After Emma breaks the Dark Curse, Cora is held as a prisoner at a survivors' haven in a pit. Due to her status as the Evil Queen's mother, the survivors blame Cora for its' casting and imprison her as punishment. Despite this, she secretly kills the haven's leader, Sir Lancelot, and dons his mask from time to time. One of the haven's soldiers, Mulan, and a guest, Aurora, bring back two captives, Emma and Mary Margaret. Both are tossed into the pit while Mary Margaret is unconscious. Cora notices the newcomers and asks if they need help. Emma questions who she is, and Cora replies, stepping forward out of the shadows, "A friend". ("We Are Both")
Mary Margaret remains asleep as 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 just as Mary Margaret awakens to steer Emma away from conversing with her. Cora claims that she only wants to help while Emma wants to hear her out seeing as they have no other options to get back to Henry in Storybrooke. Perking up at the name, Cora asks about him as Emma lets it slip that Henry is her son, who she shares with Regina. Mary Margaret presses for Emma to not say another word to Cora when a rope is thrown down for the mother-daughter pair to come up and speak with the Sir Lancelot. Cora, while disguised as him, learns they are searching for a portal to go home. "He" lends them his best soldier, Mulan, as a companion for their travels. Once the trio arrive at the old castle, Lancelot makes himself known to them. He admits to following them out of concern for their safety, but expresses a fixation on the magic wardrobe they plan on using to return home. Lancelot covers this up by stating he just wants Mary Margaret to get back safely to her husband and Henry, though one in the Enchanted Forest has knowledge of this except Cora. Mary Margaret recognizes him as an impostor, to which Cora reveals herself. She intends to use the wardrobe for her own benefit in reuniting with Regina and Henry. Cora uses magic to trap Emma and Mary Margaret while she makes clear of her intentions to use the wardrobe to reunite with Regina and meet her grandson Henry. Suddenly, Emma sets the wardrobe on fire. Though Cora pulls it out and turns it into a fireball to throw at Emma, Mulan jumps in to block with her sword. It bounces off and burns the wardrobe to ash. Cora is forced to retreat in a puff of smoke, but materializes back into the room after everyone is gone to bottle the ashes of the wardrobe. ("Lady of the Lake")
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. ("The Crocodile")
Cora enchants two of her own bracelets to allow the wearer of each one to have climbing capability up a beanstalk. One of the items she and Hook will need to create a portal to Storybrooke is a compass, which is located in a giant's home on top of the beanstalk. Rather than do all the hard work themselves, Cora deliberately murders all the people of the haven and takes their hearts while Hook pretends to be the sole survivor to gain the trust of Emma's party. He is not able to fool Emma, and lets them know about the compass they need for going home. While Hook climbs up the beanstalk with Emma, he intends to snatch the compass for himself and Cora. Instead, Emma instinctively traps Hook on the beanstalk as she doesn't trust him, and makes off with the compass. Once Hook manages to return to ground level, Cora is awaiting him at the bottom. When he admits what transpired, Cora believes Hook has betrayed her and decides she cannot trust him anymore. Hook fails to get back into her good graces while she thinks it'd be better to leave him in the Enchanted Forest with his vengeance against Rumplestiltskin unfulfilled. Angered, he tries to attack her, but she teleports away. She returns to the remnants of Lancelot's old home in the haven and takes out one of the hearts procured from the dead survivors. In response, several of the other hearts begin to glow in sync with the one she picked up. Cora 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 bearing a tray of food for the girl, and softens Aurora up with the possibility of reviving Prince Phillip by bringing back his soul. Aurora looks hopeful at this idea, but retaliates by kicking the tray of food. In irritation, Cora flings her at a wall; causing the girl to pass out. Then, she sends a raven to Emma and Mary Margaret, demanding the compass by sundown, in exchange for Aurora's life. She leaves the cell only to return and discover Hook let Aurora go. Enraged, she binds him in place against the wall and motions to use his hook to cut out Hook's heart, but he says there's a present for her in the satchel. Cora opens it and reacts with glee at the sight of Aurora's heart, which Hook took out earlier. She manipulates Aurora's speech with it, and is also able to hear the girl's party members speak of their next destination to find squid ink in Rumplestiltskin's old cell with the intention of paralyzing Cora with it. ("Into the Deep")
Cora entraps the foursome in the cell by using Aurora's heart to control her movements and seal them inside. She uses magic to snag the compass from Emma, and then thanks Aurora for the help, revealing the beating heart clutched within her hand. Cora squeezes it as a demonstration as Aurora cries out in pain. Shortly after, she and Hook head out to Lake Nostos to begin making the trip to Storybrooke. Though the it is completely dry, Cora generating an erupting geyser, which soon fills up the entire lake bed. She lets Hook do the honors and pour the wardrobe ashes 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 else 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 parries 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 person. 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. Then, Hook is knocked out by Emma. In turn, Emma is flung aside by Cora as she stalks forward to remove Mary Margaret's heart. As she reaches in, Emma shove Mary Margaret aside, causing Cora to reach into her chest instead. However, when Cora pulls, she can't rip out the heart, and is thrown back and knocked unconscious by a burst of light emitting from Emma's chest. When she and Hook finally come to, Emma and Mary Margaret are long gone. Nonetheless, Hook still possesses the withered magic bean he stole from the giant earlier on. He 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. ("Queen of Hearts")
Cora disembarks the Jolly Roger and stands on the dock with Hook. They discuss his desire for vengeance against Rumplestiltskin and that matters are a bit more complicated with magic being in Storybrooke. A man appears and admires Hook's ship before Cora uses her magic to conceal it from prying eyes. The man, amazed by this, asks if she is some kind of magician in their land before being turned into a fish by Cora and being kicked into the water by Hook.
Sometime later, Cora and Hook observe Regina leaving Granny's Diner alone after her talk with Emma. Hook asks if her daughter is broken, and Cora says not yet. Cora puts a plan into action: disguised as Regina, she goes to the office of Archie Hopper while Ruby watches, and proceeds to kill Archie. She then strides out of the office and sheds her disguise as she walks off into the night.
Later, aboard Hook's ship, she tells Hook that she has brought him a gift that will make it easier for him to gain information about Storybrooke and Rumplestiltskin. Cora takes Hook into the ship's hold and shows him that she has not in fact killed Archie, but has taken him hostage. When Hook asks who she actually killed, Cora responds by saying she does not know, as she has only been in town for a day. Cora smiles wickedly at Archie and says that there are ways to make this cricket chirp. ("The Cricket Game")
Cora makes her presence in Storybrooke known to Mr. Gold by arriving at his pawn shop. She tells him that she has a gift for him, and indicates a big wooden box on the counter. Cora hints that what is inside will help him find his son Baelfire. She hopes by offering this to Mr. Gold, the two of them can come to a truce, in addition to having Mr. Gold help her locate Regina. Mr. Gold then quips if she knows how to restore memory to help Belle, and Cora responds she only knows what Mr. Gold taught her. Mr. Gold opens the box to reveal a giant white globe, and states that if this is what he thinks it is, it is a rare item. He then agrees to Cora's request, and the two shake hands. But Cora then proceeds to kiss Mr. Gold on the lips, stating that they should do things like they did in the old days.
Later, Cora raids Regina's house; taking time to sniff her clothes and check her cabinets. She goes to Henry's room, and finds a giant hand print made out of ceramics, painted red, and with the words "For Mommy" on it. Cora grins and then leaves. She disguises herself as Henry and goes to the Regina's vault that holds her husband's tomb. She goes down and pretends to be Henry so Regina will reveal her secret shelter. Regina opens the door, but soon Cora reveals her true form. She tells Regina that she is sorry for all that she did to her, and that she should have never made Regina marry King Leopold. She states that she wants to make up and start over, but Regina states that this is not possible. Regina tells Cora they are going into town so that Cora can tell the townsfolk that she killed Archie, not her. Regina informs her she was trying hard for Henry, and that now Cora has damaged that. Cora agrees to do anything for her. As they are driving into town, Cora states that she finds the "horseless carriage" they are riding in strange, and then pulls out Henry's arts and craft gift to Regina. Cora uses this to break Regina down, and tells her that she will do anything to help Regina reunite with Henry. Regina goes into her mother's arms, crying, and asks how Cora can get her back to Henry. Cora grins wickedly and says she has a few ideas. ("In the Name of the Brother")
Cora sits in a bedroom in Regina's house with Regina by her side. Her hair is now down and she wears a modern looking black pants suit. Regina confides in her that she is concerned that Emma and Mr. Gold have left town with Henry, and she does not know where they went. Cora tells Regina that once Mr. Gold's business is done, he and Emma will return to Storybrooke with Henry. A heartbroken Regina responds that Henry will not be with her. Hook barges in on the tender moment, asking if Mr. Gold is truly no longer in Storybrooke. Regina and Cora confirm this, and Hook is eager to leave town and seek him out to kill him. Cora responds that he will have his vengeance, but to do so, Hook must team up with her and Regina to find the one thing that can control Mr. Gold, his dagger.
After Regina retrieves the call number for a book in the library from Belle's purse, Cora and Hook meet her there and search for the book indicated on the yellow index card. They do not find a book, but Cora pulls out a treasure map. Hook states that they are lucky that he knows how to handle a treasure map, and he proceeds to outline the area where the dagger is located. As the trio makes to leave, Cora uses her magic to fling Hook against the back wall of books, knocking him unconscious. She tells Regina that the dagger would be wasted on Hook, and that once the dagger is theirs, they can control Mr. Gold to kill David, Emma and Mary Margaret so Regina will be blameless. ("Manhattan")
Cora and Regina are out in the woods digging for the dagger, with Regina doing the digging while Cora looks on. She tells Regina that the map may not be what it appears to be, and that Hook may have been leading them on. Regina responds that the map is therefore worthless, and Cora states that she can reconstruct the map and then when they retrieve the dagger, she will make Mr. Gold do whatever Regina wants, even kill. A startled Mary Margaret, unseen, watches them from behind a tree.
With Emma's help, Mary Margaret and David track the dagger down to the clock tower in the library, where Mr. Gold attached the dagger to one of the hands of the clock. They have only just retrieved the dagger when Cora and Regina appear in a swirl of purple smoke. Cora demands the dagger from them, to which they both staunchly refuse. Cora uses her magic to summon a distraught Johanna to her side and Regina rips her heart out. Mary Margaret is stunned, and Cora asks for the dagger in exchange for Johanna's life. Mary Margaret begins to realize that it was Cora, not the Blue Fairy, that advised her all those years ago about the candle that would save her mother, Queen Eva. She also realizes that Cora was the one who poisoned her mother. Cora tells Mary Margaret that the candle would have saved Eva, and that she should save Johanna as she has so few ties to her mother anymore. A despondent Mary Margaret hands over the dagger, and Regina places Johanna's heart back inside her. Johanna goes to Mary Margaret, but Cora states she is not done yet and uses her magic to fling Johanna out of the clock tower, letting her plummet to her death. She and Regina leave, vanishing in a puff of smoke.
At Regina's office, Cora holds the dagger and sits down at Regina's desk, stating she likes what Regina has done to the place. Regina confronts Cora about the events that led up to her becoming the Evil Queen, and that she does not like the fact she was lied to. Cora finds the matter irrelevant now, and she thinks both their goals are very different. Regina states all she wants is to be with Henry, and Cora responds that with the dagger, it is possible to do this. She strokes the dagger and grins wickedly. ("The Queen Is Dead")
Cora and Regina are in her mayoral office, listening to a phone tap of David and Mary Margaret chatting on the phone. When Mary Margaret calls Cora a wicked woman, Cora knocks the wire tap box off the desk, stating she does not like what the box is saying. As Regina picks the box up, Cora sees Rumplestiltskin's name disappearing from the blade of the dagger, indicating that Mr. Gold is dying. Cora tells Regina that she means to go to Mr. Gold and stab him with the blade giving her the power of the Dark One. Regina is against the plan, saying that it will ruin any chance she has to get Henry back. Cora reassures her and states that with this power, she can protect their family.
The two go to Mr. Gold's pawn shop and together are able to cut through Emma's protection spell. They go inside and encounter Mary Margaret, Emma, David, and Neal Cassidy wielding various blades to protect Mr. Gold. The two attack, and in the fight Mary Margaret manages to slip out the door. Cora throws David out the front door and knocks Emma aside, but drops the dagger in the process. Emma grabs Regina and presses a sharp object to her throat, and Neal tells Cora she will have to make a choice. Cora chooses the dagger and summons it to herself, but Emma throws Regina into Cora, smashing them into some nearby glass cases. Then, Emma seals herself, Neal, and Mr. Gold up using a protection spell. Cora and Regina move to stop it, but then Cora notices something is wrong with her heart,and can sense someone is in Regina's vault. She tells Regina to go check.
Alone in the shop, Cora is able to break into the room containing Mr. Gold and banishes Neal and Emma to a forested portion of Storybrooke. She advances upon Mr. Gold, who is dying slowly. Mr. Gold asks Cora if she ever loved him, and Cora tells him that her love for him was the reason she had to rip her heart out those many years ago. She raises the dagger to stab him, but Regina shoves her heart back into her from behind. Cora drops the dagger as her heart reasserts itself, and she smiles lovingly at Regina, who smiles back. But then, Cora falls to the ground, and Regina rushes to her side. Cora mutters that Regina would have been enough, and dies in Regina's arms. Regina is horrified, and begins to berate Mr. Gold for somehow stealing her mother's life, but he says he did no such thing. Suddenly, Mary Margaret can be heard yelling for Regina to stop, and she and David run into the room trying to stop her from placing the heart back in Cora, but it is too late. Regina realizes Mary Margaret is responsible for Cora's death. ("The Miller's Daughter")