1. We begin in the past, with Bae held captive by Captain Hook.
Despite being a pirate, Hook is actually pretty chill. As far as captivities go, this could be way worse.
2. Bae reveals his true identity as the Dark One’s son.
Which is good luck for Hook, who still stops at nothing to bring Rumplestiltskin down. Smee seems pumped, too. And then Hook says, “It’s a pirate’s life for you,” because let’s not forget this is still a Disney property.
3. Back in the present, Mr. Gold is about ready to go Carrie on his only grandson.
He’s using his powers to break the rope swing Henry’s riding and send the kid crashing into some jagged rocks. In his defense, Henry will be Gold’s undoing, but still: Worst Grandpa Ever.
4. The bad news bearers arrive to let Gold and Henry know that Neal is dead and soon everyone else will be, too.
Emma, Mary Margaret, and David explain that Tamara shot Neal and sent him into a portal. They also stole a magical trigger that will destroy Storybrooke and everyone in it who wasn’t born in this world. So hey, at least the grieving period for Neal will be short-lived.
5. Gold is basically cool with the impending apocalypse.
Now that his son is dead, he doesn’t have a whole lot else to live for.
6. Hook is helping out Greg and Tamara, who set out to activate the trigger.
Greg needs a dwarf’s pickaxe to do it. It’s this whole thing. Meanwhile, Hook learns a couple unsettling things about the people he’s working with: One, they plan to destroy everyone (including Hook), and two, they have no idea whom they’re working for.
7. But Greg activates the trigger anyway, smashing the diamond with the pickaxe.
The diamond glows and levitates. And then fast-growing vines start covering the town. This will not end well.
8. Regina explains that everyone is going to die except Henry.
Because Henry was born this way. That is, in the real world.
9. Hook switches sides, because duh, he’s largely motivated by self-preservation.
Of course, no one knows how to stop the trigger. And then David has an idea: the beans. (Also, let’s just take a moment to admire what Hook is doing with his tongue. We’re taking a moment. And we’re done.)
10. Back in the past, Hook’s ship is boarded by the Lost Ones, who are looking for Bae.
Smee urges Hook to give up the boy, but the Dark One’s son is the key to Hook’s revenge. Also, for a pirate, he’s kind of a softie.
11. Bae manages to successfully hide, but the Lost Ones aren’t happy.
The mysterious entity they work for — referred to as “He” or “Him,” with implied capital letters — will be very upset. And you’ve never seen Him very upset. Apparently, it involves violently ripping the shadow off of whomever pissed Him off. Sounds traumatic.
12. In Storybrooke, the dwarves break into Mr. Gold’s shop looking for Sneezy’s drinking stein.
It’s all part of a spell concocted by Mother Superior to restore Sneezy’s memories. Soon he’ll remember who he really is — and that he’s about to die. How fun for Sneezy.
13. Leroy has enough extra potion to restore Belle’s memories, too.
Gold isn’t sure he wants it. On the one hand, he misses Belle. On the other, Belle’s alter ego Lacey is pretty fun. Plus, if he wakes her up, he’ll have to greet her with, “Welcome back! The end is nigh.” And that’s just cruel.
14. In the past, Hook and Bae totally bond over their absentee dads.
Hook even teaches Baelfire how to sail, because he’s the best pirate surrogate father ever. Bae casually mentions that his real dad draws all his power from a magic dagger, which is useful information to retain.
15. Present day Hook and David find Greg and the remaining beans.
Tamara intervenes, and she and Greg escape. But hey, at least Hook and David manage to snag a bean.
16. And Regina and Emma find the diamond — but Regina’s real plan is to sacrifice herself to save everyone else.
It’s noble and kind of tragic, but the power of the moment is undermined by the fact that — spoiler alert — she doesn’t end up going through with it. Anyway, it’s the thought that counts. “Tell [Henry] that, in the end, it wasn’t too late for me to do the right thing,” she tells Emma.
17. Regina uses her power to slow the diamond down, thereby giving everyone else enough time to escape via magic bean.
18. Mr. Gold decides to restore Belle’s memories after all.
He apologizes about waking her up to die, but explains that he needed her. Kind of selfish, Gold, if we’re being honest. Oh, well. If you’re going to die, you might as well die making out with someone you love.
19. Once he learns of Regina’s plan, Henry refuses to let her die. He’s so noble and stupid.
Mary Margaret suggests sending the diamond through a portal instead. And everyone agrees to that plan, even though they’re not sure it will work, because Storybrooke is populated with frustratingly good-natured people.
20. Hook tries to reason with them, but common sense is no match for niceness.
Emma convinces him that they can’t just let Regina die and offers him the chance to finally be part of something. Hook relents and gives up his bean. OR DOES HE? (He doesn’t.) He also learns that Neal — whom he knows as Baelfire — is dead, which triggers another flashback.
21. Bae learns the truth about Hook’s involvement in his mother’s death.
The truth is that Hook had nothing to do with it — Rumplestiltskin killed his wife out of spite. But Bae is still pissed enough to want off the Jolly Roger. He demands to be returned to the Darling family.
22. Emma, Mary Margaret, David, and Henry arrive to save Regina, but there’s one small problem.
The bean is gone, because Hook pocketed it to provide himself with an easy escape. Once a pirate, always a pirate. Also, what have we learned about trying to do the right thing?
23. Back to the past, where Hook hands Bae over to the Lost Ones.
Remember, it’s all about self-preservation for Hook. Plus, he’s a little butthurt that Bae didn’t want to hang out with him anymore.
24. Storybrooke is rapidly falling apart.
On the plus side, all the new fast-growing plant life will be great for the environment.
25. But Emma suddenly realizes that if she joins forces with Regina, they have enough power to stop the diamond.
Um, OK. Thanks, deus ex Emma.
26. The diamond is deactivated and Storybrooke is saved.
Well, that was shockingly easy. Next time, let’s maybe brainstorm a bit before anyone commits to self-sacrifice.
27. Except, oops, amid all the chaos, Greg and Tamara kidnap Henry.
Oh, sure, they came to Storybrooke to destroy magic, but they ended up finding something more important. (Henry, in case you didn’t get that.)
28. Greg and Tamara open a portal and make their escape, with Henry in tow.
And there’s nothing anyone can do. Gold is like, Hey, remember when I spent forever trying to find my son in another world? It’s super difficult. But Emma, Regina, Mary Margaret, and David refuse to give up hope.
29. But look who’s back! And guys, he’s got a bean.
That’s right, Hook has a conscience now. He offers his ship and his services to follow Tamara and Greg and find Henry. Mr. Gold will help navigate. He’s good with portals.
30. Gold says goodbye to Belle and leaves her in charge of Storybrooke.
The town is no longer safe, and she’ll need to protect it. Oh, one more thing: THEY CAN NEVER SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN. But Belle doesn’t believe that, and I don’t either. She and Gold will reunite eventually.
31. Surprise, Neal is alive.
I mean, duh. Prince Phillip, Aurora, and Mulan find him washed up on the beach, barely alive. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure they’re going to nurse him back to health.
32. On the Jolly Roger, Hook and Gold have their big confrontation.
JK, they randomly decide they’re not going to kill each other. They’re just being practical, really: Henry has been taken to Neverland, and they’ll need to work together to get him back.
33. In the past, the Lost Ones are going to bring Baelfire to Him, but Bae’s not the boy He’s looking for.
So who is the boy He’s looking for? I think you can guess.
34. With the last bean, Hook, Regina, Emma, Gold, Mary Margaret, and David sail into a portal to rescue Henry.
And Gold finally realizes who Greg and Tamara are working for, even though they’re still in the dark. You can probably also guess who He is at this point, right?
35. “Peter Pan never fails.”
Yes, He is Peter Pan, and the boy He’s looking for is Henry. Give yourself a pat on the back if you figured this out long before the big reveal. Still, it’s a fun cliffhanger to end on, and it should lead to an exciting start to the new season.
Season 3 of Once Upon a Time premieres Sunday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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