It’s Not Easy Being Green Review | Once Upon a Time Season 3, Episode 16

“What I’m casting isn’t a curse. It’s a second chance.”


Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 3
Episode 16: It’s Not Easy Being Green

With Zelena’s identity now revealed in Storybrooke, our heroes are more eager than ever to bring an end to her evil plot. The only trouble is that they have no idea what her evil plot is. They also have significant trouble in finding her. It does allow, however, for brilliant confrontations in Storybrooke when Zelena reveals herself at Neal’s funeral to challenge Regina to a duel. A showdown between the two witches was somewhat inevitable.

The showdown itself was tense, and Zelena’s clear magical strength makes her the most credible villain the show has head since Cora. The decision to root this episode with Regina and Zelena’s sisterly relationship was also wise, as it allowed for Regina to have some brilliant character moments as she had to confront the fact that she’s not as powerful as she thought she was. The scenes between Regina and Robin where Regina confessed that she had used the words in the letter as a self-esteem boost that was now removed was touching, and their chemistry continues to be a strong point. This episode has definitely lent the audience the largest hint at their potential, as Robin continues to try and persuade Regina to have a drink with him. Though Regina giving Robin her heart was a little on the nose, her smile as she turned away from him was glorious to see and wonderful progression for Regina’s character.

It was also noticeable that Regina seems to have completely shucked off her villainous past. She’s not even shown to be struggling here with allying herself with the Charmings and working against the Wicked Witch, it’s just taken as a given, which is a refreshing change. As a character, Regina has definitely come the furthest since the beginning of the series.

The fairytale flashback in Zelena’s past was also successful. The CGI effects used to achieve the Wizard’s chamber, and even new, unseen parts of Regina’s castle were, for once, massively effective and really added to these sections. Rebecca Mader continues to anchor these scenes, and she was hugely believable as the innocent young Zelena before she discovered her true heritage. She also has a flair for the more camp, evil parts. Not many actresses would be able to convincingly retort “No, dear…it’s the Wicked West”, but somehow she pulls it off.

Zelena turning green as a result of her jealousy towards Regina was a nice twist that nicely factored into the established lore of the character, and it’s an interesting concept. Zelena has definitely been written here as a less redeemable character compared to the more sympathetic depictions that we have had of Rumplestiltskin and Regina. Throughout the episode she has a massive issue with her bitterness and anger towards Regina, who doesn’t even know that Zelena exists. It makes it seem as if this backstory is lacking somewhat.

There are some wonderful aspects. Her abusive father, and her rejection by Rumple both lend themselves to pushing her towards villainy, but it still doesn’t seem quite enough. Zelena seems to take her hatred for Regina from the moment she discovers she exists, despite the fact that Regina has had nothing to do with any of this. It would almost make more sense if this interaction had come before, when Cora had still been around in the Enchanted Forest so that Zelena could have had a more concrete rejection by her as well, though that would have caused some problems with Rumple training both Zelena and Regina at the same time.

Rumple rejecting Zelena as a pupil because she loves him was heartbreaking, and you could really see over the course of the episode just how attached she had become to him and the fact that he had faith in her. It is a lot for a person to go through, but Zelena was also showing devious and evil traits when she first appeared in the Enchanted Forest, so there’s still something a little bit lacking about this backstory. Having said that, the reveal of Zelena’s endgame is surprising and massively raises the stakes for the series as our heroes try to bring her down.

In Short

  • Cora abandoned Zelena, which led to a magical cyclone transporting her to Oz, where she was adopted.
  • When her adoptive father reveals her true heritage, Zelena goes to the Wizard and is sent to Regina, where she is being trained by Rumple.
  • Rumple realises that Zelena is more magically gifted that Regina and starts teaching her, planning to use her for the curse.
  • Zelena falls in love with Rumple and he says that he cannot use her for the curse anymore, as he would be the thing that she would sacrifice to cast the Dark Curse.
  • In Storybrooke, Zelena challenges Regina to a duel. She tries to take out her heart, but Regina has taken it out.
  • Zelena reveals to Rumple that her plan is to reverse time so that she wasn’t abandoned by Cora.

Other thoughts

  • Neal’s funeral doesn’t last particularly long in the episode. It’s more there so that it can get out of the way. Additionally, there were two guests who we legitimately have never seen before, so quite why they were at the funeral is anybody’s guess.
  • Henry’s bafflement over Hook’s age, and how he could have taught his father as a child is literally every audience member who is trying to keep up with these timelines at this point.
  • It’s disappointing that Regina and Zelena never met in the Enchanted Forest, but short of having to work in a memory spell to erase Regina’s recollection of it, it makes sense why the writers didn’t do this.
  • I cannot believe that Rumple has never revealed that he met Zelena to Regina or even to Cora in the brief time they saw each other again. Bizarre.
  • Snow says some whoppers of stupid things this episode. Number 1: “I don’t think a sleeping curse would be good for the baby.” Ah yes, but accepting a stranger into your home when a Wicked Witch is on the loose is, of course, good for the baby. Number 2: “She’s already cursed us. We’re already in Storybrooke. She’s already taken our memories. What else could she do to us?” Um…literally anything Snow. She could boil you alive. She could kill your baby. What a stupid thing to see. Think these things through please.
  • This episode was actually shot pretty epically. The camerawork when Zelena enters Granny’s, all handheld and looking upwards at odd angles did make her seem more sinister and imposing.
  • Why was Tink even in this episode? Other than for Belle to run into her arms while sobbing. Speaking of which…
  • Belle was far too traumatised from that foray into the Wicked Witch’s cellar. I mean really, what did she expect? A) She clearly doesn’t understand the effect of the dagger. She’s all like “fight it. Come to me”. That’s never been how that has worked. Get with it. B) Oh no? The Wicked Witch appeared and said mean things? Was it a trap? Come on, girl, get a trip. It was clearly a trap, and somebody appearing and commanding somebody else to kill you is not an excuse to cry. It’s barely even an event, or a tidbit that you would share at a party.


The spotlight is on the Wicked Witch this episode, with another consistent performance from Rebecca Mader that helps us to further understand her motivations as her master plan is revealed.

You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.

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