Count on Once Upon A Time to not only give us a beautiful emotionally driven episode but take us back to the Wild West with a good old duel to determine who should’ve been chosen to be Rumplestilskin’s most beloved trainee.
Flashbacks: A childless family on their way to The Emerald City find abandoned, infant Zelena and decides to keep her. At that moment she’d already been displaying magical abilities, and while the husband was hesitant to keep her, the wife insists she needs their help. It is later when she dies, and Zelena isn’t able to control her magic that her “father” finally tells her the truth about where she’s from, and persistent to find her real family, Zelena sets off to visit the Great Wizard of Oz.
The Wizard shows her that she was abandoned by her mother because she couldn’t have given her the life of royalty like Regina did, and Zelena chooses to use the slippers in order to visit the Enchanted Forest to meet Rumplestilskin. Though their training was successful, Zelena’s envy was far too deeply rooted for her to be able to control the way he wanted; thus, she literally began turning green. Filled with rage and resentment she visited the Wizard once more to ask him to change the past, but when he wasn’t able to grant it, he was turned into a flying monkey – howdy, Walsh! – and forced to abide by her commands. It’s then that she takes on the identity of the Wicked Witch of the West, and sets off on a journey to find ways to change the past.
Present-Day Storybrooke: The episode begins with Neal’s funeral, unfortunately, the most important person to him, Rumple isn’t an attendee as he’s still controlled by the Wicked Witch. And as if the funeral wasn’t heartbreaking enough, his absence made it even worse. They each took turns tossing dirt onto the coffin, beginning with Hook and ending with Emma. Zelena then interrupts the wake at Granny’s diner, drops the bomb about being Regina’s sister, and proposes a duel with her on Main Street.
Zelena has finally found the means to change the past as Charming’s courage, Rumple’s mind, and Regina’s heart are the necessary ingredients to fulfill her desire. She tries to steal Regina’s heart but doesn’t know that Cora’s told her never to attend a witch fight with it in place, and knowing she’s after it, Regina allows Robin to keep it safe.
Rebecca Mader has been outstanding so far as Zelena, but she was even more exceptionally wicked and great this week. The momentary innocence and genuine heartbreak she brought to Zelena’s character prior to envy overpowering her was excellently portrayed. And even more so in the clock tower, the absolute rage she’s able to illustrate with her eyes is terrifying on all grounds, and that’s truly noteworthy acting. Now if there’s one thing we can’t wait for, it’s to find out whether the green broach she’s constantly wearing holds anything. If she turned Walsh into a monkey, perhaps she somehow stole his abilities to see into the future. Who knows.
The battle scene was entirely phenomenal to watch, and the best part of it was the symbolic representation of their gloves. Zelena’s was green because this new curse and everything she’s done has been driven from envy, and Regina’s was red thus signifying that her first curse and everything she’s done has been from the loss of love, something she valued above all things. Eduardo Castro’s pieces are not only breathtakingly beautiful but vital, especially in scenes like this.
It’s also necessary to point out that the way Emma stood up to Zelena was spectacular. She’s accepted the fact that she’s the savior and she wears it as a crown with such grace and strength it’s always inspiring. Don’t mess with our heroine, Greenie. She’ll get you in the end.
Before Regina’s arrival, Zelena’s response to Charming’s visceral drive to protect Snow and the child was that she isn’t after the baby yet. Maybe the child will in some way hold another piece of David’s courage that she’ll need. We refrain from theorizing too much, but we can’t help but wonder what the particular necessity is and we certainly can’t wait to find out.
While the theme of last week’s episode was the importance of the right choices, this week’s underlined second chances beautifully, especially with Robin and Regina, and to an extent Hook and Henry.
The interesting thing about Robin and Regina’s interactions is the fact that they’re both sincerely attracted to one another, and even though they can’t exactly figure out why, Robin especially, feels the need to be of use to her. In an episode focused heavily on darker elements, it was hilarious to have Tinkerbell realize that Robin’s the man with the lion tattoo and question why Regina hadn’t told her. Why not, let’s have an entire episode focused on those two, with the addition of Emma and Snow gossiping about the men in their life.
Robin’s concern about whether he upset Regina when she left was a sweet gesture; she deserves the kind of person who’ll not only look beyond the evil queen’s exterior but who’d keep things simple with her while being a chivalrous gentleman. And when the Wicked Witch made her threats, Robin’s defensive stance stood out massively. We couldn’t help but notice the way his expression focused heavily on Zelena’s movements in order to protect Regina if she dares try anything. As of now, Regina’s the only one who knows they’re soul mates, but intuitively Robin cares immensely for her as a person and her needs. While they have no memories of the past year, there’s absolutely no denying that there’s something gorgeously magnetic between them, and it’s reflected in the way they care for one another.
While in the woods reading the letter from Rumplestilskin she once thought was about her, Robin finds her, and his curious self questions what’s in it that’s bothering her so much. He reads her marvelously, understanding that there must be a reason she’s wounded by the words, and his genuine care allows Regina to open up to him. She lets him read the letter and when he too thinks it’s about her, she lets him know that when she’d read it in the past, she believed it was. Lana Parrilla is superlative when it comes to simultaneously portraying Regina’s agonizing heartbreak and potency – a side she rarely shows people. Additionally, the way Sean Maguire portrayed Robin’s disbelief in the fact that someone as audacious as Regina allows Rumple’s words to affect her, he brought to life Robin’s fascination and faith in Regina phenomenally.
In order for second chances to work the way they’re meant to, trust must be present. Regina illuminated the notion beautifully as she trusted Robin with her heart, something she’d never trust another soul with. And her statement about “not seeing what’s right in front of her” works as both a literal and metaphorical statement. In the past, she didn’t appreciate many things, but slowly and surely, she’s learning to love what’s genuinely important in life. She understands that the throne isn’t as important as family, friends, and love. She sees that the key to true happiness is the little things that are most often taken advantage of. As though trusting him with her heart before the battle with the Wicked Witch wasn’t enough to make our hearts sore with merriment, she gives it to him to keep until it’s safe to be back in her chest. And there’s nothing more that makes a moment incomparable beyond words than a specially made musical number by Mark Isham. Robin’s stunned expression at Regina’s action was beautiful, and Maguire illustrated that moment impressively with the right amount of emotions and heart.
Similarly, Parrilla brought Regina’s playful side to life concurrently with the painful expression in her eyes that screamed something along the lines of, doing this scares me more than I could ever express, please be careful with it. It’s no surprise that opening her heart to love frightens her more than anything, and this scene highlighted that fact masterfully as it not only displayed fear but contentment with what’s been done. Regina’s trust was beautiful. And it’s the sincerity and noteworthy posture Parrilla delivered these scenes with that emphasized Regina’s innermost deep desires. Regina knows she needs to open her heart to love, she knows she needs to give Robin a chance, and while she’s hesitant, through baby steps she’s getting there. And the acknowledgment was her first step towards welcoming him into her life.
Prior to going into battle with the Wicked Witch, Belle tries to see if she could get through to Rumple without his dagger. From the moment she calls his name, there was such pain in his response that it instantly broke our hearts because we were certain the outcome wasn’t going to be good. Even controlled by the Wicked Witch, the unconditional love within them was felt by their quick interaction and longing glares out on Main Street. It’s always these subtle moments in which Robert Carlyle is able to say a great amount with very little or no words.
Before Zelena intrudes on Granny’s diner with her proposal, Hook tries to comfort Emma in the best ways he knows he can. From his own experience, he was trying to show Emma that vengeance isn’t the way to grieve. As their conversation progresses and Henry becomes the main concern, he offers to take him away in order to tell him more about who Neal was when he was his age. This brief shared moment was both incredible and heartbreaking.
While Emma’s a caring person, she’s not one to trust easily, and when it comes to Henry, because he’s her primary concern, trusting him with someone is huge. And the episode emphasized the importance of opening up and trusting someone else with what means most. Just as Regina trusted Robin with her actual heart, Emma trusted Hook with Henry. What we found most saddening about the moment was how surprised Emma was at the offer, because even though Hook’s ceaselessly been by her side, the heartbreaks of her past still haunt her present. Jennifer Morrison is incredibly gifted when it comes to bringing these emotions to life as she says a prodigious amount with her expressions alone. While Emma undoubtedly fears for Henry’s safety, she also knows that Hook’s right when he says he’ll be safe under his protection. Even though his selfless acts and unremitting presence still come as a surprise to her, deep down Emma knows that since Hook’s love for her runs deep, he’d do anything for her and her loved ones.
Her past may have scarred her and made her reluctant to open her heart, but she values his company and unwavering support because he’s perpetually been by her side encouraging her strengths, aiding her at her weakest, and praising her being whenever he gets the chance. Morrison portrays Emma’s inner emotions masterfully and in doing so she allows the audience to see that there’s truly more than meets the eye.
On their journey, Hook makes sure Henry knows it was his choice to take him out as he wanted to tell him more about his father. Just as Hook once taught Neal to navigate the stars, he tries to teach Henry the same thing. However, Henry’s frustration with who his father truly was gets him to express his emotions to Hook. He then tells Henry that the reason he chose to teach Neal how to navigate the stars was that he too had lost his father, and he believed that the sea would help ease his soul. He also tells Henry that he has more in common with his father than he even knows and helps him cope in a way where it’s a bit easier.
There’s never a time when Colin O’Donoghue’s acting choices don’t leave us in awe, but there was something particularly impeccable about the way he delivered the scenes with Henry. O’Donoghue exposed Hook’s incandescent happiness about being helpful to Henry while depicting the fact that in doing so, he’s not only treasuring Neal’s memory but grieving at the same time. And there was a painfully evident moment where Hook was undoubtedly remorseful over the fact that he’s standing here with Bae’s son when he’s gone. In last week’s episode, we learned how truly sorry he is that a woman came in between them, and those emotions were yet again evident in tonight’s episode. O’Donoghue broke hearts as his expressions said all these things masterfully.
The chemistry between O’Donoghue and Gilmore was so effortless that at the moment when Hook began telling Henry the truth, the scenes felt raw and genuine – they connected on an incredibly rare level of understanding. Hook got a second chance to be a fatherly figure to someone, and he used it remarkably as from the very beginning he made sure the entire journey was fortified through honesty.
When Hook brought Henry back after the duel was over, he uttered his concerns about Henry needing to know the truth about who his father was. In doing so, he once again illustrated just how much he values honor. And what we’ve always felt was most beautiful about Killian’s approach to things was the fact that he’s been honest. It’s not just about how much he adores Emma and wants to be with her, but he knows that she’d be happiest around those she loves – family, and friends – than in a city where things were based on lies. He wants Henry to know the truth because he knows it’s what he deserves, and he knows that deep down it’s just what Emma would want as well. Killian has an exquisite way of telling Emma exactly what she needs to hear and when she needs to hear it. He’s made it clear that he’s always going to be truthful because he knows it’s the most valuable thing.
When it comes to outstanding writing and dropping noted lines, Horowitz and Kitsis are incomparable. From Rumple’s ‘ding dong’ to Regina’s ‘I think I’d remember if my mother told me she had a lovechild from a scarecrow’.
The episode reminded viewers of what’s best in the world of Once Upon A Time, and it’s teamwork – working together as a family for the greater good.