Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Once Upon a Time, Season 5, Episode 16: Our Decay

Ye gods I am totally invested in Zelena’s romance. What the hell Once Upon a Time how did you cast this sorcery?!

Yes, Zelena is back – she’s in Storybrooke trying to get her baby (the one she had by raping Robin Hood) from Belle (and the Blue Fairy) and would probably have succeeded if Hades hadn’t used his blackmail leverage over Rumple to create a portal to the Underworld to grab that baby (Hades can move back and forth but can’t bring living people back to the Underworld). The portal catches Belle and Zelena at the same time and dumps them in Underworld rather than where the baby was planned to arrive… Zelena quickly finds out that magic is a tricky and unstable thing in the Underworld and, injured can’t stop Belle running off with the baby

Belle and Rumple do meet up – and all of Rumple’s secrets come spilling out. He’s the Dark One again and he’s pre-sold the baby she’s now pregnant with. More than that – he demands Belle choose to accept him as he is or not at all: she can make him a better man but she can’t change who he is. And who he is is the Dark One and he’s not giving that up for her. Belle decides she needs time to digest that one

I’m curious about this storyline. On the one hand it looks like Rumple refusing to give up power for Belle again, his cowardice and lust for power just too strong. But on the other the idea of a partner making you a better person is a common one and a powerful one – but changing completely for your partner is toxic. Belle wants Rumple to give up his power, but as we’ve seen, she also wants him to be brave and be willing to stand up, fight and put himself at risk. Just how much of Rumple – the man without his power – does she love? And how fair or right is it to demand Rumple change. Of course the flip side is, as we’ve seen with Emma and Killian, Dark One-ness comes with a heavy dose of evil. To flip it back again, while Rumple has generally been a better person, given the length of his exposure to the Dark One Dagger, he’s probably also the most adept at resisting its evil impulses.

Anyway, back to Zelena, she joins the main group with Regina giving her good lessons about being happy and fulfilled and how she achieved true happiness when her enemies became family. Regina dishes a lot of good advice to Zelena all through this episode, along with being calm and even managing to resist her usual epic snark.

She stays with them for a while, seeming to listen – except when her magic begins to return and she takes the opportunity to flee, with the baby. Until she realises that in doing so she’s hurt the baby (a small mark) and her magic is still all fritzy so she actually gives it back to Robin and Regina: they can protect her daughter, she can’t.

It’s interesting to see this emotion from Zelena, it’s excellently well acted and good to see her be more than just the endless anger and bitterness (and snark) from her. I do have some reservations though because of some of the way Motherhood is portrayed in this series and in the media in general: motherhood is the great redeemer. But, equally, Motherhood is the great de-personaliser. Upon becoming a mother fundamental part of a woman’s life, priorities, hopes and very being shift to become… mother. Yes, it’s not a bad thing for Zelena to think of something beyond vengeance and bitterness or Regina for that matter – but this WAS the defining major goal of these characters that was mothered into non-existence. I like Zelena’s path but am not 100% comfortable with the implications of that. Especially since Rumple, the other noteworthy evil parent (and his dad for that matter) has just made a point of NOT changing for love, his previous son or future child: his love of power and need for it doesn’t magically waft away because Baby.

Anyway, Zelena gives her baby back to Robin and Regina because she can’t protect her from Hades – with whom she has history

See, way back in Oz when she was facing off against Dorothy to put together her time travel spell (which would allow her to go back in time and ensure she got the life that Regina got, her overwhelming obsession), Hades approached her. He wanted the same spell so he could go back in time and make sure he got the life his brother Zeus had. Yes they have very similar motivations – Hades is also ruled by a curse that means his heart is dead or cold without True Love’s kiss

After some shenanigans chasing Dorothy around for the Scarecrow’s brain (a spell component), Hades falls for Zelena entirely. And Zelena… pulls back. Actually part of her objection really needs examining more in fiction – they only just met she barely knows him, going for True Love’s kiss to fix his curse. But Zelena’s main motivation for backing off his lack of trust. He’s sure he’s just trying to steal her spell, she can’t imagine him giving up on his bitterness towards his brother because she simply cannot imagine giving up her own bitterness against Regina. She can’t trust him, she can’t see past anything but vengeance nor can she understand why

Which is why, in the present, she is so wary because she knows one of the components of her time travel spell is innocence. She assumes this is why Hades wants her daughter – as she says when she confronts him (also as vengeance for spurning him)

And he tells her he actually did it to save her baby from the Regina. And the Underworld looks like Storybrooke? Because Regina had Storybrooke and he wanted to give her everything Regina had. He wants true revenge to be for Zelena to have it all, not vengeance, but love, a family, the life she always envied. He even tortured her mother to find out what Zelena’s birthday was – something Zelena never knew.

It’s so romantic in a very very evil kind of way.

Except, tragically, Zelena still can’t let go of her vengeance, still can’t bring herself to trust him and, again, insists she doesn’t need him. But she will have it all – she will get her revenge and her daughter and she doesn’t need Hades for it. And Hades agrees – but he will be there if she wants him, not needs him

Yes, it’s a super twisted evil romance yet it still makes me awwwwwwww. Yes, it really does. Yet I have to step back and remind us all that this baby she keeps talking about is a baby she conceived through rape. And while the reaction to it isn’t nearly as awful as Grimm it’s still a long way from actually labelling it what it is – especially if we’re going to put Zelena on the redemption train.

Oh we also have the Charmings haunting their baby and Henry being both a teenager and the Author. My main take from this is that I'm totally not shocked that, with oatmeal and dry wheat toast, the Charmings eat the blandest possible breakfast