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.
Although it doesn’t have an impact on the immediate plot, it is lovely to see Mr. Gold and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) together enjoying a simple meal and each other’s company. Even in this short scene there is something quaint and genteel to this quiet courtship. We see glimpses of Gold’s difficult relationship with the good people of Storybrooke, and he seems almost apologetic about it, even accepting Granny’s slight without challenging her as he might have before Belle’s return.
Their date is interrupted by news of Cora’s existence, and her desire to cross into Storybrooke, something, Regina intimates to Gold, that would complicate both their lives. But Gold is confident he can handle the evil Cora. But, as Regina points out, Gold now has a weakness — someone he loves, someone that can be used against him.
I found the interplay between Mr. Gold and Regina fascinating. Although they are far from friends, the two sorcerers can find common ground in defeating her. Cora is powerful, yet, insists Gold, he is more powerful, something Regina doubts. But more interesting is how they are collaborating despite their distaste for each other to help Emma and Snow, and not for mischief or to create havoc.
I really loved how we observe both of them using magic now in our “real” world. It seems slightly incongruous, since we are accustomed to seeing them work their magic only in their magical environment of Fairytale Land, but it works. Their magic is now out in the open, not secretive nor sinister (at least not for now).
As Rumple reveals what he had known about the spell used to trap and imprison him, telling Henry how to find the magic ink hidden in his cell, Regina and Charming share a look. They must wonder why, if Rumple had know all of this, he had submitted knowingly to the spell, and why, with the powerful substance in his possession why he never used it during all the many years of his captivity. (I assume it’s been many years just from the terrible state in which we find Rumple when first we meet him.)
On the opposite side are Cora and her new ally Hook, and the two are perfectly matched, and make Gold and Regina look positively tame. Killian is master of the double and triple cross, playing both sides to suit his own agenda. He makes a great, very much black and white villain, and not in the least sympathetic.
He will be a great nemesis for Rumple as the season moves forward, just as Cora will make Regina’s (and probably Rumple’s as well) life a misery. I can see the potential of Rumple and Regina becoming the protectors of Storybrooke life defeating a foe that would destroy or oppress them all.
Hook really show his true evilness by taking Aurora’s heart, something Cora must have taught him, or perhaps something he picked up after he’d seen Rumple do the same thing to Milah. But it is obvious that Hook is driven by revenge and his own desires, just like Cora. And while Rumple and Regina have also been driven by revenge, it is revenge born out of grief and love. Interesting counterpoint, I think.
Next week is the final episode before the series takes a break until January. The conclusion to next week’s episode, according to the preview will set up the entire second half of the season.
Be sure to tune in to Let’s Talk TV LIVE tomorrow night to continue the discussion live. What will happen next week and after the show returns in January? Will Emma and Snow make it back? And who will be with them? Will Cora be defeated before she comes knocking on her daughter’s door? Or will she come to Storybrooke and endanger all their lives? And what about Hook? Will he confront Rumple, possibly using Belle to hurt him?
Stay tuned! Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
NOTE: For all you Robert Carlyle fans — Robert’s new film California Solo opens November 30 in New York. I had a chance to interview the film’s writer-director Marshall Lewy last week. My interview and review of the movie will appear on Blogcritics this Friday.