Zelena, better known as the Wicked Witch of the West, is a major villain featured in ABC's Once Upon a Time. She is the main antagonist in the second half of the third season and the secondary antagonist in the fourth season, specifically the last six episodes. She is portrayed by guest star Rebecca Mader and is the Enchanted Forest counterpart of Zelena.
The Wicked Witch of the West is based on the character of the same name from the children's novel, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz".
Before First Curse
Abandoned by her biological mother Cora, she is taken by a cyclone to the land of Oz and picked up by a woman. The woman's husband witnesses the baby exhibit powerful magic by felling a tree, though the latter remains oblivious. Given the name Zelena, she loses her adoptive mother in childhood and grows up with a drunken father. While she is shaving his neck, he harps on Zelena to always put on her best face. Accidentally cutting him with the razor, she conjures a rag, but her use of magic terrifies and angers him. He reveals the truth of her birthright, that she is not his biological daughter, and spitefully calls her "wicked". Hurt, she consults the Wizard about her birth family. Zelena finds out she was abandoned because her own mother, Cora, wished to become royalty, which her first-born could not give. She glimpses her half-sister, Regina, who has become Queen and is being taught magic by a man named Rumpelstiltskin. Gifted silver slippers, she uses them to travel to Regina's palace.
Rumplestiltskin stumbles on Zelena, and believes she is lying about being Cora's first-born until testing her genetics. Accepted by him, she learns that he is making a powerful curse to take himself to a Land Without Magic. She is taught to channel rage, such as anger about her own abandonment as well as jealousy towards Regina, into magic. Rumplestiltskin also teaches Zelena how to let the rage simmer by thinking of a happy moment, and even shares his childhood memory of being raised by spinsters and eating meat-pies. This helps her realize her happiest moment is having met him. After the lesson, she bakes him a meat-pie, but he has to leave to teach Regina magic. Upset, she reacts in hysterics until he points out that her jealousy is literally turning her skin green. Unwilling to have competition, Zelena attacks Regina, though it is Rumplestiltskin in disguise. He disqualifies her as the future caster of his curse since one of the ingredients required for it is the thing she loves most—him—and that makes her too dangerous. He backtracks upon seeing the silver slippers she has, which can take him to a Land Without Magic. Too furious at his prior rejection, she scathingly promises him that he'll choose her next time.
Returning to the Wizard, she asks for a way to change the circumstances of her own past, though he says it's impossible. She rips away the Wizard's curtain, discovering he is just a man putting on a show, and transforms him into a pet flying monkey. As she gets a glimpse of Rumplestiltskin calling Regina his "best pupil", her jealousy reaches a boiling point, and Zelena's skin becomes completely green with envy.
Shortly after, Glinda, the Witch of the South, recruits Zelena into a sisterhood of witches. Along with the Witch of the East and the Witch of the North, the trio believe Zelena is destined to join them because of a prophecy foretelling of a sorceress arriving by cyclone and becoming the Witch of the West. Zelena is still obsessed about changing her past, but with Glinda's encouragement, she decides her own future as a good witch is more important. After receiving a pendant to harness her powers, Zelena views the western area of Oz, which she will be responsible for watching over. She and Glinda approach the wreckage from a cyclone to rescue a young girl named Dorothy. Fearing this child, who also arrived by cyclone, is the actual Witch of the West, Zelena researches the prophecy in the Book of Records; discovering the sorceress will "unseat the greatest evil the realm has ever seen", which she believes is herself.
Even with Glinda's advisement that her fears may be not true, Zelena plots to get rid of Dorothy by attacking the girl with fire. However, Dorothy counters her assailant with water; causing Zelena to physically melt away. Despite being seemingly dead, Zelena reemerges at the Wizard's Emerald City palace after Dorothy has rejected Glinda's offer of joining the sisterhood since she only wants to go home. Assuming the Wizard's voice, she sends Dorothy back to Kansas with the silver slippers, and then reveals herself to a shocked Glinda. Zelena reaffirms her goal of changing her own past, and to keep Glinda from finding another sorceress to fulfill the prophecy, she banishes the Witch of the South to the Enchanted Forest.
Before Second Curse
Zelena, now known as the Wicked Witch of the West, begins taking residence in Regina's former palace and breaking the latter's magic lock on the crypt, which was created by blood magic. Conveniently, due to her blood link to Regina, this allows her easy access into the palace. Zelena later enacts her own protection spell to keep outsiders out. Threatening to harm Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip's unborn child, she forces them to notify her when the old inhabitants of the Enchanted Forest return. When they do so, she sends her minion, a flying monkey, to extract some of Regina's blood. After doing so, the Wicked Witch mixes the blood with a potion intending to seek revenge on Regina.
While still in the palace, she notices Regina and a man break in through the underground tunnel with intentions of bringing down the barrier encasing the building. Zelena also learns that Regina is concocting her own brew of the Sleeping Curse and planning to use it on herself. Only after Regina, having broken the palace shield, prepares to use the curse, she finally reveals herself to the other woman. The Wicked Witch speaks freely about having tried on Regina's clothes and seeing all the various rooms in the palace such as the crypt. While Regina believes Zelena forcibly opened the crypt, which is bound by blood magic, she insists that is not the case. When she admits their relation as half-sisters, with Cora as their shared mother, Regina doesn't believe her. Zelena elaborates by detailing how she was sent away to Oz while scathingly recounting how Cora gave Regina everything. Though Regina considers her lucky to have escaped Cora's tyranny, Zelena is too hurt by her mother's abandonment. Additionally, Zelena feels inferior to her since they were both students of Rumplestiltskin, but yet she wasn't the one chosen to enact the curse. Upon learning Cora and Rumplestiltskin are dead, she is somewhat disappointed by the news. Nonetheless, Zelena announces that her true intent is to get what she desires; describing it as "her dreams being realized" while Regina will suffer a "fate worse than death".
Zelena entraps a man named Lumiere into a form of a candelabrum; forcing him to manipulate Belle and Neal into reviving Rumplestiltskin by using a key to open the vault of the Dark One. Unknown to the pair, whoever resurrects the Dark One will lose their life. Shortly after Neal opens the vault, he begins dying while Rumplestiltskin is resurrected. As opportunity would have it, Zelena reveals herself to Rumpletstiltskin as he is holding his son as well as the accursed dagger. Since he is unable to cling onto both Neal and the dagger, she grabs the weapon. To keep his son alive, Rumplestiltskin quickly absorbs him into his own body. Zelena then orders him to kill Belle, but before he can, she is entrapped by Lumiere's flames. The girl flees unharmed; taking Lumiere with her, while Zelena furiously seethes.
Leading Rumplestiltskin back to this old castle, she imprisons him in the great hall inside a human-sized cage. After learning Aurora and Prince Phillip told Snow White that she desires their unborn child, Zelena makes a speedy entrance to the palace to turn the twosome into flying monkeys as punishment. Leaving no time to waste, she immobilizes Snow White and does the same to Prince Charming and Regina when they attempt to defend the pregnant princess. Casually, she approaches to touch Snow White's belly and promises the child will soon be hers. Later, Snow White learns from the banished Good Witch of the South, Glinda, that Zelena is weakest against light magic; a criteria Emma fits, and she proceeds to cast another Dark Curse to return everyone to Storybrooke. In the midst of it, Zelena interferes by dropping a potion into the curse mixture, which will erase their memories of the past year in the Enchanted Forest. Victorious, she flies off back to the castle to ingest a substance to retain her memories. Zelena then hands the same vial to Rumplestiltskin; daring him to keep his memories or be foolish enough to want to forget.
During Second Curse
While in Storybrooke, Zelena imprisons a resurrected Mr. Gold, courtesy of Neal, who previously used a key on the vault of the Dark One to bring back his father. As a price of opening the vault, Neal was supposed to die, but just before he perished, Mr. Gold absorbed him into his own body. At a town hall meeting, she gets her first glimpse of the savior, Emma, who is attempting to figure out who caused the new curse. One of the residents, Leroy, openly blames the mayor, Regina; an accusation that the other townspeople agree with as does Emma. In a display of frustration, Regina causes a tremor and magically dissipates out of the room. Zelena, sitting at the end of one aisle, watches the situation with interest. Under the disguise of a midwife, she strikes up conversation with Mary Margaret at the diner. The mother-to-be is ecstatic to have found someone who has expertise in childbirth and jokingly remarks that she might still need Zelena even after the baby is born. With Mary Margaret's permission, she is allowed to touch her pregnant belly. Hours later, Leroy announces to the town's citizens that Emma caught Regina making a memory potion, which will apparently allow whoever drinks it to recall who cursed them. To protect herself from exposure, Zelena teleports into the mayoral office during the night to steal the potion, but disappears in green smoke when Emma and Regina burst in to apprehend her. Luckily, they do not catch a glimpse of her face, which is shrouded by the smoke. That same night, she magically opens a cellar door outside her house and carries a tray of food to a ragged and disheveled Mr. Gold, who grabs her arm to hiss that she should have never brought him back. She laughs, roughly kicking the tray into the cell, snidely telling him to "eat up" since they've got work to do and then strolls out of the cellar with ease.
Paying Mr. Gold another visit in the cellar, she walks in on him furiously spinning straw into gold. Purposely, Zelena unlocks the cell door, daring him to harm her, though well aware he cannot since she possesses the Dark One's Dagger. She forces him to sit still while giving him a facial shave using the dagger as a razor. During the task, Zelena sourly recounts how her drunken father often made her shave him. She recalls him telling her to "put on her best face", which was impossible since the outside always shows what is rotting on the inside. On purpose, Zelena nicks Mr. Gold to get a droplet of his blood. Later, she goes to the pawnshop, which is now run by Belle, to ask for a baby gift for Mary Margaret, but quickly freezes the girl, and uses Mr. Gold's blood on a locked compartment behind a wall painting to retrieve a plant called night root. On her first day as midwife, Zelena is introduced to Mary Margaret's husband, David, and makes the couple chamomile tea at their apartment. Without their notice, she spikes David's tea with night root, later causing the man to fight a physical manifestation of himself as his greatest fear. He manages to kill it with his own sword hilt, which Zelena magically pockets in her handbag. While leaving the apartment, Zelena gushes enthusiastically about Mary Margaret's charming husband and reassures the expecting mother that with her around, she won't need to worry about the baby.
Discovering Mr. Gold has broken out of the cellar, Zelena exerts power of the dagger to summon Mr. Gold, which doesn't work due to Neal, in his father's body, resisting the weapon's power. Angry at the failure, she sends a flying monkey to search for him. Mary Margaret phones her, panicked about not feeling the baby move as of recently, to which Zelena hurries over to the apartment with groceries. She calms her down, stating it's normal for babies to move infrequently as the labor date nears, and offers orange juice. Mary Margaret brushes off the baby's current state as due to her own worries, though Zelena knows the Wicked Witch, which everyone in town is talking about, must also be giving her stress. After Mary Margaret downs all of the orange juice, she is surprised to feel the baby kick. Delighted, the dutiful midwife happily remarks that Mary Margaret could have the child any day now. Disguising sinister words in a cheerful tone, Zelena even says that she simply won't allow Mary Margaret to have the child without her. Later, she excuses herself to the bathroom and escapes the apartment through an open window. As luck would have it, Zelena disappears in time just before Emma and David discover, from Mr. Gold, her identity as the Wicked Witch. They burst in to apprehend Zelena, but she is gone. In the woods, she meets up with a stoic Mr. Gold, who is watching over the corpse of his dead son, after their bodies were magically separated by Emma. He attempts to attack her, but she subdues him with the dagger. Despite that her real persona has been exposed, Zelena claims she'll have much use for Mr. Gold's brain.
Zelena storms the town diner threatening anyone who gets in her way will have to deal with the Dark One. She announces herself as Regina's half-sister and forces her into a showdown on Main Street after sundown. Before the deadline, she catches Mr. Gold's lover, Belle, enter the cellar and attempt to guide him out of the prison. Once the girl flees, Zelena magically induces Mr. Gold to give a message to the rest of Belle's allies, David, Emma and Tinker Bell, outside the cellar, that anyone who attempts to hinder her quest to take down Regina will die. At nightfall, Zelena shows up, with Mr. Gold in tow, though Regina is absent. When challenged by Emma, who she sees as an unworthy opponent, Zelena has Mr. Gold magically fling her away. Regina arrives to the confrontation, having accepted they are sisters, but doesn't understand the grudge Zelena has against her. Zelena wickedly remarks that it's because Regina was born, and she receives a slap in retaliation. As they trade blows in magic, Zelena furiously declares that Regina had everything even though she didn't appreciate or deserve it. Eventually, she magically chokes Regina and sends her flying into the clock tower. Then, Zelena attempts to rip out her sister's heart, but discovers it is hidden elsewhere. Before taking off on a broom, she savagely promises to take everything Regina has. Locking up Mr. Gold once more, Zelena informs him that what she is planning to cast isn't a curse, but something to give herself a second chance to change her own past.
Despite her easy defeat of the savior the prior night, Zelena knows she can't kill Emma, who has powerful magic within her and could be a threat. She makes use of Hook, the sole person that regained his memories from the past year, and is also aware he is in love with Emma. Devising a scheme to take down the savior, she disguises herself as Ariel, a mermaid who once had Hook's aid in finding the man she loves, Prince Eric, only for him to selfishly choose to reclaim his ship over helping her. As Ariel, she tricks Hook into believing since the new curse, Eric hasn't returned and asks for his help locating him. They track down Eric's cloak at the pawnshop and pour a potion on it, which leads them straight to the harbor and then sinks into the water. "Ariel" pretends to be distraught; believing this is a sign Eric is dead. Overcome with guilt, Hook confesses having met Ariel during the missing year in the Enchanted Forest in which he chose to save his ship over Eric's life; hoping it would fill a void left in his heart from having to leave the woman he loved. To prove he still believes in love, "Ariel" makes him swear on the woman's name, but no sooner do the words "Emma Swan" come out of his mouth, Zelena places a curse on him. Revealing her true colors, she explains that the real Ariel already found Eric on an island outside the boundaries of the curse and they are now together. Zelena also declares her intent in cursing him as she wants Hook to kiss Emma, which will remove all of the savior's magic. Though Hook refuses, she promises to kill all of Emma's loved ones should he fail.
While distracting Regina with a visit to her house, Zelena has Mr. Gold fetch her sister's heart from Robin Hood. Then, she dolls Mr. Gold up by making him wear an extravagant suit and later sit down for a meal with her. Over dinner, she fills him in on her motives for collecting various ingredients, like David's sword and Regina's heart, in order to cast a time spell to change her own past. At first, Mr. Gold has doubts Zelena can actually do it, but she sweetens the deal by offering to take him along with her so he can be reunited with his son again. Impressed, her former teacher admits he was wrong to have not chosen her in the past and makes up for his errors by engaging Zelena in a heady make-out session. Zelena falls under his alluring spell, but not for long, especially when she realizes he is only toying with her long enough to grab the dagger. Seizing control of the weapon before he can reach it, she angrily berates Mr. Gold for his lost chance of ever seeing his son again and orders him back to his cell.
On the town roadside, Zelena awaits Mr. Gold, who drives up and unveils a kidnapped Hook inside the trunk. She warns Hook for the last time to get a move on her plan to eliminate Emma's magic, or Henry will pay the price. He fails to follow her orders and even attempts to take the boy out of Storybrooke in secret. Zelena sends several flying monkeys after them, but all are destroyed. While Henry, his memory loss cured by touching the fairytale storybook, is basking in a reunion with Regina, Zelena grabs and proceeds to choke him. Regina's attempt to defend her son is overturned when she is knocked unconscious as Zelena continues to aggressively suffocate Henry. However, she is caught off guard when Emma uses magic to scald her. This moment of distraction causes her to let go of Henry and retreat from the fight. After the battle, Regina breaks the new curse by giving Henry a kiss of true love.
After Second Curse
Proceeding with her plan to enact a time spell, Zelena takes the gold strands Mr. Gold has spun and transforms it into his brain; another needed ingredient. She then has him dig a symbol into the ground of the barn. The last spell component—the baby—is missing since Mary Margaret is in labor, but also because Emma situated a protective barrier around the delivery room to keep Zelena out. She catches Emma and Hook approaching the barn and quickly wins the situation in her own favor by drowning the pirate until he is unconscious; therefore forcing the savior to resuscitate him and be stripped of her magic. In doing so, Emma's protective spell fades. On her way to claim the last ingredient for the spell, Zelena subdues the Merry Men, Belle and Regina before stealing Mary Margaret's newborn son. Returning to the barn, she begins the spell only for David, Emma, Hook, Regina and Robin Hood to intervene. While everyone else is no match for Zelena, Regina overpowers her with light magic. Regina snatches Zelena's pendant; rendering her powerless without magic, and takes away the dagger as well. Simmering with rage, Mr. Gold attempts to kill Zelena for enslaving him, but Regina spares her sister's life. Imprisoned in a jail cell, Zelena grudgingly accepts her current dilemma, but fails to understand why she is still alive. Regina sympathizes with her since they both suffered as Cora's daughters and by having lives they didn't want. She also knows what it's like to be fueled by vengeance and gives Zelena a second chance to reshape a better future for herself. Later on, Mr. Gold, wielding the dagger, seeks payback for his son's death by stabbing Zelena to death. Her body transforms into a statue, which he shatters into pieces. Unseen to his eyes, the remains of her body turn into powder and vanish. Tucked away in the vault, Zelena's pendant airs out a greenish smoke and travels to the barn; engulfing the time spell symbol on the ground. In fact she did not die but her essence escaped her body and she followed Emma and Hook to the past killed Marian and took her place just to get back at Regina. Emma and Regina travel to New York (with Lily in tow) to find Robin Hood to get him away from Zelena, but Robin reveals that Zelena is pregnant with his child, much to Regina's shock and anger.