Once Upon a Time‘s 150th episode was dedicated to everyone’s favorite Wicked Witch. Zelena comes to terms with her past and realizes that maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t have to run away from the darkness to find some happiness. The episode, directed by Lana Parrilla, was originally the end of Rebecca Mader’s arc for season 7 — prior to the cancellation, which led the showrunners to bring her back for the finale.
Villains on this show have always had complex stories dealing with trauma or troubling instances that led them down the dark path. When they do come anew and want to redeem themselves its usually hard for them to accept their darkness. They tend to want to forget the past and move forward, but as history reminds us, you can’t just forget your past. No matter what happens, it’s still there; it’ll always be part of your story and the moment you learn to accept it and love your whole self, that’s when you’ll find true happiness.
We saw this last season while Regina dealt with her dark side — quite literally because she split herself in two. We saw that battle of accepting your dark side play out. But all the villains have had to deal with this internally. Not all of them get a doppelganger to literally fight until they find that Eureka moment. Zelena was no exception.
This episode she had to come to terms with her demons and fully embrace them in order to move forward. As shocking as it was for her that someone would actually accept her for everything, she found her special someone. Chad wanted to be with her regardless of what her past entailed. By the end of the episode, she had her happy ending — so to speak. In what would have been her book end, this was a good ending for this character. What they can possibly do in the finale, beats me.
This episode focused on Bex Mader’s character and really allowed her to dig deep into the depths of emotion to come to terms with Zelena’s past. She was able to bring not only her delightfully snarky side, but the vulnerable aspects as well. Mader’s acting in this episode was some of the best work she’s done on the show.
Zelena isn’t always seen as vulnerable. She usually is the sassy one, but during this episode Mader got to play that side — while she was telling her fiance of her past and readying herself for the breakup, which luckily never came, as well as her goodbyes with her sister and daughter. She also played up the vulnerable aspects in flashbacks while in full green. It’s easier to see Kelly being vulnerable but the Wicked Witch doing it was something else entirely. Seeing that she still had a heart all those years really adds depth to her story. People always saw the monster but never gave her the opportunity until a blind man took her in and showed her kindness. Rebecca Mader made Zelena larger than life and it’s no wonder her initial arc only led to a larger redemption story for this character.
This episode was special in more ways than one. It was the 150th episode of the series, a huge milestone in network TV. It was Zelena centric, those episodes are always fun, but this was also Lana Parrilla’s directorial debut. How fitting that it fall on not only the milestone 150 but also one that focused on her onscreen sister? Parrilla and Mader’s off screen bond has been one of the best things to come from this show.
The creative decisions behind the camera angles and varying shots didn’t seem like it was coming from a new director. Parrilla’s love and knowledge of this show allowed her to really delve into the nitty gritty. She did her homework. She knew what she was doing and gave this her 100%. This episode was beautifully composed. The artistic point of view was phenomenal. According to Rebecca Mader, “Lana was the best director we had in seven years”. She knew this show. You did an incredible job, Director Parrilla.
Once Upon a Time airs Friday nights at 8/7C on ABC.