The Author proves to be a formidable wild card and forges an alliance with Gold. Emma and her comrades scramble to stop them, but when the tables are turned on heroes and villains alike, the prospect of any happy outcome appears worlds away. Henry discovers he has big shoes to fill as he steps up to save his family before the story's final page is turned.
Previously on Once Upon a Time...
Mr. Gold stares down at his dark heart, which has turned almost entirely black. He is soon seen telling Regina that he's dying, but she refuses to believe that the Dark One could perish in such a manner; he confirms her beliefs, but adds that Rumplestiltskin is perfectly capable of doing so. ("Mother") Regina tells Henry that she wants to find who wrote his book and ask them to write her a happy ending. ("Rocky Road") "Now then," Rumple says from the floor of his shop, "It's time villains finally win." Isaac has been provided with the enchanted ink he needs as well as a new book to write in, entitled "Heroes and Villains". He dips his magic quill into the ink and begins to write with the words, "Once Upon A Time...". ("Mother")
Exactly what it says on the tin.
A noble steed is seen galloping through a medieval forest, outmatched only by the brave knight in shining armor who sits atop the its back. The knight continues to ride, off to do whatever it is that heroes do, and the shot begins to move out just as the horse raises its front two hooves off of the ground, whinnying. We see that all this is being shown on a rather outdated television screen, with the title "KNIGHT OF VALOR" appearing over it, followed by the words "in VIBRAcolor". It's all just been a glimpse of an old TV show, although, based on the signs around it which express the newness of color, it is rather contemporary. The show's epic theme music continues to play, and we are shown that a middle aged couple are watching it in an electronics store.
This guy fancies himself some kind of White Knight.
The husband turns to his wife and questions if they really need a color television, but Isaac soon steps into frame and questions in turn what his potential customer has just said. There is tinsel and other Christmas decorations about, as well as a Christmas song playing in the background. He asks if they should have to settle for what came before and wonders if they don't want to really see the world, for it's a complicated place and its people are complex creatures; their interior lives are painted with so many hues and shades, and the Zenith Marseille Color TV brings the profound complications of the universe right into your living room. "Does it have a clicker?" the man asks simply, which confuses Isaac. The customer reiterates his inquiry, miming the action of changing the channel to make clear just what it is he's referring to, and another nearby salesman - Hank - holds up just such an item as he reveals that it's actually called a "space command remote". He hands it to the man and tells him that it's included in the price, leading the latter to say that now they're talking. Hank sees the lightning tattoo on his customer's arm and realizes that he was a Ranger, which the man confirms, adding that he was in the 25th Infantry Division. He asks if Hank was in the service as well, and he answers positively, revealing himself to have been a part of 187th Airborne, Company A - and he and his comrades heard a lot about this customer's unit.
Something good comes in the mail.
He commends him on being a real hero, before suggesting that he and his wife take the TV and its space command remote out on a "test drive" to see how it feels, and they seem to like this idea; Hank then turns to Isaac and grimaces, gesturing for him to meet him in the back room of the store. Isaac flashes one last grin at the couple before walking away with his boss, who asks him what the hell he was doing. "Rambling on about weird technical crap? You're supposed to be selling!" Isaac insists that he was, but Hank disagrees, saying that what his employee was really doing was sending them across the street to Gimbels. He reminds him that he hired him because he said he wanted to be a writer, and Isaac insists that he is one. However, Hank makes clear that the stacks of rejected manuscripts in the break room don't count; "But I figured you knew something about telling stories - that's how you sell! But now I get why you don't have a picture on the back of a book yet: you don't tell stories people want." The presumable store manager straightens his suit before re-approaching the middle aged couple, while Isaac appears shaken by what's just been said to him. He begins to sort through his pile of mail, and soon discovers an envelope from a publishing company, suggesting to himself that what Hank told him is about to change. The letter within is torn out, and Isaac decreases it. It's from Star Publishing, and according to what they've written they'd like to meet with him - the addressee - immediately. Isaac is deeply excited.
An unorthodox meeting.
The logo of Star Publishing is written on the window of their office door, which Isaac soon steps through with his letter in tow. He shuts it behind him and appears surprised by all the empty space inside, taking a few steps forward and calling out for someone. Unsure of himself, he checks the address written on the envelope, but is reassured that he's in the correct place. "Over here," someone soon says, and Isaac turns to see the Sorcerer's Apprentice sitting at a desk. He introduces himself, revealing his surname to be Heller, but the Apprentice already knows who he is, beckoning him to have a seat opposite him. Isaac obliges, popping his beloved letter down on the desk before he does so, while the bearded man in front of him lays down five distinctly different pens, all equally spaced apart. Confused, Isaac just says that he's never met a publisher before, and thusly he isn't quite sure how all of this works; he wonders if there's a contract or something similar regarding the publishing of one of his books, but the Apprentice says that he thinks he'll find their organization does things a bit... differently.
Isaac becomes the Author.
Isaac nods, and the Apprentice implores him to choose one of the pens he's laid out, leading the struggling author to say that he's actually more of an IBM Selectric kind of guy. The Apprentice again tells him to choose one, and so Isaac decides to rise to the task, standing up to look properly at the five pens he's been presented with. He wonders if this is maybe some kind of signing bonus, adding that the last time he got a fountain pen was for his Bar Mitzvah, and the Apprentice makes clear that this is a test - they need to know what could of writer he really is. "Choose the one that calls out to you," he suggests, and Isaac struggles, eventually deciding upon the fine fountain pen in the center. It glows with a magic blue light and the new Author is shocked, demanding to know what the hell that was. The Apprentice explains that it's a sign - one that Isaac is to be their next Author. He explains further that the last one just recently passed away, and Isaac wonders what he is the Author of, to which the old man simply says that there is much to explain, before asking how Isaac would like to take a trip.
And the receiver of a whole new destiny.
Isaac reveals that he isn't so great with traveling, never having gone further than Scarsdale, and the Apprentice knows this, standing up and handing Isaac the fountain pen he earlier dropped as he declares that that is about to change. Isaac reaches out slowly and takes the pen from this mysterious stranger, who proceeds to make an odd gesture with his hands while stating that the time has come to stop selling televisions. Behind said television salesman, a door has appeared to another land. The Apprentice opens it with his magic after adding that the time has come to take on the most important job in all the realms, having stepped out from behind the desk, and Isaac is shocked to see a forest residing through this magical entrance way. "You can see that?" the Apprentice questions, to which Isaac replies, "I see it but I don't believe it." "Actually," says the old man, "The fact that you can see it tells me that you do believe." "Believe in what?" "In magic. I think it is time that you find your destiny. Come with me, and all of your questions will be answered." Isaac stares down at his new enchanted quill, and smiles in agreement.
ONCE UPON A TIME
The mansion is scoured, for some reason.
With Isaac having begun rewriting everyone's happy endings, the race is on for our heroes to stop him, and so they have decided to search through the Sorcerer's mansion to see what's being altered. Empty potential storybooks are thrown about the secret room as Regina, who's searching through them with the others, declares that she's found nothing; they're all still blank, and so whatever the Author is writing isn't appearing in the books. Robin approaches with a fresh pile in tow, telling her to take it easy when she declares this task useless and shoves more books off of the surface she's working on, and he adds that this isn't her fault. Regina says that, even so, tomorrow she could wake up a talking frog thanks to Gold and the Author. "At least you'll wake up," Hook points out, not doubting that whatever the Dark One has in store for him is a far worse fate. David, who's also searching books along with Mary Margaret, Emma and Henry, says that there's no use in speculating what Rumple wants, for they simply need to stop it, and if there's nothing useful in the mansion then they need to move on and find something else than can help them.
August arrives to help.
"I might know just the thing," reveals August W. Booth as he enters the chamber of books, and Charming appears surprised to see him, having thought that he didn't know any more about the Author. Emma assures that he doesn't, but he knows someone who does - and that's why she called him there. Mary Margaret wonders who this other person is, and August reveals him to be the man who gave Isaac his power: the Apprentice. He met him once when he was living in Phuket; he was the one who told him about the original storybook and that he should learn everything about it. David wonders if August would be able to find the Apprentice if he's in Storybrooke, and the former puppet replies that he hasn't seen him, but - he takes a drawing out of his pocket - "That's what he looks like." Hook is surprised to be confronted by this sketch, revealing that he knows this man (see "The Apprentice"). This is news to Emma, and the others, and the pirate finishes by adding that, more importantly, he knows exactly where to find him.
Blue works some magic.
The Sorcerer's hat box rests at the center of the floor in the Apprentice's house, and the shot moves up to reveal Emma and Hook as the latter guiltily laments having trapped the old man to begin with. The savior assures her boyfriend that Gold is to blame, not him, and says that Blue should be able to get him out after having been trapped in the hat herself. Hook looks to Mother Superior, who's backed by Regina, Mary Margaret, David, Henry, Robin and August, and asks if she doesn't need the Dark One's dagger; however, she believes that she'll be able to unlock the hat's contents if she uses something that belonged to the Apprentice. Hook spots the formerly magic broom resting up against the wall and passes it to Blue using his good hand. She takes it, nods, and lays it down on the floor beside the hat box, kneeling down herself as she outstretches her hands and works her fairy magic. Soon enough, the broom connects to the hat in a flash of yellow light, and the starry pattern begins to spin.
The Apprentice is freed from the hat.
In an even brighter, more significant flash of magic, the Apprentice is released in his entirety, ending up back on the chair he was sitting on when he was sucked inside in the first place. Emma wonders if he's alright and he confirms that he is, but quickly gets to his feet for he believes that there is no time to waste: Isaac has abused his power for too long, and the time has come to set things right. There is a momentary lapse in speech when the powerful wizard spots Hook, the man who trapped him, and the pirate indeed appears guilty. However, this moment is overlooked when Regina asks how the Apprentice plans to go about stopping the Author. He says that Isaac needs to be put back where he can't harm anyone - in the book. He will thusly need the page with the painted door and the key that belongs to it; the Author will be returned to his prison and this time, the Apprentice would wager, none of them would set him free again. Henry reveals the page to be back at the apartment, and so Emma tells he, Hook and her parents to go retrieve it, wishing them to be careful because if Gold's smart then he'll go after the page too.
Isaac can relate to Gold.
Mr. Gold appears very weak as he sits on the floor of his shop. Isaac is standing at the counter, writing in the book entitled "Heroes and Villains" with his enchanted pen and ink, and tells the Dark One to hang in there and not let his heart turn to coal just yet. He assures him that he'll be fine - better than ever - and Rumple proceeds to wonder why the Author has decided to help him; he has the quill now, and so no longer needs anything, but Isaac reveals that the two of them are a lot alike, both having struggled mightily for happiness all their lives. Rumple got power and became the Dark One, but he's never been the Content One, and Isaac knows what that's like: to always have dissatisfaction gnawing at you and watching other people's happiness bloom. It's time for a world where up is down and villains can have happy endings, and the Author's declaration of this leads Gold to wonder just what his ending looks like, suggesting that he'll maybe give himself a castle or treasure.
Baelfire is discussed.
Isaac laughs at the idea of living in the Enchanted Forest, asking Rumple if he thinks he likes dysentery and a forty year life expectancy - "No, no, that's your world. I like room service and indoor plumbing. You're welcome to a happy ending in your land, I'll take one in mine." Rumple staggers with pain from his ever-worsening heart and orders the Author to continue with the writing, which he does. However, there's one last detail he needs to hash out: the matter of Rumple's son Baelfire. The Dark One orders the scribe not to toy with him, knowing that magic can't bring back the dead, and Isaac confirms this. His quill and ink can only change the past which they create, which is why he has to write the new stories from this moment forward and into the future. But, in Rumple's new life he can be made to forget his son. Rumple refuses to let this happen, ever, but does request a slight adjustment to his memories. He would like a world where he remembers doing right by his boy; where he may be gone, but Rumple can live with that loss; where Bae sees him as a hero, right to the end. "I think I can do that," Isaac assures, "And, with that last piece, it's time to finish..." He begins to write the final sentences.
The End is nigh.
Meanwhile, outside, Emma, Regina and the Apprentice can be seen hastily making their way to Gold's shop in order to stop the Dark One in his tracks.
David, Mary Margaret, Hook and Henry rush into the apartment at the same time, with the latter pointing out his storybook to the pirate before rushing upstairs to his bedroom to retrieve the page. Hook uses his namesake hook to grab the young man's backpack, retrieving the book entitled "Once Upon a Time" from therein.
Emma, Regina and the Apprentice get closer to Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer, hoping to prevent what's going on before it's too late.
However, it already is too late. The Author writes the final two words in the book - "The End" - and dots them with a period. This mark of finality allows the magic to be worked, and Isaac and Gold exchange one last look to one another as great flashing lights emanate from this last page, affecting all of Storybrooke.
The key to the painted door remains in Henry's hand as he wakes up suddenly on his bedroom rug, sitting up in shock. He checks himself for the key and soon finds it within his own palm, then getting to his feet and calling out for his grandparents. He rushes down the apartment stairs, but Mary Margaret, David nor Hook are anywhere to be seen. The young man begins to worry now, especially when he sees his storybook - "Once Upon a Time" - abandoned on the floor. He looks around, without a clue as to what's just happened.
We are treated to a shot of a parked car, its lights blinking solemnly, before the shot pans to reveal the entirely empty streets of Storybrooke, save for Henry who's made his way out of the apartment. He is walking down the middle of Main Street, calling out for anyone. There are no replies, and so he just continues walking and calling out "Hello?!". He wants someone to be there, but no one is. Everyone in town has completely vanished. Henry proceeds to make his way through more of the road, still hopeful. He goes past abandoned shops and gardens, before making it to Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer. He peers in through the window before entering, and a record is seen to be spinning continuously in a nearby gramophone, making nothing but scratching sounds. It is approached by the young man and he lifts the needle off of it, switching off the base so that the record ceases its turning. It's deathly quiet now, and Henry finds himself turning to all the parked cars outside.
One such car is next seen being driven by Henry out of Storybrooke, pulling up outside a diner far from town. A waitress from inside this diner sees the particularly fast car and the young man who steps out of it. Henry proceeds to enter the establishment, and the waitress continues to look confused. She compliments him on his "nice parking job", before asking if he's old enough to drive. "Yeah," he lies, "Are you? I need some help." He then takes a small stack of photographs from out of his inside pocket and displays them on the counter. One is of him and Regina, the next of David, the one after that of Mary Margaret and Emma, and the final one of Emma and Henry. He asks if the waitress has seen any of these people, but, after taking a fairly good look at the photographs, she declares that she has not. Urgently, he reveals these people to be his family, so he needs the waitress to be sure. She suggests that he wait here while she asks some of the others, and the kid nods, waiting patiently as the waitress walks away and retrieves her cell phone. He hears her tell some sort of emergency services that she thinks he's a runaway, and so he quickly gathers his photographs in a need to leave. But, as he turns around, he sees something that shocks him - a book on the book stand entitled "Heroes and Villains", by Isaac Heller. The cover features a knight slaying a dragon, and, according to the yellow band at the top, it is a New York Ledger bestseller. Henry lifts it off the shelf, not sure what to make of it, before turning it around and seeing the Author's face printed on the back cover.
Isaac talks to his fans.
According to the sign outside, a book signing, by Isaac Heller, is taking place for his new bestseller - "Heroes and Villains". Inside the building, Isaac himself stands before a podium with a picture of his own face grafted behind him. A cheering crowd stands in front, and he thanks them very much for their enthusiasm, before modestly insisting that he's not worthy of such appreciation. After more clapping and squeals, they take a seat; Isaac begins this little press event by saying into the microphone that someone once told him that he doesn't tell stories people want, which the crowd laughs raucously at. He continues in telling them to write what they're passionate about, for that's what matters most, and he receives a round of applause for his words. He proceeds to hold up his own copy of "Heroes and Villains" as he explains that it's close to his heart, having been a passion product of his for longer than any of them would believe. "I wrote it because I think folks are sick of heroes getting everything in these classic fairytales, hence the radically different ending for Snow White, Prince Charming and all the rest. Something different for a modern audience. What happens when villains win the day?" There is another, far more zealous round of applause.
Special guest starring Lily Sparks.
Soon, the crowd can be seen forming a line with their copies of the book, laughing and reading, while Isaac sits at a table and signs someone's copy. They walk away with it, and another fan steps forward. He signs their book also, and they too walk away. "Long live Regina!" exclaims a particularly avid fan as she approaches the table with her copy, placing it down for it to be signed. He indeed signs it, but she holds up the line by asking to please give him a present - a little token of her love for the world that he's created - and hands him a badge featuring the words that she herself has just espoused: "Long Live Regina!" She claims that Regina is her favorite character, and Isaac agrees that she is a "real doozy". The fan comments that her life is just so unfair, wanting to know if she's going to be getting a happy ending in the sequel. She begs for an answer, so Isaac says that sure he can tell her. He beckons her to lean in close, and he whispers in her ear, "She... Sorry, no spoilers! You'll have to buy the next book when it's finished." The fan leans back, laughing, before being on her way; Isaac stuffs the badge she gave him into his inside pocket, shocked to see that the next thing handed to him on the table is the page with the illustration of the door he was once trapped inside. Henry is the one who set it down, and Isaac demands to know what the young man is doing there. However, Henry demands in turn to know what Isaac did with his family, and where they are. Isaac claims not to have any idea what he's talking about, but Henry insists that he's lying, revealing himself to have the key to the door and telling the Author that he knows what this does - "So you either give me some answers, or I open this door again and you get a whole new ending."
Henry threatens the now former Author.
Copies of the book are seen strewn about everywhere, as well as packed into boxes in some sort of loading dock. Henry stares at them before Isaac approaches, saying that - much to the chagrin of his publicist - the young man now has his undivided attention. Henry asks where his family is, to which Isaac questions if he really wants to know. "Look around you," he adds, gesturing all the books, "They're all right here. In my bestselling book." Henry is shocked and confused, wanting to know what that means exactly, but when the Author remains silent he holds the key up the page and demands to know if they're still alive. Isaac tells him to take it easy before assuring that his family is fine, and, if he wants to get technical; "They're in here." As he says this, he takes out the original copy of "Heroes and Villains" that Mr. Gold had him write in. He sets it down on a box, explaining what it is and how he always wanted to write it. They all live in there now in a kind of alternate reality. "You made them miserable," Henry laments, causing Isaac to realize that he read some of his book. He's glad about this, and says that Henry should know that everyone got the ending they deserved - except Emma, of course, who can't be found in the book because there was no room for a savior in Isaac's world. Henry commands the man before him to bring back his loved ones, or else the key is used, but Isaac reveals that he can't because he doesn't have the power. The cardinal rules of the Authors is "don't write your own happy ending" and, as the young man can see, Isaac broke that rule.
Into the book.
So his pen, which he removes from the same satchel the book was in, is just a pen now, and he is nothing more than a bestselling writer with legions of fans and a penthouse overlooking Central Park. "You can't get them out? Then give me the book and I will!" Henry decides, grabbing the original copy and trying to move away from Isaac. However, the latter isn't going to let this happen; he too grabs the book and wrestles Henry for it, managing to snatch it back. He then bursts out laughing, asking the kid if he knows why he's still out there. "Because you're not from a magical world. So, take it from me, you will never be a knight in shining armor! You're just a poor, innocent child who needs saving! So why don't you put the key away and, uh, stick to the role you're best at." Isaac begins waling away, but a deeply angered Henry quickly tackles him to the ground, causing the original copy to go sliding along the floor. Henry crawls for it, the key in tow, and starts to rapidly turn the pages. Isaac questions what he's going to do, wondering if he might tear up the book, but Henry is just desperately searching for any page that contains some sort of door. He eventually finds an illustration of a village and sticks the key into one of the hut entrances, causing a yellow burst of light to emanate outwards. Isaac begs the kid not to be stupid, but it's too late - the light comes forth and draws Henry into the book.
Henry finally steps foot in the Enchanted Forest.
A village matching the exact illustration from the book is then shown to us, before a yellow light shines down and Henry falls from it, landing on the floor of the Enchanted Forest. He is coughing, and struggles to get to his feet. Still holding the key, he looks around and realizes both where he is and how he got there, proceeding to pocket the thing. He smiles, checking out the rustic fairytale furniture and all else that his surroundings contain, and soon spots a sword half-buried in the mud. He quickly goes to pick it up, wielding it like a true hero and saying to himself, "Cool." However, as he lowers the blade, Isaac approaches and asks the kid if he feels like a real hero now. Henry is surprised to see him there, but, before he can react, the now former Author tells him not to get used to it. He carries a shield - one that presumably goes with the sword in Henry's hand - and whacks the young man around the face with it, knocking him out.
Isaac leaves Henry to die.
When Henry comes to, he is tied by his wrists to an overturned wagon, struggling to get free. Isaac, the culprit behind this, sits nearby and comments that they're both now trapped in the book - "Congratulations. Let me tell you about this place: it's cold, there's no running water and things are always trying to kill you." Henry demands to be let go, but Isaac refuses, saying that this book they're in has worked out quite nicely for him and he doesn't need the young man to go running around changing things; this is Isaac's story, and no hero gets a happy ending. Henry asks why, wondering if that would somehow destroy the book, and Isaac's silence leads him to realize that that's what the former Author is afraid of. Isaac states that it doesn't matter, for Henry brought them into the final chapter. "How do you know?" Henry wonders, to which Isaac replies, "I know because I wrote it. And I know how it ends - with the loud tolling of bells at sunset. When you hear that sound, it'll mean we've reached the last page. The book will end, and everything will remain exactly how I wrote it."
Shrek is love, Shrek is life.
There is the sudden and mighty roar of an ogre, and Henry looks up in shock as the massive beast approaches the village he's trapped in. Isaac comments that it's "right on time", while Henry is left to wonder what it even is. The man who wrote all of this explains that it's the exciting incident of this chapter: an ogre attack. "And you know what they say, you don't have to be faster than the ogre, you just have to be faster than the next guy." He walks away, leaving Henry to die, and the ogre continues to approach. It senses the captive child and stares down at him, roaring harshly in his face and creating a heavy wind with its breath. Henry begs for help, and, as if by miracle, a knight in shining, golden armor can be seen riding a valiant white steed up a hill and towards the attack taking place. The ogre turns to the knight, lifting its hand so as to grab him, but the hero simply waves his arm and emanates light magic from his palm. This magic hits the ogre at its center and causes it to collapse to the ground, dead, much to the joy of the villagers who only now step out from their huts.
Rumplestiltskin has become his polar opposite.
One such villager announces the monster's demise, praising the Ogre Slayer on having saved them. She then approaches the slayer himself and thanks him directly, wanting to repay him somehow, but Rumplestiltskin lifts the visor of his helmet and tells her that good deeds are their own reward; "This comes with no price." Henry is stunned to see his inherently evil grandfather in such a getup, and the great and noble purveyor of light magic then uses his powers to free the boy of the ropes that bind him. Henry walks free of the wagon, and Rumple asks him if he's alright; however, Henry has been rendered speechless, and so the Ogre Slayer simply asks him his name. "Henry," he says, which is met by, "I am Rumplestiltskin, a knight, at your service." Rumple asks if Henry has any family around here, and Henry replies that he thinks so. Thus, Rumple suggests that he runs home for his supper because he, in the meantime, has another village to save. Drawing down his visor, the brave knight turns around on his white horse and rides off to the cheers of grateful villagers. Henry, after seeing this, searches his inside pockets and finds a copy Isaac's book, turning the pages toward the end so as to figure out where to go from here. He begins walking.
"'Many deadly traps were set to protect the forest hideaway,'" Henry reads aloud from his copy of the book as he makes his way through the woods, looking for somewhere specific. "'A pit trap under the cedar tree,'" he looks up to see said tree, and said trap, and carefully goes around it, "'A falling log hung just beyond,'" he spots this deadly, spike-ridden log and cautiously steps over the tripwire that activates it, "'And, finally, at the center of the willow forest, there was a rustic version of... home.'" Henry then notices the large, hollowed-out log (see "Snow Falls") that he's been making his way toward and pockets the book as he approaches the entrance. He calls through it, hoping for a reply, but the only response he gets is someone from behind telling him to turn around slowly. He obliges, and finds nothing other than the bandit Regina pointing her bow and arrow right at him; she is wearing the same camouflaged outfit that's often been seen adorning Snow White during her time on the lam, and she demands to know who this mysterious boy is and what he wants. "My name's Henry," he reveals, "And I'm your son." (see "Pilot") The bandit is unsure of how to react.
Isaac gets a new idea.
Isaac, meanwhile, is approaching the overturned wagon that he earlier tied Henry to, praying to himself that the young man was killed by the ogre. However, when he makes it to the other side, he is shocked to see that the ogre is dead and the boy is gone, then wondering how he could forget his own work because he himself wrote that the Ogre Slayer would come along and save everybody from the vicious monster. He begins to worry about the repercussions of Henry's escape, knowing that he could change the book and ruin everything. But, suddenly, the former Author has an idea as how to prevent this from happening, and he walks away as this formulates into a plan.
Henry is down in Regina's forest hideout trying to convince her that what he's saying is true. However, the bandit is hesitant to believe that she's a character in a book who's supposed to live in a place called Maine where she became his adopted mother after someone named Emma gave him up. Henry, clutching the photographs that he earlier showed to the waitress, begs his mother to remember, and she stares at him in an oddly enlightened manner. "Well, now that I think about it... this does make me wonder one thing..." Henry smiles, hopeful, with Regina having gotten up to say this to his face. But then she finishes by drawing a pocket knife and holding it to his throat, demanding, "Who sent you?!" "Mom, please, nobody sent me," he promises, but she implores him to stop calling her that. She wonders if he's working for the Queen and he denies it, assuring that he can help her, but she wonders further what it is she needs help with. He reveals that he can aid her in finding a happy ending and, in his world, they called it "Operation Mongoose". She moves the knife closer to his throat, and then... she laughs.
Regina burns the book.
She pushes him away playfully and comments upon the silliness of that name. As she puts her knife away, he says that it was her idea, and she comes to realize that he actually believes this, then assuming that he's crazy. He insists otherwise, adding that he can prove it. He takes Isaac's book from out of his pocket and says that it's a copy of the story they're trapped in. She demands a look at the thing and so snatches it away, beginning to flick through the pages. She finds the point in the story that they're at and sees that it says she's going to rob a royal tax carriage today to buy passage out of the kingdom, shutting the book and demanding to know how it knew all that. "It can see my future?!" she worries, and Henry says that it's something like that. If that's the case, however, then Regina wants no part in it, and so she throws the book into the fire she started to keep warm. Henry cries out in defiance, rushing to his burning guide through this land in an attempt to save it. All he's able to do is tear out a page containing a map from the middle, while Regina has exited her woodland den.
Operation Mongoose is declared well and truly dead.
On the outside, Regina makes sure that no one is about before stepping fully out of the hollowed-out log; Henry follows, to her annoyance. She says that he should go back to whatever world he thinks he's from, but he reveals that he can't do that until she finds true love. This causes the bandit to laugh and tell the young man that he's stuck, because such a thing is never going to happen for her, and Henry goes on to explain that her soul mate's name is Robin Hood and he thinks that the only way for them to escape this book is for her to find him in a tavern and kiss him, for true love's kiss can fix anything. Another laugh and Regina turns around, deciding that this kid really is crazy before telling him that if she ever meets Robin Hood in person then the only thing he gets is a broken nose. She jokingly pretends to punch her unbeknownst son and pushes him away, wanting to continue on without him. However, he keeps on following her and asks what she's talking about, which leads the fugitive to reveal that Robin is her competition - every robbery she plans, he beats her to it; he's the reason she's stuck in this kingdom. "Why am I still talking to you?" she finds herself questioning, to which Henry suggests that it's because he's her son. This makes Regina sigh. She proceeds to lean in close and say that if he read about her in that book then he knows she has to go - "The Queen wants me dead. She thinks I ruined her life." "Did you?" he asks, and she admits, "Yes. (see "Snow Falls" and "There's No Place Like Home") So, if it's happy endings you're after... look someplace else." She runs off through the woods and Henry just stands there, hopelessly allowing her to leave.
The seven dwarfs converge on Isaac.
Isaac is searching for Henry in the forest, wanting to know where he went and suggesting that he come on out so he can help him, but suddenly he missteps and springs a trap, being suspended in a rope net between some trees - similar to Snow White when she was captured by Prince Charming (see "Snow Falls" and "There's No Place Like Home"). He appears frightened and confused, and through the ropes he notices short men dressed all in black beginning to approach, accompanied by the sound of eerie whistling. It's the seven dwarfs - Grumpy, Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy - and they're all wielding their deadly name-bearing pickaxes; they're all villains. "Oh, no... not these guys..." the former Author utters from within his net as the seven Queen's men converge. Grumpy laughs, sarcastically welcoming this trespasser to the Queen's woods, and Isaac begs that the dwarf not kill him. Grumpy raises his pickaxe nonetheless... but he uses it to cut the net down, thus making it so that Isaac falls onto the floor. He's free, but still surrounded. The other dwarfs begin to search him, despite his protests, and Happy soon finds something hidden in his inside pocket, handing it to Grumpy. It's the badge that the fan earlier gave to him - that one which reads "Long Live Regina!" - and the dwarfs are less than pleased with its slogan. Grumpy deduces that he's a trespasser and a traitor, and, before Isaac can explain himself, the dwarf exclaims, "Heigh ho, boys! It's off to work we go." Isaac is knocked out by the butt of Grumpy's axe, and the screen turns to black.
A prisoner is brought before the new Evil Queen.
When we return, we are treated to a behind shot of Snow White as she somberly makes her way through the hallways of the Dark Palace - she is the Queen in this reality, and dressed in the kind of black ensemble one would expect to see being sported by Regina in the fairytale land that was. Shrill and unnerving music accommodates her welcome to the scene, and with an elegant flick of her wrist she uses her magic to open the door at the end of the hall, proceeding to enter the throne room. She has been made up darkly and with an air of wickedness, using her deadly gaze to condescend Isaac as he is being forced to kneel in her presence following his capture by the seven dwarfs. The Queen barely looks her frightened prisoner in the eye, instead opting to turn to Grumpy and aim a steady finger at him, commanding, "You. Speak." He is alarmed at first to be addressed by her highness, hurriedly espousing his words as he explains that this man was found in the Queen's woods. He then hands the Evil monarch the badge that was on Isaac's person at the time, and she takes it from him while hardly moving a muscle.
"Get in here!"
"'Long live Regina'," she reads aloud, "Not very likely." She then tosses it to one side without a care in the world, finally making eye contact with the man on his knees as she adds, "Although she'll certainly live longer than you." Stepping forward, she wonders what should be removed first, unable to decide between Isaac's fingers or his ears. He begs earnestly for nothing to be removed, insisting that he hates Regina as much as she does, and claims to be on the Queen's side. "Technically you're at my feet," Snow points out, and Isaac continues in saying that the two of them want the same thing - to keep everything in this realm exactly how it is, with her in charge. He explains that a boy just arrived in this land who fancies himself a hero; he wants to take away everything Snow has, and somebody has to stop him. Tantalized by this news, Snow raises the enchanted heart in her hand to her mouth so as to speak into it, ordering whoever's heart it is to get in there. Isaac appears glad that finally someone is listening to him, while Snow's entrapped huntsman - dressed familiarly - makes his way past various plates of red apples and towards the center of the throne room.
Snow White's reluctant huntsman.
"No need to yell, Snow," assures Prince Charming, the Queen's unwilling servant, "I will always find you." "I'm sorry, you will always find me what?" she requests, and he reluctantly amends himself to say, "I will always find you, your majesty." Snow takes great pleasure in hearing this, then requesting with Charming's heart in her hand that he help her with something: "Remove his head." Charming has no choice but to oblige, unsheathing and lifting his sword, but a shocked Isaac protests, trying to inform them that he knows important things as he's shoved further to the ground by two faceless Black Knights. The huntsman prepares to decapitate the prisoner, but as he readies to swing, Isaac manages to exclaim, "I know who Snow White truly loves!" This causes Charming to falter, and Snow, who's turned around by this point, turns around yet again to face the man whose execution she just ordered. Charming's sword lightly pokes Isaac's neck as he demands to know what he just said, and the former Author recalls that the huntsman had a twin brother named James and he was the one Snow truly loved... before the tragedy.
Her majesty is happy to oblige.
Grumpy tries stepping in, suggesting to his Queen that he kill the prisoner instead and save anyone else the trouble, but Snow coldly decides to let the man speak, and so Isaac is relieved of the Black Knight's pressure and the poking of Charming's sword. Slowly getting to his feet, he is asked how he knows this, and Isaac explains that he learned it from a magical book; it told him everything about this land, including her story. James was cruel, like her, and they understood each other, falling in love because of this. It was everything. But then, because of Regina, he died. So, Snow took Charming's heart and she forced him to be hers... but it never satisfied her. He's just a pale imitation of his brother. It's a sad story, but it can still have a happy ending - or so Isaac promises. "How...?" the Queen wishes to know, and Isaac says that he knows exactly where to find Regina: revenge can be Snow's. She almost smiles at this, before asking what it is that her prisoner wants in return, except from his life. He tells her that the boy he spoke of - Henry - will be trying to help Regina... he wants the Queen to kill them both. Snow White really smiles now. With blood lust etched upon her pale face, she responds with one simple word: "Gladly."
Old enemies catch up.
One of the Evil Queen's royal tax carriages is seen riding through her woods, presumably housing all sorts of treasures. However, as it moves forward, Regina is seen hiding in the aside forestry, readying a sling-shot. She fires a rock from it, and the carriage's driver is suddenly knocked out, giving the bandit enough time to run at the door with her pocket knife and use the blade to pick the lock once the horses finally stop. Upon opening the door, Regina gasps - as it turns out, there are no treasures inside after all... but the Evil Queen Snow White herself, now dressed in a slick red number. "Surprised to see me?" she asks upon the utterance of her name; as she steps out of the carriage, Regina tries taking a step back, only to be kept in position by Charming's sword, with the Queen's faithful huntsman having appeared behind her out of nowhere. Snow orders her heartless servant to disarm the bandit, and he does so, swinging his blade and using it to smack the knife out of Regina's hand, to her pain. She hasn't much time to dwell on it though, for Snow has already stepped forward and plastered her gloved hands to either side of her nemesis' face, stating that she's been waiting so long for this moment and that Regina's head is going to look lovely in her trophy room.
Regina tries appealing to her... stepmother?
Regina begs for mercy, wondering how many times she's going to have to say she's sorry, and Snow says that she'll only have to say it once more - "From your grave." The captive party insists that she had no idea what would happen to James; she was a child, and was only trying to help Snow. Snow, on the other hand, merely sees it as Regina having broken a promise, and now her true love is dead because of this girl's poor, poor judgment. And then, after a brief pause, Snow White plunges her hand into Regina's chest, gripping the bandit's heart in preparation to rip it out and crush it to dust. But, Charming unexpectedly chimes in, suggesting that, before Regina's heart is ripped out, her majesty ask her about the boy. "So you do have a brain somewhere in that pretty head," Snow comments, relinquishing her grip and asking where the boy is as she wipes her glove on her dress. Regina remains silent, and so the Queen repeats herself, but all the bandit can do is ask when this ends; "This blood feud, when does it stop?!"
Getting Snow Dark up in here.
Snow says that it ends when she's killed her and every one of her followers, leading Regina to point out that the Queen lost one happy ending, which she's sorry about, but all this killing will only bring more hatred into her life and all she'll be left with is a hole in her heart (see "The Stranger") and no hope of ever finding true happiness. "You," Snow insists, creating a ball of fire in her hand, "Know nothing... of my happiness." Retreating slightly, the Queen draws her arm back so as to launch the fireball at her foe, but as she does so the sudden firing of an arrow causes the tax carriage door to smack her in the face, and the fire is extinguished. In the confusion that ensues, Robin Hood - the firer of this arrow - is able to ride to Regina's rescue. She steps inside the carriage, grabbing a sack of gold and knocking Charming back with it as she does so, and from there she leaps onto the back of Robin's horse as he gallops by, thus escaping the Queen and her huntsman. The bandit insists to her fellow thief that she had the situation under control, to which he replies that a simple "thank you" would suffice (see "A Curious Thing"). They ride on.
Rum, and a bloody waste of it.
After having lost Snow White, Regina and Robin head to a tavern - the same one they were originally fated to meet in (see "Quite a Common Fairy") - and the former tells her rescuer that she didn't need his help. In response, he says that he's already questioning helping the competition, leading her to laugh before realizing just who he really is: "Robin Hood?" "Well I'm not Friar Tuck," he assures as he prepares a bandage for the hand that Charming injured, urging her to stay still as he tends to the wound. She wonders why, and he reveals that this may sting a little, before pouring alcohol over it to clean it (see "Tallahassee"). He suggests that she sit down before she passes out, but she is adamant that it's a mere scratch. He gives her a look and she rolls her eyes; soon enough, they are sitting across the table from one another while he wraps the bandage around her wound. She slides him a golden coin as he does so, and he wonders what that is, leading her to say that it's his cut. He smiles, seeing that she's still unable to say "thank you", before tying the bandage tightly around her hand, making her flinch. When it's done, she says, "Thank you," in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner, and he thanks the tavern wench for the two drinks she serves them. Robin raises a toast to new friends and old rivals, and the two of them clink tankards before drinking from them.
Regina is jealous of Zelena for a change.
He puts his down, wondering what's wrong, and she reveals that she thought he'd be... dirtier. This makes him laugh, and he chooses to take it as a compliment, complimenting her in turn by saying that, while they may never have met, he always admired her skills. She is tucking the sack of money she managed to snag from the carriage into her belt as he says that he has a preposition for her - he's getting out of the thieving game, and is in search for someone to take his place as leader of the Merry Men. "Oh..." is all she can respond with at first, then going on to say that she's flattered but can't accept. This forest isn't the place for her anymore, which he sees as a shame. She asks what's driving him out of the business, and he inquires if she's ever met someone that she'd change her entire world for (see "The Snow Queen"); someone whose eyes she just knew she was born to gaze into. She gazes into his eyes as he says this, unable to provide an answer, and he says that he has, which is why he can't be a thief anymore: it wouldn't be fair to his new bride. This comes as quite a blow to Regina, who questions the fact that he has a bride, and he says that she will be when they marry later today. And then his future wife approaches - it's Zelena, dressed all in white and kissing her true love of this reality. She asks her fiancé who this is he's talking to, and he states, "Regina, I'd like you to meet my fiancée. This is Zelena." All the bandit can do is purvey a contrived smile.
A mismatched happy ending.
"I just can't believe I'm finally meeting the bandit Regina!" Zelena excitedly exclaims as she takes a seat in the tavern opposite the woman she's such a fan of. Robin, who's standing up, smiles, and offers Regina another tankard. However, after thanking him, she says that she should go, clearly discomforted by the presence of Robin's fiancée. When she gets up to leave, Zelena does the some, wanting the bandit to stay for the ceremony; "It'll only be a simple affair but, oh, we'd love to have you there - wouldn't we, darling?" Robin agrees, albeit awkwardly, and states that it would be their honor. Regina makes the excuse that she should try to get a head start on Snow White, for she's sure the Queen has the entire Black Guard looking for her. Robin gives a smile while Regina takes a deep breath, shaking her fellow thief's hand before finally thanking him for saving her life. He nods, and she again wishes he and Zelena congratulations before exiting the establishment, to Robin's upset. The bandit gives one last look as he holds Zelena in his arms, the two of them seeming so happy, and makes her way out of the door.
Henry sees what's gone wrong.
As she shuts it behind her, Henry approaches, again addressing her as "mom". Rolling her eyes, she insists that he has to stop calling her that, wondering how he even keeps finding her. He figured that if their plan worked then she'd be in Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood, and she says she'd hate to break it to him, but Robin's already found his true love, and they're getting married... today. She turns the confused Henry around as she reveals this and pushes him towards the tavern window; through it, he sees Robin and Zelena holding hands and making eyes at one another, before sharing a kiss. He claims that this is all wrong, for Robin is currently kissing his adoptive mother's sister, but when he catches up to her to tell her this, she assures him that she's heard enough - she doesn't have a sister; her mother abandoned her when she was a baby. However, Henry tells her that her mother abandoned Zelena (see "It's Not Easy Being Green" and "Bleeding Through"), knowing everything to be flipped and thus realizing that this must be Zelena's happy ending.
Regina isn't an advocate of hope.
Regina makes clear that she has to go and suggests that the kid does the same thing because Snow White's looking for him, but he begs his mom to wait, wondering if she's able to tell him that she didn't feel anything when she met Robin Hood. She is silent, which he sees as proof that he's her true love. "No!" she fires back, "It's proof that I'm not the kind of person who gets a happy ending... I'll never have true love. But you! You gave me the worst thing you can give anyone: hope. (see "Pilot", et al.) Now, I'd like to get far enough away that I don't have to hear Robin and Zelena's wedding bells proclaim their love!" This sparks something within Henry, and he remembers that bells are supposed to feature at the end of the book. They're what Isaac was talking about. Those bells and this wedding are their last chance to stop this from becoming real forever. She insists that it already is real, but he insists in turn that it isn't yet - they have to stop this wedding. Placing her bandaged hand on his shoulder, she says that he seems like a nice boy, and clearly he believes all this nonsense, but she recalls him saying that she's his adoptive mother, and he has another mother out there named Emma.
The legend of the savior is discussed.
So, if he wants help, maybe he should start by finding her. Henry reveals that he tried, but she wasn't in the book, and, if she were, she'd know, because she's the most powerful sorceress there is. Regina tells him that the only sorceress in this land is Snow White, but Henry is adamant that Emma is more powerful because she has special magic. Regina questions this, and the boy explains that in his world she's known as the savior. This invokes a reaction within the bandit, who says she's never heard of her, but Henry knows the face she gives and gets his adoptive mother to stop walking away, demanding that she reveal what it is she's not telling him. Leaning in close, she whispers, "There were rumors once of a woman who called herself that; the 'savior'." Henry realizes that Isaac lied about being able to write her out of the story, and wishes to know where she can be found. "You can't," says Regina:
Snow White locked her up years ago. No one has set eyes on her since. The prison she's in... is impenetrable.
As Regina reveals all of this, we are taken across the sea where, in the middle of the ocean, sits a tall tower, with its own island dedicated to its security. The shot draws in, taking us through the single window that resides at its highest point. Inside, a cloaked woman is crouched on the floor, apparently sleeping. As sunlight fills the dank, circular room, she wakes suddenly, gasping loudly as she does so. It's Emma, and she's barely able to get to her feet due to the chains attached to either wrist, keeping her firmly tethered to the floor. Her blonde hair is a tousled mess, and her dress is less than intact. She struggles against her prison, but it's no use, and so she just screams.
"Empty Chairs at Empty Diners"
- The title card of this episode features the impenetrable tower in which Emma was locked away.
- Although credited, Emilie de Ravin (Belle French/Belle) and Michael Socha (Will Scarlet) are absent from the episode.
- Several callbacks are made throughout this episode and the next to old episodes in the series through certain scenes and snippets of dialogue.
- The bandit Regina lives in the same den wherein Snow was living in "Snow Falls", seen again in "There's No Place Like Home". Furthermore, due to the "swap-over" nature of Isaac's reality, Regina is seen sporting Snow's old bandit costume, Snow is seen sporting something resembling Regina's old Evil Queen costumes, and Charming's costume mimics the Huntsman.
- Henry abruptly introduces himself to Regina by stating his name and the fact that he's her son, just like he did with Emma in "Pilot".
- Regina tells Henry that the Queen - referring to Snow White - thinks she ruined her life. Henry asks if she did, and Regina responds positively. Such an exchange has occurred twice between Snow and Charming, first in "Snow Falls" and then again in "There's No Place Like Home" when history is revisited.
- Isaac becomes caught in a net, just like Snow in one of her first meetings with Charming in both "Snow Falls" and "There's No Place Like Home".
- Charming espouses his catchphrase, "I will always find you", (see "Snow Falls", et al.) albeit in a less serious manner than usual, and later with the addition of the words "Your majesty" to reflect Snow's position as Queen in this finale's alternate reality.
- In the alternate reality, Regina caused the death Snow White's true love - Prince James - similar to how Snow caused the death of Daniel in "The Stable Boy". Charming acts as Snow's version of Regina's fan-favorite Huntsman.
- Regina tells Snow that all of her evildoing is just going to leave her with a hole in her heart; a similar exchange took place between the two - from opposite perspectives - regarding Mary Margaret's false imprisonment in "The Stranger".
- When Robin Hood saves Regina and she responds with rudeness, he tells her that a simple "thank you" would have sufficed, just like he did after saving her life in "A Curious Thing".
- The tavern where Robin and Regina retire is the same one in which they were fated to meet in "Quite a Common Fairy", when the latter was led there by Tinker Bell.
- Regina sustains a hand injury and Robin cleanses it with alcohol, before wrapping it in a bandage. A similar exchange occurred between Emma and Hook in "Tallahassee".
- Robin asks Regina if she's ever met someone who she'd be willing to change her entire world for, which is reminiscent of Will telling him that finding someone to ruin your life for is always worth the risk in "The Snow Queen".
- Regina mentions that she was abandoned by Cora as a baby, the exact opposite of her actual situation with Zelena. Zelena's abandonment was featured in both "It's Not Easy Being Green" and "Bleeding Through".
- Regina tells Henry that he gave her the worst thing anyone can give someone else: hope. Mary Margaret conveys the exact opposite principle in "Pilot", and a few more times throughout the rest of the series.
- The opening scene features the ABC color logo on the screen, as 1966 was the year the network switched from black & white to color.
- The setting (December 1966) was also the same month and year that Walt Disney passed away. This also tied in with the origin of Isaac assuming the role of the Author as hinted in previous episodes, namely "Best Laid Plans".
- In the background of the opening flashback, the song "Jingle Bell Rock" originally by Bobby Helms in 1957 can be heard playing.
- Hank makes reference to Gimbels, a popular American department store, and Isaac makes reference to the IBM Selectric typewriter. The tradition of Christmas is also prevalent throughout this first flashback, and the Jewish concept of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs is mentioned.
- Jiminy Cricket was featured in the original script for this episode, in the scene where Isaac was taken into Snow White's throne room. He would have convinced the Queen torture Isaac instead of killing him, thus providing a twisted version of conscience. However, due to time constraints, Raphael Sbarge was unable to record his lines and the part of the scene had to be cut.
- The title of this episode was confirmed by executive producer/co-creator Adam Horowitz, via his Twitter account, on March 13, 2015.
The episode, along with "Operation Mongoose, Part 2", continued to remain flat from the previous episode with a 1.7/6 among 18-49s but saw 5.42 million viewers tuning in, a 1.2% increase. However, the numbers were down from the previous season's finale, which had a 2.3 rating.
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the episode.
- ↑ Adam Horowitz tweet.
- ↑ TV Ratings Sunday: 'Revenge' Finale & 'The Good Wife' Rise, 'Once Upon A Time' Flat, 'A.D.: The Bible Continues' Down, by Amanda Kondolojy, TV by the Numbers (May 11, 2015)
- ↑ "Ratings: ‘Good Wife’ Hits Four-Month High in Finale" from Variety (May 11, 2015)