‘Once Upon a Time’ Recap (Season 1, Episode 21): Bad Apple
This week on Once Upon a Time, an apple falls very far from the tree.
Regina’s having nightmares about Emma leading the citizens of Storybrooke in a revolt against her. The next morning she realizes her apple tree is dying. She thinks Emma might be weakening the curse. She visits Gold to discuss possible solutions, and they muse that if she were just to kill Emma, the curse would break. Regina wants to strike a deal with Mr. Gold to find a way to get rid of Emma without breaking the curse, but Gold laughs her off–he still seems to want the curse broken as much as anyone.
Meanwhile, Emma’s plan to take Henry away from Storybrooke backfires when the kid refuses to leave and crashes her car. When Emma gets back to her apartment she finds Mary Margaret is pissed at her for trying to run off–she thinks Emma’s becoming the person she used to be before Storybrooke. MM says only Emma can decide what to do about this whole situation, so Emma seeks advice from Archie. Archie thinks that this war between Emma and Regina has been doing more harm than good for Henry–plus, maybe he gave her bad advice when he told her to engage with Henry’s fantasy.
Back in the fairy tale world, King Leopold is about to execute Prince Charming, when Queen Regina interrupts by turning the guillotine blade into water. Show off. She has other plans for Charming–plans that involve using him against Snow White, with a little help from an apple, red as blood. With help from the dwarfs, Red, and Granny, Snow storms the King’s castle to get Charming back. They even get reinforcements from an army of fairies, who help them get past the knights. But when Snow arrives to rescue Charming, it’s too late–she sees him through a magic mirror, but he’s been taken to the Queen’s castle. The Queen invites Snow to a parlay. The meeting place? Back where it all began.
In the present, Regina has called a meeting with Jefferson, everyone’s favorite hatter. She wants his help getting rid of Emma so she can have her son back, and in return, he can have his daughter back, so they can have a fresh start with new lives. Regina has his magic hat, and she needs him to use it to go back to the fairy tale world and find a way to defeat Emma. But in order to make it work in this world, they’re going to need to make use of the small amount of magic Regina keeps in her vault under the graveyard. It turns out not to be enough magic to send them to the fairy tale world… but there is enough to bring through an object. And Regina has an idea… an apple.
In the fairy tale world, despite her friends’ warnings, Snow meets with Queen Regina at the stable by Regina’s old home. Regina shows Snow the grave of her lost love, Daniel the stable boy. Snow finally realizes what this is all about, and begs Regina to stop this war because they’ve suffered enough. Instead, Regina gives Snow an ultimatum: She has to eat the poison apple, which will put her to sleep forever, or else Charming will die. Snow takes one bite of the apple, and collapses to the ground. It falls right into Jefferson’s portal, but nobody notices that. Instead, when Snow’s friends arrive too late, they find her lying on the ground and think she’s dead.
Regina takes her new magic toy and bakes an apple turnover to give to Emma as a peace offering. As luck would have it, Emma’s just come by to make a deal with Regina: she’ll leave town and stop trying to take Henry away, in exchange for occasional visits. The two agree, and Emma takes the evil pastry. Regina gloats to Gold that the curse will soon be stronger than ever.
Meanwhile, Henry has met with August, who tells him that he’s done all he can but Emma just won’t believe in the curse. Knowing he’s on his own now, Henry goes to Emma’s apartment, where he reacts pretty badly to the news that Emma is leaving. When he sees the apple turnover, he realizes Regina’s plan and begs Emma not to eat it. Emma’s about to take a bite to prove that there’s no curse, but Henry gets to it first. To prove to her once and for all that he’s right, he takes a bite of the evil turnover, and sure enough, he collapses instantly.
Ever since the beginning of the season we all knew that we were working toward the point where the classic Snow White tale would finally play out. Now that it’s here, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised with the result. Not all of the updates that this show has made to classic fairy tales has really worked for me, but having Snow White freely choose the apple, rather than being tricked or forced into taking it, was a great moment.
And the reappearance of the apple in Storybrooke wasn’t that surprising either, since an apple tree has always been a prominent feature of Regina’s yard. The roundabout way that was used to bring it to this world was a bit unexpected, as I’d expected the Mad Hatter to be left as a dangling thread for the second season. It looks like he’ll be playing more of a role after all.
As for Mr. Gold, it’s still hard to get a read on exactly what he wants. Does he really want to break the curse now, without having retrieved Baelfire first? With Gold watching from the sidelines this week, we didn’t get much information about this, only cryptic hints. Next week’s finale may clarify things further. But given the certainty of another season, I wouldn’t bet on it quite yet.
Nor would I bet on that curse being broken or even seriously dented. We’re an episode away from the end and Emma still hasn’t accepted that the curse is a reality. But Henry may have finally found the way to change that.
The episode had some strong moments, but overall there’s a feeling that we haven’t been told a complete story. It’s all just setup for the main event next week.
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