Monday , March 4 2024
This week's episode delivers a twisted tale with enough family intrigue and betrayals to fill an episode of Game of Thrones.

TV Review: ‘Once Upon a Time’ – ‘Bleeding Through’

This week’s Once Upon a Time episode “Bleeding Through” revealed Zelena’s (Rebecca Mader) plan, while giving us background on Cora’s (Rose McGowan) youthful indiscretion. Of the two sisters, Zelena and Regina (Lana Parrilla), Zelena is certainly more like Mommy Cora. Cora had been spiteful, envious and so ambitious that she’d given up her daughter to further her own best interests.

In the end, when Cora tells her baby she is abandoning her because she wants to give herself the best chance, it is a riff on a oft-repeated Once Upon a Time there: sacrifice for the good of your child or family. Cora has always been out for herself, and only for herself. Hard and cynical (probably even before she meets and hooks up with faux Prince Jonathan), envious and manipulative, Cora knows what she wants: to be queen.

But she has met her perfect match in Princess Eva, Snow White’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) mother, who at the time we meet her in “Bleeding Through” is a spoiled brat of a princess, willing to denigrate (and rat on) the pregnant young Cora to further her own goals of royal matrimony. Like Snow White, we wonder when and how she’d had that wake up call and became the noble, kind, and gentle Queen Eva. I would not be surprised if the series explored that life-changing event by the series end.

This week’s episode takes place in Storybrooke and in the Enchanted Forest before Cora meets Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle), delivering a twisted tale with enough family intrigue and betrayals to fill an episode of Game of Thrones. So we have Eva betraying Cora, who then abandons her daughter Zelena. Cora assassinates Eva for the wrong she’d done her, leaving the path open for her younger daughter Regina to marry Leopold, who is Snow White’s father. Snow eventually kills Cora, but now we learn that Zelena wants vengeance for all she’s lost by having been abandoned as an infant–by Cora.

So. Zelena wants to conjure a spell that not only defies the laws of magic, but will essentially eradicate most of the lives of the good folk dwelling in Storybrooke. Zelena is no slouch when it comes to dark magic, and Rumple is quite impressed that the Wicked Witch has deciphered the laws of time travel. Collecting the needed ingredients: courage (from Charming), a heart (from Regina), a brain (from Rumplestiltskin), and a baby (from Snow White), Zelena hopes to return to the Enchanted Forest of many years ago. There she will kill Eva, who will never have Snow White as a daughter. Leopold will marry Cora, and Zelena gets to be a princess with a whole lot of dark magical power. Perhaps not even Regina will be born. And certainly not Henry–nor Emma.

When Zelena tells Regina that envy equals ambition she may as well be channeling her own mother, for whom envy of riches and royalty drives her to destruction and a whole lot of menace. Zelena’s envy no knows bounds and she will not be stopped until she acquires what she wants.

Robert Carlyle Once Upon a Time Rebecca Mader

But first Zelena needs Regina’s heart, and she sends Rumple to do her bidding under the control of his dagger. Rumple is a near automaton as he enters Robin’s camp, waring the bowman that if he could stand down, he would, but his actions are not his own, but Zelena’s. It appears Rumple has almost no will of his own, and nearly kills Robin’s young son before Robin gives up Regina’s heart.

The only way to defeat Zelena, however, is for all the town to work together. That means Emma must develop her magical mojo quickly, and the family must work together.

I really liked the coming to terms between Regina and Snow. It is a long-overdue conversation, and the acknowledgement that they live in one very twisted, screwed up family is a highlight of the episode. After all, Regina reminds Snow, “my mother killed your mother. Then you killed my mother.” I suppose it is synergy of some sort. But the best part of that conversation is the understanding Snow achieves about the darkness in her own past. Like Eva had done to Cora–destroying her life by telling a secret, so too had Snow ruined Regina’s life by telling Cora about Daniel. But there’s a big difference, of course. Eva’s act had been malicious; Snow’s out of friendship; she’d thought she was doing the right thing.

A nice subtle touch, by the way with the loss of Regina’s heart, so unlike her mother’s experience. Cora, of course, ripped out her own heart so she could not feel anything for Rumple back in the day. Regina’s missing heart means something else: she has “lost heart,” become hopeless. And the fact Snow bolsters her is a really lovely moment among the several that the Evil Queen and Snow share.

I also enjoyed the confrontation between Regina and Belle in Mr. Gold’s shop. Regina needs help, and perhaps it is to be found in the pawn shop. But Belle wonders just why she should help the woman who kept her locked in a tower, then for 28 years in a mental hospital–and worse. But Regina speaks true when reminds Belle that Zelena still has Rumple captive. Unless they find a way to defeat her, Rumple will be lost to her forever.

Regina finds just the right item in the double-sided candle. She can use it to help conjure Cora and find out exactly what happened to make Zelena the envious, bitter witch she’s turned out to be. What had Cora done to make Zelean’s life so miserable?

Regina is able to conjure her mother, but like a genie let out of the bottle, Cora presents an imposing threat as she floats scepter-like through Regina’s home and into Snow’s own body. But the story is told, and the truth is finally surmised, and just as Belle comes upon a big clue to Zelena’s agenda.

Zelena has another agenda, and it has much to do with her prisoner Rumplestiltskin. Now that she has Regina’s heart, Wicked wants to share a celebratory dinner with her slave. Giving him a fresh suit of clothing, Rumple seems reluctant at first, but seems to have conjured a plan of his own. Although Zelena tries to seduce Rumple with promises of starting over with Baelfire if she succeeds, Rumple knows full well of Bae’s sacrifice, giving up his life so that Rumple can defeat the Wicked Witch once and for all.

And turning the tables on his captor, Rumple begins to seduce Zelena, feigning cooperation (and a few nicely placed kisses and caresses) in order to steal his dagger. But Zelena is too quick, and realizes it’s all a sham (a nice parallel to Cora’s story about Faux Prince Jonathan. Poor Rumple is sent back to his cell with no dessert, but no dagger. And so, our intrepid heroes are no closer to ending Zelena’s crazed agenda to turn back the clock, and with only four episodes to go, I’ve no idea how exactly they’re going to stop her!

“Bleeding Through” was a good episode, but I wish the story had moved forward a little more. Yes we learned the why behind Zelena’s abandonment and more about Cora’s overall rottenness. But it seemed to me that, like last week, “Bleeding Through” is keeping us in a bit of a holding pattern.

Be sure to join us Monday night for our Once Upon a Time discussion on this week’s Let’s Talk TV Live BlogTalkRadio at 9:00 p.m. ET. You can call in,  just listen, or participate in the lively chat room. We’ll be talking at length about this week’s episode and more.

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.


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About Barbara Barnett

A Jewish mother and (young 🙃) grandmother, Barbara Barnett is an author and professional Hazzan (Cantor). A member of the Conservative Movement's Cantors Assembly and the Jewish Renewal movement's clergy association OHALAH, the clergy association of the Jewish Renewal movement. In her other life, she is a critically acclaimed fantasy/science fiction author as well as the author of a non-fiction exploration of the TV series House, M.D. and contributor to the book Spiritual Pregnancy. She Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (

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  1. I personally really liked this episode; I gave it 5 stars on the user rating. I know it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it. Although the episode didn’t further the main plot, which is stopping Zelena, I think this episode could be considered a good filler episode, because questions were answered (i.e. what does Zelena want with Snow and Charming’s baby, why was Zelena given up), the characters (Regina, Belle, and Snow) had an opportunity to confront each other, and we got to see Regina really develop as a character. Take the confrontation between Regina and Belle for instance; I think this was the first time Regina apologized to someone. Also that scene where Robin was forced to give up Regina’s heart, she approached an apologetic Robin, telling him that it wasn’t his fault. Lastly, the confrontation between Snow and Regina, Snow apologized to Regina for killing Cora, and Regina acknowledged that Cora did the same thing to her mother; they came to a mutual understanding that their family is full of dark secrets. Plus, Snow and Regina had that heart to heart, which lead Regina, afterward, to seek out Robin Hood (still guilty for failing to protect her heart) followed by a great kiss scene (yay, for Outlaw Queen).

    Not only Regina, but Rumple has also gone through some great development. Before, I think, Rumple would have jumped at the opportunity to get his son back; now he’s accepted that his son made his sacrifice, and he is not going to go for the easy fix that Zelena offered. On a side note, Emma’s powers seem to be developing rapidly, I wonder if there is going to be a major price for her magic (OUAT isn’t always consistent with the price of magic, but for something this big there’s bound to be consequences), and I also wish that Hook would just tell Emma the truth about what happened, I think it would make everything easier if he told Emma about the magical kiss of death curse that Zelena placed on him.

    I learned that OUAT is going to have a 2-hour finale, so what I think is happening is that the writers are trying to take their time with the characters before going into the final battle. Having said that I think the final battle will take place during the two hour season finale. One of the main criticisms I had about OUAT season 2 was the pacing, everything was happening at such a rapid pace that nobody had the time to really sit down and talk about everything that has happened to them (how they feel, what they have done, how they have been wronged). This episode truly had confrontations that were long overdue, for instance, since Season 2 I was waiting for Belle to call Regina out on all the terrible things she has done to her (I was beginning to wonder if the writers had forgotten about that, lol), and the fact that Belle flatly told Regina that she still has her sense of self-respect showed me, as a viewer, that Regina has failed to break Belle’s spirit (course that was pretty obvious), and the fact that Regina apologized to her (plus, her scenes with Robin Hood and Snow) showed me that she is willing to change. Overall I thought it was a great episode, it didn’t further the main plot, but it certainly addressed the things that needed to be addressed, and there was some great character development.

    • They are going to integrate the Knave of Hearts into the story. He was the only thing from OUAT Wonderland that I liked (well, except for Miss Rigby, but for totally different reasons).

  2. Robert Carlyle and Rebecca Mader were electric in their scenes together. I can only hope that Zelena succeeds in changing history, if only to get Neal back. Note to showrunners. I am one of many who are still MOST SERIOUSLY DISPLEASED with your decision to kill Bae. Hook is beginning to be interesting, but the Emma/Hook romance feels forced and trite. He belongs with Tinker Bell. Seriously OUAT overlords, that was not the best decision you have ever made.
    As much as we need more Rumple/Gold, we need more Belle. I like the way that Belle is being portrayed as a strong, independent, smart woman willing to stand on her own and yet in love with her man. One good thing about Belle. She’s a disney princess, and you don’t kill off Disney princesses (right, OUAT overlords?).
    An aside. After watching Frozen this weekend, I say bring both Idina Menzel and Kristin Bell into the show. Make a musical episode. You’ve got one of the great iconic princesses in the show (Belle) of the modern Disney era. And as I remember, that was one heck of a Disney musical as well. I wish the great Angela Lansburry was younger. To hear her sing that song again. Emilie de Ravin and Kristin Bell together. Yes!
    Okay, so I haven’t really talked about the episode yet. Rose McGowan did another great job as Cora. Jonathan was suitably annoying. Regina and Zelena were great. Regina and Snow’s bonding time was great. One thing is clear. Zelena is more like her mother.

    Did I say we need more Rumple and Belle?