Throughout its first season, Once Upon a Time has repeated several refrains: true love is the world's most powerful force; magic always comes with a price; there can be miracles when you believe. (Oops, sorry -- that last one is actually courtesy of Dreamworks.)
Tonight's episode took one of these oft-recited phrases -- evil isn't born, it's made -- and ran with it, finally giving us the story of why a young Regina came to despise an innocent child named Snow White. And while "The Stable Boy" didn't answer one giant, glaring question -- why does Regina blame all her woes on Snow, rather than her wicked mother Cora? -- it was still great to see some important blanks filled in.
Speaking of filling in blanks: Our first scene reveals that orchestrating Kathryn's disappearance was Mr. Gold's idea. He came to Regina's office a week before "The Stable Boy's" main (mane?) events, looking for a crisp red apple and a reprieve from some nasty battery charges. Regina agreed to make the charges disappear if he'd help her nab MM and drive her to flee Storybrooke. As we remember, that part of the plan didn't totally pan out; MM took the skeleton key bait but ended up back in prison. At least this makes it easier for Regina to find both her and Emma whenever she feels like getting in her bi-daily sneer.
Back in Fairy Land, a young Regina has no interest in sneering, or plotting, or Cruella de Vil decor. In fact, pre-Evil Regina is a model of kindness and purity -- you can tell because she wears her hair tied back in a Katniss braid. Her dual true loves are horses and Daniel, a stable boy who's a dead ringer for Jack Bass. Unfortunately, the future wicked stepmother has mommy issues of her own. You would too if your mom were played by Barbara Hershey.
Cora -- a.k.a. Regina's Tiger Mom -- wants her daughter to stop riding like a man and start getting married, preferably to someone rich and powerful. What's more, she's not afraid to use some magic to force her daughter's obedience. Cora is the embodiment of pure evil. Still, I bet a bunch of parents watching the show must envy her ability to get results.
Regina manages to find a few spare moments to secretly meet Stable Boy Daniel. He wants to take her on a romantic picnic to Firefly Hill, which must be Fairy Land's equivalent of Lovers' Lane. Their rendezvous is interrupted when a young girl comes barreling past on an out-of-control horse. Uh-oh, is anyone else getting Gone With the Wind flashbacks? Regina hops on her mount and manages to grab the girl from her pony. They introduce themselves: Regina is Regina. The little girl is Goldilocks. April Fools! She's Snow White, of course -- and Regina has just saved her from suffering Bonnie Blue Butler's fate.
NEXT: King Charles Widmore's Storybrooke alter ego revealed