The Miller’s Daughter originally aired March 10, 2013, and will be broadcast again, in an “enhanced rerun” version (with text comments on the bottom of the screen), on April 7, 2013.
Princess Eva, who was so kind and wise in a previous episode, is younger here and surprisingly cruel. She deliberately trips Cora, the miller’s daughter, who is at the palace to deliver flour, a job that Cora’s drunken father was too far gone to do. King Xavier orders Cora to kneel and apologize to Cora — a scene that echoes the Season 1 scene where a sadistic soldier humiliated Rumpelstiltskin by ordering him to kiss his boot.
The pain of humiliation drove Rumpel to become the murderous Dark One. That same kind of pain turns Cora into the murderous heart-crusher that she becomes. For both of them, the anger fuels their magical powers, something Cora learns from Rumpel in an erotically charged scene that mixes their passion for each other with their passion for revenge. (Continued after the jump.)
Cora crashes a masked ball at the palace. She charms Prince Henry, King Xavier’s son, but the King spots her and orders her to leave. Flippantly, Cora tells the money-starved King that she can spin straw into gold. He calls her bluff, locking her in a room filled with straw and telling her that if she succeeds, she can marry his son — but if she fails, she will die.
As in the traditional tale, Rumpelstiltskin suddenly appears in the locked room. His deal: if Cora promises him her first-born child, he will spin all the straw into gold. In a twist on the traditional tale, Cora tells Rumpel to teach her instead how to do it herself. Heroines in modern tellings of tales are more self-sufficient than they used to be.
Cora tricks the besotted Rumpel into changing their deal, so instead of Rumpel’s getting her first-born, he’ll get his own child. Cora does love Rumpel, but she loves power even more and chooses to marry the prince. “Love is weakness,” King Xavier says approvingly. Cora agrees, and uses the heart-snatching skills Rumpel taught her (believing she wanted to use them to kill the King) to take out her own heart so that her love for Rumpel wouldn’t stand in the way of her prime obsession — forcing her former tormentors onto their knees.
(But has Rumpel and Cora’s child already been conceived? Could Regina be Rumpel’s daughter?)
Meanwhile, the poisoned GoldRump sails back to Storybrooke on the pirate ship. He wants Mary Margaret to use the take-a-life-to-save-a-life trick to save him, a complicated maneuver that involves lighting the magic candle and whispering over Cora’s heart and then putting the heart back into her body.
MaryMargaretSnow’s conscience bothers her, but not for very long (and when her conscience does return, it’s too late). She gets Cora’s heart from the vault, does the thing with the magic candle, and tricks Regina into putting the heart back into her mother’s body, which kills her. Regina gives Mary Margaret the same “I’m going to get you if I have to destroy the whole world in the process” look that she had given young Snow when she found out Snow told Cora her secret.
Amid all the hatred, this is also an episode about reconciliation. Rumpel, on what could have been his deathbed, apologizes to NealFire, who while still angry, clasps his father’s hands and embraces him, forehead to forehead. And the heart-infused Cora, in the few seconds before she dies, tells Regina that loving her would have been enough. Ooops, too late.