Here there be spoilers! But if you haven't seen the episode yet, you can watch it either at ABC.com or hulu.com, so no excuses!
I'll admit, I missed the first minute or so because I was caught up in a skype conversation. However, I caught the gist of the sequence in a tumblr gif set, which clearly pointed out the parallel's between Hook's opening and Captain Jack's from "The Pirates of the Caribbean." Clever. Only Captain Hook isn't Jack, he's a fairy murdering--- ah, you're all tired of that rant by now, I'm sure.
Anyhow, I loved the entire opening. Cora, the disappearing ship, Snow+Charming = oblivious Henry and traumatized Emma... cute stuff.
But really, the strongest part of the episode was the party sequence, where we see Regina genuinely trying to fit in. No one really trusts her, but for Henry's sake they're trying... and c'mon, the woman is a fabulous cook. The scene between her and Emma was very telling, showing clearly how both women have grown more mature and are genuinely trying to be the women they need to in order to give Henry the right kind of parents.
Unfortunately for Regina, she's still saddled with an overly-controlling mother who will literally stop at nothing to stay in charge of her daughter's life. We thought Regina was bad last season? She's nothing compared to Cora now. And OUAT has once more killed off a cute bachelor. OR HAVE THEY? Turns out, Archie's not dead, but someone else is. Not any of the principles, apparently, since they all appeared after discovering the 'body', but do we seriously think it's no one important at all? (if it is, OUAT really dropped the ball.)
One of my favorite bits of the episode was the interaction with Pongo. I'm a long time fan of "101 Dalmations" (the book!) and love that they have subtly worked Pongo into the show. In this episode they used him quite cleverly, tying in Ruby's wolf powers, and extracting Pongo's memory of the scene with Rumple's dreamcatcher. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first instance of a Native American story/myth coming into the show, right?)
Seriously, Regina's acting was phenomenal this episode, between crying, threatening, and her complete shock at Archie's death, there wasn't a sour line in the whole thing. I love that Emma was able to tell that Regina was telling the truth, although I hope at some point we learn more about why Emma has this "superpower." Is it knowledge of people and body language (aka "Lie to Me") or something to do with her inner magic?
Also, random aside. What did Rumple mean by his "sheepdog" reference? Am I missing something, or is there another story here we'll be seeing eventually?
On the Fairy Tale Flashback end of things, we also got some really interesting stuff. Once again, fantastic acting by Regina as a truly evil woman... and she looked fabulously tragic in her execution costume. Also, another appearance from Regina's father, whom I sincerely hope we get more backstory on at some point.
Anyhow, I like how OUAT deals with the idea of the death penalty in this episode, and especially how Snow pleads for Regina. We've seen so much of kick-ass Snow, it's nice to see the sweet, kind side of her that we generally associate with the character.
Also, it was nice work setting up why Regina wanted a curse to take them to another land. We already knew Rumple's motive in needing such a complicated scenario... great to know Regina had one too.
Random observation... Snow and Charming are married by this point, but they're obviously keeping that a secret, referring to each other as 'fiance.' Why is this? What's the big deal about keeping it a secret? I hope they elaborate...
Anyone else catch Rumple's "Twoo Love" Princess Bride reference?
Overall I thought this was a pretty solid episode, and I'm glad that the show is starting to cover some new territory. Can't wait for next week - looks like it could be fairly traumatizing for us Rumbelle shippers!