ABC/Jeff Weddell
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May 04, 2018 at 10:31 PM EDT

We’re just a couple of episodes away from Once Upon a Time‘s series finale, and, yes, the feels are starting to set in. In tonight’s particularly emotional episode, Henry Mills’ family pull out all the stops to help him remember so that he can finally defeat Gothel’s curse, but there’s only one person who can snap Henry out of it: Henry … just not in the way you might be expecting.

When stories begin with this show’s title, there’s usually a “happily ever after” tagged onto the end, and tonight, we get a taste of what that kind of closure might actually feel like. Let’s take it from the top.

The episode begins with Lucy in full panic mode after seeing that Henry and Jacinda have their first (well, not first, but you know) kiss, and it doesn’t rid the town of its curse. In fact, the place is even more doomed than ever as the sky ignites with the fire of the flower child, Mother Gothel. The head witch herself arrives to tell little Lucy and Regina that the balance of nature is resetting, and humanity will not survive it. Regina and her loved ones can escape the world’s wrath if she agrees to be Gothel’s eighth witch, but Regina wants none of it. She’s still betting on Henry to pull them through, even though Gothel assures her that her son, who still doesn’t even know he is her son, is too far gone in disbelief.

In a flashback to Storybrooke, Henry heads off for senior year of school and decides he wants to apply to colleges outside of Storybrooke. He’s the only one in his class who isn’t a magical creature from Fairy Tale Land, so maybe he should give the outside world a shot.

Rumple has had a change of attitude about helping Henry. Although he doesn’t have any magic to give her to finish the potion, he did manage to siphon off some memory juice from Nick that might help Henry get his thoughts together. Rumple’s ready to play nice now because he’s starting to get it that he may never get back to Belle, and at least if he helps his family here, he won’t be alone.

Meanwhile, Tilly’s still lockstep with the rest of Gothel’s coven, even though Rogers/Hook tries his best to convince her to stop casting the evil witch’s spells. Our new friend the Sergeant isn’t one bit phased when one of the chanting witches shrinks into a tree right in front of them, explaining she’s now fulfilled her duty and has been rewarded with a place in the “Eternal Grove.” If the height of the stakes wasn’t already obvious, that sure does the trick, and Rogers decides to grab Tilly to make a break for it. Unfortunately, he’s still cursed and is unable to move her, literally shocked by whatever’s keeping them apart. He promises to come back for and runs for help.

Back in Storybrooke, once Granny’s done schooling Henry on the importance of proper vehicle maintenance, Regina sends her away to fetch some grilled cheese sandwiches. As a token of solidarity with his wanderlust, she brings him a bunch of college applications outside of the area. She’s not totally delighted when he suggests he’s interested in going to film school in Los Angeles (podcasting clearly wasn’t on his radar at the time), but as Regina admits, “being a parent also means learning to let go.”

Little does this version of Regina know, her mirror is trying her best not to let go of her child. In Hyperion Heights, Roni/Regina tries to jog Henry’s memory by offering him a grilled cheese sandwich and spiking his coffee with Rumple’s memory serum. She’s disappointed when nothing happens, and he can read the reaction all over “Roni’s” face. He’s decided, once again, that they aren’t fairy tale characters and, while he can’t explain away Cinderella’s glass slipper, he’s choosing to believe in the real Henry and Jacinda (and Lucy) that he can see and touch and remember right now. 

“I’m done searching for answers in our imaginary past,” he insists.

Lucy, however, is not. She alerts Jacinda and Sabine, who are worried about Drew being MIA all of a sudden, that Dr. Facilier a.k.a. Mr. Samdi might have something to do with his disappearance, since he’s left a tarot card as his own sort of non-Hansel-related breadcrumb.

Back at the station, an injured Rogers demands information from Weaver/Rumple about what’s happening around town. The sky is falling, and witches are turning into trees, and he knows his partner knows something about it. Rather than beating around the bush (pun intended), he decides to just lay it out clean. “Magic is real,” he tells him. “All of it, everything you read in Henry Mills’ book. We are all from another realm.” Rogers is initially flushed with disbelief, of course, but he can’t deny what he’s seen — on top of the impossible way which Nick was stabbed, of course — so he can either believe he’s mad or that Weaver is right. His next question is simple: If all this is true, which of these characters was he? In due time, Cap’n. 

The two pay a visit to Margot at that bar and ask for her help talking Tilly off the proverbial ledge. They don’t get into all the details, so as not to scare the poor girl, but they do tell her she’s having another of her bad days.

Lucy joins Regina at the graveyard where Victoria is buried, and her real grandma reveals that since the potion is a bust, and the memory juice didn’t take, she’s got another idea. If Henry’s reacquainted with the second book, perhaps that will be the wake-up call they’ve been looking for. Sure, it means exhuming the Evil Stepmother, but … eh. That’s not much of an obstacle, morally at least.

Storybrooke Henry is having a hard time with the fact that he’s gotten into every single school he applied to. [Insert tiny violins GIF here.] The problem isn’t that he has such a wealth of choices ahead of him, of course, but rather that his admissions were all predicated on personal essays that had nothing to do with his actual life among so many fairy tale creatures. Like a good mom, Regina refuses to agree that he should stay home in Storybrooke just to be on the safe side, so he won’t lose himself, even though there has to be a piece of her that wishes he would do just that.

The effort to reintroduce Henry to the book is ultimately in vain, though. As much as Regina and Lucy might hang their hopes on this being the thing that jars his memory, Henry’s mind is too dead set on his own, curse-induced sense of reality. He’s got a whole lifetime of memories as this Henry Mills, and the hurt of losing his family here to bear as well. It’s too real to not be real… (Recap continues on next page)

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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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