‘Once Upon A Time’ S4 Ep 20 recap: As Fate would have it

Emma and Regina team-up for a road-trip and search for Maleficent’s long-lost daughter. (Photo credit: Disney/ABC Press)

Wow, Oncers! “Once Upon A Time” dared to go there. We should’ve seen it coming, but there have been so many shocking twists and turns this season, that it has been hard to predict what curveball will be thrown at us next. “Lily” left fans hanging with a jaw-dropping, soap-opera-ish, and enraging reveal. However, the episode as a whole proves to be far more important than that final tantalizing sweeps-style stunner, especially when it finally reveals the highly anticipated reunion between the Savior and the Spawn of Darkness.

When Maleficent asks Emma to retrieve her long lost daughter, Regina and the crafty bounty hunter team-up for a road trip to the big city. Over the course of their journey, flashbacks unveil more of Emma’s past with trouble-making Lily. Elsewhere in Storybrooke, Rumple realizes that Mal has sided with the Heroes, so he reaches out to Will in attempt to regain leverage over Regina & Co. Buckle-up for a wild and bumpy ride!

Minnesota, 1999: “It’s like every decision I make seems right but it’s wrong.”

Emma is finally settling in with a Norman Rockwell type of adoptive family when Lily shows up out of the blue and sabotages a stable life in her new happy home. The moment Lily spots the chore-wheel on the wall, she knows this can’t possibly be the right home for Emma, so she hatches a plan.

When Emma sees that Lily and her boyfriend are all over the news for armed robbery, she confronts her gal pal. Emma is livid that Lily brought this magnitude of trouble to her doorstep. Still, Lily convinces Emma to do her a big favor. Lily left her necklace back at the house where she and her boyfriend were squatting. It is the only thing she has of her mother’s, but she can’t face her beau after the stunt he pulled. Lily asserts that he abruptly tossed a gun in her hands and turned the robbery into something she hadn’t signed-up for. Emma buys her buddy’s story and agrees to help her out.

Fast forward a bit: Emma returns home and her parents do not approve of this disobedience. Adding fuel to the fire, they reveal that Lily ran-off with their vacation money. Emma’s irresponsible behavior is incredibly unfair to “their” children. Ouch! So clearly the “Rockwell’s” do not truly view Emma as one of their own. Message received, Mr. and Mrs. Chore-Wheel. Emma bolts out of there. Heartbroken.

Lily finds Emma waiting at a bus stop and flashes the cash. Lily thinks she did Emma a big favor by cutting her loose. Now the two BFFs can use the cash to do as they please. They don’t need to be adopted by some lame family. What Lily fails to understand is that Emma was actually happy. She had finally found a family that embraced her and wanted to care for her. Lily ruined Emma’s chance at happiness.

Echoing the fight they had before, Emma wants nothing more than to distance herself from Lily. All she does is ruin people’s lives. This is the creepy part: Lily can’t help it. No matter how hard she tries to do the right thing, she ends up destroying everything she touches. For some reason, things are better when Emma is around. They complete each other in some strange way. But her plea makes no difference. Emma blames Lily for making wrong choices. She hands over the moon necklace and washes her hand of Lily for good.

Later we see Lily riding on the bus, when a stranger begins speaking to her. We soon realize that the Sorcerer’s Apprentice has chosen to tell the Lily the whole truth about her ill-fated life. He assures the young girl that there is an explanation for all the negativity in her life. Then he shockingly goes on to reveal the whole magical tale of how baby Lily was damned to life of darkness.

Whoa! Well, we certainly didn’t see that coming. August already told us that the Apprentice and Sorcerer punished the Author by trapping him in the book. It is good to see that the Apprentice assumes some of the responsibility for cursing Lily with a Dark Heart. He could have refused to help the Charmings when they followed the Author’s advice and came calling for a risky favor. Sadly, it seems Lily has suffered the most for their actions. Now the girl wants payback and you can’t really blame her. The question is: How far is she willing to go?

From Storybrooke to Mass. to NYC, Present Day: “Emma, you’re better than this.”

Dynamics continue changing in Storybrooke. After Cruella’s death (we miss you Victoria Smurit!), Maleficent realizes that Rumple was just using the Queens of Darkness to fulfill his personal endgame. No shocker there. Now that she knows her daughter is out there somewhere, Mal cuts ties with Rumple and heads over to the heroes for help.

Mal approaches Emma and asks the famed bounty hunter to track down her baby. She shares her only lead, “Lily,” and Emma instantly puts the pieces of the puzzle together (with the help of some microfiche because Storybrooke is still old-school like that.) Now it all makes sense. Emma and Lily were always strangely drawn to each other, yet ended up falling on opposite sides. It’s almost creepy how intimately their lives have been intwined. Lily and Emma were always living in the same area at the same time. Could this be Fate, coincidence or a case of stalking? Heebie-jeebies aside, the Savior is eager to help Mal and right her parent’s wrongs. Speaking of which, Mal and Emma are both giving Mr. and Mrs. Charming some intense evil eye/cold shoulder vibes. Talk about awkward!

Emma is ready to go, but Regina chimes in with a suggestion. She’s heading out to NYC to save her beloved Robin Hood, so she thinks they should just go together. Like a road trip? Emma sprinkles a bit sarcasm on the reformed Evil Queen’s request. Please, Ems, don’t downplay the situation. This is a big deal. Regina point blank says she needs Emma’s help. Awww! She doesn’t want to brave the real world all alone without the security blanket of her magic powers. This way they’ll be able to help each other as a dynamic duo. This sets the stage for some seriously awesome Swan Queen moments.

Before Regina leaves, she needs to secure her leverage on Rumple. She has Mal guard Belle’s heart, which is stashed away in the Mayor’s office. One by one the team of Heroes is growing and gradually preparing to take down the Villains for good. Huzzah! Okay, on with the road trip!

Emma tracks down Lily’s last location and finds out she was living in a crappy apartment. When they learn that Lily died in an accident, Emma nearly shoots the messenger. Regina helps reel her in, but of course, Emma throws the Queen some attitude. This is part of her bounty hunter shtick, she knows how to control her emotions. Okay, sure, Ems, just be careful where you aim that gun.

Just when all hope seems lost, a wolf with piercing eyes appears in the middle of the road and the yellow bug’s tire goes flat. Hmmm, could this be Fate? Regina doesn’t think so, but Emma remembers seeing that wolf on her way to Storybrooke. Whatever may be happening, they still need to fix their ride. Regina heads over to get a new tire, while Emma heads into the coffee shop to order some joe.

A brunette waitress named Starla (insert stripper joke here) walks over to take Emma’s order when the perceptive bounty hunter recognizes the star-shaped birthmark on her wrist. Gasp! It’s Lily!!! Yup, that wolf was totally Fate intervening in an epic way. Regina takes a seat and Emma shares the news. Now it’s time to catch-up with her only childhood friend.

Emma approaches Lily and calls her out on the fake identity. She got mixed up with a bad crowd and needed a way out so she faked her death. Emma tries to tell Lily the crazy truth, but she doesn’t want to hear it. She hasn’t thought about Emma in years. Really? That stings. In fact, she is happily married with a lovely kid.

A school bus pulls up and Lily walks over to it, bidding Emma adieu. She then bribes a little girl to smile, take her hand and walk over to the car together in exchange for a week of free burgers. Do we need to put Lily on “To Catch a Predator”? Tis a bit creepy, no? Luckily, Emma is no fool.

The Savior tells Regina that Lily is lying, she can feel it in her lie-detecting gut. So the dynamic duo break into Lily’s home. There is no sign of a happily family. Instead they find something even more troubling. Lily knows everything. She has maps, charts, bios…the whole enchilada of Storybrooke and Fairytale scoop. Suddenly, Lily steals Emma’s bug outside. Now she has a way into Storybrooke, since Regina brought along the Snow Queen’s scroll to allow them to reenter. Emma steals another car and they chase Lily down. The confrontation that follows is INTENSE.

Lily is out for blood. She wants revenge, big time. She plans on going to Storybrooke and killing Emma’s parents for what they did to her. Lily has lived a cursed life because of the Charmings’ selfishness. No matter how hard she tried, everything she did was tainted by the darkness that consumed her soul. A heated fight ensues and Emma gains the upper hand. Her gun is pointed at Lily. What will Emma do? We get a little Angel versus Devil on the shoulder action.

Regina begs Emma not to pull the trigger. She speaks from experience. Once you take a life, the road to redemption is very difficult. Emma already killed Cruella, so she’s begun her downward spiral. What difference will this make? Regina asserts that Cruella’s death was an accident, but killing Lily will be cold-blooded murder. Even Hook warned Emma before she left that revenge can be very tempting. She needs to be very careful of her actions because it is easier to turn dark than it may seem.

Meanwhile, Lily keeps provoking the Savior into taking her life. Emma could save her parents and the people of Storybrooke by ending this battle before it even begins. We hold our breaths, fearing that Emma will fall deeper into Rumple’s trap. Regina pleads, “Emma, you’re better than this.” Thankfully, Emma lowers the gun.

Emma realizes that Lily’s life has not been fair and she wants to make things right. She invites Lily to join them as they head off to rescue Robin and return to Storybrooke. After all, Emma and Lily have been better together. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…

Back in Storybrooke, Rumple has concocted a plan of his own. He approaches Will, who is always a delight to see. The Dark One wants Will to steal Belle’s heart. He quips that he’s already in the process of doing that. Adorable! Then Rumple gets serious and explains how Regina has physically stashed away Belle’s heart for leverage.

Time-out for a moment: Didn’t Belle agree to help Regina take down Rumple? Was she not aware that Regina took her heart for that very reason? We assumed Belle was in on this charade during last week’s episode, but now we aren’t so sure. Why is Belle surprised by this news? This should have been clarified because now it feels like a plot-hole. If you have any answers/explanations/theories, please share below.

Rumple distracts Mal, while Will breaks through the magic Rumple-proof protective barrier and retrieves Belle’s heart from Regina’s office, literally behind Mal’s back. So Rumple once again gets what he wanted. Oh Regina is going to be so mad at Mal for failing her like this. But then again, she may have bigger things to worry about. We’ll get back to that in a second.

Rumple returns Belle’s heart and places it in her chest. He explains how his heart has darkened, all except for one little bit which is full of the love he feels for her. He apologizes for lying to her throughout their entire marriage. She honestly deserves better. Rumpy gently says, “I’m returning your heart, but it’s his job to guard it.” He is happy that she has Will and wishes them all the best.

Again, this is all sweet, but there has to be a catch. Could he have done something to her heart? Or is he hoping that his plea will be enough to win back her love? Belle is happy with Will, but Rumple was her True Love. As we have learned, True Love is hard to get over. Especially when you’ve lost it once before.

Regina is determined to have her happily ever after with Robin. She eagerly knocks on his door and luckily catches him while Zelena is out. She quickly spills the beans about Zelena’s wicked plot. Robin is stunned, disgusted even, yet he still hesitates to make a run for it. Regina and Robin still love each other, but his circumstances have changed. Zelian walks in right on cue and after a bit of prodding from Regina, she reveals her true self. A looks of horror spreads across Robin’s face. As Robin begins saying the unthinkable, Zelena pulls back her coat to reveal her pregnant belly. Oh HELL no!

Really?!? Seriously, “Once Upon A Time”? Did you have to play the soap opera pregnancy card? This sucks! There have been some great twists. Some have been really shocking in a good way, but this is just upsetting. We should’ve known Zelena would have some sort of insurance just in case Regina tried saving Robin. Ugh! How annoying! Zelena is wretched. This is low even for an evil villain.

This raises even more questions: Did Rumple know Zelena was pregnant? Or that she planned on getting pregnant? How far is Robin willing to go to do the honorable thing? Does he really have to make an honest woman out of Zelena? Did they already get remarried in the city since she called him husband? What will be their baby’s Fate? Can the Author help in this situation?


“Lily” was another solid episode. Lana Parrilla and Jennifer Morrison shared some magnificent scenes together. They really rocked it in this episode. Their role reversal was wonderful to watch. Well done!

Agnes Bruckner made a great debut as adult Lily. It will be interesting to see how Lily and Emma’s relationship evolves from here. Will two halves make a whole? Will Emma’s yin balance our Lily’s yang? Can they keep each other from reaching dark extremes? Or will seeing Mama Mal make Lily blood boil? Perhaps realizing exactly how much see missed will be what pushes Lily and Mal over the edge. The Charmings may be in store for quite the reckoning. And it won’t be pretty.

What is Rumple up to? Did he return Belle’s heart because it is the right thing to do? Is that his way of preserving the little bit of love left in his dark heart? Or is he planting the seed to woo Belle back? She did look at Rumple longing as he walked away. She’s always had a soft spot and managed to see the man in beast’s clothing. Do you think she will dump will and return to Rumple?

Kudos to Rebecca Mader for being so wonderfully wicked. She has upped her game this season and we really love hating how the Wicked Witch toys with everyone’s emotions. In contrast, it was very nice to see Maleficent reach out to the Heroes once more. Last time the Charmings betrayed her and now their child is helping her out. It is a clever twist.Kristin Bauer van Straten has been spectacular this season.

How did you like “Lily”? Did it live up to your expectations? Were you shocked/disturbed by that ending? Are you disappointed by the pregnancy plot? Do think Emma will still turn Dark? Did you like the little shades of “Revenge” sprinkled throughout the episode? Share your thoughts below!

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

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