This episode begins with a conversation at the magical Storybrooke wishing well, where Felix is congratulating Pan for sticking it to Regina. Pan is assembling the ingredients to cast the curse, and happily, one of those ingredients is Felix's heart, since he's the closest thing Pan can get to love. He rips the bugger's heart out and tosses it along with the other ingredients into the well, starting the chain reaction that will bring on the curse.
Our heroes on the other side of town are wondering how they're going to stop a second curse, and Rumple may have a way. The curse was built to be unstoppable, but the person who originally cast it - and that's Regina, of course - can use it to reverse the damage. Of course, that'll come with a price, and it'll be a steep one.
But first, he recommends that they use a spell to switch Pan and Henry back to their respective bodies, but he needs a powerful tool to do that: the black fairy's wand.
Tink helpfully provides back story that will no doubt be called upon in a later story arc: the black fairy was well-learned in dark magic and very powerful. Blue exiled her but before she did, she took the black fairy's wand. It's possible Blue has it hidden in the church or convent somewhere.
David, Henry, Tink and Neal head off to the church and everyone else goes to Gold's shop to prepare Henry for the body switch.
Flashback now to the Enchanted Forest, where a very pregnant Snow is frantically seeking reassurance from Blue that if this plan to send her and the baby through the wardrobe doesn't work, they'll still all be okay somehow. Blue tells her that even if they all get sucked over to the new realm, their "story" will reveal itself to Snow and Charming's child - she's not sure how, but she has faith that it will.
Snow remarks that this curse will destroy every dream she had for her family but Charming urges her to not lose hope. "Life is full of twists and turns," he tells her, and not all of them are bad. Snow moves over to the unicorn mobile and says "I choose hope."
Forward now to present day, and Snow is standing in Gold's shop looking at the mobile, and telling Emma that giving her up was the hardest thing she's ever had to do. Emma confesses that she now regrets giving Henry up because they could have had a life together.
Over at the church, Blue's body is lying in state and the nuns are lined up, paying their respects. Tink asks them for the black fairy's wand but they refuse, and in swoops Pan's shadow, seeking the same prize. David sends the nuns scurrying to safety, and the rest of the crew takes refuge by crouch-sitting in a pew - led there by the one guy who really knows how to survive. Not exactly a stellar choice for cover, Hook.
Speaking of Hook (and I do love speaking of Hook), we're flying back now to Neverland circa: a long time ago after Hook's encounter with Baelfire. He's currently trudging through the jungle with Mr. Smee in tow when they're attacked by Tink, who holds a knife to Hook's throat.
They share an incredibly seductive conversation (I'm not kidding - watch the damn clip on Youtube) and some rum, and discuss the nature of happy endings (heh!). She questions his desire for revenge as a happy ending, especially when it can mean ending his own life. Hook tells her there's two things he'd risk his life for: love and revenge. *sigh*
Forward again to the church, where everyone's still crouching in a pew.
The shadow is still swooping around. Hook decides to be a hero and draw it away, only to get thrown on his face. Neal urges Tink to use her pixie dust and fly up to trap the malevolent with the flame in the magic coconut (side note: on what other show recap can you write a sentence like that? Honestly.) She finally believes in herself, activating the dust, then she lights the candle in the coconut and flies up, trapping the shadow before she tosses it in the open barbeque pit that's somehow inexplicably in the middle of a church and destroys it forever.
Hook congratulates her with a warm, "Look who's still a fairy."
Tink tells him that she knows why he risked his life and it wasn't for the greater good: it was for Emma.
And guess who just came condescendingly back to life?
It's the only way to be sure.
Yep, destroying the shadow suddenly made Blue wake up, and in a show of begrudging gratitude, she gives Tink her wings back and hands over the black fairy's wand, which she just happens to have on her person.
I'm registering the official theory that Blue is actually the Black Fairy in disguise, and they're going to use that at a later date.
But back to our heroes, who are all now at Gold's shop with the wand and Pan/Henry. Gold pulls out the magical cuff that Hook used to make Regina powerless ("I haven't forgotten about that, by the way," she tells a chagrined Hook). Rumple places the cuff on Pan/Henry's arm, so that when Pan returns to his body, he'll be powerless.
"And when you get back to your body, you hang onto that scroll and come find us," Regina tells him.
Rumple puts Pan/Henry into a deep sleep before using the wand, and after completing the spell, everyone (including Belle now) rushes off to find the real Henry. Rumple declines to follow, telling Belle that when his father awakes, he has some unfinished business to take care of.
Flashback now to Storybrooke, not long before Henry went to find Emma. We get a glimpse into Henry's life during the curse when Henry unloads on Snow, telling her that he doesn't belong there - nothing ever changes in this town and everyone has this incredibly predictable life. He's clearly frustrated and feeling alone, and Snow can't help but be moved by it.
She gives Henry a gift. She was cleaning her closet as she has every week (for twenty-eight years, I'm guessing) and suddenly, she found the story book. "It was like magic," she tells Henry. "Fairy tales are a reminder that our lives will get better if we just hold onto hope," she tells him. Henry takes the book, and for a moment as he glances at Mary Margaret, he sees her resemblance to the picture of Snow White in the book (beautifully shown by having Snow appear in her wedding dress on the street in Storybrooke).
Forward to present day, where the heroes have tracked down Henry (courtesy of Granny's wolfie nose). He hands over the scroll and a bright light shoots out of it, knocking Regina to the ground.
Over in Gold's shop, meanwhile, Pan is waking up. Rumple wants one last conversation, and Pan starts waxing nostalgic only for it to take a turn into whining narcissism as he points out that this tiny, helpless babe he was entrusted with became a lifelong drain on his time, money and patience. (Hey, I was married to that guy for a while!) and he just wanted to be free. He still wants that.
Rumple offers to give him his freedom in death. He grabs a cutlass, only to have Pan give him one last lesson: never make a cage you can't get out of. He rips the cuff off and puts it on Rumple, rendering Rumple harmless. Then he blasts him off his feet as Rumple mewls: "I've come too far for this - for them!" Pan assures him that when the town gets hit by the curse, he's going to go ahead and murder the people that are special to Rumple just for fun, especially since he knows that without magic, Rumple is too cowardly to lift a finger to stop him.
Rumple lays there shaking and sobbing, trying in vain to remove the cuff as Pan strolls away.
Flashback to the Enchanted Forest and Rumpletstiltskin's castle, where he's celebrating yet another birthday without Bae. Belle tries to comfort him, and Rumple confesses that he had a chance to be happy with his son, but didn't take it because he was afraid. "My ending shall not be a happy one," he tells her.
Forward to Gold's shop, where we see him looking at the cutlass and holding his arm out with grim determination.
Over to the rest of the main cast now, and Regina, who is slowly coming around. She's terribly, deeply shaken by what was revealed to her. She's seen what needs to be done.
"Mom, are you gonna be okay?" Henry asks.
"The important thing is - you will be," she answers evasively.
And up strolls Pan, who freezes them in place with a wave of his hand and takes the scroll back. Before he can go on his killing spree, Rumple grabs him from behind. He says a tearful and heartfelt goodbye to Neal and Belle, and then calls down his missing shadow, who brings him the Dark One's dagger, reminding Pan that the only way he can kill him is if he dies himself, and that's a price he's finally willing to pay. (And again - why is that? They've never explained why Rumple has to die to kill Pan - it certainly doesn't work the other way around).
Rumple plunges the dagger into Pan's back and we see him morph back into Rumple's papa, who pleads with him to stop this and pull out the dagger. "We'll have our happy ending," he coos. Rumple isn't buying into that bullshit, and with a hard twist of the dagger he reminds his father: "Villains don't get happy endings."
Then he kisses his cheek and they both disappear in a blaze of light.
Belle falls to her knees and Neal is devastated. Regina picks up the scroll, clearly dreading what comes next.
"Regina," Hook prompts. "We're here for a reason love - the curse remains. Can you stop it? Or should we all start preparing our souls because mine's going to take some time."
I'll bet, you saucy pirate.
We see the curse rushing through town, and Leroy starts screaming "It's here! The curse is here!"
Emma asks about the price and Regina tells them that the price is the thing she loves most - Henry and this life. In order to break the curse, she has to completely undo it. The town will disappear as though it were never there in the first place, and all who were born there will be sent back to the Enchanted Forest. Emma gets a pass, since she's the savior.
The curse begins to darken the sky as the awful truth sinks in.
"Emma, you have to go," Snow urges.
"I just found you," Emma says, shell-shocked. "I'm not done."
Snow and David tell Emma to take Henry and go be happy. Regina tells her that she has no choice, and with a numb "okay..." Emma agrees to go.
Flashback to Phoenix eleven years ago, and Emma giving birth. The lights are flashing and Emma's screaming and the doctor is urging her to look at the baby but she won't turn her head to look. "I can't be a mother," she repeats.
Forward now to the town line, and I'm just going to let the goodbyes play out. I could never capture the emotional torture of this scene.
And as we fade out, we see Emma and Henry, tearfully driving across the town line, juxtaposed with a flashback of Emma, in the hospital after giving birth, face turned away, and suddenly she says, "Wait...let me hold him..."
And in the car, Emma and Henry begin smiling with a warm familiarity and we see teenage Emma, reaching for baby Henry, holding him close, getting the life she always wanted with her son.
The bug drives on, as all the people she leaves behind fade into the smoke, and we lay on our couches, sobbing and emotionally eviscerated.
Flash forward and it's one year later. Emma is in a New York apartment that no bail-bondsperson could ever afford. The alarms goes off at precisely 8:15 (playing Charley's Girl!) it's a weekend morning and she's in her frumpy pajamas making breakfast for Henry. There's a knock at the door, and Emma answers it to find...
She has no idea who he is, of course, but he introduces himself as an old friend and tells her he can make her remember. He leans in, trying to kiss her and gets nailed in the 'nads for it. "It was a longshot," he grimaces, "I was hoping you felt as I did..."
Way to tip your hand by trying True Love's Kiss, Hook.
He tells Emma that her family needs her - they're in terrible danger. She slams the door in his face, then turns back to Henry (self-consciously licking her lips - nice touch) and tells Henry there's a crazy person at the door, and they go back to their breakfast, oblivious.
I'm giving this one five tear-stained hooks out of five.
Way to rip our hearts out, writers. And way to set up a second half! Hook in New York? Baby, I'm there!