Once Upon A Time – I’m thankful for Zelena

There are many ways of liking a character – there’s wanting them to win because you’re emotionally invested in their journey, because they’re good people and they deserve it (or because they were villains who redeemed themselves), there’s finding them attractive, and then there’s finding them funny and/or entertaining while not-so-secretly hating their guts. Zelena is the third kind.

You might even say that’s the best kind.

Look, liking a character like Zelena is not easy. Appreciating the villain takes a combination of good writing and great acting. And well, Zelena? She’s had her ups and downs writing wise.

First, she was sympathetic. Sure, she was one of the bad guys, but she had a reason. Reasons are not there to make the character right; they’re there to make the character relatable. You can still hate a character who claims to have a good reason to do whatever he’s doing, yes. But, when they give us a reason, writers expect that not everyone will.

Zelena was the unwanted child, the abandoned one. She resented Regina because, in her heart, she always felt like less. And no, that doesn’t mean we wanted her to beat her sister, or get what she wanted, but it meant that we didn’t quite want her gone, either.

I think the reason why we didn’t is because of Bex Mader.

Playing a little crazy is one thing, playing full on psycho is a whole different ballgame. As I said before, we usually only like characters we can relate to, and psycho makes it hard to find common ground. If you’re going to do a character like that, you gotta commit. You have to be over-the-top, you have to be ruthless and you absolutely have to be funny.

Zelena manages to be all three. And Rebecca Mader is the reason why. There’s just something about her, a spark, a twinkle, that not only made fans like her, but that made the writers bring her back.

It just so happens that that’s when they messed up.

Zelena is part of Once Upon A Time for a reason, and one reason alone. She’s supposed to present a contrast to Regina the now-reformed Evil Queen. Zelena is there to remind us of the person Regina was, and to reinforce the fact that she’s changed. In a way, Zelena is just a mirror image of her sister – and that’s why she gets on Regina’s last nerve.

That’s not, however, why she gets on mine.

Look, this post is all about the good things about Zelena, so I don’t want to dwell on the awful mess that is the Marian plot, but I can’t very well talk about this character without at least remarking on that. Because, yes, I get it, that was the show paralleling Zelena with Regina, once again. Regina took away Graham’s free will by taking his heart; Zelena did the same to Robin by posing as Marian. Both situations were wrong, disgusting, and if you ask me, unnecessary.

But Zelena’s was worse. You know why? Because you were supposed to know better the second time around.

And when I say you, I mean the writers. We knew better.

What became of Zelena after that, eh, controversial plot was just …well, a character who was harder to love and easier to hate. Strangely enough, though, I think that was the writer’s goal. We forgave Regina for doing something very similar to Graham, so the thinking is we can forgive Zelena, if she does something to earn our forgiveness.

But boy, does forgiveness/redemption seem a long time coming for our favorite Wicked Witch.


And you know what? Maybe that’s for the best. This show has already done two different redemption arcs, and put all their hands on the table regarding Rumple. (It’s a no-no on the redemption for our Beast) The truth is that in fairy-tales, just like in real life, some people change and others just …don’t. Some people will always choose to remain wicked. And though a part of me wishes Zelena were not one of those people, another part of me sort of appreciates that she is.

The villains can sometimes be fun, after all.

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c, on ABC. New episodes return on March 6th, 2016.

Lawyer. Dreamer. Geek. Eternal optimist. Fangirl since the dawn of time. Hates the color yellow, olives and cigarettes. Has a recurring nightmare where she’s forced to choose between sports and books. Falls in love with fictional characters.