In preparation for next week’s first of the two-part finale, “The Evil Queen” took us back to where it all started – both in terms of the series and in terms of the season as a whole. Once began its second season with a clear focus on redemption -specifically, redemption for such “evil” characters as Regina and Rumple. Throughout the past few months, we’ve watched Regina’s continued struggle between good and evil and this episode brought that conflict to a head, showing how far Regina has fallen among her peers.
We know Regina as the “Evil Queen,” yet we also know (and have been shown) that evil is something which is made, not born. In various flashbacks, we’ve seen the events that led mild-tempered, simple Regina to became revenge-thirsty, cold-hearted Regina, and in this hour, we learned what finally caused Queen Regina to put the final nail in the coffin, adopting the moniker that would define her for the rest of time. Not surprisingly, it all came full circle with the woman who was the catalyst for Regina’s downward spiral into heartache – Snow White.
Jealous of the fact that Snow has the love of literally every villager and uncomprehending about the fact that no one could turn against her (even where bribery was concerned), Regina worked with Rumple to disguise herself as a peasant in order to gain the trust of the townspeople – and subsequently convince them to kill Snow herself. The gag works, to a point – Regina has obvious issues humbling herself where power is concerned (she yells at the guards expecting them to recognize her, she’s appalled that anyone would have the nerve to talk back to her, she tries using magic in order to get people to listen) but as the classic saying goes, “ignorance is bliss,” and the more she discovers just how much she’s hated the more emotional she becomes. Lest we forget, Regina’s entire life has been about finding acceptance, attempting to prove her worth, and looking for love – and her undercover foray into town essentially proved that for all her pride, she could still let her feelings get the best of her. In fact, it takes a chance meeting with Snow to bring about any understanding – proving that, once again, for all their hate and differences Regina and Snow are more alike than both would ever admit to. We can always forgive and forget until we’re hit with something personal – for Regina, it was the death of her mother. For Snow, it was seeing the senseless deaths of her villagers. And as it has done before, the show took these opportunities to demonstrate the ways in which Regina and Snow continue to mirror each other, an already-interesting parallel made more interesting by Snow’s recent “fall from grace.” When Snow told Regina, “I don’t think it’s too late for anyone,” I was immediately reminded of her conversation with Charming after Cora’s death as she struggled to come to terms with the fact that her black-hearted actions could never be erased.
Though filled with superb acting from Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle and Ginnifer Goodwin – three people (and three relationships) who normally bring strength to the show – the episode was a far cry from the season’s strongest hour, perhaps due to the fact that it came on the heels of last week’s tightly constructed (and interestingly paced) “Lacey.” Still, I enjoyed the interactions between Snow and Regina when Regina was disguised as “Wilma,” particularly after Snow has saved Regina from being killed by her villagers. It’s always a treat to see Lana Parrilla explore different facts of Regina’s emotions, and it was just as refreshing to see Goodwin in her element – she’s often the strongest and most compelling in her flashback periods, before her time with Charming.
While past Regina struggled with learning how to handle her emotions in fairytale land, present day Regina wasn’t doing too much better in Storybrooke. Overhearing that Snow and Charming have plans to take Henry away, she devises a plot of her own – to escape Storybrooke with the person she loves most, while using a failsafe to destroy the town and everyone else in it. Rarely do we get to see the thoughts in Regina’s head come to life without it being through actions or fights with others, which is why I thought that the scene between Regina and Henry – where Regina essentially bares her soul and feelings to her son because “she has no one else to tell” – was a perfect way to involve the narrative. Is it a bit of a cop-out that Regina can make Henry forget? Probably. But Parrilla sold that performance, and it was nice to see a scene between her and Jared Gilmore that wasn’t centered on the same tired good person/bad person arguments.
In other Storybrooke plot developments, Hook re-emerged into the Once world via Tamara and Greg, and Emma has now caught on to the fact that Tamara is less then genuine (though one would probably figure that out even without seeing the fairytale “cheat sheet.”) Still, it’s a nice conflict for the Emma/Neal relationship, since Neal is less inclined to believe Tamara’s true motives. We also found out that Regina destroyed the hidden crop of magic beans, the only way home for our fairytale folk. Knowing the trajectory of the story and given last week’s conversations, this wasn’t that surprising of a move for viewers, but it did set the stage for our descent into Neverland.
So what’s next? Personally, I’m a huge fan of game changing surprises, and with the third season, I’d love to see this show completely jump ship similar to the way LOST unveiled its flash forwards. With Storybrooke being destroyed and everyone sailing off towards Neverland to find a new home and new beginnings, I think that it’s a development that could do wonders for the characters and open up an entirely new set of emotions and conflicts. What about you?
I enjoyed the subtle parallel of Regina helping Henry with his bird feeder – especially given that Snow White is known for her interactions with animals (specifically birds.)What is Greg’s master plan, if it’s not getting his father back? Expose Storybrooke? Kill Regina for the pain that she caused him in his past? I suspect we’ll get the answer at some point in the next two weeks, but until then, it’s worth speculating.Regina tells Hook that an “old friend” is guarding the cave beneath the library, whom we can assume to be Maleficent in a form other than the dragon. I’m slightly confused because I was under the assumption Emma killed Maleficent back in season one, but perhaps due to Regina’s magic she doesn’t really die – just whatever incarnation of her exists dies, until she takes another form (in this case, a freaky zombie-like spirit.)
Are you excited for next week’s finale?