It hasn't even been two weeks since the Season 4 finale of Once Upon A Time aired, and I'm seriously already all worked up over what's going to happen in Season 5. Life as we know it (and, you know, as the characters know it) in Storybrooke has changed entirely, and that's a scary prospect. Emma Swan has gone from being the Savior to being the new Dark One, Gold is powerless and in the magical equivalent of a coma, and frankly, Regina is about to step up as the new hero — quite the role reversal from how Madam Mayor started back in Season 1, don't you think?
Here's the thing: It's obvious that Regina Mills is not the same woman she was even back in Season 3. Somehow, through forming an alliance — and, dare I say it, a close friendship — with Emma, she's found her way to redemption, not only choosing good for herself, but ensuring that Emma stayed on that path when it seemed like she might just stray (and to be fair, it wasn't her fault that Emma eventually did fall into darkness). But now that Emma made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve Regina's happiness — which, let's be honest, is all but out the window now (or at least until Emma is restored to her old self) — it's up to Regina to save the day. Frankly, I think she's got what it takes.
She's protective over the people she loves
Sure, Regina and Emma started off on the wrong foot (to say the least), but they've formed an indelible bond that's so strong, Emma was willing to sacrifice her SOUL for Regina. That says something. Regina's also protective over Emma and will likely do anything to save her, not just because they're friends, but because she's Henry's mom, too, and he needs them both.
She's ready to do what's right
It took a long time for Regina to stop taking the easy way out (i.e. generally killing everything that stood in her way), but once she realized that there was another way, she began to embrace the light, and she puts what's right before what she wants. She knows darkness never pays off.
She's finally found her home in the world
Towards the end of Season 4, Zelena — imprisoned and magic-less and pregnant with Robin Hood's baby — accused her sister of being smarmy and finding happiness with a man, but as Regina rightly pointed out, her happy ending had nothing to do with Robin, it was about feeling at home in the world. That's what let her experience true happiness, and it's what will allow her to push forward and restore everyone else's happiness, as well.
She's not afraid of anything
Well, she is afraid of some things, but no one knows it because she doesn't give voice to it, and she certainly doesn't let it stop her from doing what needs to be done. A hero in the making, for sure.
She's pretty amazing at magic
Not that you particularly need magic to save the day, but when you're dealing with the Dark One, you're gonna need all the magic you can muster if you want to come out on top. No one but Regina could be up to the task.
She's got people who believe in her
She has Henry. She has Emma, wherever she is now, who believed in her so much that she was willing to give up her life for that belief. She's got Snow and Charming and actually a town full of people who are finally behind her. She's got this.
She won't put up with any crap
Seriously, do not try Regina, because she's not having it. You can't fool her, you can't walk all over her, and you certainly can't defeat her.
She understands how high the stakes are
Man, Regina has been through some serious bullcrap in her life, for lack of a better word. Have you ever been so heartbroken watching a character so desperate to just find some real happiness in life? She knows Emma is the key to Storybrooke staying in balance, to all its residents having their own happiness, and she will do whatever it takes to get it done.
She's got something to prove
Sure, she inflicted horrendous pain and death on thousands of people for a few years, but at her core, she's a good woman and she wants everyone to know it's for real. What better way to do that than to save the day?