You were sisters once, who loved and needed each other.Cora
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.
When Cora returned at the beginning of this arc, I was itching for an encounter with Zelena. There are so many unresolved issues there in a way that isn’t present for Regina. We’ve been there and back with Regina’s relationship with Cora, and while it hadn’t led to a complete conclusion, it didn’t feel lacking in any particular way. What we’re offered here is brilliant not because it sheds light upon Cora, but rather it uses Cora’s final appearance to add depth to Regina, Zelena and their relationship as sisters.
By giving us an unseen chapter of Regina and Zelena’s sisterly bond, not only does it give us new depth and dimension to the toxic mothering of Cora, but also helps develop a relationship between the warring sisters in the present. Through the flashbacks, you really develop a sense of the two as needing each other and being compatible. They are incredibly similar, and though most of Zelena’s life has revolved around hating Regina for everything she got, in this section in history they demonstrated a true rapport that clearly has an effect upon the pair in the present storyline.
For Cora as a character, her bond with Zelena was the epitome of “unfinished business”, not to mention the lingering need to make amends with Regina. To have the pair finally meet on screen was brilliant for the characters, but also massively necessary for the sisters in order to heal their respective pain.
As a result of what happens here, you can witness Regina and Zelena grow closer together, and Regina learning to trust in Zelena and giving her blessing for her relationship with Hades was a big step. I can understand why Regina wanted to show Zelena this trust, but regardless of whether or not she trusts Zelena, bringing Hades further into the fold is a bold move.
The goodbye scene between Cora, Regina and Zelena was disarmingly touching. To see Cora apologise to both of her daughters for her mistakes during her life was unexpected, as Cora has never been a character to show any remorse, unless there was something in it particularly for her. For her to acknowledge how Regina has changed and done brilliantly without her interference, as well as apologising for all that she did to harm both of her children was credible as a way for her to move on. I was, however, quite surprised that this was enough for Cora to get to Mount Olympus. I’m starting to wonder which people go to a worse place, if Cora, with an entire lifetime of selfish, manipulative decisions, manages to get out of it just by saying sorry.
Elsewhere, James pulled the classic identical twin switcheroo on Emma. For a girl who constantly professes her superpower for telling when people are lying, she was caught ridiculously off guard by that one, and somehow was entirely powerless to actually do something about almost being pushed into the River of Souls without David swooping in to her rescue. Don’t you just love it when characters are conveniently written?
James perishing in the River of Souls was a shame, not least because he was the more interesting brother. It might have been a more interesting twist if we didn’t know which brother had actually survived, and would have given Josh Dallas something fun to do, but we should know better by this point to know that the show would never seriously mess with its poster couple.
Having said that, the only thing worse than David throwing James into the river was then David complaining about doing it. He objectively had no choice, as James was going to kill them. Seeing the heroes moan about having to take decisive action has got to be one of the most exhausting parts of being virtuous on this show. Sometimes, there is no other way. Some people don’t want to be helped, and they get their just deserts. Fortunately Cruella didn’t suffer the same fate.
The final beat to the episode was Zelena being captured by Rumple, who has once again selectively decided that he doesn’t like her. It’s important for him to restate it every so often because he will frequently not mention it for episodes on end and then attack her with renewed energy. Not only is Rumple against Zelena, though, but so too is Pan. I’m not entirely certain why Zelena didn’t teleport as soon as she realised she was being ambushed, but Once frequently seems to forget and remember about this powers when it’s convenient for them, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that Zelena would choose to passively stand there while a hessian is thrown over her face.
Ultimately, this episode succeeds in bringing Zelena and Regina far closer together than they otherwise would be and provided a satisfying conclusion to both of their complicated bonds with their mother, Cora. The B-plot was nothing more than a bit of fun, but the final sting of Zelena’s kidnap was laughably contrived.
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.