TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.18

Once Upon a Time - Episode 3.18 - Bleeding Through - Promotional and BTS Photos (11)

Title Bleeding Through

Two-Sentence Summary After Zelena uses Rumplestiltskin to take Regina’s heart from Robin Hood (by threatening his son), she just needs Snow and Charming’s baby to have all the ingredients necessary to create a time-travel spell. A visit from Cora’s ghostly presence reveals Zelena’s ultimate goal: Kill Snow White’s mother because of her role in Cora’s decision to abandon Zelena.

Favorite Line “If she wants to kill you, she’s gonna have to go through me.” (Regina, to Snow)

My Thoughts “Bleeding Through” was more than the sum of its plot points (which were okay but not all that compelling). It was an episode that took the theme of this half of Season Three—moving on from your past and choosing happiness in the present—and used it to facilitate character growth that I’ve been waiting for since the first season of this show. If Once Upon a Time episodes were titled like Friends episodes, this one would have been called “The One with All the Character Development.” And by focusing so strongly on character development that needed to happen, “Bleeding Through” became one of my favorite episodes of this second half of Once Upon a Time’s third season.

I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Jane Espenson’s name listed as a co-writer for this episode. Espenson has a real gift for the consistent characterization, subtle (somewhat dark) humor, and surprisingly poignant moments that made “Bleeding Through” such a success.

From the start, it was clear that Regina’s growth was going to be a huge factor in this episode. Her showdown with Zelena was fun (the apples were a nice touch of humor), and I really like the fact that Lana Parrilla’s more composed and controlled style seems to rein in Rebecca Mader’s campier tendencies in their scenes together. Also, Regina’s new sense of self-awareness nicely highlights Zelena’s delusional tendencies. Even if I still don’t really care about Zelena herself, I enjoy her as a foil for Regina.

This episode did a great job of showing us rather than simply telling us how much Regina has grown. I was floored in the best possible way when Regina’s first reaction to her heart being taken was one of empathy and concern for others instead of concern for her own wellbeing. Robin’s remorse felt heartbreakingly sincere, but I loved that Regina didn’t labor over the apology and instead made him feel understood and comforted, even as she was dealing with the ramifications of Zelena having her heart. I have always loved the idea of these two characters bonding over their love for their children—because loving Henry is such a driving force in the person Regina has become, and loving Roland is one of the few defining character motivations we know about Robin so far. Robin’s face when Regina told him nothing—not even her own heart—was worth the loss of child spoke of a man seeing Regina in a new way, a more complete way. There was a selflessness to Regina in that moment of valuing Roland’s safety above her own heart that may have surprised Robin but didn’t surprise me at all. It was a huge moment of growth, but it came from a believable place.

“Nothing’s worth the loss of a child” was a quote this episode kept coming back to in different ways. (And it’s actually a quote that can be used to reflect on so many decisions and dynamics throughout the entire course of this show, but I digress.) Rumplestiltskin was a man who has suffered the loss of a child twice—once because of his own cowardice and obsession with power and once because his son sacrificed himself for his family. Zelena preyed on Rumplestiltskin’s broken heart by forcing him to threaten the life of a little boy as a way of getting to his father. It was a demonic mind game in the same vein as Peter Pan’s were back in the first half of this season. I thought Robert Carlyle did a brilliant job of showing Rumplestiltskin’s disgust with himself and helplessness in that scene. It’s not easy to walk the line between human and monster convincingly, but Carlyle does it so impressively week after week.

Zelena once again tried to prey on Rumplestiltskin’s love for his son when she told him about her time travel plans. She only knows the Rumplestiltskin of the past, but this isn’t the same man. This is a man forever changed by his son’s sacrifice. To go back in time would be to negate all that Bae died for. His loss has to be worth something. His sacrifice has to have meaning. Rumplestiltskin rejecting Zelena’s plan to reunite with his son demanded huge amounts of character growth, and it was a beautiful thing to watch. In fact, it was so beautiful that it made me forget about the disgusting seduction scene that happened right before. I know Rumplestiltskin was doing a masterful job of using Zelena to get to the dagger (which unfortunately didn’t happen), but that didn’t make that moment any easier to watch. And, nope, I still don’t feel any sympathy for Zelena—not even after the shot of her looking heartbroken at the idea of Rumplestiltskin rejecting her again. You can try to make me feel for her all you want, but I have way more fun watching the show when I choose to just see her as a straight-up villain, much like I did with Pan.

Another character I still have no real sympathy for is Cora. The flashbacks were an interesting look at her past, but I can’t say I really felt that what happened to her justified what she ultimately did. But I’m not sure I was supposed to feel that way. Overreaction appears to be a Mills family trait, and Princess Eva telling Cora’s secret may not have been “good form” (as Captain Hook would say)—but it certainly wasn’t worth killing her. However, it created a parallel to Snow telling Regina’s secret and Regina’s disproportionate reaction, and I think the whole point of Cora and Eva’s story was to show both Snow and Regina that they’re not their mothers; they don’t have to follow that path anymore.

I’ve said it before, but it felt clearer than ever in this episode: Zelena is so much more like Cora than Regina ever was. I think Rose McGowan did another good job of not only channeling Barbara Hershey’s version of Cora into her performance but also keeping us guessing about Cora’s true emotional investment in anything beyond her own desire for a better life than the one she was born into. (Now who does that sound like?) In the end, Cora gave up her child not because she was forced to but because she wanted to give herself her best chance. Twisting one of the show’s signature quotes to reflect just how blind and selfish Cora’s ambition made her was a stroke of genius. While Regina might believe that nothing justifies losing a child, her mother certainly didn’t think that way. Power was worth more to her than her own child, but I think we all knew that from seeing the life Regina lived under her thumb. (Anyone else think the fact that Cora killed Daniel so Regina could marry her ex-fiancé was super creepy?)

Ultimately, I think the biggest difference between Cora and Regina was that Cora was still—even in death—trying to gain power over a situation in any way she could, while Regina was never motivated by a lust for power. By invading Snow’s body instead of Regina’s, Cora preyed on Snow’s intense guilt complex to make Eva appear worse than she really was. Snow’s guilt complex has been a part of her character from the beginning. It’s why she told Charming back in “Snow Falls” that she ruined Regina’s life when she was just a little girl who told a secret. It’s why her relationship with Emma is so complicated. And it’s why she still thinks about what she did to Cora every day. Snow puts a lot of pressure on herself to be as pure as her namesake, and she always held her mother up as an example of the kind of purity of heart she wanted to possess. But Cora, serving as unreliable narrator, chose to show Snow rather than Regina her version of the past because she knew Snow would feel guilt over her mother’s actions in the same way she feels guilt over her own.

(Before I go on, I have to ask: How did Zelena find out about Eva and Cora? Did the Wizard show her all of this?)

Cora could never let go of what Eva did to her in the past, so she killed her. Zelena couldn’t let go of the abandonment she suffered, so she’s choosing to go back in the past and kill Eva to eliminate Regina’s existence. (It’s interesting to note that Eva ends up dead in both of these women’s plans to rectify perceived wrongs.) But this episode also showed Rumplestiltskin letting go of his past motivations (reuniting with his son) in order to be a better man in the present. And it featured the show’s central trio of women—Emma, Snow, and Regina—choosing to accept happiness in the present instead of focusing on the pain of the past or fear of the future.

Emma’s story was far from the focus of this episode, and for some viewers it might have been seen simply as reinforcement of Hook’s angst after last week’s reveal of the curse placed on his kiss by Zelena. But when looked at more closely, this was such an important episode for Emma Swan. Emma’s decision in “The Jolly Roger” to stop living in the past has made her happier, and that happiness is directed towards Hook throughout this episode, which is an interesting reversal of Hook spending so much of this season hoping to move on from his past with Emma.

I was really happy that Hook chose to stay by Emma’s side instead of pulling away from her after Zelena’s curse. Emma has had enough people abandon her, and I was worried Hook was going to become one of those people. Instead, he stuck by her. We were even given that lovely little detail of Hook going to put his hand on the small of Emma’s back before pulling at away. It was a brief moment, but it spoke to an important part of Hook’s character: His first instinct is to literally have her back, to reach out to her. And although he pulled away because his affection is literally cursed, that intimacy and support is something Emma has come to rely on. It’s part of what has helped her accept and progress at her magic. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s shown having fun with magic when she’s using it in front of him. He’s shown her he encourages all of her—even the parts of herself she was scared to embrace before. One of those parts is her magical side, but another important part he’s helped her embrace is her playful side, her happy side.

Emma and Hook’s scene at Granny’s was a moment I’ve always wanted for her character: a moment of happiness with someone else but also happiness with her true self. Her enthusiastic “Boom!” was the cutest thing in an episode that featured Roland Hood, which is no small accomplishment. Emma gave him hot cocoa with cinnamon (the Charming family drink of choice) because sharing a drink has always been his way of reaching out to her. Emma’s laughter when she took his hook was so bright, and it reminded me that this woman doesn’t often have many reasons to laugh. But she finally seems to feel ready to laugh with him, to be happy with him (which is why it’s so sad that he can’t find that same happiness with her after Zelena’s curse). That’s why his apology after getting short with her was so important. Emma needed to know that he wasn’t being short just to hurt her, and I was happy that she wasn’t backing down from the new level of intimacy between them just because he wasn’t acting like himself. She wasn’t going to put her walls back up because he was acting strangely; she was actively choosing to be open with him in the hopes of getting him to be open with her. (I wonder what would have happened had Belle not interrupted them.) In one scene, we were given the kind of beautiful character development I’ve been hoping for as an Emma Swan fan for a long time.

Speaking of character development I’ve been waiting to see for a long time, Regina and Snow’s dynamic was forever changed for the better in “Bleeding Through.” It was hugely important that Regina apologized to Belle, but in order for her to really begin to move on from her past, she needed to come to a new place of understanding with Snow. By admitting that the death of both of their mothers was far more complicated than either woman thought, Regina was forgiving Snow in her own way, which allowed Snow to finally begin to move past her crippling guilt. In doing so, Snow was able to be her best self again—quietly strong, warm, and hopeful without being cloying. And she was funny, too: That great line about Dr. Whale complimenting her placenta was delivered perfectly by Ginnifer Goodwin.

Regina and Snow will never have a perfect relationship; there’s too much water under the bridge for that. But the quiet sense of understanding that passed between them in their final scene together was beautiful. Regina protected Snow with a ferocity neither Snow nor the audience expected, and that seemed to have a profound impact on both women. They were once two girls who wanted nothing more than to be each other’s family, and that sense of shared past was present in every moment of that last scene. Parrilla and Goodwin have such a deep, layered kind of chemistry, and it was used to its fullest power in this scene. Neither woman wanted to be burdened by their pasts anymore, and that means putting away the animosity that has defined their lives for decades. I never thought I’d hear Regina say if she’d known more about their pasts, she wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to kill Snow. That kind of self-awareness has come to define Regina this season, and I am loving every second we get to watch it develop.

It’s a scary thing to choose to move on from a painful past, but it’s also liberating. And that’s what Snow’s final advice to Regina was all about. Snow wanted Regina to trust herself—her best self—and to accept that she can choose happiness (which reminded me in a lovely way of their scene in “New York City Serenade”). Regina seemed so hopeless in that moment, and Parrilla made Regina’s pain and fear feel so achingly real. But Snow is a woman defined by hope, and she gave that same hope to Regina, who accepted it without rolling her eyes or making a sarcastic remark (a big step for her). If Snow can move on from her past and take Regina’s hand, then Regina can do the same and accept the hope Snow is giving her.

Snow is right: Even without her heart, Regina can still feel deeply, which is something we’ve never seen before in this universe. At first I worried about it being a plot inconsistency, but I think there’s something to be said for Snow’s comment about Regina feeling things from her soul. I’m not sure exactly what the distinction between a heart and soul is on this show, but it seems to be linked to the fact that Robin has been referred to as a “soul mate” rather than a “true love” for Regina on more than one occasion.

Emma claimed her happiness in this episode by embracing her magic and her sense of comfort with Hook. Snow claimed her happiness by moving on from the baggage of years spent fighting Regina and the guilt she experienced over Cora’s death. And Regina claimed her happiness by walking into the woods and planting one hell of a kiss on her soul mate. Like Emma with Hook, Regina literally grabbed a moment of happiness by the collar and held on tight. Robin doesn’t seem to care who she was in the past; he cares about the woman she is right now, and that’s important for Regina as she moves on from who she once was. He also sees her heart as a thing worth fighting for, which is something she never experienced in her past with a mother like Cora. It was another in the series of this show’s fantastic fairytale kisses (I especially loved the little intimate gesture of him pushing her hair back), and I was left feeling nothing but joy for another Once Upon a Time lady choosing to be happy and, in doing so, continuing to develop into a character I am proud to call one of my favorites.

37 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.18

    • I totally agree! The second half of Season Two did no one any favors, especially Regina. I’m thrilled that this second half of Season Three is doing such great things for her character.

  1. I enjoyed this episode a lot more than I thought I would, and I’d read the spoilers from Wonderland before hand. I loved seeing Regina and Snow finally agree to leave the past behind them and move forward – and Regina even apologized to Belle which again was a long time coming. In fact I loved all the Storybrooke story lines – Emma/Hook scenes were great – we even heard Emma giggle, and looking at the promo for next week I think Emma will find out about Hooks curse sooner rather than later. The Zelena/Rumple scenes were also excellent. The flashback scenes only made me dislike Cora even more – she literally gave up Zelena because it was better for Cora not because it was better for Zelena. Also I didn’t think what Eva did was that bad – ok it wasn’t the nicest thing – but at the end of day Cora was trying to trick Leopold into thinking that Zelena was his, and Cora did have the chance to be honest but she didn’t take it so I really have zero sympathy for Cora and I definitely don’t think it was a big enough motivation for killing Eva. I am uber excited abut the next 4 episodes, I can’t believe we only have 3 wks left!

    • Thank you so much for the comment, and I agree with so many of your thoughts! I agree that Hook’s curse is almost certainly going to be revealed next week, but I’m ready to be surprised as to the particulars because this half of the season keeps surprising me, which I wasn’t sure the show could do anymore. I honestly can’t believe there’s only three weeks left of this season, which means each episode is going to be even more intense!

  2. Your review summed up all I was thinking. I’m so glad you talked about how playful and happy Emma was! I was so delighted to see this new side of her. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that happy. It speaks a lot to her character growth in that she was able to stay lighthearted in the midst of another very difficult situation with Zelena and like you said with Hook not acting like himself. Speaking of Hook, it was so sad to see him so down. Colin played his sadness perfectly. You could see it in his eyes and could just tell he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. And I’m so glad he didn’t distance himself from Emma.
    I also loved how Regina’s growth and character development was showcased throughout this entire episode. I noticed right away how much she had changed when her and Snow first saw dead Cora in the room and Regina immediately stuck out her arm in front of Snow to protect her. It was wonderful to see Regina’s kindness and protectiveness directed at Snow throughout the whole episode. Snow and Regina’s scenes together were so great and spoke volumes to how far both have come. Regina kissing Robin first also made me realize how similar her and Emma are. They both needed to let go of the past and take that risk. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship grows.

    • Thank you so much for this very thoughtful comment! Like you, I was excited beyond belief to see Emma so happy. It was especially lovely to see her hold on to that happiness and sense of confidence in herself (and her ability to connect with Hook) even when she was in situations that would have normally caused her to put her walls back up (the chaos surrounding her, him not being himself). It showed how much she’s grown, and—I hope it’s not too weird to say because she’s fictional—I felt so proud of her. I felt that same sense of pride in Regina’s growth. To see both of these women choosing to let go of who they were and become someone happier and more hopeful is a beautiful thing.

  3. This may turn out to be one of my favorite episodes ever just because of Regina’s scenes. IMO, they are doing an extremely skillfull redemption arc with Regina, and I love it so much. I understand that she’s done horrible things and I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to like her, but as someone who has wanted Regina to redeem herself and have friends and a family, it’s really great. They are making it clear that Regina is doing these things not because she expects to get something in return – Henry – but because she wants to, because she’s tired of feeling empty alone. I’m glad that there are people around her who are willing to take her attempts at face value. That scene with Snow has been coming for a long time (even longer in-universe, I imagine) and I think those two are going to be a good foundation for each other as the years go by. Regina’s scene with Belle was great too – Belle’s writing has actually been very stellar lately imo, the best it’s been in a VERY long time.

    I was so nervous about what Regina’s reaction to her heart being gone would be, and I was so happy that there wasn’t a whole lot of OTT drama about it. They have to get it back, but this wasn’t a double-cross or anything like that – it was all Zelena’s doing, it wasn’t Hood’s fault, and Regina probably would have done the same thing if it had been Henry in jeopardy. I like too that you got to see a glimpse of the kind soul Regina started out with, even if she’s only now starting to get in touch with it again (I also love anything with Regina having even a little bit to do with the subject of kids, because I think deep down she really enjoys them and has a lot to offer a child – again, kind soul). You saw it again with her protecting Snow and the baby. Snow and Regina are connected by a lot of things, a lot of them bad, but I think this ep showed how badly both of them want to move past the reasons why and just enjoy the fact that they ARE connected. Snow thought of Regina as a mother once, and I think some part of Regina did think of her as a daughter, which is why Snow’s “betrayal” was so bad for her (not just because she lost Daniel). I hope they can somehow translate that into being equals and friends now.

    And Hood and Regina – I myself am a little “uhhh” about how quickly things are seeming to move, but mostly because I worry it will end badly for Regina again. I was so relieved when it turned out Hood didn’t willingly give up her heart, but I’m not going to relax over Outlaw Queen for awhile yet. But if Hood stays alive and with Regina? I’m all for it, especially if it means Regina feels like she finally has a fresh start and a chance at real love again. And I would LOVE it if we found out that Regina was special, that her ability to love is so deep it doesn’t just stay in her heart, it infuses her very soul. There’s something compelling to me about the thought of the Evil Queen being, at her heart, a woman so capable of love that it makes up her soul, not just her heart (especially since not even Snowing, the epitome of love on this show, can say they have that).

    As for Cora and Zelena – I don’t have any sympathy either. Regina and Hook were both shown to be good people before circumstances – and then later on their own bad choices – put them down a bad path. Both of them are trying desperately to get back onto the right one. Even Rumple’s motives are supposed to be sympathetic – he was a coward before he went bad, yes, but being a coward doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s all the things he did to get revenge on the people who tormented him that put him down that path. But Zelena and Cora and Pan, the resident villains? There is no real proof they were ever truly good people; none of the flashbacks we got with them have convinced me, anyway. Pan was a coward and self-centered from start to finish. Cora has shown herself repeatedly to be only interested in herself, her own standing and power. Her leaving the baby and saying “MY best chance” is very telling, because it’s such a contrast to the Charmings and Emma, who gave up their own babies to ensure they would have a good life. I don’t expect anyone to keep a baby they don’t want, especially since the tryst happened under false pretenses, but Cora’s actions later proved that she has always been and will always be selfish and self-centered. Which means I have very little sympathy for her, especially considering the damage she did to other people’s lives, especially Regina’s. IMO Zelena was the lucky one, to have gotten away. But the thing is, Zelena never really got away, because I think she’s exactly like her mother, even though Cora didn’t raise her. My issue with Zelena is simply that, in comparison to these other characters, her motives are weak. All of the issues that she has – abandonment issues, jealousy, her twisted feelings for Rumple – are all things other characters have felt, and they are all both more sympathetic to begin with and less ridiculous in their dealing with those issues. She is the perfect foil for Regina but comparing her to Regina really does show just how out of control she is. And I really do wonder if she was ever a good person at all, or if there was always this “wickedness” in her, like her adoptive father said.

    Switching to Emma – I really enjoyed the diner scene this episode. How often have we ever seen Emma smile and be giggly in this entire show? It’s not something that happens to her very much, and to see it happen because of her magic, something that she resisted so much at first, is great. Emma is growing too, maybe not as hugely as Regina, but she’s slowly changing into the “best version” of herself like Regina is, imo. I really do believe Emma can only be happy if she accepts all parts of herself, and we’re finally getting to see it. The fact that she was playing with Hook when was doing it was just icing on the cake for me. I was hoping he’d tell her about the curse this episode, but from the looks of the preview, it won’t be a secret for much longer. I hope that one day we get to see Emma playing around with her magic with Hook and they’re both smiling and happy and playful about it, because you know if he wasn’t so freaked out, Hook would have been having a blast too. And I’m with you on her insisting that he tell her what was wrong; she’s not going to just sit back and let him withdraw from her now, not after all they’ve been through. Even if she didn’t have feelings for him, she’s smart enough to realize that Hook acting like that around her = something is very wrong.

    Overall, I enjoyed the character growth and still do not care about Zelena beyond what her antics are doing to other people’s relationships!

    • Thank you for leaving such an articulate and insightful comment! I really liked what you said about Regina wanting to be a better person for her own sake rather being motivated by Henry. I think her love for him is still a huge motivating factor in her best actions (like understanding why Robin had to give up her heart), but she’s not trying to be better because she thinks it will “earn” her Henry. For all she knows, he’ll never know her as his mom again. That’s what makes her decision to grow as a person even more impactful; she’s changing for herself.

      I can definitely understand some concern about Regina and Robin because things seem to be progressing very quickly, but I actually found this kiss less rushed than her giving him her heart. Regina is a passionate person, and, like you, I think her ability to feel so deeply that it’s a part of her soul is going to be very important later on. Everything Regina has done has been motivated in some way by love or by its loss; she’s a woman who is often driven by emotion before anything else. I never really thought about that until this episode, but I’m interested to see how the comment about feeling things with her whole soul versus just her heart ends up playing out as the season progresses.

      “But the thing is, Zelena never really got away, because I think she’s exactly like her mother, even though Cora didn’t raise her.” – This was so beautifully stated that I just need to acknowledge it. And I agree; Zelena’s motivations have always felt weak to me. I’m invested in what she’s done to the characters I love, but I’m not invested in her. I don’t see that as a problem necessarily because she’s facilitating growth for characters who need it, but I still see her as more of a plot device than a compelling villain.

      I also second your hope for a future scene with both Emma and Hook getting to enjoy her magic because it would be so much fun!

  4. Oh how do you solve a problem like Zelena… I am with you. How did she claim the knowledge of her backstory with regards to her mother abandoning her. It’s a gaping hole in the story that I hope gets back filled in the year that is missing from their lives. Beyond that I am with you about not being concerned about her background because I simply don’t care about Zelena as a character. Perhaps it bothers me more than Neverland and Peter Pan because it comes so hotly on the heels of that arc. I think it is particularly stark when you watch her scenes with Rumple. Carlyle’s deft acting turn in this episode so marvelously displayed the menacing capacity of the dark one and that he is clearly not in control of those choices. It’s a balancing act I am really enjoying and for all the huff and puff of Zelena, it was worth it to see the contemplation of Rumple choosing to be better, to honor his son and not his quest, to honor the person Belle loves and sees. It was a satisfying and somewhat surprisingly decisive choice from a character we’ve spent two and a half seasons hedging his bets.

    I am with you on Cora. She’s very one-note and I’ve always seen her more as a plot device than a character. This backstory affirmed that and I loved your take on why she chose to invade Snow as an unreliable narrator. It’s true that unlike the choices of Emma, Regina, Snow and even Rumple Cora’s was decisively a choice of selfish need. She needed to be more than what life had laid out and Zelena was a road block to that happiness/power so she abandoned her. It’s very cut and dry. I do however appreciate that the back story did offer a parallel of mothers for Snow and Regina to learn from and make a new set of choices. When you know better, you do better. I love that Regina did this in the absence of the knowledge of what happened with Cora and Eva. She did it because of her own free will and that resilience that Snow reminds her is intrinsic to her character.

    “Nothing’s worth the loss of a child” This really was the essence of this episode (which I loved your characterization in Friends speak). That the loss of a child centered on Regina I thought was brilliant. Because she is living that loss in front of her child right now. I believe her reality in this Storybrooke elevates her decision making and empathy because she has a unique circumstance living with Henry not having his memory. I think it taps a vulnerability in Regina that allows her to find forgiveness, which made her burying the hatchet with Snow all the more poignant. Finding that forgiveness opens her to the space that allows Snow’s words to begin that self-forgiveness that gives her the fortitude (even in the absence of a heart) to return to the woods and kiss Robin.

    As for the soul mate/true love quandary. I think it may be as simple as Daniel being her true love (and you only get one of those) where as a soul mate is the place reserved for love that is flawed. Love that is seen through the prism of cynicism, disappointment and loss.

    And just food for thought. As I watched this episode I kept thinking how interesting it is that Storybrooke was the place where Regina intended to destroy everyone’s happy endings and instead it has become the place of her own redemption.

    • You never fail to make me think even more deeply about this show with your comments, and I love that.

      I don’t mind Zelena when I’m not being asked to think too much about her, which is why I think I found this episode so successful; she was used sparingly. And when she was used, it was to highlight just how much Regina and Rumplestiltskin have grown. I feel the same way about her and Cora: They’re plot devices (another similarity that mother and daughter share). It doesn’t excuse the writers for not making them more complex, but I’m okay with that as long as they’re being used to create character growth for the characters I actually do care about.

      Your thoughts on Regina living with the loss of a child were beautifully put. I think Henry’s presence without his memories is a reminder to her that her past darkness cost her dearly. Regina had to give up being his mother to pay the price for casting the Dark Curse, and I feel like her desire to be a better person was motivated by the emptiness she felt when looking at the result of all those years spent on that dark path. I think Regina can now see what a waste all of that hatred, fear, and anger really was, and that’s allowed her to grow by leaps and bounds.

      Your take on the soul mate/true love differentiation is very interesting. I do think that “true love” has a more idealistic tone than “soul mate,” so the latter term does fit better for the relationship between two people who have loved before with the idealism of first love but are choosing to love again with hearts that are more damaged than they were the first time around. (Seems like a fitting description for Hook and Emma too, now that I think about it.)

      “And just food for thought. As I watched this episode I kept thinking how interesting it is that Storybrooke was the place where Regina intended to destroy everyone’s happy endings and instead it has become the place of her own redemption.” – This is a fantastic observation, and it’s actually making me emotional to think about it.

      • I am now kinda obsessed with thinking about the differences between “soul mates” and “true love”. Thanks a lot you two. When I read Nicademus’ comment about soul mates my mind also went to Hook and Emma (like it tends to do with very little prompting) but I have to say that I dont really see Neal and Milah as “true loves” because they didnt exactly bring out the best in Emma and Hook. Whereas I think that Daniel, and I am going to assume Marian, did bring out the best in Regina and Robin. But then, if you only get one true love, and Henry has already been established as Emma’s, does that even mean its possible for Hook and Emma to be each other’s “true love”? I do not know. Who knows if the writers do either. Which reminds me, one of my favorite quotes of this episode was Regina’s comment to Belle about Zelena not being able to control her with her heart because she “protected it from that”. The way Lana delivered that line like it was the most obvious thing in the world was a perfect little self deprecating jab at the show’s tendency to just “magically” explain things away when they need to.

        • I think Milah and Neal could both be considered true loves, not because they brought out the best in Hook and Emma but because at the time they were together those characters wanted to be better people. Hook’s love of Milah was the truest part of himself and Emma as well when she loved Neal. It was also the space where both allowed themselves to be vulnerable to another human being. I think it works in that frame. Was their true love magical? No, that is reserved for Snow and Charming because they represent the combination of the two aspects of True Love — wanting to be better and bringing out the very best in each other. There is a nobility within true love, even when it isn’t fully realized. I think that can be said for both Emma and Hook. Especially because for both – it is the first time they allowed themselves to believe in love.

          However, I am TOTALLY with you about Lana’s throw away line with Belle when she told her she protected it. It was as if she was saying “Girl please, this isn’t my first rodeo curse”. What I love about it is that it clearly shows that Regina’s contrition, while sincere, doesn’t change who she is fundamentally. She is a powerful person in the mythology of the show and making better decisions doesn’t take that shrewd cynicism that has served her well.

          • The whole True Love thing is quite interesting. Actually, only three TLs have been officially confirmed so far (by TL’s kiss creating magic): Snow and Charming, Aurora and Phillip, and Emma and Henry. Maybe Belle and Rumplestiltskin too since her kiss started to transform him back to ‘no-Dark-One’ in the EF, but they’ve kissed many times afterwards and Rumple has not lost his powers so it does make me wonder…
            Anyway, as far as I know (or remember at this moment), it has never been confirmed that Neal was Emma’s TL, or Daniel was Regina’s; not even that Milah was Hook’s. They might believe so, even have said so, but it was never confirmed. And I think in the particular case of Emma and Regina there could be a third distinction to add to True Love and Soulmate, and that is First Love.
            Also, does anyone remember if they have stated at any point that you can only have one TL in your life?

            • This comment thread is amazing (even more than usual) and exactly what I’d hoped for! You are 100% right about it never being confirmed (at least on the show, I don’t know about comments from writers/actors) that Neal, Daniel, and Milah were the respective significant others’ True Loves. Belle said something in “Quiet Minds” about the swan keychain/necklace coming back with Neal because it was a symbol of True Love, but I’m not sure we were supposed to take that as confirmation of anything. I actually thought it came back with Neal because Neal was the one who wanted to believe they were True Love more than Emma did at that point.

              I think “First Love” is an important classification for both Regina and Emma, and it’s actually something I’m planning to write about in an essay this summer, as long as the rest of this season plays out the way I’m thinking it will. 😉 I don’t think it’s ever been stated that you can only have one True Love, and I personally don’t think that’s the case. By showing that parental love is a form of True Love, I think it’s possible for someone to have different True Loves that represent different kinds of love (familial, romantic, and maybe even friendship). But I suppose we won’t know for sure until Emma or any of the other characters with a confirmed True Love have the chance for a True Love’s Kiss with someone else.

              • I think my assumption that you only get one ‘true love’ came from Charming’s statement “True love isn’t easy, but it must be fought for because once you find it, it can never be replaced.” But perhaps this is assuming that person is still living? As in, as long as that person is in the world, you wont be happy unless you are with them? Its hard for me to see Neal and Emma as true loves, because really, there wasn’t a lot of fighting going on for Emma’s sake back in the day (sorry Neal). Maybe more so Hook and Milah and Regina and Daniel.

                When I was thinking about this, I got kinda sad about how often a character’s love has been taken advantage of in this show. You had Tamara deceiving Neal, you had Walsh deceiving Emma, you have Rumble preying on Zelena (and there are probably others). These plot points really arent given a huge amount of exploration, but still that’s a really messed up thing to do.

  5. As you know, I was one of the lucky few that got to see this episode early at WonderCon. I have to say that getting to see an episode spoiler free is a treat this west coast girl with zero self control ever gets, and the fact that this episode had such great moments made it all the more sweet. Also, watching this episode in a room full of other fans and seeing their reactions was a ton of fun. Can Jane Espenson co-write every episode? Her two in 3B are by far my favorite. I feel like she has an ability to weave together different characters so well. Her episodes always have great balance to them. Not to mention are always darkly hilarious.

    You discussed all of the character growth in this episode beautifully, so I will just add a few thoughts:

    -You talk about Cora’s ghost communicating with Snow as a way to manipulate Snow’s opinion of Ava, but when I watched the episode I saw it as nothing more than thats the way the spell worked…you needed the murder to communicate with the dead because they were the one with that bond, that that was the only person Cora was able to have that mind meld with. I never really thought that Cora was trying to hurt Snow, just that Regina was misinterpreting what Cora was trying to do. But I like your take on it too.

    -I kinda (really) love the fact that Cora removed her own heart because she saw love as a weakness and she didnt want anything getting in the way of her ambition. Meanwhile Regina doesn’t even have her heart and she is refusing to let it stop her from from trying to embrace love.

    -I am glad that Hook is still physically by Emma’s side despite his brooding, but man its really hard for me to watch brooding Hook. I really hope that guy gets something to be happy about soon. I also want to say that its probably easy for Hook to come off as “unnecessary” in 3B, but I feel like thats kinda the point. He doesnt have any obligation to be there. But I also think there is much more to it than just wanting to be with Emma romantically. Even if he feels like he cant be with Emma romantically because of his curse (you suck Zelena), or even if he feels that he doesn’t deserve her, he knows being here and helping her is the only thing giving him a purpose. As the last episode showed, he cant go back to being a pirate, because he truly doesnt want to go back to being a pirate. It comes down to the fact that Hook likes who he is when he is around Emma, and he doesn’t like who he is without her (whats that about true love making you the best version of yourself again?). I think people tend for forget that Hook’s actions and motivations are about more than just “winning Emma”, they are about letting go of the past and being true to the person he knows he wants to be. I am seriously craving some Regina/Hook interaction right now. Regina and Hook started out season 3 in the same boat (literally) and I would love to see a nice tidy bow put on that plot point before the season is over. (side note, I told myself no talking about Hook because this episode is clearly not about him but I seriously cant stop myself).

    -I will never ever get tired of this show twisting its own quotes for dramatic effect. Also, Emma’s quote “I thought our family were the good guys” has to be one of my favorite of the show. It reminded me of a great quote from one of my favorite but kinda obscure movies, ‘Zero Effect’ “There aren’t any GOOD guys. You realize that, don’t you? I mean: there aren’t EVIL guys, and INNOCENT guys. It’s just – it’s just… It’s just a bunch of guys.” Truth.

    • I would just like to say again how terribly jealous I am that this was the episode you got to experience with a roomful of fellow fans. That had to be a lot of fun!

      I loved your observation about Cora removing her own heart because she believes that love is weakness, but Regina believes love is so important that she goes after it even without her heart. I’ve never been more proud of Regina. (There I go again, talking about these characters like we’re friends.)

      I’m with you on desperately wanting another moment of Hook/Regina interaction. Their arcs have paralleled each other’s brilliantly this season, and I’ve always loved the brief moments we’ve been given with them interacting. Their conversation on the Jolly Roger in the season premiere was crucial for setting up both of their arcs, and it would be fitting for them to get a scene that compliments that as this season comes to a close.

      As you talked about Hook’s motivations being so much more than just winning Emma’s affections, I found myself nodding in agreement throughout. It’s not just about Emma; it’s about Hook liking himself better when he’s a part of the group she welcomed him into. Helping the woman he loves makes him feel like he has an honorable purpose, which gives him more satisfaction than the pirate’s life he tried to go back to.

      I had to laugh when I read your side note about Hook because that’s how I felt when I was editing this review and saw how much I’d written about Emma. Sometimes we just can’t help who our writing muses attach themselves too. 😉

  6. So many good points in your review and all the awesome comments here too!
    The twisted “my best chance” line made me despise Cora, although a moment before when she talked about life being cruel and full of betrayal I felt bad for her, although it also made me think about what kind of mother she would be believing that.

    I had an attack of feelings watching the Charmings rub and hold her baby bump so protectively (btw IRL I think Ginnifer’s having a girl – just wanted to get my guess/old wive’s tale based deduction on record!).

    I hadn’t processed that Cora almost married the man she later threw her daughter at. I’m going to have to go watch her episodes again. I assume Leopold didn’t know who Regina and Cora were when he was looking for a new mother for Snow.

    It was a shame that Hook was so troubled when Emma was having so much fun with her magic. I can’t help but think that flirty Hook would have had fun with it too, if he hadn’t been brooding so much. But I’m glad he isn’t avoiding Emma. And she got a tiny break this week – a moment of happiness while other characters were busy with crap.

    Regina’s character development has been awesome. I’m so glad she’s been able to move on from her hatred of Emma and Snow. They have a lot in common. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Regina and Robin, especially what went on in the missing year (do they have a sense of having been together in a time they can’t remember?) The kiss was hot. I’m so glad that she took the risk and went to find her happiness. It was an amazing episode for Regina. Henry would be so proud of her if only he remembered her!

    And although I didn’t want to see Rumple ravishing Zelena to get his dagger back, her (initially) ecstatic reaction to his advances suggests that she REALLY needs to get LAID!

    • I’m so happy you’re all caught up now, so you can join the fun discussion we have here every week! 😀

      I have a gut feeling you’re right about Ginnifer and Josh’s baby in the real world, but I have a hunch that Charming might get his boy on the show. 😉

      Your last sentence might be the funniest (and most truthful) thing I have read today!

  7. Rumpel has actually lost his son THREE times, because he thought Tamara had killed Neal.
    After watching the scene with Rumpel and Zelena… well, I felt like washing my eyes out with acid. But I actually did feel a pang of sympathy for Zelena, since no one loves her. But that’s really her fault, since she only cares about herself and getting “the life she deserves.”

    I felt like Regina and Robin’s relationship progressed really fast, but that’s probably because Hook and Emma’s relationship is SO SLOW. Hah. But maybe Regina and Robin have a sense of familiarity or something. Poor Robin, though! He couldn’t stop apologizing about losing her heart! And then Regina’s sort of, almost, dismissing it to ask if everyone was alright was great; especially her line about nothing is worth the loss of a child. I mean, this is the same woman who sent Hansel and Gretel (and more children before them) to the witch’s house! I’ve always felt sorry for Regina, but at times I would really hate her. This character development, this change in Regina, is so beautiful because I’ve been wanting it to happen for so long.

    I laughed so hard when they were having the seance, and Snow got startled and it was just that Hook had bumped the table.
    I think Emma will find out about Hook’s curse in the next episode for sure. Judging by the promo, Zelena is impatient that Hook hasn’t kissed Emma yet; so she goes after Henry.
    Speaking of Henry, when will he finally get his memories back?! Poor kid is going to be so heartbroken that his dad is dead, and he didn’t get to say goodbye.

    Anyway, your review is great as always!

    • Thank you so much! I’m happy you pointed out my oversight about the Tamara incident with Neal; Rumplestiltskin did lose his son three times. I suppose I was just trying to forget Tamara and Greg ever happened. 😉

      I’m surprised that Robin and Regina are progressing so quickly in their relationship, but I have to think their time together in the Enchanted Forest is bringing them together more quickly than would happen with anyone else. And I always find it funny when people talk about Hook and Emma’s relationship progressing so slowly because that’s totally the case in the show’s universe, but this is lighting-speed when compared with some couples I’ve rooted for in the past (aka the nearly five seasons I spent waiting for Castle and Beckett to get together on Castle).

      I think you’re right about Hook’s curse; Emma is almost certainly going to find out in the next episode. And if Henry doesn’t get his memories back before being taken by Zelena, there’s going to be a lot of explaining to do!

  8. I wish I had more time to properly comment on this episode and on your thoughtful review, but Real Life is a… (wicked) witch. With a capital B. ;P

    Anyway, not much to add to everything you said. It was a fantastic episode for me as a Regina fan, and every interaction with Snow was perfectly done, and something I really wanted to see; we’d had a glimpse in the EF scenes but I was hoping the writers would develop it a bit more and I was not disappointed.

    I didn’t even mind that much the RH snogging; it didn’t do much for me, mind (probably because I’m terribly biased, I found the first kiss a bit awkward, in a “right-Sean-let-me-angle-my-head-this-way-you-go-like-this-so-we-don’t-knock-our-teeth-out-ok-ready-here-we-go” calculated kind of way; the second one was a smidge better, but not even close to, for instance, Regina’s and Graham’s kiss in S1, or even Emma’s and Hook’s kiss this season) but I was glad that Regina went for what she thinks will make her happy. It is true that she doesn’t have her heart, and that a parallel could be drawn with Graham in S1 when he said he couldn’t feel anything; but even Graham had some sort of reaction when he kissed Emma at the end of “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” and it seems like the writers have always hinted at Regina’s heart being special in some way (maybe just metaphorically, but she does feel “too much”) so who knows. They have definitely taken special care to refer to Robin as Soulmate and not True Love, and that distinction will probably be important for the story.

    I’m still mad at Hook for not telling Emma about his curse, but Colin O’Donoghue was perfect in his brooding and more so when faced with Emma’s giddiness, which was nothing short of adorable. BOOM! =)

    I missed Henry in this episode, it was a bit weird that he didn’t appear at all.
    I didn’t care much about how Zelena just knew who had Regina’s heart and where to get it (I imagine something happened in the missing year that made Zelena connect the dots and go for RH), just like she seems to know about Cora’s past (she could have learnt that in Oz but still, a bit flimsy). We already knew, from “The Miller’s Daughter”, that young Eva was a spoiled brat.
    Cora and Leopold being engaged though was a bit forced and a lot creepy IMO; I would expect from Cora’s selfishness and lack of heart that marrying her daughter to her ex-fiancé wouldn’t really be an issue, but Adam Horowitz confirmed over Twitter that Leopold knew who Cora was when he proposed to Regina so that was a new level of icky that I was not ready for. The “Whites” keep getting more and more tainted.
    The only real complain I have is the line that was written for Emma (but that the Emma I’ve come to know and love would have definitely not said) after the whole Cora-reveal: “I’m guessing this is where your help ends.” Really? This coming from the person who’s always given Regina a chance at proving herself, who’s even defended her against her own parents, who ‘can always tell when she’s lying’, who’s been working side by side with Regina for the whole season, and who just shared a family dinner with her? Nope, I don’t buy it. It was an inconsiderate thing to say and out of character for Emma and the relationship she and Regina have consistently been building since the start.

    Still, a very good episode. Just like all those that allow for development through conversations between the characters. Here’s hoping we get more soon!

    • I totally understand real life being a wicked witch, and I hope things get calmer/better soon. I’m so happy you took some time to comment, though, because I was eagerly anticipating your thoughts on this episode!

      I echo your belief that Regina feeling “too much” is going to end up being important. I think it ties into her resilient heart. No matter what her heart has gone through, it’s never stopped working. She’s never closed herself off from feeling anything. I’m not saying the emotions she felt were always positive, but she never took out her own heart (literally or metaphorically) to stop herself from feeling—until she lost Henry and Snow convinced her not to. She’s always been driven by love, even when it may not have been the healthiest driving force. That’s always been something I related to in Regina’s character; she feels things so strongly—for better or worse (the former being much more the case nowadays).

      I can understand your frustration with that line of Emma’s. To be honest, I totally missed that in my first viewing of the episode. Sometimes I feel like they give Emma lines they see as throwaway lines that make her sound much colder and more inconsiderate than she really is.

    • Red, I am with you that line for Emma stuck out like a sore thumb. I took issue with it as well because the arc of these two has come from deep divide and cynicism to a common ground and new found trust. It undermined that reality that we as viewers experienced and I wish they had thought better of it in editing and left it on the cutting room floor or at a minimum had Charming there to say it instead given his disbelief in Regina’s motives has always been a part of his character. It would have still been a stretch given season 3’s character movement, but it wouldn’t have fallen as flat as it did coming from Emma.

      • Exactly! At least they had Regina call Emma “Ms. Swan” to show she was annoyed by the implication, but I still think she let her off too quickly.

  9. I have a feeling that they are moving the Regina/Robin romance along so quickly to establish that they do love each other, and that either by the end of the season or definitely next season that they will be separated or there will be some barrier to them being together – I could see Zelena doing something to keep them apart as a final way to get back at Regina.

    • I’ve also been feeling more and more concerned about this couple being the one to end this season in some sort of state of angst—simply because their relationship has progressed so nicely up to this point. I don’t want it to be anything insurmountable because Regina deserves her chance at happiness now more than ever, but I do think it’s not going to be smooth sailing for this couple. But when has it ever been smooth sailing for any of this show’s main couples? 😉

  10. I finally had time to read your recap, yay!

    I definitely agree with you about Zelena, I feel absolutely no sympathy for her – and to be honest, it’s sort of refreshing to have a villain that doesn’t follow the typical “tragic backstory makes you feel horrible for them and they’re only bad right now because of their past” sort of thing as that seems to be the popular way to write villains these days. Zelena had a horrible past, yes, but there is also something in her that’s inherently bad – or wicked, as she might say :p

    (Also, totally with you on being grossed out by the seduction of Zelena to get the dagger – to me she and Rumple have had a really weird sexual/aggressive vibe from the start though, like how she acted when first shaving him, and perhaps that’s what Rumple picked up on and then used it to his advantage, but yeah I was making a scrunchy face at my screen during it.)

    My favorite part of this episode was that it showed how far Regina’s come. She has grown as a character so much through this series, and I’m really enjoying watching her growth unfold. I also totally agree with Aquamine-Amarine that the second half of Season 2 was not great for Regina’s character, so I’m glad that with Season 3 they’ve gotten her characterization and growth back on track. I’m really enjoying her relationship with Robin Hood (even though I feel it’s progressing quite quickly), which is a delight to watch, and I am really interested to see what else the writers do with these two and their ability to bond over their kids. I’d love to get some more Robin Hood backstory, perhaps.

    Finally, as a bit of a sidenote, what I love about Once Upon A Time so much is that, for the most part, they don’t ever forget about what they’ve already shown us. Characters react to each other in ways that make sense for their backstories. I loved that they had Belle react so negatively to Regina even though at the same time I was also going “…but she’s trying to do something to save the whole town, Belle, even if you don’t help Regina for Regina’s sake you should help for everyone else’s sake.” It’s just nice to know that the writers don’t forget about the bad things their characters have done and the way that affects ALL the relationships on the show, not just the central few, as on other shows they probably would’ve not had Belle say anything at all.

    • I’m so happy you had time to read and comment because I always love hearing your OUaT thoughts! 😀

      I’m still trying to figure out what we’re supposed to think of Zelena’s backstory, but I keep landing on the same point as you: She always had something dark (wicked) in her. She is a character I find it impossible to feel sympathy for because she ultimately had a much better chance for a good life than Regina did. Yes, Regina grew up with money and power, but she also grew up with abuse and torment at her mother’s hand. I just want Regina to shake her and tell her that she was lucky she was abandoned by Cora and taken in by a couple where at least the mother seemed to genuinely care for her.

      Your plea for more of Robin’s backstory is one I share. I love what Regina’s interactions with him have brought out in her character, but I wish I knew more about how they’re affecting him. I like what I know about him so far (probably because I love any and all Robin Hood stories), but I’d love to learn more!

      Your side note about Belle is something I appreciated as well. In order for us to believe a character wants to be a better person, we need to see them acknowledging the bad things they’ve done, which means the writers need to acknowledge those things as well. Their ability to state within the show that these characters have things to make amends for (and their execution of those characters actually making amends for their bad behavior) has been a strong feature of the writing for Season Three in general—but especially with Regina.

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  15. I felt sorry for Zelena. The pathetic nature of her antipathy toward Regina makes me realize how truly insecure she really is. That is sad. What is even sadder is that no one possessed the compassion to realize how screwed up Zelena was. I didn’t like her very much. But I felt sorry for someone that insecure.

  16. [“I’m still trying to figure out what we’re supposed to think of Zelena’s backstory, but I keep landing on the same point as you: She always had something dark (wicked) in her.”]

    Everyone has darkness within themselves. This is nothing new.

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