S1E18: Once Upon a Time prides itself on the complexity of its characters, demonstrating to viewers time and time again that not everything is clear-cut. Every character's backstory is filled with an twist that shows how they came to be the person they are. And it's this unprecedented look at our beloved fairytales that makes fans continually come back for more. "The Stable Boy" is no exception.
This episode delves into Regina's fairytale past, to a time long before she was ever known as The Evil Queen. In fact, some could even describe her back then as being downright sweet, especially in comparison with her controlling mother. And while that in itself is enough to pique our curiosities, the story also explains the real reason behind her unrelenting hatred for Snow White. Up until now we've been led to believe it was simply due to Snow's beauty and King Leopold's obvious favoritism for his daughter over the Queen, but in actuality the problem is much deeper than that.
As we've learned from this show: evil is made, not born. And while it's been relatively easy to hate the Queen so far, this new information could give us a change of heart. But that's the reason we love this show: you never know what to expect.
"Why can't I just be myself?" - Regina
"Because you could be so much more if you just let me help you." - Regina's mother
We start off in the fairytale world and meet a side of Regina we've never seen before. Instead of an evil, manipulative Queen, we get a sweet, kind, young woman who has a love for riding horses. Her mother, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. She's never satisfied with anything her daughter does and uses magic as a means of discipline. In short, she's the spitting image of the Regina we know. And it's because of her mother's cruelty and intolerance that Regina hides relationship with the stable boy, Daniel. During one of their secret rendezvous, a young Snow White goes by on an out-of-control horse and Regina saves her. Grateful for saving his daughter's life, King Leopold proposes to Regina, hoping she will become a replacement for Snow White's dead mother.
But young Regina doesn't care about the glory and power that comes with being Queen. She wants to marry for love, so makes plans to run away with Daniel. He even gives her a makeshift ring for her, and Storybrooke Regina still carries it around with her. But once again, they are interrupted by Snow who catches them kissing. Regina confides in Snow of her plans to run away with Daniel and pleads with her to not tell anyone about this, especially Regina's mother. In the end, Snow promises to keep their secret safe.
"What did I ever do to make you hate me so much?" - Mary Margaret
Meanwhile, the Storybrooke plot continues to center around Kathryn's murder investigation with Mary Margaret as the only suspect. David has come to his senses and asks Emma if he can visit Mary Margaret to apologize for not believing her innocence, but Emma quickly refutes his request. And while it would've been nice for a star-crossed lovers reunion, it makes sense that Emma wants to respect Mary's request for privacy.
Mr. Gold convinces Mary Margaret to the talk to the DA before the trial in the hopes that her kindness and personality will make her appear less guilty, however, that plan proves unsuccessful (though we shouldn't be surprised since Gold is secretly working for Regina). But August, the ever-mysterious writer, swoops in to help and suggests that Emma retrace her steps. The two of them set out to check the site where the heart was buried, and they find a shard from a broken shovel. Emma sneaks into Regina's garage and, sure enough, she finds a shovel with a piece missing that just happens to be a perfect fit for the shard found at the crime scene. This is it. Emma's finally caught Regina, right? Not so fast...
"I should've let her die on that horse." - Regina
Back in the fairytale world, Snow White does her best to keep her promise to Regina. But given that she's just a little girl, she's easily manipulated. Regina's mother is no fool and realizes that her daughter is keeping secrets from her, so she uses Snow to find out what they are, acting like all she wants in the world is her daughter's happiness. So, of course, Snow buys the whole act and, since she doesn't want to see Regina lose her mother, she reveals Regina's plan to run away with Daniel. But rather than let her daughter live happily ever after, Regina's mother stops them before they can leave and rips out Daniel's heart. Familiar?
Afterward, Regina follows through with her engagement to the King. But, as expected, Regina finds Snow told her mother of her runaway plan. In essence, she sees Snow as the real reason Daniel is dead. It's at that moment that a transformation occurs in Regina. At first, she's filled with pain and anger regarding Snow White's unintentional betrayal, but she makes Snow think that she's forgiven her. It's a very subtle change, it's visible in her eyes and forced smile that she is no longer the sweet girl at the start of the episode. Daniel's not the only one who lost his heart.
"I did not kill Kathryn." - Mary Margaret
"I know....but you do deserve this." - Regina
Emma returns to Regina's house the following morning with a warrant to search her garage. But if there's one thing Regina's good at, it's being five steps ahead of everyone else. Sure enough, the broken shovel is gone and a new one is in its place. Furious that she's now back to square one, Emma accuses August of giving Regina a heads up, which he immediately refutes. And while you're never really sure who to trust on this show, he's actually telling the truth. Emma returns to her office and in a fit of rage throws the vase Sydney Glass dropped off earlier and finds a listening device among the shards of glass. Not only does Emma realize that office has been bugged (which explains how Regina knew to switch shovels), but now she also knows Sydney Glass as been working for Regina all along.
But the writers left us with an even bigger cliffhanger. When Emma apologizes to August, they hear Ruby screaming: she found Kathryn in the alleyway. She's not dead after all.
What did you think of tonight's episode? Did it give you a different perspective of Regina and what caused her to be so evil? Will it make you sympathize with her more? What did you think of Kathryn's return? Will this mean good news for Mary Margaret? Sound off in the comments below or get at me on Twitter @KellyBean0415.