Last week’s cliffhanger may have promised a fusion of the Storybrooke and fairy tale worlds, but it looks we’re still going to have to deal with fairybacks for the foreseeable future. After such a big reveal, it’s underwhelming to spend almost this entire week’s chapter away from Emma and Snow White, showing in the last five minutes that they’ve become prisoners of Aurora and Mulan. Granted, the final shot of this episode justifies the fairyback, but it still cuts into the momentum that this show built up during the season première. Flashing back to just after the events of “The Stable Boy,” “We Are Both” continues to look at the dysfunctional relationship between Regina and her mother, adding in Rumpelstiltskin to make matters worse. As Rumpelstiltskin manipulates Regina into getting rid of her mother in the past, the Evil Queen of Storybrooke is trying to get Henry back in the present day, by any means necessary.
This episode’s title refers to a speech Prince Charming (yeah, he goes by Charming, not James) gives in the last act, but the story begins with a separation. The seven dwarves are investigating how Regina’s border spell has changed since the curse with broken, and when Sneezy is pushed through, he loses all his newly gained memories and is left as his Storybrooke self permanently. When Grumpy runs into town with terrible news, the already chaotic populace is thrown into a panic, and Charming goes off to make plans for how to proceed now that he’s the reigning monarch. What everyone seems to be forgetting is that this is magic, and that if it was that easy to wipe away Sneezy’s memories, they can probably be restored with the right mix of potion and sniffable pages.
Charming takes the fight to Regina, who is plotting to get her magic back along with her son, to which the prince responds that if she needs to use magic to keep her son, she doesn’t really have him. Regina was always terrified of becoming like her mother, but now that she’s in Cora’s position, she goes to the exact same lengths to get what she wants. Left with no other choice, she turns to Rumpelstiltskin’s help in regaining her magic, fitting as he’s the man who introduced it to her in the first place. He gives Regina the book that can replenish her power, but he makes sure to tell her just how much she looks like her mother as she exits his shop. Charming appears shortly after to tell Rumpelstiltskin about the nature of Regina’s border spell, news that causes him to attack his glass display cases in rage. Would Rumpelstiltskin still have given Regina the book if he knew he was her prisoner? Her timing is perfect, and she immediately uses her returned magic to retrieve her son.
In the fairyback, Regina learns that Rumpelstiltskin was the man who first showed her mother how to use magic, effectively turning her into the overbearing bitch she is now. She summons the imp, who is quite pleased to meet her and very eager to begin their new relationship together. Regina doesn’t want to learn magic because of how it changed her mother, so Rumpelstiltskin offers her a different way of getting rid of mommy dearest: a portal to another world. All it takes is one little push. On her wedding day, Regina is dealing with her mother’s usual bullshit, and when she tries to shove Cora physically but is bound by magic, Regina gets her first taste of mystical power as she thrusts her mother through the glass gateway. Lana Parrilla tends to do her best acting when she’s cast in more of an ingénue role, and it’s nice to see her transformation in this episode. Barbara Hershey is deliciously campy as Cora, playing the character with a mix of power and frigidity that shows where Regina learned her parenting skills. Perhaps the best thing about having the fairybacks still around is Robert Carlyle’s Rumpelstiltskin, whose over the top characterization steals every scene. He’s a ham, but it’s in the service of mischief, and it works very well in an evil-clown sort of way.
With her magic returned, Regina appears at the town halls and starts using her power to open doors and throw people around, lighting one of Granny’s arrows on fire and flinging it around the room until it swings back around and lights up the city seal. She takes Henry and makes him a prisoner in her home, keeping him from escape with the exact same spell her mother used, an act that shows Regina just how far she’s fallen. As she recalls her conversation with Rumpelstiltskin after getting rid of her mother, Regina remembers how much she loved that first taste of magic and how scared she was of giving herself up to it. She’s become the monster she always feared, and when Prince Charming shows up at her home demanding to see Henry, Regina gives up custody of her son, finally realizing just how bad of a mother she actually is.
“I don’t know how to love very well.” With just one line, Regina’s entire character opens up, and Parrilla is able to tap into that sense of love that makes her fairyback characterization so much more engaging. With Rumpelstiltskin becoming this show’s Big Bad, maybe it’s time for Regina to switch over to the side of the angels. She tells Henry that she wants to redeem herself, which is kind of what she said last week, but now it seems to come from a real place. I’m eager to see Regina’s redemption story, especially after this episode’s cliffhanger. Finally getting to Snow White and Emma, the last scene shows them tied up in the hands of Aurora and Mulan, thrown into prison where they find an unlikely ally: Regina’s mother, Cora. There is going to be a serious diva-off when Cora finally comes face-to-face with the daughter that exiled her.
The rest of the Storybrooke material is dedicated to Prince Charming, who is trying to get the town in order while finding a way to fix the magical hat that took his wife and daughter away from him. He gets a potion from Rumpelstiltskin that leads him to the Mad Hatter, who continues to be totally crazy and ends up running off with the hat, the only clue Charming has. After Regina’s magical display, the citizens of Storybrooke decide to make a mass exodus away from the city, but Red and Charming show up at the border to stop them. What exactly is the problem with leaving the fairy tale world behind and simply living as their Storybrooke personas? Why should they want to stay stuck between two worlds? Charming answers these questions with a rousing speech about how they have to accept their past memories, good and bad, and exist as both their fairy tale and Storybrooke selves. He’s aware of the harm David caused to the woman he loved, but he’s going to try to make up for that as Charming. It’s a great acting moment from Josh Dallas, who shows that he can play an authoritative leader as well as he can a lovesick heartthrob. And now that Henry’s in his custody, it’s time to see how good of a father figure he can be to a kid who has never had one.
- I forgot how horrible the Photoshopped images in Henry’s book are. The show has a bigger budget this season—why not use it to hire an actual artist?
- The fairy tale world is beginning to cross into Storybrooke via weaponry, which leads to some fun visuals: Granny has started wielding her crossbow around town, and Prince Charming charges into Regina’s house with a sword in hand. I’m eager to see how the visual styles of Storybrooke and the fairy tales will intersect in the future.
- Where’s Belle? And where does Pinocchio go?
- I was hoping that this show would take an Angel circa season two turn into the fantastic, and the glimpse of the Enchanted Forest gives me memories of Pylea, which is a very good thing.
- “Sneezy, are you okay? SNEEZY!!!” is my new replacement for “God bless you.”
- “I will not listen to childcare lectures from a man who put his daughter in a box and shipped her to Maine.”
- “Are the nuns still nuns? Or can they… date?”
- Regina: “Oh right, the conscience thing.” Hopper: “It’s what I do.”
- “Come on, boys. It’s off to work we go.” Grumpy gets all the best lines.