It also leaves us with the question of whether Zelena is alive or not. It’s not clear yet whether the fact that her magical powers remained bottled up in her necklace means that she couldn’t be killed and is going to rematerialize inside the vortex, or if perhaps it means that killing her without destroying the pendant simply freed her still-existing power, which then went on to reactivate the last spell she’d cast. And whether or not she was brought back to life by this merging, it is possible that she will now be alive in the past. It’s all so up in the air at this point.
And here’s another question: since all of Zelena’s other spells broke as soon as Regina took her powers, why wasn’t Emma’s magic restored to her? I believe that it’s either one of two answers. Either she’s lying to Hook because she wants to remain in willful denial as to the importance of staying in Storybrooke, or there’s something deeper and more metaphorical going on here (and I hope it’s the latter), which is that in order for Emma to get her powers back, she is going to have to want them back.
Up until this point, more often than not, Emma has viewed her Savior status and magic as a burden. She longs to return to New York with Henry and pretend that none of this ever happened, that it and not her fairy tale family is the truth–even, though, ironically, New York was actually the lie. In many ways, Emma’s hero’s journey is wildly different from the norm, because even after having played the hero numerous times, in many ways, she is still refusing the call.
And my guess is that her loss of magic now is a metaphorical manifestation of her desire to put Storybrooke behind her, and that her ensuing arc will be to realize that she actually wants magic in her life, and that she likes being a hero. Besides the fact that Henry isn’t going to want to return to New York now that he has his memories, other mom, and grandparents back, along with a new baby uncle, this is Emma’s life–no matter how much she may deny it–and furthermore, a potentially far more exciting, enriching life than the mundane one she otherwise would have spent as a normal person.
And so just as the loss of Henry provided Regina with an opportunity to evolve before finally reuniting with him, my guess/hope is that Emma will discover that she actually prefers having her abilities, and not only when it comes to protecting her son and family, and that she will come to embrace that essential part of herself for the first time, and that that is when her powers will return. That they are simply dormant now, waiting for her to want them. Or perhaps that this newfound desire will drive her to seek a way to get them back, if they aren’t actually there already, hidden.
We also have to discuss Zelena’s additional backstory, which continues to be fascinating, beautifully developed, and a stunning mirror to the current events in Storybrooke. In a lovely twist from Wicked–in which the Wicked Witch and Glinda were revealed to have been friends before the Green One, there known as Elphaba, became a well-known villain–here, Glinda offers friendship to Zelena after she has begun on her dark path, but offering an alternate way, much like Tinkerbell did for Regina. Once‘s reworking of the Oz mythology continues to be extremely clever. Whereas in the original story, the Witch of the East was the Witch of the West’s actual sister, in this version, the other three witches are part of a powerful sisterhood currently missing a seat, which they would like to bestow upon Zelena, if she’ll have them, thanks to a prophecy that the last witch’s successor would reach Oz via tornado. This also pays great honor to Oz author, L. Frank Baum’s, original concept of his magical land, which featured powerful female leaders at its helm, including the Witches of the North and South, and Princess Ozma, not to mention Dorothy.
And so Zelena is given another choice, as well as a group of sisters to replace the one in the Enchanted Forest for whom she had felt nothing but envy, and for a short while, everything is good. With the acceptance of her new sisters, her skin starts to turn back from green to normal. Until, that is, another tornado strikes, depositing Dorothy Gale in Oz. Zelena grows increasingly jealous of the attention her three supposed sisters heap upon Dorothy, starting to once again turn green, because she comes to believe that it is Dorothy and not her that the prophecy was actually about. Furthermore, once she gets her hands on Glinda’s book, she learns that it is the new Witch of the West’s destiny to defeat an evil force, which she becomes convinced is her.
As previously mentioned, Glinda tries to warn her that prophecies cannot be taken at face value and often people end up making them come true simply by believing their own false interpretations of them. She insists that if Zelena does embrace evil, it’s her own fault. Zelena disregards her warning, however, and refuses to be swayed from believing that she is meant to be wicked (Regina, her sister, did something similar when the people of her kingdom dubbed her the “Evil Queen”) and acts accordingly, attacking Dorothy.