My mom and I just got finished of watching a backlog of ABC’s One Upon A Time. We enjoyed every minute of it. All the fairy tale characters you know have been re-imagined in this fantastic show. Badass princes and princesses and modern heroes and heroines work side by side in two settings: The fairy tale world and our world. For you see, the little town of Storybrooke is, in fact, cursed. All these fairy tale figures go about lives that aren’t their own. Snow White, a badass warrior-princess, is a mild-mannered school teacher. Red Riding Hood works at the local diner. Prince Charming is in a coma. None of them know who they really are. Why?
Because that’s what the Evil Queen wants.
Well, she was the Evil Queen Regina in the fairy tale world. In Stroybrooke, she’s Mayor Regina Mills (played by Lana Parrilla). She set a curse on the fairy tale world, erasing their memories and locking them in Storybrooke to steal their happiness. And to keep the curse intact, she’ll do anything she must to get rid of the only person who can stop her: Emma Swan (played by Jennifer Morrison), the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.
I spent a good portion of the show hating this character because of just how manipulative she was. She easily got in the heroine’s way. She used her political power to get what she wanted. She sought the heroine’s help, and then stepped on her right after. She also adopted Emma’s son, Henry (whom Emma gave up for adoption after having him at 18), and makes it very clear that she doesn’t think Emma belongs in his life.
I spent a good portion of several episodes freaking out at my mom because I couldn’t believe that kinds of things this woman would do. However, after the season was over and my mom posed the question, I realized that she was also my favourite character.
Regina is an example of a villainous woman done right. She’s manipulative and power hungry. She knows how to stay one step ahead of the heroes. She knows what resources she has and how to use them, whether it’s the political power she has as mayor, or the magical powers she has in the fairy tale world. You’re shocked at some of the things she does, but you always want to see what she’ll do next. It doesn’t matter if she’s up against Emma, or facing the other magical power house in the series, Mr. Gold / Rumpelstiltskin (played by Robert Carlyle), you want to know what she’s going to do to get the upper hand. Her villainy is entertainment at its best.
But these days, no villain is evil just because they can be. Characters need to be multi-dimensional and have motivations. Regina’s not after Snow White due to vanity, like the old story. She wasn’t always evil and there’s a lot of tragedy to her. We do occasionally glimpse at the person she might have been if her life had gone differently. There’s still a bit of her that could have been a wonderful, loving person. A real fairy tale heroine even. But her goals and her hatred have so overwhelmed that part of her that she’s even willing to sacrifice the few people she still loves to see her desires realized. She also has her fears. The curse took away a lot of her magic, and with Emma in town, there’s a chance everything could be reversed. Then she’s in real trouble.
She may be a master of manipulation, but being an accomplished sorceress definitely makes your villain a little tougher.
Season Two of Once Upon A Time starts up in September. With Season One ending on a cliff-hanger of epic proportions, I’m excited to see what Regina will do next. And, although I shouldn’t be, I’m kind of rooting for her.