ONCE UPON A TIME: Reuniting With “Souls of the Departed”
By Meredith Loftus
The Storybrooke heroes are back in action.
In the spring premiere of Once Upon A Time, Emma Swan and co. begin their Underworld quest to bring Killian Jones back. By traveling to the Underworld, the heroes are forced to face the past in reuniting with the deceased. Here, the departed carry unfinished business from their days of living. This arc has the potential to give audiences real closure so that these stories can come to a natural end while setting the stage for the new adventures to follow in Season 6.
Some unfinished business we expected to encounter was that of Regina and Cora. Mother Mills has a history of manipulation and ulterior motives in relation to her two daughters. While Zelena was sent to Oz, Regina grew up under a firm grip that led to her first love’s death and multiple trips to Wonderland.
Although Cora’s dying breath was an expression of genuine motherly love to Regina, the record of Cora’s dealings was too great, resulting in a need for real closure.
A Mother’s Love
In the flashback to Regina’s birthday, we are reminded of Cora’s twisted sense of love, believing she is doing what’s best for her daughter and making power plays for her personal gain.
Cora thought she gave Regina the thing she wanted most: Snow White’s heart, gift wrapped. What Regina needed was for her mother, not just her father, to build her up not in the ways of magic, but in love and goodness.
Though she didn’t get that and outwardly denied being anything like Cora, Regina still secretly wanted that motherly love and approval. Her longing for approval gave Cora a lasting power over her. When seeking the approval of others, it usually leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction.
A Father’s Love
Regina is once again tested by her mother’s power over her when they reunite in the Underworld. Cora threatens the soul of Henry Sr. to convince Regina to leave the Underworld; Regina has lost her father in the past because of her mother so she does not take this threat lightly. Though it’s later revealed that she had good motivations for wanting her daughter to leave, Cora still chooses to use extreme actions instead of honesty to express motherly love. Old habits die hard, right?
Regina today is not burdened by hate and revenge; yet she holds a tremendous amount of guilt for all the pain she caused in her villainous days, especially in the ways she treated her father, Henry Sr.
He was the man that loved her most, always fighting for the goodness in her, which was on display in the flashback. Contrasting Cora’s actions during Regina’s birthday, Henry Sr. sought to help Regina let go of her hate to Snow White by reaching out to Snow to negotiate a truce. He saw how destructive anger and power had over people; his actions were that of authentic love, not seeking of anything like power or approval in return.
So when this good father gets to reunite with his daughter, it’s heartwarming. Henry Sr. does not dwell on past transgressions but revels in the chance to see his daughter and how much she has changed. Even with his soul on the line, he encourages Regina to stay and be the hero he has always believed her to be. If she stays, she brings hope to the living and the departed that anyone can change.
Henry Sr.’s unfinished business was the hold Cora had on his daughter. Regina breaks out of that hold when she does not let Cora’s threat deter her from helping save Killian. Because of this, Henry Sr. is free from this regret and is able to pass over to a better place. It is here we get this beautiful meeting between Henry Sr. and Henry, the two men who Regina loves most in the world and have fought for her to let go of the anger she held on to for so long.
Henry Sr. meets his grandson and thanks him for the role he has played in his daughter’s life. This also leads to a tearful goodbye between a father and a daughter. However these tears are not mournful; they are in fact joyful. Regina gets a proper goodbye with Henry Sr., fully knowing how loved and proud he is of her. She no longer has to wonder if his soul was ever at peace; she sees it for herself. His final words before moving on are words of love and forgiveness: “I love you Regina. Forgiven, we really are.”
Love doesn’t bind us; it frees us. Love is able to grant us mercy even when the ledger against us seems too long. Henry Sr. understands that love and passes that message along to Regina. The slate is washed clean, and Henry Sr. is at peace.
This leads to the other mission at hand in the Underworld: Operation Firebird. The Savior and the rest of the heroes are going to help resolve the unfinished business of the Underworld to help souls pass over to a peaceful afterlife.
Many of the souls there have villainous histories; others are left with guilt and regret. Hades doesn’t want to lose his occupants and dominion over the Underworld, which he made clear to Cora when he turned her back into the miller’s daughter. However, if any group of heroes can succeed, it’s our Storybrooke heroes.