After Once Upon a Time’s jaw-dropping mid-season finale (which involved Rumple’s betrayal, Hook’s death, and Emma’s return to her true non-dark-one form) we’ve been itching to find out what the second half of the season has in store for Emma Swan and the rest of the heroes during their trip to the Underworld to rescue Hook. Will they find him? Who will they meet? How are they going to make it back alive? While we don’t have answers to most of those questions just yet, several new ones were raised during the 100th episode “Souls of the Departed,” which aired tonight.
At the beginning of the episode, we see Emma wake up in her car, confused about where she is. She’s not alone, however, as Neal (who died at the end of season 3) surprises her by popping up in the backseat. The reunion doesn’t last long, however, as Neal is only there to urge Emma not to go to the Underworld. When she tells him she needs to go save Hook, he departs and she wakes up on the boat, just in time to hear Regina remark, “I don’t think we’re in Maine anymore” as they reach the Underworld–which they discover is a warped version of Storybrooke full of people (including Cruella) with unfinished business.
The Past: Enchanted Forest
We then jump to a scene from the Enchanted Forest, in the past. The Evil Queen, Regina is on the hunt for Snow White. When she visits a town, one of the peasants tells her that he knows where to find Snow, but that he wants something in return. Clearly not in the mood to make a deal, Regina begins to choke him, which prompts Snow to come out of hiding and aim an arrow at her. Luckily (?), the Queen is feeling benevolent (because it’s her birthday) and disappears.
Once a pretty peeved Regina returns to her castle, her father, Prince Henry, tries to convince her to give up on revenge. When she exclaims that she won’t give up until Snow White is dead, he tells her that her mother (Cora) will always have a hold on her, unless she stops her quest for vengeance.
After being met with resistance, a desperate Henry asks the Magic Mirror (a.k.a. Sidney) to summon “her” (meaning Cora). When she appears in the mirror, Cora tells Henry that their daughter won’t be happy until she crushes Snow’s heart, and suggests that they help her take care of it. Henry, however, doesn’t want to resort to that, and instead tells Cora that he’s going to talk to Snow himself. As soon as he leaves, Cora emerges from the mirror with the intention of taking matters into her own hands.
We then see Henry meet with Snow in the woods–only it isn’t Henry, but is actually Cora in disguise. When the real Henry shows up and asks Cora what she’s doing, she rips Snow’s heart out, tells her to forget it ever happened, and enjoy her final few hours.
Later on, she shows up to Regina’s birthday celebration (much to the Queen’s dismay), and gifts her the heart. To prove that it’s really Snow White’s heart, Cora brings out the magic mirror and tells it to show the princess to them. As Regina squeezes the heart, Snow reacts, seemingly in response. It isn’t until it’s fully squashed (with the jester dead, instead of Snow), that Regina discovers that her father had switched the hearts. When she confronts him about the betrayal later, she uses magic to shrink him and stow him in a box so he won’t be able to stop her (while remaining unharmed) from crushing Snow White once and for all.
Later on, when Cora asks Regina where Henry is, she tells her that she’s “dealt with” him, and opens the box to show her what she meant. Though Cora praises her daughter for her act of villainy, Regina angrily tells her that she’s going to get revenge without her help, and uses the Magic Mirror to send her back to Wonderland, sealing the portal for good–but not before Cora is able to grab the box containing Henry, leaving Regina in tears.
The Present: Underworld
Meanwhile, in the present day, the heroes have begun their hunt for Hook. When Snow (a.k.a. Mary Margaret) hits up Granny’s, she encounters the Blind Witch at the counter, and Prince Charming’s (a.k.a. David) twin brother, James–who she doesn’t realize is him until AFTER they share a kiss (Awkward). Anyways, when they don’t get any hints about Hook’s whereabouts, Rumple tells them that he may know someone down there who can help. Regina is also pulled away from the group by a mysterious man who tells her that somebody wants to see her.
That somebody is Regina’s mother, Cora (a.k.a. The Queen of Hearts). During their emotional reunion, Cora tells Regina that the reason she’s stuck in the Underworld is because her unfinished business is to make sure that Regina is taken care of. Cora gives Regina an ultimatum to either take Henry and Robin and hop on the boat that will take them away from the Underworld, or to see her father (who was in the Underworld) engulfed in flames, and transported to a hellish place.
Meanwhile, Rumple runs into Peter Pan in the Underworld version of the pawn shop, and has a little family reunion of his own. Like Regina’s, his encounter ends in a threat. In short, Pan misses the real world and wants to go back. When Rumple refuses him, Pan tells him that if he won’t help him, he’ll see to it that one of the Storybrooke characters won’t make it back to the world of the living. He does, however, give Rumple what he’s come to the shop to find: a potion.
It turns out, the potion he’s been looking for enables whoever uses it to talk to the dead after sprinkling its contents over the departed’s grave. Since everybody in the Underworld has a grave, Emma, Regina and the rest of the gang (minus Rumple because he doesn’t want to get involved) figure they can use it to talk to Hook’s ghost and find out where he is. Unfortunately, when they conjure the pirate, he isn’t able to hear them. Emma tells Regina that she should just take Robin and Henry and get on the boat, because losing her father isn’t worth staying in town with them.
Regina agrees, and uses the last bit of the potion to summon her father’s spirit. When she apologizes for everything that she’s done to him, he says that he loves her anyways and is willing to sacrifice himself if it means that Regina will stay in the Underworld and spread hope. Seeing her do the right thing would mean that he didn’t die in vain.
Following that meeting, Regina goes to speak with her mother. Despite her pleas to spare her father, Cora throws him into the flames anyways and disappears. Just when all hope seems lost, the flames disappear and Henry reveals that Regina’s sacrifice has taken care of his unfinished business. His biggest regret has always been letting Cora get in the way of who Regina was. Now that Regina was finally free of Cora’s grasp, he was proud. Before walking off to the light, Regina introduces young Henry to his grandfather, who thanks him for taking care of his daughter when he couldn’t.
When Regina returns to the group with Henry, she tells them that all souls are able to leave the Underworld, and that most of them are probably there because of the group themselves–insinuating that they should help the souls crossover (a mission Henry names: “Operation Firebird”). Rumple, however, doesn’t agree with their desire to help what he believes to be “wretched souls.” He reiterates that the reason they are down there is to save Hook, and that he wants no part in anything else. When Emma threatens to tell Belle that Rumple’s crossed back over to the dark side (which is how she got him to agree to taking them all to the Underworld in the first place), he tells her that he doesn’t care.
The final few moments of the episode see Cora riding an elevator deep underground to Hades’ lair. He’s disappointed that Cora wasn’t able to get her daughter to leave, thus breaking the deal they had set in place–which Cora reveals she didn’t want to agree to for fear of jeopardizing her relationship with her daughter. The repercussions? Hades promises that Regina is going to regret her decision, and then proceeds to change Cora back into the poor, miller’s daughter she once was. He’s clearly ready to rumble.
The second half of the season is off to an intriguing start! Tune in to ABC next Sunday, March 13 at 8|7c for the next episode.