The mid-season finale of Once Upon a Time ended on an ominous note: Regina’s monster of a mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey), had created another portal in Fairytale Land and was sailing towards Storybrooke on a pirate ship helmed by Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue). Yet their actual arrival in Storybrooke is less explosive and much more subtle than one may have expected.

Last night’s episode, "The Cricket Game," begins with Cora and Captain Hook docked in Storybrooke’s port and arguing on how to proceed. Hook is eager to find and off Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle), but Cora opts for caution and stealth. Meanwhile, in un-Disney-esque fashion, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) are caught canoodling in bed by – who else? – daughter Emma and grandson Henry. Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is horrified, while Henry (Jared Gilmore) is shocked they’re still in bed so late in the afternoon.

Later, they celebrate Snow and Emma’s return from Fairytale Land at Granny’s Diner. Ousted Regina (Lana Parrilla) pops in to the townspeople’s chagrin, and turns the tables, asking Emma if she can see Henry more often, since she was his mother for the first ten years of his life. Emma rejects her offer, though she says Archie aka Jiminy Cricket (Raphael Sbarge) did tell her Regina came to visit and that she was trying her best to be good. Emma admires her effort to change regardless. Regina, upset over the breach in doctor-patient confidentiality, confronts Archie. The next day, Cora, disguised as Regina, strangles him in his office.

With the help of Archie’s Dalmatian, appropriately named Pongo, Emma and Red (Meghan Ory) discover the therapist’s body. Regina is pegged as the prime suspect in Archie’s death, though she pleads innocent, and Emma releases her, pursuing Rumpelstiltskin instead, who is the only other person who’d want to kill Archie. Rumpel also pleads his innocence and suggests Emma use a dreamcatcher on Pongo, the sole witness to Archie’s murder, to reveal the true culprit. Rumpel gathers the dog’s memories and tells Emma to “will” them into focus. After a fruitless start, Emma exercises her powers (which involves staring intently at said dreamcatcher) and sees that Regina did indeed kill Archie. After Emma, Snow, and Charming confront Regina with the evidence, she rages over the fact that she cannot defend herself and the inevitability that Henry will never forgive her when he finds out. She disappears in a cloud of smoke and reappears to look on tearfully while Emma fully embraces her role as mother and breaks the news to Henry.

Most OUAT episodes feature flashbacks of Fairytale Land before Regina cursed all the characters to Storybrooke. In the flashbacks of last night’s episode, Snow and Charming capture Regina, strip her of her powers, and debate her fate with Granny, Red, and Jiminy Cricket, among others. They agree the only way to protect Fairytale Land is to kill Regina, which they almost do. Despite Regina’s proclamation that she wishes Snow was dead and that she had carried out her destruction on Fairytale Land, Snow stops the execution from going any further. She is certain Regina has the capacity to change and do good, and with Rumpel’s advice, gives her ex-step-mother the ultimate test: to provide her with a fresh start and free her from prison. Regina fails, choosing to try and kill Snow instead of doing away with evil, and earning her banishment from Snow’s kingdom. Later, Rumpel visits an embittered Regina and plants the idea for a curse in her head. So continues the Evil Queen's reign of terror.

Back in Storybrooke, Cora surprises Hook with Archie, very much alive and tied up on his ship. The corpse Emma and Red found earlier in the episode was disguised to look like Archie’s. So someone else is dead in Storybrooke…but who? Seeing as it’s her first day in town, Cora simply has no idea. It is a chilling thought, one which will hopefully be reconciled by season’s end. —Jill Wronski

Check out a preview for next week’s episode below:

Get Uinterview's FREE iPhone App For Daily News Updates here.

Get the FREE Uinterview iPad app here and watch our videos anywhere.