These two? They and Emma are the core of the show. MORE OF THEM PLEASE.

These two? They and Emma are the core of the show. MORE OF THEM PLEASE.

Despite being an episode full of most excellent individual moments “The Evil Queen” never quite gets off the ground. There’s a low energy to the proceedings and it often feels as though we move laconically from moment to moment, ticking plot points off a checklist in preparation for the two-part finale tonight.

Yet some of those individual moments, when plucked from the fabric of the whole, almost transcend the show and provide us glimpses of both what Once Upon A Time can be and what this episode almost is.

It’s meant to be an exploration of Regina’s final descent into the persona of “Evil Queen.” Yet the moment she actually descends is so ham-fisted, quick and sort of ridiculous that it utterly fails as an exploration. It does, however, succeed as an exploration of the relationship between Regina and Snow White.

The show likes to pay lip service to the nuance of this relationship. We’ve received more than one tantalizing glimpse of what has bound these two women together so tightly in love and hate but the glimpses merely wet the appetite. They’re never especially substantial and they certainly never seek to show what’s going on in Snow White’s head.

For a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve Once Upon A Time‘s Snow White has become positively inscrutable this season. The script for “The Evil Queen” very much maintains that run. It’s told from Regina’s point of view, not Snow’s. It’s up to Ginnifer Goodwin and a campy and perfect as hell Lana Parilla to give the relationship weight and reveal the iron-willed optimist that we’re told Snow White is.

And those scenes, of these two women wandering the forest with Snow’s kindness and magnanimous love chipping away at the darkness surrounding Regina, are perhaps some of the truest scenes, emotionally speaking, that the show has done all year. It’s a wonder these two actresses haven’t been pitted in more scenes together when they’re both just so damned good. Goodwin has the steely eyed hero down pat and Parilla could probably do a one woman show of Michael Curtiz’s Adventures of Robin Hood judging from the way she plays cackling villain, spoiled queen, tearful mother and, to a waaaay lesser extent, hero.

They even nearly succeed in saving that final scene they share, when they come across a hundred of Regina’s victims. Regina is like a child caught, and her characterization never stops being complicated and fascinating.

But poor Snow is the one who has to go from absolute forgiveness to absolute rage in a heartbeat and Goodwin does as well as any great actress would with the material, but the material still fails her, as it has all season. So Regina flees and Snow weeps for the mother figure destroyed and her own innocence violated and it never rings quite true, because this show has, at some point, decided that making Snow White/Mary Margaret anything more than a foil for Regina and a wet blanket for Emma would be intolerable.

The realization struck me like lightning. That has been what’s missing all season. The show has spent far too much time making me pity Regina (and turning her into a victim with no hope) while abandoning Snow, and Charming, and Emma. This show has these fascinating villains it has become obsessed with and left its heroes to become props. When I find myself annoyed that Snow can’t just forgive Regina even as they stand over a hundred rotting corpses the show has failed.

Emma, at least, does a good job of returning to the multifaceted character of the first season. While her mom walks around being a plot device (seriously I should find her love for Charming EPIC and this season it’s just annoying) Emma got to be funny, goofy, a teenager, a mom, a bad ass investigator, and a big ol’ dope all rolled into one. Like poor Snow she’s been a plot device since returning to Storybrooke so it was an absolute delight seeing her be so winsome with Henry. Heck I didn’t even mind the Swan Thief shipping nonsense rearing it’s head again (that can’t be a legit relationship until we spend an episode with Emma and let her explore her own damn feelings on the subject instead of having every asshole on the show tell her how to feel).

Emma is precious when she's poorly hunting bad guys with her son.

Emma is precious when she’s poorly hunting bad guys with her son.

But these little moments aren’t collectively good enough to surpass the slack characterization of heroes and Hook’s lame as hell battle to the second death with Maleficent the Wraith. That…that was dumb.

Notes

  • It was partly dumb because the actor broke his leg and is limping through all of his scenes. Poor guy.
  • Belle and Gold are now an item because Belle is evil and I won’t lie. Still love it.
  • I missed badass Snow SO MUCH. That scene where she rescues Regina was the highlight of the season for me. Sheer swashbuckling epicness. I could watch those two swashbuckle for DAYS.
  • Regina knows all her guards names! And also maybe blackmails them? You complicated woman you.
  • So why is the show making Regina out to be so childlike? Because that is another way the show robs her of agency and it pisses me off. Make her an adult please. We can take it.
  • Greg and Tamara are evil and use nanotech to stop Regina’s sass. It wasn’t cool. It was also very cool.
  • Hook is soooo tortured. Let him be Hook naturally show. You don’t need to force him on us.
  • Charming. Grow. Stubble. You are baby-faced and annoying and I do not like it.
  • Tonight: In about twenty minutes Regina gets tortured and sasses Greg who is a massive jerk and also Emma promises to find her and I swoon a little and also Neal is back and what guys I like him I’M SORRY.