Title Where Bluebirds Fly
Two-Sentence Summary Zelena’s confrontation with the Black Fairy leaves her with a choice: go back to Oz and live alone with just her daughter or give up her magic to help the only family she has. Meanwhile, Emma and Killian’s impending nuptials has her parents in full wedding-planning mode, until Charming is reminded of what Emma must face.
Emma: We were just making some pancakes.
Snow: Pancakes. Right. Maybe I should come back after you’ve made pancakes.
Killian: Don’t worry. I’ve lost my appetite. I have to go and have a quick and bracing shower.
My Thoughts Once Upon a Time is at its best when its plot works to serve its characters—not the other way around. As the buildup to the climactic “Final Battle” has begun, I was initially worried that this major plot point would dominate the show, but in a surprising turn of events, it seems the opposite is true. The last two episodes have been filled with lovely character-driven moments, and “When Bluebirds Fly” was perhaps the least plot-driven episode of this entire season. Nothing really moved forward as far as the Final Battle is concerned (It actually ended with things back at Square One for the Black Fairy.), but various characters—especially Zelena—took huge strides forward in their development. And that is a far more engaging and entertaining way for me to spend an hour on a Sunday night than watching a series of plot twists and turns that offers little to no time for characters to do anything other than offer up expository monologues or create new and unnecessary conflicts.
Every conflict in this episode came from a place that felt true to who these characters are and have always been. Nothing felt contrived or forced; everything felt earned and thematically resonant—tying back into the ideas of love and sacrifice, true happiness, and what makes a place a home.
For all of these characters, home is the place where you feel you belong—it’s where you’re loved. Home truly is where the heart is on this show. And for a long time, Zelena felt she belonged in Oz. But this episode’s flashbacks reminded us that she didn’t feel she belonged in Oz because she was loved there; she felt she belonged there because she was powerful there. Zelena’s entire arc has been about letting go of her need to define herself by how good she is at magic, which is a much more relatable story than it would seem at first glance. Haven’t we all defined ourselves by the things we feel we’re best at? Haven’t we all worried about who we would be if we suddenly didn’t have that talent anymore? Maybe it’s just my inner Slytherin coming through, but I related to Zelena much more than I was expecting to in this episode. When you spend your whole life wanting to be the best at something, how easy would it be to give that talent up for someone else? I know I’d struggle with doing the right thing if it meant losing the talent I’d always prided myself on having.
Zelena has become one of the most complex characters on this show. (Remember when I thought she was just a one-note, over-the-top villain back in Season 3B?) She wants so badly to be wanted, to feel important, which is a very believable byproduct of being abandoned the way she was as a child. And for her, magic was the key to making her mark on the world. If she could prove that she was the strongest, most powerful witch, then she would be able to feel she was worth something. Because otherwise, she was just a lost little girl whose mother left her behind because she wasn’t worth the trouble.