Someone dies – can you guess who?
Several of this season's main storylines came in for the home stretch tonight, as the story of the miller's daughter drew to a close. In case you haven't guessed by now, Cora was the miller's daughter: the fairy tale equivalent of a self-made tycoon. Instead of business sense and gumption, Cora uses a combination of steely/smoldering glances and her prominent boobs to get her share of power.
With a drunkard for a father, Cora is left with much of the work around the mill; up to and including delivering the flour into the very heart of the local castle. Instead of just going to the kitchens, however, she hauls her wares to an atrium where the royal court is holding sway. One of the princesses in the group, a beautiful brunette named Ava, trips Cora, causing her to drop all her flour and embarrass herself. Cora is forced to apologize to Ava, who smirks at making life a little more unpleasant for the underprivileged. I wonder how she became the sweet and graceful woman who taught Snow White to can the attitude, but I no longer am mystified by Cora's vendetta against her.
Later, but probably not too much later, Cora bluffs her way into a royal ball wearing a seriously sexy red dress and immediately charms sweet prince Henry. The King, his father, sees through her disguise and asks what she can offer of value to their kingdom, which suffers from crippling debt. Is it just me, or do most of the kingdoms with evil kings ALSO have severe deficits? It's like evil people shouldn't manage money. (Or maybe the writers are just 99%ers.) Cora decides to double down on her audacious actions for the night: she claims she can spin straw into gold, which some of the more canny viewers might remember is how the story of Rumplestiltskin starts... kind of. The King calls her bluff and declares she has until the following morning to spin straw into gold. If she does, she can marry the prince. If not, she dies. This would be a lot more suspenseful if I didn't know how it ended, but it does make me miss Regina's dad. He was such a sweet fellow.
Cora is placed in a tower, where her hopeless plans for escape are interrupted by everyone's favorite Dark One. R-stilts is pretty taken by her dress too – he falls in love with her almost immediately. I'll say this for the man: he doesn't seem to have a type, unless idiotic courage can be classified as a character trait. There are some... intimate moments, or as intimate as network tv gets. If this were HBO we probably would have been treated to a thirty-minute sex scene. R-stilts teaches her that magic comes from emotion: as she imagines taking revenge on her enemies, the straw on the spinning wheel magically turns to gold. Makes you wonder what great injustices he was imagining in all those other scenes where we see him spinning.
The next morning, Cora spins straw into gold before an incredulous court and wins prince Henry's hand. She carries on with R-stilts for a few days, and he asks her to run away with him. Regular viewers might remember that R-stilts' catchphrase is “Everything comes with a price”: his teacher's fee for Cora is her firstborn child. She convinces him to amend it: the price of her lessons will actually be the first child they have together. I immediately start to panic and wonder if the Charming/R-stilts family tree is about to get even more twisted. But, instead of marrying R-stilts, we all know that Cora marries Henry and gives birth to Regina. In order to go through with this, Cora rips out her own heart – her love for R-stilts (born of all the trials and tribulations of like what, three days?) was keeping her from her true purpose: crushing her enemies. It's actually pretty sad, and Rose McGowan did a decent job in her scenes, especially the ones with the incomparable Robert Carlyle (even if they did make me a tad uncomfortable – mostly because of how abruptly the plot point was introduced).
Naturally, since the story focused on Cora for once, she had to die as soon as I begin to admire her brazen attitude and try to figure out how she ended up in Wonderland. Things get pretty convoluted here, but bear with me. When Emma, Henry, Baelfire and R-stilts return from their trip to New York they immediately head to R-stilts' shop with Snow and David, and prepare themselves for war. We know that R-stilts is dying because his name is fading from the Dark One's dagger. Emma casts a spell to defend the shop, with R-stilts' guidance (which creepily mirrors his first conversation with Cora). She was pretty awesome in the shop scenes and I wish they would allow her to be funny more often. Dreary-I-never-get-laid Emma makes me sad. Also, she seems to have a taste for magic: she definitely liked casting the defensive spell, and you can tell her magic is driven by positive emotion.
Before the battle, Snow finds the candle that she was unable to use to save her mother. For those who don't remember, it allows the user to trade one life for another. Regina and Car attack the shob, and during the ensuing fight David and Snow are cast outside the shop. Emma uses magic invisible chalk to set up another barrier and stall the evil witches. After this there's a touching scene where Baelfire and R-stilts reconcile, and R-stilts also calls Belle to tell her how much she means to him. She's touched, even though she has amnesia, and as we might say on the internet “there were many feels.”
Snow has gone at least grey if not full-on dark side. She decides to go through with the curse this time: she couldn't do it to save her mother, but she can do it to kill Cora, which tells me that Snow isn't quite as pure as she wishes she was or David thinks she is. The candle must be used over the victim's heart, which she finds in Regina's crypt. She then tricks Regina into putting Cora's heart back in her body, which will trigger the curse and save R-stilts life. Regina does this just as Cora is about to kill R-stilts, almost immediately after she confesses that she really did love him all those years ago (more feels, though a little confused now). As Regina holds the dying miller's daughter in her arms, Cora is able to show her daughter that she does love her. She even says “This would have been enough.” Again, feels. Then, she dies. A remorseful Snow shows up immediately after, and Regina's vendetta against the princess is on again.
That just about sets us up for next week. Overall, a solid episode that I didn't entirely hate watching. That's about all the praise you get, writers, because there was nary an Ethan Embry to be found in this episode. When is that storyline going to rear its ugly head? I mean, Michael Raymond-James is pretty charming, but if all the man-candy you have in an episode is David... let's just say I'm not thrilled.
Next week: Regina is all vampy and evil again, Snow tries to become a martyr, and maybe Ethan Embry shows up? I surmised the first two statements from the previews, the third is just optimism.