Once’s characteristic twists are not always surprising because by now we all know they are coming. And indeed, with online communities such as this one that pounce on every scrap of intel prior to an episode, it is a wonder that anything is ever a surprise. But somehow, the writers still manage that OMG moment that gets us to come back next week. Even if I could predict some of the revelations in “Witch Hunt,” never could I have imagined that they would be revealed in this way or even this soon. Let’s get down to the details.
FTL: Finding a Reason to Live
When we last left The Enchanted Forest, we saw that the Wicked Witch of the West had invaded Regina’s castle while she was away in Storybrooke. Now we see her delving into Regina’s life and belongings. “Such pretty things, all wasted on her,” the witch comments, indicating that she has some reason to hate Regina even if Regina has no idea who she is. That confusion will be easily cleared up by the end of the episode, even though we won’t see the witch again until much later.
Just as the Wicked Witch fixates on the Evil Queen, “Witch Hunt” really fixated on Regina. With the whole team still together in FTL, everyone can play a part in the flashbacks, but this was a Regina-centric storyline focused on how she can move on after the devasting loss of her son. Remember that last time she lost the one she held dear she ended up cursing an entire kingdom to have something to hold onto, so this traumatic loss is something she takes really hard. Lana Parilla had some wonderful moments to shine in which she stole my heart from my chest, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it, which we all know her character is actually capable of doing.
The first such moment is when the group gets attacked by another winged monkey and Regina steps in the save Roland, Robin Hood’s son, from its claws. Once she pushes the kid aside she directs her magic at the beast and turns him into a stuffed animal. That is pure adorableness and a great reminder that Regina may have been evil, but she was an excellent mother.
Other moments come when Regina sets off on her own to enter the castle via underground tunnels so that she can take down the green barrier from the inside. Robin Hood tags along to help protect her since he owes her for saving his son. Together they navigate the traps that Regina had installed to ward off thieves and kind of flirt over a shared history of wrongdoing. That is also adorable, though in a different way. That might also be due to the fact that they bond over their shared losses: Robin’s wife and Regina’s everything.
Essentially, nothing goes wrong until Regina and Robin make it to Cora’s crypt and find the door open, which is generally creepy and extra disturbing considering Regina locked it with blood magic. If that wasn’t the moment where everything fell into place, well, at least the writers were prepared to spell it out later on.
Before that could happen though, cue more moments of acting that made me what to cry. In the good way! Not the “this is so painful I have to cry” way. The real reason Regina wanted to enter the castle was not to take back what was hers; it was to get access to ingredients for a sleeping potion. Robin immediately asks if that is for the WW or someone else, but Regina quickly squashes those theories, saying, “Don’t worry. No one you would miss. No one anyone would miss.” Yes, our beloved evil queen wanted to curse herself into falling asleep so she didn’t have to keep going through the painful loss of her son. If ever they could be reunited, he would be the only one who could wake her, and that would be the only time she would want to wake. Don’t worry, she isn’t backsliding much, as she’ll raise the barrier before taking the potion, just as promised. My heart went out to Regina throughout this scene as Lana Parrilla deftly combined heartbreak with a complete sense of exhaustion. Regina was so calm throughout this because she had no energy and no reason to do anything other than let her sadness overwhelm her. Knowing what we know, it was also heartbreaking to hear Robin argue that she might one day have something else to live for. If only she could wait, she could have him.
It all becomes a moot issue when the WW interrupts Regina before she can prick her finger. Regina can’t escape that easily, because the WW wants her to suffer first. The reason? Well, the WW, whose name is Zelena, is Regina’s older half-sister. And she knew Rumple, because he trained them both. Zelena is pissed that Regina got everything that she should have from both Cora and Rumple. She wants to take everything away from Regina, not realizing that everything worthwhile has already been taken. “Go ahead. Bring it, Greenie!” Regina taunts, secure in the knowledge that nothing that can be done to her is any worse than where she is now. I imagine that Zelena will eventually figure that out, which is why everyone had to go back to Storybrooke.
For now Regina is completely energized. “Someone to destroy” is her new reason to live. She clearly has a lot of issues with members of her family. First Cora and now her newly discovered sister. I’m not sure I buy the two as half-sisters. They look absolutely nothing alike, and it’s not just the green skin. But, we were promised that the Charming family tree would be expanding by two slots during this last half of the season, and the Charming baby and the Wicked Witch were the two most highly predicted candidates. I hope at the very least that someone will take note that she is Henry’s half-aunt once the poor (still annoying) kid gets his memories back, just for the comic relief of realizing how ridiculous this tree has grown.
Storybrooke: Leaving Town
Back in the present, Emma is getting down to business, asking her parents, “So what the hell happened here? I mean, besides the obvious.” No one knows or can even remember if they initially traveled back to FTL. Hook, somehow completely separate from this new curse once again, is at least around to confirm that yes, they were there. That raises the question of how Hook knew to get Emma and bring her back. Answer? A little bird told him. A bird literally landed on his ship with a message and the bottle of memory potion. He naturally assumed it was Snow White who sent the message, given her affinity to birds, but it could have been anyone. Maybe Regina? Or could it have been Zelena working to draw all the key players together? Either way, that is a mystery that must take a backseat to solving the memory issue. And even that might not be as important as the fact that people around town have been disappearing. With all of the confusion, not everyone can even be accounted for, including Neal, so it becomes a question of whether they made the trip or have disappeared since.
It is Robin and his band of Merry Men, slowly adjusting to this new modern life, who find out what is happening to those who disappear. Little John, chasing after a wild turkey, gets a little too close to the town line and ends up being picked up by a giant flying monkey. Regina’s curse had magical barriers, but Zelena’s appears to have physical ones.
Note: I’m a bit slow, because it took me until now to realize another consequence of the missing year: whatever strides Regina and Robin make in falling in love are now gone. If they have met in Storybrooke, it is as strangers. I must be a masochist, because I want that scene to happen, like, tomorrow. This has quickly become the most fascinating relationship in the series, and I cannot wait to see it unfold both in the past as something starts and in the present as we see what has been lost.
Meawhile, across town, Mary Margaret starts to freak herself out over everything that can go wrong with a new baby. She got to skip most of those steps with Emma, after all, so she doesn’t have the necessary experience. Unfortunately for her, a new face in town is there to offer her assistance. She was a midlevel player in FTL who missed the first curse, no one to bother mentioning, but she just happens to have been a midwife. She offers her assistance. Yep, that person is none other than Zelena, and I desperately want to know why she is so interested in Snow White’s baby. “Babies are stronger than you think,” Zelena comforts. Is that in reference to her own upbringing and everything she had to endure, or is there something wrong with Snow’s baby?! It’s interesting, because I would have thought Zelena’s first focus would be Henry.
Back to the disappearing Little John. A search party finds him out in the forest, badly injured from the winged monkey’s talons. They get him to the hospital safely, but all they can do is watch in horror as he sprouts a tail and wings and flies off. A bit anticlimactic, given that the people turning into monkeys was in all the previews for this episode. I wish they had held that a bit closer to the chest, like the first Christopher Gorham reveal. Just because Walsh was a flying monkey does not immediately translate into anyone could turn into a flying monkey. I have to wonder how they decide what can be revealed prior to the episode versus what they keep a secret. Personally, I think this would have been a more effective reveal than the whole half-sisters twist, given Once’s penchant for crazy familial relations
Storybrooke: To Catch a Thief
While others deal with the disappearing people problem, Emma deals with the question of who cast this new curse. Her game plan? Interview everyone to see if they set off her secret lie-detecting power. Of course this will take awhile, so she has to prioritize. First stop? Regina, of course.
I am so over people not giving Regina the benefit of the doubt. I know she has done a lot of evil things, and she has flip-flopped quite a few times, but you would think that Henry forgiving her and that one last act of total sacrifice would have clued people in to the fact that she has changed. Even if that is not enough, seeing the pain and devastation on her face once she sees Henry for the first time and realizes he still does not know her should end the suspicion. Nonetheless, Emma interrogates her, but as Regina points out, “I cast curses to hurt other people, not myself.”
They have very little method for figuring out who is at fault, so Emma calls a town meeting. Predictably, everyone turns on Regina. Meanwhile, the true culprit is sitting in the meeting, and Emma doesn’t notice that she’s new? I guess a lot of new people were brought over with the new curse, so that might be explained. Thank goodness Emma’s doubt and Regina’s subsequent magical flight from the meeting were part of a ruse. It would have been severely disappointing otherwise. I like having Emma and Regina working together rather than being enemies. Henry would be happy to see it, if he could remember why.
The true plan was to gain some time for Regina to work on replicating the memory potion Hook gave Emma. It worked on her; it could work on the whole town. The problem is the memory potion does not work. Instead they decide to tell everyone that Regina is close to having one anyone. Grumpy spreads the news. They hope to con the real culprit into showing his or her hand. Grumpy has gotten louder and louder this episode, hasn’t he? It is actually quite enjoyable to see him taking a slightly bigger role.
Regina and Emma stakeout and speak of Henry until they see movement in Regina’s office. They want to trap the culprit once caught in the act. Too bad Regina sealed the room with a blood lock, and we already know the WW is good at getting around those. They catch her but she she disappears in a cloud of green smoke. Between the green and the monkeys, they now suspect who she is, but they still have no idea who she is in town.
One final tear-jerking moment before the big reveal: Regina meets Henry. She asks him about his life and claims that all of her insider knowledge is from Emma. But why would Emma tell this complete stranger all about him, Henry asks? “Because she couldn’t be prouder of you.” Perfect delivery. Lana Parrilla slayed me in this scene with her emotional vulnerability. The decision to let Henry back into her life in this capacity must have been extremely difficult for the character, and Parrilla conveys it all in just a few moments. Finally, a Regina arc I can get behind!
And last, but certainly not least, Zelena opens a storm cellar (a cute nod to the original source) to bring some food and water her prisoner. Rumple is being held captive! He is clearly a bit unhinged, but how did she do that? I was very tempted to add more question marks to that. I expected Rumple to return at some point, but certainly not this soon. I worry that his time in Pandora’s box will have undone all of the good changes that he has gone through, though I suppose that will make for an interesting storyline if it has. As usual, the plot thickens, and I am along for the ride.
Quotes of the Week
“I don’t care if the Lollipop Guild is protecting her! I can lower that shield on my own” – Regina declaring that the wicked witch cannot stop her.
“Banditry” – Snow’s made-up explanation for Henry as to how she met Emma in prison.
“Are we talking east or west?” “Well, one you drop a house on, the other you toss a bucket of water at.” – Grumpy demonstrating his knowledge of wicked witches.
“He’ll turn up, Swan. He always does.” – Hook on Neal’s absence, comforting Emma while also lamenting that Neal is always in his way.
Overall, another great week. Once again, the narrative stayed simple enough to be easy to follow but complicated enough to keep things interesting. Add to this some excellent individual performances and minimal Henry interactions and it was a recipe for another successful night. I may begin sounding like a broken record on these points, but I actually hope that that is the case, because that means things are still working and not goading me into changing the channel! Your turn, Oncers, do you think everything is still on track? Did you call any of the “twists”?