'Once Upon A Time’s Regina Will Confront Her Dark Past In The Underworld, But Will It Complete Her Redemption Arc?
Oh, Regina Mills, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The former Evil Queen turned Storybrooke stalwart is now the real savior of Once Upon A Time , it seems — especially in Season 5, where everyone seems to have lost their damn minds and completely forgotten who they were in ways that are far worse than anything caused by the Dark Curse. In the midst of all the madness, Mayor Mills has remained strong, persistent, and whip-smart, and I can say with confidence that at this point, Regina — and the wonderful actress who plays her, Lana Parrilla — are the saving grace of the show. Thankfully, it seems like she'll get a bit more time to come to the forefront in the second half of the season, when the town takes a leisurely sojourn to the Underworld to try and save Hook, and Regina will be forced to confront her demons.
You can't call yourself a Regina fan — technically the term is "Evil Regal", but I like to appeal to the masses, here — without embracing every element of this fascinating and complicated character. Here's a woman whose pain from losing the only happiness she'd known in her life up until that point drove her to attempt to destroy the happiness of the whole world for many, many years. She maimed, murdered, burned things to the ground. And yet, despite sinking to such unfathomable depths, she found the strength to pull herself back to the light. She had help, of course — her love for her son, Henry, and the friend and ally she never knew she needed in Emma — but ultimately it was Regina who had to make the decision not to take the easy way out. With that in mind, I have no doubt that she'll be ready to face up to her past.
As Parrilla told Entertainment Weekly, "She wants to confront these souls and these people that she's hurt, that she has killed. She’s on the right path, and she’s still on the path of redemption. She still wants to make amends with people and still trying to do the right thing. She’s really embracing the hero within her."
She's totally right in that. When Regina tells doubters that she's not the woman she once was, you have to believe her — not just because she's saying it, but because her actions prove it. There have been plenty of occasions in this season alone where conjuring a fireball and giving it a swift hurl would have been the easier (and more satisfying option), but Regina is dedicated to the changes she's made. She wants to set a good example for Henry, sure, but she also wants to be the best version of herself she can be — the one that's not controlled by fear, hate, and pain. And she's done a damn good job of it.
Parrilla herself should be given endless amounts of credit for portraying Regina's journey so genuinely and with such heart (not to mention a dash of amazing 'tude). She started as a villain and became a character of depth and complexities who the audience began rooting for despite themselves. And through her redemption arc — which hasn't been seamless, but has certainly been rewarding — we've gotten to know Regina in ways that will make her a character we're not soon to forget.
The stakes for Regina as she enters the Underworld may seem exceptionally high. After all, hell is where you come face to face with all you've done, where the grand sum of your life's deeds is laid before you. But for Regina, there will be no surprises. She knows what she's done, and she's accepted it. She's shown sincere remorse and dedicated herself to turning her back from that darkness for good. Will the realities of what she's done weigh on her heart? Without a doubt — she's become an unlikely hero (unlikely to herself, anwyay). But if there's anyone strong enough to look that darkness in the eye and turn back to the light, it's Regina. In other words, she's got this thing, and I can't wait to see her come out of it more victorious than ever.