In the run up to the finale, life got dark.
Brace yourselves, the finale is coming. What "An Apple Red as Blood" lacked in humor (I counted one memorable joke) it more than made up for in resolved plot points and breakneck speed. I definitely had whiplash by the end of the episode, so this summary is as much for me as for you. Let's get cracking.
This week's episode opened with a dream sequence of Henry and Regina having a quietly awkward dinner. There is a knock at the door and when Regina answers it she finds Emma there along with several other people who want the evil Queen dead. The mob ties Regina to a tree growing in the center of town and throw their grievances at her. The rest of this season's CGI budget went into the rotten black apple Emma crushes in her hand, and the last of the props budget was spend on a sword Emma almost uses to kill Regina. Finally! The sword! It wasn't a lie, or not really anyway. The dream provides a glimpse into Regina's mind: she's scared because she can feel Emma is starting to gain ground.
Regina wakes from her dream before Emma can kill her. Naturally, her first instinct is to check on Henry who is safe in his be- no, wait a minute, Emma abducted him. Regina can't see it, but that reassuring form in the bed is just a heap of pillows.
Speaking of Emma's harebrained ideas, we cut to the pair in the car. Henry thinks Emma shouldn't leave Storybrooke because of the Curse, but Emma is still in denial of the Curse's existence. They argue over why Emma wants to leave: she wants to do what's best for them as mother and son, he reminds her that her family (Snow, James, and all the rest) need her more than he does. Has anyone figured out what would happen to Henry and Emma if they were all returned to the fairy tale world? I'd be interested to hear others' theories.
In the fairy tale world, King George sentences James to death for not marrying Abigail (Midas's daughter/Kathryn). Remember that? That happened a while ago, so I hope you've been taking notes. I was interested to see that George chose to use a guillotine to execute James – George is more of a German name (the house of Hanover, for example) – but I guess he's enough of a jerk for most Americans to logically say he must be French. Or it could just be a cool opportunity for wasting the CGI budget on one of Regina's spells. She turns the blade to water as it falls toward James's neck, which admittedly did look cool, showing that she saved his life more than once. I like the commitment to parallels, but the whole Regina-James thing is getting creepy. Regina offers King George a large (Midas-size) sum of money for James. She wants him as bait to lure Snow White into a trap, which is cunning of her and also a swift resolution of a pointed problem.
The next morning in Storybrooke, Regina examines the apple trees in her garden. Like some magical gardener, her dream the night before was prophetic: her garden is dying. The rotting fruit is a symptom of a larger problem; it means that the Curse is weakening. Regina pays Gold a visit and confronts him over his continued support of Emma, or rather because he's been playing both ends against the middle. He suggests that she kill Emma, but if Emma dies the Curse does as well. Regina asks Gold to undo that provision, and he can't because there isn't enough magic in Storybrooke (and also because he doesn't want to). I think if the Curse is broken he can leave Storybrooke but doesn't have to return to the fairy tale world. He would be free to search for Baelfire and is already planning the trip to do so. Regina is frustrated but has to come up with a plan b – after all, she has the most to lose if everyone remembers how she set the Curse on them in the first place. There's a story I'd like to see – did anyone try to stop her? At all?
Plan B involves Jefferson, aka the Mad Hatter. Regina stops by the school to leave a white rabbit playing card on Paige's bicycle (Jefferson's daughter), knowing that he will see it. Her plan is to use the hat to return them to the fairy tale world, where she can search for a way to destroy Emma without breaking the Curse. He initially refuses to help Regina because he has no magic and (as we have seen) cannot recreate the magic hat that landed him in all this trouble in the first place. Fortunately (or conveniently, depending on your level of cynicism), Regina is in possession of the magic hat. She wants him to use it, but no one can make it work without magic. Fortunatelier, she has some squirreled away that could make the hat work. Jefferson agrees to help her if she takes away his memories of the fairy tale world and gives him a new life in Storybrooke with his daughter.
Meanwhile at Chez Snow White, Mary Margaret is pissed that Emma left without saying goodbye. She lectures Emma about responsibility (in case you forgot she's really Emma's mother) and how Emma is "reverting" to who she was before she came to Storybrooke. I have to ask: what was the trigger for Emma's behavior? What made her want to run? I thought that Emma was really invested in Storybrooke and her friends, especially in Henry and Mary Margaret. Is she just scared of the awesome power Regina has to "rig the game", demonstrated by Sidney's confession to a crime he didn't commit? Or did August W. Booth's antics last week really freak her out? What I'm saying is this whole "reversion" seemed a little contrived to me.
In the fairy tale world, Snow White and crew (the dwarves, granny, and Red) plan an assault on the castle. Snow has heard that James is being held captive by King George and this was her big plan to rescue them. Red uses her super awesome wolf powers to sniff out Regina, but Snow decides they should proceed anyway. She offers everyone the chance to get out, which naturally they refuse even though this is a freaking stupid idea. Yes, let's assault the castle full of trained soldiers with pickaxe-wielding dwarves and a werewolf. ...Actually, that's awesome. Proceed.
What Snow doesn't know, but Admiral Akbar would be able to tell her, is that it's a trap. Regina visits James in his cell and kind of puts the moves on him, capitalizing on the creep factor from last week. I do not like this trajectory, writers. You're giving me the heebee jeebees. Like all supervillians Regina feels compelled to explain that she won't be killing Snow, she has something far worse planned. Cue the apple!
The assault on the castle begins with a howl and a flaming arrow, so the awesome factor has definitely increased. Grumpy voices my thoughts: "I miss Stealthy" (Stealthy! Pour one out for the homies who ain't here no more!) I miss Stealthy you guys. Can we retcon Snow White? The movie from the 1930s? I think it's time for another gritty reboot, and Stealthy would be an excellent addition to this new band of kickass dwarves. I am not counting the two movies that came out/are coming out this year. Those look, um, less badass than Stealthy.
In the skies above George's castle the fairies are primed to help with the assault. They're not who I would pick for a battle, but okay we'll see how this plays out. Ginnifer Goodwin almost manages to convince me she can scale walls and swing a broadsword with those toothpick-like arms. My disbelief is saved when Grumpy kills a dude with a pickaxe and is awesome in general. Just when George's whitecloaks have them cornered, the faerial assault begins. All the fairies, including the Blue Fairy (who is basically God), sling fairy dust and I'm sure the whitecloaks begin to question their loyalties. You know you're on the wrong side when God is assaulting you.
Back in Storybrooke, Henry visits August and tells him Emma wants to leave their little hamlet for good. August explains that he failed to convince Emma of the Curse's reality, which duh. He also shows Henry that his arms are now turning to wood because he hasn't been a "good boy" and explains that Emma can't see that he's turning to wood because she doesn't want to believe in anything to do with magic. August is giving up on Operation Cobra and plans to spend his last few days as a real boy with his father. The fate of the world now rests with Henry, a boy that no one has believed so far.
At Granny's, Archie (!!!) and Emma discuss her chances at getting custody of Henry. Archie doesn't think she has much of a chance since Henry has acted out more since Emma's arrival. He thinks that if they're both going to be in Henry's life they need to find a way to coexist. I have to say, Emma may love her son and everything on TV has taught me that parenting isn't an exact science, but her behavior so far this episode doesn't say good parenting. Also, I want Archie and Emma to settle into a Giles/Buffy relationship and fight vampires. Is that too much to ask?
Snow White reaches the dungeons to rescue James, who isn't actually there. There's a mirror, where his reflection tells her that he's at Regina's palace. She wonders melodramatically if their life is going to be a constant round of finding each other only to be lost again, I silently gag into my popcorn. Regina interrupts and offers to parlay with Snow who, like a fool, agrees. She meets up with the rest of her merry band, who urge her not to go. She doesn't listen because she's stupid or noble or both.
Back in Storybrooke, Regina leads Jefferson to the place where she's kept the last bits of her magic. The few trinkets she pulls from cubbies in the walls don't seem to be enough, but when Regina tosses in the ring from her long lost (David Bowie look-alike) Daniel the hat spins. BUT it's still not enough magic to take them back. Jefferson asks if there's something she can grab from the other side, something small that could help them. Following his prompts, she thinks of the place and the hat begins to spin.
Regina meets Snow White at the barn "where it all began" and leads her to Daniel's grave. Snow White didn't know that Daniel died, she thought he just ran away before Regina married Snow's father. They throw each other's sins around and nothing is resolved because Regina is stubborn. She offers Snow White a way to make amends: a bite of a blood red apple. Regina explains that the apple will imprison her in a living death. The catch is that the apple must be eaten willingly, but Regina thought of a way around that. If Snow doesn't choose the apple, Regina will kill James. Of course Snow eats the apple and falls to the ground. James feels a pain in his own heart at the moment she eats the apple, miles away in his prison. The apple falls from Regina's hands in the past into the hands of evil mayor Regina in the future through the hat. If you've ever watched Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (or Bogus Journey) it's like the way they leave keys and sandbags for themselves in convenient places.
Regina bakes the apple into a turnover and plans to get Emma to eat it. She doesn't even have to call, Emma arrives unannounced. She tells Regina that she will agree to leave Storybrooke on the condition that she can come back and see Henry. I doubt that Regina is willing to listen to any of Emma's conditions, especially after she gets Emma to say that Regina is Henry's mother. Emma leaves after they agree to split time with Henry, taking the offered turnover with her.
In the fairy tale world the gang finds Snow and concludes that she's dead. Regina watches the scene from her mirror, along with James in his prison. Mayor Regina gloats to Gold in the present, telling him that she gave up the last bit of her magic to get the apple. I wonder how he'll use that tidbit of information in the future – I really hope he has some magic of his own squirreled away. Regina has nothing left to bargain with.
Henry meets up with Emma at the apartment. She declares she can't stay in Storybrooke and Henry channels his inner Abed to get meta. He's surprised to find she really doesn't believe in the Curse and that she doesn't know Regina wants her dead. Emma can't see the Curse around her love for Henry, which means she'll be willing to fight for him like no one else. Henry sees the turnover and prevents Emma from succumbing to the apple's poison by eating the turnover himself (like grandmother like grandson). He falls to the floor, and BOOM credits.
Next week: season finale. My wish list: Stealthy, dragons, Archie with a crossbow, Gold wielding his pimp cane. Catch you next week!
Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long