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Once Upon A Time thankfully skips the wheat fields of Kansas for some Oz-based backstory on Zelena. Yes, “Kansas” features a girl named Dorothy who’s quick on the draw to put out fires. But it’s really Regina who has to have the fast fingers, in her final duel to protect the Charmings and stop her sister for good.

The Players:

  • Director: Gwyneth Horder-Payton
  • Writers: Andrew Chambliss & Kalinda Vazquez
  • 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: “Kansas”

With Snow in labor, Emma and Hook head out to bring the fight to Zelena. The Witch is one step ahead of them, contriving a trap to take Emma’s magic powers. She has Rumple almost drown Hook and, in contrast to the new standards of CPR, Emma gives him mouth to mouth. This allows Zelena to waltz into the hospital and take the Charmings’ newborn son. Back in Oz, it’s Zelena who’s approached by Glinda to join the sisterhood of witches. She gives Zelena her pendant, which houses and focuses her power. When a crazy tornado touches down in Oz, a young Kansas girl named Dorothy drops from the sky. Glinda recruits Dorothy in the same way she recruited Zelena, and this sets off her green skin condition. Zelena embraces her wickedness, as well as a prophecy that says she’s an ultimate evil, and stages her own melting to trap Glinda. She banishes Glinda and begins preparing to exact revenge on Regina. In the present, it’s Henry who comes up with the notion that Regina could now use light magic to defeat her sister. The A-Team, including Robin Hood, confronts the Wicked Witch and it goes remarkably well. Regina strips Zelena of her pendent, the flying monkeys turn back into people, and Charming rescues the baby. Slight overexposure and slowed motion group hugs for everyone, right? Marriage proposals between Rumple and Belle, who’ve been through so much we’re kind of surprised it took them this long. But no. Belle returns the Dark One’s dagger to Rumple as a sign of trust, and he almost immediately sets off to murder Zelena for killing Neal. When he stabs her, her essence (soul? Smoke monster?) retreats into the pendant, which appears to cast the time-travel curse after all. Oops.

The Good:

  • Light Magic: For a show with a character nicknamed “The Savior” Once Upon A Time’s pulled from the bench a lot this season. It’s recognized Regina for the closer that she is. Her light magic showdown with Zelena was pretty badass, and Lana Parrilla played it perfectly. She was confident as ever, but this time in herself, not in the hurt she dishes out. Everybody else caught that she was able to break Zelena’s choking spell after Robin rescued her heart, right? What a nice beat. The whole fight was classic OUAT: Well staged but over kind of quickly.
  • A Charming Family: The 10 minutes or so that the show invested in pretending it was a season finale where everything works out were well executed also. Emma and Hook don’t completely make up, or make out, but she wouldn’t let him drown and that’s a start. The scene between Rumple and Belle was pretty sweet. But the moment between Regina and the chastened Zelena was the payoff. It wasn’t the most well scripted sequence of the episode — basically a rehash of all their previous conversations but without Rebecca Mader gnawing on the walls. Regina’s belief in her heroism, which is clearly her love for Henry, was on full beam. Great stuff.

The So-So:

  • Finishing Moves: Is it fantastic to see take-no-prisoners Rumpelstiltskin again? An emphatic yes. The moment where he magic-drags Zelena by the foot? So much more earned and exciting than “heroes don’t kill.” We liked that his vengeance proved problematic, although we didn’t like that it came on the heels of such a nice proposal to Belle. After all that Neverland stuff, we thought this was a regression for the character.

The Bad:

  • Second Chance Replay: The Oz storyline, had instances of the twisty reinvention and cleverness OUAT does best. The melting was fantastic. However, it was mostly a rehash of Zelena conflicts we’ve seen before. Her thirst for approval from an authority figure and her immediate and complete jealousy of anyone who steps in the way. As a result, we would’ve taken five more minutes of witchy wirework or Rumple’s psychological torture over the yellow brick road.

Overall:

“Kansas” had a nice conclusion, though of course it isn’t a conclusion. Sister Fight Act 3 was very satisfying, and there was plenty to aww about with the Charming family welcome party to Henry’s very young uncle. We’re excited for whatever crazy alternate reality emerges when Zelena changes the past. Maybe Matt Smith will show up as the Terminator? At this point, all bets are off.

Rating: 8/10

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

Regina the hero? Let us know what you thought of the Evil Queen’s redemption in the comments.