The Psychology of Characters

Fiction writers: storytellers, screenplay writers and novelists are the world’s greatest psychologists. They know how to break a character, destroy their self-confidence, and/or turn them evil. They also know how to undo that trauma and heal. The more the fiction writer understands the nature of a person, the more powerful their characters.

This post is about Episode 5, “The Doctor,” in the second season of the TV series Once Upon A Time.

In the series, Regina is an evil queen who places a curse on all of fairyland and brings the people to Storybrooke, Maine.

In the first season, we continually see Regina’s malicious deeds, but on occasion, we see her sorrow and her regrets, and we know somewhere underneath is a wounded heart in desperate need healing. But what will it take? She is so ingrained in evil, how can she ever change?

All of her life, Regina has been manipulated, first by her mother then by Rumplestiltskin. At first she resists, but in each case the one trying to influence her brings her to the point of breaking and remaking her.

Her mother has ambitious plans for her. She wants her to many the king and become queen. Regina wants the simple life with the stable boy.

Mother witch kills Regina’s one true love, Daniel.

Because she can’t let go of the past, Daniel’s death haunts her. Instead of burying him in the ground and allowing herself to grieve and then go on with life, Regina places her love in a glass case with a preserving spell. Daniel looks like he just took his last breath.

Enter Rumplestiltskin.

The Dark Lord uses Regina’s broken heart to turn her from a naive young woman to an ominous witch-queen.

It’s a bit ironic.

Rumplestiltskin says, “If you can’t let go of the past, it will haunt you.” and “So long as you live in the past, you’ll never find your future.”

It’s because of Rumplestiltskin’s past which he won’t let go, and which haunts him, that makes him manipulate Regina into using the curse.

And so the stage is set, Regina is evil.

In the second season, for the love of her son Henry, Regina wants to give up magic and change. But to do that, she must first give up her past, Daniel. She can’t.

Her love is too strong. She hurts too much. The only way she will be able to give him up is if he’s ripped from her heart.

In Episode 5, someone who cannot give up his past tries to manipulate Regina again. Through the power of magic and medical science, The Doctor raises Daniel from the dead, but the deed backfires. Daniel attacks the good Doctor almost killing him.

The resurrected Daniel is not what Regina wants; he’s a monster. He begs her to let him go. She can’t.

He hasn’t killed anyone yet. But the threat is there. Does she keep him and try to tame him? Who might suffer because of such a decision? Whose more important, the living or the dead from her past?

Through tears of grief and sorrow, Regina says good-bye. Daniel evaporates into nothingness.

Regina has let go of her past. She can took to the future. She can finally finish grieving and allow her broken heart to heal, and move on with life.

At least that’s what would happen in real life, but this is fiction and fictional characters live because of the problems their creators give them.

The screenplay writers know how to transform an innocent maiden into the worse evil of the land. It doesn’t happen all at once. It takes one planned step at a time. It takes the patience of another character to mold her into a creature full of hate and revenge.

They don’t just show her evil, they give us glimpses of who Regina really is. They show us a side of her no one else sees. This gives her character depth and a little mystery of what might become of her.

The screenplay writers also knows what it takes to undo the manipulation, heal a broken heart, and transform the worse evil of the land into a good person.

Regina could become trust worthy. She could help the others find their way back to fairyland. Or the screenplay writers could have other plans for her. They are the master manipulators; they understand the psychology of their characters.

We’ll have to keep watching to find out what happens to Regina.