A new princess is introduced in "The Tower" episode of "Once Upon a Time," but singing birds and glass slippers are replaced by scary, black robe-wearing creatures as we say hello to Rapunzel.
The episode starts off with a nightmare in the past (during the missing year). Prince Charming, seeing the room and the crib where he and Snow once laid baby Emma Swan to sleep, turns to see a grown up Emma dressed like a princess. She asks Charming to teach her how to dance -- it's a sweet daughter-daddy moment -- until it's not. She's violently pulled away into the cabinet that transported her to our world. Emma's last words are "Don't fail the next one." That's messed up because the next morning Snow White tells Charming that she's pregnant again. Pressure.
"If you want to waste your time playing Nancy Drew, be my guest." That's what Regina says as she, Charming, Snow, Hook and Emma decide what to do about going after the Wicked Witch in present-day Storybrooke. Regina doesn't want Henry to be walking around town alone while a crazy witch plots against them. She decides to be protector as the group tries to track and find the Wicked Witch.
Speaking of ... Wicked Witch Zelena taunts Rumpelstiltskin, who she has resurrected and is keeping in a cage underground. She has his dagger, and therefore has control of the dark one. She shaves him with his own dagger while telling him about her father, who forced her to shave him with a straight razor and a steady hand. She pricks him a bit and talks of their connection -- how each of their outsides showed exactly what was rotting on the inside. Yeah, she's crazy -- and calculating. She goes to Mr. Gold's shop, and Belle has taken over the curio shop in his absence. Zelena comes in and, after freezing Belle with a spell, open Gold's safe using his own blood (from the shaving nick). She searches the safe, pulling out something that we must assume is dangerous and/or powerful.
Emma, David and Hook are on the trail of the Wicked Witch, or her Storybrooke identity. David, though is called back to meet the new midwife that Snow is so excited about. Irony of ironies, it's Zelena. As Snow and Charming discuss her, Zelena makes them some tea. Poisoned tea. Zelena tells them that if they have any fears, they should get them out into the open, then they toast and drink.
Back in the Enchanted Forest, Charming and Robin Hood have a conversation in the stables. Robin tells Charming of a root called Night Root that can help him suppress the fear that he has growing inside of him. A dread that he can't shake about his family's safety. Charming goes off in search of the root, despite Robin also telling him that the part of Sherwood Forest that he must go to is supposedly haunted. Charming rides into the night and finds the roots, but what's this ... a scream and a damsel in distress. Charming decides to climb the lighthouse-looking tower to save whoever is calling for help inside. He meets Princess Rapunzel (Alexandra Metz), who's been in the tower for a very long time. Her famous hair, not blond as most tales display, is twisted and strewn about the entire room. Charming wants to help her escape, but she tells him about a curse that keeps her in the room -- then a creature appears. The robed creature smacks Charming aside with ease.
Back in the real world, the creature that assailed Charming and Rapunzel has returned. As David leaves Zelena and Snow, after drinking the poisoned tea, he rushes to rejoin Emma and Hook. While walking, he sees the creature that he doesn't remember that he faced in the past with Rapunzel.
Regina is making the most of spending time with Henry, walking and chatting. Ice cream and the introduction of the "Once Upon a Time" book were in the cards for the onetime mother-son duo. And Henry takes to the book eagerly.
Hook. Is. Smooth. He and Emma are searching for the Wicked Witch but arguing in the meantime. Emma explains how she was almost married in New York, albeit to a flying monkey, before Hook came along and now she's been let down once again and had her heart broken. "If it can be broken, means it still works," says Hook, who's still angling for her affections. Good line, now back to work. They stumble across a farmhouse on their search, and, of course, propose going into a storm cellar. Hook is actually the voice of reason and stops them. They need backup. David and Regina should be there.
But David is busy following a creature of some sort. It's actually a cool juxtaposition to watch the fight that David has with the creature in the past -- in the room with Rapunzel -- and in the present in the forest. What David finds is that the Night Root manifests your fear as a creature that is you, and the only way that you can overcome it is to face and defeat yourself, in turn defeating your fears. In the past, Charming urges Rapunzel to beat back her demon, and she chops off her hair, sending the creature falling off of the tower. In the present forest, David faces himself and is on the brink of getting choked out when he sees Emma's yellow VW bug coming. That helps him overcome his fear of failing his daughter and family, defeating the fear creature. Also, now that we know the Night Root was the culprit, we know that Snow White has been fear-poisoned as well.
The group -- Regina, Emma, David and Hook -- returns to the cellar, but Rumpelstiltskin is no longer inside, having been summoned by the Wicked Witch (or so it seems). They all figure out, by seeing the cage and the machine used to spin straw into gold, that Rumpelstiltskin is back and apparently alive.
What we learned: Zelena is a bit of a hoarder, taking items that have a strong personal pull to other characters. Rumpelstiltskin is being controlled now -- as he always feared would happen. Hook is hiding something that happened in the year that he was in the Enchanted Forest. And Snow, if she drank the tea, will sooner or later manifest her fear.