I will do whatever it takes to stop you. Heroes can always break curses.Regina
Starring Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West, Dania Ramirez, Gabrielle Anwar, Alison Fernandez, Mekia Cox, and Robert Carlyle
Episode 6: Wake Up Call
Once Upon a Time once again pulls a tremendous episode out of the bag with “Wake Up Call”, as we delve deeper into Adelaide Kane’s character, both in the Enchanted Forest and in Hyperion Heights. Initially starting out as a background player, this turn of events is definitely invigorating the plot of Season 7, and is massively helped by Kane’s brilliant performance. The episode also puts Lana Parrilla’s Regina/Roni in a large role for the first time this season, and give her an important, relatable emotional crux.
Drizella as the villain of the piece is a fascinating move. She is so much more compelling than her mother, who seems to be far less nuanced in her villainy. It’s also the kind of plot twist that Once hasn’t really pulled off before. While we have had villains hiding in plain sight, such as Zelena when she was first introduced back in Season 3, we already had the foreknowledge of Zelena as the Wicked Witch when she cropped up as a midwife. To have the apparently downtrodden Ivy as the actual brains behind whatever curse landed everybody in Seattle is a brilliant move, as we have less of a clear clue as to what her endgame is.
This episode goes some way to filling in the blanks and making her more than just somebody who is evil for the sake of it. Of course, Once never really does that anyway, but in the hands of Adelaide Kane, Drizella is made to appear far more of a sympathetic figure, despite the fact that she literally murdered somebody using a plant for very spurious reasons.
Drizella’s conflict and descent into evil is highly relatable for the audience, and is rooted in her relationship with her mother. While I believe there is probably still some more of this story to be uncovered over the course of the season, it’s natural that it would come down to something that Once has mined time and time again.
That’s not to say that it isn’t interesting, though there are echoes of Cora, Zelena and Regina within the story. We saw through Zelena the influence and destructive force of feeling like the less desired and wanted sibling, and this plays a massive part in Drizella’s upset. Upon realising that her mother intends to literally sacrifice her in order to bring her older sister Anastasia back to life, it’s almost as if something breaks within her.
I don’t think that it’s news to Drizella that Anastasia is massively important to their mother, but the extreme to which Tremaine would go to in order to get Anastasia back does make it evidently clear that Tremaine has such little love and affection for her younger daughter. To have the curse as part of Drizella’s plot, seemingly, to make her mother’s life as miserable as possible is definitely a subversion of expectation considering what it appeared to be in the first episode of the season, though it does beg the question of what exactly Drizella wants with the other cursed beings in Hyperion Heights, and what else she is set to gain from this new reality.
Regina was used well in this episode. Having been floating in the background and doing very little other than offering some choice wisdom every so often, I was struggling to see where exactly she fit in in this universe, without Storybrooke and without her relationship with her son. As it turns out, this is precisely what Regina herself is thinking in the Enchanted Forest. Realising that she is no longer needed by Henry, and that he is old enough to fight his own battles, and also no longer feeling at home in Storybrooke now that she doesn’t have Robin, Regina is at somewhat of a loose end.
It’s clear that Regina finds a spark of her old self within Drizella. There’s an echo of that old conflict that Regina used to have with Cora in how Drizella’s seeks to escape Tremaine’s influence, and it’s this that persuades Regina to help her. To see her as a teacher and helping Drizella demonstrates just how far Regina has come as a character, as there’s no doubt a couple of seasons ago she probably would have ripped Drizella’s heart out for daring to threaten Henry.
Regina’s role isn’t entirely settled by the end of the episode, but it’s certainly a reassuring comfort for the audience in a season with very few remaining familiar characters. The final moments of the episode give us a good hint at where the character is going for a bit, as Ivy gives her a memory boost and restores Regina to Roni’s identity.
The moment when Roni ‘transforms’ into Regina is so subtly but beautifully delivered by Lana Parrilla. I can’t quite even explain the minute differences between the two, but there is such a distinction in the way that Parrilla carries herself and delivers her lines as Roni that is completely wiped away when Regina returns. There’s almost a weight, and command to the performance, and you can feel the past six seasons coursing through the character with every syllable. Truly astounding, and I’m not certain how she does it with such seeming ease.
Another principal difference with Drizella’s curse, other than the fact that we have yet to see it, is that it cannot be broken, so this gives Regina’s character some purpose as, for some reason as yet unknown to us, she must prevent Henry and Jacinda from sharing True Love’s Kiss and breaking the curse.
Henry and Jacinda’s love story seems to be playing out much more convincingly in the Enchanted Forest than it does in Hyperion Heights. While Jacinda seems much more chipper now that she has the food truck, she still just seems to default back to moaning and whining all the time, and the show still hasn’t invested quite enough time to selling them as a couple and just relying upon the audience to accept it. We are meant to root for them in the way that we rooted for cursed Snow and Charming in Season 1 but it doesn’t quite work.
I suppose the reason why it is less successful here is that we opened Season 1 with Snow and Charming’s kiss, and their wedding, and them having a child. We saw what their dynamic was as a pairing – and Goodwin and Dallas undoubtedly had chemistry – but we have yet to see that from Henry and Jacinda. What’s more, the actors just don’t seem to have as much chemistry together, as Jacinda is often painfully stiff. She’s either very cross and annoying to watch or she’s slightly insipid when she’s being happy, so there’s something that isn’t quite coming off well.
It’s a shame that the show seems to have abandoned Ivy and Henry as a dynamic, as Henry plays off what happened between the two of them as a mistake (well, I say “what happened”. Literally nothing happened, but Jacinda was annoyed about it for some reason best known to her belligerent self). Their dynamic was more winning, and it would certainly be more compelling to have Henry fall for the villain, and for them to have True Love’s Kiss. I’m just putting it out there, if we’re talking about brilliant twists, which Once is known for, that would be a brilliant one to pull out here. Love lives are messy, people, and Adelaide Kane can act circles around most of the regular cast at the moment.
With Regina awake at last, and it clear that Drizella is the true evil behind the curse, this season is moving along at a far more considerable pace than Season 1 was, which can only be a good thing. With the audience eager for more magic and fairytales lighting up the screen, hopefully we start getting to the bottom of this curse sooner rather than later.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. Seasons 1 – 4 are now available on Disney+ in the UK. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.