Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Jared Gilmore, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Meghan Ory
 Jane Espenson
Director: Ralph Hemecker
Network: ABC, Sunday nights, 8 p.m.
Original Telecast: March 10, 2013

I have been saying since last season that I thought Cora (Barbara Hershey), “The Miller’s Daughter,” was, in fact, that miller’s daughter – you know, the one that got caught up in the original Rumpelstiltskin story, when her father bragged that she could spin straw into gold. Well, I was right and ONCE UPON A TIME has worked its magical twist once again, and very nicely turned that story on its ear in one intense episode. However, I am so not liking the dark turn this show has taken. Really, really not liking it.

We start with young Cora’s (Rose McGowan) story – getting tripped and laughed at while delivering flour to the Royal Court – guess Snow’s mother Queen Eva is the same as Princess Eva (Eva Allan), which would explain why Cora so had it in for her. It’s a little fuzzy, but I’m guessing that the two ended up sisters-in-law and Regina’s place was taken over by Snow’s or something. Nonetheless, it’s not the usual, “I do these rotten things because I’m the bad guy and that’s what we bad guys do,” you find on other shows. Cora’s evil is motivated, which is why this show generally rocks.

However, with a poisoned and slowly dying Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) riding home on Hook’s boat with Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Neal (Michael Raymond-James) and Henry (Jared Gilmore), Emma’s trying to find out more about the magic dagger that turned him evil. Okay, he’s a little surprised that she’s trying to save him, but as she points out, he’s family now.

So, back in time, Cora is trying to figure out how to get back at all the folks who have laughed at her and put her down, when she comes up with the great plan of seducing Prince Henry – someone we know she eventually gets. But the King (Joaquim de Almeida) finds her out and she makes the bold brag that she can turn straw into gold. The King being really broke and needing the money, agrees, but locks her in the tower to get the job done.

Well, we know the next part, Rumpelstiltskin shows up, offering a contract – her first born for the skill to spin. And Rumpel really wants her because, as we know, he can sort of see the future and Regina’s going to be pretty important. Funny how Cora just wants to learn how to do the spinning, and there’s an interesting tension growing between the two.

Back in Storybrooke, Snow/Mary Margaret (Gennifer Goodwin) is in crisis. She wants Cora dead. Period. No two ways about it. So here comes Charming/David (Josh Dallas) trying to convince her that revenge is not a good thing, Mary Margaret would always deeply regret it because she has such a pure heart. Ah, but David doesn’t quite  get that Mr. Gold has another agenda – staying alive. And it is Gold who takes advantage of Mary Margaret’s weakness to manipulate her into using the magic cursing candle from last week to curse Cora and save him. There’s only one problem – Cora’s heart is not in her body – it’s locked up in the family vault and Mary Margaret will need to find it and get it back into her for the curse to work.

Oh, but Gold is not done yet. With Cora literally on the doorstep and threatening, Gold gets Emma to cast a spell. Now here’s the thing that’s interesting. It’s been the ongoing theme of the show that all magic comes with a price (how much of that is Gold’s/Rumpelstiltskin’s view of it, I don’t know). However, when Gold it trying to help Emma do a shield spell, he points out that magic is emotion and that she needs to focus on protecting all that she loves and holds dear to get the spell to work – which it does for a bit.

Now contrast that with the next scene, with Rumpelstiltskin and Young Cora in the tower, where he tells her that she needs to channel her anger and bloodlust to get the straw into gold spell to work. Plus he gets pretty sexy with her, which I first thought was a little icky, but then…. In any case, the King is pleased and Cora and Henry get engaged. Problem is, she’s got it hard for Rumpel, and we see the two of them necking away right on top of the wedding. Cora wants to run away with Rumpel, and he’s surprisingly honest about not being able to give her anything but darkness. However, he does alter the terms of their contract, and then teaches Cora the heart-pulling trick so that she can kill the King and run off with Rumpel.

Only it doesn’t quite work that way. As the King points out to Cora, when you have to make a choice between power and love, having a heart is a liability. So Cora decides to rip her own heart out and marry Henry instead, leaving poor Rumpel out in the cold.

In Storybrooke, Mary Margaret finds Cora’s heart, hesitates and… curses Cora. Argh. I get that having temptation adds another level of interest to what could be a rather bland character. But the whole point of being a good guy is to wrestle with the temptation, not give in to it. Still, Mary Margaret’s work isn’t done. She has to get Cora’s heart back into her body – and you know Gold is setting that one up, as well. Nonetheless, when Regina (Lana Parilla) shows up in the vault to go after Mary Margaret, Mary Margaret convinces Regina to take Cora’s heart and give it back to her.

But Gold, being Gold, is still more complex than that, and he calls Belle (Emilie deRaven) to say good-bye in a lovely little speech, and then he tries to make up with Neal (aka his son Baelfire). Which is a good thing, because Cora does finally break through Emma’s spell, gets Emma and Neal out of the way and takes that magic dagger, aims it at Gold’s heart – because she has to before he dies to become the next Dark One. Only the two have to go over old times, first, with Gold asking if she could ever love him and her replying, “Why do you think I had to rip my own heart out?”

Only Regina comes in at the last second, jams Cora’s heart back and suddenly Cora is able to really love her. Well, for a couple seconds. Then the curse goes into action, Cora dies and Rumpel’s fine. And Regina knows how he set her up.

Like I said, I am really not liking the dark turn this show has taken. I’m not questioning the need for some strong emotional conflicts for Mary Margaret, especially. But not this way. It’s mean and icky. And not fun.

Related:Exclusive Photos from ONCE UPON A TIME at PaleyFest

Related: Exclusive Interview  with ONCE UPON A TIME creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz

Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “Manhattan”

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Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “In the Name of the Brother”

Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “Tallahassee”

Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “The Doctor”

Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “The Crocodile”

Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “Lady of the Lake”

Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “We Are Both”

Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “Broken” – Season Premiere

Related: CD Review of ONCE UPON A TIME  soundtrack

Related: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 1 – “A Land Without Magic” – Season Finale

Related:Exclusive Interview with Robert Carlyle on ONCE UPON A TIME and STARGATE UNIVERSE

Related: Exclusive Interview with ONCE UPON A TIME star Raphael Sbarge

Related: Exclusive Photos from the PaleyFest 2012 event for ONCE UPON A TIME

Related: Exclusive Interview with ONCE UPON A TIME showrunner Adam Horowitz

Related: ABC talks about the success of ONCE UPON A TIME

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Article: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “The Miller’s Daughter”

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