One would hope to never take a life—especially on purpose. But when that person is Cora, who has committed unspeakable acts… would you really feel that bad?
That’s what we’re going to wonder for the rest of the season for Once Upon a Time. Because in last night’s episode, Snow White straight up murdered Cora.
(But we’ll get to that.)
In the fairybacks, we learn how Cora was picked on by Ava, Snow White’s mother, and grew to lust for power that she could use to bring vengeance upon the royals. Rumplestiltskin helped her grow her power—he taught her how to spin straw into gold for instance. More importantly, we also learn that he was in love with her, though she was not in love with him back. Not after she voluntarily removed her own heart so she could continue on her quest for more power.
That quest takes on new meaning when in present time, Cora realizes that Rumple is now dying and decides she’s going to take his powers and become the Dark One.
To protect Rumple, everyone gathers at his shop. Emma uses invisible chalk and her growing powers to set up a barrier to delay Cora and Regina’s entry into the shop. While she’s setting that up, Snow White discovers the candle that Cora had tried to get a young Snow White to use to save her dying mother.
I have it “for a rainy day,” Rumple tells her. Rumple intends for it to be used in case he dies and he suggests Snow White use it so that Cora is the one that dies in his place.
Regina and Cora then arrive and are able to use their combined magic to bust open the door. On the other side of it, Emma, Charming and Baelfire are waiting inside with swords drawn while Snow White escapes out the back.
Charming gets knocked out of the shop, while Baelfire and Emma are able to fight them off before making their escape. Cora starts to sense someone (Snow White) is going after her heart, so she sends Regina to stop her.
Snow White finds Cora’s heart and lights the candle. She lets its wax drip on the heart and then whispers Cora’s name over it, just as Rumple instructed her to do.
Back at the shop, thinking he’s going to die, Rumple asks to call Belle and tell her he’s dying. She of course still doesn’t remember him.
Regina intercepts Snow White while she’s trying to leave with the heart. Snow White tells her, however, that she was going to give the heart to Regina to place back inside her mother’s chest. That’s the final part of the spell to kill Cora and save Rumple.
But Snow White lies and insists that placing the heart back in Cora’s heart will make her mother love her again.
Back at the shop, as Cora tells Rumple he was the only one she ever loved and prepares to stab him with his dagger to steal his powers, Regina plunges Cora’s heart back into her body, thinking she’s going to cure her mother, when in actuality, she is murderer by proxy.
With her heart, Cora is able to finally look on her daughter with love she’s always felt. But that lasts only a moment before Cora collapses dead, while Rumple is back to full strength and takes his dagger back.
Regina holds her mother’s dead body when Snow White comes in and she looks ready for vengeance as the episode closes on a monster of a cliffhanger.
Producers have promised, and previews have indicated, that Snow White will be distraught over the death. She certainly was when she entered in that final scene. I just hope someone will say, “OK. Murder—not cool. But Snow White, you do realize Cora was pretty evil right?”