Once Upon a Time recap: A Woman So Heartless

Come for Cora and Rumplestiltskin's twisted backstory; stay to see a central character get axed
Ep. 16 | Aired Mar 10, 2013

CRAZY LOVE Anyone else wish we could have seen more weirdly sexy Rump/Cora action tonight?

Jack Rowand/ABC

On Friday, Once's official Twitter account revealed the list of characters who might be on the chopping block tonight: Henry, Rumpelstiltskin, Cora, Regina, "Nealfire," Emma, Red, Granny, Charming, Hook, and Archie. If I were a betting woman, I'd have put my money on Granny or Archie -- side characters who are neither big fan favorites nor particularly vital to this season's main plot. The therapist, especially, seemed like the most likely candidate -- after all, the writers already "killed" Jiminy Human once this year.

And that's why nobody should ever let me loose in Vegas. Rather than offing an extraneous cast member, writer Jane Espenson elected to do away with season 2's primary antagonist: Cora, a fairly fascinating creature (and surprise princess!) whose death will have serious consequences throughout the rest of this season. On one hand, I'm sad to see her go because Barbara Hershey makes everything from goofy Lifetime movies to Oscar-winning psychodramas better. But on the other, I applaud this twist because it's shaken up Once's status quo, thus restoring some of the energy and forward momentum that's been sorely lacking since Emma and Snow returned from their trip to Fairy Land. Plus, now Regina has an actual reason to want Snow dead. Win/win! (Though not for Cora, of course.)

Last week, many of you wondered whether Cora and Snow's mother, Eva, had some sort of history that explained the witch's vendetta against the queen. This week, we discovered that the answer is "yes." Back when Eva was a young princess and Cora was just the haughty but poor daughter of a drunken miller, the royal embarrassed the peasant by callously tripping her in front of a gaggle of nobles. For anyone else, this would inspire nothing more than a dirty look and perhaps a few whispered curse words. For Cora, it's grounds for eventual murder -- especially after the king, who's seen the whole incident, demands that she apologize to Eva. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially one who's genetically predisposed to psychosis. Let's hope Eva doesn't keep jawbreakers handy.

Luckily, young Cora also happens to look like Rose McGowan -- still foxy even after the devastating car accident that caused her to need plastic surgery -- which means she's got a chance at marrying up. She seizes her moment at a masquerade ball, slyly sidling up to the eligible Prince Henry and charming him into asking her to dance. The social climber's ascent is stopped, though, when the king cuts in and sneers that she'll never be good enough for his son. Kudos to Once for being the only TV show or movie ever to admit that covering just the area around your eyes is not an effective disguise.

NEXT: Enter the Dragon -- er, the Imp

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