Ah, siblinghood. It’s a complicated thing under the best of circumstances, but when motherly abandonment is at hand, well, the emotional impact is everlasting.
Such is the case for sisters Regina and Zelena and twin brothers David and James, each of whom grew up in highly unequal circumstances and have been at odds with one another ever since.
We open with Hades and Zelena going for a casual midnight cruise with a shovel in the back of the car (which isn’t too terribly odd, considering the company). With the dreary vintage tune that’s blaring right now, it might seem like something wicked is afoot (again, considering the company), but it turns out the two are simply out and about for a relatively innocent picnic by a fire pit — kinda romantic, really — where Hades has a little proposal for his lady love.
No, not that kind of proposal — but it’s just as major.
He shows her the cityscape of this Underworld he has built for her — “a kiddie version of what your sister had,” he shamefully admits — and says that what he really wants is to go with her upstairs to Storybrooke and start anew and become a real family, whilst all the heroes (yes, all of them — he’s carved each of their names in tombstones this time so no one’s immune to his deathly charms) are sent to live down here without them for the rest of eternity. “I know things between you and your sister are complicated, but it’s her or us, so what do you say Zelena? Will you make chaos with me?” he asks. We don’t hear her answer…yet.
Thanks to her mini-Magic Mirror, Regina knows exactly what Hades wants her sister to do, and she’s a) ticked that she didn’t say heck no; b) pretty sure there’s no reformation in sight for “the god of death,” no matter how much Zelena might fancy him; and c) gonna call Mom because, as Robin Hood, Emma, and David remind her, that’s pretty much the only person who can put in a pin in her budding relationship with Hades.
Why? Well, let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we? There was a time when Cora tried to shield Regina from her own magic — back when she was just a girl who made pretend besties with her porcelain dollies and whatnot while she roamed the castle alone. But then one day, Cora forgot the key to her wand-wielding drawer in a busy tizzy, and the next thing you know, Regina’s spelled herself to sleep in a flash.
That’s when Cora goes out in search of Zelena, a young girl from the Land of Oz whose magic is clearly strong but suppressed by her oppressive father. Cora’s able to freeze him mid-scolding long enough to convince Zelena she could convince her father her magic is not evil so stop hatin’ by rescuing an innocent girl from eternal slumber. Plus, she’d be helping someone in need. Win-win, right? Zelena’s eager to lend a green light-emitting hand.
Meanwhile, our second pair of tormented genome sharers come head-to-head in the middle of the street. While David’s out running dad errands, a sheriff’s unit rushes him in the street, and though he’s just jaywalking right now, sure, the aggressiveness of the vehicle indicates he’s got much more than a simple citation coming his way right now. Alas, it is “King James” (the title he insists upon), David’s long-lost twin who’s still ticked about being dead, for one, and being their mom’s chosen one. (“You stole my glory. You were half the man I was, and yet you got everything. Everything that was mine. Now you’re going to pay.”) James stuns him and promises to enjoy playing the Shepherd for a little while.
As much as he looks like David, though, James almost gets himself caught in the first moments of his assumed identity. Emma’s reminiscing about a picture of her mom and dad, and when James strolls in and acts like he’s been shopping for baby wipes and whatnot, she asks if he remembers the image. He incorrectly pegs it as a birthday shot, but Emma disregards the error as a consequence of “all the curses and time-jumps” they’ve been grappling with lately.
NEXT: True love’s kiss will do the trick…
Regina meets up with Cora (who’s happy to take a break from all the flour bag-slinging below) to discuss the Zelena-Hades dilemma. See, Z seems pretty won over by Hades and all his swoony posturing, but Cora’s pretty sure it’s just a ploy to get her to fall head over boots and satisfy the “true love’s kiss” requirement that could get him outta the Underworld once and for all. “She’s in more danger than you realize,” Cora firmly warns Regina. “Hades has been down here far too long to be changed by something as simple as love.”
Solution? A single drop from the River for Forgetfulness can help her forget Hades ever existed. Cora claims to have had some experience with it, but she’s scant on details for what seems to be a pretty obvious reason, given all these flashbacks to cozy playtimes between Zelena and Regina after she nimbly brings her back from her magicoma.
Even though he almost tipped her off back at the house, Emma’s still pretty shocked when James reveals himself to be an imposter dad who wants to steal the baby for leverage with Hades and then book it with Cruella de Vil (who keenly wonders, “Why is everything in the woods with you people?”) to the other side. Robin Hood’s arrows do nothing to James but tick him off even further, so this group is kinda S.O.L. right now.
Not many women would be enthusiastic about a brown, wilted flower but since it was a gift from Hades, Zelena’s getting gobs of feels over it until she gets a fateful knock at the door. Look who’s finally paying her visit after all these years?! She tries to say she’s not interested in this long overdue heart-to-heart, but Cora calls her on her bluff and waltzes on in.
Regina and Zelena had first discovered that they were sisters by way of the same wand box that had been so troublesome for Regina before (seriously, why is still laying there like that?). When Zelena touches it in admiration of its detailing, it slips right open, which can only mean one thing: They’re related. They confront their mother over their happy suspicions, and sure enough, they are right.
Regina’s absolutely thrilled about the news that she’s got a real-life sibling to play with instead of her boring old ragdoll, but Cora’s cruelty comes out in full when she insists that Zelena’s gotta go because she’ll be found out for what she is and somehow interfere with Cora’s plans to marry Regina into royalty and live out a happily ever after. That’s when Zelena, scream-promising to be good, is dragged away from the only family she’s ever known and both girls are poisoned into forgetting each other.
The good news is that this damage, at least, can be undone.
While Cora tries to sneak in a sip of the memory-erasing river water after a tearful apology for leaving her to rot in Oz, Zelena’s too quick for that trick and summons Regina from her hiding spot in the kitchen.
“You two are cut from the same, dark cloth. You never cared about what happened to me. Either of you,” she accuses her mother and sister. Before they can blame each other — or worse, start trading magic jabs in Zelena’s ridiculously drab dining room — Cora steps in to place the blame where it really belongs right now. With her.
She takes their hands and restores all of their long-lost memories of salvation, playtime, and sisterly affections. “You see. You were sisters once. You loved and needed each other. I thought that love — any kind of love — was weakness. I was a fool.” Why, yes, yes, you were. So, now what? Time for her to take leave and let them sort it out for themselves. She crosses the bridge into a surprisingly positive landscape for her long-awaited eternity (her unfinished business was making it right with both girls, after all).
This gives Regina and Zelena a quick moment to decide that, yes, Regina does trust her to carry on a relationship with Hades and somehow avoid sentencing everyone she loves to eternal damnation. Maybe she can change Hades after all.
NEXT: Enter Peter Pan…
While the sisters are ready to start over on newly feel-good footing (Hades has to sense an increase in the hope margin right about now, doesn’t he?), not every sibling reunion is a happy one tonight.
James has taken Emma and Co. down to the River of Forgotten Souls because — well, simply because he’s the worst. Just before he can hurt her, though, David rushes in to stop him. (Protip: If you’re going to lock someone up, don’t do it in their own jail because OF COURSE they know how to make a timely exit.) David offers a truce to King James, and Cruella’s calling for her “Jimmy” to peace out before something bad happens to them. But his unfinished business is killing David — or so he thinks — so that’s what he tries to do…and of course he finds himself thrown in instead. So long, James. We barely knew ye.
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David’s all broken up about what just happened — “despite everything, he was my brother” — but everyone else is like *shrug.*
With her sister’s blessing, Zelena heads to the diner to make her dinner date with Hades. Through the window, she sees that he’s prepared a rather lovely spread, fit with candlelights and the same swoony mood music from their picnic, AND he’s cutely practicing the waltz all by his lonesome.
She’s quite enjoying the sight ahead, but then Rumple comes up out of nowhere and starts taking her to task over giving Belle that sleeping spell that’s put her (and the baby-to-be) under. Zelena thinks she’s done nothing wrong — why should he blame her for his own wife wanting to avoid him — and besides, he’s made a deal that prevents him from doing her any harm, so what’s he gonna do about it anyway?
Ahhh, but that’s the surprise then, isn’t it? Like everyone else, Rumple too has a mini-family reunion tonight, and in his case, it’s his father, Peter Pan, who looks young enough to be his grandson, but that’s the name of the Neverland game.
“I hear you’re wicked,” Pan teases Zelena. “Well, I’m much worse.” And just like that, Zelena’s been kidnapped, which means whatever animosity Hades has for the band of heroes laying in wait in his lair is probably going to reach a fever pitch because who else will he blame for her disappearance?
And here we thought Zelena might have really had a shot at her happy ending. Sigh.