Doesn’t this all seem weird? I mean, come on, you can’t deny how the universe keeps bringing us together.Henry
Starring Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West, Dania Ramirez, Alison Fernandez, Mekia Cox, and Robert Carlyle
Episode 15: Sisterhood
As Once Upon a Time rattles towards its final end, so too are the stories of some of the seventh season’s secondary characters being wrapped up. Doubtless part of a little logistical reshuffling, Kitsis and Horowitz are now working towards a series finale, instead of a standard season ending, necessitating a certain amount of rethinking. Some characters who may have lived through the season were the show to be renewed, instead need to get out of the way so as to not spoil the ultimate action.
“Sisterhood” serves as a farewell to Ivy, and her newly awoken older, though now younger, sister Anastasia. Drizella/Ivy has certainly gone on a long journey this season. From initially appearing as her mother’s stooge, it turns out that she was the brains behind the Dark Curse, who was using it to punish her own mother for treating her as secondary to Anastasia. Or so she thought. As it transpired, Gothel was actually manipulating Drizella from the start, and ultimately was only interested in Anastasia’s magic.
Quite a nuanced and interesting character, Ivy definitely had more to offer the programme – infinitely more than some of the members of the main cast (looking not-so-subtly at you, Jacinda) – but unfortunately the opportunities to mine her complex backstory have been squandered. Fortunately, the show did give her a modicum of a redemption arc following her mother’s death, even though it would have been nice to delve a little bit further into her feelings of grief, confusion and aimlessness in the aftermath.
This episode centring around Anastasia and Drizella’s relationship makes sense on paper, but doesn’t completely resonate. We have seen hints, obviously, of Ana and Drizella’s connection in the past, but we’ve mainly explored Drizella’s angst following the event as she felt that she could never live up to the image of her sister – something that, of course, is not Ana’s fault. A short flashback to Ana saving Drizella from being lost one time in the forest does not construct an entire emotional narrative, however, and most of the flashbacks actually revolve around Drizella trying to join the Coven of the Eight and eventually having to kill Gretel.
The glimpses into Drizella’s past in the Enchanted Forest did demonstrate that sense within her of a need for sisterhood and a group. While we’ve already explored the way that Gothel acts as a sort of mothering influence towards Drizella, we saw as she connected with Gretel that she was also ready to give up on revenge for a healthy sisterly relationship. In the present, though, Drizella and Anastasia’s reunion is somewhat marred by the suggestion that Drizella would sell her out to protect herself. Though it works out for the better ultimately, it’s unclear how much of this was actually Drizella’s intention and how much was just a happy accident. It sort of takes away from how much it was Ivy “choosing” Anastasia over everything else or just them falling into each other. Either way, the pair are back in the New Enchanted Forest, so I suppose we don’t actually have to worry about or invest in Ana and her acclimatising to the real world.
This plot line also gives us a solution to Henry’s poisoning, as Facilier procures some of Ana’s magic for Regina. Quite why they didn’t just ask Anastasia nicely to help Henry, I don’t know, but perhaps the actual cure requires magic before they can break the curse. I’m no medical professional, and I have a feeling that some of these rules are being made up as they go along. While this seems like a good gesture from Facilier, it’s important to consider how he got this magic in the first place and that was largely through lying and manipulation, which certainly doesn’t make him a trustworthy partner for Regina.
Throughout the episode, we were also treated to a good look at Regina and Rumple working together. Strangely, despite being the only two true legacy members of the cast, they have been largely working in isolation this season and it was nice to see that dynamic continue. It was also nice to see a meaningful development in Rumple, as he let Anastasia – the Guardian – go, remembering the way that Belle changed him. It’s subtle, but definitely a drastically different decision to the ones that Rumple would have made a couple of seasons ago. Or even last season, because he spent most of season 6 being a shithead.
In amongst this, there was also the fairytale element of Jacinda and Henry having a flirtation, and happening into each other during the night, convinced that they are meant to be together, despite sharing not a shred of compatibility other than the tenacity of Jacinda’s overly precocious nine-year-old daughter. In this case, it was flipping a coin into a glass, and it was nice to get a hint of magic shown here for their relationship. It does fall dangerously into the category of “show, don’t tell”. This is the show telling us that Jacinda and Henry are destined, and we need to actually feel it. We need it demonstrated. Saying that they’re True Love doesn’t make the audience invested, but demonstrating the strength of that love helps to sell it more, and even on episode 15, the show is still struggling to provide that.
Part of that, I feel, was the detriment of the season premiere commencing the way that it did. In order to keep the mystery going of who actually started the curse, it meant that they couldn’t start with the curse happening in the past. However, even some vague shots of this peppered throughout the episode, of Henry and Jacinda in a tight embrace, promising they wouldn’t be torn apart, but ultimately the show has put far more energy into Henry and Lucy’s connection than Henry and Jacinda’s, which I suppose wasn’t a problem in the original season, as Emma didn’t have to double up both on building bridges with Henry and also having a love interest.
Another major plot revelation is that Nick, Lucy’s cursed dad, is actually the Candy Killer. This seems an interesting route to go down, as our hints of Jack in the New Enchanted Forest are that he’s a perfectly nice guy. However, with the candy imagery, it would be sensible to presume that perhaps he is Hansel, and since he’s hunting the coven, who played a part in her death, we can also assume that he is awake. Hopefully he doesn’t actually pose a danger to our main characters, but it’s certainly going to be explosive when he’s discovered.
At the heart of it, this episode is a slightly lacklustre instalment designed to shunt Anastasia and Ivy out of the narrative so that we can get on with whoever the enemy even is nowadays. Anastasia going missing as a random plot point that we first hear about here is beyond messy, but it’s treated as if we should just already know that piece of information, so clearly this serves a bit of a course-correct so that the show can get to a satisfying conclusion.
It’s quite a shame at the heart of it, as Ivy was a character who has quite a lot of potential, but then again the show is also wasting other people, such as Sabine, who has been in a woeful number of episodes as a main cast member. She is an incredibly capable, charismatic and engaging member of the show, and yet she is constantly put to one side. It’s irritating how the show runners can continue to make this mistake season on season with different characters. You would think there would be a point where they’d be able to include all of their cast members in a suitable way, instead of them just disappearing for multiple weeks and then reappearing with no explanation.
As a final episode for Ivy, this is unfortunately quite severely lacking. We never really did get to explore all that could have been explored with her, and there was definitely a dramatic minefield to be untapped here, but clearly the show wants to move onto different ideas and storylines. I honestly have no idea in what direction the show is headed, but with the loss of Ivy I’m genuinely less interested in what it actually has to offer.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. Seasons 1 – 4 are now available on Disney+ in the UK. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.