As the first half of Once Upon a Time's second season drives towards its conclusion December 2, this week's episode "Into the Deep" finds Regina (Lana Parrilla), Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle), and Charming joining forces to defeat Regina's mother Cora (Barbara Hershey) to prevent her from entering Storybrooke. Snow, Emma, and dubious compatriots Mulan and Aurora remain trapped in the ruins of Fairytale Land, and still seeking a way to come home, but they find a glimmer of hope when Aurora sees Henry in the fiery netherworld. But Henry (Jared Gilmore) only brings back a message that Emma and Snow have a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in the evil Cora.
Mr. Gold believes he has a way to overcome Cora and get the pair back to Storybrooke. The key lies in the magic ink used to paralyze and imprison Rumplestiltksin ("The Price of Gold"). The resourceful Rumple had kept a vial of the stuff in his cell for just such a rainy day. But getting that message back to Snow and Emma is problematic. The netherworld is a wall of flame, and Henry cannot quite get to Aurora before he's forced out, awake and injured. He cannot go back; it would be too dangerous for him, even after Mr. Gold heals Henry's burned arm.
Neither Regina nor Charming want to send him back even after he's had time to recover, but Gold warns them that without going back to send a message to Emma and Snow, they will all be faced with confronting a real monster in Cora. None of them will be safe in Storybrooke.
Charming (Josh Dallas) volunteers to go, but in order for him to do it, he must be put under a sleeping curse, something from which he might never recover. But of course he goes as he must, and finds Snow (as he always does). But because neither of them are actually in the netherworld, Snow cannot really kiss him to wake him up. And as the episode ends, Charming is still under the curse, waiting for Snow and Emma to return. Only then will he be woken from the spell.
"Into the Deep" has lots of interesting goings on, and although the plot is simple enough, its rich texture moves the story ahead while giving us little glimpses into some of the series most pivotal relationships both in the present day and ancient Fairytale Land timelines.