Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 1, Episode 18 of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," entitled "The Stable Boy."
Love may be the most powerful magic of all, but on "Once Upon a Time," it's also the catalyst for some undeniably wicked acts. Apparently, there's nothing some people won't do in the name of love, whether it's murdering a devoted stable boy, or framing an innocent, if naive, woman. One thing is certain, though: There's a fine line between love and hate, and Regina's heart no longer seems capable of discerning the difference.
From what little we saw of loyal and idealistic Daniel (compellingly played by "Nikita's" Noah Bean), I can't imagine he would've advocated killing Snow in revenge for his death, especially when it was her own care for Regina that spurred her decision. The manipulative Cora professed to have her daughter's best interests at heart, so there was no way Snow could've predicted Regina's mother would behave so cruelly. Still, the beauty of this episode was that it truly provided a logical (if not justifiable) reason for Regina's hatred of Snow, while making The Evil Queen sympathetic for the first time.
I'd long suspected that the grudge she was holding against Snow had something to do with a lost love, so the outcome of the episode wasn't surprising per se, but it was well-crafted and compelling. Sometimes the inevitability of an outcome is what makes it so tragic, and with a mother as controlling as Cora and a father as inept as Henry, Regina's happiness was doomed from the start.
It was refreshing to see Regina in light colors and with a spark of optimism in her eyes. The degree to which lighter makeup and more fanciful clothing can make Lana Parilla look like a young adult is very impressive. She completely sold Regina's kindness and patience with Snow -- there wasn't an ounce of menace or malice in their early interactions, which made the chilling change in her towards the end of the episode even more pronounced. After discovering that Snow was responsible for Daniel's death, it was as if a mask had slipped down -- one that she's continued wearing even in Storybrooke. I think we witnessed true evil being born in that moment.
The supporting cast was uniformly excellent in this episode; in addition to Bean, we saw the welcome return of Richard Schiff as King Leopold; Alan Dale was back as King George's Storybrooke alter-ego, District Attorney Albert Spencer; and we were introduced to Bailee Madison as a pitch-perfect younger Snow White. Aside from being naturally blessed in looking like Ginnifer Goodwin, Madison also had her inflection down exactly -- such a wonderful piece of casting. It should go without saying that Barbara Hershey was deliciously evil in her role as Regina's cruel mother, and now we know where Regina learned how to rip a man's heart out and crush it into dust ... always a helpful skill to possess.
Things also escalated rapidly in Storybrooke as Mary Margaret's murder trial loomed closer and Regina began to bask more overtly in her victory. She even felt bold enough to confront Mary Margaret in jail, gloating that although they both knew the teacher didn't kill Kathryn, Mary Margaret still deserved her fate. I wonder if this will encourage Mary Margaret to start believing Henry's claims?
Thankfully, Emma finally started to wise up too: She discovered that Sidney had planted a bug in her office and finally figured out that he's spying for Regina, and her growing friendship with August helped lead her to a broken shovel that could've implicated Regina ... if the mayor hadn't somehow found a way to replace it before Emma came back with a warrant. Do we think it's the same shovel we saw Mr. Gold carrying in the woods earlier in the season, since Regina doesn't seem like the dirty-work type?
There's still an awful lot that August isn't telling Emma (like what that moment of pain was all about when the pair of them went down to the river ... Theories, anyone?), but he did promise her that he's not a liar. He also once again brought up the issue of "faith," something that Emma's been wrestling with more and more in recent weeks.
The biggest question remains: Whose side is Mr. Gold on? Right now, he seems to be playing both Emma and Regina for his own ends, but was it him "working a little magic" that conveniently brought Kathryn back alive and well right before Mary Margaret's trial? Clearly, Regina faked the DNA evidence of Kathryn's heart somehow (magic?), but it certainly gets Mary Margaret off the hook. Somehow, even though David tried to reassure Emma that he doesn't think Mary Margaret is guilty, I don't see the happy couple rekindling things that quickly once Mary Margaret is freed -- she was understandably hurt by his suspicion, and I think he's got a lot to make up for.
What was your favorite moment in "The Stable Boy"? Did you sympathize with Regina this week? Whose side is Mr. Gold on? Share your theories below!
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The show returns with a new episode on April 22.