Character arcs! As I live and breathe, now we're getting into actual series plotlines.
Hope you watched this week's episode – it was far superior to last week's premiere, primarily because it did not try to cover as much ground. “We Are Both” opens with the fabulous Lee Arenberg and company drawing a bright orange line at the very boundary of Storybrooke. Sneezy draws the short straw and crosses the line, where his memories of the fairy tale world are zapped from his body immediately.
Elsewhere in town Red, Archie and the Blue Fairy try to calm the frightened citizens. They're not having much luck, especially after the Dwarfs arrive with their news. Every eye turns to Charming, who in Snow's absence is expected to lead, but he does little to rise to the occasion. He's too focused on getting his wife and daughter back to think about anything else. Now I know why he and Snow married: a similar disregard for logical priorities and fondness for short hair. He promises to return in two hours with a plan – something that has worked before, for someone... in history. Right?
Charming's quest for answers leads him to Regina's mansion. She's not surprised to see him, but his presence only reminds her that she has neither Henry nor magic. As he storms out, she swears to get both back. Lana Parilla seemed to enjoy playing the villainess, strutting around and really over-drawling her cruel lines. When you see her backstory, though, you realize why she has such a theatrical take on evil.
You see, her mother Cora was kind of awful. Have you ever met a kid whose parents pushed them into things they didn't want to do? Like, the son just wanted to do science but his dad insisted on having a basketball player in the family? It's kind of like that, but with spellbooks and way more bedazzled clothes. Cora trapped Regina on the castle grounds, using magical vines if necessary, and promised to teach her the secrets of power. They manage to keep those secrets incredibly PG – I'm pretty sure The Prince fell through a portal and right into her lap.
Naturally Regina is not happy at being forced to marry the kindly and old King. She complains to her sweet old dad, who you might remember is named Henry and must have been rich and even more befuddled when he married Cora. He divulges that Cora was not always so power-hungry, she met a man who gave her a book that changed her life. (Side note: Reading does not make you evil! Or more evil!) Did you guess who that man was? I did: good old R-stilts, reprising the gold makeup that stole our hearts last season with a slightly less wondrous accent. He sounded positively London English at times.
Regina steals her mother's book and summons R-stilts. If you know anything about the source material for Rumplestiltskin, you'll know that his price for help is always babies. Sometimes to eat them, but in this version it seems like he's just furthering his own ends. It's all but said that Regina was the price of Cora's magic, and possibly this kingdom's reluctant anti-Christ. Regina doesn't want to be evil, she just wants to be free. Unfortunately for her, the only way to be free is to get her hands on too-seductive-to-resist power. Also a magic mirror, playing off the Through the Looking Glass vibe in this episode.
That theme is strengthened by the reapparance of the Winter Sold- I mean the Mad Hatter. He's still the hottest man on this show. Charming purchases a finding potion from R-stilts, the price being non-interference on both sides, and uses it to find the Mad Hatter trapped in an upturned car. I don't know how many hours it's supposed to have been since the return of magic, but he had to be in there a while. He is unharmed though, so much so that Charming immediately questions him about the possibility the Enchanted Forest still exists (Regina told us last week it wasn't). The Mad Hatter confirms that it does, but he can't get there on his own. It seems that there are no portals to the other worlds. This seems like an ideal time for the Doctor to drop by between halves of the season. New game: who from OUAT would make the best Companion for the Doctor?
Regina pays her own visit to Gold to get back the magic book, and with it her mojo. He gives it to her after it becomes apparent that his use of the word “please” is ineffective, and especially because Regina starts prying into his business. He manages to get out the last word, though, saying that Regina does indeed resemble her mother. Burn! Delayed burn! I bet he's been waiting to say that for about twenty years.
With her magic back, Regina storms the town hall meeting called by Charming. He is a no show, but her magic manages to keep things from getting dull. She lights things on fire and throws people backward, violence enough that Henry goes with her willingly. She takes him back to her house, where the imprisonment practiced by her mother so long ago is reenacted with Henry. She tries to soothe him with promises of magic, but Henry isn't really her son. He doesn't want power, but then I'm not really sure what Henry wants. His main function so far has been as a bone of contention between warring parties, like Poland. If he disappears for about 300 years, nobody act surprised.
Regina is self-aware enough to realize what she is doing is wrong. She protested so much in the flashbacks that she was not her mother, and here she is acting exactly like her. She breaks the cycle by letting Henry leave with Charming, and for once I don't think she's playing a deeper game. She has given up all hope of returning to the Enchanted Forest, so the best she can do is make peace with the townsfolk so she can leave her house.
Speaking of leaving, the whole town planned on high-tailing it out of Storybrooke after the Queen's pyrotechnics. Charming and Red head them off at the pass, and our prince gives an exciting speech about embracing both parts of your life. Maybe he really wants to cheat with Red. The town is convinced, and Archie smiles proudly as they begin the slow process of backing up at least fifty cars.
In the nice montage at the end we find our characters at a crossroads. R-stilts cannot leave the city to find his son as he once wished. Gepetto goes to August W. Booth's room, only to find the man-puppet gone. Henry and Charming munch on food in the newly re-opened diner, promising each other that Snow and Emma are still alive.
Which they are! But for how long? The previews for next week say a while – and they also portend a black Lancelot! And here I thought Percival was supposed to be the one from foreign shores.
Next week: More fairy tale, less domestic tale. Also, probably at least one Blazing Saddles joke. R-stilts and Archie 2012.