As was established at the end of last episode, Neal is now dead. And for real this time. The episode even begins with his funeral, just to drive that point home. I suppose I’m supposed to feel bad that he’s gone for good, but I’m really not. And it’s not just because I never really warmed up to his character. (Maybe if they'd actually developed his character by putting more emphasis on him mending the strained relationship with his father and building a relationship with Henry instead of just presenting him as a part of the pointless love triangle, I might have liked Neal a bit more.) Perhaps this scene would have been more impactful if they hadn’t already given us the whole ‘Neal’s dead…wait, never mind, he’s still alive’ fake-out at the start of the season. But they did give us that fake-out, so watching his funeral didn’t do much for me. Of course, I do feel bad for everyone else. I feel bad for Emma, as he was the father of her child and she of course cared for him as such. I feel bad for Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, especially since this was his son and there was no question of how much he loved him, particularly after we’ve all seen how long he’d been trying to find him again, and the extreme lengths he went to. And I of course feel bad for Killian, as Neal was not only his last real connection to Milah, the woman he’d carried a torch for for centuries, but also because, for however a short a time they were together, Killian was genuinely coming to love Boy Baelfire as a son. (It was so impactful that he was the first one to place the dirt over the coffin.) I suppose I also feel slightly bad for Henry, as this was his biological father, and in the few weeks they knew each other, they did seem to actually love each other. But you know, Henry still has Grandpa Charming. Not to mention not one, but two potential stepfathers in Killian and Robin. This kid is not lacking at all in the father-figure department; he’ll be fine without Neal. So, yes, I do feel bad for the people who actually liked Neal. However, I don’t feel bad for Neal himself. The fact remains that he decided to use dark magic to resurrect his father, knowing that the method he was using would enable Zelena to get the foothold she needed. While it is understandable that he’d want his dad back, his actions were still very self-centered, particularly since it would undoubtedly put everyone in danger and it also contradicted the fact that Gold/Rumpelstiltskin had sacrificed his life to save everyone from Pan, which was quite possibly the first genuinely selfless act he’d performed in who knows how many years. In the end, if Neal had just been smart and listened to Belle, he might still be alive. It’s really his own fault he’s dead. Much like that guy from Maine that I read about who died when he decided to launch a firework off his head, I simply cannot bring myself to feel all that sorry for people who die because they did something stupid (my sincere apologies to the people who knew the guy in question).
Emma and Killian once again show they really have no concept of personal space. Even though Emma is still not willing to completely lower her walls, she still doesn’t back away when Killian gets up close and personal. Killian was really in the zone in this episode. It all starts when he once again reaches out to Emma, using his wisdom to keep her from making the same mistakes he’d made. This time, he warns her against letting her anger at Zelena cloud her judgement. He knows all too well that going after your enemy with feelings of vengeance fueling you will not lead to feelings of fulfillment. He loves Emma too much to allow her to be consumed by the void revenge begets. He then makes a gesture that clearly means more to Emma than flowers, chocolates and extravagant gifts. He offers to share what he remembers of Boy Baelfire with the amnesiac Henry, to help him feel connected with his biological father. Emma has made it known very well that she will always put her son first, as is the case with any decent mother. By offering to reach out to Henry, Killian has shown that he also cares about Henry and considers his well-being a high priority. What mother wouldn’t be touched by that? And Emma is clearly no exception, as this episode marks the moment when she starts trusting Killian with Henry, allowing the two to have time to bond with each other. And that bonding time gives Killian the chance to show he has the potential to make a great stepfather to Henry someday (as well as another brief Killian vs. the Modern World moment, with his obvious unfamiliarity with the term GPS.)
We also sorta learn through something Henry said that during the missing year, when Emma and Henry were living in New York with their false memories, that Emma had a habit of leaving Henry in the care of associates who owned boats while she was working. I can’t help but think that this was one more instance of Emma’s subconscious mind trying to remind her of her true past during that period of time. If so, it’s very telling that Emma would leave her son with boat people, considering a certain character’s connection with seafaring vessels.
The main storyline of the episode begins when Zelena has the audacity to crash Neal’s memorial service. And it goes without saying that NO ONE is pleased to see her. However Zelena, being the nasty piece of work she is, doesn’t pay the least bit of attention to this and challenges Regina to a showdown, revealing her identity as Regina’s long-lost half-sister in the process. Through Regina searching through Cora’s belongings and the episode flashbacks, we learn that Zelena had been abandoned by Cora when she was only a baby and, after being carried off by a cyclone (just go with it), she was adopted by a couple who happened to be passing by. However, Zelena’s adopted father proved to be a major jerk who actually made Uncle Vernon from the Harry Potter franchise look good. I mean, come on guy. While I can totally understand how you might be shocked that a tiny baby can have such a strong control of magic that early, she saved your life from a falling tree branch! Show a little gratitude, will you? When Zelena grows up and has had enough of her adoptive father’s verbal and emotional abuse, she seeks out the Wizard of Oz. From him, Zelena learns of her past, and of how Regina was learning magic from Dark One Rumpelstiltskin. But Regina didn’t have Zelena’s unbridled mastery of magic, so with a pair of magic slippers that Oz gives her, and a warning against not allowing herself to feel jealousy over what others have, Zelena ventures into the Enchanted Forest to also learn from Rumpelstiltskin. While he does agree to take her on as a pupil, Zelena gets ticked when she finds out that Rumple is continuing to train Regina, angrily stating that he doesn’t need Regina anymore as she is more than capable of casting the curse that would create Storybrooke. As she starts to allow the jealousy to take hold, she literally starts to turn green with envy. She then tries to kill Regina to force Rumpelstiltskin to choose her as the curse-caster, but she discovers too late that who she thought was Regina was really Rumple in disguise, who tells Zelena that her actions have led to her being more-or-less expelled from his school of teaching. The enraged Zelena taunts Rumple before teleporting away, telling him that she could have gotten him into the Land Without Magic without the curse with the use of the magic slippers the Wizard of Oz had given her. Which is awesome, when you remember Rumple had asked Jefferson (who I really wish they’d bring back for even a just a cameo) to locate a pair of slippers in ‘The Doctor’ flashback.
As we learn of Zelena’s backstory, we also see Regina finally stop backpedaling in regards to her connection to Robin. Much like with how Killian instinctively knows exactly what Emma needs to hear, Robin effortlessly convinces Regina to let him in when she has doubts that she’s strong enough to defeat Zelena, who was a magical protégée. Robin clearly gave Regina the encouragement she needed, as Regina does end up going up against Zelena, and two engage in a full-on battle, causing quite a bit of property damage in the process. (Who’s exactly going to pay to clean up that mess?) In the end, Zelena does get the upper hand, but when she tries to take Regina’s heart, she finds that it’s no longer in her chest. Because she’d given it to Robin for safekeeping. And in a very touching moment, she asks Robin to continue holding on to her heart. Her exact words were 'you can’t steal something that’s been given to you,' which can obviously be interpreted in more than one way.
The episode ends with us learning what Zelena’s ultimate plan was, and why she wanted to collect Charming’s courage and Regina’s heart. She plans to use them in a spell that will enable her to travel back in time to prevent Regina from being born. Oh, and Walsh the Monkey was also the Wizard of Oz who got turned into a monkey by Zelena. This show.
An alternate title for this episode could really have been ‘The Grass is Always Greener.’ Zelena’s malfunction is how Regina was the one who Cora kept, and the one Rumpelstiltskin chose to train to enact his curse. Something she felt she was entitled to due to her being the firstborn and the magical protégée. At the same time, we’ve all seen how horribly Cora’s child-rearing and Rumples’s training had messed Regina up. Really, Zelena, you really weren’t missing out on anything all that great. Try using all that energy on forging your own path. Even though your horrible adoptive father didn’t appreciate it, your magic skills could have been hugely beneficial to a lot of people.