|“||Love is weakness.||„|
|~ Cora Mills's iconic phrase.|
Cora Mills is a major antagonist in ABC's television series, Once Upon a Time, and a guest star in the spin-off show Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. She is a minor antagonist/Bigger Bad in Season 1, the main antagonist of Season 2, a minor antagonist in Seasons 3 and 4 and a supporting antagonist turned anti-hero of the second half of Season 5.
She takes the place of the Miller's Daughter from the tale of Rumplestiltskin and the Queen of Hearts from the Lewis Carroll novel Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland and the mother of the Evil Queen Regina and Zelena.
Cora was a cruel and controlling mother and appears to have forgotten her humble origins, always wanting to achieve royal status at all costs. She learned how to control magic to turn her life around, but all that power went to her head. She loves her daughter very much but would always force her to do the lessons that would lead her to becoming a Queen.
As the Queen of Hearts, she did not like outsiders in Wonderland always asking how and why a person has come to Wonderland. She had a short temper, easily decapitating an individual if they annoyed her.
Powers and Abilities
Cora was a powerful and deadly sorceress who many feared, including her own teacher Rumplestiltskin and her daughter Regina, the former of which barely won a duel against Cora. Her original power was spinning straw into gold. Cora used magic via spell books and incantations. When Cora used magic, it gave a pink, violet or purple glow. Her magical abilities included telekinesis, able to lift and throw objects and people, teleportation of herself and others, making objects appear out of thin air via purple smoke, and turning things invisible. Cora can also perform acts of transformation over herself or someone else and created a protective shield that blocked out the Dark Curse in a small portion of the land.
She was also able to easily manipulate the natural elements; fire, earth, air and water, but above all she has shown a greater affinity in manipulating vegetation (both when she prevents Regina from escaping from her marriage and even during her long period as Queen of Hearts).
Her most signature powerful act of magic was ripping out hearts and storing them away. Cora used the hearts of others to control a victim's speech and actions, use a heart to reanimate her victims' dead bodies, and mostly crushing and killing her victims. Having her heart ability led her to become the Queen of Hearts in Wonderland. Cora, as the Queen of Hearts' magic allowed her to cause physiologically impossible situations, such as cutting off someone's head without the occurrence of death (a skill that she also transmitted to her pupil, the Red Queen).
Before First Curse
Innocent BeginningsCora was the daughter of a miller who slacked off and was constantly drunk. She worked as a waitress in a tavern, to supply for herself. One night, while working, Cora meets a man named Jonathan who is posing as a prince to woo her. He proposes to her with a ring of straw and promises to turn it into gold. Before he leaves, they consummate the "marriage". Two months later, Cora discovers he is nothing but a gardener at the royal castle. Cora then tells him she is pregnant and demands that he supports the child but he refuses, and when she tried to call someone to take him away, he hits her over the head and flees. A man approaches her and introduces himself as Prince Leopold, much to Cora's delight. As they bond, Leopold tells her of his engagement to a princess named Eva but decides to marry Cora instead.
Before they are wedded, Jonathan threatens to reveal his past relationship with Cora as well as the pregnancy, unless she provides him with riches. Unknown to Cora, Eva has overheard the whole conversation. Later, Cora is gathering jewels and gold in the great hall until she is caught by Leopold and Eva reveals her plans of thievery. Caught, Cora's marriage to him is severed and is taken away by the guards. Later, she gives birth to a child. She then heads for the woods and leaves her daughter during a storm and the baby is carried away by a magical cyclone to another land.
Meeting a Prince and WizardOne morning, she sees her drunken father collapsed outside their flour mill. Fed up with his behavior, she goes to deliver the flour by herself, so they can eat the following week, to the castle of King Xavier herself. After entering the castle, Cora hauls bags of flour by hand, but is purposely tripped by a familiar face, Princess Eva. Blamed for ruining the cruel princess' shoes, she is forced by King Xavier's command to kneel and apologize. That night, Cora steals a red dress and mask and sneaks into the royals' masquerade ball, where King Xavier's son, Henry, must find a bride. She briefly waltzes with the Prince before the King cuts in to warn her against trying to reach above her status. Insulted, Cora claims she can spin straw into gold and save the kingdom. King Xavier takes her claim seriously, stating if Cora can spin all the straw in the tower into gold, she will have the Prince's hand in marriage, or face execution upon failure. Cora's lie comes to bite her when she desperately looks for away out of the tower, but cannot find one. Out of thin air, a man named appears to help her for a price of him spinning all the straw into gold for her if she forfeits her first born child to him. She agrees to the terms but only if he teaches her how to spin gold. Rumpelstiltskin explains that she must channel her anger into magic and both find likeness in each other, as he was once publicly humiliated and sought revenge for it, while she envisions doing the same for the people who wronged her.
Later, after practicing with Rumpelstiltskin, Cora spins straw into gold in front of the entire kingdom and earns Henry's hand in marriage. On the day before the wedding, Cora wishes to have love with Rumpelstiltskin, instead of wealth and power. He decides to change the deal that instead of taking Cora's child, she will give him his son. She agrees to this, but firstly wants to learn how to rip out Xavier's heart. They then plan to meet under the courtyard tree in the evening after the task is done. When she arrives in Xavier's office to do the deed, he reveals that he knows that she doesn't love his son and knows about the Imp. He teaches her the phrase "love is weakness", causing Cora to realize that her heart is a liability that will keep her from gaining power. She decides to tear out her heart and places it into a box. She meets Rumpelstiltskin in the courtyard and admits what she's done. Cora tells him she had to do it for the sake of doing whatever it takes to reach the top of royalty status. Rumpelstiltskin misunderstands this and thinks she never actually loved him.
When he demands payment for their deal, Cora tearfully reminds him the terms were changed, and any child she has won't be his. Months later, she gives birth to a daughter, Regina, and presents her to the royal court. Cora declares that Regina shall be Queen one day.
Quest for Power
From then on, Cora would always try to control her daughter's life, claiming it was the best for her. She would be incredibly forceful, manipulating all of Regina's choices in life drawing her path for her, often resorting to magic to get her way. Along her life, Cora performed one of her most recognizable enchantments of ripping the hearts of people while they're still beating and ensnaring them with a spell, therefore controlling said people. Cora kept her extensive collection of hearts in a vault hidden behind her fireplace.
When Regina blossoms into a young woman, Cora resolves to set in motion a series of planned events that will lead her daughter into being crowned a Queen. She poisons the current Queen, her mortal enemy Eva, to make her seat vacant. Eva's only daughter, Snow White, is desperate to find a way to save her dying mother from the illness and seeks out the guidance of the Blue Fairy. Cora cloaks herself as the Blue Fairy and advises her to use a magic candle to take away a life of another person in order to save her mother. Ultimately, Snow White can't bring herself to do it, and Eva succumbs to death shortly. After Eva's mourning ceremony, Cora approaches to a look at her nemesis' body. She promises to destroy her legacy and turn Snow White's heart black as coal and her daughter will be Queen and make Snow White know what it feels like to be the miller's daughter.
Regina is out skilfully riding her horse while her father cheers her on. Cora comes out and is displeased by this stating its not ladylike to ride without a saddle. Daniel, the family's stable boy, comes up and offers one but he is turned away. Regina tries to walk away but Cora uses her magic to stop her.
Cora hears the news that Regina saved the king's young daughter, Snow White, and that the king is on his way. Regina is surprised when the king proposes to her, which Cora accepts for her, leaving Regina confused. Cora is later seen talking with Snow White about her and Regina's close relationship. She tells Snow that she just wants what's best for her daughter, will do anything to make her happy and doesn't want to lose her. Snow is touched by these words. Snow, having the pretense in believing Cora truly means well, begs in Regina's favor that if she truly wants to make her daughter happy to not make her marry the king as she loves another. Cora is surprised, but urges Snow on to share the secret—that Regina is in love with Daniel.
Cora manages to catch Regina and Daniel before they run off together. After a small struggle, Cora seems to understand the love Regina has for him. Cora and Regina appear to have made up, and they hug. Cora then hugs Daniel afterwords and speaks a few words of her own wisdom concerning how a parent wants best for their child. Seconds after these words, she rips out his heart, and crushes it, killing him. Regina is shocked as to why her mother has done this and Cora tells her that this is Regina's happy ending and to have true power you can't have love. She explains that love is an illusion, and it feels real now, but that the only thing she needs in the end is power. Because with power, one can get whatever one wishes without having to rely on anyone for help.
Regina is later being fitted in a wedding dress when she and Snow talk. Snow admits to telling Cora about her and Daniel because she was afraid Regina would lose her mother like she lost hers. Regina turns away and appears to struggle to contain her grief and rage. As she faces Snow, Regina says she's not angry at her. Cora comes down to speak with Regina alone (after Snow leaves) and says that she is learning well. Before Regina walks off, Cora says she is proud of her. However, Regina turns back to ask her mother if she knew the king was passing through the land, and that the whole scenario of saving Snow from a horse that had gone amuck was all part of her plan. Cora shrugs and assumes the stance of knowing nothing about that. Regina seems to accept the answer, but is heard seething as she trails away from Cora, "I should have let her die"; implying Regina blames Snow for ruining her happiness with Daniel and not her mother.
As her wedding looms nearer, Regina attempts to escape the impending marriage by riding off on her horse. One of Cora's spells stops her, and Cora makes it known that she enacted a barrier spell to keep her daughter from leaving before the wedding. Regina insists she does not wish to marry King Leopold and all she really wants is freedom. Cora says power is freedom, and tries to comfort her with the knowledge she will be there to guide Regina down the right path. Regina consults with her father, Henry, about how unhappy she is about her future. She is adamant in not wanting to become just like her mother. Regina asks how her mother turned out this way, and Henry vaguely recalls there was a man that gave Cora magic through a book of spells.
During the night, Regina sneaks into her mother's bed chamber and steals the book of spells from under her mothers pillow. She tries to recite a name on one page, “Rumple… Rumple-Shtiltskin? I summon thee.” Rumplestiltskin appears and speaks with Regina about their families history with one another, and how he knew her when she was an infant. Regina wants his help, but is reluctant in doing anything to hurt another person. He gives her a mirror—a looking glass—which acts as a portal between worlds. Rumplestiltskin tells her all she has to do is give her mother a little push into the mirror and she'll never have to see her again.
On the day of the wedding, in Leopold's castle, Regina is getting ready in her wedding dress. Cora comes in and sees the mirror covered by a cloth. She takes the cloth off and immediately recognizes it as a looking glass. While Cora excitedly talks about Regina's future role as Queen, Regina once again voices her desire to be nothing like her mother. She lunges to push her mother into the mirror, but Cora is too fast and uses magic to restrain her daughter in place. Cora reminds her she can't get rid of her that easily, but is unaware of Rumplestiltskin appearing in the mirror from behind urging Regina to do what must be done.
Gathering strength in anger, Regina breaks free of the binds and uses magic for the first time, causing Cora to fly back towards the looking glass. Cora manages to hang on for a brief moment with a look of surprise and sadness on her face before slipping through the looking glass, which shatters into pieces almost immediately.
Cora is sent through the looking glass and lands in the realm of Wonderland and gains power as the notorious Queen of Hearts. After receiving an invitation to the upcoming wedding of the Red King, she arrives at the Wonderland Castle and acquaints the soon-to-be bride, the Red Queen Anastasia. As the two women talk, Cora teleports a vase of roses across the room, despite that she knows the Red King disapproves of magic as it separates them from their subjects. Cora offers to teach Anastasia magic without the Red King's knowledge, but Anastasia respectfully declines and Cora departs, or so it seems. She eavesdrop on a conversation Anastasia and her former lover, Will Scarlet, who pleads for her to meet him at the old wagon and run away together. The next morning, Cora meets with Will and tells him Anastasia has decided to marry the Red King. As he expresses a longing hope that she would return, Cora gently pushes him to give up his hope. When prompted with a request to take his heart out, she warns him of the consequences, but he insists. Once the task is done, she sends him off as she pockets the heart in a bag. Later, Cora stops Anastasia from leaving the castle for her sweetheart by using a mirror to show her a glimpse of the wagon with Will nowhere in sight. She manipulates a heartbroken Anastasia into believing all hope of love with Will is over, and her place is as a Queen. Eventually, Cora teaches her how to conjure fire by channeling all the unworthiness she feels as a person into power to which Anastasia successfully uses magic, as Cora watches most pleased.
Due to her possession of his heart, Will Scarlet became Cora's Knave of Hearts. One day, the Knave of Hearts and her knights are tracking a "notorious murderer" through the woods, and manages to find her, discovering her to be a young woman named Alice who insists she never killed anyone and that the charges against her are false and that her only offense was attempting to steal a weeping willow flower from the Queen of Hearts' garden. Which the Knave believes, but still must kill her because the Queen commanded him to do so. Alice offers to steal his heart back. She breaks into the Queen's vault, which each box contains hearts with two letters on each box detonating card names, and manages to steal the Knave's heart back for him, freeing him of Cora's control.
With help from the White Rabbit, Cora returns to the Enchanted Forest to make amends with Regina. After sharing her regrets about killing Daniel, she expresses a desire to help Regina find love again, especially after hearing a fairy located her soul mate, who bears a lion tattoo. Heading into a tavern, Cora gathers intel from the Sheriff of Nottingham about Regina's soulmate, and he states the man is not only a thief but is already married to another. Coming to believe the Sheriff would be a good candidate for her daughter, Cora gives him a fake lion tattoo and sets him up with Regina. Later that night, she returns to check up on Regina, who has already discovered the deception. Having learned from the Sheriff that Cora wanted her to have a child, Regina suspects her mother wants to seize her power through an heir. To eliminate this possibility, she threatens to take a potion to become barren. Cora insists no good will come out of hurting herself, but Regina drinks it, believing it's worth the trouble if the result will hurt her mother instead. As Regina feels pain from the potion's effects, Cora admits she wanted her to have a child for her own sake. Before leaving, she advises Regina that the only one standing in the way of her own happiness is herself. She proceeds to return to Wonderland.
At an unknown time, Regina shrinks her father, Henry, Regina's father and puts him in a box. However, upon sending her mother back to Wonderland, Cora manages to steal the box from Regina and seals him in one of her vaults.
Regina comes to rescue her father with the help of a portal-jumper named Jefferson, by using a magic hat to travel between worlds. They steal back Henry, but Regina paralyzes Jefferson so he is left behind while she and her father go through the looking glass. He is captured by the guards and brought to the Queen of Hearts audience.
The Queen of Hearts is seated at the throne with her new much older Knave of Hearts at her side and her Courtiers stand wearing masquerade masks and the Queen herself has her face covered by a red veil. She does not directly speak to him, and instead talks into a long tube that comes from her mouth and into the ear of the Knave of Hearts to communicate her messages to Jefferson. She is extremely displeased that he helped Regina steal from her. When Jefferson calls Regina "the Queen", the Queen of Heart cuts him off with a stomp of her foot, prompting the Knave of Hearts to ask him to refrain from referring to that woman by such a name and that there is only one queen: the Queen of Hearts. When questioned about how he came to Wonderland, Jefferson doesn't answer, and instead asks if it's possible for him to go home to his daughter after he tells them. Annoyed at his response, the Queen of Hearts whispers very audible "Off with his head." A guard with a very large axe walks over to him as he swings the axe and cuts off Jefferson's head as another guard hold the head as his body drops to the floor. Only after losing his body, yet still being alive, Jefferson confesses that his hat brought him to Wonderland, but Regina took it away. On behalf of the Queen, the Knave of Hearts commands him to make another hat, but Jefferson responds that a hat without magic is just a hat, but the Knave says to get it to work.
Sometime later, Captain Hook is tasked by the Evil Queen with traveling to Wonderland and assassinating her mother, Cora. He arrives in Wonderland with a dead body in tow, and is dragged by the knights before the Queen of Hearts. A gold and red masquerade mask covers the Queen's face and the Knave of Hearts bows to her before standing at her side, Hook is made to kneel and the Queen of Hearts waves an arm as an order for the Knave to lift her long horn and whispers through the Knave of Hearts why Hook is there. Hook tells her that he is seeking a woman who goes by the name Cora in a native land.
The Queen of Hearts lowers her mask and remarks that in this land she goes by "Your Majesty" revealing that she is in fact, Cora, and immediately dismisses the Knave and the masked Courtiers so that she can speak with Hook in private. She asks why Hook is here, descending her throne, and noticing a corpse of a dead man with him. Based on the rules of the portal-jumping, he is obviously going to take someone back. Hook lunges forward and plunges his hook into her chest to take her heart. But he is stunned to find that there is no heart there. Cora throws back her head and laughs and states that she is the Queen of Hearts, therefore she would be a fool to keep her heart where everyone else does, and so easily accessed. She then plunges her hand into Hook's chest, grabbing his heart, forcing him to tell her who sent him to kill her. As he gasps in pain, Hook admits that he was sent by Regina, the Evil Queen to kill her. Momentarily, Cora is fazed by the news, but forces him him to tell her everything. After he is done, she lets go of his heart and returns to sit upon her throne holding her masquerade mask baton. The Queen of Hearts orders Hook to aide her in returning to the Enchanted Forest, but wants his full and willing cooperation as she can give him what he most desires—Rumplestiltskin's life. She informs him of the ramifications of her daughter's curse will bring everyone to a new land, but everyone will affected will lose their memories. The Queen of Hearts promises to allow Hook the opportunity to kill Rumplestiltskin and also keep his memories intact. Hook asks Cora what she wants in exchange, she asks him to get her close to her daughter and then she'll rip her heart out.
Return to the Enchanted Forest
Hook returns with what appears to be Cora's body in tow to Regina's castle. A black clad Regina stands over her mother as she lays in the grave, and she confesses that she needed to have no weakness in this new world, and love is a weakness. As Regina still loves her mother, she could not have her coming with her to the new land. Regina then places a red rose in the grave with her mother, then leaves the room to summon the Dark Curse. Hook then enters as Cora awakens, and asks why she did not rip out her heart. Cora states that plans have changed, and that they must protect themselves from Regina's curse. As the curse roars towards Hook and Cora, Cora takes a large wooden staff, raises it, and plunges it into the ground. The staff emits a column of lightning which takes form as a shield around a certain area of the Enchanted Forest, which unknowingly to Cora includes Aurora's palace and Safe Haven. The curse rolls up against the shield, but does not break through. Cora then informs Hook that she and Hook will be frozen for the next twenty eight years until the Savior breaks the curse and frees them from the effects. She tells Hook that when she is reawakened, she will go to her daughter in her greatest moment of need and assist her.
After First Curse
After Emma Swan breaks the Dark Curse in Storybrooke, she and Mary Margaret Blanchard (Snow White) accidentally were sucked into the Enchanted Forest through a Mad Hatter's hat while trying to banish a Wraith. They are taken prisoners by Mulan and Aurora who believe they brought the Wraith that took Prince Phillip's soul. The two are escorted to the survivors Safe Haven. After a failed escape attempt, the women are imprisoned in "the pit". From the shadows, Cora notices the newcomers and asks if they need help. Emma questions who she is, and Cora replies, stepping forward from the darkness, "A friend".
While Mary Margaret remained asleep, Cora reassures Emma that she will be fine. She admits to being Regina's mother and starts to ask about their home in another land: When Mary Margaret awakens, she steered Emma away from conversing to her, telling her that she was far worse than Regina. Cora said she only wanted to help, and Emma, seeing that apparently there is no more option to return to Storybrooke, told her about Henry. When Mary Margaret pressed Emma to not say another word to Cora, a rope is thrown down to them to speak with Sir Lancelot. Cora, disguised of Lancelot, discovered that they were searching a portal to go home, and thinks it as an opportunity to reunite with Regina. "He" sent them "his" best soldier, Mulan, as a companion. When Mulan, Mary Margaret and Emma arrived, "Lancelot" appears claiming that he wanted them to be safe. "He", in order to hide "his" special fixation in the wardrobe, stated that he wanted Mary Margaret to get back safely with her husband and Henry. But Mary Margaret discovers "him" as an impostor and Cora reveals herself, stating that she had killed Lancelot years ago. When Cora tries to use the wardrobe, Emma tries to burn it but Cora pulls it out and turns it into a fireball and throws it at Emma but Mulan jumps in the way to block it with her sword.
It bounces off and burns the wardrobe to ash as Cora couldn't defeat them, so she did a strategical withdrawal and disappears in a puff of smoke. Later, she materializes back into the room after everyone is gone and bottles the ashes of the wardrobe. As it glows with a strange purple light, Cora smiles evilly as her plan is coming together.
Later, she meets up with Hook at the shoreline while he is observing the survivors' haven with a telescope. Cora shows him the ashes of the wardrobe, which can't bring them to another world, but will be useful as a start.
She enchants two bracelets to allow Hook and her to scale the Beanstalk, where they would be able to acquire a magic compass needed to their plan. In order to get that compass, Cora murders the people of the haven and rips out their hearts, while Hook pretends to be the only survivor to gain Emma and Mary Margaret's trust. Emma and Mary Margaret, with company of Mulan and Aurora, find that casualties. Then, Mary Margaret, because of the wound in the heart area of the dead, says that they were killed by Cora. They later find Hook beneath the dead bodies, trying to deceive them. However, Emma discovered he was lying and tied him into a tree, and Hook finally is forced to reveal his true identity and tell them all about his plan to return to Storybrooke. After he was unleashed, he tells them about the compass and leads them to the Beanstalk. He and Emma go upwards, using the enchanted bracelets. However, when Emma finds the compass, as she doesn't trust him, she traps Hook and makes off with the compass, previously having asked Anton the Giant to keep Hook as a prisoner as exchange of sparing his life while he was neutralized with the Ground Poppy Dust. )
Once Hook manages to escape there, Cora, holding a black umbrella, faces him telling him that he is a betrayer and he is unreliable, so she will leave him in the Enchanted Forest. Hook tries to attack her, but she dissolves into a mist and smoke. Then, she teleports to Lancelot's deteriorated home in the haven with a stack of metal boxes each with a cross on them and takes out one of the hearts she procured from the dead survivors. In response, several of the other hearts begin to glow in sync with the one she picked up and breathes life into it with her magic and commands the human corpses to rise, and they head into the forest to attack Aurora, Emma, Mary Margaret, and Mulan. Aurora is captured by the reanimated dead and held hostage by Cora. She comes into the cell holding a tray of food for the girl, and softens Aurora up with the possibility of recovering Prince Phillip's soul if she gives her the compass. Aurora looks hopeful at this idea, but retaliates by kicking the tray of food. In irritation, Cora flings her to a wall with her magic, causing her to faint. Cora sends a black raven to Emma and Mary Margaret, with a message saying that she will free Aurora in exchange of the compass, by sundown. Hook liberates Aurora, but, unbeknownst to her, he ripped off her heart while she was unconscious. When Cora discovers Hook having freed Aurora, she pulls him against the wall with her magic and plans to cut Hook's heart with his hook, but Hook shows her that he ripped Aurora's heart, saying there is a present in the satchel, who was that heart.
When Aurora reunited with Emma, Mary Margaret and Mulan, Cora controls Aurora's speech using her heart. Cora learns that they are going to Rumpelstiltskin's cell in search of squid ink, which paralyzes evil beings. When they arrive to the cell, Aurora, controlled by Cora, throws a rock to a pulley, sealing herself and the rest onto the cell. Cora appears and snags the compass from Emma, and then gives thanks to Aurora. After Aurora was confronted for betraying, Cora shows the foursome that she has Aurora's heart and she was under her control, also pressing it to make Aurora to have pain. Shortly after, she and Hook head out to Lake Nostos to begin making the trip to Storybrooke. The lake is completely dried but Cora with a few swirls of her fingers cracks the ground and generates an erupting geyser which soon fills up the lake.
She lets Hook pour the ashes of the wardrobe in. A portal swirls open as Cora holds out the compass in her palm; asking Hook to hold onto it with her when they jump or they won't end up in the correct world. Mary Margaret knocks the compass into the sand with an arrow as she, Emma and Mulan begin a battle with the pair. While Mary Margaret tries to catch Cora with her arrows, Mulan blocks the woman's magic with her blade. Cora vanishes in a puff of smoke after nearly getting hit, and the satchel carrying Aurora's heart is knocked off her purse. Hook saves it from falling into the portal and tosses the satchel to Mulan, who leaves the battle early to return the heart to Aurora. Emma is then flung aside by Cora as she stalks toward Mary Margaret to remove her heart.
As she is about to reach in, Emma shoves her mother out of the way causing Cora to reach into her chest instead. Cora laughs and calls Emma a foolish girl and explains to her that love is weakness, but then she is unable to remove Emma's heart. The blonde tells her that love is strength and Cora is thrown back and knocked unconscious by a light emitting from Emma's chest. When she and Hook come to, Emma and Mary Margaret are gone. However Hook still possesses the withered Magic Bean and restores it with the waters of Lake Nostos and creates another portal. Cora shrinks the giant down to human size and kidnaps him aboard Hook's ship which they use to sail through the portal into Storybrooke.
Upon her arrival in Storybrooke, Cora disembarks the Jolly Roger and stands on the dock next to Hook. Cora instantly recognizes that there is magic in the town and tells Hook his revenge must wait. When a fisherman notices their vessel and starts inquiring about it, Cora conceals the ship through magic and turns the fisherman into a fish. Sometime later, the pair observe Regina leaving the diner after she had a heated talk with Emma. Since it's her desire to have Regina broken and vulnerable, Cora aims to turn the townspeople against her.
To do this, she disguises herself as Regina, entering the office of Dr. Archie Hopper, and seemingly kills him in front of his dog, Pongo. Instead of committing actual murder, Cora switched the real Doctor's body with another deceased person, who is magicked to be his clone. Kidnapping Dr. Hopper aboard the ship, she later presents him as a gift for Hook for easy access to information about Storybrooke and Rumplestiltskin. Cora searches for her daughter since she was forced to go into hiding. To learn of her whereabouts, she approaches Mr. Gold, otherwise known to her as Rumplestiltskin, in his pawnshop. Cora offers him a magic globe for tracking down his son, asking for a truce, but also for his help to find Regina. Mr. Gold asks Cora if she has a way of restoring memories, but she only knows what he taught her. He agrees to the deal and as they are about to shake, she requests that they seal it like they used to and the two share a kiss, alluding to their past romance.
Cora heads to Regina's house to sleuth for clues and finds a ceramic hand print that says "For Mommy" on it. Disguised as Henry, she goes to the Heart Vault and descends the stairs and calls out Regina's name. Believing this to be her son, Regina allows Henry and tells him that she was not responsible for Archie's death, which he surprisingly agrees to. Only then, Cora shows herself, admitting she planned Archie's fake death, and she apologizes for forcing Regina to marry the King. Though she wishes for a new start with her daughter, Regina decides to drive into town and have admit what she's done to clear her name in front of the townspeople. In the car, the evil witch reveals that something is bothering her before pulling out Henry's handmade ceramic, which causes Regina to stop the car as she breaks down at the mention of her son.
Cora reasons that Regina's name being cleared won't give her Henry since she still has to deal with Emma and her parents. Furthermore, Cora proclaims she will help Regina gain Henry if it means repairing their own broken relationship. Convinced, a tearful Regina collapses into her mother's arms and ask how they can retrieve Henry. Grinning wickedly, Cora remarks that she has a few ideas. At Regina's house, Cora has since changed into more modern clothes. Sitting on a bed with her daughter, she listens to Regina's concerns about Henry who left Storybrooke. Cora reassures her that once Mr. Gold's business is finished they'll all return. Hook is pleased to hear that Gold is out of town as this means he's powerless and can be killed, however, Cora stops him, telling him that whilst the Dark One is gone, they can search for the one thing that can actually kill him within Storybrooke - the Dark One's Dagger. Regina figures that he would have hid it with the person he only trusts, Belle. Regina retrieves a library book call number from the girl's purse.
At the library, they search for the book indicated on the index card, but instead finds a treasure map. Confident in his map reading skills, Hook outlines the area where the dagger is located. Despite his usefulness, Cora does not want the dagger falling into Hook's hands and she proceeds to magically fling him into a bookcase; knocking him out. Leaving with her daughter, Cora explains that once the dagger is theirs, they will force Mr. Gold to kill David, Emma, and Mary Margaret so Regina will be blameless in Henry's eyes.
Arriving at the wooded destination on the map, Regina begins digging for the dagger while Cora wonders if Gold provided them with a false lead. Whether it was true or not, Cora promises that once they get the dagger, she will make Mr. Gold do whatever Regina desires even kill. Unseen to them, Mary Margaret has overheard the entire conversation. Mary Margaret and David are soon told the dagger's location, by Emma on a cell, that the weapon is hidden behind one of the hands of the clock face in the tower. After they successfully nab it, Cora and Regina manifest in the tower via purple smoke. Mary Margaret and David refuse to hand over the dagger, so Cora summons a distraught Johanna, Snow's beloved maid, and Regina rips out her heart. While Mary Margaret looks on stunned, Cora asks for the dagger in exchange for Johanna's life.
Unable to see her friend in pain, Mary Margaret forfeits the dagger and Regina returns Johanna's heart. Leaving the woman to run towards Mary Margaret, but before they can reunite, Cora waves her hand causing Johanna to smash through the clock face and fall down to the pavement, killing her.
Vanishing in purple smoke, the mother and daughter pair regroup at the mayoral office. Still recovering from learning a truth she did not know about, Regina confronts her mother about her history with Snow's mother, the Queen, and the events that led up to her becoming the King's consort, which was revealed during the confrontation, but Cora believes all these matters is irrelevant now. All Regina wants is to be with Henry; a wish Cora knows will be possible now that they possess the dagger.
Listening through a phone tap of a conversation between David and Mary Margaret, Cora and Regina learn Mr. Gold has been injured in New York. Upon hearing Mary Margaret call her "wicked", Cora angrily knocks the wire box off the table, breaking it. Cora notices Rumplestiltskin's name is disappearing from the dagger blade; indicating that Mr. Gold is actually dying. Out loud, she ponders how his powers will vaporize into the air if Mr. Gold, as the Dark One, is not stabbed by the dagger. She then decides that she must find Mr. Gold and stab him with the dagger, becoming the Dark One herself. Regina disagrees with this and wonders if her mother truly cares more about gaining power. Cora reassures that she needs power to protect the family and Regina accepts the answer. Regina and Cora make their way over to Mr. Gold's Pawnshop where Emma has cast a protection spell over it, however, the two witches cast a fireball by combining their powers and the spell is broken with ease. Inside, David, Emma, Mary Margaret and Mr. Gold's son Neal wield weapons with Mr. Gold hiding in the backroom. During the battle, Cora senses something amiss and tells Regina someone is after her heart, which is in the mayor's vault, and requests that Regina go stop them. Her daughter obliges and leaves and Cora attempts to break the protection spell surrounding the door leading to the room containing Gold. After a long while, she finally succeeds in doing so, being greeted by Emma and Neal who point swords at her. Cora merely waves her hand and banishes Neal and Emma to a forest in Storybrooke, and then advances upon a dying Mr. Gold. With little time left, he asks her if she ever truly loved him. Sitting down besides him, Cora strokes his face and fully admits her love for him was true, but he was her weakness, and the reason she ripped out her own heart all those years ago. After her confession, rising to stand, and raises the dagger before him. Before she can deliver the killing blow, Regina places her heart into her chest through her back.
UndoingMomentarily stunned at the return of her own heart, Cora drops the dagger. For a moment, she smiles lovingly at Regina, who smiles back. Abruptly, a wound manifests on Cora's chest and she collapses as Regina rushes to her side. While Cora's injury worsens in seconds, Mr. Gold's wound heals. Although this was unaware to Regina, but Mary Margaret lit the magic candle over the heart and whispered Cora's name, meaning that Cora's life is being taken so that Mr. Gold's shall remain. Before dying, Cora mutters that Regina would have been enough, and then passes away in her daughter's arms. Just after, Mary Margaret comes running in, telling Regina to stop, but it was too late. With rage, Regina recognizes Mary Margaret is responsible for Cora's death.
Soon after her death, Regina has Cora's body placed within a tomb in her family mausoleum, where upon it, it reads, "Cora Mills, Beloved Mother". Regina is seen visiting the tomb and sadly placing a red rose upon it, tearfully saying goodbye to her mother. Soon, Mr. Gold turns up, much to Regina's dismay, but she is surprised to learn that he is merely there to pay his respects. Rumple places another red rose upon Cora's coffin, stating that she shall always hold a place in his heart. As Regina and Gold converse, she reveals that she plans to avenge her mother by murdering Mary Margaret, despite Gold trying to convince her, to no avail, to give up her obsession with vengeance. He points out that she will not be able to kill Snow and have Henry back, but Regina assures him that she will find a way to have everything. Later, in her vault, Regina looks through some of her mother's old things and in a fit of passion starts tearing Cora's dresses apart, angry and sad. She collapses to the floor with the destroyed dress in her arms when she discovers one of her mother's curses, one that will make someone think they love you. Realizing that she can use it on Henry, Regina thanks her mother.
During Second Curse
When Zelena, Cora's first born, becomes a threat to the citizens of Storybrooke, Regina decides to cast a spell that will allow her to talk to her dead mother in order to learn more about her half-sister's past. In a seance, Cora is summoned from the land of the dead by David, Emma, Hook, Mary Margaret and Regina. The spell is successful and a portal to the afterlife opens in the ceiling, however, nothing comes through, and those involved take this to mean that Cora has no interest in discussing her past with them. When Regina and Mary Margaret are later talking in the kitchen, they hear a noise upstairs and are shocked to discover the spirit of a youthful Cora, having come through the portal, eerily spinning at the wheel within an empty room. She flies towards the two women and Regina demands to know what her mother did to Zelena, but Cora knocks her second born aside, wanting to claim vengeance for her own death by killing her murderer. In order to protect Snow, Regina teleports the two of them downstairs, but Cora soon finds them, forcing Regina to hold her mother off with magic. She again demands to know what happened to Zelena, but Cora doesn't answer, knocking Regina aside once more and possessing Mary Margaret's body. Snow White's head is then filled with Cora's memories, but Cora is soon extracted by Regina, who throws her mother's ghost back through the portal to the afterlife.
During Alternate Reality
Under the alternate reality created by Isaac Heller, Cora abandoned Regina as a child, rather than Zelena. It may also be inferred, based on the fact that Snow and Regina's roles were switched, that her husband Henry was this reality's version of King Leopold, and therefore was Snow's husband after Cora left.
After Third Curse
She appears in the Underworld when Regina, Robin Hood, Henry, Emma, Snow White and Prince Charming all enter in through a magic lake, hoping to find and save the soul of Captain Hook. On the behalf of the Underworld's ruler Hades, she tries talking Regina into leaving the Underworld. As it seems that her "unfinished business" that's keeping her in the Underworld is to ensure Regina's happiness, she tries to show what this means by banishing a servant of hers into a "worse place" than the Underworld (presumably Hell). When attempting to get Regina's father Henry to be her hostage, he instead heads to a "better place"; Mt. Olympus, where the souls of the dead go when their business is resolved. After all this, she is called before Hades, who tells her that he isn't happy with her progress; he notices the hand on a clock turning, which signified someone leaving the Underworld. As punishment for failing him, Hades forces her to be nothing more than a miller's daughter for all eternity, having been forced into the clothing of such and being teleported away.
Cora returns later shown to be working under extreme pressure. Captain Hook's hook is dropped down a shaft where Cora tears off her magic restraining bracelet and kills two guards to escape. Hook is waiting for her, and the two escape. Together, Zelena, Regina and Cora forgive each other. Subsequently, Cora is taken to the fires, where she is absolved of her sins and allowed to pass into Mount Olympus.
- Arguably, Cora is one of the main antagonists of the series as whole, as she is behind three main antagonists.
- She killed Regina's true love, which caused her to go dark and become the Evil Queen, and eventually the main antagonist of season 1.
- She herself was the main antagonist of Season 2A.
- She abandoned Zelena and sent her to Oz, which led to her becoming the Wicked Witch of the West and the main antagonist of the second half of season 3.
- She is also responsible for Anastasia's dark turn in the spin-off series, as she is the one who taught the future Red Queen how to use magic and has partly contributed to widening the rift between the girl and her love Will Scarlet.
- Without her heart, Cora is Pure Evil, not showing any signs of love whatsoever and believing that love is weakness. She shows remorse over this upon regaining her heart.
- Cora appeared in and was an antagonist in every single season of the show, except Season 6. This includes the spin-off series.
- She is the main antagonist of Souls of the Departed, working under from Hades.
- Cora is one of two main antagonists to redeem herself in the underworld after death, other being King Arthur (though some consider him secondary antagonist to Emma or Hook in Season 5 Part 1).