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Once Upon a Time - Enter the Dragon - Review

Last night’s episode, while not as revelatory as it could have been, was still a lot of fun. It was the Queens of Darkness scenes that stood out especially to me. The shenanigans that these evil women got up to in “Enter the Dragon” made for an entertaining watch. Given this was to be Maleficent’s back story episode, I think I expected more revelation, particularly regarding the baby she lost. What we got was fine and actually I’m a bit glad the writers aren’t going to try cramming her shared past with Regina and the business about the babies all into one episode. I look forward to Once Upon a Time letting her character breathe and unfold. The highlight of my night was this episode’s acknowledgement of things I’ve discussed in previous reviews; that the lines are blurring between heroes and villains, so much so that each group is taking on the roles of the other. The more this is explored the more invested I get into this season of Once Upon A Time.

The episode begins with Regina bursting in on the Queens of Darkness boozing it up at Granny’s. Everyone’s outfits look fantastic, I especially like Cruella’s semi-rockstar look, though Maleficent’s “lady gangster” threads set the scene. She’s in charge of this girl gang and they’ve got mischief to manage. Regina has sought out the Queens of Darkness, claiming she wants in on whatever they have cooking. Maleficent hints that the trio have bigger schemes than what Regina imagines in the works, but her companions, Cruella and Ursula, don’t really believe the Evil Queen is back in action. Maleficent wants to test Regina, who assures everyone in the room that she is bad to the bone. Thank goodness these villains have a shred of sense not to outright trust Regina.

We flashback to see adolescent Snow White riding. I’m not sure where exactly these flashbacks are meant to fall in the grand scheme of Once Upon a Time. For some reason, it’s been hard for me to keep track of when events in the past are supposed to be happening this season. Anyway, we see Regina, seething with hatred over Snow’s happiness and ability to be carefree, taking out her rage on Snow’s many riding ribbons. Rumpelstiltskin pops up to taunt Regina. The evil queen sneers right back at the imp, claiming she isn’t learning magic quickly enough and as her teacher Rumple is to blame. Regina has even taken it upon herself to do some supplemental reading and to the Dark One’s surprise, has been studying from Maleficent’s spell book. For some reason this book was among Cora’s things. I truly do wonder why and how Regina’s mother had that book in her possession. Young Regina is hungry for revenge and feels as if her lessons are taking her nowhere. So Rumple, intent on teaching her a lesson that might stick, shows the young queen a vision of what her idol Maleficent’s magic can do. In the vision we see a forest the dragon queen laid to waste where a single tree still burns due to the power of her flame. Regina is eager to learn how all this was achieved and her teacher bemusedly reveals that it took time and patience. Well, Regina sees this as excuses and is tired of waiting, so Rumple bids her best of luck and poofs the evil queen to Maleficent’s domain.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma is shocked to find out Regina went undercover against a trio of foes at her parents’ behest. The savior wished to be clued in on the action since she sees herself as being a valuable asset, what with her bail bonds person skills. And what’s more troubling is that Madame Mayor was supposed to check in with the Charmings an hour ago and there’s been no word. This is already a sign of difficult times ahead. It may not have been meant to be as much, but here we see Emma’s parents keeping things from her again, even if it’s in the short run. Also, I like to think that Emma’s eagerness to help Regina in this task goes all the way back to the savior’s vow in 4A to help Regina find her happy ending. Emma knows that if Regina returns to the dark side, the queen will never get that happy end.

So what are the Queens of Darkness up to? We see them cruising erratically around Storybrooke in the De Vil-mobile. There’s a great shot of the four villainesses (or three villainesses and one heroine) in the car, like some sort of evil squad or lady gang. While they cruise, Regina tries with as much tact as a sledgehammer to worm some information regarding the magic used to perform Maleficent’s miraculous return out of the queens. She comes up empty handed as the others don’t trust the mayor just yet. No, there’s a little test to perform first. Cruella stops the De Vil-Mobile in the middle of some train tracks with a freight train on the way. She’s basically playing chicken to see if Regina will be a hero and save them all. These women are nuts to be putting themselves in danger just to test Regina’s loyalty. Despite holding out for quite some time, Regina eventually poofs the car out of harm’s way. Apparently Cruella was betting on this outcome, for Maleficent pays up from the backseat in the form of jewelry. I love the sisterhood of evil that’s being cultivated here, the playfulness that goes along with their serious villainy. It makes seeing these actresses on screen together so much fun! Maleficent, despite Regina’s poor showing, claims her former friend to be just “rusty”. Regina rolls with this and proposes they look for some real trouble and the De Vil-mobile speeds off into the night.

On to what appears to be the next day, we follow Emma in her yellow bug as she pulls up to Granny’s Diner. Hook is just leaving with what little information he could gather on the Queens of Darkness’s whereabouts. Much to Granny’s irritation, the villainesses drank the diner dry after Regina joined them, before gallivanting into the night. Emma is worried that the worst could happen and is concerned whether Regina truly has the situation under control. At about this same time, we see the Charmings cruising through the woods. They are equally as worried as their daughter, especially since they come across a burned out sheriff’s cruiser. Regina appears, apologizing for the damage, but that’s apparently what Queens of Darkness do for kicks; arson, murder, jaywalking. The usual. Regina had to prove herself and played along with the drinking and destruction. Reminding the Charmings that this was only one night, she has no immediate answers even though the pair demand them of her. Sounds very similar to young Regina in the flashback and her need for an instant fix. There seems to be a theme running through this episode of patience being the key to getting what you want. It could also be the fact that the Charmings are anxious that their secret will be revealed and need the Queens of Darkness to get out of town in a hurry. All Regina knows is that the Queens of Darkness are up to something big. Regina is confident in her plan; she established trust through their night of debauchery and wants Maleficent to come to her, not the other way around. I think Regina, despite all her efforts to be “bad” will never be fully trusted by the others and will get the rug pulled out from under her.

Flashback to the Enchanted Forest, where young Regina enters Maleficent’s castle. She explains to the empty drawing room of how she’s been studying beginner’s magic, but wants Maleficent to teach her. Maleficent’s voice penetrates the room, demanding to see what mystical stuff Regina is made of by requesting the young queen light the fireplace. Regina has a hard time mustering enough magic to produce one of her soon-to-be famous fireballs, but still succeeds in lighting the fire. Maleficent comes into view, calling Regina’s attempt pathetic, and I swear she looks like Once Upon a Stevie Nicks. I know Maleficent is supposed to look run down and strung out here, but there is something just really fabulous about this hazy, spent look. Maleficent has been comforting herself after her defeat at the hands of Briar Rose and True Love by dosing herself with a diluted sleeping curse. Regina looks disappointed to say the least, like a teen meeting a singer she hero-worshiped, only to find out they are a drugged up mess. Maleficent even acknowledges how far she’s fallen. I like the additional detail that Briar Rose is Aurora’s mother, it’s just a nice reference to the source material. Regina presses the matter, despite wading into dangerous territory, and talks about how the old Maleficent wouldn’t give up. The dragon queen is enraged by this reminder of what she once was, but is too out of it from the sleeping curse to really care and simply kicks Regina out of her palace instead of frying her.

In present day Storybrooke, our Queens of Darkness trio stroll into Rumpelstiltskin’s cabin in the woods, home to many a cane beating. The Dark One is there waiting for them and is intrigued to learn that Regina has been sniffing around for information. Now that Rumple knows Regina is trying to integrate herself with the other queens, the mayor is so very not in control of the situation. Rumple’s plan is just now unfolding and the imp with the limp realizes that Regina may be more vulnerable and willing to help their side, due to her recent loss of Robin Hood. The Dark One talks of a war brewing, a war he intends to start tonight, and that Regina will have to eventually pick a side. I have to wonder at what Rumple’s endgame is here. How will war help him reach his goals and what really are his goals anymore? Does he want revenge, a happy ending, and do either of those things involve Belle?

Back in the Enchanted Forest, a rejected Regina is walking home from Maleficent’s domain where she find out that Briar Rose’s daughter, Aurora, is to be wed and receive a happy end. Regina is furious and storms back to Maleficent, complaining that now a whole new generation is getting their dream to come true. The dragon queen questions why Regina even cares and Regina is surprisingly candid with her would-be mentor. If someone as powerful as Maleficent can’t get her revenge that must mean Regina’s is a complete lost cause. Regina insists that Maleficent turn back into a dragon and fight, but the cold truth comes out; Maleficent has lost the spark, the fight, and with that the ability to become a dragon. We know magic is tied very strongly to emotion, so whatever Maleficent went through in her defeat must have been quite something to result in her signature power leaving her. I can’t wait for the other bits of her back story!

Present day, where we see a hung-over Regina cleaning up the results of another Queen of Darkness bender in her vault. Maleficent comes to call, remarking on how good it is to see Regina. The dragon queen must still be clinging on to that old friendship they once had. Even with Regina’s betrayal and the results of her curse, Maleficent is still vouching for the Evil Queen, still giving her chances to prove herself. I don’t think Maleficent would do that for the other Queens of Darkness, so it will be interesting to see what happens should lines are drawn. Maleficent, again showing uncharacteristic compassion, gives Regina a few aspirin; the dragon queen wants her friend at the top of her game because there is much to do tonight. Maleficent discloses that the Queens of Darkness are also after the Author, a fact that gives Regina pause. Maleficent conjures up the tale that good old Rumple spilled the beans on that literary secret in New York, and assures Regina that they have new leads where her attempts failed. Before all is exposed, however, Maleficent has one final task for Regina. This is beginning to feel like an initiation into a secret club or something.

Jump to the Storybrooke Library, where the Charmings are not so covertly meeting with Regina to get the latest scoop on the evil schemes in town. Regina is quite annoyed that Charming, Snow, Emma, and even Hook are there, but it is true that these heroes work in teams. Anyway, the Charmings are still concerned about Regina, that despite her assurances she’s in way over her head with the Queens of Darkness. But Regina is resilient and brings the news that the queens plan to find the Author and shift the entire fairy tale balance, so that villains win and heroes lose. And to do so, they must eliminate the heroes’ happy endings. I wonder if we will see the result of these happy endings being wiped. That would be one of the most interesting twists for Once Upon a Time to take, one I hope the writers explore. To see what would happen if Regina never had to cast the Dark Curse, if Rumple never lost Baelfire? Would Emma grow up in the Enchanted Forest, would she be the woman she is today? And what would become of Henry, would he blink out of existence? Had Regina even considered that possibility in her search for her happy end? So much to think about. Well, regardless of Regina’s protests, Emma insists on helping with this latest mission in any way she can. I don’t know how much help Emma can offer when this is strictly a villain’s game. Could this be the start of the savior’s decent to darkness?

Meanwhile, at the ever popular Granny’s, the Knave of Hearts and Belle are having a bit of a date night with a very intimidating slab of chocolate cake. Hook crashes the date, bringing tension to the booth they are now all crammed into due to his past run in with the Knave. But Hook is there for Belle and once he has the librarian alone he explains the current Queens of Darkness situation. Hook thinks that the trio might be after the Dark One dagger in a gambit to increase their power and even goes so far as to suggest that they could be luring the Dark One back to Storybrooke. The pirate wants to move the dagger from Belle’s current hiding spot for safety reasons.

Later that night, Regina is waiting for her latest dark dalliance to begin. As the mayor waits in the shadows, Emma isn’t far off, keeping watch in her father’s pickup truck. The De Vil-mobile rolls up to where Regina is waiting, driverless, and Maleficent appears, bidding Regina to hop in. The car is enchanted to take them to their destination. It’s just the two of them, Maleficent and Regina, just like old times. The De Vil-mobile carries the pair through town, with Emma tailing them no far behind. Soon, Regina and Maleficent arrive at none other than Geppetto’s and Maleficent reveals what they are truly after. The dragon queen wants to kidnap Pinocchio, believing he has information about the Author. Now we know Regina has already tried to jog the boy’s memory and she says as much, but Maleficent is insistent. She mentions Ursula and Cruella’s doubts towards Regina’s loyalty, so for the mayor to prove that she still is the Evil Queen, she must kidnap Pinocchio. Sometimes I write a sentence in these reviews and realize just how odd this show really is.

Flashback to young Regina and the newly be-horned Maleficent as they seek out the tree Rumpelstiltskin told of, the one that still burns with dragon’s fire. Again, I wonder at the continuity of Maleficent’s updated look. I don’t know why it bugs me, but it does. The pair arrive at the burning bush and Maleficent inhales the leftover dragon’s fire. There are some great visuals here with the CGI fire flowing into Maleficent. She seems overwhelmed at consuming this lost power, unsure that their plan has worked. Before Maleficent can test her abilities, King Stefan and his guards ride up, warning the dragon queen against taking away his daughter Aurora’s happiness. Maleficent attempts to transform but the magic isn’t complete and she and Regina are seized by the guards.

Back to Storybrooke, where Geppetto and Pinocchio are working in their workshop. It’s odd that they are still practicing carpentry so late into the night, though it is nice to see such a happy moment between the two since they’ve been reunited. Their moment together doesn’t last long as Regina enters the workshop and magically puts both the boy and his father into a deep sleep. I have great concern over what this action could mean for Regina. Geppetto not only warned the mayor to stay away from his son, but also Regina just won back Geppetto’s trust just last episode. What’s going to happen when Geppetto comes to? As Regina looks conflicted over her actions and what she must do next, Emma arrives sensing something was very wrong. Regna doesn’t want to pull out of the mission just yet and vows to keep the boy safe, despite whatever Maleficent is planning. Emma remarks that her super power has been going nuts these past few days, how she thinks everyone is lying to her, and we the audience know she has good reason to believe that. We don’t even need the guilty look on Regina’s face to tell us otherwise. Emma should listen to her gut here, it’s going to break her heart when things come to light.

I have to say, the music in this scene is great, it really heighten the tension of the situation, making the viewer feel as if at any moment things can go very wrong for the mayor and the savior. Now comes my favorite moment of the episode, where Regina earnestly explains that the Queens of Darkness are taking a page out of the heroes playbook and working together, so they need to take a page out of the villain’s book and break the rules to succeed. This is everything season 4B is shaped around and turning out to be and I love that Once Upon a Time is truly going in this direction. Emma agrees to hang back unless things go south, and Regina delivers the sleeping Pinocchio to Maleficent in the waiting De Vil-mobile. The dragon queen comments that it’s good to have Regina back, solidifying the fact that Maleficent views Regina as more of a friend to her than the other Queens of Darkness. Before they set off though, Regina pauses and considers her phone. She seems to be torn about something.

Back to the Enchanted Forest, where Regina wants to fight their way out of captivity. Maleficent is being a bit of a defeatist here, claiming King Stefan’s men can’t be bested. Not without a dragon’s help, says Regina. The young queen uses her limited magical powers to burn through her bonds and manages to shoot a fireball at one guard before her magic is spent. There must have been something in Regina’s daring move that inspired Maleficent, for the dragon queen gets her nerve back and finally transforms in a great display of CGI. The effects have been improving season by season and I love it when the Maleficent dragon appears on screen. Dragon Mal fireballs King Stefan with ease and it was here that I wondered if Stefan wasn’t in fact the father of Maleficent’s baby as I had previously assumed.

Later on, we see the Princess Aurora in her bedroom. Maleficent appears silently in what is becoming her trademark move and creeps up to the princess, revealing herself and gloating that King Stefan failed to protect his daughter. Maleficent didn’t kill the king or Briar Rose, instead she left them both alive to suffer by seeing what she would do to their daughter. Aurora, ever firmly standing on the side of good, vows to defeat Maleficent with True Love, something the dragon queen could never have. Maleficent mentions a special curse planned for Prince Philip, alluding to his transformation into a beast known as the Yaoguai from all the way back in season two. Before Aurora can really protest, Maleficent pricks her with the sleeping curse from earlier and sends the princess into a deep slumber. Young Regina has been watching this entire time and is inspired by the events as they unfolded. Maleficent is grateful to the young queen for reminding her of who she is. Could this be why Maleficent values her bond with Regina so much, the fact that the Evil Queen once pulled her from the brink and helped Maleficent gain a victory?

In Storybrooke, Belle and Hook have retrieved the Dark One dagger from its hiding spot. Belle gives the dagger to Hook so he can secret it away somewhere safe, though the librarian hesitates, struck with an awful thought. What if Rumpelstiltskin is already in Storybrooke? If that’s the case, the dagger is her only protection and parting with it could prove to be dangerous. Hook suggests that she use the dagger’s power and command the Dark One to face her. Belle utters these words and nothing happens, so she allows Hook to take the dagger and leaves. Something wasn’t quite right with Hook during this entire scene. He was far too subdued and we quickly see why. Hook is actually Rumpelstiltskin in disguise! It’s very interesting to note that while Belle did command the Dark One to “face her”, Rumple wearing Hook’s image did just that, turning to face his wife. Oh Rumple and your loopholes! I wonder if it was actually Rumpelstiltskin in the library learning of Regina’s double agent status with the Charmings and Emma or if Hook was actually there. Either way, there is serious trouble brewing as the librarian has handed over the only thing capable of keeping Rumpelstiltskin in check. Without the dagger as protection, I don’t know if there is anything that can stop the imp with the limp.

Later, Rumple arrives at the pawn shop and pauses outside to disguise himself as Hook once more. This scene is especially fascinating to watch as we now know it’s actually Rumple interacting with Belle. In fact, it was great rewatching this episode and seeing the subtle ways the Dark One was being projected through his illusion. RumpleHook suggests that he and Belle swear a pirate’s oath to never speak of what they did to anyone or each other ever again, effectively covering his tracks. After this latest bit of deceit, Belle talks about how the Knave of Hearts left her a rose on the doorstep. RumpleHook asks about how the librarian and the Knave met, his voice cracking. I have to give it up to Colin O'Donoghue here for his excellent acting. I truly believed Rumpelstiltskin was hiding behind the visage of this swarthy pirate. Belle explains that with the Knave, things are different, that it’s nice to spend time with someone who is nothing more than what he says he is. She may not be over Rumple, but for right now the Knave of Hearts makes her smile. I don’t know how Rumpelstiltskin thinks he could win back Belle after this latest deception, but it is nice to see that the librarian isn’t wallowing over the past. She is taking a healthy route and is giving Rumple something to think about in regards to how he treated her.

In the final flashback of the episode we find Regina back at the stables with Rumpelstiltskin. Regina offhandedly comments that she returned so quickly thanks to getting a lift back from a dragon. The beginnings of an evil friendship are blooming here. Regina also realized that she already had a fine teacher in Rumple, much to the imp’s pleasure. The pair have been looming over something in this scene, which turns out to be Snow White’s prized horse. Regina took a leaf out of Maleficent’s book and put the beast under a sleeping curse that should wear off in a hundred years. The young queen has learned a powerful lesson from her new dragon friend. Maleficent helped Regina see that death was too good for her enemies, that she needs to take away what Snow White loves to get her revenge. Rumple casually comments that this is what he had been trying to teach her all along, and Regina replies that she is finally ready to learn, no matter the time it takes.

Present day Storybrooke finds Emma watching Regina via her cell phone’s GPS. Only the savior realizes something is wrong and the mayor hasn’t changed her position in a while. We soon find the result of Regina’s early conflict; her cell phone left in the middle of the street. Emma wonders aloud at what Regina is up to and I echo the sentiment. Was Regina protecting Emma and the mission, or is the mayor of Storybrooke in too deep? Soon, Maleficent and Regina arrive at the cabin, Regina confused at why they are using this of all places as a hideout. Maleficent gives a quip that the Queens of Darkness needed a place to “hang their headdresses”, but the real reason comes to light both figuratively and literally. The mayor realizes that the dark magic that brought Maleficent back was actually a person and her worst fears are confirmed as Rumpelstiltskin emerges from the shadows. I’m actually surprised Rumple outed himself so early in the season. Perhaps he was disguised as Hook in the library and had to adjust his plans accordingly. Regina’s face here is a mask of panic, worry, and an attempt to play everything off as being cool and it is amazing to see all this flash over Lana Parrilla’s face in this scene. As Rumple explains how he had to fall so very far in order to finally see the light, Regina reminds her former teacher that a happy ending can’t be achieved without the Author, which does put them on the same side for the moment. The Dark One refers to the still sleeping Pinocchio as their method to taking the first steps in finding this elusive Author. Regina is standing between the boy and the beast and Rumple poses the question that has been asked of Regina this entire episode; has she gone soft. Reluctantly, the mayor steps aside and allows the Dark One to raise his dagger toward Pinocchio. He isn’t going to ask the boy any questions, Rumple knows that is futile. Instead, they are going to ask the man he once was, and with a wave of the dagger, Rumple restores Pinocchio to his former persona, August W. Booth. You can practically hear Regina gulp as this happens.

And that’s it for “Enter the Dragon”! How did you feel about the episode, be sure to comment below!

I’m very surprised that we are seeing August in present day Storybrooke. It was said he would return, but I assumed that this would be in the form of flashback to his time learning about The Book and its author. I believe we will still get these flashbacks, but I wonder as to August’s fate when he is able to escape the Queens of Darkness. If he can escape that is. It’s interesting to see Regina toe the line in this episode and now that the game has changed with the inclusion of August, I wonder how far she will be willing to go, or unwillingly fall, to keep her undercover story.

This season has the potential to really explore a few things. I love the Queens of Darkness and I find that with Once Upon a Time, the show builds these interesting characters only to have them disappear after an arc is done. I don’t think the cast needs to get bigger, but I would like to see characters carry over from one story to the next more. Having the Queens of Darkness somehow begrudgingly stay in Storybrooke would lend itself to the idea that all these adventures have lasting consequences in the lives of the characters and the community of Storybrooke. I think there’s hope for this considering Bo Peep is allowed to roam around.

Case in point, I would have loved to Zelena stay in Storybrooke and try to patch things up with Regina. Her presence would have added an interesting angle to Regina’s going undercover since the Wicked Witch leaned much more on the side of evil. How would Zelena have reacted to Regina’s actions? Would family have come first or the drive towards darkness? Perhaps this is what is meant to be explored with Emma’s potential for evil. Would the savior give in to the dark urges or stick with her family and the way they conduct business? Hopefully we get more answers as the episodes keep coming.

Tune in for a look into Ursula’s past next week with “Poor Unfortunate Soul”!

About the Author – Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Galavant, as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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