Maternity takes center stage in parallel plots that follow two very different mother/daughter pairs

By Hillary Busis
Updated April 30, 2015 at 08:48 PM EDT
Jack Rowland/ABC

Avast, Oncers — it seems that Never Land is in our sights. Kitsis and Horowitz revealed during Once‘s Paleyfest panel today that the season’s last two episodes are titled “Second Star to the Right” and “And Straight On ‘Til Morning” — an obvious Peter Pan allusion that dovetails nicely with Bae’s revelation that he made “other stops” before coming to Earth. But the path to Lost Boys, pixies, and questionably PC “Indians” will be long and winding… or at least paved with enough mommy/daddy issues to make Oedipus look well-adjusted.

Tonight’s fairyback marks the return of Ginnifer Goodwin clone Bailee Madison as Little Snow White. The ravages of age make this slightly awkward, since Madison looks and sounds notably older here than she did in “The Stable Boy,” even though the earlier episode takes place later in the show’s chronology — but when the sad-eyed actress tears up, which she does at multiple points throughout the episode, you’ll be moved enough to suspend your disbelief.

Snow’s sad because her gentle, gracious mother, Queen Eva (played by the gorgeous Rena Sofer), has come down with a mysterious illness on the eve of the young princess’s birthday. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess the queen’s a victim of Disney Mother Disease — you know, the same fatal plague that wiped out Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Pocahontas’s maternal parents. For all we know, Bambi’s mom suffered from it too. (Maybe that hunter’s shot was a mercy killing.) Anyway, the sickness comes on strong and fast, and there seems to be no medical cure for it. There may, however, be a magical cure, courtesy of the Blue Fairy. Will jellyfish dresses be involved? For Eva’s sake, let’s hope not.

Back in Storybrooke, it’s also Snow’s birthday — but the grown-up princess isn’t exactly celebrating, since it also happens to be Eva’s deathday. She perks up a bit, though, when she sees that someone has sent her a present: a glittering tiara that once belonged to Eva. The gift comes courtesy of Johanna, a kindly palace servant whom we might as well call Mrs. Patmore. Snow sets off to find her old friend and thank her for her thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, their emotional reunion is interrupted by some noises in the woods that turn out to be Cora and Regina, helpfully explaining their evil plan in minute detail as Snow eavesdrops. That was surprisingly considerate.

After learning that the tiger mother and her wicked cub are plotting to steal Rumpelstiltskin’s dagger, Snow races to the sheriff’s station to tell Charming. David is floored — mostly because Hook just broke in, knocked out the prince, and stole back his second-favorite appendage. After the prince comes to, he and his wife discuss their options. Snow wants to talk to Regina, giving her one more chance to switch sides. David sighs and points out that Snow has given Regina like, a million “one more” chances, and perhaps it’s time to reevaluate her tactics. Nah, I’m joshing; David trusts Snow’s judgment, of course, and sends her off to parlay with the Evil Queen. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t go well.

NEXT: Yo ho ho and a hook filled with poison

Thanks to the magical speed of the Jolly Roger — which must be powered by flecks of old eyeliner dust — Hook makes it to New York Harbor in no time flat. The pirate follows the stench of multigenerational unhappiness to Bae’s apartment building, where he quickly and viciously hooks Rumpelstiltskin in the chest. Emma knocks him out before he can skewer the Dark One’s heart, but the damage has already been done: The hook was dipped in poison, and unless this fractured family can quickly get their non-hooked hands on a magical antidote, their patriarch’s a goner.

Okay, maybe “quickly” is a bit of an exaggeration. Rump will conveniently live long enough for the crew to get all the way back to Storybrooke, provided they travel via the Jolly Roger — which Bae says he knows how to sail. Also, he recognized Hook when he saw him. Also, he’s spent quite some time in a land where people don’t age. Something tells me Bae might be a big Michael Jackson fan, if you know what I mean.

Lil’ Snow heads into the woods — obligatory musical interlude — to beseech the Blue Fairy to help ailing Eva. But before she even figures out which star to wish upon, the Fairy herself appears. She tells the girl that there is a way for her to help her mother — but only through dark magic. Blue gives Snow an enchanted candle, which has the power to restore Eva’s health. The twist: In order to heal the queen, Snow will also have to choose someone else to die in her mother’s place. I always knew scented candles were evil.

After carefully considering her Pushing Daisies conundrum, Snow ultimately decides that being motherless is better than being a murderer. She tearfully tells Eva about what she almost did, and Eva praises her daughter’s goodness… then officially joins that big Dead Disney Moms Intramural Softball League in the sky. (Eva plays right field.) Farewell, Rena Sofer! May your presence on Once not jinx this series into becoming a bloated, Heroes-ian mess.

Magic has nothing on cell phones. Using the power of modern technology, David and Snow confer with Emma and learn the true location of the Dark One’s hidden dagger. (Last week’s treasure map was actually a red herring, which sort of makes up for how easily Hook, Cora, and Regina deciphered it.) Rumpelstiltskin has cleverly concealed the artifact behind one of the hands on Storybrooke’s giant clock. Snow grabs it and breathes a sigh of relief — which is precisely when Cora and Regina Apparate on over to screw everything up, as per usual.

NEXT: Nooo, not Mrs. Patmore!

Cora conjures up Johanna, and Regina quickly rips out the poor lady’s heart. If Snow hands over the dagger, she’ll live to reminisce with the servant another day; if she doesn’t, Regina will send Johanna off to play Eva’s shortstop. And to make matters even more dramatic, it’s at this very moment that Snow realizes she never actually conferred with the Blue Fairy all the years ago — it was only Cora impersonating (imfairinating?) Blue. Cora’s also the reason that Eva is dead; she killed the queen to pave the way for Regina to take the throne. And giving Snow the power to kill someone in exchange for her mother’s life was just a sick little side game.

Yet even armed with this knowledge — which proves just how completely, irredeemably, Scar-times-Jafar-to-the-power-of-Ursula wicked Cora is — Snow can’t bring herself to flee with the dagger. She throws the knife to the witches, and true to their word, Regina re-inserts poor Johanna’s heart. Phew! And then Cora defenestrates the servant, just because she can (and perhaps because the Dead Disney Moms Intramural Softball League could really use another infielder). Come on, Cora — hasn’t Downton Abbey suffered enough loss this year?!

Regina seems a little shaken up by Cora’s flagrant cruelty — and her hesitance only increases when she slowly realizes that the events of “The Stable Boy” were far from coincidental. Regina carefully plotted every move that led to Regina meeting King Leopold that fateful day, arranging for Regina to be on her horse at precisely the right moment and magicking Snow’s own pony so that it would carry the girl right to her future stepmother. Anyone else getting the urge to watch Cora and Frank Underwood play a game of chess?

There’s some tension as Regina asks why Cora’s still plotting, since she basically won already; Regina became queen, after all. Cora notes that her daughter is worried that their interests no longer align — then dodges Regina’s question, once more assuring her that their actions will help secure Henry. Regina definitely thinks they took the word “gullible” out of the dictionary.

Meanwhile, Snow and David mourn at Johanna’s hastily dug grave. Storybrooke’s cemetery manager must have a weird sense of humor, because he’s buried his newest tenant just steps away from the Mills family mausoleum. The juxtaposition isn’t lost on Snow, who starts ruminating on all the horrible things that have happened as a result of her trying to do what’s right. As a wise man might say, she tried her best, and she failed miserably. The lesson is, “never try.” But wait — Snow’s actually going in a different direction with this. Maybe the true solution is to stop listening to her conscience, to forget her mother’s dying words, to let Snow Dark take over once more. No good deeeed… shall she dooooo… agaiiiin!

Oh, and also: Snow’s gonna kill Cora. An eye for an eye, and a mom for a mom. Looks like Once is about to get a little more Grimm.

NEXT: Breadcrumbs!

Breadcrumbs

Can anyone identify the flowers that inspired Snow’s name? They looked sort of like longer-bloomed Lilies of the Valley, though I’m no expert (clearly). Update: Cleverer commenters than I have confirmed that the flowers are snowdrops, which do in fact flower in the winter. Perhaps by coincidence, they’ve also got magical powers in Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.

Man, were Little Snow and Eva’s dresses blingy. Is Liberace the royal couturier?

– Turns out that Bae/Neal is engaged to a woman named Tamara (The Good Wife‘s Sonequa Martin-Green). The plot, she thickens.

– Just as Bailee Madison looks uncannily like Ginnifer Goodwin, Rena Sofer looks uncannily like both of them. Bravo, Once‘s casting team!

– If you don’t understand why Cora and Regina want Rumpelstiltskin’s dagger, well, tough titmouse, because it was only explained about a billion times tonight.

– Henry tells Emma he loves New York pizza because “it’s delicious, cheesy, and doesn’t lie.” It’s also not passive-aggressive, unlike some people.

– A poisoned Rump gets pretty close to throttling Henry. Looks like the whole grandfather thing hasn’t really changed his plan to kill the kid.

– Proof that Once‘s writers read your comments: When Cora shifts out of the Blue Fairy’s shape, she shudders and moans, “I hate that outfit! I don’t know how that fairy stands it.” Hee!

– David Is Ineffective, Chapter One Hundred: He pulls out a gun during the clocktower confrontation, and Cora instantly magics it away.

– Regina’s horse and Don Quixote’s horse share a name: Rocinante. Quick, someone explain how this is really an elaborate Lost reference.

– Oh, and by the way: Cora is definitely the miller’s daughter, of “Rumpelstiltskin” fame. And next week, we’ll learn how her younger self (played by Rose McGowan) and the Dark One first got entangled. I smell weird sexual tension and candy.

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