After weeks of preamble, Once Upon a Time is back! This week’s episode delved into a bit more of Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) history and family drama, and learned what a twisted place Underworld really is.
Picking up right where it left off, the 100th episode began with a hallucination of sorts with Neal (Michael Raymond-James) appearing to Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and urging her not to go to the Underworld because it will be difficult to leave but it’s Emma and once she sets her mind to something, there’s no going back.
She wakes up in the boat on the way to Underworld, and once they arrive they discover that it looks eerily like Storybrooke, but with a strange tint, like an abandoned town. Regina, as always, has the perfect line for the moment, “I don’t think we’re in Maine anymore” she also wonders whether the Dark Curse got the idea from Underworld (hopefully this will explored further).
The reason why the entire crew was in the Underworld was to find Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) but very little of this episode pointed towards this. We had Emma mention it once or twice and then Rumple (Robert Carlyle) visited his store (now run by his father – Peter Pan) and retrieved a potion that allowed them to dark to the dead souls.
Emma used the potion by Hook’s grave in order to communicate with him, but all she received was some type of hologram of a bloodied up Hook who was not able to talk to her, so he’s location and current state is still up in the air. But we know that it’s a matter of urgency that they get to him before his situation worsens. But why is everyone else in Underworld fresh as a bird, regardless of how they were killed but Hook is suffering?
By the end of the episode, Henry launches ‘Operation Firebird’ which is their operation to find Hook and help the other lost souls find their closure. Poor Hook doesn’t even get a designated operation name.
Most of the episode centered around Regina and her quest to be seen as a good person while still wrestling with her past. Once Regina arrives in Underworld, Cora (Barbara Hershey) sends for her and they meet. She encourages Regina to leave Underworld because it’s a dangerous place to be, new-and-improved Regina turns down her mother’s offer because she came there to help her friends, and that’s what she intends to do.
In flashbacks we are taken back to Regina’s birthday long ago during her evil queen days, where her father, Henry Sr (Tony Perez), is trying to encourage to give up her vengeance against Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and thus let go of the hold her mother has on her. But through some very bad mishaps Henry Sr summons Cora from Wonderland and Cora decides to give Regina what she truly wants — Snow’s heart.
Unbeknownst to Cora and Regina, Henry Snr swapped out Snow’s heart with that of a guard’s, so Regina does not get her ultimate birthday gift, in his effort to save her soul. This culminates in Regina trapping her father in a box so he can’t interfere with her plans anymore and sending Cora back to Wonderland apparently for good, although she takes her husband-in-a-box with her to cause Regina even more harm. Cora sure is not a frontrunner for Mother of the Year.
Back in Underworld, Cora threatens Regina, saying that if she does not leave Underworld Cora will throw Henry Sr will suffer a fiery second death. Regina is conflicted with Emma and co, telling her to return to Storybrooke on the boat, but using the communicator potion she meets with her father (who is fully able to talk with her and touch her unlike ‘Hologram Hook’).
Henry Sr tells Regina to stay in Underworld and help her friends, that seeing her change for the better would prove that he did not die in vain. In the end, Regina choses to follow her father’s advice and finally gets to apologize for that time when she killed him just to punish a overly chatty little girl.
Cora does not take this likely and throws Henry Sr into the fiery pits, but after Cora leaves Henry Sr does not die a painful death instead he gets the chance to go to ‘a better place’ more like a heaven, and he says one final goodbye to Regina and shares a touching moment with Henry Jr (Jared Gilmore), saying that his unfinished business was Regina being free from Cora’s clutches, and now that has been achieved.
It was interesting to fill in the gaps left open by previous episodes such as ‘Hat Trick’ about how Henry Sr came to be trapped in Wonderland and why Regina was so desperate to get him back and even more fulfilling to see her ask her father for his forgiveness after she killed him, and for them to get their closure. I’m glad that Henry got to meet his namesake as well. I do, however, wish that Once had gone a bit bigger for their 100th episode, had a more balanced episode with the other characters then yet another Regina backstory-centered episode, although this was a story that needed to be told at some point. Hopefully this does mean that every character will get their own focused episode like in the earlier seasons.
In a show that has seen so many characters pass through its’ halls, it is always an extra treat when they return even if it is just for a cameo. Underworld also gives the show a chance to bring back some characters who were dead without tipping over the scales of plausibility. So let’s go through who made it back this week (I’m hoping that the longer that we are in Underworld, the more familiar faces we’ll see).
Neal – The moment between Neal and Emma in the beginning of the episode was so touching and well put. It was great to discover that Neal moved on to ‘a better place’, he did sacrifice himself for his father, but it’s also lovely that he was the one who got to warn Emma about going to Underworld.
The Blind Witch (Emma Caulfield) – In the ultimate cameo, the Blind Witch from the Hansel and Gretel episode returned as the patron of the Granny-like cafe, where she offered Snow White children cookies. So you can eat in Underworld? Her epic moment was interrupted by James, Charming’s twin brother, the role which gives Josh Dallas the chance to get his swagger on.
Peter Pan (Robbie Kay) – My absolute favorite villain (there is something so eerie about a villainous child) returns as the owner of the pawn shop down in Underworld. He tries to make peace with his son, Rumpelstiltskin and gives him the potion to communicate with the dead but he also reveals that he longs to return to the living world and insinuates that he will take the place of one of the main crew in order to return in their place.
Also making the returns were Cora, Henry Sr and Sidney Glass (Giancarlo Esposito) (who only appeared in the Regina flashbacks).
We get to see Hades (Greg Germann) only at the end of the episode, when Cora travels down the escalator in the library to what we see as Hades lair. And Hades is legit sitting on a throne getting a pedicure when Cora walks in.
He tells her that every time a clock chimes it means a soul has left Underworld, and Hades is not here for that. He punishes Cora for not getting Regina to leave by forcing her to live out her biggest fear of being a peasant for all eternity and then his head becomes all fiery, just like in the Disney film, Hercules.