TV

Kansas Review | Once Upon a Time Season 3, Episode 20

I make my own destiny.

Regina

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.



Season 3
Episode 20: Kansas


The theme of this week’s episode is “destiny”. It’s a concept that has been highly prevalent throughout the lore of Once Upon a Time, as we have continually explored whether or not evil is born or created. Time after time, it has been demonstrated that it is through choice that you either become a hero or villain.

The episode purposefully draws similarities between Zelena and Regina. More than just being sisters, their stories and personalities are incredibly similar. Both have been motivated by a sense of bitterness and anger at other people getting happy endings and seemingly having been robbed of them themselves. While for Regina this was directed at Snow, Zelena directed her ire at Regina. It’s especially tragic from the audience’s point of view, as it was easier to understand Regina feeling jealousy towards Snow, but Zelena’s envy of Regina’s position is entirely miscounted.

The flashbacks within this story help us to further understand Zelena’s complex mental state. While it doesn’t entirely make her appear sympathetic, it certainly does complete the transition to villain that was started in “It’s Not Easy Being Green”. In the same way that Regina didn’t just magically snap after Daniel’s murder, and instead went on a gradual decline into evil over several years, Zelena wasn’t just abandoned by her mother and cast aside in favour of her younger sister. A similar situation occurs with Dorothy, as Zelena becomes convinced that Dorothy must be the Witch of the West, as she is far more innocent that Zelena considers herself to be.

Even though Glinda asserts to Zelena that Zelena is the only one in control of her own fate, Zelena becomes convinced that it is Dorothy’s destiny to destroy her (a fear only made worse by the Book of Oz that chronicles the future of Oz), and so completes her mission and commitment to evil. It’s Zelena’s inferiority complex that really sabotages her time and time again, as she is innately tuned to assume the worst. Though she could have persevered with the other witches and made her mark as a good witch, her paranoia at being “wicked” ultimately sealed her own fate.

The episode also offers the reverse of that choice, as Once finally pulls through on Regina’s redemption arc. Though all initially seems lost when Emma loses her powers, Regina finds herself able to exact light magic, having proved herself with true love. Indeed, Regina successfully manages to overcome Zelena and remove her pendant, rendering her powerless. Regina’s assertion that she chooses her own destiny definitely seems to shake Zelena slightly, but not enough for her to action this within her own life. Regina’s heroic nature isn’t just limited to her brand of magic, however, as she also expressly forbids Rumple from killing Zelena – an action that would practically be unthinkable for Regina even in the first half of this season.

It’s understandable that Regina spares Zelena. She, too, can see the connection and similarities between the two of them, and it makes sense that Regina would extend to Zelena the second chance that she has finally taken advantage of. Regina has definitely found more happiness through being virtuous than she ever did when she was a villain. The acceptance, love and friendship she has found throughout the community is what she always craved and sought when she was the Evil Queen, but it was through becoming good that she actually achieved it. However, the principle difference between Regina and Zelena is that Regina has Henry. Henry was Regina’s anchor in helping her change her ways. Zelena doesn’t have a reason to try to change her ways, and instead strives to change her “destiny” by altering the past.

Another character who also doesn’t feel the need to make a change is Rumple. It was a shocking twist that he went against Belle’s wishes, and definitely an about-turn from Rumple’s heroics saving Storybrooke from Pan’s curse. The loss of Neal, however, is simply too great for him not to exact vengeance upon Zelena and thus, a plot line that seemed thoroughly tied up reaches a second wind.

Rumple’s return to villainy is slightly frustrating, though realistic. It wouldn’t be appropriate for every villain that found their way into Storybrooke to magically reform, though the subterfuge and trickery towards his true love, Belle, is more egregious. This truly needs to be the part of the story where the pair split up. Belle is too clever and has too much self respect to stay with Rumple once she discovers that he went behind her back and didn’t even give her the real dagger. Or, at least, if she doesn’t, then the writers should really be ashamed of themselves.

“Kansas”, while high-octane and a satisfying conclusion in the Wicked Witch storyline – if, indeed, it is a conclusion – had its frustrating moments. Emma’s decision to chase after Zelena and leave the one place where she’s actually needed to protect is a questionable decision at best, especially when she decides to go with somebody who she loves. It’s obvious that Zelena is going to use that against her, yet Emma still goes and, inevitably, loses her magic. Ultimately, since all Regina had to do was knock Zelena over with light magic, had Emma just stayed in the hospital she would have been vastly more help, but yet again the “Saviour” makes terrible decisions.

The flashback here wasn’t entirely necessary. While it’s a nice symmetry between how Zelena properly committed to the Wicked Witch mantle at the same time as we see her downfall, it wasn’t especially engaging or emotional. The inherent problem with following a character like Zelena is that it’s hard to make them sympathetic. She’s deliciously evil, but it is doubtful if anybody in the audience actually likes her or roots for her. At least with Regina’s motivations, you could understand the pain, but Zelena’s bitterness and jealousy just makes you want to give her a stern talking to and tell her to grow up. The Oz storyline was also far too fast. Considering Glinda’s assertion in the previous episode that she and Zelena were friends, it feels like this was a gross exaggeration given their interaction here. It might have been more interesting to have Glinda genuinely betray Zelena, as that might provide a more convincing fire here, but ultimately the time given in this episode towards Zelena’s backstory really didn’t give it as much of a punch as it could have.

There was an awkward contrast between the concept of destiny as something that can be modified, and yet also having a “Book of Oz” which chronicles the future. Surely if destiny is so changeable then a set version of the future can’t exist? Sure, it’s pretty vague, but it ultimately comes true, so where the show actually lies upon “destiny” is questionable. Was it Regina’s destiny to ultimately find her happy ending, for example? Also, the presence of the Book of Oz is quite intriguing given the Once Upon a Time book. Perhaps the two tomes are related somehow, or a Book of Storybrooke exists. That would certainly be an interesting thing for our heroes to happen upon.

An impressive element of this story were the impressive effects. Zelena’s melting (admittedly, fake – and a wonderful subversion of the traditional tale) was wonderful, and the time travel spell looked absolutely gorgeous in the barn. The twisting and almost flame-like nature of the magic worked perfectly. What’s more, Zelena turning into a ceramic version of herself before crumbling was shocking and beautiful, just like the similar effect used last year to turn Jared Gilmore into porcelain.


In Short

  • Glinda approaches Zelena to be the Witch of the West and protect Oz.
  • Dorothy appears via cyclone and Zelena is convinced that Dorothy is the one to defeat her. She fakes her own melting and banishes Glinda.
  • In Storybrooke, Snow goes into labour. Emma goes to confront Zelena and loses her magic.
  • Zelena gets the baby and starts the spell.
  • Regina defeats Zelena using light magic, but spares her life.
  • Rumple kills Zelena, and green smoke activates the spell and sneaks into the past.

Other thoughts

  • How many cyclones happen in Oz? Is this just a magical phenomenon that appears to happen around here? Is anybody going to bother explaining it?
  • How many times was it going to take for Regina to stand up against Zelena before working out that the spell she was trying would always get her knocked on her back? It happened so many times!
  • How can Emma honestly expect that she is going to go back to New York with Henry? Let it go, Emma, it’s not going to happen. You really need to address these abandonment issues with your parents, please. The repression is getting old.
  • The fight between Regina and Zelena was epic, but I wish that it had been longer.
  • The heroes being batted around like rag dolls was equal parts hilarious and frustrating to watch.
  • How the heroes never really attempted to separate Zelena and Rumple is anybody’s guess. With the Dark One on side, Zelena would have been brought down episodes ago!
  • Rumple’s dagger was lying on the floor for a dangerously long time – why did nobody go and grab it sooner??
  • Snow’s post-labour gown is entirely hideous. Burn it please.
  • They really cherry picked what things to include from the Oz story, didn’t they? I was expecting for Dorothy’s house to have fallen on somebody. I feel that Zelena’s backstory could have been so much more tortured and misunderstood – in a more Wicked way – that would definitely help explain her actions now. More of a “everybody expects this from me, so this is what I’ll give them” type of deal. If Glinda had betrayed her for example, or if other people had had the expectation for her to be wicked when she was trying to change, it might have made her backstory more sympathetic than her having those views of herself. I suppose it makes her more tragic as a figure that she doesn’t have the self belief, but it definitely could have hit a more emotionally powerful note in that storyline.
  • I wonder whether the smoke means that Zelena is actually alive in the past, or if she just activated the concept and somebody else will go back? Intriguing, but we didn’t actually see Zelena, more her “essence”, I guess.

Verdict

A massively satisfying character moment, as this episode nicely ties up the Wicked Witch storyline, while also leaving enough threads hanging to jettison us off to a new, exciting adventure for the two-part finale.

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.

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