Jack Rowand / ABC

There's A Thin Line Between Love And Hate On Once Upon A Time, But What About Self-Loathing?

It's Regina vs. the Evil Queen in an episode of creative camera angles and bitterness.

It's finally time for the big showdown between the Evil Queen and Regina, which seems to have so many possibilities for tragedy and bloodshed. Will Regina cross the line into Evil Queen territory in order to fight her, because there's no way in hell she can win this battle by fighting fair? Will the Evil Queen win and turn Regina into a charming Victorian-era hat? Will hearts be broken, or ripped from one another's chests with that creepy, organ-removing magic they both have?

There is a glimmer of hope for a not-bloody resolution because, besides being two sides of the same person, they have something else in common -- they both love Henry. Sure, the Evil Queen drops by to steal his nifty story-writing pen, but she does appreciate him, mostly. He doesn't even really want to kill her, which warms her heart. But he's still not getting back that damn pen. She's not that kind of mom, after all. She has plans, and no stupid teenager is getting in her way!

The Evil Queen's plan is pretty straightforward -- steal Robin, lure Regina to her death. That doesn't mean it's not without consequences. Robin, once tied to a chair, tries to reason with the Evil Queen. He wants to save her! If Regina can become the cuddle bug she is today, there's no reason why the Evil Queen can't be similarly reformed. I'm not sure if I could watch this inner makeover storyline twice with the same actress (as much as I love Lana Parrilla), though the dresses are way better for the Evil Queen, so there's that. Still, the Evil Queen is not swayed by Robin. She doesn't need saving, as she's a villain and wholly committed to that path.

How committed? Back in the day (meaning back in the Enchanted Forest), the Evil Queen's dad lured her into the woods with the promise of tracking down Snow White by using her mom's spell book. This is a task he had no intention of actually doing, not being pure evil like his daughter. No, his sneaky little plan (courtesy of Tinkerbell, mind you) was to guide her to Cupid's arrow so she could find her true love, that hot guy with a lion tattoo. That bastard, wanting his daughter to fall in love and live happily ever after when she could be tearing out Snow White's intestines and stringing a guitar with them! Everyone knows revenge is so much better than happiness!

Anyway, the Evil Queen shows him -- she snatches up the spell book, finds a way to flip the love switch on the arrow's powers, and uses it to guide her to the person she hates the most. Dad is not impressed, but he doesn't seem all that surprised -- I guess you have to expect evil from your kid if her working title actually has the word in it.

Do we really need to say where the arrow points the Evil Queen? Right back to the home castle, and a mirror. See? You hate yourself, Evil Queen! This isn't on the nose or anything!

Back in Storybrooke, the battle between Regina and the Evil Queen is joined pretty quickly. Regina takes the bait, the Evil Queen conjures a sword, and there's some sword-clacking. I wouldn't say it's a great fight, since it's mostly dialogue-driven and it wraps up pretty quickly. Regina loses the sword and is on the ropes, but then the Evil Queen makes the mistake of backing up and is promptly wrapped in magical branches. So, advantage Regina.

Regina plucks out the Evil Queen's heart and squeezes. It's almost over…and then Regina sees her image in a shard of broken mirror on the floor (lot of mirrors in this episode, and none of them even talk). Regina is better than this! So, what can she do? It's not like she can just let the Evil Queen trot out the door with a promise not to try to kill her again.

No, it's so much better.

Regina rips out her own heart and mushes it into the Evil Queen's. It's this bizarre, kind of gross moment of the two hearts -- one black, one red -- infecting one another so they're both kind of dirty-looking, like the hearts of two people who eat bacon double cheeseburgers, but only on weekends.

The Evil Queen is freaked out, but she can't get too angry because oh crap, she's sort of nice now! And Regina is apparently still nice, since the darkness doesn't bug her at all.

Then, they...hug. It. Out.

I wasn't quite sure whether I found this intensely moving or just funny, because I don't get the impression anyone in the writer's room cares that much either way. I really can see them saying, hey, look, they fight a little, then Regina wins and she embraces her dark side and it's all fine. Let's get lunch. But it's still Lana Parrilla, so it's more emotional and heartfelt than maybe it's even meant to be.

Once the Evil Queen is mostly defanged (seriously, the Darkness is still in both of these women, but they don't even share an evil laugh -- it's just apologizing and emoting and I half expect them to start braiding each other's hair), it's time for her to get a second chance after Regina confers with the rest of her inner circle. Unsurprisingly, Snow White is not convinced the Evil Queen is reformed, but Henry still loves his two moms (he'd really be so on-trend if he went to a non-fairy tale high school) and he writes her a second chance. The Evil Queen disappears -- and ends up in that spot when she looked through the pub window and saw the lion tattoo and didn't have the guts to go in. This time, she's better.

It's a pretty tidy ending for a plotline that had been burning through a lot of the show, and it really feels like someone just got tired of the whole thing and wanted it to go the hell away. I mean, no more Evil Queen? At all? I'm not even sure how I feel about that.

I have a little more hope for Hook's storyline, which was actually more interesting even for the B plot in this episode. Hook is overwhelmed with guilt about killing Prince Charming's dad, and he's about to burn his memories when Emma learns the truth. Instead of being super-mad about her granddad, she's more pissed that Hook won't man up about it. Nice! Hook does, of course, end up trapped on Nemo's ship because Gideon, but at least there will be angst and shenanigans.

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