Once Upon a Time RECAP: It's Always Dawn-est Before the Dark (S4:E12)

ONCE UPON A TIME RECAP: It's Always Dawn-est Before the Dark (S4:E12)

Welcome to the mid-season finale of Once Upon a Time, a.k.a. The Episode Where We Learn How Everything That Was Fixed in the Last Episode Will Turn to Crap Just in Time for Part B of the Season. It was an episode jam packed with ooey gooey goodness, and a heaping helping of angst thrown in for good measure.  Let’s see, we got a wedding . . .


 . . . well . . . part of a wedding . . .

ouat 4.1 belle

. . . we got to see a bride look in the mirror before her wedding . . .

“What? She couldn’t have waited another 20 minutes, until she got home? What a b*tch! Team Regina all the way!”

Two lovers rekindled their romance . . .

say goodbye

 . . . and then . . . un-kindled it.

regina tears

Rumpel had a very good day . . .

everything i desire

. . . followed by a very bad one . . .

im afraid

. . . followed by a trip to the aquarium?


Lots of people made out with one another.

reunited kiss hook

And three very fabulous Drag Queens of Darkness finally found their King.

Let’s review, shall we?

The Ice Wall Leaveth

With Snow Queen dead and the spell of Shattered Sight kaput, all that’s left for Frozen sisters Anna and Elsa to do is melt that pesky ice wall and skip back to Arendelle to rightfully reclaim their kingdom, right?

go back home

Almost. You see, there’s the itty bitty problem of the whole “Cross the town line, never come back” thing. (And we need to leave an opening for Frozen 2 promotions, don’t we?)

Anna, Elsa and Kristoff need a portal, and they need it fast. But they aren’t the only Onceies whose plans for eternal happiness are temporarily . . . iced over.

Take, for example, Regina and Robin . . .

Freezer-Burned Marionsicle

Pop Quiz: You are the writer of a show based on fairytales. You make the mistake of writing into your show a character who is actually kind of awesome in the fairytale in which she is featured, but on TV just so happens to be as exciting to watch as . . . well . . . ice melting. What do you do?

“The fandom is totally going to hate my guts, aren’t they?

“The fandom is totally going to hate my guts, aren’t they?

a) Have her murdered violently in episode 2. So what if you traumatize children who loved her in the Disney movie? That’s just show business, baby.

b) Keep her alive, but constantly make excuses as to why she’s never on screen. “Oh, Maid Marion is on the toilet.” “Maid Marion went to the grocery store to pick up tampons.” “Maid Marion is at the hospital recovering from her recent personality-ectomy.”

c) Keep the character frozen, literally, for the entire season. Unfreeze her in the last episode for about two minutes, re-freeze her, then unfreeze her again, just in time for her to leave town for good.

“Hey, anyone got a tissue? Or an ice scraper?”

“Hey, anyone got a tissue? Or an ice scraper?”

If you guessed C, congratulations. You officially have what it takes to be a writer for Once Upon a Time.

When we begin our episode, Regina can barely contain her eye rolls as she grudgingly puts milquetoasty Maid Marion’s heart back into her chest.  Robin Hood also seems to have mixed feelings about the re-awakening of the once-Love of His Life.

“Do you think we could like re-freeze her for a couple of hours a day? Just long enough for us to have a few rounds of hot cemetery sex?” the Prince of Babes wonders.

“Hey beautiful, why don’t you come on over to your former office? I want to defrost my frigid wife with you all over this expensive leather couch.”

Fortunately for Robin, that may not be necessary. “Please, by all means, continue letting my husband put his arrow in your quiver,” Maid Marion offers cheerily to Regina later that day at Granny’s.

“Excuse me?” Regina asks, looking around for Ashton Kutcher to pop out and tell her she’s just been Punk’d.

“No, I’m serious,” clarifies Marion. “He’s hot for you. And you’re the star of this show, whereas Pongo the Dog has had more lines this season than I have. So, I’m going to graciously step aside while you steal my family.”


“That’s really big of you,” responds Regina. “It almost makes me forget what a boring, wasted, whiny and unlikeable character you were during the 1.3 episodes in which you actually spoke.”

ouat 4.1.a regina

“I know, right?” Marion answers.

At the park that afternoon, Robin and Regina watch Marion play with her and Robin’s kid Roland and celebrate their good fortune. “Now we don’t even have to re-freeze my wife and kid. We can have sex right in front of them,” exclaims Robin excitedly. “My wife said it’s OK.”

“Awesome, let’s try it now,” insists Regina.

Then Marion has to ruin everything by basically dropping dead in the park. Seriously? What a bitch!

Apparently, Marion’s been frozen so long, she’s starting to re-freeze, and the only way to save her life is for her to cross the town line FOREVER.

“Hooray!” Robin says. “Let’s throw her across the line. We don’t need her. We have our everlasting love.”

“But what about your kid?” Regina reminds Robin.

“Ummmm . . . we throw him over too?” Robin asks cautiously.

“The other woman my dad occasionally f*&ks lets me eat ice cream whenever I want, Mommy!” (Well played, kid!)

“Yeah, see that doesn’t work for me,” Regina explains. “Because I may be an Evil Queen, but I actually like my kid, even though he’s one of the most annoying characters on the show.

OUAT Henry

So, if you want to be my soul mate, you have to pretend to like your kid too . . . who is actually adorable and more worthy of love than my Henry.”

“Oh . . . crap,” replies Robin.

Poor Regina. Being “good” sure isn’t helping out her sex life, as she woefully watches her slutty sweetie Robin, his cute kid, and his super lame wife cross the red chalk line into No Longer On The Showsville.

the pic

Rumpel is sympathetic to Regina’s plight, and by “sympathetic” I mean “a totally smug asshole.”

“Villains never get happy endings,” Regina mutters.

It’s a sentence that has become her catchphrase for the season, much like Eeyore’s “Oh bother,” Timon and Pumba’s “Hakuna Matata,” and Henry’s “Whatever Annoying Thing That’s Coming Out of His Mouth at the Moment.”

“They also don’t get to have sex, like, ever,” she adds.

“That’s funny, because I’ve been a total sh*t this season and the sex with Belle has been pretty much nonstop,” offers Rumpel. “P.S. I’m skipping town and you can’t come. Toodles!”

“Call me, maybe?”

“Call me, maybe?”

So, Regina decides to do what we all do when our married lover crosses a chalk line into oblivion with his popsicle wife and tiny tot: she meets up with the bio mother of her adopted kid and proceeds to get sloshed . . .

Speaking of cups filled with naughtiness . . .

This Cup’s for You

Back in Fairytale Land, Rumpel tries to impress Belle by showing her a cup.

desperation and gin

Since Belle was so impressed earlier with the chipped mug in his collection, he figures he can get WAAAYYY more mileage out of a cup that’s actually in mint condition.


Plus, like almost everything Rumpel owns, this cup . . . wait for it . . . has magical powers!

ouat season 3 rumpel

Apparently, all you have to do is point the cup toward someone and it shows you their greatest weakness. Like, for example, if you pointed it at Snow White, it would point to her awful hair . . .

ouat 4.2 disney snow

If you pointed it at Marion, it would attempt to point to her personality, and, realizing she doesn’t actually have one, would likely point at the ground.


If you pointed it at Robin Hood, it would undoubtedly point to his member, which is always getting him into trouble.

ouat season 3 queen robin hood

In short, this is like the most judgmental cup ever.

Anywhoo, Rumpel quickly finds himself bored conversing with Belle about cups and beams her outside so that she could do his laundry . . . even though he always seems to wear the same outfit in Fairytale Land, thus there probably isn’t much to wash.

Once outside, Belle finds an adorable Dalmatian, and rushes after it. Foolish? Maybe. Looks like a trap? You betcha. And yet, you can’t really blame Belle for wanting a furry friend when the only living beings she’s socialized with in months are This Guy . . .


And this cup . . .


As everybody likely expected, Belle follows the cute pup right into a trap orchestrated by Vampire Pam, a.k.a. Maleficent . . .

OUAT Maleficient

. . . Ursula from The Little Mermaid . . . and the drunken dog hater from 101 Dalmatians.

stepping threaten

The three ladies’ “brilliant” plan was to use Belle as bait to get Rumpel to give up his fancy judgmental Cup, which Rumpel does, without much argument.

easy button

And if you don’t think the three self-named Queens of Darkness got off way too easy on that one, you clearly haven’t been watching this show long enough.

Rumpel’s Happy Crappy Ending

Back in present day, all the stars in Rumpel’s ugly hat have finally aligned, and it is time for him to put into effect his EVIL PLAN FOR WORLD DOMINATION. Here’s a summary of his plan:

(1) Get Belle to pack the world’s ugliest suitcase en route to the couple’s “Honeymoon” in New York;

thanks grand

belle good

(2) Mind control Hook to distract Emma and the gang by informing them of the existence of a magical door in the Sorcerer’s house that will get Anna and Elsa back to Arendelle;

(3) Attempt to convince Emma that mind-controlled Hook is actual Hook by having him plant a kiss on Emma (unfortunately, mind-controlled Hook is a way crappier kisser than un-mind controlled Hook);

(4) While the Heroes are chilling by the portal door, open up the sunroof in the sorcerer’s house, rip out Hook’s heart, and sacrifice it to the hat so that Rumpel is no longer the Dark Sword’s bitch and he can DOMINATE THE WORLD;

(6) Skip town with Belle, but not Henry, like he originally planned to do, because Henry’s a pain in the ass;

(7) Go to NYC and get a job as a stripper at a really popular night club populated by drag queens . . .

full monty strip work it

Steps 1 through 3 go pretty well for Smug Rumpel. But then he gets to the part where he has to crush Hook’s heart and . . . SOMETHING GOES WRONG!

surprised monkey

It appears that Rumpel is completely incapable of murdering Captain Guyliner. Why, you ask?

Did he have a crisis of conscience? Is he a closet Captain Swan Fan? Is he just suffering from a really bad case of arthritis that makes it impossible for him to crush mushy objects?

make it stop now

Nope. The reason that Rumpel’s plan is failing is . . . wait for it . . . Belle.


Let’s back track a bit. So, remember how Rumpel “sacrificed” the Judgmental Cup for Belle’s life back in Fairytale Land? Pretty selfless of him, right?

Fast-forward to present day: Belle is “searching for another suitcase to pack for the couple’s Honeymoon in New York,” when, what does she find . . . you guessed it . . . the Judgmental Cup.

Apparently, Rumpel’s clever trick of making fake versions of real magical items (e.g., the Fake Dark Sword he gave to Belle earlier this season) is a more common practice for him than we once thought.

ouat 4.3 belle knife

So, of course, when Belle finds the REAL Judgmental Cup, she quickly begins to piece together the web of her beastly boyfriend’s lies. She points the cup at Rumpel and finds that his weakness is NOT his love for her, as he had always wanted her to believe, but the Dark Sword, the REAL ONE. Rumpel, as it turns out, loves power way more than he loves Belle, which is a total dealbreaker for the romantic bookworm.

And so Belle turns the Evil Sword (the real one) on Rumpel and not only stops him from killing Hook and completing his EVIL PLAN FOR WORLD DOMINATION . . .

heart back in chest

 . . . she also, and this is the absolute BEST part of the entire episode . . . KICKS HIS ASS OUT OF TOWN by sword butting him over the chalk line.

wanted chosen self lost please belle

Seeing Rumpel, who was so smug just minutes earlier that he would get everything he wanted, looking so completely beaten, bereft, and frankly terrified as he falls to the ground in the middle of the street, just beyond the town line, is heart-wrenching, shocking, and, quite honestly, completely awesome.

drinking buddy

Never discount Belle, my dearies. She may look mousy. But girl’s got some serious cajones.

Anna and Elsa Both Like Chocolate – Reprise

Meanwhile, back in Arendelle, Anna and Elsa quickly defeat Hans off screen (because, let’s face it, five minutes of Hans in one season is five minutes too many . . . now, if they could just use that same philosophy when dealing with Henry) and make the townspeople re-remember Snow Queen and her two sisters, including the slightly-less-awful-now Gerda, also off-screen. Then, just as quickly, Anna dons her wedding dress and gets ready to marry the man raised by rocks, Kristoff.

We don’t actually get to see the wedding take place.

But we do see Anna and Elsa sniff chocolate together, just like in the movie, which is just as good.

chocolate smell 2 chocolate smell

OK, it’s not as good, but what are you gonna do?

In Which Regina’s Life Becomes a Natasha Bedingfield Song

Remember this song . . .

Well, you can pretty much imagine that playing in the background as Regina wanders through the Sorcerer’s home where Rumpel failed miserably at his EVIL PLAN FOR WORLD DOMINATION and happens upon a library filled with . . . wait for it . . . blank books.

scared baby gif

From this little scene we can glean precisely three things:

operation mongoose

(1) The Sorcerer hates trees, and really has no interest in paper conservation;

(2) The Sorcerer may actually be The Regina Hating Author of the fairytale books we’ve been looking for all season;


(3) If Regina’s future is “still unwritten,” she may still have a shot at happiness, much like Lauren on The Hills (but definitely not like Heidi and Spencer, because NO ONE likes Heidi and Spencer).

everyone deserves

New York City — Home of the Bad Guys

Some time later, we find a still dandy, but definitely less smug, Rumpel walking with his trusty cane through the New York Aquarium. There, he strikes up a conversation with the lady feeding the sharks, who’s looking a bit worse for wear. (I guess being an NYC stripper isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?)

It’s Ursula. She’s slightly happy to see Rumpel knocked off his pedestal, but still clearly bummed that . . . you know . . . she’s the lame shark-feeding lady at the New York Aquarium . . . as opposed to the awesome lady who sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and has octopus tentacles for legs.

But worry not, Ursula! Rumpel has a plan . . . a plan that involves Vampire Pam and the Drunk Lady from 101 Dalmatians . . . a plan that will most likely be made of awesome . . . unless, of course, your nickname happens to be Savior . . .

Alcoholism... making ugly flying monkeys look like Captain Hook since the beginning of time...

And that, my friend was Season 4A in a nutshell. Until next (half) Season, my Dearies.

TV Show: Once Upon a Time

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