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This article focuses on the Season Four episode.
For the Season Six episode, see "Mother's Little Helper".
For the Storybrooke character, see Mother Superior.
You didn't know our mother, Zelena, but I did. And yet we both suffered.

"Mother" is the twentieth episode of Season Four of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Jane Espenson, and directed by Ron Underwood. It is the eighty-sixth episode of the series overall, and premiered on May 3, 2015.


Emma returns to Storybrooke to reunite Lily with Maleficent while Regina and Robin Hood struggle to cope with the implications of Zelena's pregnancy. When Gold's health takes a turn for the worse, Isaac looks to a new ally for help procuring the magic ink he needs to re-write history. In a Fairy Tale Land flashback, Cora returns from Wonderland to beg Regina's forgiveness on the anniversary of Daniel's murder. Cora vows to help her daughter find true love, but Regina remains suspicious of her mother's intentions.[2]


This section is a detailed recap of this episode. There are major spoilers. Click to expand.

Deleted Scenes

"Things Can Change"

This scenes is included on Once Upon a Time: The Complete Fourth Season.

Returning home from New York, Regina is welcomed by Henry, while David gets Zelena out of the yellow bug. Robin Hood is skeptical about Zelena's inability to use magic, but Regina assures him that the enchanted bracelet will keep her powerless. Near, Emma reunites with Hook, just as Maleficent informs that she is taking Lily to the diner. Before the two leave, Emma calls Lily aside and threatens to use magic against her if she ever does anything to David and Mary Margaret. Regina then sends Robin Hood to retrieve a forgetting potion from her office so that Roland's recollections of the fake Marian are erased. David prepares to take Zelena to the sheriff's station, but Regina decides to take her herself somewhere else. As they all part ways, Robin Hood once more remarks that things can still work out, to which Regina replies there are things about her that he doesn't know.[3]

Regina Spares Zelena: Alternate Version

As described by Jane Espenson on the Season Four Blu-ray Audio Commentary.

The scene where Regina decides to spare Zelena's life, was originally filmed with Robin staying in the hallway outside her cell listening. Regina then went out to him after finishing her story about Cora. It was changed to Robin entering the cell during their conversation.[4]


Belle was originally set to appear in a scene where she is standing on/walking down the street outside the pawnshop, but the scene was cut. However, the scene can still be seen in an official promotional photo from the episode.[5]



Guest Starring



*: Beverley Elliott is not credited in the episode credits, but she appears in the background of a scene at Granny's Diner.[7]



Production Notes

  • The original opening scene was supposed to be the one with Regina and Robin Hood at the bar, but the editing room decided it was much more exciting to begin with the Evil Queen.[4]
  • Kylee Bush, who plays the bride whose wedding the Evil Queen interrupted, is one of Michael Coleman's acting students.[10]
  • The bar where Regina and Robin are at the beginning of the episode is supposed to be the same bar where Emma and Neal were in "Manhattan". However, the real bar was not available for the shooting, so another bar was faked to look like the original bar.[4]
  • The little exchange between Emma and Zelena in Neal's apartment in the beginning of the episode, was written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis.[4]
  • Footage from filming of the establishing shot of Storybrooke in the morning[11] was re-used for an establishing shot in the Season Five episodes "Our Decay"[12] and "Only You".[13] This can be seen from purplish color of the sky, and the parked cars in the streets, which are exactly the same. The time on the CGI clock tower is identical in "Only You", but was changed for "Our Decay". Footage from this shot was also used for an establishing shot in "Our Decay".[14]
  • Beverley Elliott's daughter Sally and her friend Freya were background performers during one of the diner scenes.[15]
  • The scene with Isaac and Mr. Gold at Granny's Diner, was originally supposed to end with them walking out of the building, but it was changed into Gold teleporting them away instead.[4]
  • Originally, the scene where Emma and Regina are coming back with Zelena, Robin, Roland and Lily was set to happen at the town line, sort of "pre-dawn, misty, and everybody meeting up almost in slow-motion". Because of production issues, it had to be moved to daytime, to the center of Storybrooke.[4]
  • Originally, the scene between Regina and Isaac at the mausoleum was set to happen in the backroom of Any Given Sundae. The original set had a big mirror in it, and when Regina teleported herself and Isaac to the ice cream store, she was going to tell him not to hide where there was a giant mirror, because Regina could see him through it. But the set was unavailable, so the scene was moved to the mauseoleum.[4]
  • For the scene where Cora comes to Regina with news about her "soulmate", the Valet was originally going to put papers in front of Regina to sign. Someone came up with the idea of him brushing her hair instead.[4]
  • The Evil Queen's date with the Sheriff of Nottingham was originally set out in the same meadow where Regina interrupted the wedding. Halfway through the date, the Sheriff would notice the rice that was spilled when Regina killed the groom, and say, "Is there rice in this grass?". However, they could not get that set, so the scene was moved to the apple tree instead.[4]
  • For her date with the Sheriff, Lana Parrilla wanted Regina to have a young Cora look and essence, with the way she moved and leaned, and styled her hair. She asked the hair stylist to make her look like Rose McGowan, who plays young Cora on the show.[16]
  • For the scene where the Sheriff's fake lion tattoo comes to life and crawls under his shirt, the special effects were done with a tube taped along Wil Traval's body, which went up his arm, around his neck and down the other arm. A crew member pulled an object on a string, to make his shirt ripple.[16]
  • The scenes where Regina takes out her anger on her mother for setting her up with the wrong soulmate, was originally written as a single, long scene. It was edited into several scenes in post-production.[4]

Episode Chronology

Episode Connections



Fairytales and Folklore

Popular Culture

Set Dressing

  • A white swan flies across the horizon as Emma and Hook look out onto the bay.[28]

Costume Notes


Filming Locations

International Titles



  1. Sunday Final Ratings: 'Family Guy' & 'Secrets and Lies' Adjusted Up. TV by the Numbers (May 5, 2015). “Once Upon A Time (...) 5.31”
  2. 2.0 2.1 LISTINGS: ONCE UPON A TIME. The Futon Critic. “Air Date: Sunday, May 03, 2015. Time Slot: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST on ABC. Episode Title: (#420) "Mother".”
  3. S4 Deleted Scene Things Can Change. Dailymotion (2015).
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Jane Espenson on the Season Four Blu-ray Audio Commentary for "Mother".
  5. File:420Promo5.jpg
  6. LISTINGS: ONCE UPON A TIME: Air Date: Sunday, September 25, 2016. Time Slot: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST on ABC. Episode Title: (#601) "The Savior".. The Futon Critic (September 2016). “Peter Marcin as Chief”
  7. File:420BadNews.png
  8. File:420Title.png
  9. TwitterLogo @AdamHorowitzLA (Adam Horowitz) on Twitter (March 4, 2015). "Here's another #OnceUponATime #titlespoiler -- hope to see ya Sunday!" (screenshot)
  10. TwitterLogo @1MichaelColeman (Michael Coleman) on Twitter (May 3, 2015). "That sad "bride to be" is one of my students! Great work" (screenshot)
  11. File:420WhatIsThis.png
  12. File:516Storybrooke.png
  13. File:522SoFar.png
  14. File:516Storybrooke.png
  15. TwitterLogo @TheReelBeverley (Beverley Elliott) on Twitter (May 3, 2015). "Also my daughter Sally and her pal Freya are the blonde 16 year old BG performers in the diner I hope they make it on screen" (screenshot)
  16. 16.0 16.1 Lana Parrilla on the Season Four Blu-ray Audio Commentary for "Mother".
  17. File:420IsntIt.png
  18. File:112BelleFrench.png
  19. File:601InYourMindsEye.png
  20. File:420Tavern.png
  21. File:417WhatACrowd.png
  22. File:420MotherAndDaughter.png
  23. File:113ToTheWell2.png
  24. File:505KnockedOut.png
  25. File:420ComeIn.png
  26. 'Lost' Writer/Producers Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz Talk Writing, TV, and Getting 'Lost'. BuddyTV (September 27, 2007). Archived from the original on April 15, 2016. “What television show, movie, or book inspired you to write? Annie Hall. Oddly we were both inspired by Woody Allen at young ages.”
  27. TwitterLogo @JaneEspenson (Jane Espenson) on Twitter (May 3, 2015). "Thanks -- I went back and forth between Annie Hall and Marlene Dietrich. Kids love Marlene Dietrich references." (screenshot)
  28. File:420Calming.png
  29. File:420AllAboutMe.png
  30. The Kooples SHORT LEATHER JACKET WITH A PYTHON STYLE EMBOSSED COLLAR. Pradux. Retrieved on October 21, 2018.
  31. File:419ReginaSeesRobin.png
  32. File:421InPhuket.png
  33. File:422Awake.png
  34. File:501TakeUsThere.png
  35. File:506Sabotage.png
  36. File:508HelpingZelena.png
  37. File:620ReginaAndZelena.png
  38. File:420JustYouAre.png
  39. File:420ThankYou2.png
  40. DL2 by Dawn Levy HANNAH BELTED ALPACA COAT. Pradux. Retrieved on October 21, 2018.
    DL2 by Dawn Levy Hannah Belted Alpaca Coat, Brown. Neiman Marcus. Retrieved on October 21, 2018.
  41. File:421EnteringApartment.png
  42. File:422SorryAboutTheMess.png
  43. File:420Well.png
  44. File:504Shortly.png
  45. File:611ManInAllTheLands.png
  46. File:219TheSheriff2.png
  47. File:420Storybrooke2.png
  48. File:420Storybrooke.png
  49. File:111Henry!Henry!.png
  50. File:113OutOfTheCar.png
  51. File:119HoppingOnMotorbike.png
  52. File:202ArchiesCar.png
  53. InstagramIcon ouat7669 (Jordyn). March 12, 2015.  "Vlog is up! Link in bio! Also this is where the outlaw queen date happened last night😏" (archive copy)
    InstagramIcon ouat7669 (Jordyn). March 12, 2015.  "Summary of the #OutlawQueen scene" (archive copy)
  54. Gittins, Susan (May 9, 2015). VFX: ONCE UPON A TIME’s Dragon Lily in Ladner's North 40 Park Reserve. Hollywood North.

Start a Discussion Discussions about Mother

  • Determining A Major Part Of The Timeline

    7 messages
    • I would love to see a unified timeline of everything and this would have been perfect until they showed us ''Souls of ...
    • Eddiefunny wrote:I would love to see a unified timeline of everything and this would have been perfect until they showed us ''Souls...
  • ingrids ice spell on zelena

    7 messages
    • Rwo
      Ingrid cursed Zelena without any possible clue about her true identity. Once she leaved the town, the spell stopped all effect. Being in the wo...
    • The spell only had effect the first time. She faked it the second time because it was useful to her. Regina thoght she failed and was to late w...
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