As a rule the episode titles in Once Upon A Time lend some clue as to what topic or character the episode will feature: 'Red-Handed' features Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory); 'The Shepherd' tells the story of Prince Charming (Josh Dallas); and 'That Still Small Voice' introduces us to Jiminy Cricket (Raphael Sbarge). Interesting, then, that 'Lady of the Lake' features far more than one lady and nothing more than a dry lake bed. Clever title notwithstanding, the theme is still easy to pick up on: a parent's love. The three parents featured are Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin), Jefferson (Sebastian Stan) and Charming's mother, Ruth (Gabrielle Rose).
Snow's tale in this episode is twofold as the audience is given further access to her backstory, even as her present predicament in the Enchanted Forest begins to unfold. The meek and mild Mary-Margaret is nowhere to be found now that the princess has returned home and she doesn't waste any time handing out pointers to Emma (Jennifer Morrison) on who is trustworthy and who is not. This is an interesting shift from last season, where Emma was the self-assured, confident one in the relationship.
Morrison does a good job of portraying a strong woman who is used to being the one calling the shots, but who now finds herself way in over her head. The wonder of discovering that her son's fairy tales have come to life is played nicely as well. It's good to see her walk a mile in her mom's shoes and by the end her neatly constructed wall that she's built around her heart begins to erode just the tiniest bit. Not that a syrupy-sweet Emma would be ideal, but softening her around the edges couldn't hurt. The scene as they stand in the ruins of Emma's nursery, each catching their own glimpse of the dreams that died with the curse, is poignant and finally the two connect as mother and daughter.
These mother-daughter moments, it is revealed, are brought to you by Ruth, Charming's mother. In a rather bizarre chain of events in the Enchanted Forest's past, Snow is taken prisoner by King George (Alan Dale), who decides to exact revenge on Charming by slipping Snow a cursed potion that renders her infertile. Lancelot (Sinqua Walls), the knight who unknowingly served her the poisonous drink, chooses to leave the service of the king and instead warns Snow that her future mother-in-law is in danger.
King George clearly knows his enemy, for after taking care of Snow he then target's Charming's mother. This operation might have gotten off without a hitch, however, Charming is already with his mother and his spidey-senses pick up on the imminent danger. With a tuck roll here, the swing of a sword there, and the snap of a neck to top it all off, Charming gets the job done; though not before one critical arrow is dispatched.
His mother Ruth, thinking her son is in danger, ignores his instructions to move into the house and as a result, she is dealt a fatal blow. Snow and Lancelot arrive on the scene far too late and with all of the attention now focused on Ruth, there's no time to fill Charming in on Snow's curse. Instead, they all set out for the lake, which Charming is sure is the only hope his mother has for survival. The lake, however, is nothing but a dry lakebed and it's no surprise that when a small drop of water is found there's only enough left for one. Ruth sacrifices her cure so that Snow can once again bear children and dies only seconds after Lancelot marries the pair.
Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) and David are actively searching for their own portal back to the Enchanted Forest, though David isn't convinced it's worth the risk to allow Henry to be involved. Little does he realize that shutting his grandson out only makes the boy that much more determined to find the solution on his own and in this case, Henry is certain that the key to this current mystery lays with Jefferson.
Jefferson however, is stuck in his own funk, having convinced himself that his long-lost daughter will be angry for abandoning her. Henry wheedles and cajoles, and pulls the "I know what it's like to wonder about your parents" card, only stopping when Jefferson lets slip that Regina (Lana Parrilla) brought her vault of hearts over to Storybrooke. Henry does find his way to the vault, by the way, and he and David are no closer to finding a portal, but more importantly he's swayed the Mad Hatter. Jefferson's love for his little girl wins out in the end, treating viewers to possibly one of the most tender reunion scenes next.
Two other parental figures also crop up in this episode, though whether that bodes well or ill for Storybrooke and the Enchanted Forest is yet to be seen. The first is Cora (Barbara Hershey) who clearly has an axe to grind with her own daughter, Regina, and who is last seen scooping up remnants of the magical wardrobe that saved Emma in an attempt to create her own portal to Storybrooke. Meanwhile, Storybrooke may have some drama of its own brewing as the final scene ends with the camera panning to reveal King George's alter-ego, Albert Spencer, eyeing David as he plays with Henry; the grandson that should never have been had the poisonous curse in the past been successful.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.