Regina wasn't always evil... or at least not always completely.
At last, resolution to the great question of this first season of Once Upon a Time: is Regina more appealing when she's sympathetic or evil? Oh, and also how exactly did Snow White draw the wrath of the Evil Queen, Regina? I doubt either of the answers will surprise you.
"Stable Boy" opens with a flashback – hopefully no one chose this episode as their first go, because we get pretty deep into the show's mythology right off the bat. In the opening shot Regina is kissing a ring, a ring that we have never seen before but will definitely get explained in the course of the episode. Gold arrives, and together they plot to take down Snow White once and for all. Gold convinces Regina the best way to do this is by making sure that David and Snow can never be together, by framing Snow for Kathryn's murder.
Speaking of Kathryn, don't forget that David has a stake in this! He accosts Emma and they discuss Mary Margaret's case. David says that he doesn't think she's guilty (despite entertaining the thought last time we saw him in). He wants to visit her, probably to soothe his own guilty conscience, but Mary Margaret doesn't want to see him. Honestly, I do not blame her but I do blame Emma for stonewalling David so thoroughly. Perhaps her subconscious daddy issues are coming out.
Meanwhile Mary Margaret awakes in jail to find Regina watching her. Warning: Lana Parilla takes Regina's evil/creepy combo to a whole new level in this episode, starting with the assertion that "only the guilty sleep in prison." She tries to browbeat Mary Margaret into confessing to Kathryn's murder because she is psycho. She is clearly enjoying this whole situation and anticipating Snow's permanent departure from Storybrooke. This raises a key question: I thought no one could leave Storybrooke? Is Regina, in an oblique way, anticipating Mary Margaret's death? Mary Margaret wants to know why Regina hates her, which is understandable, but Regina does not elaborate (more on that below).
After Regina leaves to be creepy somewhere else, Emma and Gold discuss if Mary Margaret should speak to the district attorney. It is worth noting that Sidney pays the jailbird a visit and even brings some lovely tulips. I'm sure he only had good intentions to do so. On Gold's advice Snow decides to talk with the district attorney, who is the Storybrooke version of Charming's adopted king father. I'm sure he will only seek justice and is in no way interested in destroying Snow's happiness. Oh wait, I forgot this is Once Upon a Time and no one is interested in due process or an attempt at legality other than Archie (miss you, Archie). The D.A. must have forgotten the tape was rolling when he decided to play a game of "leading the witness" with Snow, but Gold doesn't stop her from saying that she wanted Kathryn gone (in an exasperated tone)... because Regina is right outside the window, and he's playing a deeper game than that. Oh R-stilts, you wily conniver, you.
Emma of course is furious with Gold for not openly opposing Regina because she is blinded by love for Mary Margaret – she's letting her emotions drive her actions, which any story will teach you is the worst way to play the game. She storms off, and August W. Booth finds Emma reading the book of stories. He helps her think through the problem facing her – being a writer, he is naturally smarter than everyone else around town (amiright?) and can give her a fresh perspective. And of course he is charming and handsome and I like that he's not overtly evil or under Regina's thumb; he's the best man-candy currently on the show for those reasons.
Inspired, Emma and August W. Booth go back to the scene of the crime to look for clues. August W. Booth trips going down the hill (smooth), then lays on the "sensitive guy" lines to get Emma to open up about her closeness with MM and how hard the whole thing is for her. She's not the opening up kind, though, so she just continues searching the riverbed until they find a broken-off piece of a shovel blade. Together they conclude exactly where to find it the shovel: Regina's house.
Henry helps them break into his house while Regina is in the shower and with the help of August, Emma does find the broken shovel in Regina's remarkably well-stocked tool shed. It's August W. Booth's face that we see most clearly when Emma says "we got her" – almost like he led her here for a reason... Emma goes back with a warrant (What? Reality? ::keels over::) to search Regina's garage. Because she is subtle, she walks right to the place where the shovel should have been and doesn't even cover up the fact that she knew it should be there. Frustrated that the shovel is not where it should be and suspicious of Regina, Emma starts going off about how good a person Mary Margaret is. Regina retorts that Snow is a liar and a murderer and she's going to pay. I would think that Regina would be angrier at her mother than anything, but I guess it's more empowering to be a villain than a victim – sorry, getting ahead of myself. I swear it's better to do these reviews in chunks than try to follow the hopscotching story layout – if you're impatient just skip to any part that mentions Cora. You're welcome.
Because she is impulsive and out of control right now, Emma goes to August W. Booth's apartment and accuses him of snitching on her. He is hurt that she doesn't trust him (oh no, sad blue eyes YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME), but she rightly states that she has no reason to. It would appear that her spidey-senses are off, because she doesn't believe him when he says he isn't a liar, or they aren't because he's hiding something else. What could he be lying about? Possibly his reasons for being in Storybrooke, judging by next week's previews.
The next day, Regina pays Mary Margaret another visit at the jail because she wants to see her before the trial, and to gloat because she will never get to see her again afterward. She sees this whole framejob as justice, while Mary Margaret can't wrap her head around Regina's crusade against her because she sees herself as innocent (Regina disagrees). She tearfully apologizes for whatever it was she did which brings us to the best part of the episode: Regina giving the crazy eyes while saying "apology not accepted." Mary Margaret says that she didn't kill Kathryn and Regina says she knows (!!!) but that Mary Margaret deserves what's going to happen to her anyway. Sounds like someone is a spoiled little brat, Regina.
After they take Mary Margaret away, Emma argues with Gold over how he was supposed to fix everything. He says there's still time for him to work a little magic. (Like the magic spell you cast over my heart? Mission accomplished.) Emma, in anger, throws Sidney's vase of ugly tulips – breaking it and finding a bug hidden inside. Oh that Sidney and his newfangled technology! Realizing that she was a jerk to him for no reason, she finds August W. Booth leaving Granny's and apologizes for suspecting him. They hear a scream and find Ruby (Ruby! In not hooker makeup!) running from the alley where she has just found Kathryn, muddy and confused. Awful music at the end, by the way. Like, a really terrible choice there.
All right, that was a lot of plot to take in. Time to tackle the fairy tale storyline from "Stable Boy," where the real spoilers are! We open with Regina showing off her horsemanship – I think she's supposed to be a tomboy, despite rocking that matching bow-jacket combo. Her mother (Barbara Hershey) disapproves, mainly because Regina isn't married yet like all the other girls her age. Um, so Regina's like twenty? I'm not up on my marriageable ages in fantasy worlds. Regina and Cora have a spat because Regina is the average rebellious daughter, and Cora uses her magic to lightly torture her daughter into submission. I'm sensing a pattern here.
Did you think that the stable boy might be important? Well he is. In the stable, Regina apologizes to Daniel for being rude earlier and they kiss. I think someone watched The Princess Bride before writing this episode, because there are homages all over the place. Later they meet in the fields, where Regina tries to explain why she can't say anything to her parents about their love: her mother is a social climber, and won't have her daughter marry a commoner, even though she started as one. Daniel says that true love is more powerful than any magic Cora can throw at them – I believe R-stilts, with his beaker full of true love, would have to agree. Also, Daniel totally looks like David Bowie.
Like a harbinger of an unhappy ending, a girl goes galloping by on a runaway horse. Regina rescues her due to her awesome horsemanship and guess who it is – it's Snow! (Bailee Madison) She has the most adorable riding outfit on. Regina gives her some nice advice about not letting fear conquer you and Snow imprints on her like a baby duckling.
Back at the house, Cora conjures a horrid blue ballgown for Regina to wear. Seriously, they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for that one. Regina needs to be all dolled up for the king's arrival. Because Regina saved his daughter, he proposes – he's more interested in a mother for his daughter than a wife or a co-ruler for his kingdom. I have to say that Regina gets a raw deal here: she doesn't seem like the social climbing type, she just wants to be left alone with her stable boy. On the other hand, she's never been poor (like her mother has) to make her know the price of comfort and status. ...just an observation
Regina runs to Daniel and asks him to marry her while wearing the most godawful cloak I've ever seen. I have to wonder how much her desire to marry Daniel has to do with true love and how much is her desire to not be controlled by her mother. Snow finds Regina and Daniel kissing in the stable and runs. Regina chases after her and they have a heart to heart about why Regina doesn't want to marry the king (she loves Daniel) and the importance of true love (it creates happiness). Snow, being the innocent that she is, believes everyone will be happy for Regina and Daniel but Regina convinces her to keep what she's seen and heard secret.
Snow? Keep a secret? Yeah, that's going to happen. Snow is looking at Cora's orchids and Cora clearly knows what's up because she lays on the mom-talk pretty thick. I can't blame Snow for caving to Cora's interrogation, Barbara Hershey is one strong actress and she's hitting all of Snow's mommy-issue buttons. Snow tells her about Daniel and Regina's plans, despite promising Regina she would never tell. Also it is worth noting that Bailee Madison is a dead ringer for young Ginnifer Goodwin and has managed to mimic all of her mannerisms. So, she comes across as mildly psychotic... which in itself is impressive. Hope to see you again, girlfriend!
Later that night, Regina and Daniel prepare to run away when they are discovered by Cora, who brings out the big guns, magically speaking. Cora's ambitions are laid bare – she considers Regina's life hers because of everything she had to sacrifice to get their wealth and status. I think someone should tell them that loving someone does not give you control over their lives, because no one seems to have received that memo. For a second it seems like Cora will let them leave, but I think she just realized she couldn't reason with Regina in her lovedrunk state. Cora speaks to Daniel about the burden of being a parent, and then rips his heart out and crushes it. No repeat for Daniel! Mommy knows best: power is the only thing that lasts, love is fleeting and fades quickly. You can see the hatred and resignation brewing in Regina as she grieves over Daniel – Cora will not escape her wrath, which I guess is a testament to the strength of her love.
The next day, Regina is getting fitted for her wedding gown. Snow calls her the fairest of them all, and says how happy she and Daniel will be together and how wonderful Cora is. No one gave her the memo that Daniel was dead, and Regina figures out that Snow told Cora her secret. Regina is crushed by this new knowledge and angry with Snow, but manages to cover it up and we see that classic cold and rationalizing face for the first time. Cora tells Snow to go pack, Snow says they will love the castle, and Lana Parrilla is the surprise all-star of this episode for the light film of tears in her eyes after Snow leaves. Regina suspects that her mother planned the whole endeavor (Snow's runaway horse, the arrival of the king, all of it) and ends the scene with the ominous declaration that "I should have let her die on that horse."
In two weeks: Regina and R-stilts face off, and maybe we learn what August W. Booth is really up to. Catch you after Easter!
Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long
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