It's probably good that Once Upon A Time Season 5 is currently on hiatus. I don't know about you, but I'm downright exhausted after the first half of the season, and I need a bit of a break to step away, unwind, and pump up my resolve to keep watching a show that used to be about strong, badass women and the power of love and family and is now a weekly devotional to an abusive, entitled pirate who's better at applying eyeliner than I'll ever be and the woman who's suddenly content to follow him around while completely ignoring her son and her family, not to mention sacrificing her entire identity. In other words, things aren't looking good, especially since the brightest star in Once's sky, the divine Lana Parrilla, is trying to keep this sinking ship afloat while her character — a crowd favorite and one of the two leads — is all but ignored. Remember how Regina was going to be a Savior in Season 5? Oh right, showrunners Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis were just kidding about that!
After spending several seasons atoning for past sins and truly putting in the work to become a better person and put the darkness behind her, Season 5 was prime time for Regina to step up into the hero role while Emma fought the darkness (for her sake, no less). Had things played out that way, it would have been a phenomenally interesting, empowering, and entertaining storyline, but for whatever reason, scripts were rewritten, characters were assassinated, and Regina's stint as the Savior was reduced to her literally speaking the words "I'm the Savior" to Arthur in Camelot — a ruse which lasted about five seconds. What the hell?
As Kitsis explained to Entertainment Weekly, "I feel like that kind of got wrapped up in Camelot in a sense that she just did it to buy them time. She wasn’t actually the Savior. She was trying to prevent Emma from using Dark magic and letting Arthur [Liam Garrigan] know, because they didn’t want him to know what was up. I don’t think it was ever really anything than just that."
I don't know about you, but reading that statement not only as a fan of the character of Regina but as a (now reluctant) fan of the show as a whole was more than a little infuriating. While I know that Kitsis and Horowitz have always tried to play it cool and give the vaguest hints possible when it comes to discussing upcoming storylines, something has obviously gone wrong here. After all, in interviews leading up to the Season 5 premiere, even Parrilla herself expressed excitement at seeing Regina's redemption come full circle. Sorry, but I refuse to believe that her turn as "hero" was reduced to a single line spoken to a throwaway character in another realm.
Then again, nothing quite went to plan in the first half of the season, did it? The Dark Swan storyline was anything but. Not only did we not get to see Emma wrestle with the darkness in any way (no, that was just a ruse to keep everyone from knowing she'd turned Hook into another Dark One), but instead we watched her character be reduced to nearly nothing so that Hook could... what, shine? Have his manpain explored? No, thanks.
From the beginning, Once gave us a show about enemies turned unlikely allies turned friends (turned something more?) who shared a son and found peace in a world that had never given them anything but chaos. Now they're trying to sell us on a narrative about a strong, independent woman who becomes a shell of her former self for the sake of her boyfriend, who she's only with because he harangued and harassed her until she gave in. To add insult to injury, Regina (and Henry, for that matter), once so central to the overall plot and ethos of the show, have been put on the back burner with every other major and minor character while this "romance" takes center court. Because of this, Once has seriously lost its way.
It's hard to imagine what led the writers to make the decision to entirely change the focus of their show so completely and so suddenly, but the fact that Regina has felt the brunt of it is unfortunate. Parrilla's acting is downright stellar and her turn as the Evil Queen and the truly reformed mayor has been a long-fought battle that's been rewarding both to watch and be a part of. Robbing her of her turn as hero is not only ridiculous, but downright offensive to longtime fans who are finding less and less of a reason to tune in from week to week because we see less to like about it.
Give us the Regina storyline both the audience and the character herself deserves, Once. Give us back the old Emma. Give us the "family show" you started as, and give us a break (preferably permanent) from Hook.
Images: Jack Rowand/ABC; mymymy-mymajesty/Tumblr