In this very special episode of “Once Upon a Time” Sidney Glass and Emma form a tenuous alliance expose Regina and a mystical genie meets and falls in love with the Evil Queen, only to learn about her true nature when it is too late. Per usual, I am a few days late, but I needed time to digest the convoluted storylines of this particular episode.
Here there be spoilers!
The story opens in Storybrooke with Emma and Henry at their special castle playground. After the violent storm, the playground is damaged, and Henry frantically searches for his fairytale book that he has hidden from Regina. Within moments, Regina drives up and confronts Emma for allowing Henry to climb over the broken playground.
Meanwhile, in fairytale land, King Leopold finds a genie’s lamp, and, desiring no other things in his world, wishes that the bonded genie be freed. Given this great generosity, the Genie comes to King Leopold’s castle as a guest to enjoy his first few days of freedom among the king’s court.
Emma goes to Granny’s and runs into a dejected, inebriated Sidney Glass. He tells her that has been fired from his post at the Mirror and Regina has ruined his life. Now he wants to expose her for the crook she is. Emma is concerned that Sidney is being rash, and should instead be seeking out an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Emma returns to the playground only to find Regina already there, tearing down the broken structure. She tells Emma that she needs to start acting like a real sheriff. Emma watches, thinking about Henry’s fairytale book, as the construction crew breaks apart the playground.
In fairytale land, the Genie is amazed by the grace and generosity of the King and, upon being introduced to his daughter and wife, is struck by the beauty of the Queen. Later that evening, the King celebrates his birthday and talks about how beautiful his daughter, Snow White, is and his dead wife. Queen Regina excuses herself to the courtyard to pout, and the Genie follows. It is important to note that the Genie is entranced by Queen Regina and has fallen in love with her. They both understand what it is like to be trapped. He offers her a mirror, blatantly foreshadowing the rest of the episode.
Angered by the destruction of her and Henry’s playground fort, Emma agrees to meet Sidney at night in a dark tunnel that resembled the interior of a storm drain. Sidney reveals that Regina took $50,000 from the city’s coffers for an unknown project. Giddy with glee, Sidney tells Emma that they can get Regina by playing dirty, but our resident honest sheriff says no. She will do this the right way.
Emma and Sidney submit a public records request – or just rummage through the city’s files – and discover that certain folders are missing. They go to the mayor’s office to question Regina, but she gives them the cold shoulder. Emma surreptitiously plants a bug on the edge of the mayor’s desk as she and Sidney leave.
Back in King Leopold’s castle, the King calls the Genie to his quarters and shows him the Queen’s diary. She has written of a man who gave her a mirror and says she is now as hope for love. Though the King seems more hung up on his dead wife, he is angered by his impotency and asks the Genie for help to find the man who has stolen the Queen’s heart. The Genie agrees to help him as horror creeps into his eyes.
In Storybrooke, Emma and Sidney act out scenes from The Wire, where Sidney is Lester Freeman and Emma is McNulty, and listen to Regina’s phone calls. Regina arranges a meeting with an unknown person later that evening in the forest. Emma and Sidney follow approximately 30 feet behind Regina, who must not check her mirrors. Emma pumps the brakes, only to realize that they don’t work. She and Sidney crash unspectacularly into a tree. Emma inspects the car and finds that the brakes have been cut; Regina must have known about their plan all along, much to Emma’s chagrin.
Mr. Gold pops out of the woodwork (it is a forest), acting no more suspicious than usual, and explains that he and Regina met to exchange money for land she had bought from him. Casting both Sidney and Emma a suspicious eye, he warns them not to let their emotions get the best of them and disappears into the woods, as if he has every reason to wander around after dark.
In fairytale land, the Genie is besieged by the Queen’s father to take a special box to her. Due to her heart’s wandering, she has been locked away in the castle. The Genie asks what is in the box, and the Queen’s father says it is the only thing that can free his daughter from her wretched existence.
Emma is now mad. Really mad. She breaks into Regina’s office with Sidney and searches desperately for evidence. Estimating that she has about six minutes before anyone shows up, Emma rifles through folders, hacks the computer, prints documents, and decides to look for Henry’s missing fairytale book. Regina rushes in to disable the alarm and finds Emma and Sidney at the scene. Emma lies, saying that she witness some kids breaking into Regina’s home and chased them off; Sidney was a witness. Regina dismisses the sheriff, seeming to ignore the sound of the printer in the corner.
The Genie takes the box to the Queen. She embraces him and proclaims that though her love for him grows every day, she is trapped and cannot bear her existence any longer. The Genie opens the box and finds two awful, poisonous snakes hissing and snapping. Unable to imagine a world without the Queen, the Genie asks her if there is another way, and agrees to kill the King using the snakes. Then he and the Queen can be free and be together.
Meanwhile, Henry is at the diner without adult supervision. The Stranger interrupts his writing, and, after dodging Henry’s questions, wishes Henry luck with his stories.
Emma and Sidney discover that Regina is building an unknown structure on her newly purchased land. Sidney reveals that Regina had been having him spy on Emma and Henry and that he is why Regina knew about the castle playground and sought to destroy it.
Invigorated by her anger, Emma heads to the city council meeting and accuses Regina of squandering city money on a new, lavish personal abode. Regina admits to taking the money, but shows that she was constructing a new playground where Henry and all of Storybrooke’s children could safely play. Emma is apparently confused by blue prints.
The Genie sneaks into the King’s bedroom at night and releases the snakes. As the venom drains from their fangs into the King’s body, the Genie thanks him for granting his freedom. King Leopold tells the Genie that he was right. He shouldn’t have made that wish to free him.
Outside of city hall, Regina scolds Emma and demands that she leave her alone. She is to stay away from Regina, and, more importantly, Henry. Immediately afterward, Emma finds Henry at the new playground (which looks absolutely nothing like the blueprints) and they talk over walkie-talkies. So much for that no-contact order. Emma promises to find Henry’s book, but he is morose.
Meanwhile, the stranger opens a box containing Henry’s book, and rubs his hands in delight. Okay, he didn’t really do that last part. Later, Emma and Sidney meet again at the diner, and, over beers, renew their alliance against Regina.
In fairytale land, the Genie returns to the Queen, having done the deed, but is thrown off by her behavior. The guards suspect him of poisoning the King. She set him up. The Queen reveals that she never loved him, and that she has no use for him anymore; he should take her offer for escape because even that is generous. Though he knows she is manipulative and cold, he wishes they could be together and pulls the lamp from his pocket. He disappears in a puff of smoke. The queen hears his cries and pulls out the gifted mirror to see the Genie, trapped once more.
At the mayor’s mansion, Sidney plays the recorded conversation he had with Emma at the diner for Regina. Aha! Regina and Sidney plotted this all along! Emma once more played right into someone’s trap! Now that Sidney is Emma’s new best friend forever, Regina will know everything she does and always be one step ahead. The episodes ends as Regina says, “I don’t know what I’d do without you” and squeezes Sidney’s knee.
This episode had some really interesting plot points: Sidney as the Genie, trapped in a lamp, and later trapped in the mirror; Emma and Sidney’s investigation and the underlying plot to manipulate Emma; and the Evil Queen’s faux-love affair with the Genie. Yet, nothing quite fit.
At one point, the writing defied all logic and, much like Emma’s police car, drifted slowly off course without any attempt to right the course or pump the brakes. In fact, that very scene made very little sense. How could Emma, with all her street smarts, follow Regina’s car so closely in an easily recognizable vehicle? Why would Regina and Mr. Gold be exchanging money late at night in the woods when doing it in Storybrooke would’ve sufficed? At what point did Emma decide that being reckless and breaking into Regina’s office was a good idea?
Emma doesn’t seem to have it all together. When the brakes fail in the police car, she and Sidney drift into an uninspiring crash. Yet, she and Sidney act pretty nonchalant about the whole thing until Mr. Gold shows up. Which is always a treat.
Through this whole episode, Henry shows that he is the most mature of all the characters.
We come full circle back to the same-old at the very end of the episode; Regina is still pure evil and driving a wedge between Emma and Henry; Sidney is as much of a sycophant as we originally thought; and Emma and Henry haven’t gotten any closer to breaking the curse. The only thing that gives any hope is the stranger, now in possession of Henry’s book. Presumably, the writers are dampening our spirits so that we will rally at a triumph in the next episodes. Or so I hope.
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