'Once Upon a Time' finale recap: Emma finds her place in the past

'Once Upon a Time' finale recap: Emma finds her place in the past
Hook (Colin O'Donohue) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) in the Enchanted Forest. (Katie Yu / ABC)

Let it go, "Once Upon a Time" -- in a good way. It's a double-episodic season finale ("Snow Drifts" and "There's No Place Like Home") with time travel, the Captain Hook-Emma Swan adventure that many have been waiting for, another casting coupe, love lost (again) and the introduction of, at least financially, the most popular princess ever in the final seconds of the doggone episode! So much goodness, so little time.

We start off in the past, with something retold -- Snow and Charming's first meeting -- then something we knew but maybe hadn't seen -- lil Emma Swan watching another kid leave the orphanage instead of her -- and Robin Hood losing his Maid Marion. It will all be relevant later, but forget the intro stuff -- what kind of magic does the casting department on "Once Upon a Time" have? The actress who plays young Emma Swan is strikingly similar to Jennifer Morrison. Like the Bailee Madison/Ginnifer Goodwin kid-to-adult casting, it's so good that it's almost creepy.

Tangent. Continuing on, Charming and Snow decide to have a naming ceremony for the new baby at Granny's diner. Robin and Queen Regina will join the party later, but they have a moment to themselves first. A bit of wine, a romantic dinner, both talking about how they horribly lost the loves of their lives -- that sort of thing. Regina mentions Tinker Bell's premonition of love and the lion tattoo, and commence with the kissy face.

Rumpel also prepares to go to Granny's for the naming ceremony, but first puts away the dagger that controls him as Belle walks in with the fake dagger, hoping Rumpel can put it away someplace safe. Like the vault that he has with no doors; the one for only the most dangerous and unstable magic. WHAT?! That's a place I want to visit. Rumpel wants Belle to keep it as a symbol of trust and love, and commence with the kissy face.

Uh-oh. While at Granny's, after Emma has run off trying to avoid talking about leaving Storybrooke, they notice that Zelena's time portal from last episode is open. They rush -- they being the core group of Regina, Rumpel, Belle, Charming -- to check on Zelena, and see that she has escaped. But hey, this is 2014 -- so there's security cameras in the jail, albeit taped on Beta. A wave of Rumpel's finger, and his murder of Zelena is not to be found, and off the tape. He makes it look like magical suicide. Regardless, though, her portal is open and no one should go near it.

Emma goes near it. She and Hook were chatting about how she doesn't see herself as part of the fairy tale world, so she doesn't really feel at home in Storybrooke and wants to return to New York. Emma: "Home is the place that when you leave, you just miss it." She says that she never missed Storybrooke, apparently. Then they see the light from the barn. Hook attempts to pull the ultra gung-ho Emma away from the dangerous glowy area, but to no avail. The doors swing open and Emma is sucked into the portal despite Hook's help. Once again, Hook goes after her.

The duo are sucked into the time portal, and come out in the Enchanted Forest on the day that Emma's parents are supposed to meet. Their first sighting is of the Evil Queen Regina, in her menacing red and black leather splendor. Emma needs to fit in, so she dons a dress and corset, and promptly messes up the first moment that Snow White and Prince Charming meet. Dang it! So, she might never be born now, unless she and Hook can do some enchanted matchmaking. For that, they need help from Rumpelstiltskin.

The Dark One, back to his evil giggly self in the past, only partially helps them by telling them where Snow is. He'll need time to try to figure out how to open the portal, since he's been told that he will be reunited with his son if they can get back to their own time without messing up this one. He has a powerful wand, but that can't do it alone. Argh! Emma knows she shouldn't be messing with the past, and mutters under her breath about Belle and Rumpel being together!?! Come on, Em. Now it's just annoying, but later it's downright mean and could be lethal. Anyway, after failing to rob Prince Charming's carriage and meeting him for the first time, Snow White enlists Blackbeard to take her far away from the forest. He says no, though it seemed that he took her money anyway. 

So, as the plan now goes, Emma seduces a drunken Captain Hook from the past in a tavern while the sober Hook sets Snow on the path of stealing Charming's mother's ring -- which should lead to her meeting and falling in love with Charming. He does so by offering her passage on his ship. It succeeds and he and Emma prepare to exit the ship, but Killian stops to knock his drunken self out for mistreating Emma. Self hate is an ugly thing, Hook.

They've basically done their part, but they'd like to go to a ball where Snow will take care of her part. Rumpel, acting as their fairy godfather, gives Hook and Emma new clothes to go attend the ball while he tries to conjure up the time portal.

Prince Charles (Hook) and Princess Leia (Emma) infiltrate King Midas' ball while Snow attempts to break into the party to steal the ring. Awesome names as Emma thinks on her feet, though this is a Disney show and Disney now owns "Star Wars," so conceivably ... Nah! Flashback time.

We go back to Portland in 2001. Emma goes on a breaking-and-entering date with Neal. They take a romantic ride on a carousel, talking about their home lives.  It's here that we hear the "miss your home" line that Emma used earlier. Flashbacks can keep Neal alive forever!

Back to the Enchanted Forest. So, Snow gets into the castle while Hook and Emma are waltzing about -- Emma's first ball too. Snow steals the ring but is caught by Charming. She gets away, but Hook and Emma help that along by fighting off pursuers. Emma, though, is caught and thrown into the Evil Queen's jail. There she meets a mysterious woman and befriends her.

Charming, who Snow hit very hard on her escape from the castle, catches her out in the forest. The smooth-talking Hook intervenes, though, and gets Snow and Charming to help break into Regina's castle to get Emma back, and Charming's ring (that will eventually be Snow's).

Snow sends Little Red Riding Hood the werewolf to get them into the castle. Red transforms and leads the way. Spoiling their rescue, though, Emma finds a way out of the prison, and decides to bring her new friend along. Dang it, Emma!!!! Who knows what's going to happen, but it can't be good. This is probably some witch like Maleficent or someone worse who will rain holy vengeance on the world.  We'll see. Oh, and Snow White decides to sneak into the castle to confront Regina and use black fairy dust on her.

This turns out to be a bad idea. The Queen captures her, and burns her alive at the stake! Wow. We knew Regina hated Snow but may have never been sure exactly how much until we watch her actually kill Snow. Regina might be nice now but do not get her mad. Emma is broken-hearted, and while Hook tries to comfort her, a bug bothers them incessantly. Charming stops Hook from killing the bug, remembering that the black fairy dust turns people into bugs.  Yep, it's Snow, who apparently turned herself into a bug to escape Regina's fire. The Blue Fairy is called to turn her back into a human. Whoopee!

And now we get to know why Rumpel's vault was even mentioned in the first place. Hook and Emma returnto Rumpel's castle with an unconscious tag-along. Emma and Hook decided to take Emma's fellow prison break pal along since she was supposed to die in this timeline anyway. Rumpel figures out that he can't use the wand to get Emma and Hook back -- only someone who went through the portal can cast the spell. Since Emma has lost her powers, she can't do it. So he decides to forget all of his future-knowledge and puts Emma, Hook and their unconscious friend in the vault, along with lots of powerful artifacts. Once inside, Hook uncharacteristically grabs a vase/jar of some sort and places it haphazardly out of the trunk that it was in. Emma reminds him not to touch anything.

Hook reminds Emma that Zelena's magic and curses lifted when she died, so she should have her magic back. She just has to believe and to want it. Emma was already on the path, though. Seeing Snow White die struck a chord in her, and she realized that this was her family and that she wanted to go back to Storybrooke. Voila! Power restored, and with that, she's able to use a powerful wand in the vault to open a portal back home. They all leave.

Not much time has gone by in Storybrooke since they were pulled in the portal. Emma arrives back at the diner in time to hear that Charming and Snow have named their son Neal, in honor of Emma's ex, Henry's dad and Rumpelstiltskin's son. Prince Neal. Rumpel reacts, sitting in the back of the diner, with what looked to be a little whimper. Hook joins later, having explained the situation to their new friend. He and Emma talk, and it comes to light that Hook traded the Jolly Roger to get a magic bean in order to go to New York and get Emma. That's a tall order, and that elicits a kiss from Emma. Probably the first real kiss they've had. Is it a thank you, or more?

The wedding of Rumpelstiltskin and Belle seems to be a private ceremony, away from the action in Granny's diner.  Rumpel in his vows: "I will never forget the distance between what I was and what I am." Belle: "Sometimes the best tea cup is chipped." Aww, hearkening back a ways to the symbol of their love. It all sounds sincere, despite the fact that Rumpel is really in possession of the dagger.

Oh no. The woman Emma brought back is Marion. Maid Marion. The love of Robin Hood's life, and Regina can only watch as her heart is ripped away from her again when he goes to Marion and hugs her, and she hugs the child Regina was holding hands with earlier. She blows up at a dumbfounded Emma. This will definitely rekindle any animosity that was simmering between them. And, I'm on Regina's side on this. "I only wanted to save her," says Emma. Sure, but consequences were not in her mind.

Another result of Emma's seeming recklessness, though this one may be attributed to Hook, hits us as the episode and season closes. The vase/jar that was in the vault -- the vault of dangerous magical items that Rumpelstiltskin had put away -- somehow came through the portal when Emma and Hook returned. As silvery liquid oozes from the jar, it forms a person -- and our newest princess is introduced.  Elsa from "Frozen" seems to have come to life in Storybrooke. She freezes the ground after taking off a glove and walks away, ice forming with every step.  How will the show portray her? Dangerous? A champion? Crazed due to her powers? And where's Anna? Who knows, and we've got all summer to think about it.  Until next season ...