While many of us may've felt queasy by the end of this revelation-jammed episode of Once Upon a Time, I think we can all agree: “Bleeding Through” included the sexiest ghost ever seen on TV. Sorry, everybody from "Ghostly Lovers," Rose McGowan is the sexiest creature ever to be rendered in a blurry blue CGI outline. But let’s take it from the top! So: Regina was headed to Storybrooke’s Annual Who Can Dress the Most Like a Professional Dominatrix Without Actually Wearing Bondage Gear Charity Ball (Sponsored by Anne Taylor Loft and Home Depot) when Zelena popped in to say hi. Zelena was apparently headed to the same place, but since she’s all about breaking rules and SHOUTING things sartorially, she was naturally wearing a tailored leather apron and an Evil Axis-era chapeau. Costuming is making Choices! I love it.
Zelena had a lot to say about how Regina throws her happiness away with both hands and how she should go after what she wants, put it in a cage, and then make it love her. Then she promised she was going to get Regina’s ruby-red resilient heart and her little dog too, my pretty! (Robin, obvs.)
For Robin and his band of Merrie Men were vigilantly guarding Regina’s ticker, which was hidden carefully beneath a loose handful of soil somewhere on the ground right in the general area where lots of people were clomping about in boots, hahahaha.
Yet even with such high-level precautions in place, the precious organ entrusted to Robin’s care was now endangered, for Rumple had been sent after it by Zelena, and here is where we approached a Plot Gray Area, as we so often do on this show. So, Zelena can command Rumple to do something (i.e., “return to your spinning wheel”), but does that also compel him to make on-the-spot decisions to achieve that end, including threatening to kill a child? Is Rumple morally responsible for taking that child’s life, rather than just taking Robin’s arrow? Or do Zelena’s orders force him to take the most ruthlessly efficient path toward achieving each directive? Y’all liberal arts majors out there researching “Once Upon a Time and the Rise of New Calvinism,” holler back in comments.
Anyway, Regina showed up nanoseconds later to find out that Robin had folded like a soft taco and turned over her heart—and despite this being a complete betrayal of the first time she’d trusted someone since she let Emma try that thing with the handcuffs on their anniversary, she was weirdly cool about it. “Nothing is worth the loss of the child. Why am I not dead yet?” Regina said to a repentant Robin, proving that she’d happily sacrifice her life for that of an unknown child and that SHE FEARS NOTHING. She stares back at the gaping abyss and yawns, babies.
Regina’s next stop was the pawn shop, to gauge Belle’s bitch-readings as throughly basic. Guys, have you noticed how someone in the writers’ room has recently remembered all the things Belle should be angry about? Maybe they hung a “Happy Birthday!” banner over the part of the whiteboard where they were keeping track of Belle's arc in the overall plot a couple months ago and they only just now got around to taking it down? Because Belle recently has been calling everyone out on their beef with her, dressing Regina down for locking her up in a tower/asylum/etc. Regina was like “Cherie, why are you bringing this up NOW after like two months of running around town and standing in tableau with the rest of us? Can’t you just let me live my life?! Can’t YOU JUST LITERALLY LET ME LIVE?!”
Meanwhile, in Backstory Land, Young Cora was moonlighting at a tavern when a handsome rogue pulled a handkerchief out of his bosom with the royal insignia embroidered on it and discreetly threw it in her face! This, coupled with a vague promise of an engagement, served as nothing less than a passport to Cora’s nether regions, and they had some very offscreen giddyup time. And we all know what happens when we have pre-marital sex on OUAT, don’t we children?!
Yes, you get a bad case of baby and you have to knot clashing sweaters around you until you look like the “Feeeed the biiiirds” woman from Mary Poppins.
Cora was almost instantly pregnant and went to search out her prince, finding him at the exact same public-park gazebo where Aurora and Phillip were glamping at the beginning of the season.
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Victorian novels knows what happened next: The prince was actually a scoundrel, he called her a harlot, and when he found out she was pregnant he shoved her really hard and ran off. YO THOMAS HARDY CALLED AND HE WANTS HIS PLOT BACK!
None of it mattered, though, 'cause the important thing was that we got to see a super spooky seance! Oh, this was wonderful. I can’t even hide my pure joy at seeing these characters around a table, Snow and Charming eight months out and still not knowing the sex of their baby, Emma and Regina sitting next to each other holding hands and appreciating each other’s blouses, Hook fighting to cross and uncross his legs in those stiff leather pants. Trés agréable!
Yes, I know, it was another surprise magical device we’d never heard of, but you don’t go to Red Lobster and shriek about all the shellfish on the menu. No, you just order some cheap shit and focus on eating as many of those complimentary cheddar biscuits as you possibly can because real talk, you don’t even like shellfish, you just wanted some biscuits. Guys in this analogy Emma and Regina are my cheddar biscuits. Maybe yours are Rumple and Belle, or Robin, or Hook, or I don’t even know. Let’s just admit the plot has nothing to do with why we’re here right now and enjoy our zesty Cheddar Bay Motherf-cking Biscuits.
Emma was the Charming who acted as the mouthpiece for the Increasingly Indignant Audience when she said, “Uh if raising the dead is so easy, why aren’t we doing this constantly?” and Regina was like, “You need the murderer and the murder weapon, luckily the murder weapon for Cora was a candle so it will make the room super atmosphere-y, but let’s put some ashtrays under the candles to catch the wax because this is a really nice table.” And Snow was like, “Y’all remember that time I murdered Cora? I feel bad now.” But it was too late because a portal to beyond had opened over their very heads!
Poor Regina was then neglected by her own mom even posthumously. Geez. As Emma and Charming and Hook (who invited him?) scampered off to Granny’s, Snow and Regina had a touching conversation where the show Consciously Rebranded Regina. She’s resilient. She feels things so deeply, not just with her heart but with her soul. Regina admitted their relationshop was complicated. Snow copped to being a brat. What in the world was going on? Has Regina become so popular that the intended lead was currying favor with the audience by appreciating her? I don’t know, but once again: Any time OUAT sloooows doooown and lets its excellent actors talk to each other, I love it. This was no exception. I could listen to these two reminisce about life at the palace all day.
But just when things started getting good, they heard a clattering upstairs and found Sexy, Sexy Ghost Cora. It’s a comforting thought that we get to pick our Ideal Weight Age for our otherworldly spectres, and Cora had gone for the time in her life when she was all eyes and lips.
She came at them like a hologram Kate Moss at an Alexander McQueen show and Regina totally defended Snow, because OUAT is now acknowledging how much Regina has grown as a person and a good guy. But Pouty Ghost Cora was too strong, too fast, and obviously she wanted to get into Snow’s head to show her WHY SHE ABANDONED HER MAGICKAL BABY. Ready for the dish? A-hem!:
Cora had met Prince Leopold, future King Leopold, future husband to her unborn daughter Leopold, and seduced him by handily making a fire on a damp spot where someone had left a circle of stones, a flint, a bunch of hay, and some kindling. That was enough for him: She was the one. Cora got engaged to Snow’s dad! She was going to get married and be a princess and so was Zelena!
But of course the Handkerchief Scoundrel demanded jewels for his silence about their baby and Princess Ava (who looked not unlike Anne Hathaway), Leopold’s former betrothed, overheard that Cora was pregnant and revealed all to Leopold, who had Cora removed from the palace.
Charming, Emma, and Hook returned to stand as witnesses to these revelations, and all of them roundly condemned Princess Ava for “telling a secret”—though as far as I can tell, it was more like she was revealing a conspiracy against the royal succession, which is officially treason, but whatever. Then Belle came in and was like “TIME TRAVEL SPELL!” and everyone was like “Knock, could you?” But Belle’s research kicked off a full-on brainstorm.
It was one of those rare, pearl-like moments where the Charmings put aside their perpetual cloud of obliviousness to make startling leaps of deduction, their thoughts effortlessly pirouetting from synapse to synapse, would that they could draw a conclusion and figure out the next macguffin needed to protect Henry. And so the Charmings realized that to cast the spell, Zelena needed their unborn baby. BABY-SNATCHING is now an integral part of Season 3! I knew we could do it guys.
Meanwhile, Zelena made Rumple have a dinner date with her that was so sad I almost full-body sobbed. She made him put on a nice little suit, and prepared a tasty little meat pie for each of them, and then they full-body rubbed around on the table. All our families could sit back, eat some Peeps, and enjoy a man making out with a woman under duress and then threatening her life.
Of course Rumpbelle’s busy fingers were just his attempt to get Zelena’s dagger and regain his autonomy, and she was like, “Ack guys these days amirite ladies a good man is hard to find bikini season!!!” and sent him back to his hidey-hole. Guys, she is super serious about turning back time! Will OUAT fire its whole cast and make next season all about an AU OUAT where Zelena was born to Queen Cora and King Leopold?
After a final International Cafe Coffee moment betwixt Regina and Snow, Regina found Robin and kissed him full on the lips, like you do with someone who’s endangered your life and the lives of all the people you love.
Because she can love without her heart I guess? Or maybe the libido lies in the soul? Or are they just pandering to the breeders? Maybe this show only makes sense when you consider Disney’s largest consumer base, young children and their parents. Maybe that’s why the overall series arc has become an ellipse swirling around two primal terrors: the threat of your child being killed or stolen, and the threat of your parents leaving you. Around these two loci, script page after script page are lined end on end to form a perpetual Mobius loop, never going forward, never breaking new ground, only endlessly pulling us back into the darkness of our fear.
... Zelena: more tragic than dark magic figure, or... ?
... Was Princess Ava to blame for blowing the Cheaters whistle on Cora, or was she wrong in the first place for lying to King Leopold?
... Is Snow and Regina trading memories kind of the best? Do you wish they'd talked dresses a little?
... Robin Hood: great dad or terrible heart guardian?
... Where is this crazy train headed?
... What is your cheddar biscuits?