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This article focuses on the first Operation Cobra.
For the second one, see Operation Cobra Part Two.
For the operation also known as Operataion Cobra Rescue, see Operation Henry.
Emma: Operation Cobra. Bring back all the happy endings.
Henry: Well, your mission isn't over.
Emma Swan and Henry Mills src

Operation Cobra is a mission featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It débuts in the first episode of the first season.


During First Curse

Operation Cobra commences after Henry comes up with the mission once he realizes the stories in his book are real, and that his adoptive mother Regina is responsible for cursing the townspeople in Storybrooke. He also recognizes his birth mother, Emma, is the savior, who was prophesied to break the curse in twenty-eight years. Now that twenty-eight years have passed, he tracks down Emma in Boston, as he hopes to make her believe in magic and save Storybrooke from Regina. Henry begs her to come back to Storybrooke with him, and Emma acquiesces, only because she wants to return him to his family. During the drive there, Henry tells her about his book's stories being real, and that everyone in town is a fairytale character. Emma drops him off at his house, while Henry purposely leaves his book in Emma's car in an effort to keep her from making the trip back to Boston. This plan unexpectedly works, with Emma noticing the book just before she drives past Storybrooke's town line, only for a stray wolf to cause her to swerve her car. The next morning, Henry is disappointed to see time is still frozen in Storybrooke as it has always been since Regina's curse, though he suspected if Emma stayed, the curse would weaken and time would resume. While he is sulking at his castle playground, Emma comes to return his book. Henry claims to her that his life with Regina sucks, and he encourages her to stay in own for at least a week to prove the curse is real. After Emma brings Henry home again, Regina warns her to stay away from her son. Emma, unsure if Henry is truly happy with Regina, later decides to stay in town for a week. That night, Henry stares at the clock tower, watching as the minute hand moves forward, because of Emma's presence in Storybrooke. ("Pilot")

The next morning, Henry sits on his bed happily as he watches the clock move. His mom walks in with his storybook and asks where the torn out pages are. He claims not to know, though Regina calls out Henry for thinking she is some "evil queen", and that it hurts her feelings as his mother. Henry retorts that she is not his mother, and as the clock tower chimes, he rushes off to the diner to order a cinnamon hot chocolate for Emma. From another table booth, he reveals himself and invites her to walk him to school. As they walk, Henry tells her using the name Operation Cobra for their mission to break the curse, in order to keep the Evil Queen off their trail. He gives her the torn out storybook pages and claims the infant in the drawing is her. Meanwhile, Regina schemes to force Emma into leaving town for good by turning Henry against her. She succeeds, with Emma casually saying Henry's imagination is "crazy", just as Henry overhears her words. During Henry's therapy session with Archie, Emma bursts in, attempting to rectify her mistake earlier. She regains Henry's trust by telling him that she told Regina what was necessary to throw her off their trail as they work to break the curse. To prove her point, she takes the storybook pictures and burns them in the fireplace so Regina will never find out. With his faith restored, Henry happily runs over to hug Emma. ("The Thing You Love Most")

On a larger scale, Operation Cobra ends up also being about restoring people's happy endings while the curse is still intact. The very first of these missions was reuniting Snow White and Prince Charming, both of whom are better known as Mary Margaret and David in Storybrooke. Henry comes to recognize an unnamed hospital coma patient, John Doe, as Prince Charming, and later begs Emma to have Mary Margaret read the Snow White fairytale to the man, as he believes the two are meant to be. Emma once again agrees, believing nothing will happen between Mary Margaret and the coma patient, which will dispel Henry's imagination. Instead, John Doe reacts to Mary Margaret's voice by grabbing her hand, and later, he wakes up and wanders into the woods in search of someone. Out of mistrust for Regina, Emma joins Sheriff Graham and Mary Margaret to look for John Doe. When they find him passed out, Mary Margaret resuscitates him using mouth-to-mouth, nearly giving up, when he sputters awake. Back at the hospital, Henry and the others watch as John Doe is put into recovery when a blonde woman, Kathryn, rushes in. As it turns out, Kathryn is John Doe's long-lost wife, and his real name is David. Mary Margaret is crestfallen at the news, but Henry assures her that she and David belong together. ("Snow Falls")

On another "happy ending restored" mission, Emma unwittingly investigates the disappearance of a pregnant woman named Ashley at Mr. Gold's request, not knowing the man has ulterior motives for this. While Emma is interrogating Ashley's friend Ruby for information about Ashley's family, Ruby mentions the latter has two stepsisters and a stepmother. Henry realizes Ashley is Cinderella and tries to mention Operation Cobra to Emma, but she shushes him before he can finish. Eventually, Emma learns from talking to Ashley's ex-boyfriend's father that Ashley had given up her unborn child to Mr. Gold in a contract. Ashley is later rescued by Emma as she is going into labor, and gives birth to a baby girl in the hospital. When Mr. Gold comes to collect the child as part of his deal with Ashley, Emma makes him give up by agreeing to owe him a favor in the future. In the end, Ashley reconciles with her ex-boyfriend Sean and the three of them become a family. ("The Price of Gold")

On the day Emma becomes sheriff's deputy, an earthquake in town triggers a large sinkhole at an abandoned mine. At the site of the sinkhole, Henry notices Regina pocket a piece of something, making him suspect that the mines contain evidence of the curse. He shares the idea with not only Emma but also Archie, who he has included in Operation Cobra. Regina, overhearing the conversation, speaks with Archie privately, demanding that he make Henry stop believing in this curse nonsense or she will fire him. Archie goes against his conscience and voice of reason by doing as Regina asks, which only upsets Henry and makes him more adamant about finding proof of the curse. This causes Henry to venture into the mines alone, with Archie going in to find him, just before the mine entrance collapses. Archie regroups with Henry, and they follow the outside sound of Pongo's barking to an elevator. As they travel upwards in it, the elevator jams in place. Henry apologizes for being reckless, while Archie is also remorseful for his own harsh words earlier. In truth, he doesn't really think Henry is crazy, and though Regina is extremely protective, it's perfectly fine to have an imagination. In turn, Henry inspires Archie to change into the person he wants to be rather than listening to other people all the time. They discuss Henry's fairytale theory, and his firm belief that there simply has to be more to the world. After both are rescued by Emma, Archie stands up to Regina, threatening her with a future custody battle, which she will lose and Emma will win. ("That Still Small Voice")

After David is released from the hospital, he and Emma attend his welcome home party. Henry theorizes that David doesn't remember his life as Prince Charming due to the curse, and needs to recall them before his false memories set in. Emma tries to convince him that the reason David got lost a few nights back by the Toll Bridge is due to amnesia. Henry thinks if David is asked about his previous sword fighting skills as Prince Charming, it will jog his memory. When he openly inquiries about this later, David laughs at the thought. ("The Shepherd")

Unable to shake the flashes of memories he had after kissing Emma, Graham asks Henry to show him the storybook. Graham sees a photo of a wolf, whom he recognizes as the same wolf he has seen in Storybrooke. He describes the memories he saw; one being the wolf, the other having a knife and getting ready to hurt Mary Margaret. From looking at the book, Henry reveals Graham is the Huntsman because he was raised by wolves, and he once spared Snow White's life. Graham asks what happened to him after he spared Snow White's life, and Henry states the Evil Queen ripped out his heart and hid it in a vault. Upon seeing the vault looks very similar to one found in the town cemetery, Graham becomes convinced that is where his heart is hidden. After a futile search, he ends up paying the ultimate cost when Regina crushes his heart, killing him because he is getting too close to the truth about his precursed life. ("The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter")

Two weeks later, Emma runs against Sidney for the vacant sheriff position. Henry becomes depressed, believing the reason Graham died was because of him and wants to give up on Operation Cobra. On the day Emma gives her candidate electoral speech, she exits out of the race after outing Mr. Gold for starting a fire at the town hall some days earlier. To Emma's surprise, her courage in standing up to Mr. Gold earns everyone's respect and she is elected as the new sheriff. Moreover, this renews Henry's faith in her. ("Desperate Souls")

After another successful "happy ending restored" mission, in which Ava and Nicholas are reunited with their birth father, Emma and Henry meet a stranger, August, who has ridden into town. Unknown to them, August is on his own mission to make Emma believe in magic and accept her role as the curse savior. The next morning, Henry sees August outside and attempts to find out what he is doing in Storybrooke. Regina grows suspicious of the stranger and sends Emma to question him. August convinces Emma that he is harmless by revealing his box contains a typewriter and that he is using the town as writing inspiration. ("True North", "7:15 A.M.")

While Henry believes his storybook, which he hid under his castle playground, is lost forever after the playground is demolished, August secretly took the book. After adding the Pinocchio fairytale to it, he plants the storybook in a box under Emma's car. Emma is surprised to find the book and looks around, mystified about how it got there, as August remains hidden around the corner. ("Fruit of the Poisonous Tree", "What Happened to Frederick")

As Emma's investigation into Kathryn's disappearance continues, Ruby reaches her limit with tolerating a strict work schedule under Granny's tight rein. She quits her diner job and begins working as Emma's assistant at the sheriff's office. From Mary Margaret, Emma learns David was in the woods, delirious and bleeding while looking for Kathryn. Dr. Whale later attributes this to be a blackout that is similar to what David experienced after waking from his coma. With Regina demanding David's arrest on suspicion of killing Kathryn, Emma attempts to stall this by having Ruby search the Toll Bridge, where David was found after coming out of his coma. Ruby complies and finds a box with a human heart in it, but the incident traumatizes her, causing her to resign. Later, Ruby talks with her grandmother, explaining her self-confidence issues and her fears that she can't run the diner business as well as her. Granny assures her that she will do fine, and reconciles with Ruby. ("Red-Handed")

Many days later, August finds Henry poring over his storybook. They have a quick discussion about Mary Margaret's arrest over Kathryn's disappearance, and August reveals that the storybook's tales just might be true. This excites Henry, to which August admits that he came to Storybrooke to help Emma believe in Operation Cobra. When Henry expresses interest in finding proof of Mary Margaret's innocence, August implies that he should look in the book for answers. ("Heart of Darkness")

Following Mary Margaret's arrest for Kathryn's murder, Henry comes to the sheriff's station and finds Mary Margaret missing from her cell. When Emma arrives, the boy praises her for her "genius" plan in helping Mary Margaret escape. Emma then leaves to track down her missing friend and is tricked into entering Jefferson's house, where he drugs her and ties her up. After undoing her restraints, Emma finds a captive Mary Margaret in another room, but Jefferson catches them trying to escape. Jefferson takes Emma to another room filled with hats and commands her to make a hat imbued with magic so he can return to the Enchanted Forest with his daughter. When he claims to be the Mad Hatter, Emma concludes that he must be in on Henry's theory that the town is cursed. Jefferson tries to make her believe by using a telescope to show a young girl, whom he believes is his daughter Grace. Emma pretends to sympathize with him by declaring that she thinks Mary Margaret is her own mother, and when Jefferson's back is turned, she knocks him out before hurrying to Mary Margaret. Jefferson attempts to stop them again, but Mary Margaret whacks him out of a window. In the aftermath, Mary Margaret goes back to jail for Emma's sake, while Emma sees an uncanny resemblance between a storybook image of the Mad Hatter's daughter and Henry's classmate Paige. ("Hat Trick")

Operation Cobra continues, with Emma gaining help from August to find proof that Regina is setting Mary Margaret up for Kathryn's death. They go to the Toll Bridge, where Ruby found the box with the human heart, and they unearth a broken piece from a shovel. With a hunch of whose shovel it came from, Emma enlists Henry to infiltrate Regina's garage. While Regina is showering, Henry uses his walkie-talkie to give Emma and August the clear to come in. The shard proves to be a perfect fit on the shovel, but when Emma returns the next day with a search warrant, she finds the shovel is fully intact with no chipped off piece. Emma confronts August, believing he double-crossed her, but later, she finds an audio spying device in a vase of flowers that Sidney once gave her. While she is apologizing to August for doubting him, the two of them hear Ruby scream nearby. Emma investigates the alleyway and discovers a battered but alive Kathryn. ("The Stable Boy")

As Kathryn recovers in the hospital, Emma takes a statement from her about her imprisonment at the hands of an unknown captor and how she ended up back in town. The murder charges against Mary Margaret are dropped, and she is cleared of any involvement. Emma calls out Sidney for backstabbing her, and leaves him with an ultimatum to help her gather evidence of Regina falsely accusing Mary Margaret or he will go down with Regina once she finds proof. Instead, under Regina's directive, Sidney confesses to having kidnapped and imprisoned Kathryn for the sake of getting a juicy story for the newspaper. Emma, having had it with Regina's games, vows to make her pay for hurting Mary Margaret by fighting her for full custody of Henry. ("The Return")

One morning, Emma receives an urgent walkie-talkie call from Henry about Operation Cobra. She meets him at the diner, where he reveals the storybook now contains an unfinished rendition of the Pinocchio fairytale, though he has no idea what could have put it in there. When Mr. Gold refuses to help Emma with her custody case, she turns to August for help, as he previously promised her a way to beat Regina. He takes her to a road in the woods near a diner that Emma recognizes as the place she was abandoned as an infant. He confronts her with the truth; that she is the savior and must save everyone from the curse. August also introduces himself as Pinocchio, the seven-year-old that found her when she was a baby, and to prove his point, he shows her his wooden leg. To Emma, she sees nothing but a normal leg because she doesn't believe in magic. She moves to walk away, to which August angrily scolds her for not believing that everyone needs her. Emma rejects having responsibility for other people's happiness, and after leaving August, she picks up Henry for a drive in her car, with intentions of skipping out of town with him. ("The Stranger")

Once Henry realizes Emma wants to leave Storybrooke forever, he forces her to stop the car, insisting that she still needs to save everyone from the curse. Mary Margaret advises Emma to put Henry's happiness first, to which Emma consults Archie about the custody case. Archie paints a grim outlook by pointing out the many times Henry has misbehaved since Emma's arrival to town, and that the court won't rule in her favor because of it. Realizing her presence is a bad influence on Henry, Emma informs Regina of her plans to leave Storybrooke, on the condition that she is allowed to visit Henry. Regina agrees and gifts her a baked apple turnover as a parting treat. Upon learning of Emma's decision, Henry resists the idea, until she persuades him that her fighting with Regina is not beneficial to him or the people around him. As the two have a farewell hug, Henry becomes uneasy at the sight of Regina's apple turnover, which he knows is poisoned. To prove to her that magic is indeed real, Henry takes a bite of the turnover and faints. ("An Apple Red as Blood")

Horrified at the turn of events, Emma rushes Henry into the hospital, where Dr. Whale scoffs at her claims that an apple turnover caused the boy's condition. Dr. Whale probes her for more details, but an irate Emma insists that she's already told him everything. In a frenzied panic, Emma dumps out everything from Henry's bag, with the storybook falling out from it. Upon grabbing the book, she receives a flash of memories from her brief time in the Enchanted Forest. She attacks Regina, realizing that it is her fault Henry is sick. Regina admits to everything, and together, they set off to get Mr. Gold's help. As only a true love potion can restore Henry, Mr. Gold gives her father's sword, and sends her to fetch the potion from a belly of the beast Maleficent. With the sword, she defeats Maleficent and retrieves the potion, only for Mr. Gold to trick her into giving it to him. After he has run off with the potion, Emma regroups with Regina, with both of them getting paged to the hospital. Once there, they learn Henry has died. Emma kisses Henry's forehead as a final goodbye, which triggers true love's kiss. This burst of magic heals Henry, while also inadvertently breaks the curse. ("A Land Without Magic")

After Second Curse

After Regina breaks the second curse by kissing Henry, the latter and Emma visit Neal's grave. In front of it, they decide to take up Operation Cobra with the new objective of defeating the Wicked Witch of the West. ("A Curious Thing")

While Mary Margaret is going into labor at the hospital delivery room, Regina and Emma enact a protective spell to keep Zelena from stealing the baby for a time spell. Emma and Hook go to deal with Zelena at the farmhouse, but the savior is forced to give up her magic to save the pirate's life, which causes the barrier around the delivery room fades. Regina, as the last line of defense, stands in Zelena's way but is quickly overpowered by her sister, who proceeds to steal the newborn infant for a time spell. Persuaded by both Henry Mills and Robin Hood that she is capable of light magic, Regina uses it to defeat Zelena once and for all. Zelena is rendered even more powerless when Regina seizes her pendant, the source of her magic. Rather than allow a freed Mr. Gold to kill Zelena, Regina uses the dagger to make him stop, and then spares Zelena's life. After imprisoning her sister in a cell, Regina reasons that they've both suffered as Cora's daughters and by having lives they didn't want. She also knows what it's like to be fueled by vengeance and gives Zelena a second chance to reshape a better future for herself. Later, Regina delivers the dagger into Belle's hands for safekeeping. Unknown to Regina, Mr. Gold later "kills" Zelena; accidentally triggering magic in her pendant, which activates the time spell. ("Kansas")

After Third Curse

Emma, now the Dark One, is sought out by Henry for an Operation Cobra mission, in which they need to catch Violet Morgan's lost horse Nicodemus. ("Dreamcatcher")


Weapons, Items and Magic Involved

First Time

Second Time


On-Screen Notes

  • Henry and Regina's mission, Operation Mongoose, references the real-life carnivorous animal of the same name. Mongooses feed on cobras in the wild,[1] and are usually unaffected by cobra venom at low doses.[2] This is ironic considering Emma and Henry's first mission together was named Operation Cobra.


Note: "Archive" denotes archive footage.


  2. Mongooses: Their Natural History and Behavior, H. E. Hinton and A. M. S. Dunn, University of California Press, 1967, page 17. Facsimile by Google Books.

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