“Welcome to Storybrooke” does a fabulous job of tying up story threads for the last little bit of the season, and it does a lovely job of creating a purposely uncomfortable atmosphere. Sadly, they sacrificed the narrative already in place in a futile attempt to make it work.
In Storybrooke past, Regina proves that she really was never fit to be a parent. When Storybrooke came into existence, there was a man, Kurt, and his son, Owen, camping nearby. Their car is destroyed and they’re forced to come to Storybrooke and wait until it gets fixed. Regina, being Regina, almost instantly develops a creepy fixation on Owen and wants to keep him in Storybrooke at all costs. Kurt responds by being a decent parent and trying to get his kid the heck out of dodge as soon as possible. While Regina has Kurt arrested on trumped-up charges to keep them in town, Owen manages to escape. He grows up to be Greg, the stranger, and is still looking for Kurt who has been trapped in Storybrooke for twenty-eight years. So, yeah, it’s pretty creepy.
Regina is an equally bad parent in Storybrooke present. She’s decided that she’s going to curse Henry to love her and then kill off the rest of his family so they can’t take him away. Naturally, David and Emma (and tagalong Neal, eventually) decide to stop her. Henry, who actually loves them all, tries to prevent the continued blood feud by blowing up the magic well. In the only remotely parental thing she’s done all season, Regina gets rid of the dynamite before Henry blows himself up. This is instantly ruined when Henry stands between her and David, and Regina refuses to drop her fireball. David is equally as horrible and keeps the gun pointed at Regina through Henry. Luckily, Neal, who has been a father for three days, and Emma, who has been a mother for only slightly longer, actually have something in the way of parental instincts and try to help Henry diffuse the situation so they can pull him out of the crossfire and shield him. It ends well enough in that they all survived.
Later, Snow shakes out of her catatonia and goes to Regina to commit suicide by evil queen. Regina obliges and rips out Snow. Upon discovering the black spot on Snow’s heart, Regina gets downright giddy and shoves the heart back in, forcing Snow to suffer. This whole storyline is downright insulting. I can buy Snow having something of a break because of her actions, and I can even understand Henry’s refusal to accept it because she’s a hero and he's a child. But, when the narrative and every single character backs that up? It crosses the line. Killing someone that unabashedly evil and beyond redemption is not an inherently evil act, especially when it’s in self-defense or in defense of bystanders. The absolute best case scenario had Cora not died is that she successfully stabbed Rumpelstiltskin, became the Dark One, and slaughtered a whole bunch of innocent people. Again. Arguably, it would have been a greater evil to let her live, but apparently shades of grey don’t exist in Once Upon a Time.
That’s the other place where this whole little narrative shatters the larger narrative. If the world is entirely black and white, there is no grey, killing is automatically evil, what about the heroes who aren’t Snow? Is Emma evil for killing Maleficent? Ruby has accidentally killed two people, is she evil? Are they saying that Granny’s never used the crossbow she points at someone in nearly every one of her scenes? And what of David who has killed or tried to kill no less than a dozen people protecting his family? Or, on the flipside, is Snow the only ones that these rules of good and evil stand for? Why? What is so special about Snow that killing someone in self-defense can stain her soul so badly? These are important questions that Once Upon a Time is ignoring in favor of the Batman maxim: heroes don’t kill (named characters with plot relevance).
Basically, Regina has lost all credibility in her once-true claims to be a decent mother, if nothing else. Meanwhile, Snow gets compared to Cora, a woman who massacred most of the Enchanted Forest survivors, because the world is black and white or something. There’s still time for Once Upon a Time to turn this around before the season ends, but given the last two episodes, I’m not hopeful.