I’m not that person anymore. I’ve changed.Zelena
Starring Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West, Dania Ramirez, Alison Fernandez, Mekia Cox, and Robert Carlyle
Episode 17: Chosen
”Chosen” turns the page on a few chapters of Once Upon a Time. Firstly, the vaguely ominous and irritating plot line of the Candy Killer, which has been the prevailing topic of conversation in Hyperion Heights since the mid season premiere. It was certainly an interesting mystery, but also dominated plot lines to the point where deep, nuanced character exploration was rendered essentially impossible. It’s no coincidence that some of the series’ worst episodes have come in the midst of this story arc. This episode also, unexpectedly, brought to a close Zelena’s time on the show, by highlighting through its use of flashbacks just how far she has come since she first appeared way back in Season 3.
The flashbacks to Zelena’s past helped to reveal a hidden depth and logic to Nick’s involvement in the spate of killings that have occurred in Hyperion Heights in recent weeks. As it turns out, this is not some aimless murdering of members of a Coven, nor somebody motivated by power or magic, but rather the need for Nick to have revenge upon witches, blaming them for killing his sister, Gretel, and for his burns. This is a handy moment of exposition, as it helps contextualise Nick’s actions, instead of him just being unhinged, but is tonally at odds with the police procedural aspect that the show has taken on while trying to hunt him down.
Mainly these flashbacks help us to reflect more upon Zelena’s character. Rebecca Mader is a hugely popular member of the cast, so to see her back in centre stage was a nice touch, and the episode successfully managed to wrap up her character development and end her journey satisfactorily.
The flashbacks reveal Zelena falling in love with a blind man, who turns out to be Hansel and Gretel’s father. Through this, she demonstrates her need for approval and her openness to love, but ultimately she is betrayed by him. Once he realises that she is the Wicked Witch, that’s all that he can see, and completely erases all of the good actions that she has done.
This is clearly something that weighs upon Zelena’s soul and person in the present, as she grapples with her dual identity as Kelly and being Zelena. She remembers how brilliant it felt to be set free from the anchor of her past as the Wicked Witch, and it’s this which informs her angst within this episode. She feels unable to escape that, and she’s almost seeking permission to be able to get away from it. Ultimately, her fiancé is understanding of her past, and loves her for who she is now, which seems like a happy place to leave Zelena.
I’m not sure to what extent I approve necessarily of the implication of a man being a “happy ending”, but I don’t think that’s actually the point here. The point is that Zelena is at peace with all sides of herself, and is able to forgive herself for her past. Though Zelena’s character has been inconsistent in the past with the way that she easily swapped between good and evil, her experience as a mother and as sister to Regina have certainly mellowed her more homicidal tendencies.
The sting at the end of the tail of this episode is the revelation that Dr Facilier is the puppet master behind the scenes, not just of Nick, but also, apparently, of Drew. Responsible for having woken both of them up, he reveals that his ultimate intention with Nick regaining his memories was for him to take out Mother Gothel, which he failed to do and, thus, kills Nick.
Quite what Dr Facilier wants with Mother Gothel is anybody’s guess. It may, or may not, tie in with his quest to get the Dark One’s Dagger. One thing is for certain, there’s so much plot going round, even in a simpler season, I’m finding that I need a spreadsheet just to keep up with it all. More and more people are waking up by the episode, and with so many conflicting motivations and grand plans, it’s pretty much impossible to know whose side that we should be on. With all of these plot elements flying around, the show is definitely losing sight of its emotional core, even though there were glimpses of that here, with Zelena’s journey.
That’s not to say that the episode wasn’t necessarily entertaining. There were some genuine moments of tension. Even though it was fairly obvious that Henry would come out of the situation unscathed, which reduced how dramatic his sections tied up with Nick were, Zelena’s fate was more uncertain. The physical fighting was also incredibly well done, and felt highly impactful.
This episode successfully caps some lingering plot elements. It provides Zelena’s character with some important closure that helps contextualise her absence before the end of the season, and helps bring the tiresome murderer storyline to a swift end. As ever, however, the story goes on, and the next chapter is uncertain. With Dr Facilier on the hunt for Mother Gothel, and Mother Gothel seeking to resurrect her coven, plus Rumple’s search for the Guardian still ongoing, will Regina be able to successfully break the curse and stop Henry from dying while all of this is happening?
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.