The Charmings are the picture of responsible parenting.
In the opening of “The Lady of the Lake”, James and Snow are planning their takeover of the kingdom when their camp is attacked. The party splits (bad idea) and Snow is captured by Sir Lancelot. Hubba hubba he is a fine-looking man. He's also working for King George, who I like to refer to as St. Cockblock. King George tells Snow the reason he's such a jerk: he was in love once, until his wife drank a potion that kept them from having children. Who wants to bet his wife was Cora? Anyone? Anyway, KG tricks Snow into drinking a potion that will keep her from having children. The suspense is somewhat undercut by the fact that we know she, um, did have a kid.
The King's men dump Snow in the forest and leave her, barren as she now is, to fend for herself. Lancelot comes to her aid, saying that he didn't know what the King was going to do to her. Lancelot knows that Snow is supposed to meet James at the cabin, and we cut to that very location. James's mother, Ruth, is excited to meet Snow and teasing James about it when a bunch of soldiers arrive. He fights them off single-handed, but not before one of them lands an arrow in his Ruth's chest. Snow and Lancelot show up in the nick of time, and I was pretty sure she was going to die just as she met Snow. James, however, has the brilliant idea to take his mom to the lake where he defeated the Siren – the water cured Ferdinand of being a golden statue, it can probably take care of a little poisonous arrow.
As they walk through the forest to what I assume is a nearby lake, Ruth tells Snow that all her son ever wanted was a wife and a child. Oh snap! There won't be any children for them! Because she's barren! Because of St. Cockblock! There's even a little test with a bit of gypsy folklore about a swinging necklace. The baby-ometer doesn't swing over Snow's palm, causing Snow to confess what George did to her. Ruth thinks that the waters can reverse Snow's curse, which of course they can... if there was any water! (I just realized I'm abusing the privilege of exclamation points. My deepest apologies to you all.)
See, they get to the lake and it's not there anymore. Lancelot (who was indeed raised by a lake) searches for any water that might be left, and finds a thimbleful in a shell. Ruth wants Snow to drink it instead of her – the choice between new life and old is clear, but more importantly it's about the responsibility of being a parent and putting your child before yourself. Ruth's dying wish is to see Snow and James wed, and like a ship's captain Lancelot has the authority to marry them. He performs a ceremony where Snow and James drink from a cup, and Ruth passes away quietly as they kiss. It's a powerful reminder of the phases of life – I'm surprised they didn't name Emma after James's mother. She wasn't that bright, but she seemed like a really nice lady.
As they bury Ruth, Snow laments the loss of the last of James's family. He doesn't look at it like that – Snow is his family now, and they can make children together. Snow is about to tell him about the curse when he swings the necklace over her palm and it indicates that she is going to have a girl. James doesn't know that, though, but Snow tells Lancelot. I was hoping so much that he would get to date Emma, but we know by this point in the episode that it's not going to happen.
At the end of last week's episode Snow and Emma were thrown in a dungeon. While Snow is unconscious, Emma meets the infamous Cora, who claims that her magic disappeared with the curse, but the now-conscious Snow seems to know better than believe her. Emma disagrees because she is stupid and stubborn, and also because she is getting her rebellious teenage phase out now by pretty much not listening to anything Snow says, even though Snow jumped through a freaking hole in the world to be with her. Emma was just really annoying this episode, probably because she was stuck in Henry's shoes for much of it.
Emma and Snow are brought before Lancelot, who is the leader of the remaining fairy tale characters. Aurora and Mulan watch as Snow greets Lancelot as an old friend and he offers to her the hospitality of their haven. Aurora wants justice for her dead (possibly cheating) fiancee Phillip, and Mulan tells her to back off. Does it work? OF COURSE NOT.
Continuing the trend of not listening to good advice, Snow announces they cannot stay at the camp because she thinks that there might be a remaining portal back to Storybrooke, and they need to journey to find it. Lancelot sends Mulan with Snow and Emma for protection, which is not really necessary for Snow but entirely well-advised for Emma. I swear she still thinks she's this badass bounty hunter. You're in a fairy tale world, blondie – there are ogres and archery is still a legitimate form of defense. The game done changed. As they're walking out Snow reveals her plan – find the wardrobe that sent Emma to Maine as a baby, and hope that it has some juice left.
The Estrogen Explorers stop to make camp and Emma gives Snow some more attitude. Aurora, who has followed them, attacks Snow, causing Emma to fire her gun because she's “protecting” Snow. The loud noise summons the dreaded ogres, who hunt by sound instead of sight. In a nice reversal, it is Snow who protects Emma by felling the ogre with a head shot with her bow and arrow. Aurora gets a little commiseration from Emma, who has also been screwing up lately, and she is absorbed into their little clique.
They arrive at the castle and climb the still mostly-intact tower to what would have been Emma's room. Snow reminisces about the life she never got to have with Emma, who is in no mood to listen to her mother. She's more focused on getting back to her own son and Storybrooke. Lancelot shows up unexpectedly to help, but when he drops Henry's name Snow realizes something is wrong. She draws her sword and threatens her old friend who is actually not her old friend – it's Cora in disguise. Cora reveals that Lancelot is long-dead and she has been the one leading the band of refugees.
Cora says that she wants to go to Storybrooke to see her daughter, possibly for reasons that aren't that sentimental. She also says she wants to meet her grandson, pushing Emma into crazy mode. She sets the wardrobe on fire, and as Cora turns the flames on her Mulan is there to bat the fireball away with her sword. Girl has skillz yo. Cora promises Snow they aren't done and disappears, leaving them to watch the wardrobe burn.
Without Cora masquerading as Lancelot, the remaining characters are leaderless. Mulan suggests that Snow lead them all (a good choice – she probably has the most leadership experience) and along with Aurora promises to help them find a way back to James and Henry. As they prepare to leave the tower, Emma takes a moment to tell Snow why she's been such a brat the whole episode: she's never had anyone look out for her, and it takes some getting used to. It's the kind of reunion moment that Snow has been looking for, though I feel sad for her that she never got to have the kind of life with her family that she wanted to. She's still young though – James and her can try for some more, less crazy, kids.
This week's ominous moment is brought to you by Cora. After Snow and Emma leave, she gathers the ashes of the wardrobe. As she gazes at them, they start to glow red, proving there must be a little magic left.
In Storybrooke, Henry wants to help James find Jefferson (the Mad Hatter) and is upset when he learns that the search is already over. James forbids him to help find a way to get Emma and Snow back, because that worked SO WELL all last season. When James is acting this stupid I'm going to start calling him “David” again. Instead of getting on the bus like “David” expects him to, Henry goes wandering off. This is one of those instances where I could make an argument for child leashes.
Henry finds Jefferson gazing morosely at a hand-drawn picture, presumably made by his daughter as she searches for him. I'm really surprised that his eyeliner wasn't running. Jefferson says he can't help Henry, but that there might be some way in Regina's vault. You know, the one with hearts and curses and stuff in it. Yes, let's send the child with no self-preservation instincts there. Henry butts further into Jefferson's business by calling out that he hasn't gone to claim his daughter yet. This part was kind of sad and accurate – Henry says the worst part of growing up adopted was not knowing why your parents gave you up (this is mirrored in Emma's storyline as well). Later in the episode Jefferson does get reunited with his daughter Grace. It's a touching moment and I just want to hug all of them! No but really, I'm happy that happened.
Henry calls Regina to make a lunch date and Regina is unbelievably cool with the fact that her adopted son is probably skipping school to get a bite. I guess in a world without college, attending school just isn't that important. But that crafty Henry is not actually getting lunch with her – he was hiding in the outer room. Regina leaves and Henry goes through her desk until he finds the keys to the vault. As my good friend noted for the third time, Henry really needs an ankle bracelet with a tracking device. Remember last season when he ended up down in a mine? That should have been a huge red flag for everyone.
Henry gets to the vault and opens the biggest most evil-looking box he can find. I have no idea what he thinks is going to be inside, because of course it's snakes. You know, the ones that killed Regina's husband/Snow's father/his great-grandfather oh my goodness this show's genealogy is messed up. James shows up in the nick of time with a bad pun (how like a grandpa) and a lecture. Henry reveals that he's jealous he's stuck in Maine while his mother is having an adventure. “David” only heard one part of that, because at the end of the episode he decides to teach Henry how to sword fight.
But wait! There's a second ominous moment! Remember how King George wanted to rob James of any future children? He sees Henry and James sword fighting on the sidewalk.
Next week: Archie? Regina? R-stilts? I can't make any promises, but there is more guy-liner coming our way with the appearance of Captain James T. Hook (not played by Dustin Hoffman).