Once Upon a Time
Episode 15: The Queen is Dead
By: Carlos Uribe
Once Upon a Time is a show about fairy tale characters who got sent to our reality, which has magic now.
Fairy Tale Story:
The fairy tale story pretends to be about Snow White. It goes back to the time when she was a young child. She has a good relationship with her mom. Her mom basically tries her best to instill goodness in her daughter as well as the idea that all people are created equal. Her mom quickly falls sick. She is dying. Snow is desperate to try and heal her mom so she goes to the blue fairy to try and see if magic can save her. The fairy's response is that would require dark magic. She hands Snow a candle that will save her mother's life but at the of another person's life. It would be up to Snow to pick who to kill. She could have easily just used a prisoner who was on death row to save her mom but the thought never enters Snow's mind. She decides that she can't accept the price to save her mother. This only makes her mom proud before she dies. It's a sad moment but it does relay on how important her mother was to her growing up. One of the biggest themes on this show is motherhood. Regina had a mom who only sought power and that's what she became consumed with. Snow had a mother who valued people and was a good person so that's who Snow became. This all makes sense but it's the final scene that really reveals why this isn't about Snow. At least not completely as it does go into why she's the way that she is.
This is about Cora because it finally reveals her real motives. She wanted to go back to Storybrooke because she claimed she wanted to reunite with her daughter. That always seemed dubious considering how she treated Regina. It's possible that Cora does love Regina but it doesn't drive her character. The final scene has Cora coming to the queen's funeral once everybody has left. She was pretending to be the blue fairy in this episode. She's pleased at her victory of having killed the queen. She'll now be able to make her own daughter the queen and she claims that she's going to do her best to turn Snow to the dark side. The first is important not because Cora wants her daughter to have power but because she wants Snow to feel powerless. It's her way of taking away the queen's wish for the kingdom to have Snow as it's benevolent queen. The second has more to do with Snow's actual character. She wants to corrupt it. Why? She wants to tarnish the queen's legacy. As long as Snow remains good, her mom's legacy lives. The show isn't subtle about this at all: not only does Cora basically say this but the queen told her daughter that she would always be with her as long as she remained good. Cora's real mission is to corrupt Snow to get back at her mom. Why? That's a good question but at least we have an idea of what her endgame is. That makes her a stronger villain since she's not seeking power for the sake of it. She has a good reason to do so. We might not know it yet but at least we know there actually is one. That makes her a more effective villain.
Real World Story:
Cora's goal might have been revealed in the fairy tale flashback but she's close to accomplishing it in Storybrooke. Snow manages to figure out that Regina and Cora are looking for the dagger. After trying to make Regina realize that her mom is just using her, Snow realizes the only way to stop Regina and Cora is to find the dagger first. They get so desperate to find this dagger that Snow is actually willing to use dark magic. She doesn't have to go there because they're told where the dagger is by Emma. Once they have the dagger, they get ambushed by Regina and Cora. They basically hold Snow's childhood maid hostage. They want the dagger in exchange for the maid. Snow tries her best to get out of the situation but she decides to give in. This turned out to be futile as Cora killed the maid anyways. Cora also gave herself away as the person who gave Snow the candle. Snow manages to figure out that Cora poisoned her mom but not that Cora's the reason that she had to be saved by Regina. The maid's death and the truth about her mother's causes Snow to question her values. David tries his best to get her to stick to them but she's not interested. What she wants now is to kill Cora. Cora might very well have corrupted Snow. What helps make this feel organic is we know the bond she shared with her maid and her mom. Now that we know that Cora wanted Snow to ditch her values, it also adds another punch to the whole thing.
The drama is not as exciting in New York City. It's basically the same stuff the last episode dealt with. Henry is mad at Emma for lying to him, Mr. Gold is still trying to reconnect with his son, and Neal is hesitant to move to Storybrooke. The first isn't resolved but it does serve to remind us how Jared Gilmore can really struggle when trying to deliver snark. The second gets complicated when Captain Hook shows up out of nowhere and stabs Mr. Gold with his hook. Poison is added because there needed to be life-and-death stakes. Neal does decide that he's going to help his dad go back to Storybrooke to ensure he doesn't die but he's not planning on sticking around. The confusing part was how did Hook leave Storybooke with his memories? The series tries to explain this away with his pirate ship which only adds a whole bunch of questions. Can all ships bypass the line? Or is it only the pirate ship? Doesn't this undermine the whole drama of not being able to pass the town line without losing memories? The third is because Neal has a fiance. This random plot development basically serves to act as an obstacle for Emma and Neal getting back together. It's not really that exciting since the show already did this with David-Mary Margaret-Katherine last season. Overall, not very exciting and very confusing as the show breaks it's rules without bothering to explain how it did this. Why should I care about magical obstacles when they can be so easily overcome?
The Queen is Dead is a pretty good episode. There are a few parts where it's annoying-Cora and Regina just accepting that they're bad guys is flat writing. The New York City plot was dull as the fiance plot felt like sudden and even forced while Mr. Gold's stabbing created too many problems. The good news is that just about everything else worked. The fairy tale flashbacks were pretty solid and Cora's corruption of Snow White actually happened organically. The Queen is Dead is an episode that worked for many reasons: the maid, Cora's actions, Snow's relationship with her mom, and the acting. The acting was superb from Ginnifer Goodwin and Bailee Madison.