once upon a time beware the green eyed monster

A few weeks ago, Once Upon A Time had a “Witch Hunt.” Although Sunday’s episode featured the intriguing Oz-ian backstory of Zelena, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” should have been titled, “Witch Fight!”

The Players:

  • Director: Mario Van Peebles
  • Writer: Andrew Chambliss
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire

Episode Title: “It’s Not Easy Being Green”

All the denizens of Storybrook (and all the cool lenses director Mario Van Peebles has been wanting to try out) gather for Neal’s funeral. Emma’s conflicted about how to deal with Henry, because he doesn’t remember who his father was. Hook volunteers to take him out sailing for a bit of Bae bonding. It’s a good thing, because right afterwards, Zelena crashes the wake and challenges Regina to a duel. Our intrepid Sherriff’s department attempts to help Regina gain the edge by freeing Rumple, but that doesn’t work. Regina has only slightly better luck. She finds the letter, which she’d always turned to for solace without reading, thinking it was about her. But it just confirms Zelena’s discovery and tutelage by Rumple. Robin Hood appears, and the two are so advanced at flirting they hardly need Tinker Bell to nudge them. The showdown doesn’t go well for Regina, but it didn’t need to. She’s hidden what Zelena wanted, her heart. No one’s defeated, but we can definitely chalk this round up to Team Enchanted. And that’s part of the problem. In flashback, we learn how Zelena appeared in Oz in a green tornado, and was adept at magic as a child. This made her father hate and disown her, so she goes to the great and terrible Wizard of Oz to find her real family. The man behind the curtain gives her slippers that take her to the Kingdom, and to Rumple, who realizes how adept she is and begins to train her. But he claims she’s become too attached to him to cast The Curse. This turns her green with envy. She returns to Oz and transforms the wizard, a nice Kansas boy named Walsh, into a flying monkey. They kickoff her plan to see to it that Regina was never born.

The Good:

  • Silver Slippers: Readers of The Wizard of Oz will be tickled to see the return of the book’s original silver slippers, as opposed to Dorothy’s red ones. But the entire flashback of Zelena’s history was wonderfully ripe. Rebecca Mader can chomp through Zelena’s more innocent and trusting scenes with the same Pacman zeal that she snarks, “No, it’s the Wicked West,” to Regina later on. All of Walsh’s Oz-ian trappings in Emerald City looked properly marbled and impressive. It was nice to see Walsh again, as the huckster who’s rolling with the fact he’s in over his head. This episode easily had the most engaging flashbacks we’ve seen all season.
  • Green Monster: We’ve decided to make a separate point for the idea that Zelena actually turned into a green-skinned monster, based on her insatiable envy of Regina. It’s an incredibly on-the-nose reason, but also very satisfying given by Rumplestilskin’s sparkle-blacklight-rave appearance. Especially because turnabout is fair play, and he realizes Zelena’s slippers could’ve taken him back to his son without all the fuss of a curse. She would’ve done it because she loved him right up until he smugly alienates her. Irony stings, man.

The So-So:

  • Clap If You Believe!: Oh, hey Tinker Bell! Are you only coming around now to push boys on Regina? It was great to see her again, but hopefully she’ll have more to do besides Yenta. This revives our dream of a Ariel/Belle/Tink play revival of The No. 1 Lady’s Detective Agency. Also, who says Regina doesn’t day drink?
  • Showdown At The L. Frank Corral: That clock tower is always a fantastic set-piece, and there was a lot of dramatic magic throwing and Savior-tipping between Regina and Zelena. But it was a bit abrupt. A bit short, given all that build-up. We totally understand why, and would take the same amount of action to flashback if we had to do it over. But still: Meh.

The Bad:

  • Who’s Got The Brains?: We’re trying to make sure that “The Bad” section doesn’t become “The We Pick On Snow, Do You Hear The Words Coming Out of Your Mouth” section. But she just has to kvetch as Regina’s shifting through her mother’s stuff, “I don’t think a sleeping curse would be good for the baby.” Ugh. If the Witch is out for Regina’s heart, we know at least Snow’s head is safe. In fact, they may have to import someone else to look for the brains in Storybrooke.

Overall:

“It’s Not Easy Being Green” has a pun title, of which we approve, and a fleshed out flashback, explaining the emotional landscape of a new character. There’s usually a lot to pick through from a villain’s origin, because evil, is never the starting point for a character. It’s a journey of choices. It was grand to see Zelena’s spin out, full of loving references to Oz and a sparkly Rumple for good measure.

Rating: 8/10

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Who else is Wicked gunning for? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.