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Sunday, April 13, 2014

ONCE UPON A TIME Sees "Green"

Article first written for Seat42F.



This week’s ONCE UPON A TIME, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” takes us into the wonderful world of Oz. We see how Zelena (Rebecca Mader) first arrived in the land as a baby, how she grew up, and how she turned out, including a confrontation with a familiar wizard. In Storybrooke, the residents’ mourning of Neal (Michael Raymond-James) is interrupted when Zelena demands a showdown with her half-sister, Regina (Lana Parrilla).

It’s nice to finally get a chance to see Oz. ONCE UPON A TIME’s Oz-arc seems to be taking place almost entirely in Storybrooke, casting David (Josh Dallas) as the Cowardly Lion, Regina as the Tin Man, Rumple (Robert Carlyle) as the Scarecrow, etc., so I wasn’t sure we’d glimpse the merry old land. It’s a too-brief look, with none of the traditional plot being show, but what there is is terrific, including a spectacular looking Emerald City, the book-accurate silver slippers, and a twister.

The Wizard himself is quite a twist, and well done to boot. As Zelena confronts the man who can supposedly give her everything, she learns he’s just a humbug named Walsh (Christopher Gorham) who collects magical artifacts, thus giving him limited power. Yes, the same Walsh Emma (Jennifer Morrison) will later be engaged to. It’s a twist I didn’t see coming, and while Zelena effectively negates the traditional telling by making Oz into a flying monkey before he ever meets Dorothy, I did enjoy this take on Oz, the land and the place.

Zelena’s own tale is much less surprising because it more or less mirrors other characters we’ve seen before in ONCE UPON A TIME. Abandoned by her mother, Cora, Zelena is raised by a man who despises her for her magical abilities. Seeking her true family, Zelena discovers her sister is being trained in the supernatural arts by Rumple, whom she enlists as her own tutor, only to later see Rumple choose Regina over herself. She’s abandoned, bitter, and out for revenge.

Sometimes, this works out for the character, as Regina has grown into a full-formed individual who, while not obsessed with redemption, is slowly working her way towards happiness and peace with her neighbors. However, Regina has friends, family, and a dashing, handsome man named Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) who is now literally guarding her heart from the Wicked Witch. Zelena has none of this, her jealousy turning her vividly verdant, and so probably can’t be saved.

The question is, can our Storybrooke heroes stop Zelena? Regina throws a wrench into the witch’s plans by hiding her heart, a vital ingredient Zelena needs in order to go back in time and get a chance to do her life over, the end game revealed to viewers in “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” But Zelena is more powerful than Regina, and it should only be a matter of time before Zelena figures out where the missing organ is, endangering not only Regina’s chance at true love, but also the fate of every person on the show.

Besides her own considerable talents, Zelena still has the Dark One under her control. Attempts by Belle (Emilie de Ravin) to break through the Dark One’s persona to the real Rumple fail, the dagger’s control over Rumple appearing absolute. If the good guys can somehow steal Rumple away from Zelena, then they have a powerful ally to use against her. If not, the two strongest magicians in existence are on the wrong side and all appear\ doomed. Unless the Savior can find it within herself to step up again.

I really enjoyed “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Though Zelena’s story is a little old-hat, the Oz stuff is cool, and the scenes between Zelena and Regina, Regina and Robin Hood, and Belle and Rumple are really, really good stuff, getting into the emotional substance of the series. Add to that a moving side story in which Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) gives Henry (Jared Gilmore) a bit of insight into his departed father, as well as a display of grief from the townsfolk, and there’s a lot to praise in the hour. Overall, this season of ONCE UPON A TIME has been the best yet, and the latest installment does nothing to diminish that impression.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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