“The Queen is Dead” is a very abrupt episode. It’s important for bridging the story from “Manhattan” to “The Miller’s Daughter.” And, like all Once Upon a Time episodes, it’s still fairly well done. But, the episode is also strangely abrupt, making a bunch of quick jumps that seem to take place in a matter of hours.
For instance, in the Enchanted Forest past, Snow’s mother, Queen Eva, is finally introduced. In the course of approximately one day, Snow’s birthday to be exactly, Eva imparts the very important motto Snow has been living by, suddenly falls ill, and then dies. Somewhere in there, Snow also tracks down Cora impersonating the Blue Fairy, almost does something evil and then doesn’t just in time to watch her mother die. Also, Johanna goes from a servant that Snow practically bullied to her most beloved friend. They also weren’t allowed to cancel the birthday ball, so presumably that happened somewhere in there. Again, this took place over the course of a day.
Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Snow reconnects with Johanna again. Approximately thirty seconds later, Snow stumbles across Regina and Cora trying to dig up Rumpelstiltskin’s dagger. So Snow goes and gets Charming, who was knocked out by Hook, then they go get the Blue Fairy who serves no purpose. Supposedly, she’s helping them find the dagger first. But, they find the dagger by calling Emma who just flat out asks him. They find the dagger, but Regina and Cora were following them somehow and also got ahold of Johanna somehow. Anyway, it predictably ends with Johanna dying and Cora getting what she wants. And again Regina and Snow are questioning their world views.
Also, over in Manhattan, there’s family bonding. Emma and Rumpelstiltskin talk about how to convince Neal to come back to Storybrooke. Then, out of nowhere, Hook shows up, having retrieved his hook and somehow tracked them down despite being unfamiliar with the world and having no more magical allies. He just flat out stabs Rumpelstiltskin with the hook, which is also poisoned. Showing that she’s the only one with any sense when it comes to Hook, Emma knocks him out and locks him up again. Neal has a change of heart, and agrees to take Hook’s ship back to Storybrooke to save Rumpelstiltskin. Just as Neal and Emma finally start to soften to each other, Neal’s new fiancée just kind of shows up behind them. Just to reiterate, all of the stuff in Manhattan and Storybrooke happens in the course of one day.
Like I said, it’s just a very abrupt episode. The developments don’t feel unnatural, exactly. It’s just that the writers seemed to have skipped the in-between parts of the stories. Of course, they still have a lot of story to get through and only a few episodes left, so some rough patches are to be expected I suppose.