You’re all I’ve got, Regina.Zelena
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.
Episode 18: Where Bluebirds Fly
“When Bluebirds Fly” was a high-quality instalment of Once Upon a Time. Not only did it focus heavily upon one of the show’s greatest talents, Rebecca Mader, but it also featured moments of great levity as Snow planned Emma’s wedding, as well as giving us even more glimpses at the Black Fairy.
It was lovely to focus upon Zelena this week. Despite her taking quite a large role towards the end of Season 5, she has definitely taken a backseat this season, which is a crying shame. Rebecca Mader obliterates every scene that she is in. She consistently delivers, and moments that would seem ridiculous in others’ hands always come across genuine and truthful.
Having said that, it did feel as if we’ve had elements of this storyline before with Zelena. She has tripped up before on her bitterness and her habits of isolating herself, and we saw that extensively when she was a villain in Season 3, and when her and Regina’s relationship took centre stage in the Underworld. They’re all things that have been touched upon here, and it’s a shame that this episode didn’t really offer us very much more in the way of that, but merely served to remind as she attempts to patch things up with Regina.
I suppose quite a lot of my discontent with that is that, while Zelena is flawed, it isn’t actually her fault or culpability for the wedge between her and Regina. Regina is the one who is holding Zelena at bay, so for the flashbacks to draw attention to the fact that Zelena isolates herself seemed slightly untruthful. Zelena has overcome her problems with being a sister to Regina. She sacrificed her love, Hades, in order to protect Regina, and it’s only through Regina’s actions that they have drifted apart. Not that Regina is anywhere close to acknowledging it, but her attitude towards her older sister never really makes a whole lot of sense.
That’s not to say that this episode doesn’t have its good moments despite lots of it feeling as if it’s been done before. I liked the reassertion of Zelena as the stronger of the pair, and seeing her in action against the Black Fairy. The show really did need to contextualise this concept, as having Emma, who barely uses magic, going against the Black Fairy, even though she is the Saviour, wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense considering that Zelena is immensely powerful herself.
Zelena finally confronting Regina over her own hurt and problems was also massively satisfying. The rift that has emerged between the two sisters since their closeness at the end of Season 5 has always felt a touch bizarre, and did gloss over the fact that Zelena and Regina should be bonded because of both of them having lost their loves. Moreover, blaming Zelena for Hades killing Robin is also reductive, considering Regina gave Zelena her blessing too. There’s a whole lot that isn’t just about that pairing, and Regina blaming Zelena is hugely unfair, so it was nice for Zelena to actually confront Regina over this, as it’s been the root of what’s severed their sisterhood.
I also really liked that Zelena finally came over to the side of good. I think that stripping her powers, not just to neutralise the Black Fairy, but also just from a suspicion point of view will really help her to be more accepted by the group, and hopefully by Regina too. It does seem to come out of nowhere, however. Considering how far we are into the season, if this were the plan, then it would have benefited from a little bit more foreshadowing and build up. It’s satisfying to see Zelena take this massive step, considering how much importance she’s always placed upon herself as a result of her magic and being stronger than Regina. It would just be more satisfying if it had been a longer journey, instead of it feeling as if Zelena is doing this all on a whim.
We saw a little bit more of the Black Fairy as well, and she seems to be adept in using people’s weaknesses against them, in a similar way that the Evil Queen was doing at the beginning of the season. The way that she used Zelena’s insecurity against her to help weaponise the crystals, as well as try to manipulate her to leave was chilling, though I’m still finding it hard to view her as a credible threat. Considering it’s the Final Battle, I imagined it would be somebody who had a bit more presence and impact. Good costuming does not a good villain make, though. Hopefully the next episode, entitled “The Black Fairy”, which will reveal why she abandoned Rumple, will give us a little bit more to work on and beef up the hype.
The elements of Zelena’s backstory used here mainly served to remind me of how deeply confusing I find her history in Oz. At the beginning it was a relatively simple affair, but as with any show that keeps on going over a number of seasons, that can get complicated fast, even when you’re a character who gets as little backstory attention as Zelena does. So, after banishing Dorothy the first time, having pretended to melt, Dorothy then seems to have come back, had a little adventure with a scarecrow, from whom Zelena stole their brain. I forget exactly why. Maybe for the time travel spell she was working on. Now, apparently, there’s the Tin Man and a glimpse of the Cowardly Lion, but no Dorothy to be seen. Sometimes the ways that the show messes with these tales messes with my brain.
A lot of the light heartedness of this episode came from Snow’s planning of Hook and Emma’s wedding. It was a nice source of relief, but I couldn’t help but agree with Charming. Regardless of Snow’s justifications, it does seem strange to be focussing on nuptials when there’s a great evil in the community who needs to be defeated. You just can’t take your eye off the ball with this hero business. Having said that, I did have great fun seeing Emma and Hook post-coital. I mean obviously it isn’t their first time, but it’s the first time we’ve ever seen it on the show!
Seeing baby Robin being given to Belle to look after (wonderful to touch upon that Zelena/Belle friendship) made me come to the unsettling realisation that we haven’t seen baby Neal in an awfully long time. You’d think with a child-napping evil fairy in the town, they’d maybe guard him a little better, but he appears to have disappeared for a little while. Tad awkward, that.
Something that I just wish to vent about before I wrap up this review is the whole Belle of the station. Firstly, she appears to have conveniently forgotten all about the shit that Rumple put her through at the beginning of this season, and has just neatly put that to one side seeing as he’s the only one who is feasibly powerful enough to help their child. Yet, that doesn’t actually make him a good person and for a story that was so well fleshed out at the beginning, it is notable that it’s just been forgotten about and put to one side in ways of a resolution. While I don’t expect the show to give that focus to Belle – because they never do – I’m surprised that they passed up another opportunity to see Robert Carlyle. They enjoy doing that.
What’s more, what I’m discovering is that, if Belle’s storylines aren’t about her relationship with Rumple (which 90% of them are), then they now appear to be about her son. Because what is a woman if they’re not defined by the relationships that they have with the men around them? As much as this show is brilliant for aspects of female power, Belle continues to be one of the worst written female characters of the modern age. Every piece of character development comes from her relationships with the men in her life, and giving us one episode a season in which she shows some personality does not excuse shoddy realisation the rest of the time.
Overall, “Where Bluebirds Fly” is held together by Rebecca Mader’s performance. There are far too episodes that put her in the focus that she deserves, and it’s worth every moment. These dramatic moments were also well balanced with more light-hearted fun as Emma’s wedding approaches. The Black Fairy was utilised well, though I still feel that she’s yet to make her impact as a villain. Just because she’s got a foreboding name and there’s a “Final Battle” to come doesn’t mean that you don’t have to put any other effort in, guys.
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.