke and Gold has her stop at the edge of the barrier where he's left a marker. He explains that the town is cloaked by a protection spell, and Cruella draws a gun on him when she believes that he's betrayed them. Ursula kicks his cane away and they demand to know who banished him. He insists that he's there for his happy ending but refuses to tell them the details. Gold tells them to go on without him if they think they can face the light magic without him, but promises that if they trust him then they'll be invited in. When Ursula points out that the townspeople won't trust them with Gold at their side, Gold says that he won't be. Cruella lowers her gun and tells him to start talking.
At the diner, everyone is celebrating. Hook is lurking out in the hallway when Emma finds him, and he points out that he's the reason that they're trapped. Emma assures him that they'll accept that Gold used him, and he goes in to a hero's welcome. Meanwhile, Regina and Henry approach the Mother Superior and the mayor asks her if she knows what the storybook is. Emma comes over and explains that they found it at the Sorcerer's mansion, and the Mother Superior is surprised to learn that they're looking for him. Regina explains her plan and the Mother Superior says that the magic is very powerful. However, she warns that the Sorcerer isn't the Author, and doesn't know why the Sorcerer has the Author's books. She doesn't know who the Author is, and warns that no one has seen him in many years. Emma wonders how he disappeared, and the Mother Superior admits that she doesn't know but that there are rumors that he left hidden clues in his works.
The diner suddenly shakes and a wave of darkness sweeps across the room. The group goes outside and finds the Chernabob perched atop the clock tower.
The Queens take cover as the Chernabob comes after them. Maleficent spots a crack in the wall and says that once the demon chooses one of them, the other two can run for it and then work together to save the third. Cruella wonders how they can trust her, but Maleficent points out that they don't have a choice. The three women step out and after a moment, the Chernabob goes after the one with the darkest heart: Maleficent.
The Chernabob flies down at Emma and the others and then comes back for another pass. They take cover in an alley and figure that it was released from the Hat, Belle warns that once something is released, it can never be retrapped. Emma and Regina step out and blast it, forcing the demon to retreat. Regina warns that a blast like what they did should have destroyed it, and the others go off to find a solution.
On the edge of town, Gold gives Ursula a pre-dialed phone. He points out that they hold all the cards and can leave him outside of town if they wish. They say that he'll have to wait until that night to find out if they can trust him, and Ursula dials Regina's number. When Regina answers, Ursula claims that she stole gold's cell phone. Regina puts Ursula on speaker phone and Emma listens and Ursula says that she and Cruella left Gold passed out in a bar after taking his phone. They insist that they've changed and learned their lessons, and are looking for a place for redemption.
As Regina refuses, the Chernabob roars in the distance. Ursula hears it and says that they've dealt with it in the past and know what it wants. Regina points out that she doesn't know how to drop the barrier, but Emma suggests that they use the Snow Queen's scroll. After a moment, Regina tells Ursula that they'll consider letting them in if their information pans out. Ursula and Cruella agree.
Maleficent blasts the Chernabob back while Cruella and Ursula climb to the crack. The demon advances, forcing Maleficent back, and she realizes that there's no escape. However, Ursula pulls her to safety and they look down on the Chernabob.
The Chernabob flies over the town and Emma and Regina watch it from the mayor's office. Regina figures that it's after her, but Emma refuses to sacrifice her. She wonders what will happen to the Chernabob if they lead it over the town line into a world without magic. Regina warns that the demon will crush her if it catches her, but Emma says that she'll help. They call and tell Mary Margaret about their plan... and that Cruella and Ursula are there.
Emma and Regina drive for the town line in Emma's Volkswagen. The Chernabob lands on the roof and tries to rip through, smashing through the windshield. Regina refuses to let them both die, and thanks Emma for trying. She then teleports out onto the road ahead and waves to the demon. Emma speeds up and then hits the brakes, and Regina leaps out of the way. The Chernabob hits the barrier and dissolves when its magic dissipates.
David and Mary Margaret arrive and confirm that Emma is all right, and Mary Margaret warns that letting Cruella and Ursula in is a bad idea. David agrees with her wife, but Regina says that they aren't as horrible as she once was. She refuses to deny someone else there chance for happiness while looking for her own, and Emma agrees. They toss the scroll to Cruella, who picks it up and gets into her car with Ursula. They drive through the barrier and Cruella assures Regina that she won't regret letting them in.
That night, Gold waits on the town line. His allies finally toss the scroll through the barrier, and when he opens it they appear. Relieved, Gold walks through the barrier and says that it's time to begin their task. In town, Gold tells them to continue gain friends and build relationships while he works behind the scenes. When they point out that they're doing all the work, Gold explains that he was the "Oxford professor" that provided Belle with the translation that released the Chernabob. He tells them to consider what he could do without magic, and what he can do now that he has his magic back. Gold says that they have to bring Maleficent back, and that they have much to prepare. Ursula worries about Regina but Gold says that the one that the Chernabob wasn't going after Regina: it was after Emma.
At the diner, Emma and Hook watch Henry going over the book looking for clues. She wonders where her parents are and calls them.
David and Mary Margaret are at the town line, and meet with Cruella and Ursula. The couple tells the Queens that they're welcome to stay if they've turned over a new leaf... as long as no one learns what happened between them. Mary Margaret promises to rip out their hearts herself if anyone--particularly Emma--learns what happened.