‘Once Upon A Time’ Season 4B premiere recap: Living on the edge

Is Emma destined to be on the dark side? (Photo credit: Disney/ABC Press) 

Just when Storybrookers think they’ve found a bit of peace, Rumple stirs up trouble in “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” Sunday’s (March 1) ‘Once Upon A Time’ returns with a wickedly funny episode which introduces us to the sassy Queens of Darkness, reveals Rumple’s new clever plan of attack, gives us a glimpse of a more harmonious Storybrooke, and leaves us hanging with an ominous warning.

The Forbidden Fortress, past: “It’s time the villains got their happy endings.”

A long, long time ago in Fairytale Land, Rumple gathers the Queens of Darkness at Maleficent’s fortress. The quippy queens all clearly have beefs with one another and they are all skeptical of the Dark One. When Rumple says he’s hatched a plan to make sure they each can attain their individual and super secret happy endings by casting a dark curse, the Queens of Darkness decide to set their differences aside for the greater good.

The Dark One leads them through a cave until they reach a door guarded by scarabs. Since Cruella’s magical ability enables her to control animals, she blows a little green smoke at a scarab, tells the critter to inform the others and they quickly work together to open the door.

Inside in the cave, they find a small crystal ball containing a scroll. They need to tackle a wall of fire forged by dragons’ breathe before getting through to the altar. Luckily, that isn’t a problem for Maleficent. She uses her dragon-headed staff to absorb all the flames, clearing the way to the globe. Then Ursula shoots one of her tentacles out to snatch the sphere. Once Rumple has the scroll in his possession, he leaves the three Queens behind to be ravaged by the gigantic chernobog, a fiery-eyed winged beast that seeks out the darkest of hearts.

The Queens of Darkness take a gamble and try trusting other. Maleficent uses herself as bait and attacks the chernobog with her staff, while Ursula and Crualla make a run for a small crack in the cave wall. When Maleficent fears she’ll be left for dead, she taunts the creature, “I hope you choke on my bones.” Suddenly, Ursula snatches her up at the last second. They may have been foes before, but these scorned woman are now united in their hatred of the Dark One. This explains why Ursula is so shocked to see Rumple when he seeks her out in New York.

New York, Long Island, and the road to Storybrooke, present day: “No more encores.”

Three weeks have passed since Belle banished Rumple out of Storybrooke by commanding the Dark One to cross the border. Now we learn that Rumple has been crashing at Ursula’s pad ever since he approached her at the aquarium. It is hilarious to see the all powerful Dark One microwaving a cup of Raman noodles in a compact apartment crowded with fish tanks of varying sizes. While the ungrateful and selfish house guest criticizes Ursula’s accommodations, he receives a mysterious email. Hmmm, something fishy is afoot. The time has come to call upon his next partner in crime.

Ursula and Rumple travel to Great Neck, Long Island, where they find Cruella de Vil “Feinberg’s” life in shambles. Cruella has lost everything except for the few belongings she had before marrying Mr. Feinberg. Cruella pulls on her fur coat and gets behind the wheel of her classic car all while cutting Rumple down. What good is the Dark One in a world “where apparently walking is challenge”? Oh, burn! Despite the barrage of insults, Rumple remains goal-oriented and knows just what to say to bring the others on board. Cruella is tired of being ordinary and wants her happy ending, so she goes along for the ride.

Now, for one of the most laugh out loud funniest moments on “Once Upon A Time.” Cruella, Ursula and Rumple hit Mr. Cluck’s drive through, where “Lost’s” Daniel Dae Kim makes a little vocal cameo. Rumple passes on the toxic junk food and is eager to back to their mission. Still, it is a hilarious sight to take in.

The troubling trio rolls on towards Storybrooke. Rumple left a breadcrumb and hung his tie on a tree near the borderline, so they stop the car. Cruella pulls a gun on Rumple. She wants the full story, these Queens aren’t going to fall for the same trick twice. They figure Rumple was banished by his maid and he doesn’t deny it. The Dark One was kicked out of town and he has returned to get his happy ending. He needs the Queens to be invited into Storybrooke, so that they can later let him back in. All they have to do is make one phone call to Regina, begging for a second chance. This time around, Rumple’s salvation completely rests in their hands.

Storybrooke, present day: “This isn’t our first monster bash.”

Our team of heroes have been piecing Storybrooke back together in the wake of Rumple and the Snow Queen’s destructive actions. Mary Margaret has returned to her old teaching position, while Regina has resumed her role as Mayor. Hook has been beating himself up over the damage he caused while under Rumple’s control. The good news is that Emma now knows the whole truth about Hook’s deception and she doesn’t blame him for what happened. Phew! At least Captain Swan is going strong.

Hook and Belle are tirelessly searching for a way to free the fairies. The savvy librarian found a professor online who is helping them with an incantation that will free the fairies from the Sorcerer’s hat. While Belle consults the “magic box,” Hook broods over the past. Rumple was right, “love is a weapon.” Belle and Hook were both blinded by love and allowed themselves to be manipulated by the Crocodile. Luckily, they have the chance to right those wrongs.

Belle and Hook rush over to Regina’s with a solution to their fairy problem. They interrupt a Swan Queen moment in which Emma is trying to console heartbroken Regina. The formerly dark-hearted queen taped up the shredded pieces of the Outlaw Queen storybook illustration. Aww. What was supposed to be a beacon of hope, only ended up being a cruel joke. Suffice it to say that Regina could really use some good news right now.

Henceforth, this shall be known as Free the Fairies Day. The gang ventures into the woods to perform the incantation. Regina waves the Dark One’s dagger over the Sorcerer’s cylinder, recites the spell and frees the fairies. Regina’s hand trembles as she holds onto the dagger and we realize how much energy it must take for the former Evil Queen to resist its tempting and powerful pull. As everyone walks back to town, black smoke escapes from the box and takes the shape of the chernobog as it soars into the air. Uh oh. There’s more trouble in store.

Even after the fairies are free, Hook is being a Debbie Downer. Emma wants to buckle some swash (love it), but he’s too busy being grumps. She assures Hook that he still scored major hero points and has nothing to feel bad about. Brooding can be sexy, but to an extent. On the other hand, this may mean he’s in full-blown hero mode, because his wrongdoing is weighing super heavy on his heart. Rest assured, Hook won’t do anything that bad again. Emma gives Hook some momentary space and gives her new BFF, Regina, some moral support.

Regina hesitantly asks the Blue Fairy for help with the Author. She shows Blue the Sorcerer’s blank book. Blue says the book has great power. She also clarifies that the Author and the Sorcerer are two very different people. The Author, whomever he or she may be, hasn’t been seen for many years. On the bright side: the Author has hidden clues in his/her works. Operation Mongoose has some interesting work to do! Suddenly, the beast bellows and a shadow is cast over Granny’s. Regina and Emma realize that something slipped out of the box along with their sweet fairy friends.

This is the Queens of Darkness’ cue to make contact. While Emma and Regina figure out how they can solve Stroybrooke’s new problem, Ursula calls. Regina wonders how the “sea bitch” got her slippery tentacles on Rumple’s cell phone. Ursula cuts to the chase and says she heard Storybrooke is a special place where villains can find redemption. The Queens just want a second chance like Regina and ask to be let in. The Mayor rejects their request, then Ursula hears the hell bat’s shriek. The Queens of Darkness know what the beast wants, if they help out, Regina will consider letting them into Storybrooke.

Once Regina learns that the creature wants the darkest of hearts, she fears she will be the beast’s primary target. Unless there’s a “dwarf named evily.” You have to love her biting wit. Emma and Regina figure that the chernobog cannot exist in a land without magic, so they guide it to the borderline.

Regina feels like she’s suffocating in Emma’s metal coffin on wheels, especially when the beast clings onto the roof and punches a hole in the windshield. Regina poofs out of there and stands firmly in front of the town line. Emma slams on the breaks, propelling the creature into the borderline, where it promptly bursts into ashes. The Charmings arrive on the scene moments later, just in time for the town leaders’ pow-wow.

It looks like the Queens of Darkness were telling the truth. Regardless, both Mary Margaret and David still don’t trust them and want to keep them out. Regina argues that they deserve a second chance, just like her. Aww, look at how the Evil Queen has gone all soft. It’s what we’ve always wanted, except now that she’s being nice, we kind of wish skeptical Regina would briefly reappear for such occasions. They toss the scroll over the line and the two Queens drive into town.

Later that night, Rumple nearly gives up hope and starts walking away when he sees the scroll tossed over the line. Rumple and the Queens of Darkness are now a team. As he walks over the line, he loses his limp. With an extra pep back in his step, Rumple explains how he maintained power all along, even without magic.

Rumple posed as the professor who helped Belle and he planned on releasing the beast along with the fairies. Ugh. We should’ve known! He says it’s time to reunite the band. It may have looked like Maleficent bit the dust, but he was able to salvage enough of her ashy dragon corpse to bring her back to life. So you could say, she was only mostly dead. Then he warns that they’ll have bigger problems than Regina.

The chernobog was going after Emma because her heart has the greatest potential for darkness. Oh no! That explains the daunting and cryptic Oscars promo. Will Emma take a walk on the dark side this season? Will she follow in her mother’s footsteps and cloud her heart with darkness? We will have to wait and see.

Unfortunately, Emma isn’t the only hero walking a fine line between good and evil. When the Charmings run late for dinner with Captain Swan, we discover that they are having a secret meeting with the two new Queens in town. Mary Margaret boldly threatens Ursula and Cruella: No one can know what happened between them in Enchanted Forest. If they reveal anything, then sweet Snow White will rip out their hearts.

Whoa! What is their big secret? How damaging can that information be? Will Mary Margaret really follow through on that threat?! Hopefully, we’ll learn more in next week’s episode. Watch the promo to see what lies ahead.

“Darkness on the Edge of Town” did not disappoint. Honestly, the Queens of Darkness’ initial introduction seemed silly. However, Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis’ writing proved how entertaining and engaging this storyline is going to be. The hour was full of laughs. There were so many witty quips at Rumple’s expense, you almost started feeling bad for him. Such is the magic of Robert Carlyle. Even when he’s being downright evil, you can’t help but feel for the Dark One.

The Queens are a riot! Kudos to Kristin Bauer van StratenMerrin Dungey, and Victoria Smurfit for really digging into these juicy roles. They are going to be a blast to watch as the rest of this season unfolds. Regina and Emma have some major competition in the snark department now. Speaking of which, it is such a delight to see Emma and Regina be real friends. Captain Swan is intact, so it is sweet to see Emma help Regina get her own happy ending. We are still holding out hope for Outlaw Queen. Surely, the mysterious Author will have some answers. Whomever he or she may be.

What did you think, Oncers? Did you love this episode? Did the Queens of Darkness win you over? Do you have any theories on the Author’s identity? Do you hope Hook gets over his case of the grumps? Are you enjoying Swan Queen’s budding friendship? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“Once Upon A Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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