My mother told me never forget my roots, and thanks to you, I never will.Mother Gothel
Starring Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West, Dania Ramirez, Alison Fernandez, Mekia Cox, and Robert Carlyle
Episode 19: Flower Child
As any watcher of Once Upon a Time knows, no villain is complete without their tragic backstory. In bringing realism to fairytales, the Once writers are always very keen to contextualise the evil deeds of their ne’er-do-wells, demonstrating the tragedy that creates evil. That’s precisely what “Flower Child” does, adding a new layer of depth and understanding to Gothel’s character, though it does come at an odd point narratively, considering Gothel has been largely existing on the sidelines since she revealed her autonomy in the mid season finale.
This episode certainly adds new shades to Gothel’s character, through showing us the horrible ordeal that she was put through by humankind. To be treated and belittled as other than, and to have her entire race cleansed by the humans definitely helps us to understand what caused Gothel to become an evil witch, and to create the coven. The surprise twist at the end of the flashback, that this wasn’t an event in the Enchanted Forest, but rather one from Earth in the distant, distant past was a nice touch and made the acts committed against her even more egregious and damning, in a way.
Having said that, that doesn’t entirely make her plot make sense. Since the mid season finale, we have been aware that Drizella wasn’t the true brains behind the latest Dark Curse, but rather it was Gothel. Yet, since becoming free, Gothel has done precious little to actually reconstitute her coven, other than saying that that’s what she wanted to do to Anastasia. Besides, was it really necessary that she enact a Dark Curse to obliterate humanity? Surely she could have used a magic bean and just transported there, like everybody else seems to do. In fact, those in the Enchanted Forest likely wouldn’t have noticed, as they would have just got on with their lives. A very strange train of logic that suggests to me that the writers didn’t fully think out Gothel’s role, or the importance of the coven and were instead making it up as they went along.
It’s hard to get too invested in these stories when there are only a handful of episodes left and Gothel’s fate is pretty much sealed. What’s more, she has been absent from episodes in a good long while as we’ve had multiple subplots, like Nick killing off members of the coven (apparently while Gothel just sat around doing precisely nothing about it). She had Anastasia, and we don’t even know what she needed her for, but it’s just assumed that the Guardian is somehow important in whatever spell that Gothel is enacting.
The plan just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, and is also so needlessly over the top and dramatic that it obviously won’t succeed anyway. With a spell to bring back magic and apparently eliminate humankind, there’s also a sense of “oh, okay, sure”. Is that necessarily full of tension, or are the stakes to unrelatable? I’m leaning more towards the second, and it’s a shame because Gothel started out as a brilliant and credible villain, but she clearly didn’t think this all the way through.
Elsewhere this episode, we see some of our characters coming closer to discovering the truth. We already saw in the previous episode that Henry is now convinced that Lucy is right, and we see him convince Jacinda of this here, due to her finding her glass slipper. Unfortunately, when the pair kiss, no memories are returned and they remain cursed.
Lucy also pairs herself with Facilier in this episode to rid Henry of the poison, which is quite conveniently eliminated considering it was a plot point for a number of weeks, and it’s also irritating that Regina didn’t manage to fix it herself. It’s for this reason that seasons start to get a bit ridiculous. Sometimes plots are stretched out over the course of weeks and months, but then suddenly speed to a resolution when it suits the larger story. It doesn’t really make it more tense either, it just makes it all a bit awkward.
So, with Gothel’s evil plan in full swing, and the curse very much in effect, it remains to be seen how exactly the curse will still be broken? Is it possible that Henry and Jacinda aren’t True Love? Maybe a different act of True Love will break it, maybe Tilly and Margot? Or Regina and Henry? Or maybe Tilly and Rogers? Either way, with Gothel ramping it up to global devastation, Regina and Rumple need to swoop in and save the day before it’s too late.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Disney+. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.