Once Upon a Time 6.18 review: Is Zelena finally a hero?

Rebecca VanAcker

*This article contains spoilers: Once Upon a Time season 6 episode 18*

This was another great, character-focused episode for Once (6.18, “Where Bluebirds Fly”). I don’t typically have strong feelings about Zelena one way or another, but she had some wonderful, well-earned character beats here that were smartly contrasted with a solid flashback. It effectively explained her motivation for taking on the Black Fairy alone, added power to her sacrifice at the end of the hour, and incorporated both the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion in a fun, unexpected way.

I do usually end up enjoying Zelena-centric episodes, mostly because of Rebecca Mader’s infectious enthusiasm, even though, as I mentioned, I feel pretty ambivalent about Zelena in general. I think the problem is that it’s hard to get invested in her characterand her relationship with Regina—when she’s often on the sidelines. I also think little screen time for the two of them has made it hard to dig into the nuances of that relationship the way they have with Regina and Snow or Regina and Emma.

Mistrust has always been that relationship’s Achilles heel; I think part of Regina resents Zelena for how much she reminds her of her lonely Evil Queen days—Zelena alone in her castle in Oz absolutely had shades of Regina isolating herself in the Enchanted Forest. Because of that resentment, Zelena often brings out Regina’s worst impulses, like how cruel she can be when she’s frustrated or when the people she loves are in danger (leading her to say things like “go back to Oz”). That, coupled with a lifetime of abandonment, has prevented Zelena from trusting Regina and really anyone else, instead placing her trust in herself and her magic.That’s why her sacrifice was such a big deal and why it may be a turning point in her relationship with her sister. After all, giving up your magic to save your sister’s town is a pretty big sign of trust in her, as is your sister telling you that “You’ve never looked stronger.”

So, is this the episode where Zelena finally became a hero or, at the very least, someone the heroes can definitively count on? I hope so. Characters like Regina and Hook have shown that the inner battle with darkness rages on even after deciding to become a hero and that that battle makes for very compelling storytelling. I would love to see Zelena become a full-blown member of Team Hero just as they have.

This hour was pretty heavy for Zelena, but it also had the most purely enjoyable B-plot we’ve seen in awhile, with Snow gleefully leading the charge to plan Emma and Hook’s wedding. Both Snow and Charming and Hook and Emma have had quite a heartbreaking time of it lately, and it was great to see both couples—plus Henry—doing something so nice and normal. Hook and Emma’s pancake scene was an episode highlight, toeing the line of sweet and sexy a bit less carefully than they usually do (Hook’s line about the cold, bracing shower…) Honestly, I would watch an entire episode of domestic Hook/Emma scenes, and I feel like I’m probably not alone in that. Snow and Charming also had some pretty fun bickering throughout, complete with hilariously apt Dr. Whale reference.

The wedding planning culminated in one of the episode’s strongest moments, with Charming and Snow admitting why they want to postpone the wedding and do it as soon as possible, respectively. I liked Charming’s comment about doing what their family needs before giving the town hope in particular because it tied into the sacrifice they made in the last episode really well. It also proved again that Snow has always been more willing to make those sacrifices than Charming has, which adds an interesting layer to their relationship. Appropriately, both also mentioned how many moments they’ve missed in Emma’s life; I can’t blame them for wanting this one to be perfect.

Other thoughts on “Where Bluebirds Fly”:

So there are not a lot of wedding venues in Storybrooke, huh? I guess we know now why Belle and Rumple got married in the middle of the woods.

I liked that Emma was there for Zelena’s big hero moment. Zelena saved the whole town from the Black Fairy, yes, but Emma is at the forefront of that battle. Also, it was sweet that both Regina and Emma reassured Zelena that they would take care of Robin.

Belle is so perpetually out of the loop that even helpfully agreeing to babysit became the wrong thing to do. Now that Zelena has the chance to fully join the heroes, can Belle ditch Rumple and do the same? 

Just me, or was the musical score particularly great this episode? I loved what they came up with for Zelena’s moments, as well as the ending Blue Fairy/Black Fairy scene. I can’t wait to see that flashback play out next week.

What did you think of “Where Bluebirds Fly”? Let me know in the comments!

More Once Upon a Time articles: Once Upon a Time 6.17 review: Emma and Hook reunite! Plus, Snow and Charming sacrifice everything

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