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‘Once Upon a Time’ Review: Holding On and Letting Go

ABC/Jack Rowand

The theme of last night’s Once Upon a Time was character development and it was a beautiful thing to watch. “Bleeding Through” was the kind of episode that easily could have been written off as heavy on background information and light on plot momentum, but instead it was a shining example of why the little moments matter just as much, if not more, than the latest battle or worrying about what’s coming next.

Zelena dropped off some green apples on Regina’s porch and then invited herself in to distract her sister while she forced Rumple to go to the forest and get Regina’s heart from Robin. I need to take a moment and fawn over Robert Carlyle and how amazing he is at everything. Rumple doesn’t want to help Zelena. He certainly doesn’t want to threaten the most adorable little boy ever in the process, but he has no choice because Zelena is controlling him.

Carlyle’s face spoke volumes as did the regret in his voice as he practically begged Robin to just give him what he wanted so he didn’t have to keep threatening him. If that wasn’t painful enough, listening to Roland’s scared cries for his daddy was downright agonizing and easily one of the meanest things this show has ever done. Robin gave Rumple what he wanted and then Regina showed up right afterward. Robin was apologetic, but the once evil queen was more concerned with making sure that no one had gotten hurt and assured Robin that nothing was worth losing a child.

That’s right, people – that’s the sound of character development and it was only the beginning for Regina. But we’ll get back to her in a moment. Let’s talk about the flashbacks. I have to confess – I don’t really care about Cora. I never have and I wasn’t sorry when she died (except for the pain it caused Regina). So watching the story of how some random creep pretended to be a prince, proposed, slept with her and then ran off wasn’t all that interesting to me.

ABC/Jack Rowand
ABC/Jack Rowand

Neither was the part where she tried to get in good graces with Prince Leopold in the hopes of convincing him to marry her. All I kept thinking about during those scenes was how she was going to get older and marry her daughter off to him and that was just plain icky. Princess Eva, Snow’s mother, learned the truth and spilled Cora’s secrets, which led to Cora getting booted out of the good life. That was when she set up baby Zelena to be taken away by the tornado. Here’s the kicker: Cora told the baby that she had to give her away for her best chance – her as in Cora. It was the exact opposite of what Snow wanted for Emma and it was a great way to parallel the two characters.

Other than that, I wasn’t feeling the flashbacks and I wasn’t too keen on Zelena’s attempts to have a romantic dinner with Rumple in the present either. Neither was he and once again, Carlyle gets all the credit for letting his expressions speak for him. Zelena elaborated on her plan a little more, how she wanted to go back and change things so that she was never given away. She also offered Rumple a deal: if he stopped fighting her, she’d take him with her and give him another chance to be a father to Bae. The old Rumple would have jumped at this opportunity.

And this Rumple pretended to, at least long enough to seduce Zelena and try to get the dagger from her. Unfortunately, she caught on just in time. She was sad, but I wasn’t here for her pain. I was too busy applauding Rumple as he explained that his son had sacrificed himself and he was not going to take that away from him and let Zelena win. Once again, we have major character development. Rumple spent most of his life trying to get his son back and reverse his mistakes and have another chance and now he knows better – he knows that’s what done is done and he needs to respect Neal’s wishes and his memory and it’s heartbreaking, but so lovely to see that he’s learned from his past and will not repeat it.

ABC/Jack Rowand
ABC/Jack Rowand

While we’re on the subject of the past, let’s talk about Emma for a moment. She didn’t have a lot of scenes in this episode, but it was clear she meant what she said to Killian last week: she’s done living in the past. Even with everything that was going on, Emma was lighter than she’s been basically ever. She was so cute practicing her magic and teasing Hook with it to try and get him to smile. Emma Swan will never have the luxury of being carefree, but it’s about time she finally has a chance to just to be herself for a few moments and enjoy the power that she possesses.

Of course it would have been better if Hook could enjoy it too, but thanks to Zelena’s curse, he was pretty miserable this week and Emma definitely noticed. Hook was still being the man she expected him to be – he was by her side for the family summit and rushed back with the family when Belle came to them with the answers, but he was quiet and unamused by everything, which is definitely not like him. Normally, Emma would have put her walls right back up, but thanks to (you guessed it) character development, she didn’t do that. Instead, she asked repeatedly what was up with him and Hook apologized for his rudeness, made it clear that it was not her fault at all and might have told her the whole story if Belle hadn’t interrupted to share her discovery.

All of that development was wonderful, but for me, nothing was better than the journey Regina and Snow shared in this episode. First, the family gathered for the mini séance to try and contact Cora, which could only be done with the murder weapon and the murderer present. Regina pointing that out led to some awkwardness with Snow, but it didn’t last. When the séance failed, Snow stayed behind so Regina wouldn’t have to be alone and they had an honest conversation about Snow killing Cora and how they both think about it every day. It wasn’t an easy scene to watch, but both women slowly let their walls down and discussed what Cora did to their lives and how Snow being responsible for her death changed both of them.

The lady in question, or a ghostly version of her, took that moment to return upstairs and her first move was to make a beeline for Snow. Regina immediately got between them and warned her mother that if she wanted to get to Snow, she was going to have to get through her. It was such a powerful moment and Snow’s expression went from surprised to touched in a matter of seconds. This is twice now that we’ve watched Regina vow to protect Snow and her baby and it’s hard not to remember how adorable they were when they first met before Snow told her father about Daniel. It’s bittersweet to think about how things could have been different between them.

But at the same time, everything they’ve been through has shaped them into the women they are now and that’s important. Cora eventually got past Regina and possessed Snow (that can’t be good for the baby). She showed Snow the flashbacks and Snow realized that her mother had ruined Cora’s life the same way she’d ruined Regina’s. Emma was confused because she thought their family was the good guys, but Regina had an excellent line about how it’s never that simple and it’s true. Nothing in life is ever that black or white, no matter how much we might want it to be sometimes.

Belle had figured out that Zelena needed the heart, brains and courage for a time travel spell. No one had ever been able to do one in the past and Charming deduced the missing ingredient was their baby. It’s still not clear why Zelena needs the baby, although I’m guessing it has something to do with it being the product of true love like Emma. We know Zelena needs Emma alive, but we still don’t know what the reason for that is either so I’m looking forward to finding out exactly how all of this works, almost as much as I’m looking forward to seeing our heroes defeat Zelena once and for all because that witch needs to go.

We got one more Snow and Regina scene after everything was out in the open. Both women realized there was more to their mothers than they thought and they were both ready to put the past behind them. Snow gave Regina some great advice about how she feels things with her entire soul (not just her missing heart) and she needs to stop being afraid and take a chance at happiness. Regina did exactly that. She headed to the forest, tracked down Robin and kissed him like her life depended on it. He returned the favor a moment later and it was awesome.

Next week, Zelena decides to up the ante against Hook by threatening to kill Henry if he doesn’t kiss Emma and we’re going back to the Enchanted Forest to see more of the missing year, including the return of Aurora and the introduction of Glinda.

Now it’s your turn. Did you enjoy this episode? Whose development did you enjoy the most? What do you think Zelena needs the baby for? Hit the comments and share your thoughts and theories with us!

About the author

Mandy Treccia

Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceMandy.