Another resident of Storybrooke is the victim of a grisly crime -- though naturally, things aren't entirely what they seem
Can people truly change? Are those with trusting hearts wise or foolish? And what reason could a witch possibly have for carrying around a parasol at night?
Once Upon a Time tackled these questions and more tonight, returning from its hiatus with a winter premiere heavy on setup and light on payoff — just what we should have expected from an hour meant to kick-start the season’s second half. Still, any episode that features Regina suggesting that Red take herself for a walk is A-Okay in my book.
“The Cricket Game” starts, as all things should, with a shot of Hook staring sexily, possibly wondering if Storybrooke’s convenience store carries his favorite brand of guyliner. Once he and Cora anchor the Jolly Roger, the pirate is ready to head straight into town and get his revenge on Rumpelstiltskin — but as his companion soon notices, the “land without magic” isn’t quite living up to its nickname. Surprise: There’s magic in the air after all, meaning that season 2’s Big Bads have to totally rethink their plan of attack. But hey, at least this curve ball means Cora gets a chance to turn an innocent bystander into a fish before she and Hook head to shore.
Back in Ye Olde Fairy Land, a triumphant Snow and Charming manage to defeat King George and immobilize Regina — with the help of the Blue Fairy — without even breaking a sweat, though Snow’s cream-colored ass-kicking outfit does get tragically smudged. Things are also going swimmingly for the couple in present-day Storybrooke, where the reunited pair enjoy nearly a full day of happy endings, if you know what I mean, until they head to Granny’s for a giant “Welcome Home” party thrown by the whole town. (Almost as much fun as a “We’re Glad You Didn’t Kill Anyone” party!) It’s all fun and games and Charming toasts until Regina herself shows up, brandishing a baking dish that better not contain any turnovers.
Understandably, the gang is not happy to see the queen crashing another joyous celebration. Grumpy even grabs a knife when she walks through the door; knowing Granny’s, he could probably find a crossbow just as easily. But Regina actually is on the guest list: Emma invited her as part of her new Give Regina the Benefit of the Doubt policy. Snow’s not really so into this strategy; as she reminds her daughter, Regina “tried to kill us! Yesterday!” Still, Emma’s determined to give Regina a second chance. And Regina appreciates the gesture — that is, until she finds out that Jiminy Human was the one who told Emma that the queen is attempting rehabilitation.
When Regina confronts the therapist — whose degree, she reminds him, comes from Made Up Curse University (go Chimeras!) — about breaching her trust, Jiminy protests that he would never betray doctor/patient confidentiality. I think your nose is growing, Jim. Red interrupts their conversation before things get too heated, but Regina looks like she’s itching for a fight all the same. Somewhere, Cora and Hook are watching and taking evil notes with evil pens in evil Lisa Frank folders.
NEXT: A bug gets squashed
That night, Regina reacts in a totally proportionate manner to Jiminy’s transgression by heading to his office/apartment — what’s with Storybrooke and the combination work/living spaces? — and strangling him in cold blood. Except wait: The murderess is really a disguised Cora, whose big plan for getting close to her daughter requires first completely ruining Regina’s life. This is almost as evil as taking a teaching position at Regina’s high school.
The next morning, Emma and Henry are enjoying a breakfast of what appear to be french fries when the sheriff announces that she’s going to walk her kid to school. Silly Emma, don’t you know that Henry never goes to school? Her maternal urges are forgotten, though, when Pongo the Dalmatian runs over to Granny’s, barking urgently. What is it, boy? Is Timmy trapped in the mines? No — Red’s doggy senses lead her and Emma back to Jiminy’s office, where they discover Jiminy Human, apparently dead as a doornail. What a tragedy; he never even got to visit Times Square!
Between Regina’s well-established penchant for murder and her public argument with Jiminy, this seems like an open and shut case. (Well, at least by Storybrooke’s lax standards.) But after hauling the queen in for questioning, Emma finds herself doubting the suspect’s guilt. For one thing, Regina looks genuinely shocked when Charming and Emma reveal that Jiminy has gone to that big, judgmental grass patch in the sky. For another, Regina convincingly points out that if she were to squash the therapist, she’d do something a hell of a lot more clever than entering and exiting his building in full view of Storybrooke’s nosy townspeople. Though they don’t share their daughter’s belief in Regina’s innocence, Charming and Snow — who also never goes to school! — agree to let the queen go for now.
Back in Fairy Land, Regina’s still behind bars. She won’t be there for long, though: the Good Guy Justice League has sentenced her to a public execution. Adding insult to injury, she’ll face the firing squad in a shapeless grey sack instead of her usual gothic showgirl getup. For a moment, it looks like the former queen might just follow her father’s advice and repent for her bad deeds, therefore earning a pardon from Snow and Charming.
And then Regina growls that her only true regrets are not causing more pain, or bringing about more death, or wearing even higher collars. She’s prepared to die with her head held high and a snarl on her lips… until Snow decides at the last moment to spare her stepmother after all. The princess is convinced that showing mercy to Regina could be the first step toward helping Regina transform back into the woman she was before she went bad, the woman who knew how to rock the Single Braid of Innocence. Now there’s a mommy complex for you.
Snow’s reasoning is illogical, but at least it makes sense on an emotional level. And then she has to go and make a deal with Rumpelstiltskin, who promises to provide her with a test she can use to prove whether the queen is capable of change. Snow! Come on! Name a single time that making a deal with Rump has ever, ever worked out in the deal maker’s favor. I’m not mad at you right now; I’m just disappointed.
NEXT: “In the real world, it’s usually hard to find evidence!”
Did you find yourself risking ocular strain while rolling your eyes at last season’s Kathryn “murder” debacle? If so, you might want to tune out the next scene in the name of your own physical well-being. All you need to know: Emma responds to the abundance of circumstantial evidence pointing to Regina by saying, “I don’t know how it is in Fairy Tale Land, but in the real world, it’s usually hard to find evidence. This has been way too easy!” Gold police stars for everyone!
Emma’s brilliant observation leads the crime solving crew to Rumpelstiltskin’s pawn shop, where they immediately accuse the imp of framing Regina. Rump responds to the allegations by calling a dog to the metaphorical witness stand. As you do. More specifically: By using a magical dream catcher, the group can watch Pongo’s memories of the previous night to learn what really happened in Jiminy’s study. (Couldn’t they use the same method to read Regina’s own memories and see conclusively that she didn’t murder anybody?) And just to prove that he isn’t tampering with the results, Rump tells Emma that she’ll be the one reading the dog’s thoughts.
Despite her natural skepticism, magic comes naturally to Emma — and the memories she brings forth are pretty damning evidence against Regina, as long as the gang resolves not to dig any deeper. Looks like it’s time for another good, old-fashioned Swan Queen Threatdown… and this time, the loser might suffer a lot more than a bruised ego.
Before Emma confronts Present Regina, Snow confronts Past Regina, who’s locked away once more in Fairy Land’s very own minimum security prison. She tells her stepmother that she knows there’s a good woman beneath all the hair and theatrical snarling… then opens Regina’s cell door, saying that this is her chance for a fresh start. Because sussing out obvious traps has never been the evil queen’s strong suit, she takes the bait, steps out of the cell, and immediately grabs Snow’s throat. (Not coincidentally, this is the same way Cora-as-Regina “killed” Jiminy.)
Finally, victory is Regina’s! She’ll even enjoy the sweet taste of felling Snow with her own blade, which she’s wrested from the princess’s hand. Just one problem: The knife goes in and out of Snow without leaving so much as a blood-red pinprick. And that’s when Charming and a crew of knights come out, revealing that Regina just got punk’d. Rump has cast a protection spell around the Charmings, making it so that Regina can’t hurt them in this world. Having been soundly defeated, the queen is now banished — and if Regina ever tries her hoodoo on someone in Snow’s kingdom, the kickass princess will kill her personally. Game, set, match.
NEXT: Jiminy Cricket, he’s alive!
Well, not really. On the day of Charming and Snow’s wedding, a sulky Regina mopes about her evil castle, all dressed up with no one to torment. Her spirits brighten when Rumpelstiltskin pops by, pointing out that the semantics of his spell were no accident. Regina can’t harm the Charmings in this world. But in, say, a land without shrimp — or magic — those same rules wouldn’t apply. Regina smiles. Looks like she’s got somewhere to go that day after all. Hello, continuity!
And in the present day, Emma and her parents show up at Regina’s house — a smaller mob than the one led by Dr. Whale, but one that’s no less righteously angry. Though she knows she’s committed no crime, Regina’s temper flares when Emma says she’s going to have to tell Henry that his adoptive mother is a murderer. There’s yelling, there’s futile fairy dust tossing, there’s the threat of even more magical violence by Regina — but when Emma hisses that there’s no way Henry will believe Regina is good now, the queen finally looks stricken, like she can’t believe what’s happening to her. And just like that, she disappears in a puff of purple smoke. Is Regina finally broken enough to welcome Cora back?
Speak of the devil: Now that her daughter’s life is in tatters, Cora is finally ready to release Hook into Storybrooke. Before he heads off, though, he might want to check the hold of his ship, where a very important captive is waiting. Is it perpetual victim Belle, or even Rumpelstiltskin himself? Nope: It’s Jiminy Human, who is very much alive. Hooray! Which means Cora murdered someone else entirely and simply disguised his body so that it looked like Jiminy’s. Look on the bright side: Maybe now both Gus Gus and Jaq are in a better place.
– For timeline nerds: Emma says tonight that Henry is now 11 years old, indicating that at least a year has passed since the events of the pilot.
– And on a similar note: The kid is in what, sixth grade and he still doesn’t know why two adults would be in bed together in the middle of the day? I thought he was 11, not stupid.
– Note that as Cora and Hook walk away from their ship, we see a swan swimming in the harbor. Odette, is that you?
– The bright side of Emma walking in on her parents in post-coital bliss (ack! eugh!): “It’s impressive that we can still provide her with a few traumatic childhood memories,” says Charming.
– Regina to her minion: “Do not tell me what we can or can’t do!” Lost fans in the audience: “DRINK!”
– Regina sure loves her some lasagna.
– Honestly, the queen shouldn’t have worried about there being ramifications even if she had murdered someone. Remember when King George suffered no consequences whatsoever for sawing a person in half?
– He can spin straw into gold, he can wipe out a gang of knights with a flick of his wrist, he can transform a few follicles into a powerful spell… but Rumpelstiltskin can’t talk to a dog?
Next week brings that Hook/Rump rematch we’ve been waiting for, which should be reason enough to skip the Golden Globes. But first, let’s discuss tonight’s “Cricket Game”: Was it worth the wait?