A fairyback mother and child reunion is bittersweet, as mother is (apparently) dead as a doornail and child is the one who ordered a hit on her. Regina's Maleficent headpiece must be making her feel sentimental. After Hook delivers Cora's "corpse," Regina reveals to the body that she still cares about her Mommie Dearest. In fact, she had her killed specifically because she didn't want her love for Cora to weaken her power in Storybrooke. Well, that explains why poor abused puppy Regina blames all her issues on Snow White instead of Cora.
Her confession is enough to convince Cora not to pull a Medea after all. Instead, she lets Regina live, then creates that shield spell so that she, Hook, and Fairy Land can stick around until the curse is broken -- damnit, Mom, why do you always assume I'm going to fail?! -- at which point she can help Regina "pick up the pieces." Very interesting: Cora doesn't want to go to Storybrooke so that she can give her daughter what's coming to her. She intends to travel to the land without magic so that she can help her daughter in her time of need. How... sweet?
Emma snarks that the scroll won't magically open the door for them. Everyone in the audience groans and does a facepalm. Finally, Snow has a eureka moment and blows on the ink, causing the spell to drift toward the bars and free the gals. Good thing it only took 35 minutes! Aurora volunteers to be left behind so that she can't be used against her friends -- as if she'd be any help in a fight -- and Mulan, Emma, and Snow set off to find Cora and Hook. How do they know to go to Lake Nostos, and how the hell do they get there so fast? Who cares: battle scene!
The Fearsome Threesome arrive just in time, right before Cora and Hook jump into the portal they've created with the wardrobe ashes and the lake's magic waters. Emma and the pirate begin to sword fight, and no, that's not a euphemism (though there's enough subtext and quippery to make their duel feel like a single entendre.) During the fray, Aurora's heart almost gets sucked away; Hook saves it at the last moment and delivers it to Mulan, because Kitsis and Horowitz needed a way to get her offscreen.
Emma eventually secures the compass and knocks Hook out cold, leaving Cora her only obstacle. Too bad Cora might be the show's most powerful sorceress -- and she proves it by lunging for Snow's heart without even breaking a sweat. At the last moment, Emma pushes her mother out of the way, leaving her vulnerable to Cora's grasp. Is this law enforcer about to meet the same end that befell Sheriff Skinnyjeans in last year's winter finale?
NEXT: No. Duh.