Spoiler Alert! (as usual!)
“Darkness at the Edge of Town”
So, while Rumplestiltskin was off tracking down Ursula (and subsequently bumming at her place) things in Storybrooke are peaceful. There are only two quests going on right now, neither of them involving great amounts of danger. First, there’s Henry, Regina, and Emma trying to find the Author/Sorcerer, but that proves a dead end. Second, Hook and Belle are trying to fix the damage Rumple did, by searching for a spell to release the fairies and the Apprentice.
Fortunately, Belle manages to gain the assistance of an Oxford professor online, and they are able to free the fairies held prisoner within the hat! Judging by their reaction, it was a very unpleasant experience. Unfortunately, the demon beast Chernabog (oh, Fantasia again!) is also unleashed, and he seeks out the heart with the greatest potential for evil. Regina believes that to be herself, but she mistakes “potential” for “already accomplished.” In truth, the one with the greatest potential for either good or evil is simply the most powerful figure in Storybrooke: Emma Swan.
Regina’s quest for the Author/Sorcerer gets a nudge in an unexpected direction when she talks to the Blue Fairy. For one thing, the fairy can assure her that the Author and the Sorcerer are not one and the same, being very different figures from one another. She’s not even sure why or how the Sorcerer would have the Author’s library of books, and as she already spent six weeks trapped in that infernal hat, her intimidated reaction to learning of the presence of both figures in Storybrooke is just a little bit alarming. Almost like she might prefer being in the hat to facing either of them, and it’s a toss-up which one is the more imposing figure.
But Regina and Emma have their hands full with Chernabog, until an unexpected source of help comes a-knocking on the front door.
By the way, beware the devil sneaking in the back, and beware more the devil knocking at the front. Rumple, having found Ursula and Cruella, comes back with a plan. It turns out, Rumplestiltskin is the “Oxford professor” helping Belle, and he arranged to have Chernabog released. He instructs his partners to call Regina from his phone, and since they have a crucial piece of information, they’re able to bargain their way across the town line, then come back and let Rumple through later that night. With his knowledge and conniving, he’s too useful, to necessary, for the two queens of darkness to leave behind. Rumple took quite a leap with that.
Of course, they were only able to do that because they’ve already faced the beast alongside Maleficent, courtesy of Rumple. That was the moment they first built the trust which would make them the Queens of Darkness. He was the one who brought the three queens together in the first place, and he betrayed them the moment it was advantageous, after they helped him procure the curse, which he would eventually give to Regina. Having already betrayed their trust in him, he convinces them to go along with his plans because now he is the one who must trust them. For just a moment, he gives them the power to decide his fate, and just like that, he’s back in Storybrooke, with all of his magical powers intact, and the heroes are none the wiser.
Well, for the most part. Snow and Charming apparently have a secret history with Ursula and Cruella, and likely with Maleficent as well. For some reason, the two heroes really want to keep that history a secret. Snow even threatens to just rip their hearts out herself.
What on Earth could have happened between them in the Enchanted Forest to make Snow White issue such threats just to keep it secret?
I know Rumple and the three queens are a very formidable force, but Ursula and Cruella might be thinking that they just bit off more than they can chew. Snow White threatens them, and they already fear Regina, such that the idea that Regina is not the real threat makes them do a double-take. Emma Swan is the one they really need to worry about. Fortunately for them, Rumple’s plans are already in motion, including Cruella and Ursula being “reformed villains” like Regina.
So we have the heroes and the villains looking for the Author, though the latter group still believes the Author and the Sorcerer are the same person, but the heroes are unaware of the competition. The mysterious and fearsome Sorcerer seems to be a third party in search of the Author, again with no one else realizing how packed the race is.
“Everybody has a Cobblepot”
Yay! They did not skip this week!
Gordon really had his work cut out for him in this episode. What he’s been working for, the redemption of the GCPD, was dealt a pretty severe blow when that drug-dealing murderer, Flass, was released and reinstated. The cops were just finding a shred of honor again, and their commissioner rains on the parade, not just undoing the good they’d finally done, but even pushing it a step backwards, endorsing Flass to be President of the Policeman’s Union.
Gordon was rightfully furious about this, and when he learned it was Bullock whose testimony got Flass released, he felt nothing short of betrayed. It’s when he confronted Bullock that Gordon learned the truth. Gordon may have chosen to risk everything by not killing Oswald Cobblepot on Falcone’s orders, but Bullock has his own “Cobblepot,” whom he did kill. Now, Commissioner Loeb is using that misdeed to control Bullock. Even worse, a horrifying portion of the GCPD is similarly walking around with nooses around their necks. “Everybody has Cobblepot.”
With help from Dent and Bullock, Gordon looks for the secret files. If they can find them, they can liberate the GCPD from its handlers. Things go awry, a few times, including at least one proof that bringing a gun to a fight is no guarantee of survival when there are a couple dozen knives coming at you. Finally, Loeb’s old partner rolls on Loeb, informing the detectives that Falcone is in on it with Loeb, which makes perfect sense. Falcone’s domination of the GCPD has been very well established by now.
How poetic is it that Penguin, Gordon’s “Cobblepot,” helps them look for the information? Of course, as he’s betraying his patron, the man who’s keeping him alive, he gets a rather hefty wage for his labor, including five minutes with the discovered secrets and an unspecified favor from Jim Gordon.
They don’t find the secret files, but what they do find is every bit as horrifying. They find Loeb’s daughter, who is clearly way off her rocker. She kills birds and makes necklaces from their bones. And she killed her own mother. Quite a powerful secret for Loeb to have hanging over his own head, but he’s hidden it well.
Somehow, Penguin seemed much less eager to be alone with the discovered secrets once he met that secret. Really can’t blame him, ya know?
But he still has that favor from Gordon he can call in at any time, so he didn’t walk away with nothing. That said, he was clearly agitated, which is not what you want your local vindictive psychopath to be. He took his frustrations out on the elderly couple who had been taking care of Loeb’s daughter. It was rather Joker-ish from Dark Knight, where he turned them against each other, or at least the wife turned on her husband of twenty years. She killed him, just for a train ticket promised by Penguin. But Penguin just laughed and shot her with her own rifle.
Gordon failed to rescue the GCPD as a whole, but he took a step forward again. He blackmailed Loeb into putting Flass on fair trial, and handing over Bullock’s file – handing over all of them would bring Falcone’s wrath down on Loeb, and he would not survive it – and endorsing Gordon’s own nomination for President of the Policeman’s Union. Gordon proclaims to the press, triumphantly, “It’s a new day in the GCPD!”
But Bullock has some sobering words for Gordon. It’s lesson hard-learned, that justifying an ill deed done now by invoking all the good to be done later… well, that still leaves the ill deed. It never goes away. Gordon may have taken a step forward in his fight for the GCPD, and he may have chosen not to kill his Cobblepot… but now, having blackmailed Loeb, he still has an impervious stain on his very soul. Sure, it’s not nearly so bad as other things… but it’s still something bad, and it’s something the old Gordon never would have done.
Meanwhile, Fish Mooney has duly impressed the man in charge of her imprisonment. He replaces the eye she gouged out with another one “donated” by one of his victims. He gives her a tour of the establishment. And he also terrifies her with his handiwork on the man who failed him, having turned him into a patchwork of mismatched body parts, condemned to live in that freakish, hellish state, for as long as he might.
That was downright freaky. Even Fish reacted with horror.
But she, too, takes a forward step. Atop the bodies of her followers. I know, it’s her only chance of getting out, but still, it’s cold to sacrifice your own people for your own benefit.
Speaking of cold, though, it seems they’re personal Hell is on a small, remote, frigid island.
Yeah, escape just got a little bit harder. Not impossible, but without any sort of place to run or lose one’s pursuers, it’s certainly more difficult. Also, there’s no chance of calling for outside help. As Fish’s followers are already losing patience with her, she’d better think of something quick.
The psychotic Nigma thought he was making some good progress with his crush. Only to find out that she’s started dating someone else. While the new boyfriend doesn’t strike me as particularly savory, I’m not sure he’d deserve the psychotic attention of the future Riddler, who we all know is just going to snap at some point.
Finally, Selina visits Bruce and Alfred in the hospital. Gordon visited earlier, but things were well enough, and they hid the identity of Alfred’s attacker. When Selina visits, interrupting the reading of some rather morbid material, Bruce opens up to her. We see more of the future Dark Knight, intending to shoulder all the responsibility himself, find the man who hurt Alfred, and bring to justice all the people who murdered his parents.
“That’s the Way Love Goes”
Rayna has a pretty big day, celebrating her tenth anniversary at the Grand Ole Opry, and it’s almost as big a deal in this episode as the CMA’s were. Rayna is, once again, shining in front of everyone, she brings her daughters onto the stage, and Deacon comes too. So does Colt, invited by Maddie, and Luke, who is handling things with a certain amount of maturity. If there were anything better than seeing Maddie, Daphne, and Deacon out on stage together, it would have to be the love song between Deacon and Rayna.
It’s been a long road for those two, and, frankly, I still think Rayna should have gone with Luke instead. But they love each other, and will ’till the day they die, as they each tell Maddie. The heart wants what it wants, but they’re clearly choosing each other now. Unfortunately, Deacon has one hell of a bomb to drop on Rayna, when he tells her the truth: he’s dying of liver cancer.
She slaps him, and hugs him, and he just says, “I’m sorry.”
Bright side of Luke and Rayna not being together, Colt and Maddie can be together.
Colt was feeling a little neglected by Luke at the beginning of this episode, as his father had to run out on a pool game to run his new label. But Luke makes it up to him by coming to Rayna’s party, and Colt even feels bad for accidentally giving his dad a front row seat to Rayna’s renewing relationship with Deacon. They support each other, though, and it looks like Colt will be moving back home, spending more time with Luke and Maddie.
Unfortunately, Teddy misses his daughters’ debut on the Opry stage, because Natasha has to come and tell him, since he isn’t taking her calls, that someone’s watching her house, and they were already watching it when he came by. Yep. Teddy’s secret is about to get out. The ill deeds he did to cover it up, in the name of protecting his girls from his secrets, are about to amount to nothing. Shame he didn’t just take his lumps when Jeff threatened him, but, then again, Jeff might still have his job in that case.
Speaking of, he is now Layla’s secret manager behind the scenes. Jeff knows Rayna will all but nuke him if she finds him poking around Layla, so he convinces her to keep their relationship a secret. And he is rather skilled at helping her reinvent her public image, throwing the usual ideas Bucky suggests out the window. They have to take an alternative approach to rebuild Layla’s fan base, so they release one of her songs independently, and it’s a hit.
In a different corner of the show, Will is put in the awkward position of working with an openly gay songwriter. Of course, the awkwardness is all Will’s own doing, but it’s a challenge nonetheless. They manage to find a groove, though, and write a song about Will’s relationship with his father, throwing him out of the house before he finished high school.
Scarlett goes on her first date with the doctor, whose name I seem to be forgetting at the moment, but it doesn’t go so well. She bombs it, talking about cancer the entire time, so she has to apologize and ask for a second chance (after lambasting Deacon for forcing her to carry his secret alone). She brings him the first official performance of her band with Gunnar and Avery, which goes very well.
Gunnar was super psyched about his first big performance on stage. So much so that he kind of wore himself rapidly ragged just trying to come up with a proper name. Avery, being exhausted by the ordeal of Juliette’s pregnancy – hmm, they didn’t show her at all, you think they were trying not to force the heavily-pregnant actress to work too much? 😉 – was not very helpful at first, as he needed some rest. But once he recharged his batteries, he was right there helping. Which was hilarious, because they couldn’t come up with anything.
I loved that scene with “Say the first word that comes to mind!” Leather Guitars!Whiskey Frogs! Highway Cheese! “Cheese?!” “Ok, I panicked.” (ROFL!) And then Scarlett introduces her new friend to them, and he says, “So, you’re the exes.” And genius strikes! They are the Triple Exes!
And a hit with the crowd, impressing Rascal Flatts into asking them to come open for them a few more times, which they love!
And then Scarlett’s date kisses her, and Gunnar gets this look, like some part of him, in the wake of Kylie and Zoe, had begun to imagine being with her again. Only begun, mind you, but still a tiny, dashed hope.
Finally, I’m not sure how advisable Sadie’s actions were. She clearly hasn’t been able to finish dealing with how Pete terrorized and abused her, so she had to do something about it. And it truly is unfair for him to have gained anything from it and gotten away with it. That said, she just escaped the hornet’s nest, and now she’s kicking it back up again, defaming Pete on national television, and she didn’t seem quite composed in that moment, which makes me fear she was acting in emotional haste, instead of with calm resolve. We’ve already seen he’s dangerous, and now he’ll be be very angry with her.
That said, just because it’s dangerous, doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do, and I can easily see, if things go well, Sadie becoming a role model and an advocate for abused women trying to break the cycle. I’m just concerned that she might be handling it recklessly, and putting herself in danger.
Particularly with that gun, purchased under a false name, which I’m still afraid she doesn’t have the nerves to handle properly.