‘Once Upon A Time’ returned with a heated episode, in which our beloved fairytale characters face even greater challenges to save the ones they love. Hook and Cora sink to new lows as they try clawing their way into Storybrooke by riding on Snow White and Emma’s coat-tails. Snow & Co. continue to fearlessly fight their way through a charging train of obstacles in hopes of reuniting with their family before it is too late. Meanwhile, Prince Charming places his faith in True Love and takes a huge risk to help his wife and daughter find their way back home.
For the first time ever, “Into the Deep” took place completely in the present. However, that didn’t make ‘Once’s’ complex storytelling any simpler. As the narrative weaves through three separate realms, we follow our heroes and villains’ journey through Post-Curse Fairytale Land, Storybrooke and the flame-filled Netherworld.
Post-Curse Fairytale Land: “Right princess, you’re going back to sleep.”
Captain Hook failed Cora and now he must suffer the consequences. Since he let Emma slip away with the compass, Cora vows to leave him behind, so he can “thirst for his revenge” in Fairytale Land, a punishment worse than death. Hook tries charming Cora into changing her mind, but his “pretty face” won’t buy him anymore of her time. While Hook tries to figure out another way to gain the she-devil’s trust, Cora starts tracking down Emma & Co. with the help of the zombie villagers whose hearts she now controls. Meanwhile, Aurora tells Snow and Emma about the boy she met in her dream.
Aurora wakes from her nightmare and says she spoke with Henry. Emma’s photo is all the proof they need to confirm this magical miracle. Snow finds new hope in their quest for the portal. Snow had a hunch about the Netherworld being real when she was under the curse and suffering from the same effects, but she didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to spook Aurora. Now that they know it is real, Henry can get the inside scoop from Rumple on how to defeat Cora and get the wardrobe ashes. Snow tells the Sleeping Beauty to hit the sack pronto, so she can start gathering some much needed information.
Before Aurora takes her nap, Mulan notices burns on her arm, so she tells Aurora to stop entering the Netherworld. When she resists, Mulan reminds her that she vowed to protect the princess for Prince Phillip’s sake. Aurora explains that they risked their lives for her, so now she wants to do good for others and honor Phillip’s sacrifice. With that settled, Aurora sets out to slumber once more.
Storybrooke: “I was born to do this.”
Over in Storybrooke, Henry tells David and Regina about meeting Aurora in the Netherworld, so Regina turns to Mr. Gold for help. She finds him dining on cheeseburgers with Belle at Granny’s Diner. Rumpy mischievously introduces Regina as the woman who locked Belle up for 20 years and initially scoffs at her request. Rumple thought Cora had died, there was even a body, but it seems that Cora’s power was stronger than they thought. Regina implores Rumple to cast their differences aside, so they can take Cora down together. She reminds him that this time around he has a weakness: his beloved Belle. Rumpy agrees and meets up with Regina and the Charmings at his shop.
As Henry prepares to venture back into his nightmare, Charming offers some cautionary advice. Henry is eager to help, he explains: “I’m tired of reading about heroes. I want to be one.” David understands, but wisely says, “Sometimes being a hero means knowing when to run from fire.” With that in mind, Henry is ready for Gold to hypnotize him. Henry listens to Rumpy’s story about the time he was imprisoned in the castle by Snow, Charming and Cinderella. Rumple explains that the squid ink from the quill trapped him, so Henry must tell Aurora to find the ink in his old jail cell and use it to trap Cora. Henry slips into the Netherworld and tries giving Aurora the message.
The flames grow higher, hotter and louder in the Netherworld as Henry tries to relay Rumple’s message to Aurora. The princess is suddenly sucked up out of the dream-world before he has a chance to say what they need to stop Cora.
Post-Curse Fairytale Land: “Say “Hi” to my son for me.”
Mulan woke Aurora up because they are under attack. When they split off in pairs, Mulan loses sight of Aurora and she is captured by Cora’s men. Mulan and the Charming gals regroup to come up with a new plan. Meanwhile, Aurora confronts their infamous foe.
Cora tries manipulating Aurora by telling her that there is a way to resurrect Prince Phillip. Cora claims that when a Wraith consumes a soul, it is sent to another realm and she can access it. When Aurora remains strong and refuses to betray Snow and Emma, she uses the Sleeping Beauty as a pawn in her vicious game. Cora sends a raven to Snow with a message: Cora will kill Aurora if Snow does not hand over the compass by sundown. Mulan wants to give Cora the compass immediately, but Snow asks her to give them one more chance to stop Cora for good.
Snow explains that she can still access the Netherworld, if she can fall into a deep, uninterrupted sleep. They search for poppy seeds for Mulan to create the sleeping potion they used on the Giant. While Mulan conjures the potion, Emma and Snow start playing the blame-game. Emma blames herself for Henry being under the sleeping curse and Snow urges her to stop thinking that way. Snow could blame herself for telling Cora the truth about Regina when she was a child, but ultimately, the blame falls on Regina’s shoulders. Before Snow takes the potion and falls asleep, Emma holds her hand and asks Snow to say hi to Henry for her.
While Cora thwarts Snow’s plans in Fairytale Land, Henry & Co. face their own challenges in Storybrooke.
Storybrooke: “It’s a curse. It isn’t supposed to be pleasant.”
Henry awakes from his dream with burns on his arms, so Regina and David refuse to let him go back. Gold quickly heals his wounds and Charming finds a new way to get the message across. David tells Gold and Regina to put him under the sleeping curse. He knows that Snow will be there (since Aurora mysteriously vanished) and she’ll cure the curse with True Love’s kiss. Running out of options, they all agree this is their best shot at stopping Cora.
Regina makes the potion as Henry looks on. He asks Regina if she has been using magic and she explains that she has been trying really hard not to. When she has used magic, it has been to help people and she promises not to use magic again after making the sleeping curse for David. Henry also worries about David and what will happen to him.
Once the curse has set in, Charming will not die, he will only be asleep and stuck in the Netherworld. Henry fears David won’t wake up. Mini-Charming wants to go instead and is willing to risk some scar tissue to bring his mom home. However, Regina steps in and assures Henry that Charming and Snow always find each other, so the curse will surely be broken. David must ingest the curse the “old-fashioned” way, so it enters his blood-stream directly. As Rumpy turns the spinning the wheel, Charming pricks his finger on the needle. Before falling asleep, Henry gives his grandfather a hug and Rumpy wishes him good luck. Charming tells Henry to always believe because that is the kind of faith that runs in their family. Rumple gives David the protective potion and explains that he will start off in a different location since it is his first time under the spell. Charming will need to search for the Netherworld’s inferno room.
Netherworld: “We will always find each other.”
Now for the best scene in the episode! Charming appears in a dark room, surrounded by mirrors. He grabs a torch and starts wandering around, suddenly his potion starts glowing like Snow White’s ring did in the past. He tentatively moves forward and feels the floor beneath him growing hotter. Meanwhile, Snow White calls out for Henry through the flames. Up above, Charming starts breaking the ground with his torch, Snow sees the ceiling cave in and her prince surprisingly lands on the fiery floor. Unfortunately, the potion shattered when it hit the floor, but that doesn’t really matter in this moment. Charming discovers his wife on the other side of the blazing room and leaps over the flames. As the Charmings’ sweet, heart-string tugging score plays in the background, Snow gleefully shouts, “You found me!” Charming quickly tells her Rumple’s plan and then they lean in to break the curse with True Love’s kiss. As Charming reaches out to embrace his wife, they shockingly realize they can’t touch each other in the Netherworld.
Charming comforts her saying they will always find each other, but Snow is frustrated by their amorous mantra. Are they destined to find each other only to lose each other again? Snow tears up as she feels her consciousness pulling her away. As she heartbreakingly cries out, “I’m waking up!” Charming leaves her with words of hope. He tells Snow to have faith and they painfully part ways with one last “I Love You!”
Storybrooke: “He isn’t waking up.”
Henry starts to worry when David doesn’t wake up. Regina and Gold tell Hnery it might take some time, but they assure him that Grandpa Charming will be just fine. However, the suspicious look exchanged between Storybrooke’s newest frenemies tells a different tale. Things do not look good for Sleeping Charming.
Post-Curse Fairytale Land: “I have to go back”
Snow White wakes up in frenzy and wants to go back to sleep to be with Charming because she is worried about leaving him trapped in the Netherworld. However, Emma and Snow soon realize that they have a more imminent problem: Mulan has run off with the compass. The mother-daughter duo starts tracking Mulan down before she hands the compass over to Cora. Over on the dark side, Hook has been hatching a plan of his own.
While Snow White reunited with Charming, Hook broke Aurora out of Cora’s cave. Hook set her free and told her to give Emma a message: Hook doesn’t like being double-crossed by Cora, so his deal with Emma still stands. If they help him get to Storybrooke, he will get the wardrobe dust from Cora. After Aurora has left, Cora stops by the cell to check on her prisoner and is surprised to find Hook there instead. Cora shackles Hook to the wall and removes his handy weapon, but before she harms him any further, Hook offers her a gift. What could the gift be? Wait for iiit…
Meanwhile, Snow and Emma catch up with Mulan, who refuses to risk Aurora’s life for a stupid compass that might help them find the portal back to Storybrooke. Snow pins Mulan down and presses an arrow tip against her throat, ready to dig it in. Suddenly, Aurora emerges from the woods and stops them. She starts to relay Hook’s message and even adds that she thinks Hook has a crush on Emma. As Aurora speaks, her words lead us back to Cora and Hook.
The clever captain took Aurora’s heart and gave it to Cora, so that she can control the drowsy princess and convince Emma to trust Hook. Uh-oh…
There were some brutal twists in this episode. What did you think of “Into the Deep”? Were you surprised by Hook’s actions? Did you expect Charming’s plan to work? Do you think Emma & Co. will realize that Aurora is a fraud? Share your thoughts below!
- Hook and the heart: Well now we know not to be fooled by his charm. Hook is M-E-A-N. How can he take a heart? Has he studied the Dark Arts? Did he learn by simply watching Cora take control of the villagers? Either way, it takes a cold-hearted person to be so cruel. Unless there is another twist later on, in which he apologizes to Aurora, gives her heart back and explains it was all part of a plan to take Cora out, it is safe to assume that Hook is a definite baddie. Such a shame…Do you still hope Hook can become a good guy? Has Rumple met his match in Hook and Cora?
- The Netherworld: So everyone who has been under a sleeping curse can enter this realm…it makes you wonder who Charming might run into over there. Can you think of any other characters that have been put to sleep? Could there be a portal out of the Netherworld? Is True Love’s kiss the only cure?
- Snow White and Prince Charming’s reunion: Their scenes together are beautiful. Once their lovely score cues up in the background, tears start welling up. Seriously, that music has a Pavlov-ian effect. Ginnifer Goodwin plays Snow with such grace and genuine emotion, your heart truly breaks for her in those moments.
- Henry the Hero: Jared Gilmore rocks! He is the heart and soul of ‘Once Upon A Time’ and he is always a joy to watch. It is rare to find someone so young who captures wisdom and innocence with such ease. Henry is already a hero in our eyes.
- Aurora and Mulan: However much these iconic characters are adored in fairytales, they feel like dead weight on the show. Not to be harsh, but part of it is casting and little bit is their character development. We understand where these princesses are coming from and it is great to have extra girl power on the show, but these girls can be incredibly annoying. Plus, they keep getting Snow and Emma into extra trouble. How do you feel about Aurora and Mulan? Are they growing on you? Are you waiting for them to leave the show?
- Regina and Rumple: In the mid-season finale, Regina and Rumple will show a united front and take drastic measures to keep Cora out of Storybrooke. The teacher and pupil are beginning to work together again. Are you intrigued by their developing relationship? Will they be at odds again soon? Can they grow stronger by working together?
Tune in to ‘Once Upon A Time’s’ mid-season finale on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. on ABC.