It’s no secret that Regina is one of my favorite characters on Once, so it probably won’t come as a surprise that I loved this Ms. Mills-centric hour.
1. Starting things off, I really enjoyed the Regina/Cora scenes in the flashbacks, but my favorite moment might have been Regina attacking the Sheriff of Nottingham right after he made some seriously misguided statements about femininity. Not only did spotting the fake tattoo show her intelligence; it also made for a great moment of womanly strength.
2. I was really surprised by the reveal that Regina can never have biological children, but it totally jives with the importance she places on Henry and their relationship. Every mom loves their kid, but things like how protective she is of him (even as he becomes a teenager), and how nervous and defensive she was when Emma first came to town, make even more sense now. I also loved that when Zelena taunted her, Regina made it clear that Henry is her child. It’s never mattered to her that he’s not her flesh and blood (though I guess distantly he is), and that moment further proved it.
3. At the end of the ep, I loved Regina realizing the truth of what her mother said years ago, that she was the only one standing in the way of her own happiness. It was a huge moment for her character, to choose her own happiness over an easier path of revenge, one that, when thinking back to Season 1, seems even more momentous.
4. I also appreciated the distinction that she made about her happiness coming from being at peace in her home, and that Robin Hood is merely a part of that. When Zelena said that she was another woman defining her happiness relative to the love of a man, I almost felt like she was representing all of the OUAT haters, and Regina was responding back to them. Someone who is unaware of the nuances of this show and its relationships, who is looking to disregard its moments of female empowerment simply because it features princesses, might say that the show lives by that rule. But it’s totally the opposite: Regina is one in a long line of female characters on this show who are in relationships because they give their lives a bit of extra joy, not because that relationship is the only thing that makes them happy, and not because their self-worth is dependent on that love. So yeah, I was really, really excited that Regina (and meta-ly, the show) made that distinction.
5. Switching gears a bit, one plot twist in this hour that seemed a little odd to me (enough so that it pulled me out of the episode a bit) was Regina using Lily’s blood for the ink. It seemed like an easy out, and a bit of letdown after how much of this season has focused on Emma’s potential darkness. I also have a hard time believing that Rumple would bother to craft an elaborate plan to turn Emma dark when he could have just tracked Lily down. But hey, I don’t pretend to understand how the Dark One’s mind works.
6. I’ve never felt particularly strongly about Maleficent’s character in the past, but I really liked her in this episode. Her excitement and nervousness over meeting her daughter was really sweet and believable. I also liked that Lily’s darkness wasn’t wiped away by some magical embrace with her mother. The writers stayed very true to the cynical character that they created earlier this season, and I’m glad that her reunion with Mal didn’t change that. I’m curious to see what happens in their week together, if we’ll see Mal get back in touch with her darker side, or if she will help Lily find the good parts in herself.
7. One of Hook’s sweetest characteristics is his shyness when talking to Emma about their relationship, and I love that we got another instance of that here, when he didn’t want to be presumptuous about his role in protecting Emma’s heart. I also really liked that this ep showed their increasing ease with one another, through the extended hug when she came back to town, the very couple-y way that they sat by the water, sharing his rum, etc.
8. It was perfect that he was the one who helped her forgive her parents, not by invalidating her feelings, but by pointing out why she once loved and respected them. He was also really frank with her, concerned and empathetic of course, but also willing to show Snow and Charming’s side of things.
9. Along with that, I loved everything about the scene where Emma forgave her parents. This show always does human moments so well, despite its fantastical elements, and there’s nothing quite as human as forgiving a loved one simply because they’re well, a loved one. I also really liked Emma’s line about Snow’s actions not changing who she is, her mom.
10. I’m very intrigued by the premise for next week’s finale. It’s going to be so, so fun to see the heroes and villains switch sides, and I’m excited to see where our grey area characters (especially Regina and Hook) end up.