Once Upon a Time
Episode 20: The Evil Queen
By: Carlos Uribe
Once Upon a Time is a show about fairy tale characters who got sent to our reality, which has magic now.
Fairytale Flashback Story:
I've been complaining recently about how the characters refer to themselves. Regina will gloat about how dark wins over good or how she's accepted her role as a villain. She calls herself the Evil Queen. I've noted about how this really isn't realistic of a complex character. It has made her two-dimensional. There is nobody out there who actually thinks their evil. Adolf Hitler, one of the worst human beings in history, thought he was doing good with the Holocaust. It was a monstrous deed that has justly made him a villain in history books and it remains a triumph of the Allies that they were able to defeat him. He was evil but he didn't see himself that way. So it made no sense for Regina to think of herself as the Evil Queen or as an individual who seeks to do bad. This episode tries to justify that with the fairytale flashbacks to mixed results. I can at least understand now why she talks the way she does but I think it's just too late in the game. This is a fairytale flashback that should have occurred in the first season so that we understood that Regina only refers to herself as the Evil Queen because it's a role she thought she was forced into. It certainly would make her have seen a little less two-dimensional as we saw her talk about the forces of darkness winning. This episode might justify the image she set for herself but it doesn't improve our experience of previous episodes. It might for future ones. Whatever the case, at least this has been addressed.
The premise behind the flashback is simple. Regina is on the hunt for Snow White. She finds that it's difficult because the villagers refuse to co-operate with her. She decides that the best way to find Snow is to shapeshift into a commoner. She'll blend in and get the information that will lead her to Snow. Since she won't have access to magic, she'll have to kill Snow the old-fashioned way. Her quest leads to discover that the people legitimately hate her. They don't approve that she likes to burn down their homes and killer villagers who don't co-operate with her. They proclaim that they want Snow White as their queen. It is the people who call her the Evil Queen. Regina is shocked because she sees herself as a hero and Snow as the villain. This perspective actually makes sense for the character. She thinks that the people will grow to love her once Snow is out of the way. She's deluded herself into thinking that the reason people see her as a bad monarch is because Snow is spreading lies about her. She refuses to see how her actions is what turns people against her. Regina doesn't find Snow and she's delighted when she finds out that Snow still thinks there's some good in the Queen. Of course, we know this won't lead to any character development since this all leads up to the curse. This happens when Snow finds the villagers that Regina had killed. Snow proclaims that there is no good in the Evil Queen. Regina realizes that if Snow can't see the good in her then nobody will. Once Regina gets away, she's transformed into her old body but she's someone new. She's not going to seek the love of her people but their fear. She's not going to be a Queen who sees herself as a hero but she'll take the mantle of the Evil Queen. It's an okay plot by itself but it's one we've seen before. We've had multiple episodes of Regina doing everything she can to find Snow only to fail because the show demands it.
There are a couple connections between the fairytale flashback and the Storybrooke story. The first is that when Regina tells Henry her latest plot, she calls herself a hero. She's started to see herself as a good guy in her own story. The second is that she loses her access to magic at the end of the episode. This is because of Tamara and Owen. The two manage to trick her into putting on a leather band that has some kind of machine that blocks her magical powers. It's hilarious how the show tries to suggest that it's science rather than magic. Yeah, it's hard to buy that when science basically works like magic in this case. It's no coincidence that in the fairytale flashback, she spends almost the whole time not being able to perform magic and this episode ends with her Storybrooke counterpart losing access to magic. The cliff-hanger also reveals at the end that Owen's plan isn't just to find his father. He wants to do that as well but he has a bigger plan beyond that. It looks like Regina is going to have to put her own plan of using the magic beans to take Henry to fairytale world while destroying Storybrooke and everyone in it on hold. Might I add that it's funny how the writers revealed this plot by having Regina tell Henry before wiping his mind. There really was no reason for that scene other than to have an exposition talk so we know what Regina is up to. A talk that later becomes unnecessary when she basically tells Hook this plan.
Tamara might want to hurry up because Emma is on to her. Emma becomes suspicious when Tamara tells her that she can be trusted. Since the only people who would every feel the need to say that in a conversation are the ones who can't be trusted, Emma decides that Tamara is the person August was trying to warn them about. She immediately sets out to find evidence and enlists the help of Henry. There's a small hilarious scene where she tries to teach Henry how to give her a sign that someone is coming to the apartment. A sign that fails because the one she taught him was the one Neal had taught her. I wonder why Henry just didn't have his cell phone out so he could text Emma when Neal or Tamara came to the apartment? Emma isn't able to find any evidence against Tamara so she's forced to go home and eat ice cream with her kid. Only the two aren't going to give up on Operation Preying Mantis. It's an okay plot but not a very exciting one. If anything, I found it more funny than dramatic. I think my favorite part is how characters kept calling out that her “superhuman” ability to detect lies is actually pretty unreliable. Which is why most of them don't believe her when she tells them about Tamara.
The Evil Queen is a good episode of Once Upon a Time. It's not a very good one, mind you, but it was entertaining and has it's moments. The fairytale flashback is just the hundredth take on the Evil Queen hunting Snow but it was used to justify Regina's references to herself as a villain. The Storybrooke story was more mixed but it wasn't ever that bad. The magic (I mean “science”) brace was a nice twist and it got me excited for the next episode. Emma's quest to find proof against Tamara might have failed but it did lead to some nice mother-son moments. Overall, the Storybrooke stories could have been more exciting but I was never bored.