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! [pagebreak]
Why? Because shortly after arriving there, they’re not alone. Remember that Rumple, too, has been banished from Storybrooke—and he’s also been using his son’s old digs as a crash pad. We’re all set for a showdown when the Man Formerly Known as the Dark One suddenly collapses.
Is Rumple playing possum to get Robin to hand over the keys to the apartment? I wouldn’t be surprised; New York City real estate can be a cutthroat game. But nope: He just had a heart attack, according to the medical professionals at a local hospital. Ah, but no problem so mundane could actually fell a character on Once. Rumple knows that he’s actually suffering from an ailment that’s magic in nature. His heart has been poisoned by all his bad deeds; he could use magic to protect against the adverse effects back in Storybrooke, but out here in the real world, he can’t self-medicate. Rumple can, however, use a potion conveniently introduced in this very episode: the Elixir of the Wounded Heart. And wouldn’t you know it, there happens to be a bottle of just that in this very city, passed from Zelena to Walsh/Flying Monkey #1/The Wizard of Oz (remember him?).
Why, exactly, would Robin ever agree to help save Rumplestiltskin’s life? Because it’s Robert Carlyle—er, no, because Robin is A Man With A Code, which evidently means helping out whoever asks even if they’re totally getting what they deserve. There’s a mildly exciting scene in which Robin acquires the potion and narrowly evades the police; before he delivers it to Rumple, he stops at home, where Marian logically brings up the fact that it might be better for the greater good if Robin just let Rumple die. Think this means Marian has a good head on her shoulders? Just you wait.
The hero of course doesn’t listen to his wife, because heroics on Once means that death is never, ever, ever the answer. (Except, you know, when it is.) He delivers the potion in exchange for Nealfire’s apartment, then leaves before he can see Rumple drink it. Which Rump does… only to discover that the liquid he just imbibed is nothing but plain, ordinary, over-the-counter children’s cough syrup, placed into an identical vial by… Maid Marian. Why would Marian want to murder Rumple? Because—drum roll—she’s not Marian. She’s a glamour-spell-cloaked Zelena, and she’s been impersonating Robin’s wife since last year’s two-part finale.
The short version: Zelena never died. As the witch gleefully explains during a flashback-aided info-dump, her “life force” fled her body before it shattered, then traveled back in time through the portal when Emma and Hook did. She then killed Marian and began impersonating her—thanks to a six-leaf-clover necklace from Oz that Robin had stolen from Zelena when he took the elixir all those years ago—in order to hitch a ride back to Storybrooke with Emma and Hook. At first, Zelena only intended to steal her half-sister’s happy ending by tricking Robin into falling in love with her. Eventually, though, she came up with a new plan: Track down the Author, and have him script her a new happy ending. (Sounds familiar.) In order to do that, though, she’ll need Rumple’s help. She’ll hand over the real elixir if and only if he secures the Author and has him pen another new ending. Dude’s gonna need a lot of ink.
And so we arrive back in the present-present, where the Dark One convinces the fugitive Author to join his cause—and tells Regina, whom he’s holding captive in her vault, to give her True Love a call. When the Queen complies (wait, does Storybrooke have an underground cell tower or something?), she finds Zelena on the other end of the line. Bum bum buuuummm!
Now, says Rumple, she’ll have to make a choice: Help him turn Emma dark, or let Zelena murder Robin Hood. We cut to the end credits before we can hear how she answers. Who could’ve guessed that Regina’s ultimate test would be deciding between Outlaw Queen and Swan Queen?
- Rumple to the Author, upon finding that the latter is trying to fashion an enchanted writing implement out of a non-enchanted branch: “I do know something about magic quills.” Uhh… like that they’re usually made of feathers?
- The Author calls Rump “quite possibly the biggest pain in the ass I’ve ever had the displeasure of writing about.” Has he forgotten about Pan already?
- The furniture shop where Walsh used to work is called The Wizard of Oak. Way to keep a low profile.
- The Elixer of the Wounded Heart, or Justin Bieber’s Someday for Women? You be the judge!
- When Rumple is released from the hospital (how’s he going to pay that massive bill without real-world healthcare or identification, I wonder?), Robin meets him to hand over a box of Nealfire’s things. “There wasn’t much left,” he says. He is lying through his teeth; Nealfire’s apartment is positively filled with stuff.
- So, do we really believe that Rumple’s okay with working for Zelena? Keep in mind, as Regina does, that she killed his son. I’m guessing he’s got plans to betray and melt her once and for all, as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
- Robin takes the name “Robin Hood” after Marian calls him the Enchanted Forest’s most “famous hoodlum.” Now you know.
- Preview of next week’s episode: