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Recap / Once Upon A Time S 4 E 20 Mother

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Season 4, Episode 20:

Mother

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Returning to Storybrooke to lock up Zelena and find a way to stop Gold and the Author, Regina must deal with the fallout with Robin and decide just how far she is willing to go to achieve her happy ending. Emma must decide whether she can ever forgive her parents, before it is too late, while Maleficent finds that bonding with a long-lost daughter is not as easy as she thinks. And in the Enchanted Forest of thirty years ago, Cora returns from Wonderland to try and make amends with Regina but with an ulterior motive—though it may not be what her daughter thinks.

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  • Anything That Moves: Remember how the Sheriff of Nottingham was smitten with Marian? And then wanted to spend a night with Belle? And then snogged her as Lacey? Turns out he does quite enjoy Regina's, err, new, low-cut dress. Right after hitting on Cora at the tavern.
  • Art Initiates Life: When she discovers the lion tattoo Cora placed on the Sheriff of Nottingham is a fake, Regina brings it to life to threaten him until he confesses the truth.
  • Blatant Lies: While it isn't clear how much of what he said about Regina was sincere (see Compliment Backfire), it's obvious the Author's claim of being trustworthy didn't hold water, seeing as he bugged out the minute she wasn't going to ask him to manipulate other characters any more.
  • Brick Joke: The DVD commentary for this episode reveals that the Author's seeming unfamiliarity with a bagel is actually the first half of a very subtle brick joke that finishes in the next episode.
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  • The Bus Came Back: Cora, in flashback.
  • Call-Back: Remember that potion George used to make Snow White unable to bear children? Turns out Regina already had some and used it on herself. Considering the alliance she made with George, this rather seems to explain just where he got it from...
  • Compliment Backfire: When trying to convince Regina he is on her side, the Author claims she was one of his favorite characters to write for...only when he lists her strengths there are several not-so-positive traits among them (being self-destructive, for example), he also notes her being a Cosmic Plaything, and then he ends by saying she was a great source of drama. Other than the Cosmic Plaything bit, though, she doesn't react to any of it, either because she knew it was all true or she didn't care what he said as long as she had him at her mercy.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Not only do Snow and Charming point out that the way Lily is reacting to Maleficent is exactly how Emma acted toward them back in the first season, but after Maleficent finally gets through to her daughter and convinces her to stay, it's "just for a week"—the same time period Emma initially planned to stay to keep an eye on Henry and make sure Regina was good for him.
    • When Cora encounters the Sheriff, asks about the man with the lion tattoo, and he reveals Robin's identity and that he's already married, Cora notes "Wives can be gotten rid of, so I hear." This is a rather twisted reference to her having murdered Eva so as to allow Regina to marry Leopold.
  • Cooldown Hug: Maleficent attempts one with Lily once she goes dragon; at first it doesn't work, but the second time it does.
  • Cruel Mercy: Rather than making Zelena an Unperson (and being no better than Cora), Regina chooses to allow her to live, and even gives her genuine advice about not being her own worst enemy...but also intends to leave her on the outside, watching the world but never part of it, never happy. And with the strictest visitation rights ever.
  • Death of Personality: Apparently, this is the fate of the Dark One's host after his heart darkens completely.
  • Divine Intervention: The Author interpreted page 23 appearing to Regina as this. In his words, "someone was looking out for her".
  • Dramatic Irony: Zelena is clearly terrified by the prospect of Regina getting her Ret Gone along with her unborn baby, when her original plan involved erasing from existence Regina and possibly, by eliminating Snow White's line, her adopted son, Henry.
  • Enemy Mine: The one from the previous episode sticks, as Emma bringing Lily back convinces Maleficent to back off, and once Lily pushes her away Maleficent is willing to appeal to Mary Margaret and David to help mend things (seeing as they have experience with rocky relationships with abandoned children).
  • Forgiveness: The episode revolves around this—whether Emma, Lily, and Regina can forgive each of their mothers (although Lily is hiding her resentment at Maleficent behind her hatred of the Charmings). They all do except Regina, who instead resolves to be unlike Cora (and to prove her wrong by finding happiness without power or a biological child).
  • For the Evulz: When Regina decides against giving Zelena a horrible fate, the Author transports himself back to Mr. Gold since he really wants to screw things up just because he can.
  • Healing Hands: Emma's light magic lets her do this with Mary Margaret (invokednot that anyone believed they'd really kill her).
  • Heel–Face Turn: Maleficent has a more downplayed version of this, for while she still has her dark magic (and wryly notes she doesn't mind the darkness in Lily), she's also realized after going all this time without knowing her daughter that what she told Regina when they met is still true: revenge is a waste of time, and it is better to build a better future than to cling to the wrongs of the past. This is aided, of course, by David and Snow helping her find and get through to Lily, which includes not only Snow correcting David when he calls Lily-in-dragon-form "it", but both of them intervening to save her from Lily's attack. (Never mind she was likely immune to the dragon fire, the gesture was surely appreciated.) Her convincing Lily to stay "for a week" and try to build a relationship with her instead of plotting against the Charmings is also a form of this.
  • He Had a Name: Regina says this when her mother recalls having killed "the stable boy".
  • Hope Spot: Despite the fact the viewer knows Regina didn't meet Robin Hood until after the first curse ended, the moment where Cora comes to her saying she had found him and puts her back in her beautiful dress is played as if she's really about to meet him...and for a moment it's easy to believe Cora really did learn her lesson, despite what happened in Season 2. But then the camera pans up from the lion tattoo...
  • Ignored Epiphany: Despite his speech to Belle last week, Gold still decides to go through with his plan. Although he justifies it by saying that although Rumpelstiltskin is dying, the Dark One will still survive and it would be better for everyone if he doesn't die.
  • Immortality Immorality: Gold reveals that although the Dark One's host—himself—can die, the Dark One can't.
  • I Want Grandkids: Cora has a rather dark form of this in how she wants Regina to bear children to create a dynastic line...one which she'd be only too happy to take control of and rule by proxy if Snow White were to dethrone Regina.
  • Ironic Echo: Just before Rumple collapses, Regina mockingly calls him "dearie" (the name he uses for people when he's manipulating them). In the flashback, she throws Cora's "love is weakness" line back in her face.
  • Internal Reveal: Isaac reveals to Regina that the page showing her and Robin together is from some "experimenting" he did for another book he never had a chance to write.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Cora tries to make the claim that Regina is the sole obstacle to her own happiness; while this isn't quite true, she's certainly the most consistent obstacle.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Hook is quick to gloat to Gold that Emma did not turn dark and that he can't do anything without killing himself.
    • Regina does quite a bit of gloating over the weak and dying Gold as she takes both the quill and Author from him. She also very much enjoys locking a de-powered Zelena up in Belle's old asylum room.
    • For that matter, Zelena herself deliciously enjoys taunting Regina about the baby, her connection with Robin, and how she intends to "replace" her, and she also taunts Emma about having killed Neal. The latter nearly leads to Emma attacking her until she pulls the low stunt of claiming the baby moved; the former, however, only leads Regina to her plans with the Author. Seems the Wicked Witch doesn't know when to stop pressing her luck.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Regina throws this back in Cora's face when she claims she is still acting out of love for her and wants her to have love in her life. Cora claims she realized she was wrong, but based on what happened before/after this in Season 2, it's pretty likely her mother was lying and didn't learn anything until she was dying.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Zelena taunts Regina that depending on Robin for her happy ending makes her this; Regina rebuffs her by saying he's just one part of the happiness that belonging in the world gives her.
  • Not So Different:
    • Zelena notes that Regina's attempt to remove her from existence makes Regina sound much like Cora. Naturally Regina stops when she hears that.
    • Also, to continue from the previous episode, see the similarities between Emma and Lily noted above under Continuity Nod.
  • Oh, Crap!: Zelena's defiant smile freezes when she realises Regina has the power and willingness to Ret Gone her and get away with that.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Even though she'd never met Robin Hood, the Sheriff's speech to Regina about giving her manly arms to support her when she wants to be weak (which he tries to save by claiming he just meant "feminine") gives away he isn't who he seems to be. As she says to Cora, "I may not have much experience with love, but that was not a soulmate!"
  • Outfit Decoy: Cora dresses the Sheriff of Nottingham up as Robin Hood, complete with lion tattoo, since at this point in the timeline Regina had not yet seen her True Love's face. It fails.
  • Parents as People: Both Emma and Lily realize this about the Charmings and Maleficent respectively, with a dose of Humans Are Flawed.
  • Pet the Dog: Cora, not known for her mercy, zaps the Sheriff of Nottingham out of Regina's dungeon.
    • Subverted by Cora's attempt to reconcile with Regina and it turns out that is not the reason she came.
  • The Reveal: That dragon shown attacking the Charmings in the previews? Lily, not Maleficent, and the latter was in fact trying to save them and talk her down.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Regina drinks a potion to make her unable to bear children so as to deny Cora the chance to influence the royal line and gain power (because "it hurts you more"). In the present, she leaves Zelena alive so that she can be tormented by watching what she can't have.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Lily goes into one after Regina taking her blood triggers her dormant dragon form.
  • Take a Third Option: A variation. Regina clearly didn't want to turn Emma dark but she needed the dark Savior's blood for her plan. So she took Lily's blood instead; since some of her darkness was Emma's, it qualified as the Savior's blood of darkness.
  • Title Drop: The words the Author writes in the book are: "Once upon a time..."
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Both Maleficent and Regina showed shades of this.
  • Wham Shot: Gold gives the Author a whole new book called ''Heroes and Villains" to write in.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Regina is very tempted to have the Author write Zelena out of existence—and the only witness would be the Author himself, thanks to the way the Ret Gone power of the ink works. But after being reminded of how much like Cora she is behaving, she changes her mind and takes the good (if still rather dark) path. Robin Hood shows up before she can finish announcing it, but the decision had already been made, and if she'd still wanted to do it she could have since Robin's memories would have been wiped, so it still counts as no one knowing but her.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: Zelena counts on this to protect her from Regina (or at least when it's Robin's child). Turns out she miscalculated.
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