Once Upon A Time 4×20 “Mother” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

If we had left the author trapped in the book as he was meant to stay, none of this stuff would’ve happened.

Enchanted Forest Flashbacks: On the anniversary of Daniel’s death, Regina brutally murders a soon to be husband in front of his fiancé and is revisited by Cora who’d like to make things right at the cemetery. It appears as though Cora’s spoken to Tinker Bell and she’s now aware of the fact that Regina has a soul mate in the world. However, after speaking to the Sheriff of Nottingham, Cora decides that Robin Hood isn’t the rightful man who’d rule alongside Regina therefore, the two plot to lie about who the real Robin Hood is. It’s only when “Robin Hood” uses the word weak that Regina figures something isn’t right. When the Sheriff states that Cora wants her to have a child, Regina makes herself infertile with a potion in an attempt to get Cora off her back for good. 

Present-Day Storybrooke: Rumplestilskin’s heart physically grows weaker and darker in color as it appears his time is coming to an end. Killian helps Emma see the beauty in true heroism thereby inspiring her to forgive her parents. When attempting to calm Dragon Lily, Maleficent convinces her to stick around for a bit in order for the two of them to attempt a happy life together. Regina finally decides to make the wisest life-altering choice, but the author is still absurd and chooses to rewrite all the stories taking us to a place where the worlds we’ve known aren’t as so.

While it’s understandable that we all love our jobs, his desires are a bit much. Go out and smell some fresh air, bro. Pet a puppy. Climb a tree. Write about other things — we can provide you with the directions if you’d like. Screwing up people’s lives just isn’t that great you know? Additionally, if he has such high powers, we’re wondering why the experimental writing never really altered the lives of these characters. Henry found a good amount of blank books, does this mean that a series of stories can only be written on one book until pages run out? Hopefully, we’ll get answers soon.

It’s so nice to see Barbara Hershey return as the ever-so-horrific Cora Mills — despite the fact that she’ll never win the best mother award, she’s always great to watch. And in this week’s episode we learn that even when she had Regina’s best interests at heart, she really didn’t. It’s never easy to empathize with Cora when all we’ve seen her do is emotionally abuse Regina; however, each character, as we’ve always believed, is responsible for their own fate.

There’s a moment in the flashbacks this week where Hershey’s performance gives us the opportunity to actually believe Cora’s remorseful. Cora doesn’t seem to have many regrets, but in this instance, it appears as though she is truly sorry for the fact that Regina and the Sheriff of Nottingham didn’t work out. It’s as though she wasn’t set out to ruin her daughter’s happiness but to find a way to maybe make matters right. And the best thing she’s said throughout the entire series is the final piece of motherly advice she gives to Regina — the only one standing in the way of your happiness is you. It not only works for Regina but every other character in the series.

When it comes to the Mills family drama this week, we found ourselves incredibly moved by Rebecca Mader’s performance as she states that Regina’s behavior is what’s giving her the opportunity to really get to know their mother. Zelena is so outrageously warped sometimes, it’s uncanny, but this is a moment where we truly see irrefutable pain inside of her. Although it’s always been evident that pain’s the reason she’s become this way, we see a great amount of humanity in the way she subtly pleads to Regina to reconsider wiping her from everyone’s memories. Zelena’s ruthless — she kills without second guessing and she wants to ruin Regina’s happiness more than anything, but at this moment we’re finally shown fear.

We’re able to see a woman who’s only ever wanted to be accepted and loved for who she is. We’re able to see a woman who’d probably jump at the first opportunity to be a part of her sister’s life if she sincerely wanted it. And that’s where we’re hoping the series goes with Zelena’s character. We’re hoping the child inside of her helps the darkness fade from her heart. We’re hoping that Regina’s choice to seize her happy ending honorably ends with her also attempting to help her sister become a better person. We’re hoping that Zelena truly finds it in her heart to acknowledge the awful things she’s done and feel the kind of remorse all villains presumably feel when they snap back to a conscious state of proper thinking. A loveless life makes people do terrifying things when they allow themselves to get lost in the midst of bitterness, heartbreak, and rage.

Additionally, if you’ve been keeping up with our reviews then you’re well aware of the fact that we’ve been desperately hoping Regina comes to the realization that she’s the true author of her life. We were hoping she’d understand that the outcome of her life isn’t the result of what some author writes, but the decisions she makes that lead her to a good place. And we’re very pleased with the fact that she’s chosen to walk away from changing her life with an author — we’re so glad she’s choosing to take her happiness into our hands by properly living her life as all heroes do. And heroes make mistakes, but they learn from them, grow from them, and continuously strive to make good choices.

Mader once again did an incredible job of exhibiting sincerity as Regina states that the two of them are their own worst enemies, and though she quickly resorts to her old self because of Regina essentially banishing her to watch from afar, something tells us that this pregnancy will in fact bring the sisters closer together. It’ll give them an opportunity to really understand one another and in the process, themselves as well. Though the author’s choice to run to Rumplestilskin brings about uncertainties for the future, we’re almost fairly certain happy endings include the Mills sisters growing closer to one another. We’re also hoping for this because Mader and Parilla are outstanding scene partners.

In order to get the ink working again, Regina and Isaac needed Emma’s darkness to trigger it; however, because Emma didn’t give in, Regina took some of the “dark blood” from Lily and as a result, Lily transformed into a dragon for the first time hurting Snow in the process. And this is the start of the emotional moments the episode brings.

Goodbyes — even the temporary ones are no fun, but reunions always make up for them. And though it’s merely a moment, we have a soft spot for quiet embraces that showcase a substantial amount of emotions. But mostly because we’re such fans of Emma Swan, there’s nothing quite as comforting on the series as seeing her completely happy. The past few days have undoubtedly been emotional for her and while the future’s still unpredictable and her heart isn’t at all at ease, she unwinds wonderfully in Killian’s embrace illuminating the conception that there’s no place quite as comforting as two arms welcoming you home. All the heartache and emotional distress within her can momentarily be eclipsed as he holds in her his arms.

However, while their embrace was lovely, nothing could’ve prepared us for the gorgeously defining moment we get with them at the docks. Killian takes Emma to the docks because he knows the horizon can ease her heart – he’s aware of how often she visits the place in times of need and his thoughtfulness allows her to safely feel as she pleases. What we’ve always felt was one of Killian’s greatest traits is his gentleness – the warmth he emanates as he reminds Emma of what’s most valuable in life showcases that his awareness comes from how well he understands and cares for her. Ultimately, Killian knows what Emma needs to hear and how she needs to hear it and his perceptiveness has ceaselessly been proven to be a blessing. Before he gives her the advice he knows she needs, he makes sure she knows he isn’t trying to overstep his boundaries. It is his job to protect her heart — just as it is hers, but what’s most telling is the fact that he was hoping. And by hoping he was asking for her permission to speak in regards to her heart. And he does this because of how immensely he respects each and every one of her choices.

At the end of the day, true love is about bringing out the best in someone. It’s chasing away the darkness, calming the storms within, and reminding them of all the good they’re forgetting because they aren’t in the right state of mind. Killian knows how deeply Emma loves her parents, but he also knows that much like her father (refer to Neverland arc), she can be stubborn at times. He knows that sometimes even when people are trying to make amends, the Charmings have a difficult time trusting. And Killian reminds her of the fact that while her parents have made a terrible mistake, they’ve always had her best interest at heart. He reminds her of the fact that even though they lied to protect her, they did it because they were ashamed of their actions.

Emma finds it in her heart to take Killian’s advice because she knows her parents honestly mean well. And we love that she also reminds him of the fact that she isn’t upset because of what they’ve done, but because they’ve lied about it. Thereby also reminding him of the fact that she doesn’t care about who he used to be because he’s turned himself around admirably. Emma Swan is incredibly compassionate, and it’s adorable how she showcases strength through her openness now. She chooses to make sure Killian knows how dearly she values the man he’s grown to become at every opportunity she gets.

It’s been a while since we’ve cried over a scene because the Charming Family’s managed to turn us into a puddle of key-smashing wrecks; therefore, it was great to finally get one this week. And with Snow and Emma especially because we’ve missed their relationship most. Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison are two of our favorite scene partners and the two of them delivered a full range of emotions spectacularly this week. Emma’s grown so much with her magic and it was lovely to see her use it to heal her mother’s head. It was also lovely of Snow to not only sincerely apologize once more but to remind Emma that as her mother, she’d do whatever it takes to protect her — no matter the cost, because she’s her daughter, she’ll always come first. And while she’s not proud of her decisions, if it means her daughter’s safe and happy, she’s content. It also doesn’t matter how old Emma gets because to a parent, a child stops never being their baby, and therefore, children will always be the greatest priority.

Emma’s response was riveting. Morrison did an impeccable job of delivering the scene with the beautiful childlike expressiveness she’s able to manifest perfectly when it comes to Emma’s moments with her parents. And what showcases extraordinary character growth is Emma’s choice to assure Snow that even though she was angry, nothing changes the fact that she’s her mother. And as her daughter, nothing, not even anger or disappointment, can ever come between the unparalleled love she has for her.

We know that it’s taken a lot of time for Emma to fully trust and open her heart to those around her, and that’s why her choice to forgive Snow while telling her she misses her was so commendable. It requires a great amount of courage to love people when you’ve been wounded, and Emma’s choice to continuously take these risks conveys the very fact that she’s trying to better herself every day. Some people are worth the risk and for Emma, those people are her parents, Henry, and Killian.

It’s necessary to mention that we also love how Snow ran after Maleficent without hesitation. When she said she’d make matters right, she meant it with every part of her being. And that’s who the Charmings are — no matter how much a person’s wronged them, their intentions are always to protect. It’s clear that she’s felt horrifying remorse for what they’ve done and because of it, she’ll fight twice as hard to ensure Maleficent’s happy ending. Maleficent ran towards Dragon Lily because she was her daughter, but Snow ran towards her because she didn’t want Maleficent to be alone just in case something happened. And if that doesn’t solidify her heroism nothing else will.

As Emma states, they’re heroes, but they’re also human beings. And being human means making mistakes. Being human also means forgiving and learning. Snow and Charming learned from their mistake while Maleficent and Emma learned the importance of forgiveness.

Also aboard the mother/daughter train — It appears Maleficent’s heart has effortlessly changed the moment she met her daughter. And while finally uniting with her mother hasn’t taken away Lily’s anger, we’re positive there are a lot of great things in store for the family of Dragons. Kristen Bauer van Straten floored us with the sincerity and love she delivered this week. In the most beautiful cases, true love, whether it’s romantic or platonic, has the greatest influence on someone’s happiness. And sometimes, that love is so pure, it effortlessly fills the emptiness inside the heart with hope.

The absolute distress and heartbreak Bauer van Straten played Maleficent’s vulnerability with was downright stunning — she’s proof that a child’s love is wholeheartedly enough to keep someone away from darkness. Lily wasn’t kind to her mother and especially with her walls up, she was fighting incredibly hard to push her away. However, what Maleficent does beautifully is choose not to let that enrage her further. She chooses her daughter’s happiness by setting aside her heartbreak and seeking out the Charmings for help. Lily wanted to unleash the dragon and her behavior could’ve easily triggered it if Maleficent allowed it to. Bauer van Straten broke us when she states, “we can be happy about the future or we can be angry about the past.” And the reason being is that we’re complete and total saps when it comes to the great life lessons Once Upon A Time presents. And did anyone else’s heart crumble to pieces when Maleficent sees Lily in dragon form and then says, “she looks like me?” Bauer van Straten played that moment with such loving pride.

As much as it pains her to be pushed away by Lily she still fights to showcase her love for her. And when Lily opens up about being afraid that she’ll eventually let her down as well, Maleficent conveys a colossal amount of love by assuring her daughter that she’s accepted just the way she is. It doesn’t matter what kind of a person they’ve envisioned the other to be because at the end of the day the only thing that matters is that they’re together.  Essentially we cannot wait to see where the newfound bond between mother and daughter takes Lily and Maleficent. We cannot wait to see the two of them fight for each other and grow in the process. Even if they (Maleficent and Lily) give into the darkness together at one point, something tells us it won’t be permanent.

It’s no surprise that Once Upon A Time draws parallels like no other series out there — and we’re enthralled with how the relationship between Maleficent and Lily mirrors Emma and Henry’s. Emma was hesitant to stay because she was afraid of not being a good enough mother, but the one week she chose to stay changed her life forever. In that week she’d finally met a best friend she could feel safe with only to later learn that Snow was in fact her mother. Tonight’s episode was indeed appropriately titled.

Additionally, it’s incredibly interesting to us that Maleficent and Emma were the ones whose hearts had the greatest potential for darkness, yet their hearts are nowhere near as dark as their friends. Perhaps the Chernabog should’ve gone after Cruella instead because she’s ultimately the only one from the Queens of Darkness who’s enjoyed being the villain most. If both these women are most susceptible to darkness then their choices prove they’re in fact the bravest. It’s easy to give into darkness when life’s been difficult. Regina, Ursula, Hook, Ingrid, Rumplestilskin, and basically all villains are proof of that.

However, much like Hook, darkness only took control of Maleficent’s life for a short while. Love quickly filled the bitter voids that were left in their hearts from the years of turmoil they’d endured and that’s pretty admirable. It’s admirable that they’ve chosen to put the past behind them in order to create a better future. It’s admirable that they’re the ones who have let love in.

What are your thoughts on this week’s episode?

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