Saturday, April 9, 2016

Once Upon a Time: Our Decay

by Melissa Parkin

What do we get when the Wicked Witch and the God of the Underworld team up? A match made in Hell...

We return to the past in the wondrous green realm of Oz on Zelena’s so-called birthday. On her quest to enact the time travel spell that will claim Regina’s happy ending as her own, the Wicked Witch tries to steal the brain from Dorothy’s beloved Scarecrow. Before she can finish the deed, a certain Kansas girl, now all grown up, swoops in to save the day. With the help of Toto, Dorothy distracts Zelena long enough to grab her friend and go.

In the present day Underworld, Hades strong-arms Rumplestiltskin into opening up a portal to Storybrook. As Belle visits Mother Superior to help feed Zelena’s baby, the Wicked Witch appears to reclaim her child. A gaping hole in the floor appears, swallowing up Belle, Zelena, and the newborn. Crash-landing in the Underworld, Belle manages to escape an injured Zelena, taking off with the baby.

Along the way, Belle manages to find Rumple. Her husband breaks the news to her about his deal with Hades, where the Lord of the Underworld will claim his second born child. Baffled by his concern, she realizes only then what he’s hinting at. She’s pregnant. If having the fear of your unborn child being ripped away from you isn’t bad enough, Belle also discovers the truth that Rumple has become the Dark One…again. Unable to condone his need for power, she leaves him to find her friends.

FLASHBACK:

Still sulking over the loss of the Scarecrow’s brain, a vital ingredient to enact the curse, Zelena finds an unwelcomed visitor in Oz. Hades himself appears, offering his helping hand. In return, he wants to share her soon-to-be curse. If he can go back in time, he can overthrow his brother to take Olympus as his own. Having been banished to the Underworld, the only way he can be fully free to stay in other realms is by true love’s kiss, which is pretty much impossible since he’s been stripped of all kindhearted emotions. Zelena refuses his offer, but he won’t take no for an answer. When she returns to her castle, he begins pestering her all over again, this time poking fun at her lackluster birthday festivities. She sharply corrects him that it isn’t her birthday.

“I don’t know the day I was born, but thank you for reminding me.”

“That is actually a sad story,” he muses.

“I only know the day my mother abandoned me.”

“Getting sadder,” he mocks. “So, this is what? Celebrating Abandonment Day?”

The two verbally spar off, but they eventually come to find that they aren’t so different.  Having been robbed of their happy endings by their siblings, they’re both out for vengeance. Zelena finally consents to his offer, and they go out together to find the Scarecrow. Oddly enough, cuteness ensues as they come across a bicycle among Dorothy’s wreckage, sharing a bike ride through the woods that ends in a playful tumble.

When they find the Scarecrow, Zelena gleefully takes care of Dorothy and claims the Scarecrow’s brain, only to see afterward that Hades is gone. Returning to her castle, she’s only too happy to find him waiting for her. Zelena then assumes that he’s come to say goodbye, because he is condemned to return to the Underworld. He assures her differently, professing her to be his true love. If she kisses him, then he’ll be free. Distrust gets the better of Zelena, and she refuses him. They’re both cut from the same cloth, and she fears that Hades is only using her to get what he wants most: revenge. Zelena demands he go back to the Underworld and never return, in which he sourly assures her that she will regret her decision.

PRESENT DAY:

Realizing that Hades opened the portal to take her baby,  Zelena winds up on Emma’s doorstep, asking Robin and Regina to help her find her daughter. The trio eventually crosses paths with Belle. Desperate to hold the baby, Zelena convinces Robin to let her feed their daughter. Unsurprisingly, she uses her magic to escape with the baby. Reality hits when she’s safe and sound, seeing that her magic backfired, injuring the infant. Regina and the others track Zelena back to the Underworld’s version of her house, where Zelena openly returns the baby to Robin. Fearing that she can't properly protect her daughter, Zelena tearfully pleads with him and her half-sister to take care of the child, to keep her safe from Hades.

Meeting in the town square, Hades and Zelena reunite. To her dismay, she learns that Hades only opened the portal to keep her daughter safe from the others who took her away to begin with.

“I would never hurt you… That’s the thing about true love; it endures. It can never be broken.”

Hades recreated the Underworld to look like Storybrook just for her, so that it was in the image of the dark curse she wished to enact. After all this time, he still loves her. History repeats itself however, as Zelena can’t bring herself to trust him just yet. Smart girl. She sets out to find her daughter—on her own—when Hades calls out, “April 15th.” Her true birthday.  In a rather dementedly sentimental fashion, Hades had tortured the information out of Cora, taking care of her for Zelena’s sake. He assures Zelena that if she ever changes her mind, he’ll be waiting for her.   

Following the rocky ride that has been season five, “Our Decay” is the best of the year…by far. Sure, we’ve got some people making some really stupid decisions here, but that’s nothing new. Despite their repeated defeats, the villains still prove to be the smartest of the bunch.  Why would you trust Zelena to not pull something and run away with your daughter, Robin?  Let’s face it. The Heroes of the show can be so naive and gullible sometimes. Even though they all know very well that the Baddies are evil, they can’t help but to keep falling for the same tricks. Yes, the show is about redemption and the hope that anyone can become a hero. But just because you try to see the goodness in people doesn’t mean you have to be downright idiotic. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Well, we’re at the 167th second chance here, and yet no one's learned from their mistakes.

That gripe aside, the romance between Zelena and Hades is oddly charming. Their past damage has made them wise, particularly Zelena. It’s refreshing to see someone using everyday commonsense. Sure, love makes you blind, but heartbreak makes you wiser. And Zelena proves to be smart enough to keep her head above her heart. Anticipating the slow burn of their romance certainly piques interest. With the show’s main couples seeming to have stalled out, the authentic connection between these two villains is a much needed refreshment. Up until this point, Zelena has been the woman we all love to hate. Between her genuine devotion to her daughter’s well-being and her rational approach to Hades, there’s undoubtedly a change in the wind.  

Episode Rating: A

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