There will be time to speculate about Rumpel's inevitable reintroduction. In the meantime, Storybrooke's residents have a curse to stop -- though naturally, their actions will come with a price. Specifically: Regina reveals that because she cast the curse in the first place, the only way to halt its sequel is to say goodbye to the thing she loves most. Which means that if she undoes the curse, she'll never be able to see Henry again. But wait, there's more: Breaking the curse altogether will send every fairy tale character back from whence they came. It'll also make Storybrooke itself disappear. But because Henry was born on Earth, he'll have to stay there... albeit with Emma, whose special savior powers will keep her by his side. Oh, and also, when the town goes, Emma and Henry's memories of it will vanish as well. Phew! That's a lot of information to get in 30 seconds.
And so we're back to that emotional goodbye sequence I mentioned at the top of the recap. There's just one silver lining to this whole situation: Regina is going to alter Emma and Henry's memories so that they can live as though she never gave him up for adoption in the first place. Their shared past won't be real per se, but the emotional core of it will be -- allowing Emma to have the life she always wanted. Funny how a mind-altering curse in one context can be a kindness in another.
Emma and Henry embrace Snow and Charming; Nealfire promises they'll see each other again; the savior and the pirate who loves her share a moment, though not another kiss. Mother and son climb into that yellow Bug and drive off... and just like that, it's as if Storybrooke never existed in the first place.
At least, until we flash forward a year, and the Swans' balanced breakfast is rudely interrupted by a familiar face they don't remember: Hook, telling them that their family's in trouble. Who else expected him to follow that with a cheeky "where we're going, we don't need roads"?
- I haven't mentioned tonight's multi-character fairybacks because although some included nice character beats, they were largely irrelevant to the plot. Some highights: One illustrated how Hook and Tink met (when he was trying to find a way out of Neverland ), and another sort of revealed where Henry's storybook came from. (Short answer: Mary Margaret's closet. Long answer: Magic magic Blue Fairy magic magic.)
- In the last scene, Hook tries to bring back Emma's memories by kissing her... and she responds by smacking him. Just like Snow and Charming once upon a time!
- That capper also, of course begins at 8:15 a.m. Another callback: The song Emma's playing during the sequence is "Charley's Girl" by Lou Reed, which you may remember from grown-up Bae's introduction in season 2.
- How well does bail bondspersonship pay? Emma and Henry's New York apartment is swank.
- So how did Rumpel call his shadow back to him if he didn't have the use of magic?
- How long do you think Hook is going to have to spend convincing Emma that fairy tales are real etc. next year? I'm hoping the answer is one episode, max. (We already had a whole season of that.)
- Once returns... in three months. Three months! However will we while the time away?
- That's Rebecca Mader of Lost and, er, Work It as the Wicked Witch. Idina Menzel must be green with envy.
- And finally: Rumpel can't be dead. Right? Right?