Subtitle: Regina’s journey to parenthood
We start 29 years ago with Grumpy sounding the alarm: The curse is coming! Did Grumpy volunteer for alarm duty? Have we seen that and I’ve just forgotten? Anyway, the curse is coming and Regina saunters down to gloat about it with Rumple before he forgets who he is and who she is and what all they did.
Rumple: How did it feel?
Rumple: No, no, not your revenge. Not lording over the two idiots like the sass queen you are. Not giving everything you have and everything you are to one purpose and actually achieving what you set out to achieve. How did it feel to kill your father?
Regina: Way to kill my buzz.
Rumple: That’s what I’m here for.
Regina: I took my life back! I won! Stop raining on my parade!
Rumple: You have a Henry-shaped hole in your heart and one day you will come to me to fill it.
Regina musters all her courage and accuses him of overestimating his powers of foresight. Rumple replies by singing nanny-nanny-boo-boo-I-still-own-you. Almost literally.
In the present, Team Parents are gathered over an unconscious Henry who as you may recall just gave his heart away to Peter Pan. Pan pops in to crow about it and the way the parents react is key to the entire episode: Emma rushes Pan with a sword, Regina keeps her focus entirely on Henry, and Neal is overwhelmed and indecisive.
Pan laughs Emma off. If Rumplestiltskin can’t hurt him, how is she supposed to? Emma asks what happened to Rumple and Pan shakes the box. Oops, Pan caught Rumple in Rumple’s Pan trap.
Eleven years ago, Mayor Mills is visited by Dr. Hopper the town therapist. Regina has lived in Storybrooke for 18 years at this point but still stumbles over calling herself Mayor instead of Queen. In her defense, no one else remembers the passing of time at all and frankly I’m surprised she has any sanity left.
Archie: How are you feeling?
Regina: I’m feeling nothing.
Archie: Textbook depression. Probably because you were an abused child who never learned anything about boundaries or how to ask for things you need instead of stealing them in order to avoid rejection so now that you have created an existence based entirely on boundaries you have no idea how to cope with either reality and your body is trying to protect you by shutting down.
Archie: Just kidding. You’re a driven woman. Look at all you’ve achieved!
Regal Cricket Shippers: He loves you!
Archie: But you have a hole on your heart.
Regina: …What did you say?
Archie: What’s the point of achieving all this if you’ve got no one to share it with?
Regal Cricket Shippers: He means HIM!
Regina: There was that one time the little boy was here….
Regal Cricket Shippers: DAMN.
Archie doesn’t think it’s strange that Regina is fixated on that one time that one little boy came to town because he thinks that was yesterday or possibly earlier this morning. Regina heads over to Gold because she’s never learned not to.
Regina: I want a baby.
Rumple: Flattering but no.
Golden Queen Shippers: DAMN.
Regina: Don’t be stupid, I want you to get me a baby.
Regina claims to have spent the morning calling adoption agencies. I hope someone is writing that fanfiction… she starts out demanding and is told how difficult it will be to adopt as a single woman who lives in a town that didn’t exist twenty years ago and her references are shady at best and she’s smart so she spins a better story each call but even the very best outcome is a two year wait list. Anyway, Rumple agrees to look into it.
Rumple, literally: I’m sure you’ll make… Well, a mother of some sort.
Back in the present Regina puts a spell on Henry to keep him alive while they get his heart back. Emma asks Neal where he thinks Pan ran off to.
Neal: Idk, I know where he lives but…
Regina: We all know that! Why would he go back there you idiot?!
Neal: To be fair, Regina, that’s what I was trying to say, too…
Regina: I don’t care about fair. We need to save my son.
Emma: Our son…so I know how you feel.
So this scene is really beautiful. Emma honestly and rightfully feels slighted by Regina going back to “my” son instead of “our” son. She doesn’t look angry when she emphasizes our son, she looks hurt.
Regina: You have no idea how I feel! You have your parents, you have ….this person, you have everything. Henry is all I have and he is everything.
Emma: You’re right. I don’t know what you feel. So, you wanna run the show…how do we save Henry?
Regina: I don’t know.
10,000 points to Regina for calling Neal “this person”. It emphasizes how Neal doesn’t have a defined place in the narrative (but he does belong there). 100,000 points to Regina for standing up for herself with truth instead of threats. 250,000 points to Emma for listening instead of fighting. And 500,000 points to Regina for an honest I don’t know instead of scrambling to use Emma’s backing down to take Henry back for herself alone. They choose to trust each other (and poor Neal is the third wheel again).
The good news is Emma nicked Pan: if he can bleed, he can die so they tromp back to Pan Camp to figure how to go about it. They get the rest of the Nevengers up to speed and Snow weirdly focuses on Gold being trapped instead of Henry being mostly dead.
Snow: If Gold is in a box David is stuck on the island forever!
Charming: Even I find that incredibly selfish. My exile is the least of our problems.
Regina decides to interrogate Felix the Head Lost Boy but he is loyal to the death. She is willing to oblige by ripping his heart out and forcing him to give Pan up but Emma thinks torture and mind control are the wrong approach. She suggests they give the Boys “what every child wants: a mother”.
In Storybrooke, Gold has great news for Regina: he found an adoption that fell through, worked his magic (figuratively, of course), and there is a baby boy waiting for her in the magical land of Boston.
Adoption Agent: I’ve never heard of Storybrooke.
Regina: It’s like a fairy tale.
Adoption Agent: Made up, rigid, and secretly a lot more dark than people think?
Adoption Agent: So this is a closed adoption – you’re never allowed to find out anything about his parents.
Regina: Why would I care about his parents?
It’s sort of hilarious how easy this all is but clearly the agency is ruled by fate, destiny, and the will of Mr. Gold so it’s all smooth sailing and the baby is hers. Regina cries Henry! the instant she sees him and the adoption agent adorably thinks that is an old fashioned name (the US government ranks the top 1000 names per year and Henry was ranked 115th in 2002). Regina explains it was her father’s name, and now her son’s.
Back on Neverland of the present Emma is playing Mama by telling the Boys her own history. She was an orphan, too, but today she was reminded how many people love her. The Emma and Regina story continues to be beautiful.
HLB Felix argues that Pan is the only family they need but the littler boys believe Emma’s claim that Pan is a liar and tell her Pan went to Pixie Hollow.
Lost Boy: Swear that you’ll take us with you.
Emma: I promise. We are going home. All of us.
Here’s what makes this a good episode. The focus is Regina’s journey to parenthood but we also get to see echoes of that journey in Emma and Neal. And even the Charmings and the family Rumplestilitskin to an extent. Remember Emma’s promise here, it comes back later (and not in the bite her in the ass way I expected when I first watched).
In the past, new Mom Regina is having trouble getting her baby to stop crying. Granny suggests she tell him a story. Regina gets as far as Once upon a time before Henry spits up on her. So she heads to the hospital where Dr. Whale takes advantage of his three minutes of screen time to spread some sass.
Whale: I prescribe 10ccs of eternal love.
Regina is even more unimpressed when he tells her he’d need to find the birth parents if something was really wrong with the baby. Regina snaps that she is his real mother! Whale stammers that he meant genetic disease so Regina speed dials her favorite procurer of secret intel, Sidney Glass. Tired of juggling a crying baby and a cell phone she drops little Henry in Snow’s arms with a demand to make herself useful. Snow coos and Baby Henry stops crying. When Regina retrieves him he starts up again.
Snow: I’m sorry! Did I do something wrong?
Regina: No, it’s me.
#UglySobbing! At first glance this reads as the show YET AGAIN claiming that biology trumps sociology. But it is really about Regina’s crisis of confidence. Regina doesn’t know how to give her son 10ccs of eternal love. She doesn’t know what eternal love is because she has only ever encountered finite love. Her parents loved her as long as she did what they wanted. Snow loved her as long as she loved her back the way Snow expected. The king never loved her and Daniel was taken away. Love has always been something people held from and over Regina. She was taught, again and again, that to feel love is weakness and to give love is to give power away. In contrast, even in her darkest moments Snow was always surrounded by love. Regina’s right – it IS her. But it doesn’t mean she can’t learn.
The Nevengers decide to split up again and make their final attempt to save Henry. Hook and Neal will take the Lost Boys and get the Jolly Roger ready to go while Regina, Emma and Snow go after Pan. Charming and Tink stay with the pirate crew because they’re not on Team Mom.
In Storybrooke, Baby Henry is still crying. Regina picks him up and begs, If you just tell me what you want I’ll do anything, anything for you. Give me a chance. They meet eyes and Henry stops crying.
But Regina’s joy is interrupted by Sidney’s info. Regina reads the Baby Mama’s history and charges over to Gold’s shop to have an incredibly one sided conversation about how he tricked her and manipulated her AGAIN.
Regina: You knew.
Rumple: Knew what, dearie?
Regina: You knew Henry’s mother was important.
Rumple: Well, she gave you your son.
Regina: No! She was found as a baby the day this town… arrgh! You did this!
Rumple: I have no idea what you are talking about.
Regina: You want this to end. The mother can end it.
Rumple: Super interesting theory about nonsense.
Regina, literally: Play dumb all you want, you little imp. I sacrificed everything for this life and nothing will get in my way. Henry goes back to Boston tomorrow!
Team Moms in the woods find Pandora’s Box. On a stump. Alone. Regina thinks obvious trap! but Snow is crey crey this week and doesn’t care that it is a trap, she needs the box to get David home. Shockingly they are all three then caught in the trap. Peter skips in to regale that he didn’t expect them to find him, but is ok that they did. This is more fun!
Regina is back at the adoption agency handing over her baby with written instructions. The agent tells her he understands her decision – not every baby is a fit, sometimes having the strength to let go is the best way to show a baby love. Mr. Adoption deals with this every day and he is good at his job. He’s even already got a couple lined up to take the baby. Regina picks up Henry to tell him goodbye.
Regina: You deserve better than me. You truly are the only one in all the realms who believes in me.
More #uglysobbing because it’s true, and she’s including herself. But their eyes meet again and Regina can’t let go. When the agent returns she tells him Henry is HER son and sometimes the best way to show a baby love is to be the one to never let go.
Remember when Emma promised to take the Lost Boys home with her? Regina is making that same promise here. Emma is still early in her motherhood, still making promises based on little more than faith, trust, and pixie dust. And that Gryffindor (Charming) bravado she so encompasses. It’s much harder for Regina to take that stand but she does it for Henry.
And Neal? Neal has been Henry’s parent for about five minutes. He is overwhelmed and indecisive, exactly as Regina was she just started.
And then in another favorite moment of the episode it’s revealed the couple waiting to adopt Henry are John and Michael Darling, presumably posing as awesome hipster gay dads. I want to add them to Henry’s family tree just for the lolz.
But more importantly Regina just #SavedHenry from Peter Pan.
Pan has Team Moms tied to a tree with vines of regret (I’m going to add that to my wine label) that attack feelings of contrition.
Pan: By the way, Rumplestiltskin is my son.
Regina: Bored now.
Snow: How is that even possible?
Pan: Says the woman whose daughter is exactly the same age as her.
Pan: Let’s play who’s the worstest parent.
Emma: You obviously win!
Pan: Orly? You didn’t even hold your baby before you gave him away!
Emma: Damnit, I don’t want to feel regret about that.
Pan: ‘Course what else were you supposed to do? Your mom did the same thing to you!
Snow: Ugh, I feel really bad!! Why do I suck so much this week?
Pan: And you, Queeny, you are the worst of all! I bet you regret your entire life!
Regina: Yeah, about that. Sure I ruined countless lives and murdered innocents and I should regret a lot of things but – I don’t. I don’t regret any of it because it brought me to my son.
The vines fall limp, she breaks Team Moms free and rounds on a dumbfounded Pan. He barely blinks before she’s got Henry’s heart in one hand and Rumple-in-a-Box in the other and basically Regina wins the world. Also #SavesHenry again.
Emma and Snow look like this:
And it is glorious.
Back on the ship, Regina replaces Henry’s heart and after a few scary seconds he wakes up and is gathered into a threeway hug:
And it is glorious.
Henry stammers that he wanted to save magic! And be a hero! Charming chuckles at this because he’s excited that of everyone Henry is related to he’s decided to emulate Charming. Everyone else chuckles at it because it’s cute and they are just so happy to have him back.
Back home with her baby, Regina chats again with Archie. I like how these scenes establish that Archie really was a confidant for Regina during the curse. Regina is worried about Henry’s birth mother, about fate and destiny finding her secret kingdom of happiness and destroying it all over again. Archie thinks it is mind over matter and tells to stop worrying about what could happen and just enjoy being a mom. Regina takes this as advice to take a potion of forgetting because this Regina still has a lot of growing up to do.
She brings Baby Henry to Grandpa Henry’s tomb and tells him a fairy tale.
“Once upon a time, there was a Queen, and she cast a glorious curse, that gave her everything she wanted… or so she thought. She despaired when she learned that… revenge was not enough. She was lonely. And so she searched the land for a little boy to be her prince. And then… she found him. And though they lived happily, it was not ever after. There was still an evil out there lurking. The Queen was worried for her prince’s safety. While she knew she could vanquish any threat to the boy, she also knew she couldn’t raise him worrying. No. She needed to put her own troubles aside, and put her child first. And so… the Queen procured an ancient potion of forgetting. If the Queen drinks the potion, she won’t forget her child. She’ll only forget her worries… her troubles… her fears. And with those gone… she… and her prince can indeed finally live happily ever after.”
A slightly older and wiser Regina is tucking Henry into bed on the Jolly Roger. She puts a spell on his heart so it can never be taken again. Henry says thanks, Mom. Regina says We’ll be home soon, my little prince. And my heart bursts!
Regina leaves and Pan pops in to take Henry’s heart again because he is evil like that.
On deck, the crew let Rumple out of his box and he is gathered into a NealBae hug:
Neal: Why didn’t you tell me Pan was your dad?
Rumple: Because keeping important intel to myself is sort of my thing.
Neal: Yeah, but…
Rumple: Also plot reasons.
Neal: It would have made things simpler if…
Rumple: Would you accept character building reasons?
Neal: Does it involve Daddy Issues?
Rumple: Absolutely! I didn’t want you to know how I did to you exactly what my father did to me. He abandoned me and I abandoned you. We are the same horrible fathers.
Neal: You’re not. You came back for me.
Snow: More importantly, Charming and I can leave Neverland!
Pan tries to take Henry’s heart but Regina’s spell rebukes him – for those keeping track that is three times Regina #SavesHenry this episode. So he spins Henry around and tries to rip his shadow off. At this point the calvary run in and break it up. Rumple is able to shove dear old Dad into the box but not before a Something jumps between Pan and Henry. I have a bad feeling about this.
Then Rumple says, literally, He’s a strong boy, Regina. You raised him well. More #heartbursting and #uglysobbing.
Regina casts a spell on Pan’s shadow that merges it with the Jolly Roger’s sail.
Emma: Will it fly?
Regina: It has no choice.
Emma: Good, let’s get the hell out of Neverland.
Hook: As you wish, my lady.
Captain Swan Shippers: He means I LOVE YOU.
Emma and Charming have a cute little scene where he namechecks the publicity photos released for this season and tells Emma she is the reason everybody was able to come together.
Charming: Turns out you’re Captain America and I’m Thor. Who knew?
Emma: Everyone who has seen that movie? Which is everyone?
Charming: Shh, we’re having a moment.
Also having a moment: Wendy and Tinker Bell.
Tink: Hey Wendy, I’m on this boat!
Wendy: Hey, me too!
Tink: Soon we’ll get to Storybrooke and see your brothers!
Wendy: I have pixie dust! The very last drop!
Tink: Thank you for this reminder of my failure.
Wendy: Cheer up, emo kid, I believe in you.
Henry comes out on deck because he is incapable of staying anywhere anyone puts him. Neal finds him first and we have what would be a sweet moment if Henry were not possessed by Evil.
Neal: I know I’ve only been your Dad for about five minutes but I am your Dad and I love you.
Panry: Man, I wish I could tell you the truth because the truth is so trippy.
Panry: I am your grandfather pretending to be your son. And he and me are physically almost the same age but I am literally hundreds of years old and so are you and he is only eleven. But he grew up where no one else grew up so he was like the reverse Peter Pan whereas I am the literal Peter Pan.
Neal: Remember when everybody thought I was Peter Pan?
Panry: Like I said. The truth is So Trippy!
Neal: Anyway, what I mean to say is I’m never going to abandon you the way my dad did me and his dad did him.
Panry: This would be so sweet if I weren’t secretly Evil.
And then because this episode had nearly as many epilogues as The Return of the King, Tink and Regina also have a moment.
Tink: I guess the Evil Queen could love after all.
Regina: I guess so.
Tink: I knew you still had good in you.
Pixie Dust: Glows.
Regina: Looks like you still have magic in you.
Pixie Dust: Jk.
Tink: What happened?
Regina: For a moment there, you believed.
Fairy Queen Shippers: WE BELIEVE!
Then in epilogue 12 Panry brings food to Felix and confesses he is, in fact, Henry-possessed-by-Peter-Pan which is about 40 shades of crazy.
OTwo episodes left of this arc. I’m scared! What do you think?