‘Once Upon A Time’ Season 5 Episode 21 Review: Will Regina Ever Catch a Break?

Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 5 Episode 21 – Last Rites:

“Last Rites” indulges in the grand Once Upon A Time tradition of presenting good outcomes and terrible outcomes in equal measure. Good news, Hades (Greg Germann) has finally been defeated, presumably forever. The bad news? We had to lose one of our own heroes to get the job done, as Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) died taking a hit for Regina (Lana Parrilla). It all begs the question: will Regina ever catch a break?

For a series as intent on delivering the message that happy endings are possible for even the worst of villains, provided they reform their ways, Regina has been the show’s de facto punching bag for years now. Whether it’s failed romances, friction in her familial relationship with Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), or having her happy ending within reach only to have it yanked away (such as when she and Robin were finally solidified in their relationship, only for Emma to bring Marian into the equation), it’s hard out here for a Queen. And yet Regina hasn’t fallen back into her old ways, which speaks volumes of how far she’s come as a character. You might almost call her one of the moral compasses for this show, since she’s integral to reminding the heroes why they’re doing what they’re doing, and why their actions need to be done. In every sense of the word, Regina has become the hero that Henry was convinced she could be, and watching that change has been one of the great joys of the series, particularly since Parrilla has charted that development so well in her performance. That’s why it’s so frequently heartbreaking to see everything go south for her, again and again, while everyone else gets lucky break after lucky break. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) back together in the land of the living, but there’s something that feels patently unfair about it. Another miraculous, happy turn of events for the David/Snow/Emma family while Regina is left to weather her own eternal gloom? Color me shocked. In a way, Regina’s perseverance throughout each of her bad breaks has made her a far more likable and compelling character. For instance, I think it’s interesting to compare how Regina reacted to Robin’s death to how Emma reacted to Hook’s. Both women had every right to be utterly beside themselves with grief. And yet, at Robin’s funeral, Regina is the very model of stone-face, dignified resolve. She’s struggling to hold back her emotions, because she might not have another breakdown in her. And besides, as sad and tragic as all this is, Regina is used to loss by now. Of course, so is Emma, between the loss of Sheriff Graham and the death of Neal. But she’s not nearly as stoic in the face of her loss as Regina is in hers. It takes everything in Emma’s soul not to fall to pieces at Hook’s gravesite, and that alone illustrates the vast difference between how these two women process grief. For Emma, there’s always another way. There’s always hope. But for Regina, loss is nothing new. And she knows by now that it’s largely irreversible. Of course, I say that, but this show could just as easily find a way to bring back Robin Hood next week, if it wanted.

'Once Upon A Time'  Season 5 Episode 21 Review Will Regina Ever Catch a Break

Credit: ABC

Perhaps that’s part of the problem with the episode. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the climactic feel of it all. Hook teaming up with King Arthur in the Underworld to help defeat HADES provided us with a nice parallel to the Storybrooke residents’ attempts to do the same. Hook and Arthur discovered the key to defeated Hades through some storybook pages, and needed to find a way to get those pages to Emma, since Hook wouldn’t be able to move on if he knew Emma was still in danger. As it turns out, the weakness that can destroy Hades once and for all is the exact same family heirloom he plans on using to create a new kingdom for himself and Zelena (Rebecca Mader) — an object called the Olympian Crystal. And Hades isn’t the only one looking to restore its power, as Rumpelstiltskin/Gold (Robert Carlyle) wants it as well, since Belle’s father refuses to awaken his daughter with True Love’s Kiss until Gold is out of the equation altogether. So what we have is a race for a MacGuffin that various factions within this conflict are looking to obtain for themselves. It builds to Regina and Robin attempting to rescue Zelena’s baby from the protected Mayor’s Office, only for Hades to arrive on the scene with plans on using the Olympian Crystal to kill Regina. But Robin jumped in front of Regina at the last moment and took the blow himself, causing his instantaneous death, and leaving Regina another lost love to mourn. Faced with a battle between two people she loves, Zelena had to choose sides — and, well, blood is thicker than water. Zelena is the one who kills Hades with the Olympian Crystal, rendering him into ashes, and liberating Storybrooke from his oppressive presence. It’s a great climax that brings the relationship between Regina and Zelena full circle, culminating in a genuinely touching moment where Zelena reveals that she’s going to name her baby “Robin”, in honor of the fallen hero. Sure, it’s a repeat of “hey, let’s name the baby Neal, since the dude just died!”, but it’s emotionally affecting here, and ties into the rapport that’s developed between the two sisters — a rapport that comes across really vibrantly thanks to the work of Parrilla and Mader. I buy their sisterhood, far more than I thought I would, considering how long they’ve been at each other’s throats, and how recently they’ve been reconciled. I’m interested to see what those two could accomplish together as a team. Maybe, together, they can finally catch a break. After all, both women lost the man they loved tonight.

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

But there are still stories to set up for the future. Apparently, Arthur is remaining in the Underworld to mend the broken kingdom below, while Hook has actually been granted a second chance by Zeus, because…um, why not, I guess? It appears the death of Hades due to the heroism of Hook satisfies the life-for-a-life rules of the Underworld, allowing Hook to return to the world of the living. You kinda had to know this wasn’t going to be the end for Hook. Say what you will about how vehemently fans fight for their “ships”, but it seemed far more likely that #OutlawQueen would be the casualty rather than #CaptainSwan. Now, there are arguments to be made for each side, but I do think there needed to be some kind of permanent consequences that resulted from the actions of Hades. With that said, the success of this storyline seems predicated on death actually being a point of finality, since these moments lose all meaning if the dead keep coming back. It’s a shame to lose Robin, especially since it’s getting tiresome to always see Regina on the losing side of life. But I’m confident, for reasons I can’t explain other than just a nagging instinct, that Regina will bounce back from this and find some semblance of a happy ending. As for the rest of Storybrooke? I’m not so sure, since Gold is now in possession of the remains of the Olympian Crystal, having scooped it up from the ashes of Hades, because apparently there’s no chain of custody for evidence in Storybrooke. I expect more chaos to spring from this development, and with next week’s two-hour season finale, I think this could be a great thing for the narrative, especially now that we’re (apparently) free from the Underworld.

But what did you think of Once Upon A Time Season 5 Episode 21 “Last Rites”?

And for more on Once Upon A Time, read our review and analysis of last week’s thrilling escape from the Underworld!

TV 2016Once Upon A TimeRecapReview