I don’t think we’re in Maine anymore.Regina
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire, and Robert Carlyle.
Our merry band of heroes arrive in the Underworld ready to search for Killian after his noble sacrifice. Mainly this mid season premiere serves to set up the conflict for the rest of the season, as the band realise that there are many lost souls in the Underworld in sore need of their help.
This episode is also notable for being the 100th episode of Once Upon a Time. My main takeaway of this is that I have now written 100 individual episode reviews for Once, so yay me. Oh, and it’s a good achievement for the show, too, I guess, and features many returning characters such as the Blind Witch from way back in Season 1, David’s identical twin brother James, Rumple’s slightly less villainous father Peter Pan and both of Regina’s parents. Alas, there was no Cruella this episode, but there’s still plenty of time, and judging from her car screeching around the streets, it’s only a matter of time until Victoria Smurfit once again blesses us with her presence.
It may seem slightly bizarre to some, but instead of a Charming-focussed instalment, the 100th episode revolves around Regina and her relationship with both of her parents. It’s nice that Regina is the focus. Even though this programme started with Snow and Charming’s relationship, they really have receded from the spotlight, and Regina’s character development has been one of the most pleasurable things to watch in the series.
Not only does this episode revisit Regina’s relationship with her mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey), but it also addresses Regina’s relationship with her father (Tony Perez) who, if you recall, she sacrificed in order to enact the Dark Curse. In fact, it was this act that mainly tipped the character over from a misunderstood and bitter character into a full blown villain. Sure, she’d murdered before, and dogmatically pursued Snow in the name of revenge, but this was where she truly crossed a line. It’s nice to see her confront this unpleasant aspect of her past, and it’s clear how much she is rattled by the news that her father is trapped in the Underworld instead of existing in a pleasurable afterlife.
It’s nice for there to be closure between Regina and her father.
Would anybody have noticed if this hadn’t happened? Likely not, but it’s nice all the same.
I must say that I was disappointed in Regina and Cora’s interactions here. I can understand why Cora reverted to type. Her relationship with Regina was definitely damaging, but the writers seem to have forgotten that much of this was informed by the fact that Cora removed her own heart. Before dying, it seemed that Cora had changed and would have been able to be a much better parent to Regina if she hadn’t taken this drastic action. From their interactions here, however, there seems to be no significant difference, and no emotional heart to heart that Cora had been unable to achieve in her life, but perhaps they are saving this moment for when Cora herself makes the journey through the pearly gateway to the ever after.
A major character appearance in this episode is that of Hades (Greg Germann), who, unsurprisingly runs the Underworld. It’s a bit tricky to get a grasp on a villain in such a small amount of screen time, but he certainly seems menacing and cruel. His punishment for Cora, who has fought her entire life to get away from her roots as a miller’s daughter, is undeniably horrible, and you can see the extent to which it shakes Cora in the way that her normally steely exterior breaks. However, Hades also appears to lack the fun, witty quality of the Disney iteration, which is a shame as Hades is one of the sassiest. In live action, the blue flames also seem odd, especially when they aren’t always present.
It’s not established yet what exactly Hades wants, but I’m certain it factors into why both Cora and Pan tried to encourage their respective loved ones away from the Underworld. Quite whether Hades is entirely motivated by his grip upon the Underworld or if he wants to escape its confines remains to be seen.
Another glaringly obvious question from this episode is where on earth Hook has found himself? After half the population of Storybrooke hoped aboard Charon’s boat headed for the Underworld, you’d have thought that Hook’s return would be an easily achieved feat. However, because of plot convenience, the potion that allows Regina to communicate with her father using his grave is ineffective for Hook, who doesn’t fully materialise. The little that we do see of him, however, makes him appear very bloodied and damaged, so wherever he is being kept it doesn’t look like they’re treating him very nicely. Personally, my money is on James and Cruella. Cruella’s probably keeping Killian to punish Emma for killing her, and James just seems to like being a bit of a prick, so that tracks.
While some of the cameos in this episode had little impact, such as Pan’s, one of the more affecting was the brief return of Neal (Michael Raymond-James). It’s fitting for him to make an appearance here. After all, even I pointed out in my last review that Emma’s making the journey to the Underworld to save Hook but let Neal die without going to any extreme lengths to bring him back. Having said that, I am surprised that Rumple never suggested it as a viable option to revive him. His little appearance was fitting, and felt important, and closed his chapter in a way, as well as giving us an overall sense of foreboding – not that we needed it – about our heroes’ time in the Underworld.
Pan’s appearance wasn’t entirely necessary, but I suppose a 100th episode requires a certain amount of surprise appearances. An actual decent storyline for Belle might have been more appropriate, but I’ll make do with Robbie Kay and his manic eyebrows. Quite why he and Rumple are interacting as if they didn’t both appear in the Underworld at the same time when Rumple sacrificed himself to kill Pan is an entirely separate issue, but that did seem like a glaring continuity flaw.
Another bizarre plot point I am discovering here is why on earth so many of our heroes actually needed to come to the Underworld in the first place. I can understand wanting to protect Emma, and believing that they were only coming to quickly bring Hook back, but I’m surprised that Snow and Charming are so eagerly staying in the Underworld when Snow’s barely let go of Neal since giving birth to him. It would have made so much more sense for Snow, Charming, Henry, Robin and Rumple to head back – or at least some of them – while others continue to help in the Underworld. It’s honestly not a suitable place for a teenage boy anyway, if we’re being honest. Snow, Charming and Robin should be with their children, Henry should be safe, and Rumple should be wherever I don’t actually have to see him. It’s Regina and Emma who have skin in the Underworld game, the others should have got out while they had the chance. What’s more, it would have given us much better breadth of stories.
I must say, I have been pleasantly surprised by the aesthetics of the Underworld so far. I did laugh when I discovered that the Underworld was, in fact, just Storybrooke with a red filter over it, but it satisfies my want to see the little town, even if I can imagine that the red haze will get boring after some time.
Moving forwards, it looks like Once will continue to be retrospective in the coming episodes, as inhabitants of the Underworld tackle and confront their unfinished business and earn their way out of the Underworld. It’ll make for some nice episodic storytelling, and some satisfying reprises for some characters who we haven’t seen in a while and imagined that we wouldn’t, but I can’t see how they’ll manage to juggle all of these characters in the Underworld at once, and it does mean that we run the risk of having an entire episode dedicated to Robin running into a random character from his past and having to have all of it told in flashback. We know how it all works by now, Once.
It’s nice for Regina to be taking such an active role in that purpose so far. The fact that the clock started ticking while Regina walked past it was a nice throwback to Emma’s arrival in Storybrooke and does give our heroes’ presence in the Underworld more of a concrete purpose. I can’t say I’m exactly looking forward to the story arc as a whole, but I’m intrigued for what sorts of stories that lie ahead.
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.