Subtitle: What if Kal-El was raised by the Dursleys?
I hate starting with a negative but this episode gave us a twisted version of the Superman origin in which Pa Kent turned into an abusive drunk and it is Not Okay with me. Surrounded by an otherwise pretty good episode that moved relationships and plotlines forward was the reoccurring theme of “biology makes a real parent and only real parents count”. It doesn’t matter if the adoptive parents are good (Rumple’s spinners) or bad (Zelena’s dad) or somewhere in between (Regina) and it doesn’t matter if the biological parents are good (David’s mom) or bad (Cora) or somewhere in between (Emma). In the world of Once Upon a Time, blood relation trumps everything else.
And sure, I’m reading the Superman into it because Zelena arrives by magic meteor and is found by a farmer couple and Oz looks like Krypton and Smallville looks like Kansas, but see, Superman does adoption well. Zelena’s story is basically what if Kal-El was raised by the Dursleys? and I do not find it compelling. I find it insulting.
Ma and Pa Kent-Dursley find a baby after she is deposited on their road by a magic swirling vortex.
Ma: I’ve always wanted a baby!
Pa: This one is creepy!
Ma: What’s creepy about a baby?
Pa: She came out of an Evil Magic Cyclone of Doom.
Baby: *nonverbally casts Leviosa on a tree*
Pa: She’s going to kill us with her brain!
Ma: I shall call her Zelena and she shall be mine, she shall be my Zelena.
They head off home on the yellow brick road, Emerald City gleaming in the distance.
Forward in Storybrooke, Neal is being buried.
This was a lovely scene. As each of the characters threw dirt on the coffin I felt more connected to Neal’s story than I ever had while he was alive. Which says a lot about how much I didn’t connect to him. But funerals are for the living and I felt very connected to Hook, Emma, Belle, Henry, Tink…Rumple in the flash sideways to his prison…It was a beautiful sequence.
And this – Regina watching Henry as he says goodbye to the father he barely knew and now doesn’t remember – was a beautiful moment. A+ acting and directing. But taken with the episode as a whole there is a subtext that states acting like Henry’s mother does not make her Henry’s mother. And I’m over it.
Back in Oz Zelena is grown, Ma is gone, and Pa is gross.
Zelena: I kinda hate everything.
Pa: Suck it up and smile!
Zelena: What kind of life advice is that?
Pa: Suck it up and smile or else!
Zelena: You are a horrible father.
Pa: I am not your father! You should be grateful I kept you! All I’ve ever done is hide you, treat you like a servant, blame you for everything wrong in my life, create this really disturbing dynamic between you and shaving and hate you with my eyes!
Zelena: All you ever do is drink and whine!
Pa: You made me this way! You wicked, wicked, wicked little girl!
Everything about this is horrible. I understand they want to give Zelena a sympathetic backstory but an abusive parent is nothing new on this series – almost anything else would be new! And again, her backstory is a rehash of the “real”, meaning natural or biological, parents or children are better than adoptive parents or children. I am bored with this dynamic. What if her dad was a ramped up version of Man of Steel’s Pa Kent and was strict because he feared for her life? What if her parents just wanted her to be normal? Both of these alternatives allow her parents to be wrong without being monsters.
Moving on, back at Granny’s for a memorial reception Hook wants to be Henry’s father. Or no, he wants to tell Henry stories about his father as a young lad because the show finally realized that Hook’s connection to wee Bae, and how that colors his relationship to Henry and his mother, is far more interesting than Hook and Neal fighting over Emma. It’s sad Neal had to die for that to happen but I am thrilled they got that one scene last week and I dig the Hook and Henry stuff this week.
And continuing the memorial matchmaking theme Tink catches sight of Robin’s wrist and makes a beeline for Regina.
Tink: He has the lion tattoo! He’s your True Love (™)
Regina: I know, I saw yesterday
and ran away.
Tink: Why didn’t you tell me?!
I ran away! Uh, funeral?
Tink: Hello Regina’s Soulmate!
Regina: SIGH. Robin Hood, Tinker Bell, Tinker Bell, Robin Hood.
Tink: She likes you.
Tink: She LIKE you likes you.
Robin: I’m going to … bye.
Tink: He LIKE you likes you!
Regina: What is this middle school romance plot?
Tink: Haven’t you learned anything? You ran away once already and look how your life turned out.
Regina: What do you mean how my life turned out?
Tink: Why do I even bother?
The rest of the memorial attendants are saved from love connections by the appearance of Zelena. Snow, who’d been fluttering about how scared she is because being pregnant has turned her into the most distressed damsel ever, freaks and Charming rushes to guard her belly.
Zelena: I’m not here for your baby today. I’m here for my baby sister.
Emma: Say what now?
Zelena: My little sister Regina.
Emma: Say what now?
Regina: I’m an only child.
Zelena: Cora lied.
Everyone: To be fair, odds are in her favor.
Zelena: Guns at dawn!
Emma: Say what now?
Regina: This isn’t the wild west.
Hook: How do you even know what the wild west is like?
Regina: Who died and made you the logical one?!
Zelena: It’s the wicked west! And I want everyone to be there to watch the Evil Queen lose!
Regina: I don’t lose.
Zelena: We’ll see!
Hook takes Henry to the docks and Henry drops the Captain Swan friendly nugget that his mom always pawns him off on men with boats when she’s working her cases. They have a conversation that consists of –
Hook: I knew your dad.
Henry: You knew my dad?
Hook: I just said that.
Back at Granny’s everyone gangs up on Regina for doing something awful to Zelena. Regina maintains she’s never met the woman but they don’t believe her because she’s Regina. It’s starting to sound an awful lot like you’re all on her side, she spits, and then heads off to find out what this wicked witch thinks she did.
In the past we meet up with Zelena approaching the Wizard of Oz. There are winky guards but they don’t say a word and she just walks right in. The cardboard cutout behind the curtain tells Zelena to look into his pensieve on the floor.
Zelena: What’s this?
Wizard: Your mother, Cora, sending you away.
Wizard: You couldn’t give her what she wanted.
Zelena: Who’s that?
Wizard: Your sister, Regina. The Queen your mother always wanted.
Zelena: She couldn’t have just named me ‘the queen’?
Wizard: And here is Rumplestiltskin, a powerful wizard.
Zelena: More powerful than you?
Zelena: He’s teaching her! I want him to teach me!
Wizard: I can send you there. But be careful what you wish for. Magic always comes with a price.
The Wizard hands over the silver slippers of Oz and Zelena clicks her way to the Enchanted Forest. Rumple spies her casting and, thinking she’s Regina, praises her skill. She introduces herself as Cora’s firstborn, Zelena, and a magic blood test convinces Rumple she’s telling the truth. I am still skeptical about this familial link but I am probably overthinking it.
Snow and Emma have followed Regina home and find her musing over a letter she says proves Zelena is telling the truth about their relationship.
Snow: What’s wrong?
Regina: Nothing. It’s my fight and I’ve got it handled.
Snow: Who are you, Olivia Pope?
Emma: What the hell was in that letter?
Regina runs off again and Emma and Snow make a promise to meddle again. They meet up with David, Belle and Tink in Storybrooke center and make a plan to take Rumple out of the equation. Since they can’t figure how to get the dagger away from Zelena Belle suggests trying to talk Rumple down. They agree because they are the best at dumb plans and trusting True Love (™).
Robin finds Regina in the woods still musing about the letter.
Robin: We have to start meeting up like this.
Regina: So stop stalking me.
Robin: I can’t be held responsible for lazy writing.
Regina: If you turn out to be evil I will be really disappointed.
Robin: Duly noted. What’s in the letter?
She hands it over and he reads it aloud: “Cora, dear, I finally got my hands on your first born. I never thought I’d find her, did you? Now I know why. She’s the most powerful sorceress I’ve ever encountered, even more powerful than you. Stunning, in every way.”
Robin thinks that’s sweet and wonders why it upsets her. Regina explains she’d seen that letter a hundred times before. In my darkest moments, I’d…go to it for comfort. For solace. For a boost when I needed it. Because I…I always thought it was about me.
My heart breaks for Regina.
Robin: Ah. It’s about Zelena.
Regina: Rumple thinks she’s better than me.
Robin: Why do you care what that imp thinks?
Okay, pause. This one line does quite a lot to win me over to Outlaw Queen.
I periodically get mad at the showrunners for being so obstinate about Swan Queen but if that refuses to happen at least Regina’s canon approved love interest has a good head on his shoulders and cares about her well being, mental and emotional. Please, please, please do not be a bad guy Robin Hood.
Regina: He taught me everything I know. If he thinks she’s better, I’m going to lose.
We flash back to Rumple teaching Zelena. They play hide and seek in the woods and he goads her to use her rage. She rails about how unfair her life is, that she should have gotten everything Regina did, and successfully finds Rumple. He gets set to do it again, this time using happy thoughts and she doesn’t know what that means so she asks him.
Rumple paints a picture of his Spinning Spinster Foster Moms cooking for him and how it momentarily made him feel like he mattered, he wasn’t just a lonely boy abandoned by his papa. Remember boys and girls good adoptive parenting does not measure up to being abandoned by your “real” father. If this was just Rumple’s belief, I can understand that, but since it’s a consistent theme in the story of the show as a whole, it really honestly makes my blood boil.
Forward in Storybrooke the heroes arrive at Zelena’s farmhouse so Belle can try to save Rumple’s soul. It is a lovely Rumbelle scene sadly interrupted by Zelena’s trap. Soul Sucked Rumple chases after them on Zelena’s orders to issue a warning.
Hook and Henry bond some more on the beach.
Hook: This is how you navigate using a sextant.
Henry: I don’t care, tell me about my dad.
Hook: I am telling you about your dad. I taught him to do this 300 years ago.
Hook: I knew your dad when he was barely older than you.
Henry: Does my mom know you are a crazy person?
Hook: Do you want to hear this story or not?
And in the past things are even weirder. At the Dark One’s castle Zelena is desperately trying to be all things to Rumple and because her father abused her while teaching her platitudes and forced her to do things that blur the lines between daughter and wife – like shaving him – she is totally and completely screwed up about it.
Zelena: I made you dinner just like the Spinner who raised you did!
Rumple: That’s nice, but I’m off to see Regina.
Zelena: But you don’t need Regina, you have me!!!
Rumple: You act as if I care.
Zelena: But Regina has a family and a kingdom and I have nothing but you!
Rumple: Stop blubbering, what would your dad say?
Zelena: Suck it up and smile?
Rumple: That’s the one. Try it and quick, you’re turning green with envy. Literally.
Main Street Storybrooke is set for the duel but Regina is missing. Charming tries to send the townspeople away to safety but he’s too late; Zelena and her pet Rumple arrive and get set to extract revenge on the lot of them if Regina doesn’t show up. Emma throws her own hat into the ring but Zelena knocks her to the ground easily. To her credit she pops back up ready to try again but Regina’s arrived.
Back in Fairytaleland Zelena gives more proof that she is really, really messed up by trying to murder Regina with a razor. Probably the one she uses to shave her dad. And probably Rumple. Girl has serious issues guys.
Anyway, she stabs Regina in the neck and “Regina” turns into Rumplestiltskin who explains this was a test and Zelena failed. Not because she tried to kill her sister but because she tried to kill her sister in Rumple’s name. Rumple’s big plan requires the curse-caster to sacrifice the thing she loves the most and he is convinced the thing Zelena loves the most is him, so that wouldn’t work.
Zelena: But I would have done anything for you!
Rumple: Like I said.
Zelena: This isn’t fair! All I wanted was to Single White Female my perfect little sister!
Rumple: All I want is to go to a land without magic.
Zelena: What? I could’ve done that! Any time! I have magic shoes!
Zelena: Too late! I hate you now! You could have had anything but now you get nothing! Suck on that! Dearie!
And she clicks herself away. Forward in Storybrooke the duel picks up. There’s throwing around large metal objects like in Empire Strikes Back and a battle between green and red like in Return of the Jedi. Regina pulls out her ubiquitous fireball but Zelena snuffs it out and flings her into the clock tower – notably where Cora flung Snow’s nursemaid to her death last season. Zelena goes for what she really came for: Regina’s heart. But in another call back to Cora it’s not where she expected. Zelena flies away in a huff.
Emma: Regina! Are you okay?
Regina: I’m alive.
Snow: What happened?
Regina: She wanted my heart. Good thing I didn’t bring it to the fight.
Charming: What does she want with your heart?
Regina: Well she already has your courage…my heart…these are ingredients.
Snow: But for what?
Back in the woods, Robin Hood is standing guard over Regina’s heart. Which is pretty cute and again, please don’t be evil!
Regina: I want you to keep this safe for me a while longer.
Robin: You would trust this to a thief?
Regina: I have to trust somebody. Pixie dust says you.
Robin: How did you defeat your sister?
Regina: I remembered the one thing I had and she didn’t. My heartless mother.
And then the last scene that highlights the show’s problematic stance on adoption this episode. Back at the B&B Hook assures Emma Henry had a great day and then pushes that she can’t just run away back to New York. Henry deserves to know who his father really was. I agree with Hook. But why is no one saying Henry deserves to know who Regina really is? Not even Regina? Henry has two years of real memories with Emma – the year in Storybrooke/Neverland and the year in New York. He has idk two months of real memories of Neal. He has eleven years of real memories of Regina. She raised him by herself for ten years and regardless of what you think of her parenting it matters that it happened. At least as much as Neal matters. It’s sweet that Hook cares about Bae and cares about Henry. It’s one of my favorite things from the past two episodes! But the complete omission of Henry’s right to know Regina coupled with the earlier moment at Neal’s grave that showed her positive parenting infuriates me. Add in Rumple’s disregard for the women who raised him in favor of the father who abandoned him and Zelena’s horrible upbringing and I just do not understand why this show hates adoptive parents.
Anyway, past Zelena heads back to the Wizard and discovers his secret.
That’s right, the Wizard is Walsh. I actually kind of love this. First, hurray for Rumple not being the Wizard of Oz! Second, hurray for Emma’s random boyfriend being less random! A tiny part of me might almost be hoping for a reconciliation. Third, it’s hardly a shocking or brilliant twist but I was surprised and I like to be surprised!
Zelena turns him into a monkey, explains her new goal in life is to make it so Regina was never even born, and her own transformation is complete.
So. Is there anything shady about Robin Hood? Where did Zelena learn the spell for….time travel? …murder via pensieve? chaos magicks? Whatever she’s doing, did she get the curse from Rumple or someone in Oz? Will we ever learn Walsh’s backstory of terrible parents and unfair expectations? Who is Zelena’s father? Are we completely certain Cora is definitely her mother? Are we all really so damaged by our parents?