Family reunions and sibling rivalries are tough sometimes, even without the added hardship of being stuck in the Underworld. This episode of Once Upon a Time, “Sisters,” sees the end of two sibling rivalries, one with a hug and one with, well, eternal torment.

Meanwhile, flashbacks reveal a lost chapter in Regina and Zelena’s lives, one that could have meant everything being very, very different.

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If Only Regina Had a Sister … Oh, Wait

When Regina’s a young girl, all she wants is someone to play with, but Cora’s too busy. Her time as a miller’s daughter taught her that the only person she can depend on is herself, she tells her daughter, leaving her only in the company of her doll. So when Regina finds her mother’s wand, she decides to use it to make the doll her sister, but the magic leaves her unconscious, and she can only be helped by someone close to her with magic (and not Cora).

And so Cora goes off to Oz and whisks Zelena back with her to show her that her magic is a gift (and not wicked) and to save her daughter. To her surprise, Zelena needs no coaching and easily heals Regina. After that, the two girls become friends, playing and dressing up together, until Zelena opens a box sealed with blood magic and Regina realizes they could be related.

When the girls go to Cora, however, their mother admits that they’re sisters and then expresses her disappointment in Regina. Only being able to depend on yourself means having to make tough decisions, she explains. And in this case, that means separating the girls and making them forget because if people found out about Zelena, it could mean the end of a good marriage and the chance to be queen for Regina. Poor Regina just wants her sister and promises that she’ll find her as they’re separated. Imagine how different things would have been if Cora hadn’t done this.

Can Anyone Get Through to Zelena?

Things are sort of getting on track for Zelena and Hades — if a shovel and a proposal to “make chaos” together is getting on track — and he reveals his new plan to her: her true love’s kiss restarts his heart, they leave the others to suffer in the Underworld and they return to the real Storybrooke together. I guess that’s romantic in Hades’ eyes?

Thanks to a bit of spying, Regina knows all of this, but Zelena argues that she didn’t say yes. She didn’t say no either, but see, Zelena thinks that she can redeem him. Besides, she argues, it’s not like Regina wants a sister. (Oh, if she only knew.) Since she couldn’t stop her, Regina turns to the one person who can: their mother.

Hook plays fairy godmother for Cora and helps her escape from her mill prison, and Regina fills her in on everything, including Hades’ tombstone with her name on it and his plan for true love’s kiss with Zelena. They need to change Zelena’s mind, Cora decides, and the way to do that is to make her forget he ever existed. She glosses over when she used water from the River Lethe as they collect some. And since Regina knows her sister won’t let her near her again, it’s time for a long and overdue mother/daughter reunion.

Cora tells Zelena she’s sure her feelings for Hades are real, but she’s trying to fill the hole in her heart that was created when she abandoned her. She regrets giving her away and she’s so sorry. So why did she? Cora thought it would be best for her, she says before admitting that she thought it was best for herself and she was wrong. She thought Regina was her unfinished business, but it’s both of them. And as mother and daughter hug, Regina sneaks into the house, adding the River Lethe water to a glass of water.

But when Cora brings the water over to Zelena, the wicked witch reveals that she knows something’s in it. Regina’s there and tosses it into the fireplace. Cora tries to insist that her apology was genuine, but Zelena just accuses them of trying to ruin her life again and not caring about her. When the sisters are ready to add some fireballs to their fight, Cora stops them and shows them what she made them forget, of a time they were sisters once.

Cora thought any kind of love was weakness, but she was a fool. Regina got the strength she has to help her father and friends from the people she loves, not from her. And she’s sorry that she never gave Zelena the family or love she deserved. Zelena can’t help but wonder if it might be too late for her, but Cora tells her that being there has taught her it’s never too late, especially for family.

Then it’s time for Cora to move on, to whatever her fate may be. And after goodbyes to her daughters — and the regret that she never got to even really say hello to Zelena — Cora crosses the bridge. Despite flames momentarily surrounding her, the path to the better place does appear to her, and with that, she moves on. As for the sisters she left behind, Regina tells Zelena to go to Hades. Maybe she can change him.

However, just as Zelena’s about to meet Hades for a candlelit dinner, Rumplestiltskin finds her. He knows that Belle wants him to use light magic, but he’s going to do things his way. And that means teaming up with Peter Pan. He hadn’t even considered taking his deal until Zelena’s role in Belle’s eternal slumber. Alas, Zelena’s not making that dinner.

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The Prince and the Shepherd

David’s gathering supplies for Robin and the baby when James finds him in the middle of town. David tries to talk to his brother, but James blames him for stealing his glory, for getting everything that was his. And after a brief scuffle, James is off to play shepherd and David is locked up in the sheriff’s station.

James pretty much immediately stumbles, incorrectly guessing when a photo of David and Snow White is from, but he recovers enough to satisfy Emma. Once they’ve met Robin in the woods, however, he turns on them and puts a no-magic cuff on Emma and pulls a gun. Cruella joins them, and it turns out they’re aiming for a ticket out of the Underworld — by giving Hades the child of the woman he loves.

Cruella and James remain in control for all of a few minutes. As David and Hook show up at the docks to intervene, Cruella runs and hides and the twins face off. David tries to talk his brother down, offers to help him find peace. But to James, his only unfinished business is not killing his brother, so that ends the only way it can: with David tossing James into the river. Sometimes, people cannot move on, Emma tells her father as she assures him that there wasn’t another way.

Once Upon a Time season 5 airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Meredith Jacobs

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

If it’s on TV — especially if it’s a procedural or superhero show — chances are Meredith watches it. She has a love for all things fiction, starting from a young age with ER and The X-Files on the small screen and the Nancy Drew books. Arrow kicked off the Arrowverse and her true passion for all things heroes. She’s enjoyed getting into the minds of serial killers since Criminal Minds, so it should be no surprise that her latest obsession is Prodigal Son.