TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.09

GINNIFER GOODWIN

Title Save Henry

Two-Sentence Summary As Operation Henry works to retrieve Henry’s heart from Peter Pan’s body and finally leave Neverland, flashbacks reveal why and how Regina adopted Henry. Although it appears the group will safely leave the torturous island once and for all (and with all the Lost Boys joining them onboard the Jolly Roger), it turns out Pan isn’t quite done with his games.

Favorite Lines
Regina: I need a child, Gold, and I need your help.
Gold: Well, I’m flattered—but uninterested.

My Thoughts Things are moving fast now as the first half of this season of Once Upon a Time draws to a close, but, for a show with such fascinating relationships to explore and such great actors to showcase, I’m not sure it’s a good thing that the pace seems to have accelerated exponentially in the last few weeks. I know there were some out there who were bored by the lack of progress in the earlier episodes of this season, but I loved them. I don’t watch this show for the action; I watch it for the characters. And, while “Save Henry” did provide some strong character moments, it had to fit so much into one episode that I felt some important emotional beats for characters not named Regina were missed.

Don’t get me wrong; I loved seeing Lana Parrilla get to unleash all of her acting powers once again after being more or less stuck as the sassy side commentator for the majority of this Neverland arc. I’m always left awestruck at the way Parrilla makes me feel for a character I should hate. Regina has done so many horrible things, and she’s done many of them to the family I care about most on this show (that would be the Charmings). But I’ll be damned if Parrilla doesn’t manage to tug at my heartstrings more often than I would ever expect. There’s such a fierce vulnerability and desperation for love that runs underneath her performance at all times, and that vulnerability is what keeps me caring about Regina despite everything she’s done. Yes, she’s a monster on many levels, but she’s also still—somewhere under all the menacing malice she uses as her armor—the very broken woman who was abused by her mother and manipulated by Rumplestiltskin into embracing the darkest parts of herself just to become a pawn in his quest to get back to his son.

I’m incredibly conflicted on how to view Regina, and sometimes I wonder if the writers get conflicted, too. In this episode, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to view her as worthy of redemption of irredeemable. I was surprised that she said she didn’t regret any of the evil things she’d done, and I’m not sure it was a good kind of surprised. In the moment, I cheered for her and thought it was such a strong moment of victory for Henry and against Pan, but upon further review, it’s hard for me to sympathize with a character who has caused people—even her own son—so much pain and regrets none of it.

I had the same feelings of conflicted frustration when she told Emma that she only had Henry while Emma had a lot of people who love her. Regina is alone because she pushed away (or killed/attempted to kill) anyone who wanted to let themselves into her heart. Yes, her love for Henry is a huge factor in why I think she is a complex and ultimately redeemable character, but to make it sound like Emma has been basking in love for years while Regina has been kept from any kind of love besides Henry’s through anyone’s fault other than her own is absurd. Regina is the very reason Emma had to endure such a lonely, loveless existence. It was an strong moment to show how much Regina loves her son (and it was acted brilliantly by Parrilla), but it did nothing other than make me love Emma even more for her respect for Regina and Henry’s relationship (while still asserting that Henry is indeed their son—not just Regina’s). Both of those scenes took Regina back to that delusional place she resided in for a lot of Season Two, which made me sad because I really liked the “Regina becoming self-aware” storyline that had been building this season.

Despite my reservations about Regina, I will never be able to deny that she is brought to life by an actress who is a force to be reckoned with. Parrilla was able to use every tool in her well-stocked arsenal in “Save Henry.” She was sharp-tongued (calling Neal “that person” was a perfect way to show her indifference towards him). She was gleefully evil. She was panicked. She was determined. She was awkward. She was lost. She was paranoid. She was warm. And she was loving. To play such a range of emotions within one episode is a tall order, but to play them all perfectly is just another day at the office for Parrilla. In the flashbacks, watching her grow from a lonely woman to a struggling new parent to a mother who loves her child fiercely was a joy for anyone who is a fan of strong acting.

I loved watching Parrilla get to interact with some of my favorite scene partners for her in the flashbacks. Regina’s relationship with Archie has always fascinated me because she seems willing to open up to him in a way she refuses to do with anyone else, and I love watching Parrilla and Raphael Sbarge share screen time. I also loved the no-nonsense, sarcastic interactions between Regina and Dr. Whale. It’s always nice to see David Anders back on Once Upon a Time. Finally, I will always adore watching Parrilla work opposite Robert Carlyle. From their moments in the dungeon before the curse hit to their tense standoff in Gold’s shop, all of their scenes crackled with the intensity I’ve come to expect from these two actors. They elevate each other’s performances, and it’s so much fun to watch them play. This was especially true for Carlyle in the dungeon flashback; seeing him in full “Rumple mode” again made me remember what a genius this man really is.

Did the adoption storyline feel somewhat anticlimactic after waiting so long to be told? Yes. But was it still a story that needed to be told? Yes. And just because I was expecting something more magical from the story of how Henry came to be Regina’s, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun watching what we were given. The twist with the Darlings was very smart, and I did enjoy the fact that Regina wasn’t a natural mother right away. Parrilla did such a great job of physically showing her awkwardness around Henry; it could have been funny, but in her able hands, it was heartbreaking.

The best part of the story with Regina and Henry was the way it ended. I found it strange that Regina discovered Emma’s identity, but the handling of that reveal was done very well and proved to be a very smart comparison to some other parent/child relationships on this show. Regina had a choice: she could give in to her fear and continue to seek power in her quest for revenge, or she could choose to love her son without anything holding her back. She chose to let go of her fear and need for power in order to do the best thing for Henry, which is something we haven’t seen very often on this show. Putting aside whatever else she may have done or may do, Regina loves her son. That doesn’t make her a hero, but it certainly makes her less of a villain. It makes her a woman capable of choosing love over fear and power, which is an explicit parallel to other characters on the show who were initially incapable of making that choice.

At the end of the day, this was an episode for the Evil Regals, the Regina lovers, and even for those of us who just like to sit back and marvel at Parrilla’s amazing acting. But, while I respect those fans who love Regina above all others (and their ability to recognize a great actress when they see one), Regina isn’t my favorite character. Emma is, and it made me sad to see her relegated to a background role in the story she’s led for this entire season. Even more than the surprisingly bland adoption story, Emma taking a backseat to Regina in the final stage of saving Henry felt like a letdown. I respect the decision to give Regina her moment to be a fierce mama bear after a season of having Emma almost exclusively wear that title, but I wanted this to feel more like a team effort than a victory for Regina. I understand this was Regina’s episode, and I understand that Regina was Henry’s only mother for 11 years. But this season has spoiled me as an Emma fan; I wanted more of her in action, more of her emotions about Henry, and more of her leadership skills put on display.

This was an episode that worked best for me in its smallest, character-driven moments. I cried when Regina kissed baby Henry for the first time. I couldn’t stop smiling when Snow got to hold her grandson without even knowing who he was. (Seriously, though, I dare you not to get a few happy tears in your eyes watching mom-to-be Ginnifer Goodwin look down at that little baby with so much warmth and love.) I felt my heart grow three sizes when Emma told the Lost Boys she was once a lost girl, too, but she found a lot of people who love her (her parents, Neal, and Hook). Emma’s journey from a lost girl to a loved girl found an even greater purpose in this episode, and I was floored by how beautifully and vulnerably Jennifer Morrison played Emma’s kinship with that smallest Lost Boy.

And I loved every single character interaction on the deck of the Jolly Roger. It was music to my ears to hear Neal finally call Rumplestiltskin “Papa” again, and I loved his genuine warmth towards his own son, too. Those three characters have such an interesting story of fathers, sons, and forgiveness to tell, and I can’t wait for it to keep playing out. Everything Josh Dallas did was once again wonderful—from his continued placement of his hand on the back of Emma’s head when they hug (such a protective gesture) to the way he delivered his lines about being proud of Emma with just the right amount of sincerity to show that he respects her as a leader and an adult but still loves her as his daughter, too. It’s interesting to me that Charming seems to be much better at relating to Emma and understanding her than Snow. And I just have to once again applaud Colin O’Donoghue for melting my heart with his genuine smile when Henry was revived and his enthusiastic offering of his captain’s quarters for his “guest of honor.”

In an episode that was all about how Regina’s love for Henry is her saving grace, Hook’s instant affection for the boy was important because it reinforced the idea that caring for someone can become more important than the need for revenge. In this season’s premiere, Hook referred to Rumplestiltskin as his guest of honor, but now that title is reserved for Henry. It shows how much this man has changed in his time back in Neverland. What began as an attempt to move past the dark shroud of hatred and bitterness still covering his life became a journey that taught him how to love again. Henry—a symbol of hope, light, and love—is his guest of honor now. Searching for Henry brought meaning back to Hook’s life after 300 years of living only for himself. So his warmth towards the boy was about so much more than just loving Henry as Emma’s son. It was about caring for someone more important than his own interests and being glad to do so.

Speaking of Hook being glad to do something for someone else, did anybody else love the latest “As you wish” reference in this episode? I love that this line is becoming a recurring one for Hook and Emma—and not just because of its Princess Bride connotations. In this episode, Hook delivered that line with the respect of a lieutenant towards his leader, and that’s important for Emma to hear. He will do what she wishes, which is rare for a woman whose wishes have gone unheeded for most of her life.

And now we come to this episode’s very fun conclusion. I did not see the body-swapping twist coming, but I’m so happy it did. I thought everything with Pan wrapped up way too neatly, so this was a great way to keep the conflict alive while getting out of Neverland. And I’m excited for what this means for the actors. I’m looking forward to seeing Jared Gilmore try his hand at something much more sinister than hopeful Henry. Most of all, though, I’m eager to see what the brilliant Robbie Kay does with Henry’s character. Anything that keeps this actor on my TV screen for as long as possible is a good thing in my book.

“Save Henry” may have felt a bit rushed (I wanted so much more from those Jolly Roger family scenes) and a bit anticlimactic at times, but its conclusion was climactic enough to keep me on the edge of my seat until next Sunday.

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25 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.09

  1. Seriously Katie, you and I are on the same exact page with this Neverland arc. The past two episodes just haven’t really been doing it for me. There were elements I liked in this episode, loved even, but as a whole I had a hard time really getting into it.

    I am totally with you in regards to Regina, so I wont bother restating what you said so well.

    Overall, this was mainly a story about Regina and Henry, but I had a hard time understanding how some of the other elements of the story were supposed to compliment the main theme. Maybe it was just the ending that didn’t make sense to me, with the characters that had been largely absent throughout the whole episode just popping out from nowhere (Wendy, Tinkerbell). Its annoyed me how little Tinkerbell has been given to do this past couple episodes. If she is going to be part of the group at least give her something to do. I am not sure how I felt about snippy Hook/Neal, did they learn NOTHING with the whole lighter fiasco? Although Neal was the instigator here, don’t you insult the man’s ship! I personally didnt like the little added twist of the Darling brothers almost adopting Henry – all it did was seriously make me question the competency of Boston’s adoption agency. If you are going to do a show about fairy tales in the real world, you can have all the liberty you want with the fairy tale side, but you need to make the real world actually seem realistic. I also wasn’t a big fan of Charming’s little speech to Emma. I know Once has never really been known for its subtle dialogue, but that was so obvious I felt a bit insulted as a viewer. It was like reading a bad high school essay where you restate the thesis word for word again in the conclusion. Although I did enjoy the almost affectionate way David said “pirate”. I also wasn’t expecting a “body swap” storyline, and at this point I just want to give Henry a dang break. Although I will admit watching actors pretend to be other characters is kinda fun, but why does every sci-fi/fantasy show feel the need to do a body swap storyline?

    Like you, I have loved all the time in Neverland that has been given to character development, but at the same time, its annoying to me how in the last two eps how “easy” everything has seemed in regards to actually “saving Henry”. I mean, their raid on Pan’s camp in the last episode was literally “I am going to sneak in the back and grab Henry” which actually turned into Regina just casting a sleeping curse on everyone anyway, and then in this episode Regina just has to break free from a tree and take back Henry’s heart. Bam, done. At this point I am thinking that Regina could have just come to Neverland alone and been in and out of there in 10 minutes.

    Despite these annoyances, there were still some great moments. I actually loved Regina totally kicking butt at the tree that binds you with regret (are we serious with this though? Why don’t we just rename Neverland “psychoanalysis island”). Bea and Rumple’s reunion. Regina with baby Henry. Emma with the lost boys. Rumple’s “Im not interested” and “Youll make a…mother of some sort”.

    And then this brings me to Hook. Seriously, I try so hard not to obsess about Hook, because there are so many great characters on the show, and this episode was not even supposed to be about him, but the writers seriously make it really difficult not to love the man. I think I could actually take or leave his “as you wish, m’lady” line. I thought was cute but unnecessary (although you might have changed my mind with your more meaningful interpretation). But his reaction to Henry waking up KILLED ME. Hook is constantly saying the PERFECT thing at exactly the right time. Seriously Emma, if that’s not winning your heart I don’t know what the heck could. At this point, if I had to pick anyone from the group that would make the best husband and father, it would be Hook. Get that man a wife and some kids stat. Hell, I don’t even know if I want to wait for Emma to get her crap together, I want to see Killian happy with a family now. I also thought it was really touching that Bea and Rumple’s reunion took place on board his ship. That ship has a lot of unhappy history between those three, and to see Hook’s ship be the location of all these heartfelt reunions was really touching. Ultimately Hook wasn’t able to be the father to Bea that he wanted to be, but he was able to let go of his pride and revenge and be instrumental in reuniting Bea with his real father. I also love that it was essentially Emma who inspired the change in Hook that made this happen, Emma once again being a savior to everyone without even trying. I hope these things won’t go ignored in the next episode. While this episode was all about family and maternal and paternal relationships, I have a feeling the next episode is going to focus again on Hook’s “hero” arc, and that makes me excited! He really has become a part of something, and I am interested to see how that plays out when they return to Storybrooke.

    • I loved the parallel you drew about the reuniting of Bae and Rumple on Hook’s ship. I hadn’t even considered it given how far removed we are from Hook’s introduction into the OUaT canon. I think that more than anything with regards to Henry and Emma indicates the truth behind Hook’s change, that it is not merely to appease/impress Emma, but that it is of his own making and what made it possible was that Emma opened a part of him he had long buried. I had a different take on the episode, but agree with the pacing being off the last two episodes. But your insights to those last moments on the Jolly Roger I am going to have to go back and take a second look.

      • My wish list for upcoming eps: Hook/Killian and Neal/Bae having a heart to heart before this is all over. Hook telling Neal he is happy he has reconciled with his father, and Neal saying thank you to Hook for his help. Hook telling Neal his feelings for Emma just happened because Emma is bloody amazing, and the two of them calling a truce.

    • I love reading your thoughts, Shauna—and not just because so many of them echo my own. 😉

      First of all, let me cosign your frustration about Tinker Bell and her lack of involvement in the story. I really hope she’s given more to do soon. Rose McIver was great in her flashback episode, and Tink is such an important character in fairytale/literary/Disney canon that it would be a shame for her to be relegated to the background all the time. I really need a flashback episode (or several) that goes into past Neverland interactions between Pan/Wendy/Bae/Hook/Tink. There’s so much story to tell there, and I’m worried that leaving Neverland behind means leaving the potential for those stories behind, too. I especially want to learn more about Hook’s time spent working for Pan.

      What you said about the actual process of saving Henry is completely accurate. I think the lack of struggle in the last couple of episodes is part of why they felt so anticlimactic. The simple solutions to every problem in the last couple of episodes had me scratching my head.

      Finally, I love what you said about Hook helping to bring Rumplestitlskin and Neal back together. Those three men have such a painful, complicated relationship, and I want to see them slowly work to understand one another as best they can. The fact that Hook has changed and grown and moved on enough to play a role in this father/son reunion is beautiful. He’s not the same man who watched Milah die on that deck. He’s not the same man who let the Lost Boys take Bae from the Jolly Roger. He’s a better man, and I love that we’ve been able to watch that change develop in such a real way this season.

  2. I completely concur that after a generally spectacular arc in Neverland Sunday’s episode was indeed anticlimactic and I wasn’t thrilled with the bait and switch of bodies in the last moments (independent of the fact it is going to give the two actors an interesting challenge that I am eager to see). It left me nonplussed mostly because it fed into my chief criticism of the Neverland arc the gaps of logic in Henry’s journey – from hearing the music to ripping his heart out Henry’s character has acted practically outside the storyline much of the 10 episodes we’ve seen. I am firmly in the camp that Henry is a key plot device, but once he receives his heart back doesn’t it all but demolish any magical powers that Pan has? They establish when Emma wounds him that he can be killed, but then he’s able to pull Henry’s shadow out just far enough to take over his body? It’s a Swiss cheese solution to getting Pan back to Storybrooke with everyone else. As someone who has no problem suspending disbelief for fantasy shows, I do expect them to be consistent in their own inherent logic and true to the rules of the world they’ve created for themselves, even when they try to cheat their own system. That is the main reason it didn’t work for me.

    Now as for Regina, her scene at the tree was my favorite moment of the episode. It was a great change up to see her look Pan square in the eye and rip free of the tree and defiantly take back Henry’s heart. I completely understand why she lives without regret and think it is true to her character to have no regret for her actions – even as with the curse when it went sideways. Regina believes she has always acted in Henry’s best interest. As proven when she takes the potion to eliminate her fears of Emma’s return. Parenthood is wrought with failure and regret will cripple you unless you truly believe you are acting in your child’s best interests. Doing so allows you to navigate the failures and keep moving forward. I think we see Regina come to that place when she chooses to keep Henry in spite of that feeling of failure and fear of Emma. I’ve always seen her and Emma as opposite sides of the same coin. At their core they are the same but their methods are completely opposed. Regina is without regret because she believes love justifies her actions. She, like Emma believes she is acting out of love when it comes to Henry, they are both driven by it. I liked the move because it also harkened back to the conversation at the beach when Emma acknowledged that they were going to need everyone’s strengths and methods if they were going to successfully rescue Henry. Regina’s lack of regret and willingness to do what it takes serves the moment because she is the only person on Neverland who isn’t vulnerable to Pan’s psychological manipulations as proved by Rumple landing in Pandora’s box. It’s true to the character from season 1 who understands who she is and acts accordingly. The lack of self assurance from season 2 wasn’t at play here this was the Regina who was willing to kill the Huntsman to ensure she kept Henry.

    Regina’s coming to adopt Henry was trite for sure, but it did give us absolute proof that Gold was in control of the curse from the very beginning and Regina merely a pawn in that game. Gold and his father Pan aren’t very different in their actions, for them it’s their goals that are different. Gold’s quest to reclaim Bae and his love and Pan’s selfish desire for self preservation.

    You talked about Regina making Emma out as someone who is basking in love while she’s been denied when Regina was the direct cause of Emma’s fate. I don’t think Regina is delusional, I think in her rationalized logic she is right. Because in spite of Emma’s lonely existence growing up, she does in fact have a family who fought to save and find her – even if the actions were misguided. Snow and Charming put her in that tree believing it was best. It went sideways for sure, but they did it from a place of protection and love. The same is true for Neal. When Pinocchio finds him and convinces him to leave Emma, he does so because like Snow and Charming he believes he’s helping her and that it is the best thing for her. Everyone who loves Emma has acted believing they were serving her best interests, the same is not true for Regina. Everyone who was suppose to love her used her as a pawn, especially Cora. So while much of Regina’s misery is of her own making, she isn’t wrong about Henry’s love, especially when drawing the comparison to Emma.

    I loved when you wrote – Regina loves her son. That doesn’t make her a hero, but it certainly makes her less of a villain. It makes her a woman capable of choosing love over fear and power, which is an explicit parallel to other characters on the show who were initially incapable of making that choice. — I think that is the perfect descriptor for Regina’s character. She isn’t like Cora, she is more like Rumple. Where Rumple has Belle, Regina has Henry as her touchstone for the possibility of redemption. One final point that I disagree on is that I absolutely think Regina does chose love — every time. She chose her true love and Cora killed him and married her off. She chose to forgive Snow until she was unknowingly betrayed by her. And because she ultimately loved Cora, her mother she channeled her anger to Snow. And while I loathed season 2 she once again chose to love Cora, her mother in spite of all that transpired. And then of course there is Henry. The only time Regina hasn’t chosen love was when it was the possibility of love with Robin Hood. She couldn’t have faith and simply believe what Tinkerbell was telling her, because history and fear wouldn’t allow her to do so.

    So now that I’ve spent an obscene amount of time defending Regina let me say this – my favorite moment was also Emma’s plea to the Lost Boys. It was poignant and true when it could have played as an act of desperation or manipulation. I also love the subtle parallel they have drawn between Regina and Emma with their mothers. Regina loved and accepted her mother in a way Emma has yet to do with Snow. As you noted, Emma has been drawn closer to Charming and Neverland has reinforced that. I hope this is explored further as they return to Storybrooke. It wasn’t their best episode, but the last two episodes stumbling still doesn’t take away what was an overall spectacular storyline to start season 3.

    • I loved hearing everything you had to say about Regina. I’m so torn on how I feel about this character that I’m always open to well-articulated defenses on her behalf because I do think she has a heart and an ability to love that keeps her from being irredeemable.

      Your defense of Regina’s thoughts when it comes to Emma and the people who love her struck a chord with me—maybe I’m being too harsh on this character who never really stood a chance with the mother she had and the manipulations of Rumplestiltskin she endured. I think I was expecting Regina to show some empathy for Emma because we know how horribly lonely and emotionally desolate Emma’s life was, but, in truth, Regina is right—Emma has people who love her in her life right now, and she only has Henry. I suppose I just get very protective of Emma as a character. (Me? Get overly protective of a fictional character? NEVER.)

      I also liked what you had to say about Regina not wanting to dwell on the past because she viewed her actions as being for Henry’s best interest, but what about before Henry was born? Does she really not regret anything she’s done? I know it’s just a TV show (and the writers probably weren’t thinking about one standalone episode), but I can’t believe someone who is a mother herself now wouldn’t regret her role in the deaths of those kids in the Hansel and Gretel episode. But you are right about Regina’s lack of regret serving as a callback to Emma’s “it takes all kinds” argument in the season premiere. That’s what I love about Emma—she understands that sometimes you have to do the dirty work to get the job done; the ends justify the means. And, as you said, that reflects the idea that she and Regina are two sides of the same coin—a very apt way to describe their two characters.

      I’m looking forward to seeing these characters back in Storybrooke and seeing how being away from Neverland impacts their relationships. I know that things will hit the fan once again when the truth about Henry comes out, but I’m hoping that action doesn’t take away from the character moments I hope we’re going to see before the hiatus (Snow/Charming/Emma dealing with Snow’s echo cave confession; Hook and Neal working through their complicated past and present; Hook and Emma trying to figure out their relationship now that they’re back in Storybrooke; Rumple and Neal healing their relationship; and all the Darlings finding each other again).

      • Ah, but see there is the rub. I interpreted that the regret that was binding them to the tree was directly tied to parenthood – thus Snow and Emma’s inability to move and Regina’s ability to break free because she is free of regret when it comes to Henry. I didn’t think it encompassed her every decision. I think she does feel remorse (otherwise she wouldn’t have freed Ariel to find Eric). As for Hansel & Gretel, I think when she was focused on the curse she was without regret for sure. That’s what makes her the evil queen. Independent of the complexity they give Regina to make viewers sympathetic she is in fact one of the villains of the show. Just as Rumple is and he has done many evil deeds in his own personal quests. Remorse isn’t retroactive. Just because your perspective changes doesn’t mean you recount your entire life, to the contrary you recalibrate. For me it’s kind of like the Maya Angelou saying – when you know better, you do better. Becoming a mother gave Regina the capacity to make different choices in her considerations around power, love, weakness and revenge. Only recently has she acted on that capacity. It wouldn’t make her go back and rethink all her choices before she had Henry. Lest we forget this was a woman who sacrificed her father’s life to make the curse happen. Regina doesn’t rise to the evil levels of Cora because she has been manipulated. Whereas Cora took a potion to rid her of her heart so that she was devoid of emotion and would not be conflicted in her pursuit of power. Regina never did that. Her revenge was driven by the need to cause pain, pain that was equal to the one she had experienced. Doesn’t make it right, but it is consistent with who the character is. Villains always believe they are right and justified in their actions. Regina is no different, thus she has nothing to regret nor anything to reconcile pre/post Henry. I can’t believe I have just spent this much energy defending Regina. Too funny.

        • The funniest part is, for someone who can’t believe they’re defending Regina, you just wrote some of the most articulate defenses for her that I’ve ever read. But I shouldn’t be surprised considering the source. 😉

  3. Katie I totally agree with what you said about Regina – For me Regina is definitely the character I love to hate – only for the fact that Lana Parrilla is such a good actress I’d probably just hate Regina!! I think the show did a big disservice to her character in S2 by having her switch from good to bad so much but I have enjoyed her a lot more in Neverland. One of the biggest things for from the Neverland story is that both Emma and Regina refer to Henry as our son – they definitely have a grudging respect for each other now. Loved all of Emma’s scenes and I especially loved her chat with David – she needed to hear that she was a hero & leader and who better than your dad to tell you!

    • Thank you so much for the comment, Joan! I agree that Season 2’s entire structure did Regina’s character a big disservice. I didn’t like the way she was portrayed as a self-pitying character and as someone who went back and forth between wanting redemption and being truly evil. It got to the point where I didn’t even know what Regina wanted anymore, and I think part of my reaction to her in this episode is still an effect of me trying to interpret her character from last season. But I also agree that her relationship with Emma has definitely strengthened through this Neverland arc—you can see the respect and grudging understanding between them now, and I’m interested to see where the show goes with that.

  4. For me, Regina is not a character I love to hate. I don’t hate her. I don’t see why I have to hate her. She is too complex for me to label her as “good” or “evil”. Combined this with Lana Parrilla’s performance, Regina is too rich a character for me to demand that she be one thing or another. And to be honest, I can say the same about the other characters, with the exception of Charming who seems ridiculously too good to be true.

    I’m too old and have seen too much of the world to demand moral absolutism in my fictional characters. Because I know that deep down, human beings are incapable of moral absolutism, no matter how much they claim otherwise.

    Nor do I agree with the prevailing view that Regina was poorly written during Season 2. I get the feeling that many of you wanted her to be one thing or the other (and you still do). Regina endured a great deal of emotional trauma during that season. She lost Henry after the curse was broken, and tried to win him back by giving up magic and being some kind of “white hat”. It was a ridiculous effort on her part, because one should not allow a child, who is too immature to understand the complexities of human nature, dictate the parent’s moral compass. Just as Regina thought she was finally winning Henry back, Cora came back into her life and brought more unwanted chaos for her. Matters grew even worse when Cora framed her for a murder that never happened, and was eventually murdered by Snow White. By the way, Cora was murdered. Snow di d not set up her death in self-defense, even if many claimed she did. I was not surprised that Regina went off the deep end, following her mother’s death. Yet, no one seemed to grasp this. Many fans still don’t. Instead, they continue to demand that Regina be one thing or another. They’re so fixated by this demand that they also fail to see the moral ambiguity in the series’ other characters. Instead, they’re all focused upon what I consider this erroneous belief that Regina was badly written last season.

    Why does our society still harbor this Whore/Madonna view of women? Even other women seemed to cling to this viewpoint. Unlike men, we’re apparently not capable or not allowed to be morally complex or gray. And this opinion is especially directed at fictional characters. It’s okay to view questionable characters like Don Draper, Tony Soprano, Walter White and even Rumpelstiltskin as complex and fascinating. Many fans are even inclined to cheer characters like them. But complex female characters are frowned upon. Fans tend to view them with moral absolutism. They’re either “good” or “bad”. And even when so-called “good” women like Snow White commit a morally questionable act, fans are inclined to scream “Bad writing!”, instead of accept the idea that even heroines are not as “good” as many would like them to be.

    [Regina is no different, thus she has nothing to regret nor anything to reconcile pre/post Henry.]

    You’re confusing regret with remorse. Regina has already proven in the past (Season 2 finale) that she is capable of remorse. But she has no regrets about what led to her adoption of Henry. I have no problems with that.

    • First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to leave this comment and for your impassioned defense of a character I can tell you love. I always admire and respect passion and articulate arguments for the characters we hold closest to our hearts.

      I don’t love to hate Regina either. In fact, I don’t hate her at all. I find her fascinating, complex, and one of the most captivating characters on Once Upon a Time. I will admit to the fact that Emma is my favorite character, followed by her parents, and that may lead me to lean more towards their side in conflicts with Regina. However, Regina’s moral complexity is one of the most interesting things about Once Upon a Time—there’s no denying that, in my opinion.

      One of my favorite things about Once Upon a Time is the fact that no character is completely good or evil. Every character—especially every female character—is layered and complex in ways most female characters still aren’t allowed to be in the media. I’m happy Regina exists exactly as she does in all her loving/evil/cold/warm/light/dark glory. There aren’t enough female characters like her in the world. As you said, male antiheroes are all the rage right now, but one of the greatest things about Once Upon a Time is that ambiguity isn’t just the realm of the men; the women are often far more complex, in truth.

      I love that Regina exists, but that doesn’t mean I like everything about her as character or her actions. That’s the things about morally complex characters—we can love them for being so interesting, but we don’t always have to like what they do.

      I don’t think Season Two was written well for any character, so we’ll have to agree to disagree on that point. Sometimes I fear that the writing tries to push Regina too far to either side of the good/evil scale rather than letting her play in the shades of gray that make her such a strong character.

      I don’t always like Regina, but I’m always captivated by her, intrigued by her, and proud to watch a show where she is allowed to exist exactly as she does without having to compromise because she’s a female character. And one of the best things about morally complex characters is that they strike up debate and dialogue, which is another reason I like Regina. She certainly gets us talking!

      • Just reading through the comments here because all the commenters are very interesting, you all bring up things I don’t always see in my watching and I really enjoy that! The discussion here is 99.9% of the time really good and it’s nice to see, especially because on most websites I avoid the comments due to the horrible things many people say in them. So thank you to everyone in this post for the great discussion on Regina, you’ve definitely made me consider her in different ways!

        I agree a lot with this comment you made Katie, I think it sums up perfectly how I often feel about Regina – “Sometimes I fear that the writing tries to push Regina too far to either side of the good/evil scale rather than letting her play in the shades of gray that make her such a strong character.”

    • As you can see from my post, I am in agreement with you in Regina not having regrets and having fully capacity for remorse. I think the prevailing opinion about season 2 isn’t merely about Regina, but about the show in general. I think the plots throughout last season were muddled and meandering – for all the characters, not just Regina. A great deal of it was unfocused and as a result I was often bored if not frustrated by all the characters. It wasn’t until the latter 3rd of the season that they began building towards something purposeful, which was the pivot to Neverland. I actually think Snow was horribly written last year and the fallout for her killing Cora was completely mishandled but not because of Regina. The Regina I saw in season one was morally ambiguous, but it was clear that she had purpose and that her focus was driven by her love for Henry. What makes her interesting is that in spite of what she has suffered at the hands of her mother, she remained loyal and seeking her mother’s love to the very end. What she lacked (and frankly nearly all the characters lacked) in season 2 was consistency. They all did bait and switches from the characters the creators built in season 1. What I have most enjoyed about season 3 has been how the Neverland arc has put all these characters into a new setting and built out their characters more from season 1, not season 2. I’ve appreciated it on all fronts, Regina’s included.

    • I am really loving all these examinations of Regina. I find her character to be confusing at times and all these great discussions help me sort things out.

      Out of all the character traits Regina has shown over the 2.5 seasons of this show, the one that has stood out for me most in season 3 has been her insecurity. Snarky Regina = immensely entertaining, but insecure Regina. I think Regina is just as confused as to who she is as we all are, and you can really see her insecurities come to the surface in Neverland, especially with Emma around. The way she lashes out at Emma over her “boyfriend” hook, the way she criticizes Emma to Rumple when she left to go find Neal, the way she has to constantly state that she is Henry’s mother, her being unsure when its appropriate to use magic – you can tell she is unsure about where she fits in and is a tad jealous of Emma and the people she has in her life. This isnt just something that was brought up in this episode, its been prevalent all season. And I am not trying to say that Regina being “jealous” makes her a bitch, or a bad person, or a bad character. Jealousy is a way to recognizing the things you want in life, and I hope Regina recognizes those things and actually takes action and works towards earning those things for herself.

      Before any of the characters have been able to start their path to redemption they had to decide what it is they wanted. Rumple wanted to reconcile with Bae. All Cora wanted was to see her daughter happy and even though her methods were evil her motivation wasn’t. Hook wants to once again be a man of honor and be a part of something larger than himself. These are all clear motives we can use to interpret each of these characters actions. Regina’s motives and goals have always been a bit muddled to me. The show in the past has kinda tried to establish Regina as someone that wants to be a good mother to Henry, but I don’t think I ever truly believed that until the past few episodes. I felt like she was more being possessive of him more than anything, but I now believe her motives are true, and I am hoping that will give her character a bit more of a focus going forward.

    • I’m sorry you don’t like my choice of a photo, but this was one of the first ones to show up in a search and be from a website I could actually use. And I loved this moment between Snow and her grandson mainly because I loved seeing mom-to-be Ginnifer Goodwin (my favorite member of the Once Upon a Time cast) holding a baby. I’m sure I’ll have a photo of Regina at some point in the near future because Lana Parrilla is too beautiful not to be on my blog!

  5. I’ve been waiting to see how Regina got Henry for a while now, so I’m so glad they showed us how Henry was brought to Storybrooke in this episode (even if I felt like it was lacking a tad). I also definitely agree with your thoughts on Regina – she’s such a difficult character for me to verbalize how I feel about, because some moments I despise her/what she’s doing, and others I feel like she’s ripping my heart out in making me feel for her. I think, to be honest, that the Season 2 Regina storyline set her back a long ways (at least in my mind) in the “able to be redeemed” category, and this episode definitely added to it a little bit with that “I don’t regret anything” bit. Which, to be honest, I didn’t think was necessarily true? You can’t tell me that she hasn’t regretted anything she’s done that had pushed Henry away, not even just a little bit, though in the moment it was nice to see Pan outsmarted for a second (however I also was thinking “This is way too easy” throughout the episode, and therefore I knew something else was coming by the time we got to the end). I don’t know if the writers know what they want to do with Regina either – I feel like Rumplestiltskin has always had a clearly defined “redeemable arc,” whereas Regina’s has not been quite so clear (or perhaps hasn’t been executed quite as well by the writing? I don’t know). After Season 1 I always felt like the path to redemption for Regina was through her love for her son, so I’m hopeful that maybe now we’re back in Storybrooke again this time she will be able to be, if not a “good” person, a better person.

    I definitely agree with you though that Lana Parrilla is brilliant at playing Regina – I think it would have had to take a talented actress to get the audience to see/feel all the facets of her personality/life, and a lesser actress would not have me feeling for Regina at all.

    Despite the fact that the Henry adoption storyline was probably about half the episode, I still feel like we didn’t see quite enough of Regina’s journey. Maybe just because, to me, the scene where Regina changes her mind about returning Henry seemed to be sort of an abrupt shift (not in that she suddenly loved him, as that was pretty clear from the start I think, but that she suddenly decided that loving him was more important than his connection to Emma), and I wanted to see more of her conflict, but without really having anyone to truly talk to about her warring feelings on keeping Henry it perhaps would have been difficult to show. I did however love seeing Storybrooke in the early days again, as the way that town operated for all those years and all the varying relationships that were present fascinates me.

    About your comments on Regina having the starring role saving Henry here, I definitely agree with you – Emma is very quickly earning a spot as my favorite character on the show this season so I empathize about missing her when she doesn’t get as much screen time – but I’m also left wondering if Emma’s moment is yet to come? We now know that Pan has taken over Henry’s body, and hopefully Emma will be the one to figure it out and/or bring Henry back to his body and dispose of Pan in Storybrooke.

    Finally, I definitely agree with you about all those character moments – they were my favorite parts of the episode, and are a big part of why I watch every week. I can only hope that back in Storybrooke and away from the physical battles in Neverland, we’ll get some good family/relationship interactions between many of our characters as they start to realize something is off with Henry and settle back into their lives again.

    (Apparently I am incapable of writing a short comment haha, sorry about that.)

    • Yay for long comments from you!

      I love what you said about not getting enough of Regina’s emotional journey in the flashbacks. I was wondering why I wasn’t crying (because I usually cry in most Regina flashbacks because Parrilla is just so good), and I think it’s because there was less time spent on the emotional side of the story than I thought there was going to be. There was a lot of exposition to get through, and I think Regina’s emotional journey could have been balanced with that exposition a little better (especially because Parrilla was so good with what she was given).

      I also hope you’re right about Emma’s big moment being still to come. It seemed wrong to me for the whole season so far to be built around Emma’s journey only to have this bait-and-switch happen where the actual “Save Henry” episode was one where Regina took center stage and Emma was pushed to the background. It’s not that I don’t think Regina should have played a prominent role in saving her son, but Emma should have had a big moment, too (besides her convincing talk with the Lost Boys). I think she’s going to have her moment once she realizes something is wrong with Henry now, and I can’t wait for it.

  6. I was kind of disappointed with the story of how Regina adopted Henry – don’t get me wrong I loved seeing Regina act like a new mother i.e. not knowing how the care for a new baby and panicking that he was crying all the time etc – I thought that was very realistic. What I didn’t buy was how Regina was able to go into an adoption agency and just get a baby straight away – I just didn’t really buy it. I think there’s probably more to the story than we’ve been told – like who was the first family who tried to adopt Henry? And I still think that August must have been involved in Henry’s adoption in some way….

    I also am disappointed that Emma was kind of pushed to the side in the service of showing Regina’s relationship with Henry. Up til now in S3 it was very much about Emma leading the battle to save Henry and then at the last minute the focus is on Regina to save him – I’m not sure I like that. I’m in no doubt that Regina loves Henry but I don’t like either that Emma had no interactions with Henry after he woke up – it just annoys me that they did it that way…

    • I read the whole Emma choosing to step aside and let Regina take the lead thing as just Emma once again being the “leader” of the group and deciding that the most effective way to get Henry back was to let Regina do her thing. Emma has always been willing to hear Regina out before deciding how to proceed since they have been together in Neverland. Hook even recognized and complimented her on it back in episode 2 (“Excellent show of patience, love”).

      One of these days I am going to get through a comment without bringing up Hook I swear.

    • I agree about it feeling strange that Emma’s quest to save Henry has been the focus of this season, but the actual “Save Henry” episode was one in which she had relatively little to do and practically no interaction with her son after he was saved. My only thought is, like Leah said in a comment above, Emma will be the one who ends up saving her son once again after Pan has taken over his body. That way, both of Henry’s mothers play important roles and equal roles in saving him. They both deserve their moments with their son, and I’m holding out hope that Emma’s will come soon.

  7. I like Regina, but i am not a person that overlooks her faults i cant even say faults coz its pretty massive what she has done and this is woman who as she says, devastated a population and killed ppl and she knows that, and you dont forget that when you watch Regina and you shouldnt but you do get through it, and accept it – but never overlook in justifying those acts esp as those acts were done over and over by her. But me saying that doesnt mean i dont like Regina, i do – i just dont make excuses or whatever it is that gets ppl so defensive over her – sorry to say. I do get what Regina says when she says i dont have regrets, coz if i did then overall she wouldnt have Henry, things just wouldnt have happened like Henry to her however it happen in a way. I think its fine line there. But as we saw her mother’s love is much bigger then her dark heart (wasnt that her s3 poster)
    Can i say i loved Regina calling Neal – useless, it was funny coz from her pov, he really is indifferent to her, and is just useless and doing nothing, its like why the hell are you even here if you dont know much or helping at all lol and calls him a PERSON lol

    I do love Emma, and i do get why you said she has been leader here and she lets Regina take the reign in this one, i think she has been a leader in making them all come together, and focusing on her own journey as well, in confronting her past and hurt, and blooming of hope and something more with Hook. I think Emma felt the need for Regina to do what she does to defeat Pan due to magic and how Regina can be and let her be mother and get the job done, am a means to an end. But i do think once in SB again Emma will play a big role in saving her son from Pan.

    All i can say Pan you little shit! and i am glad this villian is proper villian, he’s lived too long to be anything else and remorseful and in the thoughts he lives in to look further.

    I love Hook, and i love him being there and whenever Emma needs help or guidance he is to be found, and Emma looks for him, asks for his advice, always at her side…. he believes in her. I love the camera angle of the whole scene of Emma talking to the lost boys esp Felix who was getting out of contol and Hook just had to Hook him down lol… but Emma’s speech just showed how far she has come in accepting she has family, ppl who love and care for her (even though Regina had to be the one to tell her this earlier) as for the camera angling i thought it was interesting having Hook behind Felix and listening with this expression, it felt like Emma was talking to him as well… note how the camera didnt have Neal anywhere in that convo just her parents, Regina abit behind and Hook… as i always said camera angling and framing are so important, it deciphers more on-screen and it has done so much more Hook/Emma scenes and equations. I loved Regina’s line you have….. a pirate who pines for you…. Hook is included in the ppl who cares and love her, and that she has Hook.

    I am one of those ppl who have been interested in seeing Hook and Henry’s interaction but even though we got little her, but hearing Hook talk to Henry and call him young sir was so great… and offering him his captain quarters and saying guest of honour – Hook i think will be great with kids, he probably can be a big kid himself. Yes he is Emma’s son but he is the boy who he has been on this mission for, came to Neverland for Emma and Henry… . Emma has brought out the man that Hook has been once and can be again, he is there and getting there, Emma has opened that part of him, that he so closed off from his losses over the years/centuries – this is man who has no-one, no ounce of family in this world/life wherus other ppl do… thats the difference.

    I also loved seeing Charming believe in Emma, that he didnt think it was possible to get hero, villian and pirate to work together but she did… cue a smile when he said pirate… i love to add Charming into the list of men who believe in Emma after Henry and Hook.

    As you wish, was a surprise because we werent expecting it… but it was nice… i mean he would pretty much do anything Emma wishes and wants.

    I am nervous and intrigued to see how Jared is going to pull of a Pan coz Robbie did a fine job of it, so you kinda want to see hints of that in Jared when acting as Pan

    Oh and dont diss the Jolly Roger… that ship has weathered so mnay storms and is taking you home (Neal started the taunting off)

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