Review: Once Upon a Time 5.19

As a longtime fan of Regina and Zelena’s complicated sibling dynamic, I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. Happily, it exceeded even my high expectations, and I was especially impressed by the flashback scenes.

It was heartbreaking that neither woman remembered what happened there, especially because they were the only truly nice moments that they’d shared their entire lives. The two actresses playing young Zelena and Regina completely sold me on their quick sisterly connection, to the point that I was tearing up when they dragged Zelena away. Regina’s vow that she would find her as soon as she could spoke to that tenacity and protective instinct that she still has, especially when it comes to the ones that she loves. The flashbacks also showed how desperate both girls were for an honest to god family, not one with an abusive father or an inattentive, cruel mother. Regina’s immediate declaration that they should live as a family was bittersweet, as I’m sure Zelena in particular felt so hopeful in that moment, seeing a chance to finally be happy and feel loved, only to have it ripped away from her a second later. That moment, more than Zelena’s entire backstory, explained why she’s so cynical and unwilling to trust others; it felt very much like something her subconscious tucked away, even if Cora prevented both sisters from remembering the specifics. It also explains why Zelena knew immediately that Regina and Cora were playing her in the present; she’s developed a pretty good sense of when people are being disingenuous, almost entirely due to what Cora did to her.

Of course, even though it’s sad that it took this long, those memories were happily the missing piece of the puzzle in Regina and Zelena’s reconciliation, something that they’ve been building to nicely in this arc, but really since we learned that they were sisters a few seasons ago. Bex Mader and Lana Parrilla have always done a great job of expressing the complex history between the two, and the look they exchanged after having their memories restored spoke volumes. Despite the anger and resentment they’ve long felt towards each other, remembering a simpler time when they were two kids thrilled at the prospect of being sisters was enough to remind them how important that bond is. Plus, they now know that their relationship was never fully in their control, manipulated as it was by Cora, which I’m sure makes forgiveness a little easier to accomplish.

As for Cora, there was no doubt in my mind that she would find peace, even if it did feel a bit fast and not completely deserved. Afterall, this arc perfectly emcompasses the theme of the show: hope prevails and no deed is truly unforgivable. It took her a long time, but Cora did show remorse, and she righted what was clearly the biggest wrong of her life. Yes, it happened quickly, especially as she went from poisoning Zelena to revealing what she’d long kept from her daughters, but I can’t help but feel that Cora already knew what she was going to do when Hook rescued her at the beginning of the episode. Earning Regina’s forgiveness in the midseason premiere meant the world to her, and I think she wanted to earn Zelena’s as well, even if she did go about it the wrong way at first.  

After Cora left, Regina and Zelena’s hug was lovely, a physical sign of all that’s been forgiven, but I’m not sure that Regina telling Zelena to go to Hades was a smart move. A great sister moment of trust, sure, but I’m worried that Hades is playing Zelena at this point, even if he did love her in Oz. Basically, while I love that Regina trusts Zelena, I don’t think either of them should trust Hades. Of course, Zelena didn’t end up making it to Lord Death anyway, foiled by Rumple and Peter Pan. I had my suspicions that Zelena’s intentions with that sleeping curse weren’t completely pure, but we’ll have to wait to find out for sure.

Other thoughts on this episode:

In addition to breaking my heart, the flashback scenes gave me major Frozen vibes. And did that storyline further prove that literally every character’s issues can be traced back to Cora?

Now there’s a River of Forgetfulness? How many rivers are there in this place?

I loved the brother parallel with David and James, especially because their storyline had such a different result than Regina and Zelena’s. I completely understood why Charming felt bad about accidentally pushing James into the bay; as he said, they were still brothers. David couldn’t bring himself to outright hate the guy, even though, like Zelena, James resented him for something that really wasn’t his fault. I’m glad Once isn’t a soap, because if spending my high school years watching The Young and the Restless taught me anything, it’s that we’d definitely be in for an extended “twin fakeout” storyline if that were the case.

I’m interested to see how Cruella will react to James’ death. She’s added some fun levity to this arc (“Why is everything always in the woods with you people?”), but hasn’t felt all that necessary otherwise, so this may be where she proves to be important.

I had to laugh a little at Emma and Robin ending up in a life-or-death situation together when they’ve barely spent any time one-on-one, but Emma explaining it by describing Zelena and Hades as “the world’s worst power couple” was pretty spectacular.

Finally, next week’s episode is going to kill us all, isn’t it?

What are your thoughts on this episode and Zelena and Regina’s reconciliation? Let me know in the comments!

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