Since we were dropped into the Once Upon A Time world last season, we’ve known little about the history surrounding Storybrooke’s days before Emma found her way over. “Welcome To Storybrooke” served as an introduction to the past, showing us the town in the time directly following Regina’s curse, while giving us further history into the life of Madam Mayor.
After a few weeks of intense episodes centering on familial relations, it was nice to return to an hour more grounded in characters and relationships that we’ve been familiar with since the beginning – and to see Regina happy, even if it was in flashback form. But it was equally nice to have a sort of follow-up hour that focused on understanding Regina’s emotions in the wake of her mother’s death, spotlighting a woman who, above all, just wants to be loved.
Because that’s all Regina ever wanted, isn’t it? From the beginning – from her days as a young girl, to her days as a Queen, to her first days as Mayor, to even now – all Regina has ever wanted is to be cared for. It’s why she lets herself get so upset over Henry, why she constantly strove to please her mother even when she knew deep down it probably wasn’t always for the best, and why she was so vengeful against Snow when she realized it was Snow’s naïve nature that killed Daniel. And it’s why she reacts almost to the point of insanity when she’s faced with the prospect of any of that love being taken away.
Taking place before Henry’s adoption, the episode did a nice job of helping us understand the journey towards Regina’s decision to even want a son of her own. And to understand that decision requires a brief look at the nature of events that occurred over the course of the hour. Interestingly enough, while Storybrooke seemingly dropped out of nowhere (literally), it didn’t drop out of nowhere stealthily enough, catching the eye of a young boy, Owen (Benjamin Stockham) and his father, Kurt (John Pyper-Ferguson) who happened to be camping in the woods. Kurt and Owen make their way into town, running into Regina at Granny’s and harboring their own suspicions about the sudden appearance of Storybrooke. At first put off by random visitors, Regina soon takes a liking to Owen, who in turn seems to take a liking to her. She attempts to persuade the young boy and his father to stay, with the idea that there could be (at least, for her) a possible happiness and a sense of belonging.
Because Regina, for all intensive purposes, is not happy in this new world, nor does she feel she belongs. We see her wake up over and over to the same routine of people listlessly going about their businesses, not recognizing each other, lost in their own thoughts. While Regina’s curse has worked exactly the way she wanted it to, in the process, she’s taken away her own happiness as well as everyone else’s. Quick, someone quote Rumple: all magic comes with a price.
Despite the number of times that we’ve heard that warning, it still seems to fall on deaf ears, though, it should be noted, not for Regina’s lack of understanding. Magic has been Regina’s crutch her entire life, and what she has used to get herself through her darkest moments. She uses magic in a desperate attempt to try get Owen stay so she doesn’t have to be alone, despite the fact that it causes him the pain of losing his own father. She uses magic to hurt other people so that she can have happiness of her own, despite the fact it makes her more alone than she’s ever been. She uses magic to help Henry love her, despite the fact that she knows that one day it will probably all blow up in her face. Yet as much as it would be easy for one spell or one quick fix to make everything better, deep down, Regina knows that it’s not right and that Rumple speaks the truth – you really can’t have it all.
We finally get information on the mysterious nature of Greg, who as it turns out, is not so mysterious – he’s Owen, all grown up, and swearing vengeance against the woman and the town that he once was so fond of. Obviously, it’s clear that Greg didn’t just happen into Storybrooke because he took a wrong turn, though I have to wonder what caused him to finally come back after all these years. And whom is he calling on his phone, since it’s obviously not his father? Thoughts?
In present day Storybrooke, Mary Margaret is suffering the effects of the guilt she feels for killing Cora and tricking Regina into doing so. David manages to convince Rumple to “watch over” her so that he can provide protection against Regina’s vengeance but it’s Henry that ends up being the one who needs protection when he runs away and puts himself into the crossfire of Regina’s anger, hoping to stop magic by blowing it up (oh, if only all things were so easy to get rid of.)
And because Regina is, above all, someone who loves her son, she destroys the spell that she was going to use against Mary Margaret. It makes the later scene between the two that much more compelling, when Regina does indeed rip out Mary Margaret’s heart, showing that it’s been soiled black due to recent events. It is often guilt that hurts us more than our actions do, and in Mary Margaret’s case, seeing a black mark on her otherwise pure heart feels like a fate worse than death. In the words of Henry, “she’s Snow White.” And, well, Snow White doesn’t hurt anyone. I have to wonder how this will affect our heroine going forward, and whether or not that mark will get darker given the fact that she now knows there’s no turning back from violence.
With Regina’s path to vengeance, Snow’s darkening heart and Greg’s reveal, “Welcome To Storybrooke” set into motion some interesting plot points. But here’s what I came away from the hour with: the fact that Regina is a broken woman…but not an irreparable one. As we head into the final stretch of the season, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from another show rooted Kitsis and Horowitz’s inspiration: “nothing is irreversible.” Regina may be emotional, and may even be a dangerous, but in the end, she does have a heart. And at the end of the tunnel, there is a light that can lead towards redemption and happiness – even if she herself doesn’t think so.
I have to admit, I found it a little inconceivable that Greg just happened to be around to take a video of Regina and Mary Margaret. But hey, since this is Storybrooke, I suppose I can let that bit of predictability slide. Besides, it sets the stage for some interesting developments over the next few weeks.
How good was it to see Jamie Dornan again? I truly didn’t realize how much I had missed his presence until he showed up. Come back (from the dead), Sheriff Graham!
I liked Owen’s line about how he’ll find his father and never stop looking for him – a sentiment we’ve heard expressed throughout the series by Charming and Snow.
What did you think of the episode? Were you taken by surprise with the reveal of Greg’s true identity? Sound off!