If you're going to embark on a rescue mission that takes you literally to hell and back, you probably want to have some powerful allies on your side. Thankfully, when Emma steps into the Underworld Sunday in the Once Upon A Time Season 5B premiere — which just so happens to be OUAT 's 100th episode — she's got all of Storybrooke, including Regina Mills, behind her as she attempts to save Hook. The former Evil Queen may have left the darkness behind long ago, but she's still the most skilled wielder of magic in this realm (and likely many others), and she also happens to be Emma's best friend and biggest supporter. And, while her strength and unwavering loyalty will no doubt spur this latest adventure towards an explosive conclusion, it's also an opportunity for Regina to reunite with her mother Cora, make some long-needed amends, and continue on her ongoing path to redemption. Lana Parrilla gave Bustle the scoop on Regina's big Underworld adventure ahead of the episode's premiere.
Parrilla is about as different from Regina Mills as two personalities could possibly be — she radiates an immediate warmth and openness that Regina hasn't quite mastered yet, making her portrayal of the iconic character even more fascinating and impressive. Having spent five years studying Regina so intensely, you have to wonder if Parrilla feels totally in sync with her or if there are still new layers to uncover.
"I feel like I'm still constantly getting to know her, largely because she’s still getting to know herself," Parrilla explains. "Do I have a more confidence in portraying her life and her story? Yes, absolutely — she’s more in my DNA than she was in the early days. Now, there’s a bit of a shorthand when I show up to work. I know her better than I ever have, but there’s still so much to learn and I’m excited that we've got the rest of this season plus the sixth season that we’re going to have the opportunity to learn more about her."
One of the biggest opportunities to get to know Regina on a deeper level will happen pretty much immediately, when the former Evil Queen comes face to face with her late mother, Cora, in the Underworld. The relationship between the women was complicated at best and incredibly toxic at worst for most of their lives. It was only in the final moments before Cora's death, when she finally had her heart back in her chest, that we were privy to a touching mother/daughter moment that sadly came too late and was tragically cut short. Now that they have a second chance to find peace together, Regina won't let it pass her by.
"I think the last time we saw Cora and Regina in the living world, they were in each other’s arms — her mother died in her arms, you know? But, she died with her heart in her chest, whereas before she had her heart, she was very cold," Parrilla recalls. "You know Cora — she was a manipulative and controlling woman, but the minute she got her heart back, she just lit up. Barbara [Hershey] gave Cora this radiant smile and this love in her eyes and it’s only about a minute that Regina got to experience that love and kindness and the mother she always wanted. Then Cora dies, so that moment is too fleeting."
She continues: "What Regina’s really excited about when she sees her mother is to get to experience her mother again like this, being this awakened soul, a mother who feels and loves deeply. It’s bittersweet — she’s excited to see her mother and knows the reunion is going to be a positive one, but she’s also sad to see her mother trapped in the Underworld."
And, Cora isn't the only important figure from Regina's past that she'll have to confront in the Underworld. After all, given her dark past, many of the souls floating around the Underworld are likely there because Regina killed them — a past she's owned up to and may finally make amends with when she's down there. But, there's one soul in particular that's always been heavy in Regina's heart, and that's that of her father, Henry Sr., whose heart Regina crushed in order to cast the dark curse that brought them all to Storybrooke to begin with.
"I think what we discover and what Regina discovers is that being in the Underworld is even more of an opportunity to continue to grow and make amends. We experience that in the first episode when Regina confronts her father for the first time after she’s killed him. We can still see that even though it’s haphazard and it’s not something she set up on her own — she discovers that her father is down there and in that discovery, she makes a choice," Parrilla says.
She can either confront him or leave and not confront him, and the fact that she does shows such promise and courage in her that there’s that deeper inner self that really wants to heal and really wants to do the right thing, and she does. She sees her father and she shares these words with him that are so heartfelt, so honest, and she really wants to apologize and take responsibility for what she did.
And, Parrilla believes that it's through this healing with her father that she may finally find a sense of inner peace that's been somewhat elusive up until this point, regardless of how much she's distanced herself from the darkness.
"It’s probably Regina's biggest regret, killing her father," Parrilla says. "Because even throughout the years when you’ve seen her going after Snow in those flashbacks, she never really went for it. There were so many opportunities when she could have just killed her — snapped her neck, ripped her heart out or something — and I always wonder, like, why doesn’t she?" the actor muses.
I think part of her knew that if she did that, then she would have crossed over to a place that she can never return from. And, yet, she still killed her father. I think that the fact that she’s so willing to confront the hardest thing and her past decisions shows a bravery and a courage and a desire to want to change and want to heal. And, so that's what we see with Regina in the Underworld. She’s killed most of the people that are down there, so she wants to help save those people, and I think that’s really her redemption.
It's certainly a redemption I look forward to seeing, and I can't wait to learn what the rest of 5B and 6 bring for her ever-growing character who we've come to know and love.