If she wants to kill you, she’s gonna have to go through me.Regina
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, and Robert Carlyle.
As Once speeds towards the conclusion of the Wicked Witch storyline, it seems appropriate to have a quieter episode and allow us to properly sit with these characters without too much forward progression. As the Witch points out, now that she’s got Regina’s heart, there’s nothing to do but wait until Snow’s baby is born, which gives the upcoming plot a sense of stakes and a foreboding presence on the horizon, even if it is a guessing game as to when exactly Snow will pop.
This episode focuses upon moving on from one’s past to enjoy the present. It has been a concept that has plagued loads of the characters since the beginning of the show. Regina has been dogged throughout much of her life with the concept of her revenge against Snow, finding herself unable to forgive Snow for the role that she played in Daniel’s death. Similarly, Snow has found herself wracked with guilt over this situation, even blaming herself for Regina’s hatred and vitriol. Her sense of guilt towards Regina has only become more marked since she was responsible for killing Regina’s mother, Cora. Rumple has been haunted by his decisions that led to him losing Bae and created an entire curse to ensure that the two would be reunited. Elsewhere, Emma is weighed down by her trauma at being abandoned in her childhood, which has a profound impact upon the relationships she has with those around her.
Of course, many characters, like Regina, have come a long way. Regina is no longer defined by her revenge and hatred for Snow, and has even found an uneasy rapport with her former enemy. Zelena is, unfortunately, very much like Regina was in the height of her Evil Queen days. She is consumed and at the mercy of her bitterness and envy towards Regina for being granted everything, while she was denied. The rejection and difficulties that she experienced in her youth, due to no fault of her own, has definitely caused her develop a massive chip on her shoulder. She is obsessed with her own past, and will not let go of it, to the extent that the only way forward that she can see is to rewrite the past entirely.
Zelena’s views here somewhat mirror her mother, Cora’s. Cora, too, is informed by her childhood and seeks to rise above her station. What’s more, she defines her adult life by achieving her own revenge against Snow’s mother, Eva, for ruining Cora’s marriage to Leopold. This even leads her to abandon Zelena, such is Cora’s determination. She does not, and will not, let go of her dreams for herself and there is no place within her life for Zelena. It’s possibly one of the more villainous acts that we have seen within the series, as Cora simply abandons her baby deep in the woods. Cora is even still defined by her attachment to the past when she reappears in spectral form, immediately targeting Snow to goad her with visions of the devious acts of her mother.
Elsewhere, however, we do see some of our characters being able to move on from their past and forge on anew. This episode massively succeeds in demonstrating Regina’s continuing development. Firstly, her reaction when she discovers that Rumple, at Zelena’s behest, has stolen her heart from Robin is entirely not what we’ve come to expect. Instead of becoming angry or bitter, as Regina has been known to be, she expresses concern for Roland instead, asserting that nothing is worth the loss of a child. It’s clear that Robin is as taken aback by this revelation as the audience.
Regina and Snow’s relationship also takes a meaningful turn. The two definitely have the most history out of all of the characters and it’s nice to see the two of them reconnecting. There was a time when these two women were deeply motivated to form a family together, and never more has the connection seemed more possible. There’s an enormous amount of history on both sides, and seeing Regina step between her mother and Snow in order to protect her and her baby (her hand even reaching out defensively over Snow’s belly) was massively touching. The pair conceding that the relationship between their mothers was much more complicated than they understood, and Regina admitting that if she had known all of Snow’s story then she probably wouldn’t have spent so long trying to kill her is as much of an apology as we are, perhaps, going to get. Regina’s absolving of Snow’s involvement in her mother’s death was also sorely needed, and allows Snow to move on from her immense guilt at this extreme act.
Regina’s experience with her mother also seems to have opened herself up more to living her life to the fullest – also, perhaps, the needling that Zelena gave to Regina about not appreciating all that she has granted. Regina definitely seems to be behaving in a more respectful and mindful way throughout this episode, perhaps learning to acknowledge her past and her connections with characters like Snow, but here she makes her first meaningful step in her relationship with Robin, too, giving him a long-overdue, passionate kiss. In a show in which we have seen a great deal many, this is certainly up there on one of the most romantic and hard-earned.
Surprisingly, we also see development from Rumple here. Rumple is a character who changes allegiances the same way that most people change underwear. His season 2 storyline was inconsistent to put it mildly, and he has certainly walked the line this season as well, even if he has made some decisions that indicate that his connection to the good side is growing stronger with time. Here, however, Rumple finally seems to move on from his quest to be reunited with Neal. We haven’t seen too much from Rumple in terms of his reaction to Neal’s death, which has been somewhat surprising considering that it has defined Rumple’s entire story from day one. Rumple doesn’t give in to Zelena’s temptation by modifying time and having his son back, which demonstrates a true commitment to doing the right and noble thing instead of merely acting in his own self interest.
Emma also seems to be living her life to her fullest. Her joy and glee at experimenting with her magic is something that has been sorely missing from a character who most frequently is awaiting the next problem or dilemma. It’s nice to have a moment of light amidst all of the plotting and the scheming, and you can really see Emma opening herself up to Hook during these sections.
The revelations of Princess Eva’s role in scuppering Cora’s happy ending was surprising. It helps us to understand Cora’s full motivations on why she murdered Cora (Eva tripping Cora over certainly wasn’t compelling enough) and further helps to blur the lines between good and evil in a more satisfying way. Eva has always been known as a highly virtuous person, which is where Snow has based her own persona. Snow’s felt this immense pressure her whole life to live up to the “white as snow” expectation placed upon her by her mother, and it’s nice to see a good character have these sides to them. We often see on the show the more villainous characters displaying virtuous behaviour, but rarely the other way around.
This instalment also helps to build momentum as Zelena’s plan nears. Though not too much of consequence happens here, Zelena finally has all the ingredients necessary for her time travel spell and merely awaits Charming and Snow’s baby. Belle working out what her plan is exactly also helps clue the characters in to what they need to prevent, and helps the audience in understanding the full stakes – namely, that, if Zelena goes back and kills Eva so that Cora doesn’t give Zelena up, then Snow will never have existed and as a result neither will Emma or Henry. Regina, too, will likely be snuffed out of existence. It’s a refreshing realisation, even though it’s somewhat questionable as to how Zelena came to discover the ins and outs of why Cora gave her up.
- In The Enchanted Forest, Cora is proposed to by a man who pretends to be a prince and becomes pregnant by him.
- When Cora works this out, she gets engaged to Prince Leopold, but Eva (Snow’s mother) reveals Cora’s pregnancy and the wedding is called off.
- Cora then abandons her baby so that she can have the best chance at achieving power.
- Zelena gets Regina’s heart.
- Regina seeks to understand why Cora gave Zelena up so performs a seance.
- Belle works out what Zelena’s plan is.
- “That’s just…not true” was a delightful line by Regina. Her entire scene with Zelena at the beginning was wonderful, and the two characters complement each other nicely.
- The special effects in this episode were interesting. The ghostly appearance of Cora might have worked better if they hadn’t have included Rose McGowan’s appearance within it, as that just looked blatantly fake. A malevolent, shapeless form might have been more effective.
- It’s noticeable that only now is Belle confronting Regina about her treatment of her. How can it be possible that Belle has been regular cast for almost two seasons now and is only now confronting the people who have mistreated her? A couple of weeks ago it was Hook, and now it’s Regina. It just goes to show how little the writers actually give her to do.
- Speaking of which, Belle’s condemnation of Regina seems out of character considering her constant insistence of Rumple’s innocence.
- Baby Zelena seems strangely powerful. I was confused by the cyclone though. Is it meant to mean that Zelena summoned the tornado that took her to Oz? If so, she really should have learned to hone that power.
- Snow’s characterisation is back to her finest in this episode. This season in particular, Snow has been quite cloying, needy, moralistic and nagging. Sorry, but it’s true. She plonks her nose in other people’s business and lectures them for decisions they make. Which is far from polite. Here, she’s back to the more gentle Mary Margaret-esque iteration, just sort of contentedly listening and giving out nuggets of wisdom.
- Cora abandoning Zelena to get herself her best chance is literally the opposite of what Charming and Snow did for Emma. Considering how that screwed Emma over, it’s no wonder that Zelena has gone a bit angry!
- Not too much development on the Hook/Emma storyline here. Hook is clearly trying to keep his emotional distance from her, and his mood was noticeable, but he doesn’t reveal the truth to Emma. It’s strange, because I don’t recall Zelena mentioning anything happening if he blabbed, but who can say?
- How did Zelena even find out about what Cora did before she was born? Sure she has spies everywhere but do her spies travel in time? Doubtful.
Brilliant performances throughout and some much needed and satisfying character development on multiple fronts.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.