ONCE UPON A TIME: “Lady Of The Lake”

Once Upon A Time likes to take things we know and turn them on their head, such as the fact that Aurora and Mulan are comrades in a broken fairytale world, or the fact that even though we thought Regina was bad, her mother Cora truly is the most evil of them all. In last week’s episode, we briefly saw Cora welcome Snow and Emma into the fairytale world. But was she still dangerously powerful? In “ Lady Of The Lake,” we got our answer in the form of a big, resounding yes. Looks like the fairytale world may have lost a villain in Regina, but gained an even more sinister one in Cora – and something tells me we’re not quite done with Barbara Hershey’s storyline just yet.

We’re used to toggling between two worlds, but tonight, we toggled between three – Storybrooke, the modern fairytale world, and the past fairytale world. While all focused on different plotlines, the overall linked theme was the same: acceptance, forgiveness, and the importance of putting family first – all concepts that Once has always grounded itself in.

Let’s recap for a bit. In the past fairytale world, we learned more about Snow and Charming in the days after they were evicted from the kingdom. Most interestingly, we learned about their relationship with Lancelot, who met Snow by capturing her and bringing her to King George. Determined to make her suffer, the King cursed her with a potion that would keep her from bearing any children (Snow kept this secret from Charming, and I’d be curious to know if at any point Charming found out for one reason or another.) Lancelot later redeemed himself by helping Snow and Charming when Charming’s mother was mortally wounded during a surprise attack on her home, and also by accompanying them on their journey to the lake where Charming once met the Sirens. Since the lake had magical properties, Charming believed that the water could possibly save his mother from dying.

But of course, most simple fixes aren’t that easy – and when Snow and Charming arrived, they found out the lake was no longer viable and that there was only enough water for one person. Charming’s mother pretended to use it to save herself, but we later found out that she tricked Snow into drinking it so that Snow could have a chance to bear a child for their family.

The explanation of Lancelot’s impact and importance in Snow’s life was imperative to understanding why she took to him so quickly in the modern day fairytale world, and why she felt such a kindred towards her old friend. Desperate to find a way back to Storybrooke, Snow had the idea to return home to the castle and find the wardrobe that had been created for Emma – perhaps it still worked as a portal. A reluctant Aurora (still bitter from Phillip’s death) and a more rational Mulan accompanied Emma and Snow on their journey, where the group bravely faced an ogre attack and Snow found out that shooting arrows is just like riding a bike (Emma, meanwhile, found out that guns don’t exactly work in fairytale world.) I’m loving that we’re getting to see more of Mulan’s character, and I can only hope that Jamie Chung’s continued involvement means there’s a back story in the works at some point this season.

Emma, Snow, Mulan and Aurora ended up making it back to the castle, where Emma got a glimpse of her old nursery for the first time. They were met by Lancelot, whom Snow smartly figured out was actually Cora. Apparently, Cora had been impersonating a dead Lancelot for quite some time while she searched for a way out of this world. In a desperate attempt at thwarting Cora’s plan to escape, Emma used fire to torch the wardrobe – later apologizing to Snow and explaining that she had to put her concern for Henry first.

When Emma and Snow were initially transported to the fairytale world in the premiere, I mentioned how it would be interesting to see how Emma fared in an entirely different world just after getting used to the realization her parents were Snow White and Prince Charming. In that sense, I enjoyed how this episode really focused on Emma being out of her element. In Storybrooke, we spent much of last season with Emma being the one to comfort, teach and nurture Mary Margaret. Fairytale world is allowing the tables to turn and giving Snow a chance to become a real mother to Emma, by teaching her the ways of the land and schooling her in her past. We’ve had lots of emotional moments between the two ladies throughout the series so far and I’ve always found their relationship to be nothing short of believable – however, this is actually the first time I felt the tangible presence of a mother/daughter vibe, particularly within one of the final scenes where a tearful and vulnerable Emma finally lets down her guard and admits she’s not used to people putting her first. And maybe it took one season and three episodes, but it seems that Emma’s finally moving towards an acceptance of her feelings, which hopefully means that she’s also moving towards an acceptance of the fairytale life she’s been so reluctant to embrace.

Our Storybrooke plotline was essentially a continuation of David and Henry working to find a way to get their family back, with David finally realizing that perhaps it was time to accept Henry deserved to do more than sit around. But the main Storybrooke moments lay with Jefferson, who finally came to terms with being able to face his daughter. Their reunion was actually one of my favorite scenes of the night thanks to the always amazing Sebastian Stan, and I truly hope that this isn’t the end of Jefferson’s storyline even if we have to go awhile without seeing him again.

As this episode was a more driven by plot rather than over-arching mythology, I personally don’t have much in the way of theories. However, the fact that Snow and Charming were apparently married before their huge formal wedding is something I’m curious to explore – and I would say that perhaps they needed a big wedding just for show, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason was more complicated. And as much as everyone wants to keep her away, I am personally rooting for Cora’s arrival – not only because it would open an entirely new can of worms for our fairytale folk, but because I am absolutely gunning to see a reunion between Cora and Regina. Hear that, Eddy and Adam?

Final Thoughts:

  • I’ve been lax about picking out the smaller moments in this show that add to the viewing experience but what specifically caught my eye tonight were the red apples in Regina’s office being the only splash of color among an otherwise black and white theme.
  • We closed the episode out with an ominous shot of Daddy – apparently alive and well – watching his son and apparent great-grandson from a distance. I’m not surprised that King George made his way to Storybrooke…but I am curious to know more about where he’s been hiding for the past season. Did he come over by his own portal? Or has he been here all along, biding his time because he didn’t remember who he was? Was he locked up somewhere like Belle was? I know we’ll get answers to these questions at some point down the road, but for now, I’m enjoying the speculation.
  • Cora returned to the nursery following the departure of Snow and Emma to pick up the enchanted wood shavings of the wardrobe, and it made me wonder if we could be seeing her in Storybrooke sooner than we thought. Consider the fact that with Regina’s recent transformation and the curse being broken, she’s no longer considered as much of the “Big Bad” as she was last season. If King George makes his presence known as well (which I’m betting he will), it would effectively add two new villains to the mix – which could certainly help propel the show forward for the rest of the season.

What did you think of the episode? What are your thoughts on Lancelot? Share below!

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