By Natalie Abrams
March 26, 2017 at 09:00 PM EDT
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Eike Schroter/ABC

Once Upon a Time

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  • ABC

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday’s episode of Once Upon a Time. Read at your own risk!

Regina ultimately didn’t end up with any version of Robin, but two characters did find a happy ending together during Sunday’s episode of Once Upon a Time.

After the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) faced off with her doppelgänger in Storybrooke, during which they ultimately came to a touching détente, Henry (Jared Gilmore) gave the Evil Queen a fresh start that found her back in the famed tavern in which awaits her true love, the lion-tattooed man we know is Robin (Sean Maguire) — but the Wish Realm version!

“What we realize is that was the Evil Queen’s happy ending all along,” Parrilla tells EW. “It’s a beautiful ending for her. It’s really a courageous, happy ending for her. It was fun to experience it. I was very emotional over it. It was fun to play and to give her that closure. I felt like she’s earned it.”

The happy ending comes after Regina and the Evil Queen faced each other in the ultimate showdown — and while Regina had a chance to destroy her other half, ultimately they both came to a realization. “She realizes, ‘This is me that I hate, and I can no longer hate myself anymore,'” Parrilla says. “She realizes with the Evil Queen that she’s hated that part of her for so long, and it’s now time to put that to an end, and so she makes a choice, and she takes her own heart out, and she combines the heart so they both possess both light and dark, and then she puts the heart back into the Evil Queen, and puts her heart back in.”

“It’s really a moving, beautiful moment, where she finally accepts herself,” Parrilla continues. “The Evil Queen is feeling love for the first time, and it’s so foreign, and awkward, and weird, and scary, but then she hears what Regina says to her, which is, ‘You were right, you are a part of me, and I’m a part of you whether you like it or not, and now I love myself, which means so should you,’ and she embraces the Evil Queen, and they hug for the first time, and it’s just this beautiful moment between them, and they have this closure.”

The hour also offered an opportunity to show a side to the true Evil Queen that we’ve seldom seen before. “She’s this young girl who’s always wanted love, who’s always wanted to be accepted and understood, and she finally is by her light self, her other self, and it’s a beautiful unity between these two women,” Parrilla says. “It’s also a really important message I think to put out in the world, which is, we are complicated human beings, we possess both darkness and light in all of us, and in seeing these two women finally love and embrace one another, it’s very inspiring.”

“They have a heart-to-heart, and sit and talk it out, and there’s some humor between them, and some real, honest, vulnerable moments shared between them,” Parrilla continues. “It’s the first time you see the Evil Queen stripped down to this rawness and this real human quality that we haven’t really seen in her because she’s always been so protective over the years. She has all these walls that she’s built up around her, and it’s the first time we get a sense of who this woman really is, and what she’s always really wanted was to just be understood.”

The happy ending for the Evil Queen and Robin actually brings to life the fabled Page 23, also the title of the episode, which former author Isaac (Patrick Fischler) once called a canceled experiment. “It goes to a larger philosophical idea of who is Robin and who is the Evil Queen?” executive producer Adam Horowitz explains. “Yes, the Robin that we knew and love died, but the essence of who he is is embodied in this other version. The Evil Queen that has been taken out from Regina — we see that both Regina and the Evil Queen have to have parts of each other to exist — now we have this other entity that is also the essence of Regina. So this prophecy of the fairy dust way back in season 3, we thought that this was a way to honor that and to show that it was right in its own way. It’s just that things don’t always happen the way you expect.”

“We once said on the show that happy endings aren’t what you expect them to be, and this is one,” executive producer Edward Kitsis adds. “The Evil Queen and Robin make good on that in that this was her happy ending and Page 23, but in the same respect, it’s Regina coming to terms with the fact of being able to move forward and understand that you just can’t cut off the dark side of you; we’re both, the yin and yang of life. We also thought this is a different Robin, and Regina can’t go back. Just like she had to let go of Daniel, she had to let go of Robin.”

While the Evil Queen got her happy ending, Regina is still searching for hers — though Parrilla also stresses her character’s happy ending may not be what fans expect. “She realizes that her happiness isn’t so much with a man or a partner,” the actress says. “So she’s already on that journey, and yet when she sees Robin of Locksley, she’s filled with hope, but then realizes he’s not that guy, and so she’s already on her way there, and has some resolve, and she just wants to make him happy now at this point. I think it’s less about her, and she feels responsible for bringing him into this world that he doesn’t know, and she just wants to give him whatever he needs to get back.”

The question remains how having both the dark and light side within her again will change Regina moving forward. “She’s similar to who she was before, but I think more evolved, and more mature because we always saw her in constant conflict, which she always hated these impulses that she had — these dark impulses or these evil thoughts and evil ways — and we see her really embracing both sides, and she is both,” Parrilla says. “There was that episode called ‘We Are Both,’ and that kept ringing in my head. ‘We Are Both’ is very different than this, but that motto is really what she’s living by in accepting that she is both dark and light and that it’s okay, and then I think it actually makes her stronger.”

Read our postmortem with Jennifer Morrison on Emma and Hook’s future here.

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.

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