If Once Upon a Time Season 2 has a single central character, it very well might be Regina. Many of the flashbacks have focused on her and the two people that shaped her: Her emotionally abusive mother, Cora, and her mentor in all things evil, Rumplestiltskin. Regina's fluxating attempts to reform have dominated many Storybooke storylines.
This increased focus has turned an always controversial character downright divisive. Thanks to a stellar performance from Lana Parrilla, Regina radiates pathos, earning her a huge and loyal fanbase. On the flipside, there's a portion of fans who are sick of the show trying to pull at our heartstrings over the Evil Queen, of all people.
One major point of debate is whether or not Regina is treated unfairly, both in-show by the townsfolk in Storybrooke (and the Charmings in particular), and on a meta level, by the writers. Because we find it interesting, here's a rundown of some of the biggest arguments in both directions.
Is Regina Treated Unfairly In-Universe?
Argument for yes: Sure, Regina has hurt the Charmings and the other townsfolk. Like, a lot. But they're the good guys, and they're supposed to be forgiving. In fact, the Charmings have actively welcomed Rumplestiltskin — Mr. Dark One himself — into the family fold while continuing to reject Regina. How is that fair, or logical? They even claim Regina's not Henry's mother, completely ignoring the fact that she raised him after Emma gave him up. If they were willing to extend a welcoming hand, that could go a long way to helping her reform. Instead, they make her feel like she has no choice but to fight them to keep the son she loves.
Argument for no: Why should the Charmings forgive Regina? She tried to kill them basically infinite times in Fairytale Land, and then cursed an entire land because she had a grudge against Snow. Plus, they did extend a tentative truce this season, only to watch her turn around and team up with Cora. It's true that they haven't rejected Rumple in the same way, but while we know he's the chessmaster behind the curse, they don't, and he hasn't continually and actively tried to hurt them over and over in the same way Regina has.
Is Regina Treated Unfairly by the Writers?
Argument for yes: Let's forget about the Charmings for a second. What the real rulers in the OUAT-verse: the writers? They're the ones who craft a story where Regina is constantly on the losing end. She loses her True Love — twice. She loses her son again and again. She loses her mother. She's pushed and prodded and misled all her life by Cora and Rumple.
Yes, redemption should be hard for her, but the writers don't let her catch even half a break. Compare that to Rumple, who has a living lover and has been allowed to achieve his one goal, finding his son. His happy ending seems to be in sight, and he's barely had to change the way he acts. How is that fair?
Argument for no: First of all, we can't really compare Regina and Rumplestiltskin's arcs until they're actually finished; we have no idea how close either one really is to a happy ending, if they get one at all. And it's not like Rumple hasn't had hardships directly related to his evil actions. Bae still distrusts him, and Belle was shot and lost her memory because of his feud with Hook (a plotline that's far from resolved).
Second of all, isn't the newfound prominence the writers have given Regina compensation enough, on a structural level, for her in-universe suffering? The writers have bent over backwards to give her a sympathetic backstory, to the point that it has started to tick some fans off. They arguably handwave some of her worst actions (let's not get into the argument about how much consent Graham could or couldn't give under the curse), which stands in stark contrast to the way, say, Snow is apparently being turned "dark" by what was really an act of self defense.
We can see both sides of the argument. In the end, all we know is that Regina is one of the most interesting characters on the show, and Lana makes us feel sorry for her whether we want to or not.
But what do you think: Is Regina treated unfairly either in-universe or by the writers, or is she just reaping what she sowed?
Read OUAT spoilers here.
Catch the next episode of Once Upon a Time on Sunday, March 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.