Ah, Cora. You can't really have a story about Alice in Wonderland without having the Queen of Hearts, she of the "off with her head!" mentality. I'm rather surprised at how happy I was to see Cora as I basically loathe her character (Barbara Hershey, on the other hand, is superb). Cora is cold, manipulative, callus, and power hungry. She mentally and emotionally and physically abused Regina; she broke Rumple's heart, and then tried to kill him to take his power. She is all kinds of bad ass, and all kinds of villain. And so when she appeared on this weeks, "The Heart of the Matter," I began to suspect that sweet but selfish Ana would slowly morph into a mini Cora. If last weeks episode built the mysteries and myth of the show, this episode was the emotional gut punch we needed after so many answers. The theme of the week is forgiveness but it's also prisons, the sort we build for ourselves be they ones of iron and bolts or ones that are dressed in pretty jewels and power. Maybe not as good as last week, this episode was still stellar, with quite the shocking ending!
I want to start with the B plot of the episode as the A plot (both in past and present) is very heavy and involved. Having learned that his mother is alive, Cyrus sets out to find the Caterpillar and retrieve the compass that Cyrus traded him long ago (I honestly forgot that Cyrus had traded the compass to the Caterpillar because it was back when the show was really struggling to hold my attention). The Caterpillar is willing to give Cyrus his compass back, but only if Cyrus hands over Alice and the Knave for not returning the Forget Me Knot. Side note, but I like how the smaller stories aren't being forgotten by the writers. They could have easily brushed the deal Alice and Will made the with Caterpillar back in 103 under the rug, but they didn't. Alice, shrunken down in size, is attempting to steal the compass from the Caterpillar while Cyrus distracts everyone. And in case you aren't culturally aware, there were a ton of Star Wars nods in this episode. The creators are nerds and the love Star Wars but, the Caterpillar has always been a stand in for Jabba Hut and now bar fights, calling in debts, and Cyrus got to be a bit of a Han Solo-type.
With the heart-in-a-box safely collected, Alice and Cyrus head back to Wonderland, only to meet Jafar who was on his way to Storybrooke--my kingdom for one conversation between Jafar and Rumple! There is a bit of a magic stand off battle here in which objects are exchanged. Remember how Amara is not only a snake staff but also Cyrus's mother? Well, when Jafar goes to try and use his trusty snake against Cyrus, Amara is having none of it. She rebels against Jafar and there is a lot of bright light and magic and confusion. Jafar has never experienced this before. His...pet...has always obeyed him. Cyrus ends up grabbing AmaraStick and she fights all of Jafar's powers, but sadly Jafar is able to grab the box with Will's heart. So at the end of the battle, Cyrus has his MommaStick and Jafar has Will's heart. Jafar needs both, remember--only two powerful wizards can perform the spell to break the laws of magic and Will needs his heart in order to be a proper genie. Cyrus and Alice figure out, with the help of the special compass, that the Snake Staff is Amara. But how do you break a spell that has your momma trapped as an inanimate object. Quick! Kiss the snake!
Cora, you really are an evil witch, aren't you? Cora overhears the conversation between Ana and Will and probably has very intense flashbacks to Regina and Daniel. Here is a girl who Cora can mold and shape and what is she going to do--run away with a commoner? Choose love over power and magic? Not on Cora's watch! Before dawn, Cora slips out of the palace and goes to see Will. Cora claims to be there on behalf of Ana and that Ana has made her decision--she will marry the King. Will is just a distraction now, and one Ana could do without. "Is that what love is to you? A distraction" asks Will and then Cora gives probably her most famous line in the Onceiverse and a theme that Adam and Eddy have been playing with for almost three full years now, "Love is weakness." I may or may not have cheered when hearing this line--horrible as it is. I knew it was coming. It had to! The speech from Will that follows is even more heartbreaking than his moment with Ana in the palace the night before. Will is so broken on the inside, dreaming that Ana will come home today and then he goes to bed when she doesn't and wakes up the next morning hoping again that Ana will return. You can't live on hope, sometimes you need reality. He can't go on; he doesn't want to live this way. But luckily, he knows Cora's reputation. Cora, the Queen of Hearts, with a vault full to bursting of human hearts that she removes herself. Until this episode I had been predicting that Ana took Will's heart in an effort to appease Cora. I never dreamed that Will would ask for Cora to take his own heart. I was genuinely shocked at the request. Feeling nothing is better than feeling what he did feel. So Cora reaches in and takes Will's heart, boxes it up, and Will--altered now to feel nothing--packs up his stuff and leaves the wagon, not caring that Ana didn't show up.
Alright, present day. While Jafar is off searching for a way to Storybrooke to get Will's heart, he leaves Will and Ana in adjoining cells which provide the two the chance to talk. Or rather, Ana does a lot of talking and Will responds the way a man without a heart would. You know, it's interesting. Despite not having his heart, Will clearly still feels something for Ana. He stopped Jafar from killing Ana by telling him where his heart was and when Ana notes that Will will never love her again, there is a flash of agony. Ana didn't know Will gave up his heart for her and she is clearly disturbed and bothered. She knows how much pain she caused and now that pain is sitting in the cell next to her. Ana asks if Will can ever forgive her and Will says that nothing is impossible in Wonderland. Time for the storylines to converge. Jafar has Will's heart and wants to test it.
As Jafar says, "must make sure that your heart still works" and out comes the dagger. As Will is forced to watch from his prision, Jafar stabs Ana in the back and we watch as she falls to the ground, clearly dead. There was an interesting line in this episode that I think works thematically here as well, "we create our own prisons." Ana's prison was her selfish act that had repercussions down the road for everyone; Will's prison was his decision not to feel anything and lock away his heart behind a literal wall (he and Emma Swan should go out for a drink sometime--they can discus literal and metaphorical walls.) Jafar's prison is his obsessive need for his father's love, even if it's fake and false and probably won't be what he thought it would be. Ana's laments before her death that she wishes she and Will had never left Sherwood; coming to Wonderland was the start of it all because "Anastasia and Will, we already had all the magic we needed." And now she's lost for good and Jafar is closer than ever to his dreams.
--Is Ana dead for good? Hard to say. Her name does mean "resurrection" so it's possible that she might come back if Jafar succeeds in breaking the laws of magic.
--How do you revive Amara? I don't know if they'd be as cliche as true love's kiss from her son, but neither Cyrus nor Alice have that sort of magic to break her curse.
--Really loved seeing Cora, even if she is an evil soul. But the question still remains, how did Will and Alice get his heart back from Cora?
--Only two episodes to go! Now I wish it had a second season. Wonderland has now surpassed my expectations. Sorry to see it go.