There’s nothing Lady Tremaine won’t do for her family (and by family, that’s actually just Anastasia), and pretty much everyone in her life has to find that out the hard way on tonight’s Once Upon a Time.
The episode begins with a flashback to Rapunzel desperately trying to lead her family to food and, as a result, finds herself trapped in Mother Gothel’s snares. What she thought was just a nice patch of root veggies just ripe for the plucking is actually an elaborate trap for Gothel to try to capture the ultimate do-gooder. And since Rapunzel is willing to give up “anything” to save Marcus and her daughters Anastasia and Drizella, she inadvertently agrees to be locked up in a tower with the promise that she’ll never see her family ever again. All this for some lousy radishes, too. Blech.
Back at Hyperion Heights, Victoria is wheeling her own deals at the jailhouse, too. First, she has a face-to-face with Drizella, who makes her contempt for her mother even more clearly known as she quests to stop her from resurrecting sister dearest from her perfectly preserved state of non-life. After Drizzy leaves wounded by some sick burns, Detective Weaver comes in to antagonize her a little himself but ends up in full deal-making form after she lets him know she’s in on his secret — and even uses his full fairy tale name to prove it. She dangles a carrot of intel in his long search for the Guardian — and picks on him a bit about the torch he’s been carrying for Belle — and bam! He’s putty in her hands and a chauffeur as she’s let free on account of an “unwarranted arrest” by Killian. But he also lets her know that he knows of her true title: Rapunzel.
Killian’s not happy to see Weaver and Victoria in such cahoots, so he starts to snoop around his private storage room and proceeds to discover a whole box full of files with everyone’s faces on them — Victoria, Drizella, himself, and even Jacinda. Yes, yes, what is Weaver doing?
Victoria’s first stop on the freedom train is to Jacinda’s house to deliver paperwork solidifying her deal to return custody of Lucy. Lucy likes it there and desperately hopes her mom’s going to finally invite Henry over again. (P.S.: He’s out of town.) Victoria says that all her cruel treatment of Jacinda was a test to see how much she was willing to fight and while she might have failed at first — by not slapping that custody agreement right out of her cold, spindly little fingers — she’s now passed. “Family is worth fighting for. I’m so very proud that you never gave up,” she says. And while that sounds wayyyyyy too hokey for Madame Belfrey, there’s a backstory that threatens to earn her some sympathy.
See, back when she was still just plain old Rapunzel trying to do right by her brood, she ended up trapped in Gothel’s tower for six years and ticked off every single day on the wall until she saw some lanterns floating by that gave her an idea. One pair of scissors and a massive braid-rope later, and she’s managed to free herself. But it’s not a happy homecoming.
Yes, it’s been Anastasia that’s kept a torch lit for her — literally speaking here — all this time, but Marcus has moved on. He’s now married to a woman named Cecilia, and raising her daughter Ella, and what’s worse is that Drizella’s connection to her mother has been tainted by time, too.
Marcus says he still loves her, but he also loves Cecilia and has no interest in giving up his new life for her. She’ll have to assimilate, no matter how many years she’s spent pining for him and him alone. That’s when Mother Gothel shows up and pretends to admire her resourcefulness in escaping the tower at last. She vaguely points out that although she’s been physically reunited with her family, the emotional disconnect is so vast she might as well still be marking down the days of solitude on that tower wall.
The answer, Gothel says, is to use her poison mushroom to take Cecelia out of the picture. Rapunzel declines at first, throwing the offering into the fire and reminding Gothel that Cecelia is innocent in all of this, but Gothel puts a new unburnt one on her mantle for when the time is right, assuring that yes, the time will be right at some point.
Back at H2, Jacinda consults with Nick to see if the paperwork Victoria has delivered on Lucy is the real deal or if it’s a trick. Given her history, it’s not hard to understand why she has such concern, but, surprisingly enough, the documents check out. She’s enthralled and finds herself kissing him for the briefest of seconds before pulling away; she wants Lucy to have a relationship with him, but they’re not going to be some swoony romantic item all of a sudden. Especially while she’s got Mr. Mixtape waiting in the wings.
Hot on the trail, Killian decides to try a little trickery of his own and approaches Tiana to follow up on the broken door lock. Weaver’s already been there, but Tiana’s not the doubting kind, so she spills all she knows — including a drawing of the mystical dagger that was used to jimmy the door and the odd intel that Weaver asked her if she “felt anything” while holding it. If Killian didn’t think Weaver was bizarre before … this should do it.
Victoria’s next stop with Weaver is to the mausoleum wherein she recovers a bag filled with the essential ingredients for her Anastasia resurrection project, and although Drizz and Gothel are hot on her trail, they wait to go in ’til mommy dearest has already taken off to the next step — this time, not needing Weaver’s assistance. Weaver tried to relate to her — even talking about Baelfire, the son who hated him to no end and his own unspeakable sacrifices — but she’s not going to be deterred.
Not when she will do anything for her family, as she says at least three times this episode. She tells Weaver he’ll get his info on the Guardian once Anastasia is awake again. He and Gothel exchange some barbs — why does she call herself a “Mother,” e.g. — but what their conversation really produces is the knowledge that he’s just allowed something terrible to happen by helping Victoria on her mission. What that terrible thing is, we don’t yet know, but the ominous question, “where’s your great-granddaughter” is pretty chill-inducing.
Because as we learn from another flashback, Rapunzel did indeed use that mushroom juice, and while it didn’t kill Cecelia, it did scare her off. She and Marcus grew closer in the meantime, and just as they were about to share true love’s kiss, Anastasia and Ella fell beneath the ice where they were building a snowman. Marcus dove in after them but came up with just one child: Ella.
In a last-ditch effort to save Anastasia, she takes her to Gothel. But while Gothel is able to seal her last breath, she wants to lock her away in a tower forevermore in hopes that she’ll be the fabled Guardian — a person whose goodness is absolute and unbreakable, the way Rapunzel appeared to be before using the ‘shroom drops on Cecilia. So, Rapunzel turns Gothel’s own medicine against her and banishes her to a tower untold — one that’s been enhanced since Rapunzel’s escape effort, by the way.
Victoria next journeys to see Lucy at school, and while the spry little one tries to wave her wicked step-grandmother away, she’s lured in by the sight of Henry’s book, Once Upon a Time. Shockingly, Victoria is pretty honest about her history as Rapunzel and even admits to poisoning her grandmother. But then she starts turning all that intrigue against the poor little one by telling her that, while fairy tales are real, happy endings aren’t. Her mom and Henry will never get together, she says, because she’s been making out with Nick (of course Lady T bugged the place to get the receipts; of course she did). She tells her to let go of her belief in happy endings and snatches one of Lucy’s tears as her prize for all that torment.
Lucy leaves, with Weaver and the rest of the force on her trail, and that’s when Killian confronts him. He wants to know why all the secrecy and the files and the madness, and that’s when Weaver admits he’s trying to find Belle. Killian not only believes him, but he offers to help him going forward.
Lucy finally makes her way home, forlorn and unspeaking, just as Victoria places her hijacked tear on Anastasia’s head.
As Anastasia gasps her way into a second life, Lucy collapses, and Drizella walks away from the sight of her sister and mother reunited once again. Emotional wreckage, EVERYWHERE.