Tonight we begin with two fresh new faces: Kurt Flynn and his son, Owen. They’re on a camping trip in the woods and he’s teaching Owen how to make a gimp keychain when suddenly the trees start thrashing and an enormous storm blows in (complete with magical blue fog). They ride it out in their tent, and when they emerge, it’s to find that Storybrook has suddenly appeared. Obviously, we’re flashing back twenty-eight years.
Kurt’s truck was damaged in the storm, so they stroll into Storybrooke. Once there, Kurt tries to make sense of how a town can suddenly appear out of nowhere on a map, when up pulls a sheriff’s car, we focus in on a pair of familiar work boots with leather laces, and blammo! Sheriff Graham cameo!!! YEAH BABY.
Next we see Regina, waking up in Storybrooke on the very first day of the curse, pulling aside the curtains to stare out at the town as she gloats, “I did it! I’ve won!”
She proceeds to take a stroll through town, where Marco is fixing a difficult hanging sign, Granny is nagging at Ruby (“When I put ‘over-easy’ on the menu, I was talkin’ about the eggs” – great line!) and everyone (except Archie) seems gripey and miserable. Regina loves it, of course.
Snow – now Mary Margaret, is teaching a classroom full of kids while holding onto a bluebird. Regina shows up just to make sure Snow’s good and cursed and oblivious, taking her over to the hospital to look at John Doe (a.k.a. Prince Charming), and Snow doesn’t know him, much to Regina’s delight.
Later, at Granny’s she and Graham are making some moves on each other when Kurt and Owen stroll in, looking for a place to stay until the truck can get repaired. Regina is less than thrilled to see that two locals were swept into town with the curse, and orders Graham to keep an eye on them.
And now we go forward to Regina’s vault, where she’s weeping over her mother’s casket. Rumple arrives to pay his respects, and Regina knows he’s behind Cora’s death. She also swears that Mary Margaret will die for what she did.
Rumple reminds her that vengeance won’t make her happy. “You had a whole curse worth of vengeance,” he reminds her. “And what did it get you? A big, gaping hole in your heart.” He tells her to let the whole Mary Margaret thing go.
“I will have my son, and I will have my vengeance,” she vows.
Over on the other side of town, Snow is refusing food and seriously making herself sick with guilt over what she did to Cora (and Regina). Henry wants the details because he can tell everyone is lying to him, and Emma finally tells him the truth. Henry is understandably shaken to find out that his grandmother/iconic hero did something that heroes don’t do…she murdered.
Mr. Gold shows up to warn them all that Regina is on the warpath, and David reminds him that Snow saved his life, and he therefore now owes her a debt. He has to help them stop Regina.
Flashing back again to recently-cursed Storybrooke (we can tell by the newspaper with Ronald Reagan’s picture on it that they wave into the camera), and Kurt and Owen are eating lunch at Granny’s. Regina storms in and she’s more than a little miffed with this..urchin…refuses to move from the stool she normally occupies.
She tells Kurt she’s escalated his repair with the repair shop, and he should be on his way by the end of the week. Just before they leave, Owen turns back to give Regina his gimp keychain, as a thank you for her help and for letting him sit in her seat. Regina is taken aback, and also strangely moved.
The next morning, we see her waking up next to naked Graham in her bed (wait a minute…in season one he told Emma he never stayed over because of Henry….there’s that pesky continuity again….) and starting her day, and it goes just like the last one: Marco grumbles at fixing the sign, Granny’s bitching at Ruby, Archie says hello…and then she runs into Mary Margaret – literally. Mary Margaret shows none of her Snow White backbone, apologizing profusely and ducking her mousy head before scurrying off.
Then we see the next morning: waking next to naked Graham, Marco and the sign, Granny yelling at Ruby, Archie says hello, Snow leaving flowers for John Doe, blah blah blah. Regina is clearly growing weary of this Groundhog Day-esque scenario
I have no idea how anyone could be tired of waking up next to naked sheriff Graham. They could tell me I’ll be spreading elephant dung with a coal shovel for the remainder of the day and I’d be okay with that if I could wake up next to naked Jamie Dornan every freaking morning.
Regina can’t take it anymore, and seeks out the counsel of Mr. Gold. “This isn’t the deal we made,” she fumes. And of course, Gold truly has no idea what she’s talking about. She realizes that all these cursed people are cow-towing to her not because they like her, but because they have to. She hasn’t earned their respect or regard.
Regina pulls out the keychain that Owen gave her, then makes a call, inviting Kurt and Owen to dinner at the mayor’s house.
Forward again to present-day in Regina’s vault, and we see her searching madly for something, ripping through things, breaking things, until she finally finds it – whatever it is.
Not long after she leaves, Gold and David show up. Gold pulls out Cora’s ACME sorceress kit and sees that it’s missing chimera blood and viper’s eye, which means Regina plans to use “the curse of the empty-hearted.”
Back at the apartment, they’re all discussing this and Emma brings up Disney canon: according to magical laws (i.e. “Aladdin”), you can’t make someone love you through magic. Gold points out that the curse won’t really make someone love you, it’ll only make them think they love you, and then they’ll believe it. I fail to see the distinction here, but oh well.
Henry realizes that Regina means to use it on him, and Gold points out that the curse gives Regina what she wants: Henry, and vengeance, because in order to enact the curse, she needs the heart of the person she hates the most.
Gold then bows out, telling them they’re on their own. The only way to end a blood feud, he tells them, is the spilling of more blood. They’ll have to kill Regina to stop her. Henry freaks out that they’re even discussing this – heroes don’t do this, he whines, and I honestly want to smack him and tell him to grow the f**k up.
Flashing back again to dinnertime at the mayor’s house, and Regina and Kurt are chatting while Owen is picking out apples so he can make turnovers with Regina. I want to say that I’m not big on scruffy hippy guys. Kurt sort of paled into the background for me until this scene. He starts talking about his recently departed wife and how hard it’s been as a single Dad raising Owen, and he’s got this sparkle in his eyes and you know what? Under that scruff….Kurt’s a good lookin’ guy. He really is. Not that it should surprise me on this show, but he’s kinda hot and obviously, very, very devoted to his kid.
Regina and Owen bake some impressive looking turnovers and Owen asks her why she’s not a mom because she’d be “really good at it.” He confesses that he’s not liking New Jersey and all the kids at school treat him weird because his mom died. Regina clearly has some developing affection for Owen, and she moves forward in typical Regina fashion.
She asks Kurt to move to Storybrooke, where she’ll give him a job and they have a great school for Owen. Kurt forces a smile and starts slowly backing away from the crazy lady, reminding her that they have a life back in New Jersey, and they really need to get home to it.
Forward in time now to Granny’s, where Emma is bringing Henry to hang with Neal. Neal explains that Storybrooke may not be safe for Henry right now, and offers to take him to New York because Regina can’t cast the curse there, since it’s devoid of magic. Henry latches onto that thought: if he can rid the town of magic, no one would be able to use it to hurt anyone. He agrees to go to New York with Neal, but you can see the wheels turning in his head. He excuses himself to the bathroom, and then in walks Greg Mendell.
He tells Emma he’s going on a hike in the woods, and also indicates that he may be staying awhile, since the town has really grown on him.
Emma circles back with Neal to see how it went with Henry, and Neal smugly assures her that Henry gave him an instant yes. Emma realizes Henry took his backpack with him to the bathroom and they both realize that Henry’s given them the slip and gone on the run.
Meanwhile, Regina shows up at the loft apartment, where Snow is still huddled in bed meditating on her inner ugliness. Before Regina can step in and rip out her heart, Gold moves out of the shadows and Regina stares at Snow, reminding her that Gold can’t guard her 24/7.
Back again to old Storybrooke and Regina just got word that Kurt’s truck has been fixed and he’s on his way out of town. This sends her into a panic, and she grabs Graham’s heart out of her office drawer, and starts barking orders into it, telling Graham to stop Kurt before he can leave town.
Unfortunately, Kurt picked that moment to peek his head in and say goodbye, so he hears it all and realizes that the crazy lady is even more batshit crazy than he realized.
He jumps in the truck with Owen, and a full-on 70’s style car chase commences through the streets of Storybrooke with Graham and Regina trying to head them off before they hit the town line. Graham manages to blockade the road just before the line, and Kurt tells Owen to get out of the car and run, then once he’s clear of the town to call his uncle. He gives Owen his gimp keychain, and tells him that he’ll always be with him.
Owen runs, and watches as Graham takes Kurt down, Owen asks Regina why she’s doing this, and Regina confesses that she wants him to stay with her. He gets very upset and tells her that he’ll never stay. He runs across the town line.
In present-day Storybrooke, Greg Mendell runs into Henry in the woods. Henry has also been down in the mines, stealing dynamite, which he plans to toss down the well and suck all the magic out of the town.
Greg Mendell, meantime, gets on the phone to Regina, letting her know that Henry is wandering the woods and very upset. Regina surprises Henry at the well where he is preparing to light the dynamite. She keeps snuffing the fuse out, and she tells him she can’t lose him. David, Emma and Neal show up, brandishing guns, Regina loads up a fireball and Henry steps right in the middle of all of them, pleading for some sanity.
Regina realizes what this is doing to him, and she burns the curse in front of him. He thanks her, but he turns around and leaves her anyway.
Flashback again to little Owen, standing in confusion at the town line, where he can no longer see Storybrooke, and he’s holding up the gimp keychain, vowing tearfully that he’s going to find Dad and will never stop looking. Regina stands on the other side of the line, clearly moved by his tears.
Forward again to Storybrooke, where Gold informs Snow that Regina has destroyed the curse.
“How do you do it?” she asks numbly. “Live with yourself? Knowing all the bad things you’ve done?’
“You tell yourself that you did the right thing,” he replies. “And if you say it often enough, one day, you might actually believe it.”
Snow decided enough is enough, and shows up on Regina’s doorstep, begging Regina to kill her. Regina obliges and rips out Snow’s heart, only to find that (much to Snow’s extreme dismay) it’s beginning to darken, due to her actions. Regina puts it back in, smug in the knowledge that once you blacken your heart, it only gets darker.
“I don’t need to destroy you,” she cackles. “You’re doing it to yourself.” She points out that once Snow is completely dark, she’ll destroy her perfect little family, and then Henry will be hers. Snow tearfully begs Regina to kill her, but now Regina won’t. She’d rather watch her suffer.
Unfortunately, all this heart-grabbing has been caught on camera by the ever-snooping Greg Mendell, who jumps in his car, turns his father’s gimp kechain over in his hand and vows “I’ll find you dad…I promise.”
I’m giving this one a full five darkened hearts out of five.
This one had some fascinating backstory into the early days of the curse, and showed us a softer, lonelier side of Regina. And we got to see Graham again!!