Jack RowandABC
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March 09, 2015 at 03:09 AM EDT

Um. Did Snow White and Prince Charming murder Maleficent’s baby?!

I mean, no—of course they didn’t. When Snow took a break from vague monologuing to finally confess the deep, dark secret that she and Charming had been alluding to all night—the reason she and Charming believe they must stop the Queens of Darkness once and for all, the heavy original sin that’s apparently so dastardly even so much as learning of its existence could set Emma on the fast train to Evil Village—said secret was worded extremely carefully: “Because of us, Maleficent lost her child.”

The key word there, of course, is “lost.” (Isn’t it always?) Given Once‘s love of twisted family dynamics, chances are very good indeed that Lil’ Mal isn’t dead at all. In fact, I’d bet my best horned headdress that her true identity is that of a character we’ve already met—maybe one within Storybrooke’s town line, maybe one wandering somewhere in the so-called Real World. (The smart money pegs Emma’s old pal Lily as Maleficent’s secret spawn; we know already that the character will pop up again in the back half of the season, and she’s apparently important enough that the show decided to name a whole episode after her.)

Chances are, though, that we’ll be waiting awhile for all the down-and-dirty details of how the True Luvvahs wrested away Mal’s dragon baby—not to mention the reveal of who fathered said baby. (Any guesses? I’m gonna say… Scar.) In the meantime, Once has us mostly treading water, especially with a fairyback that neglected to provide any real answers.

That fairyback follows Snow, Charming, and the Queens of Darkness, who accost the royal couple as soon as they return from their honeymoon. They’ve got a quest for the newlyweds: As the baddies explain, Regina is preparing to unleash a curse so dark “it makes that poisoned apple thing she did to you look like child’s play.” (That’s right, Snow: It’s a curse that’ll… force you to cut off your weave and take a job as an elementary school teacher in small-town Maine! The absolute horror!) They may, however, be able to stop Regina by taking a little jaunt to Grandmother Willow the Tree of Wisdom, a mystical plant whose wisdom can only be unlocked by two extraordinarily valiant heroes.

Snow and Charming agree to their terms uneasily, figuring that the enemies of their enemy are their friends. They’re spooked, though, after a couple of red-shirt bridge guards try to pull a “you shall not pass” on the Queens of Darkness—and Maleficent responds by going full dragon and spit-roasting the poor guys. (Wait—she’s a dragon! Why aren’t they mad at her for not just flying them over the bridge?) So Snow and Charming decide to head off on their own, reaching the Tree of Wisdom before the Queens do… only to be harshly rejected by it when they attempt to ask how to stop Regina’s curse.

Why, exactly, did the tree refuse to play ball? Oh, any number of possible reasons—but the one Maleficent comes up with, when she and the other Queens catch up with the Charmings, is that the baby Snow doesn’t know she’s carrying could be a great force for good—or, possibly, a great force for evil. That message, which seems pretty logical and straightforward (of course enormous power could go either way!), completely rattles the unborn child’s parents. Clearly, “you can be anything when you grow up!” is a message that isn’t too common in the Enchanted Forest. The heroes and the villains uneasily part ways, but we know from the end of the fairyback that their paths will cross again—because, as Maleficent later tells Snow, she too is with child.

Maleficent is also at the center of the episode’s present-day story line, even though she doesn’t actually appear in this timeline until the hour’s almost over. That’s because Ursula and Cruella spend the ep preparing to resurrect her—and naturally, they achieve their goal by playing everyone in Storybrooke like a fiddle.

Remind me again how these two clearly malevolent mega-villains weren’t kicked out of town immediately after being let inside? Anybody? Bueller?

NEXT: The Mother of All Dragons

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Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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