The game is rigged. The villains never win.Cruella
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Michael Socha, and Robert Carlyle.
I know that every story arc inevitably has peaks and troughs. While the Frozen storyline definitely started off quite sluggishly, it really hit a quite lovely stride, and so it’s a little bittersweet that it comes to an end in this episode. After Ingrid’s loss in the previous episode, it’s time for Anna, Elsa and Kristoff to return to Arendelle, via a handily discovered portal by Rumple (who helpfully proclaimed “there” when a magic door appeared in the Sorcerer’s House…you don’t say).
I’ve made no secret of the fact that Anna has been an utter delight on this show. Elizabeth Lail brought such a vitality and hilarious awkwardness to the character and made all of her cartoonish qualities seem utterly believable and natural – which is no mean feat. Her presence really injected this first part of season 4 with a fresh energy that will be sorely missed. Not only this, but Elsa and Emma’s relationship is so disarmingly sweet that it will be a shame not to see this moving forward. Emma really needs a best friend. Much as it’s fun to see her knocking about with her same-age parents all the time, the connection that Elsa and Emma shared was deep, and lovely to see.
Oh, and Kristoff is leaving too. (For the record I happen to adore Scott Michael Foster. He’s brilliant in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but has been relatively starved of meaningful things to do here.)
I genuinely wish that the Arendelle crowd could stick around but, unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense for them to abandon their kingdom when there’s an opportunity to go back and Hans in charge. It’s a massive loss to the show, in my view, and a storyline trying to bed in Elsa, Anna and Kristoff to Storybrooke’s modern ways would have been compelling, if somewhat lacking in drama.
One of the refreshing things about this mid season finale was the fact that our characters didn’t actually know that there was any sort of nefarious plot going on for quite some time. It allowed for there to be a little bit of character development in the midst of the drama.
Before getting rid of Rumple, Regina and Robin restore Marian to life and, just as Robin decides that he’s going to leave Marian to follow his heart with Regina, it turns out that Ingrid’s curse still exists in Marian’s heart (I’m not sure why we can’t remove the heart, because they do that an awful lot, but who am I to judge). Anyway, with the new town line rules (because we need new town line rules every so often), Marian can survive if she leaves Storybrooke, but once she leaves she can never return, and Robin and Roland have to go with her, ending Regina and Robin’s romance seemingly for good.
It was a nice opportunity to explore Regina’s growth, and a brilliant opportunity to see the contrast between her and Rumple (more on that later). As ever, commendably played by Lana Parrilla, and, with an exciting eleventh hour discovery of a secret room within the Sorcerer’s Mansion, in which there are many empty storybooks, it seems that Regina’s quest for a happy ending may reap massive rewards without her having to revert to her evil ways. It was also brilliant to see Regina and Emma connecting after Regina’s loss, and I hope that their friendship can continue to grow as they work on Operation Mongoose together.
Emilie de Ravin really had some brilliant material to work with this week. After such a long time of being unknowingly messed about by Rumple, Belle gets her own back and then some. I doubt there was a single viewer watching who wasn’t punching the air with glee when she turned up with a hero’s entrance, declaring, “because I commanded you not to.”. Sucks to be you, Rumple. Guess you won’t be cleaving yourself of that dagger any time soon.
The audience felt every single word that Belle spits at Rumple, and it’s been a long time coming. A truly brilliant moment for the character as she realises that Rumple’s true love has always been his power, and I doubt anybody feels even remotely sorry for him as he begs and pleads not to be pushed out of Storybrooke. I’d love to say that this experience would be humbling for Rumple, but of course by the end of the episode he’s already working on yet another evil plan to rewrite the story.
I spoke earlier about the marked contrast between Regina and Rumple, and it’s made so obvious in this episode through their shared scene. Rumple tells Regina that the way that she can secure her happy ending is by demanding it. The difference is is that Rumple doesn’t care about the collateral damage in whatever his goals are, which is ultimately what sets him up to failure. He fails to consider that he cannot have both Belle and his power, because the lows that he stoops to to secure power are abhorrent to Belle. He doesn’t consider anybody’s needs but his own, and truly has no conscience about that. Meanwhile, Regina has come a long way, and sees no value in a happy ending that isn’t earned. She wouldn’t be happy in a future with Robin if that meant that he had left his wife without anybody, and that shows how far Regina has come, because she has developed empathy and she’s developed guilt and a conscience, and does not want to do others harm.
Rumple’s lack of remorse can be seen through him coming back to Ursula at the close of the episode (don’t you just love a time jump? Henry’s growth spurts certainly do). The fact that his default instinct when being pushed out of Storybrooke is “villains never succeed let’s flip the switch”, instead of acknowledging his own flaws. He’s attributing his “loss of happy ending” over him being a villain, but him being a villain was a conscious choice that stripped him of his happy ending. He could have had it, and instead of reforming and realising that it is Belle that he wants, he still desperately wants to have it all, even wanting to rewrite the entire process so that he can secure that narrative. But Rumple needs to realise that he just cannot have both. His love for power is all consuming, and he cannot have romantic love and his lust for power at the same time. There’s just not enough of his heart to throw into both. If, indeed, he actually has a heart left in that decrepit rib cage.
I’m intrigued by the Queen of Darkness storyline. Maleficent has always been fifty shades of iconic, but Ursula and Cruella also seem to be really deliciously evil in their own right. I’m not entirely sure what a slightly unhinged fashionista is doing associating with these powerful sorceresses, but I’m sure that will come to light. She’s already a glittering gem just from the way that she chews all of her lines to death. Love it.
It’ll be an interesting force to take on our heroes, as with a band of villains there’s more of a potential for them to outsmart the goodies. Moreover, there’s more opportunity for different storylines to keep our interest from waning. Not to mention the weekly obligatory flashbacks. I can’t wait to see the Dalmatian that tormented Cruella in her youth, and made a skin coat out of her parents and thus she swore revenge over all of their breed.
I wouldn’t be surprised. I expect my royalties, Once writers. If, in fact, I hadn’t written this review some 6 years after transmission.
The future of Once Upon a Time looks bright. Season 4 has so far been quite a cohesive tale, and our main cast are still as delightful as ever. It’s nice thinking about what the next episode might hold, now that the inhabitants of Storybrooke don’t actually have a direct enemy. Some levity and relief from deadly attacks might be a welcome change. Moreover, both sides fighting and competing to get to the Author, for different reasons, puts a different sort of spin on the battle between good and evil that’s sure to be more compelling than the Queens of Darkness trying to kill Snow White because they’re vaguely bored and the writers are running out of ideas.
Once Upon an Additional Brainthought
- Rumple talking into Hook’s heart made it look as if Rumple was recording a podcast. Can somebody make this, please? What’s Robert Carlyle’s availability?
- It was slightly strange seeing Rumple and Belle in the Enchanted Forest on location. I feel like so many of their stories take place on that hideous CGI set, I was almost in shock.
- Belle’s captive hologram immediately made me think that she was about to proclaim, “Help me Obi Wan, you’re my only hope!”
- Belle has been very remiss in her cleaning of Gold’s shop (not that it’s her job to clean, but she has lived there for quite some time) if she’s been there over two years and has only just found the gauntlet. Do you never spring clean?
- The confrontation between Rumple and the Queens of Darkness looked suspiciously like a recycled location from Neverland. You can’t get anything past me, writers.
- WHY DON’T THEY KNOW OTHER WORDS FOR CLEAVE?! Pick up a damned thesaurus! Sever, split, break, cut, rend – ALL BRILLIANT SUBSTITUTES.
- I mean, I get that the characters can’t see Storybrooke once they leave, but surely they can just retrace their steps to where they know they were? And then they’ll just end up back in Storybrooke again? Did they explain that, and I missed it? It seems like a flaw.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.