‘Once Upon A Time’ has been on a fantastic roll this season and “The Miller’s Daughter” is no exception. Last night, we finally learned about Cora’s difficult upbringing and the great sacrifice she made to secure her powerful and royal role in society. Eventually the past catches up with her and she pays the ultimate price for being so heartless.
Fairytale Land: “My heart was stopping me.”
In the fairytale past, Cora was the lowly daughter of a drunken miller. When she drops off the latest supply at the palace she falls victim to entitled Princess Eva’s cruel prank. The kind-hearted queen we met last week was not always so sweet and she trips Cora for no good reason, embarrassing her before the King and Prince Henry. The king commands Cora to kneel, apologize to the princess and remain on her knees until they have all passed because that is where she belongs. In that moment, Cora vows never to be forced onto her knees again and comes up with a plan to climb up the social ladder.
The next time we see Cora, is at the masked ball and flirting with Prince Henry. As soon as they hit the dance-floor, the king cuts in and calls Cora out as the low-life miller’s daughter, plucking bits of straw off of her beautiful red gown. He claims Cora has nothing to offer and she quickly quips that she can turn straw into gold, which could help save his kingdom from its impending demise. When the king doesn’t believe her, she pushes the right buttons saying, “Good luck whoring your son.” The king announces her special skill to the whole kingdom and tells her to demonstrate, but she says she needs time. He makes a deal with her. She will spend the night locked in the tower where she can work her magic. If she succeeds, she can marry the prince, but if she fails, she will die.
As Cora stands in the straw filled tower and looks for a way to escape, Rumple appears before her with a proposition. Rumpy explains how he can see the future and has much to gain from striking a deal with her. Naturally, Cora is confused, so Rumple clearly states that her first born child is “quite important” and this encounter is all part of their fate. According to the contract, Rumple will spin the gold for her and will ensure her marriage to the “dim-lit” prince in exchange for her first born daughter. Before signing, Cora makes one a change, she want to learn how to spin straw into gold herself. Rumple like her initiative, makes the amendment and another deal has been made.
Cora sits at the spindle and tries to conjure up magic, but it doesn’t work because she is thinking too much. Things start to get a little frisky as Rumply caresses her neck and explains how magic really works. Magic comes from emotion, so he tells Cora to think about the feelings that set her on this power-hungry path and the anger felt in that moment when she wished she could kill the one who wronged her. Rumple helps her out by telling her about what drove him to become the Dark One, the embarrassment he felt kissing a man’s boots in front his son. He went back to that man and ripped out his throat, explaining, “That, dearie, is how magic is made.” Rumple tenderly rubs Cora’s arms and helps her recall kneeling before Princess Eva. Cora loses herself in vengeful thoughts of making “them bow until their knee caps crack and freeze in stone and their necks break from bending” and the magic kicks in.
The next morning, Cora spins gold in front of the kingdom and proves herself worthy of being Prince Henry’s wife. Flash-forward a while and Rumple pays Cora another visit the day before her wedding. When he compliments her beautiful wedding gown, she says that brides are snow white and Rumple quickly points out the irony that comment will hold in the future. (How many details did Rumple know? He clearly foresaw a lot of very specific pieces of the grand puzzle.) Cora knows that there is a long road ahead of her and it will be full of bloodshed until she gets the magnitude of power she desires. She looks to Rumple and hopes that he can offer her a better life. He claims that he can only give her darkness and isolation. When Cora asks if he can give her love, he says that he would love her. Cora and Rumple really love each other, so she proposes a compromise: Instead of giving Rumple another man’s child, they can have their own child. Cora plans to rip out the king’s heart and show it to him so he can see and know that she is killing him. Impressed, Rumple says, “That is why I love you” and the evil love-birds smooch some more. Throughout the next scene you can’t help but wonder if Regina is Rumple’s daughter and you start re-thinking Henry’s deranged family tree. Get ready for more twists…
Cora visits the king and confesses that she does not love Prince Henry, of course the king knows this is merely an arrangement and love has nothing to do with it. Surprisingly, the king says, “Love is weakness…It isn’t for hard women like you.” Cora responds, “If the choice is love or power, then even having a heart is a liability.” We are left wondering what will happen next.
Later that night, Cora meets up with Rumple and he can tell that something is not right. Cora says she was able to take the king’s heart, but she chose not to. Cora apologizes to Rumpy and says she can’t go with him. He looks at the box in her hands and asks whose heart is in the box. Cora reveals that it is her own heart. She confesses, “My heart was stopping me.” Rumple feels played and accuses Cora of never loving him, but that doesn’t matter because she still owes him her first born. Cora clarifies that they changed the contract, so any baby she has will not be his. So Regina is not Rumple’s daughter after all. Still, it is a little sad to see Rumple being constantly betrayed by every woman he gives his heart to.
Years later, Cora has a daughter and names her Regina, for she will one day be queen. As she raises her baby before her kingdom, everyone kneels, just like she so desperately wanted them to.
Storybrooke: “This would have been enough. You would have been enough.”
Neal and Henry steer hook’s ship towards Storybrooke, while Emma and Gold have a chat in the cabin below. Emma realizes that Cora and Regina can gain control over Gold if they keep the dagger, so he assumes that she hopes he will just bleed to death. However, Emma feels differently, Gold is Henry’s grandfather and they’re family, so they will save him. Meanwhile, Regina and Cora have tapped David and Mary Margaret’s phone, so they know Gold is on his way back to Storybrooke and in bad shape. Cora sees Rumple’s name fading on the dagger, if he dies, then his power will go too. In order to take Gold’s power, Cora will have to become the Dark One by stabbing Gold with the dagger. Regina doesn’t understand why and she is suspicious of her mother’s intentions. Cora says it is to protect their family and they need to gain power to do it.
M.M., David and Ruby greet Emma & Co. when they arrive. Henry knows the deal by now and he’ll stay with Ruby until the good guys save the day. However, MM is less sure of her role in this battle. Gold is dying and they don’t have much time left to protect their family from Cora’s evil ways. David still tries to talk MM out of killing Cora. He tells her, “You have the purest heart of anyone…that’s who you are and that’s who you’ll stay.” With that said, the gang heads to Gold’s shop so they can use his magic for protection.
Gold instructs Emma to line the doorway with invisible chalk and tells the rest to prepare for battle. He asks MM for a warmer blanket and she finds a magic candle instead. It is the same candle she decided not to use to save her mother in the last episode. Gold says she is all grown up now and now they are on the same side, so saving his life will not be a threat to her family in the future. He continues to play devil’s advocate, egging her on saying, ” I know you want to do it.” When MM explains that there is “no coming back from murder,” Gold argues that there is no coming back from death either. Gold reveals his master plan: use the candle to curse Cora’s heart and then put the heart back inside of Cora’s body. Cora will die and Gold will live. Mary Margaret thinks another option will get rid of two evils at once. She can control Cora’s heart, make her do the right thing and let Gold die. Either way, the decision is her’s.
Meanwhile, Neal and Emma have been preparing for battle, gathering weapons and such. Neal apologizes for Tamara, he didn’t mean for it to be a surprise. Emma quickly jumps on the defensive, like she always does, and acts like she doesn’t care about his love life. Soon after, Gold calls her away and asks her to cast a protection spell over the shop. Emma lacks faith in herself, but Gold gives her the right incentive and guides her through it, He says, “Stop thinking… conjuring magic is not an intellectual endeavor. It’s emotion.” As Emma thinks about why she is doing this and who she is protecting, the magic kicks in and the protection spell has been cast.
David and M.M. continue to discuss Cora’s threat. They agree to “do whatever needs to be done” to protect their family. Suddenly, Regina and Cora blast the door open with a fireball. Mary Margaret quickly sneaks out the back door as Cora flings people against the walls. During the scuffle, the dagger falls to the floor and Emma quickly grabs Regina and holds a knife to her throat. Cora magically retrieves the dagger off of the ground and releases Regina’s from Emma’s deadly grip. Emma uses invisible chalk to protect herself and Neal in the back room with Gold. Suddenly, Cora feels something wrong with her heart and sends Regina to the vault.
David realizes that M.M. has left and we see that she already has Cora’s heart in her hands. Surprisingly, MM lights the candle and whispers Cora’s name, casting the curse as Rumple wanted. Back at the shop, Cora weakens the protection spell and Gold’s condition worsens. Gold says he is dying and Neal tells his father that he is not, but Gold feels differently and wishes to speak with Belle.
In arguably one of the best scenes in the series, Gold pours his heart out to Belle and reveals a tenderness and vulnerability that nobody thought he had. He praises Belle for being a hero and thanks her for being the only person who ever truly loved him. She makes him want to be a better man and you know he really means it this time because of the tears streaming down his face. After they hang up, Neal tells Gold, “I didn’t know you had that in you.” Gold finally confesses his feelings to his son: “I spent a lifetime looking for you for a chance to say I love you and I’m sorry.” Neal admits he never thought Rumple would’ve gone back on their deal and Gold apologizes for making the wrong choice. Gold reaches his hand out to Neal who insists he is still angry, then he takes Gold’s hand and they share a tearful and long overdue hug. So sweet! Unfortunately, we don’t get much time to relish in this moment.
Regina finds Mary Margaret with Cora’s heart in the box. M.M. turns the tables on Regina and offers her the box. She explains that Cora cannot love Regina without her heart. M.M. sells it well, asking Regina to imagine real love. It makes sense: how can someone truly love if they don’t have a heart to love someone with? M.M. hands Regina the box and says the choice is her’s.
More letters of Rumple’s name begin vanishing from the dagger and David finds Mary Margaret at the cemetery. He asks her what she has done and she admits she was wrong, but do they have enough time to stop the terrible mistake from happening?
At the shop, Cora breaks the spell and makes Neal & Emma vanish to the woods in a puff of purple smoke. Cora closes in on Gold and he reveals that a vision told him about her and that this day would come. But it didn’t tell him everything. Gold finally has the chance to ask: “Did you ever love me?” Cora’s reply is quite shocking: “Why do you think I had to rip my own heart out? You were my weakness… You were the only man I ever truly loved.” Suddenly, Regina bursts into the room and plunges the heart back into Cora’s chest.
For the first time, Cora sincerely smiles at Regina and starts to giggle with happiness. Suddenly, the poison transfers from Gold to Cora. As Cora lays dying in Regina’s arms she says, “This would have been enough. You would have be enough.”
Confused and heartbroken, Regina glares back at Gold and he tells her, “You’re mother did you no favors.” She blames Gold for Cora’s death, but Gold promises he did “nothing.” Mary Margaret and David rush into the shop to stop Regina, but they are too late.
Regina says, “You did this” and shoots a deadly look at them.
This battle may be over, but the war is on stronger than ever.
- RumBelle & Bae: How amazing was this scene? We saw a sneak peek of Gold’s conversation with Belle earlier in the week and knew we needed to keep tissues handy during this episode, but where this scene went after Gold hung up was even better. Once again, we must give props to Robert Carlyle for being such a lovable and endearing “bad guy.” Stellar acting all around. Emilie de Ravin and Michael-Raymond James’ performances were so moving and genuine. Definitely had goosebumps. It will be interesting to see if Neal meets Belle this season. Their interaction should be fun to watch.
- Not so white as snow anymore: Can you believe MM actually did that?! She swan dived off of her moral pedestal and behaved exactly as Regina and Cora would’ve. Now we know what lengths she is willing to go to protect her family from here on, but how will her family feel about her now? Henry will not be happy with her actions. Mom and Grandma just made it on the same list in his book. Will she be able to redeem herself next week?
- Crumple: Cora and Rumple were really in love. We saw it coming to an extent, but didn’t really think their feeling would have been sincere. They made a good pair, being power-hungry and all, but once again, Cora proved to be just a little more evil than Rumple. She chose power over love every time. It was really sad to see her realize at the end that love is all you really need. Will Rumple learn from Cora’s mistake? Will he let Henry live? Can he be one of the good guys? Or is he a lost cause that will only look out for himself?
‘Once Upon A Time’ airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.