Okay, show of hands: Who wants to go back through the season (and last year’s finale, for that matter) and see if Marian’s been wearing that necklace chain the whole time?
Nobody? Whatever. It’s tough to say whether tonight’s big reveal—that the apparently dead Zelena has been posing as Robin’s actually dead wife all along—has been in the works since season 3 concluded, or whether it emerged only after Once‘s writers decided to bring Marian to Storybrooke. (To be fair to them, the seeds for it were planted when we first saw that cloud of green smoke open Zelena’s portal last year.) Either way, it’s a pretty clever twist… though your mileage may vary on how welcome it is. (My thought: We’ve already got Rumplestiltskin, Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella to contend with. Do we really need to add a fifth villain to the lineup?)
Like it or not, you’ve got to admit that Zelena’s return was the most exciting part of an episode that otherwise read as wheel-spinning. Our Fairyback showed how Robin of
Loxley Locksley became Robin Hood, a story that’s pretty tangential to the show’s master plot; not much happened in the ep’s real-world story line beyond Zelena’s unveiling. It was, in short, an hour of exposition that could’ve been delivered entirely via Zelena and Regina’s concluding phone call. But hey: Sean Maguire ain’t bad to look at, so let’s call it a draw.
So: Robin Hood’s origin story. The general gist: Thief takes wife, tries to stop thieving, doesn’t.
More detail? Fine. Robin has, in fact, decided to walk the straight and narrow since marrying Marian. He’s running a local tavern; he’s refusing to go looting with Little John, even when King Midas is in town; he’s even resisting the urge to punch the snarky Sheriff of Nottingham in his smug little face when the Sheriff waltzes into said tavern and serves himself a cold one.
But Robin’s resolve is tested when Notty pulls a “you must pay the rent!” on our hero, saying he’s going to shut down Enchanted Forest Cheers if Robin can’t cough up enough to pay his arbitrarily high taxes. How will he ever earn the coin he needs? Enter Rumplestiltskin, of course, speaking in a ridiculously exaggerated accent (more than usual, even!) and offering as much straw gold as Robin wants for a simple little robbery.
You know the magical world’s famous Elixir of the Wounded Heart? Of course you don’t, because this is the first time we’re hearing of it. (Everybody drink!) In any case, Rumple wants it—but the trouble is, it’s currently locked in the Wicked Witch of the West’s vault, and the Dark One can’t exactly waltz in there himself to take it. So he sends Robin instead.
Within moments of entering Oz, the thief-turned-barkeep has already made waves (i.e. landed his portal right on top of an employee of the Wicked Witch). It’s a fortuitous smushing, because said guard was after another thief—none other than Will Scarlett, who’s also in town to try to secure some sweet Wounded Heart potion. (How did he get to Oz? Maybe we’ll learn if and when the Knave ever gets a fairyback to call his own.) Will helps Robin strip the guard so that Locksley can sneak into Zelena’s palace, find the potion, and bring some back for him. Long story short, Robin succeeds, thanks to his skill with a bow—even when Zelena storms in, multiplies herself to confuse him, and conjures up a fireball to try to take him out. Lesson learned, lady: Don’t place easily accessible weapons near your most precious treasures.
Robin’s all set to bring the potion back to Rumple… until he meets Will again near the portal. Scarlett asks if Robin secured the elixir; because Robin only got a single vial of the stuff, he lies and says he didn’t. Which prompts Will to heap praise upon Robin anyway, cheering him for doing his very best to provide for his wife… and revealing that he’s been looking for the potion not to sell it, but to heal his own broken heart. (Will’s sister drowned, and he’s never gotten over it. Unexpectedly sad twist!)
Though Will isn’t trying to toss a guilt bomb onto Robin, that’s exactly what he does. The thief surreptitiously passes the Wounded Heart potion to Will… and, because he can’t give it to Rumple and thus can’t pay Nottingham’s fee, he decides to forgo the tavern and enter back into a life of crime. This time, though, there’ll be a twist: “When you steal for yourself, that makes you a thief. But when you steal for someone else, that makes you a hero.” Police precincts in the real world may have some qualms with that credo… but in the Enchanted Forest, it’s as good a code as any.
The fairyback ends with Robin and Marian, so happy together. The present-day story line finds the two of them on less solid ground after leaving Storybrooke behind and moving to New York City. (Oh yeah: The present-day story line is actually an extended flashback that takes place nine weeks before the show’s current action. We should just call this show Once Upon a Timeline.) The city is loud and dirty and filled with honorless thieves, one of whom promptly snatches Marian’s purse the second she puts it down on a crowded sidewalk. (Uhh, Marian kinda walked right into that one.) Of course, Robin manages to make like Prince Edward in Enchanted by finding(/stealing) a horse and using it to track down the scoundrel—but it only goes so far toward making the Hoods feel safe in Manhattan, even after they arrive at Nealfire’s old apartment. (Regina gave them the keys. Yo, Regina, could you be my fairy godmother?)
NEXT: Marian, we hardly knew ye!