1. Regina is now split in two. Has this changed who she is? Or just the compulsion to do evil? What does this portend for free will on Once?
Sam: It's an interesting question. How much can a person really change? Can you really absolve yourself of bad behavior by saying that person is not the person I am now? Keeping this in the realm of fiction, which we must remember, Once Upon a Time is fiction, I'm going to say this separation makes sense. It would be a terrible shame for Regina to lose the redemption she's earned in the last few seasons. The literal separation of her Evil Queen personality works for me and here's why: I think it's pretty clear that if not for the manipulation by Cora and Rumple when she was young, Regina would not have become Evil. Remember: Evil isn't born, it's made. I think the Evil Queen was not really a natural part of Regina's personality, although she did surrender to it and live it to the fullest for some time. The selfless, rational, loving Regina that we've come to know in recent seasons is who she would have been without the meddling by Cora and Rumple.
Joanne: We will always have free will. Just because Regina has rid herself of her evil side, doesn't mean that she can't make bad choices in the future. I think splitting Regina and the Evil Queen is a great plot device. It will move Regina closer to redeeming herself in her own eyes. The core characters seem willing to forgive and forget what Regina did in the past as the Evil Queen, but Regina doesn't seem to be able to forgive herself. By dividing her into two separate characters, the writers allow Regina to battle it out with her evil side. I also think that Rumple might use the Evil Queen to help him get Belle back. When Regina offered her magical services, she said that she was his best student. He contradicted her and said the Evil Queen was his best student. He needs her not Regina because Regina had gone soft.
Amy: I was torn by this plot point. The Evil Queen isn't, or wasn't a different person, she IS Regina the same way all of us have things in our past that we regret, they are part of us and our journey. I will say that I AM excited about seeing more Evil Queen. I love Regina best when she's full on Fairytale wardrobe and destroying happiness...lol. The Charmings tried in the past to pull all the evil from Emma and put it into Maleficent's child in the past, and we saw how badly that turned out. I'm curious to see how this plays out and if the two Reginas are going to be completely black and white, good and evil, or if we'll get any shades of gray.
Ashley: This bugged me. The thing about Once Upon a Time that a lot of people love is how it shows us that good and evil isn't as simple as black and white. This is a show where the good guys steal babies and the evil-doers nurture them. So for Regina to pull out all her evil, that just doesn't sit right with me. I don't know if and how it will change her in the upcoming season, but I do know that one of the things that makes Regina some people's favorite is her complexity and how she's overcome and dealt with her evil urges. I hope that we see that Regina has to exist with the Evil Queen and they are reunited.
Lori: I am not keen on the "double" aspect. However, I do see it as a ramification of Regina trying to take the easy way out and get rid of her "evil" side. I know she was struggling to find the hope in her future, but she has to realize that you can't erase aspects of yourself. Just like you can't erase grief: it becomes a part of who you are and you need to deal with it. I think she has to learn how to embrace the Evil Queen part of her without succumbing to it. The only way I see this plot point being resolved is through reintegration, so I'm not really tantalized by it at this moment. Also, I've seen some people asking how the EQ could come back after having her heart crushed. I think we need to remember that this is a personification of the Evil Queen, a manifestation created by a potion, and not a human being, and therefore cannot be killed in the usual ways.
Zach: I'm not sure how I feel about this. After all, it wasn't some mysterious entity that committed the atrocities of Regina's past, it was just Regina; she wasn't under a spell or a curse or authorial influence, she was aware of what she was doing, so the shift from one person, with a dark side and a good side, to two separate people is a bit jarring. She still had plenty of sass for Hyde when they met in Storybrooke, so where does the line between Regina and the Evil Queen fall? Where does one start and the other begin?
On the other hand, I think it's a very clever storytelling device because it keeps the Evil Queen alive without flashbacks, and we've covered so much of the past over the last five years that we need a new format or the show will get stale. Not only that but the personality separation will allow Regina to express her thoughts and feelings while confronting her past in a more creative way than hearing a voice-over as she writes in a diary or something similar, and we may get answers to the questions I posed above as a result. Plus: splitting Regina from the Evil Queen allows for a visual representation of her struggle, something necessary for the medium of television, and it will play into the duality motif of the show, so I love that aspect of it.
Teresa: I don't really think this has changed who she is, because the Evil Queen to me is a part of Regina, a bad part of her, but still her. While she was molded by those who manipulated her, she was the one who made the decisions during her reign. I am a firm believer in free will, so it is to me problematic, because separating her into "two" implies that maybe Regina was never responsible for her previous actions. On the other hand, like Lori, I think perhaps the story could go with Regina accepting all of herself, relishing in her triumph over it, and rejecting magical solutions to her inner conflict. They never seem to work on Once, as Rumple's continued failures show.
1. Hero deaths have been rare on Once Upon A Time. This week Robin Hood sacrificed himself to save Regina and his baby. How do you feel about his death and how it fits into the continuing story of Once?
Sam: I'm really going to have to wait and see the repercussions of Robin's death before I know for sure how I feel about it.
Ashley: Disappointed. I felt there was so much more to see with Robin and Regina's relationship. They were in a nice place, a happy place. I'm going to be brief since I'm very tired of talking about this and simply say that this was a misstep.
Zach: Ashley said it all, disappointed is the best way to describe it. It really goes against the
"hope and happy ending" message of the show. I'm going to keep faith in the writers that something substantial will happen with Regina, but it was still disappointing.
Laurie: I am very disappointed in Robin Hood’s death, but the manner of his death was in keeping with his character. I don’t think there IS a continuing story of Once anymore - does anyone think these events are planned? Regina and Robin supposedly had True Love, and a future together. We haven’t seen anything of them as a couple because the entire show is now a vehicle for Hook and Emma, so Robin became expendable (just as Neal was in Season 3). There is only so much time to explore different plot lines - this season has suffered from an excess of “new” characters and each one (including Hook-don’t get me started) ) had to have their backstory episodes. The only problem is that this leaves us no time to explore the characters that already exist in the Once world. And I miss them.
Teresa: I completely want to echo what Zach wrote. Where is hope? Unless, I, to my great sadness started suspecting in Season 4, am right that when the writers have been saying that the show is about hope, they meant that it's about hope being elusive, only reserved to a few. Is the focus now what happens when hope is yanked away? I believe that this death hit so hard because it represents the confirmation of a paradigm shift for Once. I am at a loss as to where the show will go now. Any proposition for a new story will be haunted by this abrupt negation. How can we get excited about future stories when the three-year promise of a Second Chance has ended in despair? It's a very strange place to be for me.
1. Thoughts on the flashback and what Emma learned then and now.
Amy: I LOVED every minute of the flashback. The way that Jenn Morrison is able to physically embody a younger Emma is really fantastic. The whole Cleo introduction mimicked Emma's Pilot introduction which was very cool. That jacket... Holy Macaroni! Zach has been calling that her armor for YEARS. I ADORE that they used that wording.
Teresa: I liked how Emma changed the idea of what "armor" can mean. It's not always a bad thing if it is used in a manner that is healthy. Finally she has made that journey. If you will, the ultimate turning lemons into lemonade.
Lori: I think it's great that they explored the "mythology" behind the red leather jacket. It's such an iconic part of her character.
Joanne: The flashback scenes were fantastic! It really showed how Emma was searching for her roots and how Cleo helped her establish an identity. I loved the whole leather jacket being her armor metaphor. Cleo helped Emma to control her impulsive feelings and get her life under control.
Zach: It was an Emma-centric episode and those ones are always interesting since she's the main character. The show began with both her birth and her arrival in Storybrooke, she's the one whose journey we've been accompanying since the beginning, so it's nice to see significant aspects of her life explained. I was thrilled to hear Cleo explain that her jacket is her armor, and to see Emma adopt that viewpoint herself. I've been calling Emma's jacket her armor for a long time on our podcast so it was satisfying to see it canonized in the story.
From a metaphorical aspect, for me the jacket meant something else as well. This episode is titled "Firebird," an animal otherwise known as a phoenix, and while we didn't see one, the flashback was centered around Emma and Cleo sparring over Emma's skipped bail in Phoenix, Arizona. Also: Emma's jacket is red, a color associated with fire and power, and the moment she first puts it on is the moment she gets her wings and experiences her Swan Princess rebirth.
Speaking again on Cleo and Emma's relationship, it informs Emma's character in Season One a bit more, and brings a better understanding to who she is, how she operates, and why she has certain qualities to her personality. The ability to change years worth of understanding about a character with just a few scenes is a tremendous talent, and I tip my hat to Jane Espenson for writing such a great episode.