“For me to get what I want I need you to suffer.”Zelena
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Michael Raymond-James, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.
While the midseason premiere was intriguing and captivating, “Witch Hunt” definitely kept up the momentum afforded to it as we learn more of the Wicked Witch and some clues as to her dastardly plan. So far this fresh batch of episodes is feeling revitalised and fresher than the show has perhaps ever felt. Even though there are some similar aspects – a curse, Storybrooke, and a memory wipe – there is enough of a shift in perspective to keep it dynamic and interesting. The fact that the Storybrooke inhabitants are aware of the fact that they’re missing a chunk of their lives is significant, and definitely less frustrating than if they had been back to the way they were in Regina’s curse – and Henry’s role as the non-believer is adding vital, more interesting components to his character other than just being a moralistic whiner.
Lana Parrilla is the anchor of this episode, and she gives a tour de force performance that highlights the myriad aspects of Regina’s character in just 40 minutes. The show has really toyed with the idea of Regina’s redemption, especially throughout Season 3, and it’s brilliant to see that this is continuing with Regina firmly allying herself with Emma to discover the villain behind this new curse. In fact, Parrilla and Jennifer Morrison’s chemistry was on point for the entire episode, and it’s a wonderful development to see these two characters working so closely together, especially considering how played out their arguing over Henry was. It was a brilliant subversion to have the pair trick the town into thinking that they were at odds, as the townspeople scenes were definitely aspects that we have seen happen to Regina before and it would have been far too much like retreading old ground.
While this episode highlights Regina at her most heartbroken, both in Storybrooke and in the Enchanted Forest, it also demonstrates the return of a slightly more ruthless streak as she vows to get rid of the Wicked Witch. She also boasts wonderful scenes with Sean Maguire as Robin Hood. Thanks to Tinker Bell, the audience is aware of their status as soul mates, and you can definitely see the feasibility of that here, as the two battle over a choking spell and an arrow. Regina’s revelation that she was going to use a sleeping curse on herself as she cannot see happiness without Henry was also touching and highlights the depths of her despair that she must also be feeling in Storybrooke. A critical boost upon Regina’s response to that heartbreak is not to wallow and withdraw back into the bitter, vengeful Evil Queen she might have become in the past, but instead to be forthright about that feeling and how difficult it is in present Storybrooke.
This episode highlights that this season is wasting little time in getting to the meat of the story. Revelations come thick and fast throughout the story, further making the show feel more energetic and exciting. The reveal that Zelena was in fact Regina’s sister wasn’t entirely surprising – it was fairly obvious from the moment that Regina’s blood locks had been broken. In fact, it’s still somewhat shocking that present-day Regina hasn’t worked that out for herself from exactly the same trick being pulled in Storybrooke. However, it is a fitting link that Regina and Zelena would be related. After all, the Charmings keep on discovering new family members crawling out of the woodwork every other episode, so it’s only fitting that Regina have another sense of family.
It’s also a welcome turning of the tables to have Regina be the subject of somebody else’s revenge and to be targeted just like she did to Snow. While Zelena’s motives as yet do not appear particularly captivating, hopefully future flashbacks into her upbringing will make this appear more visceral. Motivated by being abandoned by Regina’s mother is of course a powerful driving force, but the revenge currently seems somewhat misplaced against Regina specifically, since she’s done nothing specifically wrong. It’s perhaps similar to how Regina attributed Daniel’s death solely to Snow instead of towards Cora, but since Cora is now dead, Regina would be the best target.
It was further surprising that the inhabitants of Storybrooke have also worked out the Wicked Witch is behind the latest curse and their memory wipe (if, indeed, that is true). It’s refreshing to see the characters linking the well-known concepts and coming to what is the most obvious conclusion, instead of being in the dark for more episodes and leading to further frustrations.
Another promising reveal was the return of Rumplestilskin. While it has only been two episodes since Rumple’s demise, his presence still provides more intrigue as the audience wonders how Zelena managed to revive her old enemy, as well as why he seems to have reverted to his old crazed persona. It’s a promising sign of what’s to come, and an indication that the showrunners have a concrete plan as to how this story is going to unfold, which hopefully does not involve exploring the same three square metres of jungle set.
A thoroughly enjoyable aspect of the episode was its use of self-referential humour. Some of the earlier episodes of Once have fallen into the strap of taking the fantastical situations rather too seriously, which can be alienating to an audience considering we know how bizarre these things are if they happened in regular life. Incorporating small aspects, such as Emma’s incredulity at the Wicked Witch being real, and Charming and Snow being baffled by Emma’s almost-marriage to a winged monkey are definitely welcome here. It makes sense that the characters would be aware of the story of the Wicked Witch of the West. The more storylines they bring in, in fact, it makes more sense that the characters would be aware of the lore that they come from.
Rebecca Mader continues to be utterly beguiling as Zelena. In the Enchanted Forest, she plays each scene with a camp, devious enthusiasm, delighting in purely being evil. She doesn’t seem quite as vengeful as Regina has done as the Evil Queen, and it feels fresh and interesting to have somebody who is just having fun being as wicked as possible. Within Storybrooke, introducing herself to Snow as a midwife also adds a more sinister edge, as well as the slightly terrifying transfiguration of Little John into a flying monkey. She definitely seems like a credible villain, who is still being undetected, making for highly compelling viewing.
- Regina and Robin sneak into Regina’s palace using tunnels so they can deactivate the protection spell.
- Regina encounters the Wicked Witch, called Zelena, who reveals that she is Regina’s half-sister on Cora’s side, and that she wants to destroy Regina’s life.
- In the present day, Emma and Regina plan to smoke out the caster of the curse by pretending to have a memory cure.
- Zelena introduces herself to Snow as a midwife, and has Rumple locked in a cage in her cellar.
- I love Emma’s new place in Storybrooke.
- Regina and Emma using Grumpy as the town gossip was utterly hilarious.
- Really random appearance by Red in this episode. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but you can’t just randomly shoehorn her into an episode to do pretty much nothing. It seems wrong.
- Wouldn’t it have been more sensible for Emma and Regina to set up some sort of CCTV situation in the office so then even if the person escaped they would have some evidence. I mean, sure, they thought for certain the plan would work, but you just can’t be sure.
- Snow randomly blurting out that she had been arrested for “banditry” had me laughing out loud.
- I cannot believe that nobody thought to phone ahead to warn Regina that Emma and Henry were in town and that Henry did not remember her.
- Snow getting panicked over what she reads in a childcare book was priceless.
- Couldn’t Robin have just stepped out of the shoes that were glued to the floor? That seems like an obvious solution.
- I honestly don’t get why Emma would think it a good idea to introduce Regina to Henry. That’s just mean.
- I have a feeling that Zelena’s plan has something to do with Snow’s baby. I have no idea what she could possibly want with a baby, but why else would she encounter Snow first?
Huge revelations right out of the gate, and the suggestion of an impending Zelena-Regina showdown is set to be an epic confrontation.
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.