In Oz in the past there’s a great big green storm that drops a baby into the road. To be found by a couple heading down the Yellow Brick Road (I wonder if it was a conscious choice to give her a very lower class accent and him a professor’s accent or if the casting director just said “British accents! THAT’LL DO!”). Despite the little baby’s (Zelina’s) disturbing talent ability to move half a tree, the woman is adamant they take her in and care for her.
In present day Storybrooke, everyone is gathered and tragic for Neal’s funeral (woo-hoo! Tragic funeral means much less chance of them bringing him back! Oh… that’s not the emotion we’re going for here? Right. Sad and solemn. Sad and solemn). Everyone places a shovel full of dirt on the coffin (it is really sad and solemn and beautifully done and the fact I’m thinking “it’ll take you ALL DAY filling it like that! Hurry up, the sooner he’s buried the less chance he’ll come back” is totally my fault).
Zelina still controls Rumple and taunts him about the death of his son – and Rumple fires back that she doesn’t understand family. That calls for a flashback of her much older with her adoptive father and the advice he passed on we’ve heard before – always put on a good face, no matter what you feel inside. He’s harsh over her mistakes and clearly terrified of the magic she can’t control; he refuses to let her learn because it would make her – him - look bad. He also calls her Wicked (and her wickedness drove him to drink) and not really his daughter. Since her mother wasn’t evil, she’s long dead. When Zelina starts to cry he tells her to “put on a good face.” She storms out to see the Wizard of Oz.
In Storybrooke, Emma chooses anger as her outlet for grief, especially since she can’t talk about Neal with Henry without revealing he knows more about him than the absent father Henry remembers. Hook offers to talk to him (and not about “leather conditioner and eye-liner” though that was an awesome come back) since he knew Neal when Neal was a child in Neverland.
Robin and Regina continue their circling and Tinkerbell notices Robin’s lion tattoo meaning he is Regina’s prophesised love. Tinkerbell criticises Regina again for not leaping into True Love whether she wants to or not.
And Zelina gate crashes the wake – which is just rude and tacky – brandishing the Dark One’s dagger to hold everyone at bay. She’s there to reveal she’s Regina’s big sister and calling her out to a duel at sundown where everyone can see the Evil Queen lose to the Wicked Witch. Afterwards everyone discusses the challenge (Regina still has the best lines “I think I would have remembered my mother saying she had a love child with the Scarecrow”). Of course, everyone assumes Regina has done something terrible to Zelina to justify the attack.
That calls for a flashback – Zelina going to see the Wizard of Oz in his awesome castle – who shows her her family, her mother who abandoned her when she was a disappointment and Regina who was everything Cora wanted. She’s also showed Rumple – “the most powerful wizard in all the realms”. She demands to meet Rumple so he can teach her rather than Regina. So Ozzy gives her Emerald Slippers to travel to Rumple… so long as she brings something of Rumple’s back. She travels to Rumple who is very very surprised to see Cora had another daughter.
In Storybrooke, Regina investigates the truth of Zelina’s claims while Mary Margaret soggily drips in the background. Regina finds a letter that confirms Zelina’s claim – and visibly upsets her. Everyone’s planning strategy but Emma points out how dangerous a weapon she has with Rumple if they risk breaking her conditions. To make the battle remotely fair and give them a chance, they have to get Rumple’s dagger
I’m depressed only one person realised this. Belle suggests she can reach Rumple even without the dagger. Mary Margaret drips soggily some more.
Robin finds the very disturbed Regina and after some back and forth he reads the letter. It’s from Rumple to Cora about finding her first born and declaring her “stunning in every way” and the most powerful sorceress he ever met – even more so than Cora. It upset Regina because she’d seen the letter before and taken great comfort from it whenever the times were bad because she thought it was about her. And it means Rumple thinks she’s stronger – Robin tries to dismiss it, but Regina points out Rumple taught her everything she knows about magic. He would know
That sounds like a flashback time! Rumple training Zelina, showing her how magic comes from emotion, how to channel anger into it (which is very similar to Cora’s lesson for Anastasia) and then happiness to control their temper and their magic (Rumple shares his own abandonment and the women who raised him who brought the happiness).
Belle goes to Rumple though he thinks it’s hopeless to rebel against the dagger. His cage isn’t even locked – but the dagger’s command holds him inside. Belle tries to bring him out – but Zelina appears in the shadows and Rumple tells Belle to run. He’s forced to follow her and delivers a warning about them interfering
Hook and Henry have their moment – but as Hook flails around (reminding us how he knows nothing about technology, having never been cursed) the age differences and inconsistencies just make Neal seem more alien to Henry, more fictional. He, wisely, points out he can’t feel anything for the man being dead when he knew nothing about him when he was alive. Hook shares Neal losing his own father.
Time for another flashback – Zelina is bonding so close to Rumple and has even made him dinner before learning he’s still teaching Regina; even though she offers to cast his curse. As she babbles in panic about him not needing there he reminds her of her father’s words “put on a good face.” He notes her insides are starting to show; she’s turning green with envy.
Back in Storybrooke, it’s time for the showdown and Zelina arrives before the crowd with her dagger and Rumple in tow. But Regina appears to be a no-show. Zelina threatens the whole crowd with the Dark One.
Y’know, a sniper on that rooftop could make this whole thing so much simpler.
Regina arrives fashionably late as soon as Zelina has made it clear that these are the big leagues and Emma can’t play. Regina snarks marvellously but wants to know what she did to Zelina – her answer is a not very informative “you were born.” Regina slaps her – it’s most satisfying.
Which calls for a flashback, apparently. And Zelina trying to stab Regina for having everything she has that Zelina wants – but it turns out to be Rumple in disguise, 3 steps ahead. He also realises she can’t cast the curse because the thing she loves most… is Rumple. And she needs to sacrifice that to cast the curse. So Regina it has to be unless she has another way to take her to a land without magic – she points out her Emerald Slippers. But now she refuses to co-operate – he can have the Slippers over her dead body. She teleports out – and next time he Will Choose her.
Which is the revelation in the present. Zelina is bitter because she’s jealous of Regina. The battle begins – and Zelina does seem to be the more powerful, dispelling Regina’s fireball and sending her flying into a clock tower. Zelina moves in for the kill – to claim Regina’s heart. Oh Zelina, Cora always taught Regina not to bring her heart to a witch fight (something Zelina would know if she weren’t abandoned. Ouch, good one Regina. The Snark is Strong with this one). Zelina leaves on her broom in the face of Regina’s triumphant smile, just as everyone else manages to arrive up the tower.
She realises that Zelina has David’s courage and now wants Regina’s heart – she’s putting together a spell or curse.
Regina runs to the woods where she left her heart guarded by Robin. And she recognises the value of one thing she said – Regina doesn’t always recognise what she has right in front of her (she says looking at Robin’s tattoo). She leaves him her heart to guard.
Hook brings Henry back to Emma and tells her Henry’s hiding a lot of pain and needs to know about his father.
And in ranting to the taunting Rumple, Zelina reveals her plot. She wants to do it all again to have a chance to win Rumple over. She’s after a do-over.
Cut to flashback, Zelina confronting the Wizard of Oz, demanding to travel back in time to change the past. But it’s impossible – (that’s against the Rules of Magic). In her anger, Zelina exposes the Wizard of Oz – or Walsh. He’s not magical, just an illusionist, a cheat from Kansas – he just has magical items he shares but he insists it’s true, the magic she wants is impossible. She decides she needs someone who will do whatever she wants without question – a trained circus animal. A Flying Monkey. Watching Regina being trained by Rumple, her entire skin turns green.
This grows more and more intriguing - I think it was especially necessary to have Zelina’s backstory to add some context. Having Zelina just be jealous of Regina without any major purpose beyond jealousy felt shallow with an edge of the endless Regina Pile On that I’m tired of. But the context and story really did flesh out Zelina’s envy and give it a much stronger role as a motivation. Of course, it comes down to jealousy over a man, but not, I think in a romantic sense. It’s jealousy over the man who saw her worth, the only person who saw her worth as greater than Regina’s – then took it back. And, ultimately, that sense of failing a test, failing a test to Regina – the one time she’s actually gone up against her oh-so-blessed sister, she lost. And Regina rocked this episode.
What I’m less pleased with is that this oh-so-powerful super sorceress has a main threat against the town – Rumple. Where is her own power?
Is it just me, or are things like Rumple’s teaching and bringing up the Rules of Magic both reminiscent of Wonderland?