Once Upon a Time Season 2 Episode 9: "Queen of Hearts"
The episode opens with a flashback in which Hook tries to gather information from Belle about how to kill Rumpel, though he soon learns that even if they sought the same thing, she has no information to give. Instead, Regina asks him to travel to Wonderland and kill her mother there, enchanting his hook so he can remove Cora's heart. She also explains her plans for the curse and how Hook will benefit from it. Once in Wonderland, however, he fails to kill Cora, who has become the Queen of Hearts (rather literally), and ultimately sides with her upon learning that his revenge plot would be forgotten after the curse is cast. So we now understand why and how Hook ended up on Cora's side and missed being placed under the curse.
Back in the main plotline, Snow, Emma, and company travel to Snow's old palace to find the ink Rumpel told them about last episode, though the jar they find is empty. All they discover is a scroll with "Emma" written repeatedly, line after line, and a mind-controlled (or heart, in this instance) traitor in their midst when Aurora traps them in the cell. Cora and Hook arrive, stealing the compass from the imprisoned group, and leave thinking there will be no further obstacles in their journey to Storybrooke. But Snow realizes the ink was used to write the scroll and uses it to unlock the door.
The two rival factions then duke it out on the shores of Lake Nostos, where good ultimately wins. Emma and Snow travel through a portal in the lake back to Maine, while Mulan and Aurora (with newly restored heart) go in search of Philip in the realm of the wraith.
On the other side, Rumpel and Regina, fearing that Cora will be the one to travel through the portal, rig the well to kill whoever passes through it. However, when Henry learns of the plan, he pleads with his mum to release the spell, knowing without a doubt that Snow and Emma will travel through the portal. Ultimately, Regina recants, and the duo safely emerge from the well. Snow awakens David with a kiss and all is well until a pirate ship is seen near the dock in the last scene.
I have to say, for a midseason finale, I was disappointed with this episode. There were occasional clever touches (especially Cora as the Queen of Hearts), but I am tired of events resolving themselves so neatly and so quickly. Given its consistently high ratings, the creators can't be worried about cancellation, so why the need to rush through everything? I really would have preferred if Snow and Emma were on the other side the whole season, and what was the point in knocking David out only to revive him by the end of the next episode? There's no tension if things resolve from episode to episode. Maybe the writers just don't have faith in their audience's ability to keep up with a sprawling serial?
I'm rather curious as to where the series is headed, if Cora and Hook are already in Storybrooke. By the end of the season, they'll have likely been defeated, and then what? Aside from Baelfire and Neal, there aren't many loose threads at this point, and I'm not sure what stories will be left to tell come the third season (which I expect will exist). Maybe the new episodes will assuage the doubts I now have.