ONCE UPON A TIME Recap & Review: “The Garden of Forking Paths”


We learn more about Lady Tremaine’s motivations in ONCE UPON A TIME season 7 episode 3, entitled “The Garden of Forking Paths.”

Remember last week, when at the end of our Once Upon a Time episode recap we asked the question, “Why haven’t we met the other stepsister yet?” Well, wait no longer – we met her in this episode. Sort of. Let’s take a look at this week’s episode, starting with the “Another Realm” flashbacks.

In “Another Realm”

Tiana (Mekia Cox) is NOT the frog-kissing princess we know. In her first few minutes of screentime, she rescues Cinderella (Dania Ramirez) from a guard and explains that she’s the leader of the resistance against Lady Tremaine and the royal family. Cinderella is about to walk away until Tiana explains that the prince did not act alone when he murdered her father. Lady Tremaine was in on it, too. With that knowledge in mind, Cinderella and Tiana mount Henry’s motorcycle and head to the resistance camp. Before she leaves, Cinderella leaves her glass slipper behind so that Henry will know to look for her.

At the resistance camp, Cinderella changes into clothes better suited to battle, and is given new boots by a kindly cobbler named Jeremiah. Tiana explains that Lady Tremaine appears to be preparing for battle; she has been moving magical items into her manor, including one that they haven’t been able to identify. She shows Cinderella a picture; it’s obvious that she recognizes the drawing, but she claims not to know what it is.

Just at that moment, Henry (Andrew J. West) arrives with Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) in tow. They offer their help, which Tiana accepts, especially given Regina’s magical abilities. Tiana explains the plan to attack Lady Tremaine’s manor. Henry tries to talk with Cinderella, but she’s edgy and evasive. She leaves camp in the middle of the night and heads to the manor, where Lady Tremaine (Gabrielle Anwar) is waiting for her.

Lady Tremaine explains that the drawing was a trap meant to bring Cinderella to the manor. The item in question is a coffin containing the perfectly preserved remains of Anastasia, the second stepsister, who died because of something for which Cinderella blames herself. Cinderella offers to sacrifice herself in place of the resistance fighters, but Lady Tremaine explains that she still needs her. She orders Cinderella to bring Henry’s pure heart to the manor so that she can use it to bring back Anastasia. Does this remind anyone else of Regina’s quest to bring back Daniel? It’s the first inkling we’ve had that Lady Tremaine might actually have a heart – she wants to bring her daughter back to life.

With the inevitable “or else” threat in mind, Cinderella returns to the resistance camp. Lady Tremaine had used the fairy godmother’s wand to give her the ability to take Henry’s heart, but she can’t do it. She decides to take Jeremiah’s heart instead, but Regina stops her. Cinderella tries to convince Regina that she’s doing the right thing, but Regina takes the magic from Lady Tremaine away.

Cinderella decides to leave camp, stating that she’s too dangerous to be around the resistance, but Regina stops her once again, reminding her that she can make her own decisions, and that she needs to find a way to forgive herself for whatever happened with her stepsister. Regina returns to camp, and Cinderella follows. They explain together that the manor is a trap, and Cinderella says to call her Ella now, instead of the name that her stepmother gave her.

In Hyperion Heights

Back in the “real world,” we see a brief scene in Jacinda and Sabine’s apartment. Jacinda is reading a letter from Lucy, and she laments to her friend how much she misses her daughter. Sabine assures her that they won’t be separated for long, and that she’s not cursed (ridiculous, right?).

The scene shifts to Henry meeting Detective Rogers and Roni at the bar, in the funniest moment of the episode. Roni explains that one of her customers last night was the city’s building commissioner. In his drunken state, he told Roni that he was going to do a favor for Victoria Belfrey and make a lot of money from it. Henry gives Rogers and Roni his (awkwardly phrased) take on the news.

Henry: “Bribes, public officials, redeveloping the neighborhood at the expense of the new guy – this is good. This is really good. I mean, it’s bad. It’s bad. It’s a good story, it’s a bad thing.”

Rogers: “Well said.”

Henry: “Thank you.”

Rogers plans to stake out the meeting between the commissioner and Belfrey later in the day. Henry wants to accompany him, but Rogers encourages him to do some research into the commissioner instead. Henry isn’t thrilled about his position as the “research guy,” but Roni assures him that he’s just taking baby steps.

Jacinda goes to leave a letter for Lucy in the wishing well in her hyacinth garden, only to be stopped by Victoria, who explains that she’s going to level the whole garden and build condos. Meanwhile, Rogers is on his way to stake out the meeting and is stopped by Detective Weaver (Robert Carlyle), who ends up following him. He watches Rogers watching the commissioner receive an envelope from Victoria.

At Roni’s, Jacinda begs for help with the garden. Roni and Henry realize what the payout must have been for – to speed up the rezoning on the garden. She suggests that Jacinda start a petition to save the garden.

Lucy (Alison Fernandez) finds out about the petition and brings it to Henry at Roni’s. She’s thrilled, thinking that because her mother is fighting for something, she’s beginning to wake up. Lucy believes that there’s more to her stepmother’s interest in the garden than just condos. She leads Henry to the garden just as the demolition crew finds an opening to a tunnel under one of the garden beds. Before Henry can stop her, she jumps in. Henry has no choice but to follow. (More Season 1 vibes, anyone?)

Back aboveground, Rogers finds Michael Griffith, the building commissioner, at a restaurant and asks him about Victoria Belfrey. Griffith offers him a bribe, which Rogers refuses. He arrests him and takes him to the station. Jacinda keeps working on her petition, getting a surprising number of signatures.

Henry continually tries to convince Lucy to return to the surface, but she keeps going farther in, insisting that there has to be something there for them to find. She tells Henry that his family didn’t really die, that they’re right in front of him. At the end of the tunnel, Lucy unearths a piece of glass that she believes is from Cinderella’s glass slipper. She plans to give it to her mother to help her believe.

Victoria confronts Jacinda about the petition, offering up one of the condos for her and Lucy to live in if she agrees to burn the petition. The temptation is too much for her; she burns the petition just in time for Lucy to show up and witness it.

Jacinda: “We need to be together, and I don’t care how.”

Lucy: “I do. If this is what it takes, I don’t want to be together.”

Rogers sees Weaver shaking Michael Griffith’s hand. Angry, he confronts Weaver, only for him to inform him that he’s just turned Griffith into a confidential informant. The next time Victoria calls Griffith for a favor, Griffith will call Weaver. At the bar, Jacinda talks with Roni about what happened with Victoria and Lucy. Roni asks her what she’s willing to give up in order to be with Lucy, and points out that the Belfreys of the world will take everything from her if she lets them.

Henry finds Lucy on the street. She’s visibly upset, but before long, they come across Jacinda at the garden. She’s getting more signatures for her petition and encouraging everyone to stand up for what they believe in. Mother and daughter hug, while Roni and Henry look on. Henry tells Lucy that he’s going to write a story about the garden, and he wants her to look it over for him. As he’s about to leave, she gives him the piece of slipper, saying that he needs it more than her mother does. On his way home, Henry happens across the Hyperion Heights cemetery. He finds the graves of his wife and daughter.

The last scene of the episode is chilling. Lucy was right – there was something underneath the garden that Victoria wanted: Anastasia’s coffin. She brings it to a tower where we get our first look at the Witch (Emma Booth). Victoria plans to force Lucy to surrender her belief in order to resurrect Anastasia. However, this is the first time we see the great Lady Tremaine show fear, as the Witch says that if she succeeds, then she’ll have her to deal with. You have to be powerful to intimidate Victoria Belfrey, and the Witch clearly qualifies, despite being chained in a tower.

A few additional notes:

  • There are a lot of parallels between Lucy and young Henry, but the similarities between Jacinda and Season 1 Emma are striking as well. Emma made a lot of bad calls in attempts to help Henry, and Jacinda is making similar choices.
  • Everyone has to be digging Resistance Tiana, right? Right??
  • And the growing bond between Ella and Regina?
  • Did anyone else see the woman chained in a tower and think Rapunzel?

What did you think of “The Garden of Forking Paths?” Let us know your thoughts of the dead stepsister reveal!

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About Author

Mary loves two things the most: her foster daughter and her nephew. She'll happily show you 500 pictures of each. An Iowa girl at heart, Mary currently works at a church in Oklahoma. When she's not teaching kids about Jesus or helping her daughter with homework, she spends her time watching her favorite shows and reading fantasy novels.

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