How 'Once Upon a Time' Season 7 Gave Regina the Lead Role She Deserved
How 'Once Upon a Time' Season 7 Gave Regina the Lead Role She Deserved
Derek Stauffer
Derek Stauffer
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Once Upon a Time started building its next chapter around Henry Mills. While Henry is still an incredibly important part of Once Upon a Time season 7, another Mills has come to the forefront and eclipsed him. The longer that Once Upon a Time has continued its new iteration, the more Regina Mills has embodied the role of the lead. It's a spot that the character (and actress) more than deserves and Regina is quickly becoming the best part of Once Upon a Time season 7.

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From Evil Queen to Mother and Mentor 

In the first six years of Once Upon a Time, Regina was a central figure. She began the series, after all, as the main villain. Yet Regina's story ultimately became one of redemption as she moved from Evil Queen to a bonafide hero. No matter how interesting or emotional Regina's story was for the show, she always ended up feeling like a supporting character. Once Upon a Time is (or was) the story of Emma Swan and even if Regina got an extended arc, everything eventually was filtered through Emma. 

In season 7, Emma is no longer around and that allows Regina to take a much more active role. The transition has been far more organic than it should've been but that's because Regina makes for a much more interesting lead figure. Once Upon a Time has used Regina's role as Henry's mother to make her into a sort of protector and motherly figure for the entire new cast. It helps that in her cursed persona she was the stereotypical bartender but it's bled out into the main story. Regina isn't driving all the action but she has important relationships with everyone and she wants to protect them all. This feels much more natural than Emma's Savior role which was thrust upon her and took her way too long to accept. 

Even though Once Upon a Time has sort of wrapped up Regina's emotional journey of being torn between hero and Evil Queen, they still found a way for her to continue in new circumstances. Unlike most of Once Upon a Time which feels brand new -- even Rumple's story is uncharted territory -- Regina's story is informed by everything that came before but still keeps things refreshing. Once Upon a Time has never seen Regina in such a leadership role but it's working beautifully. 

Every time Regina is on-screen, which is often, the story feels exciting. The story is moving and the connection between Regina and other characters doesn't feel at all forced. (Something that sadly can't be said of all new relationships.) Yet there's also a familiarity in that none of this would've been possible without Regina's journey in the first six seasons. 

The Unique Skills of a (Former) Evil Queen 

A lot of Regina's new sense of importance is down to the strength of the character and the performance that brings her to life. Once Upon a Time has still made very wise story decisions concerning Regina. Obviously Regina was going to care about anyone that Henry connected with in the New Enchanted Forest but Once Upon a Time didn't just stop there. 

Perhaps the wisest thing Once Upon a Time has done was having Regina build a relationship and unintentionally create the villain that is Drizella. Like a lot of Once Upon a Time relationships, the connection between Drizella and Regina occurred fast, happening over one series of flashbacks, but it doesn't feel rushed. There's a very natural and compelling antagonism between Regina and her one-time magical student turned supervillain. It's a bond that Regina has never had with a villain on the show, Zelena being the only one who has come close. Drizella is like a dark mirror of a young Regina. It's a fantastic idea for a villain in general but especially for a season that has seen Regina's role beefed up considerably. 

In fact, a lot of the new villains on the show, from Mother Gothel to Victoria Belfry, have hints of Regina. This makes Regina uniquely able to understand them and tackle them as foes. This is especially true of Gothel as the newest witch on the block worked with Drizella and manipulated Regina into casting the latest Curse. 

Regina facing so many villains that share elements of her personality is a more complicated conflict than the usual good vs. evil dynamic of Once Upon a Time. It's exactly the type of story Once Upon a Time should be telling in its new era. The new adult Henry is fine but he's a bit too similar to Emma and Snow / Charming. It's with Regina that the new era of Once Upon a Time is hitting its best new material and hopefully that's the way things will stay. 

But what do you think of Regina's new and improved role in season 7? Is it the best part of the soft reboot season? Do you think there's too much Regina or not enough? 

Once Upon a Time season 7 returns on March 2 at 8/7c on ABC. Want more news? Like our OUAT Facebook page

(Image courtesy of ABC)