Welcome to the Underworld, “Once Upon a Time” fans. The hit ABC series may have been on hiatus for the past couple months, but episode 12 premiered Sunday night, bringing viewers along on Emma’s (Jennifer Morrison) journey to rescue Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) from the Underworld.
Before fans get to reach the depths of hell, Emma wakes up inside her yellow Beetle — and she’s not alone. To Emma’s surprise, Neal (Michael Raymond-James) is in the backseat of her car. But Neal is not the first person to greet her in the Underworld. He visits her in a dream-like state to beg her not to continue her journey. After asking about Henry (Jared Gilmore), Neal explains that the Underworld is not an easy place to return from, and that things won’t end the way she thinks they will.
Emma’s not one to give up though. She promises Neal that she would have done the same for him, but didn’t know that the Underworld existed. However, Neal tells her that she couldn’t have done the same … because he’s not in the Underworld. So, where is Neal? He’s somewhere that’s “nice” and “happy.”
Knowing that he cannot convince her to turn back, Neal gives her a kiss on her forehead and says goodbye.
“I love you, Emma,” he says to her. “Always have and always will.”
When Emma wakes she discovers that they’ve arrived in the Underworld — and it’s like an upside down Storybrooke. But while the streets of Storybrooke are full of happy fairytale characters, the people in the Underworld are trapped due to unfinished business. And unfortunately for Emma and the group of heroes, many of the people are down there are because of them.
Everyone gets to work searching for Hook. Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) goes to Granny’s Diner to look for the pirate, but instead finds the Blind Witch (Emma Caulfield) working behind the counter. And that’s not the only odd thing. David (Josh Dallas) walks in — except it’s not really David, it’s his twin, James.
“I can see why my brother likes you,” James tells Mary Margaret. “Tell him there is a new sheriff in town.”
James isn’t the only familiar face lurking. Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey), has one of her henchmen summon her daughter to see her. And although things didn’t end well between them when Cora was in Storybrooke, the mother and daughter are happy to see each other. In fact, Cora has some good news for Regina — she was able to work out a deal to get Regina, Henry and Robin (Sean Maguire) a boat ride back to the land of the living. The catch is that Regina has to leave her other friends and catch the boat within the hour. Needless to say, that’s not something that she’s willing to do. However, Cora anticipated that, and she’s got a threat to counter it. She warns Regina that if she doesn’t leave the Underworld within the hour she’s going to send her father into a fiery pit.
Regina meets up with the others to tell them about Cora, and unfortunately no one has had any luck finding Hook. But Gold (Robert Carlyle) might have a solution. He goes to his pawnshop to search for something that could help them locate the pirate, but instead he finds his estranged father, Peter Pan (Robbie Kay). In the Underworld the pawnshop belongs to Peter Pan, and just like Gold, everything comes with a price. Peter Pan explains that he wants a seat on the boat back to Storybrook, and he doesn’t care who he replaces. Gold still hasn’t forgiven his father though, so he has no plans to betray Emma and the others to give his dear old dad a second chance.
In a surprising twist, Peter Pan offers to give Gold what he’s searching for — without a price. Desperate to get out of the Underworld and back to Belle (Emilie de Ravin), Gold accepts.
So, what exactly was Gold searching for? It’s a potion that when poured over a grave will allow the user to communicate with the dead. Emma immediately takes the potion and heads to the cemetery with Mary Margaret, David, Regina, Robin and Henry in tow. The spell does allow Emma to see Hook, but he's not the same man. He’s unable to see Emma or communicate with her. And to top it off, he’s bloody and beat up. The sight of him tears Emma apart, but the spell doesn’t last, and it doesn’t bring them any closer to finding Hook.
The spell does appear to work for Regina, though. She uses the remaining few drops of the potion to speak with her father, who encourages her to ignore her mother and stay in the Underworld to help her friends.
“Let your old man see you do the right thing,” he begs of her.
A flashback to the Enchanted Forest reveals that Regina didn’t listen to her father in the past, however, she’s ready to listen to him now. She defies her mother and refuses to take the boat back to Storybrooke. But Cora’s promise to throw Regina’s father into a fiery pit wasn’t an empty threat. Regina races to find Cora on the brink of tossing her father in. She pleads with her mother to let her father go, explaining that she’s come back to help everyone. Cora doesn’t care though. She allows the flames to consume her husband and disappears in a cloud of smoke.
But if Cora stayed she would have discovered that Regina’s dad didn’t go into the fiery pit. Instead, the flames disappear and a bright light appears. Regina’s decision to stay in the Underworld to help her friends resolved her dad’s unfinished business. After meeting his grandson, he’s able to walk into the light and go to a better place.
Regina and Henry rejoin the rest of the group to explain what happened. Although they’re still unable to find Hook, they now know that everyone in town can be saved. Gold’s not interested in playing that game though. He warns Emma that his deal was to bring them to the Underworld to find Hook and get back. He’s not sticking around to help the dead — especially since not everyone in the Underworld cares about moving on.
The episode ends with the hand on the library clock tower moving — just like it did in Storybrooke when Emma arrived in town for the first time. But it’s not moving because the Savior is there to break the curse. The hand moves every time a soul leaves the Underworld … and there is man that doesn’t want that to happen. “Once Upon a Time” viewers watch as Cora heads underneath the library to meet with the ruler of the Underworld — Hades (Greg Germann). Cora failed to get rid of Regina like she promised Hades, so she has to be punished. He turns her into a peasant woman and warns her that he doesn’t like losing things.