It's a job for a demigod, as Hercules helps the group in their search for Hook

By Andrea Towers
March 14, 2016 at 02:25 AM EDT
Jack Rowand/ABC
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Well, that was a story no one was expecting.

Or maybe we were. Once isn’t exactly a novice when it comes to turning fairytales on their heads, and rarely do they follow stories to the letter. But for those of you who tuned in looking for the classic Disney tale of Hercules, well…you got something slightly different.

The continuation of “Operation Firebird” a.k.a. the saving of souls from the Underworld, began with our first look at Killian Jones since he died in the midseason finale. He’s in just as terrible shape as we saw in the premiere, when Emma tried to summon him briefly, and being held in Hades’ underground prison. As he attempts to escape, a mysterious prisoner (Hannibal’s Kacey Rohl) warns him that he can’t leave because something is down here with them that he doesn’t want to face. He does manage to get her out, sending her with a message to look for Emma, and meets what he was told he doesn’t want to face: Cerberus, the three-headed dog. (Using what I assume is most of Once’s budget for the second half of the season.)

In the graveyard, Mary Margaret is looking at all the graves of people who died from her father’s kingdom. She feels regret knowing she was supposed to protect them, but David reminds her that this time, she’s not doing her saving alone. She’s distracted by one particular grave, with a familiar name: Hercules. Apparently, a teenage Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin’s reincarnated soul Bailee Madison) met Hercules a long time ago, when she was forced into taking care of a bandit that was terrorizing her kingdom during Regina’s rule. She ran from the situation (literally), fell into a ditch, and was rescued by none other than the demigod. In this world, Hercules is more than just an old friend. He was Mary Margaret’s first crush. He was her first mentor. Naturally, David is more than a little curious as to how he married her and was never aware she was friends with a demigod (us too, David). But Mary Margaret is insistent that they find a way to help him move on. Besides, if they can save him, maybe he can help save them.

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Meanwhile, Emma is following cold trails with Henry and Robin and Regina. Regina says that she may have a way to help them; after all, in Storybrooke she has maps of every part of the land. Since this hell is a mirror of the town (and no one still knows why), maybe the same ones are in her office. Henry and Robin go pursue this, and Emma and Regina are distracted by the appearance of the mystery prisoner Killian freed earlier. We won’t learn her true identity until the end of the hour, but for recap purposes, we’ll disclose her here, if you haven’t already figured it out: This is Megara.

On the run from Cerberus and clearly freaked out, Emma magics them to her parents’ apartment while Megara tells them where Killian is and what she’s running from. Mary Margaret shows up and tells them that she knows what the beast is, and the group goes on a hunt to find Herc, starting, predictably, at the diner. The Blind Witch (Emma Caulfield) tells them he comes in every day for his lunch break, which leads Mary Margaret to the docks, where Herc is working — and quite surprised to see her. What? You mean people from the land of the living don’t willingly go to the Underworld on missions ALL THE TIME? Herc, who won’t tell her how he died, says he can’t move on because he never finished his labor. Mary Margaret tells him he can help them by going to the prison where Killian is being held while Herc is just surprised that she has a daughter, much less a grandson. “It’s kind of a complicated story,” says Mary Margaret, which might be the understatement of the year. I mean, have you SEEN the Snow/Charming family tree?

NEXT: True love’s kiss

In the Enchanted Forest, Snow tells her new friend her dilemma: She can’t go back until she figures out what to do about the bandit. Well, good ol’ demigod Herc has the answer to that! He gives her a bow and arrow, which we learn is how Snow got her own survival and bandit skills and shows her medals of his labors. He’s got one more to complete, which is — surprise! — killing the three-headed dog Cerberus. In the Underworld, Mary Margaret brings the group, including Herc, to try to find Killian, who Hades has caught and is guarding. Herc attempts to go forth and kill the beast, but he loses his courage and runs away. Cerberus is called off by Hades, who comes to see his favorite nephew and his crew…and lets it slip that the reason Herc is here is because he failed to kill Cerberus in his task long ago. He then threatens the group by showing them Killian’s hook, a sight which I’m pretty sure will give Emma nightmares.

A distraught Mary Margaret returns to sulk in her apartment and is given a therapy speech by the one person no one would expect to be so compassionate: Regina Mills. And it’s a really good genuine-friend speech, not Regina being sarcastic or something. “You made me your friend by never giving up on me, so don’t give up on this,” she tells a depressed Mary Margaret, before telling her she needs to become Snow White again. And so Mary Margaret returns Herc’s sword and makes him tell her how he failed his last task. “I never should have fought that beast alone,” he says, which gives Mary Margaret an idea: This time, he won’t be alone.

Cerberus somehow finds David and Regina and Emma because of course he does, and while the group scatters, Mary Margaret and Herc find Megara trying to hide behind the clock tower. They take shelter, and Megara is given a dagger because apparently she’s part of this kill mission, too. With Mary Margaret’s arrows and Herc’s makeshift spear and Megara’s dagger that she uses with such force she might as well have learned her killing skills from Hannibal himself, Cerberus is finally defeated, and Herc’s business is no longer unfinished. Only…Herc and Megara, the two lovebirds that we know from fairytale lore, don’t know each other in this world. Or do they? Later, at the diner, they realize that they met long ago when he tried to save her from Cerberus, right before he died. He’s finally made up for saving her, which was, I guess, her unfinished business? Ah, love in the Underworld. It does exist! While the two reconnect, Mary Margaret watches the scene and realizes that Regina is right — she needs to be the person she was back in the Enchanted Forest. She needs to not be Mary Margaret anymore. She needs to be Snow White. (I guess that means we’re changing how we refer to her in recaps going forward.)

In flashbacks, Snow attempts to use her newfound skills to take on the bandits. Despite a tough front (and super good aim), her plan backfires when she spills her arrows and generally loses her cool. Hercules scares them off when they start to make fun of her by using his super strength, and that’s it for Snow — she wants out. She tries to get rid of her bow, telling her friend she’s not cut out to be a leader and that Regina will make a better queen. Herc gives her a talk of his own, telling her how the only reason he passed his first test of labor is because he very nearly failed. “No one wins every battle,” he tells the fledging queen. When Snow faces the bandits again, this time she’s self-assured, cool under pressure, and still an excellent shot. She’s successful in scaring off the bandits after she stands her ground and disarms their leader, and now that Snow clearly has been taught how to be a leader, it means they have to go their separate ways — but not before they share a first kiss. How many people can say their first kiss was a demigod? I mean, mine was just a guy in fifth grade and I don’t even know what happened to him.

Meanwhile, Henry and Robin are searching Regina’s house for the maps, and Henry crawls through a vent in order to get to Regina’s office since he knows it better than anyone. Cora is no longer there, but who is? Cruella De Vil (Victoria Smurfit), of course.  She wants Henry’s help because Hades has made the Underworld a place where you have only two choices: leave for a better place or a worse one. Cruella doesn’t want either of those things. Like Pan told his father last week, she wants to return to the land of the living. And because Henry’s the Author, he can make it happen because he can change things. Henry said it’s impossible because he broke the quill, but here’s a bit of info: The quill is apparently a magical energy. An actual living being. And guess where it went when Henry broke it — yep! The Underworld. Cruella tells Henry he’s going to find it and help her so he can restore his mom’s soul and her glory. Guess Henry’s got himself a new mission. (And he really does. He doesn’t even tell Robin what happened.)

While Megara and Herc enter the fiery chasm of Mount Doom in order to move on, the clock ticks, and an angry Hades, who is keeping Killian captive, decides to deal with his anger another way: For each soul that they free, one of them has to die…and Killian gets to choose which one Hades’ magic wand of death will go after first.

Odds & Ends:

  • “But you can call me Herc.” I am not letting go of the fact that the first shot of Herc was a bicep shot. Once plays to its strengths. Or that Regina appropriately called him “Muscles.”
  • Give me all the Evil Queen flashbacks, please. Especially with all the new Evil Queen outfits I love so much.
  • “You burned me alive.” “It was Hansel and Gretel.” “Fine, but you stole my apple.” It’s no secret I love the villains on this show the most, and this exchange just makes me want a whole show about angsty villains with unfinished business.
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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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