Darkness has fallen over Storybrooke, and it's not just the sunset. Captain Hook and Cora have arrived, but they're being careful to keep their presence a secret. While Hook is eager to skin his crocodile, Rumplestiltskin, Cora reminds him that magic has come to Storybrooke and skinning him won't be quite so easy. She concocts a new plan that will have Regina ready to accept her mother's help AND get Hook everything he needs to strike back at The Dark One. Meanwhile, Emma and Mary Margaret are celebrating their return with family and friends…and Regina. Emma invited her to the homecoming, but the people who knew her in Fairy Tale Land aren't quite so quick to forgive the woman they know mostly as "The Evil Queen" and the person who cursed them. Emma and Regina seem to be getting along ok, though, but Emma rebuffs Regina when she asks if Henry can stay over with her once in a while. It seems a strange reversal from not long ago when it was Emma who was practically begging Regina for some more time with her son.
Flash back to Fairy Tale Land, where Regina, The Evil Queen, oversees a battle with the forces of Snow White and Prince Charming. One of her soldiers rushes up to her, informing her that she has a chance at getting to Snow White if she hurries. Regina, sensing a chance at revenge, rushes off, but is captured instead. Charming and Snow knew she couldn't resist and the battle is won. Once captured, it's up to Prince Charming, Snow White and their friends to determine what should happen to The Evil Queen. Most of the council seems to reluctantly-or in Charming and Grumpy's cases, not-so-reluctantly-settle on the decision that she must be executed. Despite seeming to accept the council's advice, Snow White seems troubled by the idea. Regina did save her life once, after all. Perhaps she could be redeemed?
Redemption is just what Regina is working on in Storybrooke. She's been seeing Archie for therapy and trying to resist the urge to use magic, but when Archie reassures Emma that Regina has had sessions with him, Regina's upset that he would reveal that to anyone. Ruby notices the argument, and Cora takes note as well. Later that night, Archie is in his office when Regina comes to the door. He lets her in and suddenly she attacks him! The next morning, Archie is found dead. Ruby implicates Regina, having seen her argue with Archie and witnessed her go up to his office that night. But Emma, surprisingly, still has her doubts. Mr. Gold helps her use magic to witness the crime through the eyes of Pongo, Archie's dog, and to her disbelief, she seems Regina murder Archie. It looks like she has to arrest The Evil Queen for murder.
In the flashback to Fairy Tale Land, The Evil Queen is already in chains and about to be executed. Archers loose arrows just as Snow White cries out for them to stop, and The Blue Fairy manages to halt the execution a split second before it's carried out. Afterward, Rumplestiltskin speaks with Snow privately and offers her a way to test Regina, to prove whether she can be redeemed or not. That night, Snow visits Regina in her cell, opening the door. She tells Regina she's free if she can just move on and forget her vendetta. Regina seems to go along with it until she suddenly wheels on Snow White, choking her, and grabs a blade from her hand. Regina thrusts the dagger at Snow, but it does nothing. Suddenly guards and Charming appear and Snow White reveals this was a test, and Regina failed. She can now no longer harm Charming or Snow in Fairy Tale Land and she is to be banished forever. Later, as she sulks in her castle, Rumplestiltskin visits her. At first she is furious about his part in the test, but then he tells her the deal was that she couldn't harm Snow or Charming in Fairy Tale Land only. The idea pushes her toward The Dark Curse and once again it's revealed how Rumple, the master manipulator, used everyone to get what he wanted.
Emma, Mary Margaret and David confront Regina at her home, accusing her of murdering Archie. She professes her innocence, but no one is ready to believe her now. When Emma tells Regina how devastated Henry will be when he finds out, Regina loses it, using magic to push everyone away and make a run for it. Later, she watches from the shadows as Emma breaks the news to Henry and she seems as heartbroken as he does. And back on Captain Hook's boat, The Jolly Roger, Cora greets Hook, telling him she's given him exactly what he needs to strike back at Mr. Gold. She takes him to the ship's hold where Archie is tied up! She used magic to disguise herself as Regina and whomever she killed to look like Archie-she's not sure who she actually killed, she's new in town. As Hook prepares to interrogate Dr. Hopper for information about Mr. Gold, we're left wondering if anyone will discover what's really going on in time to save him!