Serious spoilers within. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE WATCHED.
Hope you took the tagline seriously, because I'm going to celebrate right here. ARCHIE ISN'T DEAD!! Which is good for all of you, because otherwise this review would have been one N and about a million O's.
Backing up, "The Cricket Game" kicks off with the stealthy arrival of Cora and Hook in Storybrooke. They disembark, seemingly unimpressed by the electric lights of the town (which, holy shit, if I just came from a pseudo-medieval world I would have been twelve kinds of impressed), and have a little cat fight. Hook wants to kill R-stilts immediately, but after Cora shows him that magic is present in Storybrooke he agrees that proceeding without a plan would be a bad idea. They are approached by a friendly shopkeep, who Cora turns into a fish. That's what you get for being neighborly, I guess.
Elsewhere in Storybrooke, possibly the next day, Grandma and Grampa Charming are getting it onnnnn bow chicka wow wow. Their boning is interrupted by the arrival of Emma and Henry, the latter of whom apparently has not had his sex education classes yet. Emma is a little annoyed with her parents, but James is just happy they can scar her a bit. GREAT PARENTING TIP FROM ONCE UPON A TIME.
Later that night a party is held to celebrate the return of Snow... and Emma, who they're less excited about really, even though she's like their Savior or whatever. Just as James is finishing up his hopeful toast, Regina arrives with her super duper lasagna. Other than throwing some barbs her way, Regina is largely ignored by the other guests and leaves before the cake is cut. Emma chases after her to thank her again for the role she played in bringing Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke, and also to emphasize that Regina was invited on Henry's behalf (and on Archie's recommendation). Regina, never one to accept an inch when she could take a mile, gets angry when Emma says she can't have more time with Henry and reiterates her opinion that Emma is an unfit parent. (Because Regina is so very stable.) They part uneasily, but it's clear Regina is going to give Archie and earful for speaking to Emma about her attempts to change.
The next day Regina gets into a spat with Archie on the boardwalk, witnessed by Red who happens to be jogging by. There are enough dog puns and close ups of Pongo to cause concern – they've barely mentioned Archie's dog since the episode where the mine collapsed. Archie defends his adherence to the doctor/patient confidentiality agreement, but Regina is still dissatisfied with his role in her invitation to the party. That night she shows up at his office and curse-kills him with dark magic. In case you were wondering, here were my tweets in the lead up to this:
But alas, kill him it appears she does. The next morning, as Emma and Henry are leaving Granny's Cafe, Pongo comes running up to them, barking mad. (Get it? Eh? Eh?) Red comes out of the diner when she hears the dog, because apparently being a werewolf means she can understand dog language. This is not an aspect of lycanthropy that receives adequate coverage in books and movies these days, if you ask me. How much would you love it if there was a book or television show about a werewolf and his dog buddy, like solving crimes or something? Called it!
Red jumps to the logical conclusion, that Regina did it, based solely on the argument that she saw earlier that day. (Or possibly the day before - the passage of time is a little fuzzy in this episode.) Emma and James bring Regina in for questioning, and Emma concludes she didn't do it based on her surprised reaction to the news. Either she's a better actor than previously supposed (doubtful) or she didn't do it. Did everyone forget that Emma can tell when people are lying? Because if she believes Emma didn't do it, you should too.
Emma, Snow and James head to Archie's office to gather more evidence, of which there seems to be an abundance. Suspecting that Regina is being framed, the Charmings interrogate Gold, the town's foremost schemer. He, in turn, uses a nifty trick with a dreamcatcher to capture Pongo's eyewitness testimony. I don't know if anyone else picked up on it, but this episode was heavily concerned with due process and the ethics of capital punishment. After summoning her latent magical talent to see Pongo's memories in the dreamcatcher, Emma and her parents see for themselves that Regina did indeed kill Archie.
The three intrepid royals confront Regina at her house. Finding herself cornered, Regina lashes out with her magic after Emma promises that she will never see Henry again. Her actions might prove her guilt, except for the teensy fact that she didn't kill the most beloved cricket in fairy tale lore. It was Cora, in her quest to be the most overbearing mother in the history of everything. She disguised herself as Regina and knocked Archie out, replacing his body with that of the shopkeep she knocked out/turned into a fish at the beginning of the episode, and now has the real Archie locked up in the hold of Hook's schooner for the purpose of getting dirt on the whole town from him... by force.
Of course, the point of everything that happens in Storybrooke is to mirror and then expand upon events that happened in the past, in the fairy tale realm before they all took an involuntary trip to Maine. The past action picks up with an ill-armored Regina after the fall of George's army. She decides to go after Snow White, who is journeying back to the Prince alone. (Dumb move.) Regina catches up with Snow, and when given the chance to surrender she refuses. She lunges at Snow and is stopped by the blue fairy – the whole thing was a trap. (Regina seems to fall into those a lot, due to her single-mindedness. She might want to work on that.)
Charming convenes a round table (literally) to decide what to do with Regina. After hearing what the others have to say, James does what he always wanted to do: sentence Regina to death. Snow is uncomfortable with this, and after arguing about the moral implications of an execution she assents to her fiance's decree.
Regina's father, lovable as he is, urges his daughter to publicly repent even if she doesn't mean it. He knows that Snow wants to forgive her, but Regina cannot find it in her heart to say she was wrong. When she is escorted down to her execution, Archie (in cricket form) gives her a chance to confess her sins. I kind of thought the fairies were the religious officials of this world, but whatever. Instead of repenting, Regina states that her only regret is that she could not cause more pain than she did. Despite this overt display of evil, Snow shouts for the firing squad to not shoot Regina. The Blue Fairy freezes the arrows, and Regina is taken back to her cell, apparently a little disappointed that she isn't going to die.
Snow approaches the prisoner alone and gives Regina her freedom. As expected, Regina does not say thank you and quietly sneak away. She tries to stab Snow, unsuccessfully thanks to R-stilts' spell, and is banished from the kingdom. Alone in her tower, Regina pouts over her loss until the golden crocodile himself shows up to remind her that he worded the spell carefully: she cannot hurt them in this world. And so she leaves her tower to attend the wedding of Snow and James, to lay down her curse and kick off everything that has happened since. Everything has come full circle now, so do we need to keep exploring the history of Snow and Regina or can we get some new character's up in here? (That will only happen when they stop killing off new characters as soon as they are introduced.)
Next week: Hook confronts R-stilts. Cora continues to be a magnificent bitch. Hopefully the trend of good writing will continue as well.