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TV Review: ‘Once Upon a Time’ – ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’

In the aftermath of Neal's shocking death, this week's Once Upon a Time takes us not to the Wild Wild West, but, instead to the Wild Wicked West, where we find Regina's evil queen facing off against Zelena's Wicked Witch of the West in "It's not Easy Being Green." Zelean's Ace in the hole is her beleaguered, grief-stricken slave Rumplestiltskin. (And if you haven't yet read this week's two-part character analysis of our Rumple, please do so now...or at least after you've read this week's review!) At last we discover what it is that Zelena wants (the something Rumple has…

Review Overview

Barbara's Score

Summary : Fantastic episode! How it's Your turn! What did you think of "It's not Easy Being Green"?

User Rating: 3.57 ( 8 votes)
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In the aftermath of Neal’s shocking death, this week’s Once Upon a Time takes us not to the Wild Wild West, but, instead to the Wild Wicked West, where we find Regina’s evil queen facing off against Zelena’s Wicked Witch of the West in “It’s not Easy Being Green.” Zelean’s Ace in the hole is her beleaguered, grief-stricken slave Rumplestiltskin. (And if you haven’t yet read this week’s two-part character analysis of our Rumple, please do so now…or at least after you’ve read this week’s review!)

At last we discover what it is that Zelena wants (the something Rumple has been seeking his entire life, as she’d said): a second chance. But unlike Rumple’s failed second chance, that fled through his fingers like sand once Zelena became involved, the Wicked Witch isn’t seeking a moment of redemption or unification. She seeks to prove to Rumplestiltskin that she is the most powerful of his students; that it was she Rumple should have chosen to enact his curse.

Once Upon a Time

We learn a lot about Zelena’s early life, and how, in a very significant way, she’s inherited the very worst of Cora’s traits. She is an envious, bitter woman, jealous of her sister. Yes, Regina has gotten more breaks, and Zelena had been scorned by her adopted family for her magic, suffering the isolation of being different. But even Rumple admonishes Zelena (as had the Wizard of Oz) for envying what she cannot have.

So. Zelena is Cora’s child, abandoned because she could not achieve for Cora her heart’s desire: to be a Royal. But who is Zelena’s father, and how has she come to possess magic? We learn, certainly, that Regina also had been born with an inherent gift of magic, as had apparently Cora. But, as Rumple warns, for magic to work demands strong emotion–anger; yet to control it, magic also requires holding onto a moment of happiness: a talisman against going too far or being too wild. For Rumple the anger comes from Malcolm’s abandonment; the sweet memory from his childhood: the smell of meat pies baking and being under the spare, but loving watch of the two spinster sisters who take him in when no one else cares.

Once Upon a Time

Several threads from seasons past are touchstones in “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” We learn why the silver slippers are so important to Rumple. They are what he’d believed needed to travel to the “land without magic,” in which he might find Baelfire. We learn, too, that Rumple had carefully chosen who–and how–his curse would be implemented.

And we learn the identity at last of the Wizard. Who else was surprised it is Walsh, a simple non-magical Kansas man, who warns Zelena about envy (as does Rumple). Oz’s magic comes from collecting magical things, and his price for giving her the slippers is to bring him something from Rumple’s collection (I wonder what it might be?).

Of course the episode begins with the teary farewell to Neal as each friend or family member drops dirt onto his casket; it is the final thing one can do for another: assisting the burial in this way. It is a pure kindness, for this gift can never be paid back. How tragic is it that Rumple cannot attend his son’s funeral? As each shovel hits the casket, we see Rumple feeling it physically; something I’m certain Zelena arranged. She torments him with what she has stolen from him–that he will never get that second chance with Baelfire for which he has longed for centuries.

But like others in Once Upon a Time, Zelena is the victim of a terrible childhood: Rumple, Regina, Emma, Baelfire all are victims of parental neglect and/or abandonment. But that cannot excuse her for her green-throated envy and truly evil temperament after wheedling her way into Rumple’s castle, trying to prove to Cora (and Rumple) that she is the more powerful magical being.

The letter she leaves Regina is truly cruel, meant to shake her confidence and rattle her skills. But Regina is smarter and wise than she may have been a year earlier. And in a truly brilliant move, she removes from play the one thing Zelena craves from Regina, besides approval: her heart. She has stolen David’s courage, Rumple’s mind (which is now under her control), and now needs Regina’s heart to do create for herself a second chance to prove herself the most powerful sorcerer in all of Fairytale Land.

So, for the moment, Zelena is thwarted, but she still has control of Rumple’s dagger, and with it, control of him. He’s fighting it, and losing–battered and broken. Belle is able to get through to him, but it had been all of a plan–Zelena’s–to let her get into Rumple’s cell. He warns Belle that it is useless to try to rescue him, and she should run. But she is persistent and tentatively takes her hand, only to be interrupted by Zelena. “Run,” Rumple implores Belle, trying with his last ounce of will to chase her away. God only knows what Zelena will make Rumple do to Belle, and he knows it. Someone has to get that dagger, and soon!

So why is it really that Rumple chooses Regina over Zelena? Why had he not been able to foresee the silver slippers? Or perhaps he had known in some way and chooses Regina anyway. As he says to Zelena, he would choose Regina again, even if there were a second chance. I think when Rumple had been seeking a vessel for the curse, he needed someone with anger, yes, and bitterness (and Regina certainly had possessed enough of that towards Cora), but also a heart–and a hope of happiness. When he meets Regina, she yet has a sweet innocence about her; something Zelena lacks with her envy.

Regina and Robin; Emma, Henry, Hook

I really like the way the creators are crafting the relationship between Regina and Robin Hood, making them allies in a slowly developing friendship. I’m looking forward to where this is going. I also like the way they’re redeeming Hook, letting him bond with Henry, which will, of course melt Emma’s heart. (And by the way, I loved her cheeky remark about Hook’s leather and eyeliner thing!)

Next week, it appears that the story will turn back to Hook’s origin story as Zelena continues to move towards her goal. Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. on ABC,.

 

Don’t forget! Tune into tomorrow night to Let’s Talk TV Live, when we’ll discuss this week’s Once Upon a Time episode, and also the character of Rumplestiltskin through his lifetimes.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • WML

    We got to see the old Rumple and the new Gold. The one capable of manipulation and the one capable of remorse and love. Brilliantly played, once again, by Robert Carlyle. The catfight between Rebecca Mader and Lana Parilla harken back to the days of Kate O’Mara and Joan Collins. Delicious! And well acted.
    Robin Hood is a great addition to the cast. I’m glad that Regina has friends now, even if she won’t acknowledge them.
    I still feel cheated that we’ll never see Neal and Henry together again. Unless Zelena manages to go back in time and maybe rewrite history. If Rumple can’t do it, what makes her think she can?
    This episode opens up a lot of questions.

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      Indeed it does! I’m seeing a mixed reaction to the episode, but I really liked it.

      • WML

        The episode was directed by Mario Van Peebles. Talk about an 80’s moment. Sisters in a catfight. And Mario.
        Aside from that, the 3R’s (romance between Robin and Regina) is playing out nicely.

  • Betsy

    I’m going to blather about the Rumbelle scene which I think was extraordinary. It wasn’t brief, but VERY important

    The way Gold slowly walks to Belle, sigh; he’s wanted this for so long;
    the hopeful look in his eyes as she asks him to believe in them – he’s
    pleading for her to save him. That heavy breathing…..The way they melt into each other, nuzzle each other….nd the agony as he has to turn away, all the while desperately needing
    to kiss and hold Belle…and MORE than that. This is a love scene without
    the trapping of one.Gold has given up on getting out of this situation and it’s heartbreaking. But here comes Belle to bring light into his darkness again……Ugh, his
    eyes; he’s looking at her with such hopefulness; he’s silently pleading
    with her to save him

    Parallel alert!

    PARALLEL ALERT: RUMBELLE

    This Rumbelle scene reminded me so much of Gold’s epiphany in NL, where the thought of a future, a family, with Belle, kicked his “survival instinct” into gear. THERE, he tried to hold onto her, but Regina parted them (thank god). Now Gold is doing the same thing and it’s her sister parting them…………but TOO late because I think she’s set something in motion she didn’t forsee. I think Gold will be even more determined to get the hell out of his prison, break Zelena, get the dagger, BE with Belle….I think Zelena had broken him, with Bae’s death, with forcing him to be the DO again (and do thinks against his will), with his imprisonment………but now he’s UNBROKEN.

  • Connie Standish

    This episode, in my opinion, was alright; I think Quiet Minds left such an impression on me as a viewer that this episode left me slightly underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible but there were some positives and negatives.

    First of all, kudos to Rebecca Mader she can certainly play crazy well. Her obsession with being noticed and her envy was very creepy, particularly after her stunt with the meat pies. I felt a little bad for Zelena at first, because she spent most of her life feeling like she was different, but my sympathy waned as the episode progressed. We also got to see Rumple being Rumple in the Enchanted Forest again, and his confrontation with Zelena near the end of the flashback was quite interesting. Rumple told Zelena that the reason he chose her half sister to cast the curse was because she loved him which makes her dangerous. I don’t think that’s entirely true, I think the reason he chose Regina over Zelena was because he knew Zelena wasn’t the proper candidate due to the fact that she was brimming with negative energy (envy) and lacked positive energy (if that makes sense). Some fans have criicized Rumple for acting out of character when he mentioned to Zelena that he “has that effect on women”, but I think it was in character for Rumple, because how he was acting was all part of his facade. The only person who has seen Rumple from behind his mask is Belle. Speaking of Belle, that Rumbelle scene was absolutely touching and heartbreaking, kudos to Robert and Emilie. The scene with Henry and Hook was also very good, I’m happy with Hook’s progress as a character. I’m also glad that Henry has matured (as he should because he is growing up) and that, although he doesn’t have his memories, he’s still just as inquisitive and curious as he was in Season 1. I also like the fact that Walsh was also the Wizard of Oz; I wonder if Walsh will eventually help Emma defeat Zelena in some way (although I personally want Belle to have a hand in defeating or at least outsmarting her). I am also intrigued by the fact that Zelena wants to go back in time.

    Some of the things I had issues with were some of the inconsistencies. For example, as a viewer I’ve always thought that one could learn magic through hard study or just by having a natural knack for it. The fact that Zelena was able to do magic as an infant, however, seemed to show that genetics also comes into play, but if that were the case then why weren’t Cora and Regina able to do magic prior to meeting Rumple, did their magic happen to lay dormant within them, and they just needed the right opportunity and instructor to bring their magical abilities out in the open? Also, that letter, when I first watched the episode at first I thought it was Rumple’s letter to Cora, but that didn’t make sense because Cora, by that time, was in Wonderland and so much was happening in this episode’s flashback I don’t think Rumple would have found the time to compose a letter. Like you, I think that letter was composed by Zelena to shake Regina’s confidence. Speaking of Regina, I felt that the battle between her and Zelena was pretty tame. I think because the idea of Wicked vs. Evil went through so much hype, that when I finally watched it I felt underwhelmed. The fight started off strong (particularly when Regina slapped Zelena after she flatly told her that she wished she has never been born), but then it faltered a bit. I did, however, like the fact that Regina outsmarted Zelena by removing her heart before the fight, and although some fans were a little irked by this I thought it was a smart move for Regina to give her heart (obvious symbolism) to Robin Hood for safe keeping after she realized that the Witch was planning on using her heart as an ingredient. On a side note, what is up with Regina burying her heart in the dirt, completely unsanitary, yuck! Also, I thought the scene with Zelena literally turning green from envy, though understandable, was a bit of an overkill. I think it would have made better sense if Zelena, at that time extremely envious, messed with something very powerful to hurt or kill Regina, but ended up making herself look like a fool and turning her skin green. It would then go back to the whole “magic comes at a price” mantra and it would still serve as symbolism for her extreme envy; but I don’t write the show, lol :)

    Overall the episode was okay, not my favorite but okay. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what happens in the rest of the season, because the time travelling arc has gotten me both excited and a little nervous for some of the characters, particularly Emma and Henry.

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      First of all, kudos to Rebecca Mader she can certainly play crazy well

      Totally agree!
      I agree as well about the performances and the episode’s set pieces.

      I wonder if magic ala OUAT can be something inbred, but must be cajoled out. And perhaps that was what Rumple had been seeking to do the curse. Emma certainly has it and was born with it. The power of true love’s spawn?

      But Regina wasn’t conceived out of true love, we don’t know about Zelena, however. Maybe she did fall in love with some poor bloke, and when she couldn’t give her what she wanted, she got rid of him and the baby.

  • Connie Standish

    Something else has occurred to me, at the beginning of the episode’s flashback the Wizard gave Zelena a glimpse of her past when she was an infant. What she (and the viewers) saw was a woman (presumably Cora) leaving baby Zelena in the woods only to be whisked away, via tornado, to the land of Oz. If the woman from Zelena’s past was Cora, why was her face covered, why didn’t viewers get a glimpse of her face. It could be just a coincidence, but what if that wasn’t Cora who abandoned Zelena, but someone else who has his or her own agenda.

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      Very interesting…but who would it be, then?