TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.12



Title Darkness on the Edge of Town

Two-Sentence Summary Rumplestiltskin uses Cruella and Ursula to get back into Storybrooke, while flashbacks reveal how the two women originally teamed up with Maleficent after being betrayed by Rumplestiltskin. Their entrance into the town coincides with the arrival of a new monster, which preys on the heart with the greatest potential for darkness.

Favorite Line “I suppose we should go out and see what’s killing the property values this time.” (Regina)

My Thoughts Self-awareness and what we do with it are major themes on Once Upon a Time. The only way its characters can truly become their best selves is by coming to terms with both their best and worst and choosing to be their best. The classic hero’s journey in mythology typically involves a trip to the darkest parts of the underworld, and on Once Upon a Time, that underworld is often internal—these characters face the darkness in themselves and either choose to embrace it, hide it, or work to be better than it. We all have darkness inside of us—even the most heroic—but it’s what we do with that darkness that determines who we are. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” set up a lot of things for the rest of this half-season, but perhaps the most important thing it established was this idea of knowing your darkness and choosing what to do with that knowledge of your worst self.

In an episode that dealt heavily with the idea of self-awareness, it helped to have writing that was also wonderfully self-aware. This was the funniest and most purely entertaining Once Upon a Time episode in ages. Maybe I’m just saying that because absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I honestly had so much fun watching this episode that the hour flew by. For as wonderful as Season 4A was, it was pretty heavy, with little comic relief (besides Elizabeth Lail’s Anna). Therefore, it was nice to start Season 4B with some very sharp humor from so many characters—from Hook calling the Internet a magic box and Regina wondering about property values to Rumplestiltskin eating ramen and Ursula being fed up with him mooching off of her in New York.

There was something so delightful about the “Villains: They’re Just Like Us!” angle this episode took when dealing with Rumplestiltskin, Cruella, and Ursula. It’s what makes this show so special, and it’s something I think gets lost from time to time as the plots get more complicated and dark: This is the only show on television where Rumplestiltskin, Ursula, and Cruella de Vil can take Cruella’s car through a drive-thru and order fast food. (Who caught the Lost shout-out with the franchise they visited?) It sounds like the setup for a horrible joke, but it’s that kind of multi-fairytale/real-world mash-up that made Once Upon a Time so unique in the first place. In an episode filled with highly entertaining moments, nothing could top those supervillains picking up fast food like it was the most normal thing in the world. Even Queens of Darkness need to eat.

I loved the introduction to the Queens of Darkness in the midseason finale, and I was so happy to know that my initial impressions weren’t wrong. Whether it was in the flashbacks or the present-day storyline, those fierce lady villains were my favorite things about “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” I especially loved watching Merrin Dungey (a favorite of mine from my days as an Alias fangirl) and Victoria Smurfit settle into their roles as Usrula and Cruella, respectively. I’ve always liked Kristin Bauer van Straten, but I think it’s going to take some time before I stop comparing her take on Maleficent with Angelina Jolie’s brilliant turn as that character. However, I did become more intrigued by Maleficent after discovering that she had the heart with the greatest potential for darkness out of all three of those admittedly dark women. It makes me wonder what her backstory is going to look like and how different it will be from the film.

If I’m being honest, there’s one Queen of Darkness I’m just a little more captivated by than the others—and that’s Cruella. I thought giving her the magical ability to control dogs (Or will it be all animals?) was a brilliant touch, but she could have had no magic and I still would have been intrigued by her thanks to Smurfit’s scene-stealing work. Every single time she was in the frame, my eyes were drawn to her. The way she carried herself, the way she delivered each line, and her fantastically dry sense of humor combined to create a character who’s already memorable after only two episodes. When she pulled the gun on Rumplestiltskin, it became clear that this is a woman—and really a team of women—who mean business, and I can’t wait to see more of them.

Whether it was Cruella and Ursula in the present or all three Queens of Darkness coming together in the flashbacks, it was great to watch three strong female characters form a formidable team—even if it’s a team with an evil endgame. That was another running theme in this episode: It matters who you surround yourself with. Those women were brought together because of their shared darkness, and they formed alliances within their group and with Rumplestiltskin that enabled their darkest sides instead of helping them choose to be better people.

In Storybrooke, the idea of finding support from others was there from the start of this episode. We saw glimpses of Henry hugging Regina and Emma kissing Hook (Fangirl side note: I LOVED the casual intimacy we saw from those two in this episode!), and those two character pairings were revealing. Regina and Hook are characters who are working to overcome their dark pasts to be better people, and Henry and Emma have been there to support them along the way.

It was also lovely to see Hook and Belle’s newfound friendship. Not only does it make perfect sense for the two people most damaged by Rumplestiltskin and most angry with themselves over being controlled by him to find comfort in knowing they’re not alone; it says really wonderful things about the possibility of redemption even after acts of total darkness. Hook shot Belle when he was at his lowest point. And yet there they were, sharing a moment of honesty and genuine kindness together in the library. People can grow and change, and this friendship is an example of Hook changing for the better and Belle being open enough to accept that change and forgive him. This is a friendship that I’ve been hoping to see develop for a while because these two characters have some pretty big things in common now, and they both could use some more friends. I’m so happy to see it being treated with real care and vulnerability from the writers, as well as Emilie de Ravin and Colin O’Donoghue.

It was wonderful to see Belle have so much to do in this episode, even though it broke my heart to find out that Rumplestiltskin found a way to manipulate her even outside of Storybrooke. It was a great twist, but it made it even harder for me to ever accept the idea of him finding a way back into her good graces someday. Even though Rumplestiltskin ultimately pulled the strings, it was still a victory in the moment to see Belle and Hook work together to free the fairies after both of them felt responsible for their imprisonment.

Hook’s guilt over what happened to the fairies was important when thinking about this episode in terms of characters’ self-awareness and what they choose to do with the knowledge of who they really are. Hook is one of the show’s most self-aware characters. He wants so badly to be more than who he once was, and I was thrilled to see some follow-up from last season’s attempt by Rumplestiltskin to prey on his worst self. It was beautiful to watch Emma encourage him to see himself not for the darkness he’s capable of but for the good person—the hero—he chooses to be. For so long we’ve watched Hook encourage Emma to see the best in herself, so it seemed fitting to now watch Emma encourage Hook to believe in his own goodness. These two characters have made a great team from the start of their relationship, but what makes them a stronger team now than ever before is that sense of equality—that sense that when one is struggling, the other can offer support. That ability for both of them to help the other believe in and be their best self is going to be incredibly valuable this season if Emma’s heart is really going to be put to the test.

Emma was a little bundle of emotional support in this episode, which showed just how far she’s come from the person who used to push people away if they got too close. She was there to help Hook through his moment of self-doubt, and she was consistently there for Regina throughout the episode—showing a new team in the making that has the potential to bring wonderful things out of both characters. I really liked the lame jokes (“buckle some swash!”) and slight awkwardness Jennifer Morrison brought to Emma’s attempts to cheer up both Hook and Regina because it underscored the idea that this is all new for Emma, which made the fact that she reached out to them at all feel like huge moments of growth for this character and important contrasts to the idea of her heart having a great potential for darkness.

I think anyone who saw the main promo for this episode knew that Chernabog (another great Fantasia reference!) was actually going after Emma and not Regina, but it was still interesting to watch it all unfold. I’ve always said that both women are two sides of the same coin, and Emma has as much of a villain’s backstory as any character on this show. It’s not unrealistic to think of her as having the greatest potential for evil in Storybrooke. For so long, Emma lived without any genuine self-awareness. She didn’t know the truth about her own identity; her agency was taken from her time and again. And once she became aware of her true self, she was burdened with the knowledge that she was destined to be the savior—the ultimate hero. She faced the darkest parts of her magic in Season 4A, but we’ve yet to see her really tempted by darkness in her heart. And, as this episode reminded us, we all have parts of ourselves that are dark. The key is to face them and choose to define ourselves not by our potential to do bad things but by our choices to do good things. Regina’s going through this process, Red went through this process, Hook is still going through this process—we saw even Charming and Snow have some dark skeletons in their closet. It’s time for Emma to become aware of not just who she is at her best but who she could be at her worst. Because it’s only after that trip into her underworld that she can become a true hero. (Think Luke Skywalker in the cave in The Empire Strikes Back.)

If Emma is going to be faced with the idea that she has a huge capacity for darkness, she’s going to need her team behind her—supporting her the way she’s currently supporting them. Emma’s support has helped Regina come to terms with who she was and who she can be. Regina’s growing sense of self-awareness is my favorite thing about her journey. She’s now someone who can admit she’s done terrible things and has been given a new chance to be better than who she was. It’s not easy, and I love the way Lana Parrilla is playing Regina’s acceptance of her own bad choices with simple honesty. Emma is going to need Regina to remind her that just because she knows she can be evil doesn’t mean she has to be.

You’re not defined your past deeds or by what someone says you have the potential to become in the future. You’re defined by the choices you make in the present. That’s what I found so interesting about the juxtaposition between Rumplestiltskin saying Emma’s heart has the greatest potential for darkness and Hook calling Emma an optimist during their quiet, happy moment of family time at Granny’s. There was such warmth in that moment, which contrasted so well with the foreboding nature of Rumplestiltskin’s words. Emma may say she’s an optimist just because of her parents and Henry, and that might be used to shake her. However, they’re not forcing her to choose hope; she’s finally learning to choose that for herself. Seeing Emma so happy and open, especially with Hook, reinforced the idea that, when Emma was finally given the agency to choose how to live her life, she chose to open her heart to hope and happiness—and not evil.

I firmly believe Hook and Regina are going to form the backbone of Emma’s team—her support system—as she faces the potential evil inside of her. They’ve been there, and she’s helped both of them through their darkness. Emma is going to need both Regina’s honest friendship and Hook’s steadfast love, and I’m excited to see what this storyline is going bring out of three characters and actors whom I am always eager to see more of.

But why won’t Emma’s parents play a bigger role in helping their daughter face this new challenge? They seem to have their hands full with their own brush with the dark side. I don’t know what this secret they’re hiding is, but I know I’m already enjoying this storyline’s potential because Ginnifer Goodwin was absolutely chilling in that final scene. It seems Snow and Charming have confronted their inner darkness, but instead of admitting and growing from it, they’re trying to hide it—and helping each other be less than their best selves in the process. It’s going to be heartbreaking to see Emma confront not just her own potential for darkness but her parents’ capacity for it, too. But I have a feeling all of this is going to make for great television.


49 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.12

  1. ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE SAYING!! ALL THE THINGS! I was thrilled with how this episode unfolded and am more excited than ever to see the balance of this season play out on-screen. I particularly loved Hook and Belle in this episode — Hook struggling with his past while proactively working to better not only himself but more importantly, OTHERS (in seeing the fairies freed) and Belle striving to move on, and meeting him with genuine warmth in spite of their rocky past. And all of the little moments where Emma showed us how far she’s come in terms of opening her heart and her life and striving to build others up, because she has become so much stronger for others reaching out to her. It’s going to make her brush with darkness wrenching, of that I have no doubt, but unlike her parents (at this time), I think she is set up to come through the fires stronger. Emma being Emma, she’ll want to face her challenge and conquer it, not attempt to hide it and live in fear of discovery.

    • I really feel like Hook and Belle’s stories (both individually and together) in this episode were a great example of doing a lot without a lot of screen time. They weren’t the main focal points of the episode, but their interactions and their roles within the larger story said so much about their character growth and who they are their core. I love how many people are excited for the potential friendship developing between these two characters because I have been hoping for it for such a long time.

  2. I was so excited when I came on and saw that you had just posted your review. I’ve definitely missed them these last few months and they always brighten up my Mondays.

    I will say that I loved moments of this episodes – the witty and dry humor had me in absolute stitches (plus the Lost reference about keeled me over dead #lostieforever). I enjoyed the interactions between mooch!rumple and Ursula and I found myself intrigued by her character…that is until Cruella joined the team. She was simply brilliant. I have no formulated thoughts yet about her because I enjoyed her THAT much.

    I’ll be interested to see how the four of them integrate to form a team and what each character will bring to the group. I haven’t felt for Rumple in a long time, but last night he got me right in the feels. His staggering steps as he crossed the town line that turned into a purposeful stride (dare I say swagger) had be clapping with glee. I’ve always really enjoyed his character and I can’t wait to see what his version of happy ending entails (especially after once again manipulating Belle from afar).

    Speaking of Belle – I am such a fan of her friendship with Killian. My OTP is CaptainSwan – but I’ve grown tired of the way that Killian seems to be pushed around like a plot pawn for the purposes of serving either Emma’s plot or Rumple’s plot and it’s frustrated me for the last half season. I am excited to see him develop with other characters and possibly see sides of him that we haven’t yet. He used to be such an intense character and I’ve missed it – so I was glad to see the writers sowing seeds of arcs involving Hook that don’t necessarily have to do with Emma.

    Anddddd speaking of Emma – I’m so glad you pointed out the awkwardness that Jen played in a few of the scenes last night. It was nagging at me all morning and last night that I felt as though some of the scenes felt forced – and after reading your interpretation on it, I let out a huge sigh. Duh! It totally makes sense what you said. I loved all the the little glimpses into the relationships that have formed over the last six weeks and I am excited to see how the further develop.

    Snowing is going to rock this season, I can already tell. I saw Snow last night – not Mary Margaret and it has me so stinking excited. There was a fierce viciousness delivered in such a chilling way in the one line. David’s face was absolutely priceless at that. I have a few theories about what their dark secret may be and I’ll admit I’m inpatient about how that will play out and the ramifications it will have on Emma, so hopefully we don’t have to wait to long to figure out what it is.

    • I’m so happy to hear that my posts help make Mondays brighter—reading all of your lovely comments do the same for me! 🙂

      I’m so happy you pointed out the transition from Rumple’s limp to his swagger as he crossed the town line again. It was such a brilliant moment of physical transformation, and it just further convinced me that this show is so lucky to have Robert Carlyle’s talents bringing this complex character to life. The physicality he brings to this role is amazing.

      Also, AMEN to being excited to see Hook having stories on his own and relationships independent of loving Emma and being traumatized by Gold. One of my favorite tiny moments was seeing Hook laughing with Snow and Belle at Granny’s because it showed that he’s becoming a part of this town beyond just his connection to Emma. Storybrooke became Emma’s home when she started to see it beyond just the place where her true love (aka Henry) lived and started seeing it as a place filled with people who care about her. I want the same for Hook. And I feel like that’s finally happening.

  3. I am so glad to have Once back on our screens – I thought the hiatus would never end! I thought this episode did a great job of setting up 4B. I liked the QOD a lot more than I expected and I could watch an entire episode of Rumple and Ursula bickering like a married couple in her apartment. I did think Ursula and Cruella got into Storybrooke a bit too easily and I think Emma and Regina were regretting their decision almost immediately. I am looking forward to seeing how Malificent is brought back next week, and once the band is back together then the fun will really begin. The shot where Rumple crossed back into Storybrooke was amazing – how he transformed once he crossed the line, he threw away his walking stick and he got back his confident swagger immediately. This new Rumple is going to be great fun and I can’t wait to see how he uses his knowledge of the town and everyone in it to his advantage behind the scenes!

    All the Emma/Killian scenes were great and I loved how comfortable they were together. I think Emma’s relationships with Killian and Regina are going to be key to her fighting the lure of the dark side. We know Emma is going to find out whatever secret her parents are desperate to hide – I think Snowing made some kind of deal with the QOD that has a direct impact on Emma. Whatever it is I can’t wait to find out, as I know everyone is out to act it out of the park! After this episode I’m very excited for 4b.

    • I feel like this episode did a great job of making fans of so many characters, relationships, and storylines excited for this half-season. It put so many pieces in motion already, but it managed to do so while including enough character beats to make me feel like all of these plot points will have real emotional ramifications for these characters—especially when it comes to Snow and Charming’s secret. I’m sure Emma will find out about it soon, and I’m sure it will be incredibly emotional—because no matter what it is, it’s always a blow to find out your parents aren’t as purely good as so many of us grow up believing our parents are. It’s a part of the process of growing up—discovering your parents aren’t always heroes but are human beings with flaws and faults—and I’m excited to see that reflected in Emma’s story this season.

  4. Such fun to be back in OUAT-Nerdygirl blogland. Once again, there was much nodding at the post and comments thus far. Great stuff.

    I am firmly in the Cruella-is-cool camp. Honestly, does she need to have a “power”? Isn’t her snark, swagger, and overall fabulousness enough? (The power over animals does seem fitting, though.) The De Vil car! The car! (Sorry, I get carried away.) Loved her “it’s better than blaming bad judgment and gin.”

    I am among fellow Losties! I knew I was in the right place. Break out the Geronimo Jackson, folks, and let’s dance.

    Here are my issues:
    — Villains get their happy ending. Ok, I don’t have an issue with them seeking a happy ending or the desire for one. I have a problem with them characterizing themselves as villains. Aren’t villains the hero of their own stories? One of the wonderful things about Regina as the Evil Queen is that she saw herself as the hero of her own story for so long. She was fighting those who had hurt her — her own epic quest. I realize that the writers may have framed it this way for the sake of underscoring the theme. It just grates. It jumped out at me in the 4a finale. Would these characters really call themselves villains? Right now, my approach is “stop thinking about it and roll with the story.” Clever thoughts, anyone?

    — Blue seemed on board with the whole “the author can write you a happy ending.” I’m more in Cruella’s camp that this is just easier than blaming bad judgment and gin. Just how much power does the author have? (I’m really hoping that when they find him (or her), that the author just looks at them like their loons and says, “Hey, I’m just the recorder. You people decide your own fates.”) Is everyone’s willingness to believe this just a manifestation of how much we want the bad things to be someone else’s fault? Or is the author going to have some type of power?

    • I totally agree. I think that people are just jumping on to this idea like a sinking ship and it sort of surprises me that there hasn’t been a single, “Well, maybe this person is just writing what is happening – not choosing what happens,”. I think there is a distinction between the two that needs to be brought up sooner or later from some realist in Storybrooke, whoever it may be.

      I thought it was interesting that Shady Blue made the important comment of noting if it was even a “he” for the author – heavy foreshadowing has always been a card that A&E use, so I don’t think that was any irrelevant comment. Blue, who I really think always has something up her sleeve, gave me the creeps in that scene haha. Can’t put my finger on her, but if she “knows” of the author and seems to agree with Operation Mongoose, I guess the author really does have power.

      • Hahaha, like a sinking ship. I haven’t had enough coffee – I have no idea what I meant by that, LOL, why would someone jump onto a sinking ship?! Haha, don’t mind me.

      • I really want to know what kind of acting direction they give Keegan Connor Tracy who plays Blue. She has to have a reason to play her so shady right?! I mean, from the very first episode she was shown to be shady with that whole “the wardrobe can only take one!” j/k, I just lied, it takes two! Really, if Emma wants to be mad about her crap of a childhood, she needs to start looking Blue and Geppetto’s way.

    • I’m so happy to be back—and to have all of my lovely commenters (yourself included) back, too! 🙂

      Both of your issues are things I’ve been thinking about, so I’m thrilled you brought them up! First, I’m not sure the Queens of Darkness always characterized themselves as villains—I’m sure we’ll find out in their respective flashbacks. I think that this comes back to the idea of self-awareness. Somewhere along the line, they were able to see that they’d done horrible things—villainous things—but instead of working to be better than it, they simply chose to say, “Yes, I am a villain. I can’t change who I am now, so I’m just going to own my darkness and let my worst self be what I show the world.” It’s a belief that you are who you are, and nothing can change it (similar to what Regina is struggling with).

      Which brings me to the question of the Author’s power. Like you, I’m hoping that the ultimate message of this story is that you decide your fate and you decide how people see you—hero or villain. It’s not about what you’re predetermined to be by some unseen force; it’s about your choices. I think people want to believe that the Author has some power to grant happy endings because that’s easier than choosing and fighting for your own—and accepting that sometimes it’s not always what you want it to be. To be honest, that’s one of the reasons I’m still confused about Emma’s easy acceptance of Operation Mongoose. She’s always been a character who believed that you have to actively change the way the world perceives you rather than waiting for someone else to do that for you. If anything feels off about the Author storyline still for me; it’s Emma’s unquestioning support of the idea that some all-powerful person can just hand out happy endings. It feels false to me.

  5. I am SO excited your recaps are back! I’ve been completely MIA with work and redecorating my guest room with Regina’s wallpaper (if I could post a pic here I would!) that I haven’t been able to comment the way I’ve wanted, although I have read all of your Castle recaps during OUAT’s absence. This is a tremendous recap and I thought, like you, it was a sharp and biting opening episode. The humor was all there. When I comment for real, after I watch again, I’ll remember specifically what I found so funny, but I was very satisfied with this. Except for one thing: After that hot, hot kiss between Emma and Hook after she put his heart back, the last thing I wanted was a 6-week fast-forward. I guess we can’t have everything. 🙂

  6. Oh how I have missed this Monday ritual! Its so nice to read your lovely words on this show again.

    This was a fun episode back. There wasnt a ton of character development, but the small pieces we got were lovely and it was a good set up episode. For me the fairytale characters in the real world thing never gets old, and I think it is much more drastic outside of Storybrooke, so I LOVED the scenes of the villain gang getting back together. The drive thru bit was hilarious.

    As someone who fell hard for Hook as a character in the Season 2 finale, this episode was everything I have been wanting for his character. I loved seeing him interact with others outside of Emma. While I would still like to see him have an actual job, I am accepting these baby steps. His friendship with Belle is great, and I might have gotten a little teary eyed when he told Belle how much Rumple loved her, despite Rumple’s deceptive ways. The way Colin plays any scene where Hook shows true sincerity never fails to floor me. Its moments like this where I just want to wrap him up and hold him until the sadness goes away. Luckily he has Emma for that now 🙂 Next up on my list is some Hook/Regina interaction. I have been waiting for the two of them to have another scene alone together since the Season 3 premiere when they had that lovely conversation about happy endings. Now is the time writers! I want to see it. If your hunch about Regina and Hook having to help Emma come to terms with her dark heart potential comes true, this would be a great opportunity for them to work together again.

    I have so many questions about this ‘heart with the most potential for darkness” storyline. There are so many way this can go. For instance, is Emma’s darkness potential tied to the Charming’s secret? Do Emma and Maleficent have some kind of deeper connection since they both appear to have hearts with the darkest potential? There has been a theory floating that the whole show is framed as a retelling of sleeping beauty, with Emma as Aurora, so I have to admit that this potential connection with Maleficent has my brain turning. Did the Charmings somehow make a deal with Maleficent that impacts Emma? I have to admit I am really intrigued to see where all of this goes.

    The last thing I wanted to touch on was Snow at the the town line and her comment about not wanting to let Cruella and Ursula into the town “because they are villains”. I have heard some complaints about this being Snow back tracking and having selective memory after claiming so many times that its more complicated than that. But I think the point of it was for it to be uncharacteristic. I didn’t for a minute think that Snow actually believed in what she was saying, she was just trying to say whatever she could to prevent the two of them from crossing the town line. I didn’t take it as any more than a statement made out of desperation. I actually wonder if this sudden shift in character is going to be what tips everyone off that they are hiding something.

    Other random thoughts:

    -Oh Cruella, I love you. Did you notice her gun was jewel encrusted?! Fabulous Darling!

    -I am all for a more lighthearted season. I love it when shows aren’t afraid to get a little campy. People tend to take this show way too seriously as it is, so maybe this can help the fandom relax and enjoy themselves (probably not, but I can hope)

    -I loved the visual of Gold’s gait transforming from a gimp to a stride as he passed over the town line. Fabulous work from the director and Robert on that one.

    -Loved the opening scene of this ep with the little happy montage. It reminded me a bit of a musical in a way. (if you have ever seen the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this opening was very similar to the opening of that ep. I am kinda sad they didnt all start singing at the end).

    -When Belle was talking about emailing people around the world about translating that spell I was confused how anyone in our world would have the knowledge to do so…and apparently nobody sill does. I had a serious ‘duh’ moment at the end of that ep, but I am not sure why the characters aren’t suspicious of anyone that can translate things like that in our world. In a romantic comedy world, Belle would create a friendship with said Oxford professor, fall in love again from afar, and in the end the two of them would reconcile. “I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly”.

    -And now I want to know what Belle and Rumple’s AOL screennames would be…

    • LOL. I laughed so hard at those last two points.
      I’m glad someone else feels the same way about Hook as I do – I would love some more Regina/Hook moments as well. The banter between those two has always been great.

      • Oh yes, there is no shortage of Hook love from me. I was just thinking about how much it’s going to torture the poor guy when he finds out that Ursula is in town…as of this ep I think it’s implied he doesn’t know yet. I am actually pretty excited about the contrast of Hook grappling with his dark past as Emma grapples with the potential of a dark future. And as Katie perfectly stated, both of them learning it’s only their present actions that matter.

    • It feels good to be back and to have everyone back! 😀

      First of all, I LOVE what you said about hoping the lighter tone might help people stop taking things so seriously. Maybe that’s why I loved this episode’s humor so much. This fandom can be so dramatic sometimes that I think people forget how much pure FUN this show can be.

      Cruella’s jeweled gun was what took me from being thoroughly entertained by her to being obsessed with her. If you’re fabulous enough to be packing that kind of stylish heat, you deserve all of my heart.

      I want to second your thoughts about Snow. I had no idea people were bothered by what she said at the town line because it was so obvious to me that she was grasping at straws. I’m also pretty darn sure that her inability to convincingly lie is going to come back and bite her in the butt with Emma and this secret. Her daughter (with the sometimes-functional lie detector) is going to know something is up.

      And finally, how wonderful was this episode for our dear Killian? SO WONDERFUL. We may not have gotten a lot of character beats in this episode, but two of the biggest ones were devoted to him and his development (the scene with Belle and him telling Emma that he still feels guilty about the fairies). The scene with Belle was so important because it established not just a relationship for him outside of Emma and her family but also it reminded people that he has a lot more going for him than just dashing good looks and swoon-worthy devotion: He’s smart, and he’s incredibly empathetic. And once again, when he wants to be sincere with someone, there’s no one in the world better at conveying that sincerity than Colin O’Donoghue.

    • “I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.”
      That is fic that needs to be written. Possibly by someone who is a bigger Rumbelle shipper than I am-but think of the potential! 🙂

      • Right!? I never thought I would read Rumbelle fanfic, but I think I would make an exception in this case…as long as it stays PG.

  7. I don’t know if I was out of the Once zone on Sunday night (I haven’t rewatched many episodes lately) but I wasn’t in love with this episode. I liked it and I thought it set things up well. But I didn’t quite feel it. (But it seems that was just me, and I will rewatch and probably view it in a totally different way, so that’s OK).
    I liked the casual intimacy between Emma and Hook, I liked the developing friendships between Hook and Belle and Emma and Regina. I guessed that Rumple was the Oxford professor. Emma’s awkwardness makes sense, although I don’t think I realized that’s what was going on until I read it here. I love the idea of Snow and Charming having a dark secret – I want Snow to be badass again!
    I think Ursula could grow on me but I’m not such a fan of Cruella. I guess I don’t care for the campy villains so much. But that’s OK – there’s someone and something for everyone in this show! And I’m sure I will get drawn into all the crap that’s going to go down and then I might really love the Queens of Darkness. (And I don’t get any of the references to Lost or anything else).
    BTW I misread a comment above about Blue Shady and Operation Mongoose and suddenly realized that she reminds me of a mongoose or a ferret or something. There’s a deviousness or a danger in her face. Or maybe it’s just her deep set eyes. (Not saying that to be mean to the actress. Depending on where they’re going with her secrets and lies, I think she’s probably playing the part very well.) I’m sure whatever plays out with The Author it will fit into the worldview the creators have already shown us – that people get to choose to be good or evil. Everything that A&E said on the Secrets of Storybrooke special seemed to mesh with what we think they’re about – choices, hope, love, family, etc.

    • Perhaps the difficulty is because this is the first episode of the arc? I know that I usually like these episodes much more after more episodes have aired — once I can see what they’re setting up and where we’re going. I find that I always like elements of first-arc episodes more than I like the episode as a whole, if that makes sense.

    • Sometimes getting back into the zone after a long hiatus is hard. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to like this episode as much as I did, so I think my lowered expectations helped. I can also understand why someone wouldn’t like Cruella’s brand of evil—it’s much different than someone like Ingrid’s, for example. Every villain on this show has been so different, so people’s opinions of them will be different. For example, I often thought Zelena was way too over the top. Cruella falls just enough under that performance on the “campy” scale to still work for me without being too much. But I can see where it wouldn’t be your cup of tea. I’m sure once these ladies get more layers with their backstories it will make them even more interesting to everyone. This was definitely a setup episode, so maybe things will fall into place better once the pieces this set up actually start moving within the next episode or so. 🙂

      • I agree. And the good thing is that even when I don’t LOVE love the show, I still love the show! There’s really a little something for everyone to enjoy about the show. And I’m totally looking forward to next week even if I don’t (yet) love Cruella.

        • While I love camp, was it just me or did Cruella’s accent keep changing? It seemed to be all over the place. Regardless I still love her.

          • Not just you, Shauna—I totally noticed it too. It seemed to change when she raised her voice. But I love her normal speaking voice, so I can let it slide. 😉

  8. This was pretty strong start to the season and I loved it.
    I love Emma and Regina’s new found friendship. I liked how at moments it did seem awkward because realistically it’s only been a few weeks and absolutely no awkwardness wouldn’t be realistic for these two. I love that Regina is opening up a bit more to Emma and like you said, is self aware of who she was. I just wish she was more self aware of who she currently is. For instance her immediate assumption that the Chernabog was after her. Yes, at one point she had the heart with the darkest potential, but she’s clearly not that person these days. Even when the shattered sight curse hit and she got her evil queen persona back on, it didn’t fit as it once did. Even though I highly doubt she’ll ever be “Snow White” (for lack of a better term), I don’t see her ever being as dark as she once was, I think that phase is over and her place is among a grey area, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It just makes her the member of the team that will do what needs to be done to protect everyone when the others are struggling too much to make those hard decisions. I would’ve been more surprised that it was going after Emma if I hadn’t see the promo. However, I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all. This show preaches that evil isn’t born, it’s made, and we’ve seen that with almost every villainous character. Looking at Rumple (a cowardly, weak man) or Regina (a kind, caring, innocent girl) prior to them becoming villains, you would’ve never guessed that they had the ability to go as dark as they have. So as far as Emma goes, I can imagine that she just like them has the ability to go that dark. However, unlike Regina when she went dark, Emma has a support system of people who genuinely care enough about her to drag her away from the darkness. Like you I believe Hook and Regina are gonna be the main ones to direct her away from the darkness as they’ve both been there, let it consume them and have had to fight to find their way back to the light.
    I also loved that Regina went back for the ripped pieces of the picture. Her taping it back together and keeping it was almost like her still somewhat holding on to hope which is great because she seemed to have completely given up at the town line.

    I’m dying to know what Snow and Charming’s secret is. They’ve (the writers) have made it sound like its something super dark and the way Snow went dark and told them if they told Emma, she’d rip their hearts out was definitely not comforting. However, this did spawn one question for me. If what they’ve done is so dark and there is this darkness inside of Snow. How was she able to pass through the door in S4B? Maybe once the secret is revealed it will answer that question but I guess we’ll see.
    I don’t like the fact that they’re trying to hide whatever it is either. Nothing really ever stays hidden and the more you try to hide stuff the worse it is when it comes out.

    Hook and Belle’s friendship, like Emma and Regina’s is nice to watch.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed watching Rumple and the Queens of Darkness both in the past and in present day. Rumple verbally jabbing Ursula, sleeping on her couch, eating her ramen and using her windows 95 computer was just good tv. Whoever threw in that fast food drive-thru scene was a genius and I love them for it.
    All three women for the QoD are brilliant. Cruella definitely stood out most though, the way she delivered her scenes, to her power, to her costume were all on point. As much as I love Ursula’s character, delivery and interactions with everyone, I was a little disappointed with her costume and her abilities. Hopefully as the season goes on she’ll have a better power than super stretchy tentacles, because that’s kinda boring.
    I love Kristin being back as Maleficent, I love her updated costume and I can’t wait for her to be in Storybrooke.
    Even though short in this episode, I loved the interaction between the QoD and Regina and I really can’t wait to see more of that. Based on it though, I think Maleficient is the real power in the trio. Neither Regina or Snow (when she confronted them) seemed to be that scared of either Ursula or Cruella. However, they seemed a bit more weary of Regina, her power and dark heart (even Regina confessed that she was once much worse than them). I think that also might have been part of the reason Regina honored the deal and let them in, I think she has enough confidence to know that if it comes down to it she can defeat them…she just wasn’t counting on Rumple and Maleficent being with them.

    I still don’t like Blue.

    • Your last sentence made me laugh so hard because if there’s one universal truth in this fandom, it’s that we all think something seriously shady has been going on with Blue since Day One. 😉

      I loved all of the points you made here, especially about Regina. I think it’s a very realistic process she’s going through when it comes to seeing herself as something other than a villain—not because the Author tells her she’s changed but because she believes it’s enough to know for herself she’s changed. In a way, it’s similar to Hook’s struggles with self-definition. After so many years spent doing terrible things, it’s difficult for these characters to believe they can be something more than who they were. They don’t have to be defined by their pasts. And I love that Emma is so devoted to helping them see that—because that leads me to hope these two will be the ones to help Emma see she doesn’t have to be defined by the potential she has to do bad things in the future.

      Also, Regina going back and taping the pieces of the book page back together made me very emotional. Even at such a low point, there’s a part of her that can’t let go of hope completely. And I think the taped book page is symbolic of Regina starting to fix her story by choosing to do heroic things like hope and believe in her own capacity for goodness.

      Finally I want to say thank you for voicing your concerns about just how bad Snow and Charming’s secret can be in terms of making it believable. You brought up an excellent point about the door they went through last season. I’m also thinking about Snow’s suicidal state after killing Cora and her fears about the dark spot on her heart. Whatever they did, it can’t be worse than killing Cora, or else it would feel weird that Snow was so emotionally destroyed by that act when she was carrying around an even darker secret the whole time. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will all make sense once we find it out.

  9. I’ve talked with multiple casual viewers of Once Upon a Time (by “casual viewer” I mean someone who tunes in weekly but doesn’t go online looking for spoilers or behind-the-scenes footage or meta analyses or anything like that) and they’ve all agreed that Regina is just not fun to watch anymore. Her “woe-is-me-I’m-seen-as-a-villain-because-the-book-wrote-me-that-way-and-not-because-I-murdered-hundreds-of-people-and-raped-Graham-and-I’m-a-child-abuser” attitude seems to repel a lot of viewers. The Evil Queen was fun. Regina isn’t. And this friendship with Emma they’re trying to sell isn’t believable. Regina did atrocious things to Emma (and her family) as recently as episode 4×05 where Regina was hurling abuse at Emma (“you ruined my life!” – no, she saved one of YOUR murder victims from that fate, you should be on your knees thanking her for now having less blood on your hands). Watching Emma, who has always stood up for people against bullies like Regina and Cora and Mr. Gold, just stand there and take undeserved cruelty was awful (and the biggest reason 4×05’s ratings were very poor compared to 4×04 and 4×06). It’s bad enough her son and mother coddle Regina and whitewash her past crimes (“the book is wrong” “I was a brat”) but seeing the main character do it as well is just so disheartening.

    Besides, this book plot is dumb. If seasons one through three (especially 3×22, where the book rewrote itself when Emma and Killian changed the past) proved, all the book merely is is a magical anthology of these characters’ histories. Key word being ‘history.’ It records events in the past, and ended with Charming putting Emma in the wardrobe. Are those happy endings? No, of course not, because their stories are still ongoing. None of them have ended yet. So I don’t know what Regina is trying to accomplish here, given that the Dark Curse was her happy ending (she admitted as much in 1×01). I hope this Author, whoever he or she may be, just looks at Regina when she asks them to write her a happy ending, looks at her sadly and says “I just write what’s already happened, not what’s going to. You write your own happy ending.”

    • I can understand why some people—yourself included—might not find Regina fun to watch at this point. But I do think it’s a bit of a generalization to say that she’s repelling a lot of casual viewers. For every casual viewer you asked about Regina, I’m sure someone else can name casual viewers who like what they’re doing with her story. For example, I watch the show with both my mother and sister—neither of whom is in this fandom at all or reading meta about its characters or doing anything more than enjoying the show from week to week. And they both love Regina and see value in her storyline and the direction it’s heading in now. It’s all a matter of opinion. You might say that the Evil Queen is fun and Regina isn’t, but I think both have their merits. One was fun for the pure gleeful evil energy Lana Parrilla brought to her. The other is telling a story of growth and choosing to be better than who you were that many people—myself included—find inspiring. It’s not always a pretty story to watch (I’ll be the first to say I didn’t like how harsh Regina was toward Emma in 4×05.), but the process of becoming a better person has a lot of stops and starts along the way, which is what we’re seeing with Regina. She still has a long way to go, but I’ve come to like watching her get there—missteps and all.

      And while I may not completely understand (or love) the book plot yet, I don’t think we can fully judge it until it’s over. I’m still holding out hope that the Author says exactly what you wrote in your last sentence—you write your own happy ending.

      Everyone comes at this show (and all fiction, really) from different angles. Different characters and stories speak to us for different reasons. And while Regina’s story might bother you, someone else might see hope in it. And I like what that says about the different ways we all experience watching the same thing—everybody comes at it from their own point of view.

  10. I am hoping that the writers are using Emmas storyline about having the darkest heart as a way to show Regina and everyone else that its your own choices and actions that determine if you are a hero or villain and not some all powerful author. They can show that everyone has the potential to do good or bad things – Emma who has very powerful magic has the potential to do very good or very evil things – up til now she’s always chosen to do the right thing but it looks like in 4B we’ll start to see her make some wrong decisions. This will be a very powerful way of showing how our choices determine who is a hero or who is a villain.

    • I definitely think this storyline will show the rest of the characters that who you are is determined by your choices rather than anything else. I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, but I think these characters are going to find out soon that Emma is the one with the greatest potential for darkness—and how they respond will be very interesting, I predict. I think it will be a huge journey for Emma to discover that having the potential for darkness does not mean you have to be dark—anymore than knowing you were destined to be the savior means you have to be light. You don’t “have” to be anything; you choose what and who to be. And that journey is going to inspire a lot of characters, I think.

  11. I came across a quote on Monday that I think will be nicely applicable to Emma’s arc this season. “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

    I am really excited to see where this arc leads for Emma. I love the idea that she has the greatest potential for evil in all of Storybrooke and I can’t wait for her to deal with that fact. She’s defined herself as the savior for so long and she’s incorporated that into her self-image so to see her now deal with the potential darkness in her and somehow fit those two ideas into one full image of herself will be incredible to watch. It’ll be a struggle for her, which won’t be as fun to watch, but I know it’ll lead her to a good place.

    I’m also very excited about the prospect of a Regina and Hook support team combo when things are hard for her. I love what we saw of Emma and Regina’s friendship this episode and I can’t wait to see more. I also loved the little moments we saw between Emma and Hook. I also love casual intimacy and the little kiss and walking to work/research together was just too cute and I want all the scenes like that in 4B.

    • First of all, that quote is PERFECTION.

      I see so much potential in this storyline for Emma, Hook, Regina, and even Henry (who’s working through his childlike views on “heroes” and “villains”). You’re right; Emma has defined herself as the savior because that’s who she was “destined” to be. Yes, she doesn’t see it as a complete burden anymore, but it’s still something she didn’t choose—just like having the heart with the greatest potential for darkness. It’s going to be a process for her to figure out how to balance the light and dark sides of herself in the way she learned to balance the light and darker parts of her magic in 4A. I think we all have parts of ourselves that scare us, parts that we want to never find out about. But ultimately I think we all face moments where those parts that scare us make themselves know and we have to figure out what to do with that knowledge of our own capacity for darkness.

      I like the idea of this character, who was so often without agency, being given this ultimate choice between giving into her capacity for evil or not letting that capacity for evil define her. Self-definition is a theme I really appreciate seeing in fiction, and this storyline has such wonderful potential to address it in a powerful way.

      • Ok I was already excited about the “Emma goes dark” storyline but now after reading these comments I’m even more excited! I can’t wait to see how this will all play out – is it Sunday yet…..??

  12. Great review as always. I think the best part of the episode was just seeing Emma so happy. From the opening scene of her watching Granny with Neal to the end of the episode with her and Hook watching Henry at the diner, she just seemed so content and happy. The season started with Emma and Hook dealing with the snow monster and Emma worrying that it wasn’t over so it was nice to see that even after dealing with the Chernabog Emma was still able to enjoy her time with Hook and Henry rather than worry about what comes next. The end scene of Hook and Emma watching Henry was my favorite shot of the episode.
    Loved the interaction between Hook and Belle. I definitely hope we will get more of their friendship.
    For me the only weak link of the episode was Regina. I’m not sure what the writers are doing with Regina but having the opening transition from Snow with a bluebird on her finger to Regina throwing a fireball at Snow’s blue bird painting was very reminiscent of the Evil Queen. I know Regina hated the painting since she first saw it, but a fireball?. Couldn’t Regina just poof it away? Maybe return it to Snow? It just came across as rather extreme.
    Also Regina’s reaction to using the dark one’s dagger caught my eye. It could have been a natural reaction to using that much power, but considering Regina’s history with dark magic it was an interesting detail to write it.
    And finally I was very much surprised by Regina allowing Ursella and Cruella into town. Regina isn’t one to give out second chances and considering that much of this season is built around blaming the author for writing her as a villain her sudden self awareness about being one of the worst was just head scratching. I felt like I’d missed something in the last six weeks because nothing prior to that point made me feel like Regina had any self-awareness.
    Anyway I am very much looking forward to seeing how Emma progresses this season, not to mention Hook’s continued evolution, Belle moving on, and even Snowing secrets. And maybe Regina’s story will become clearer and less frustrating as a viewer because right now I feel like she is merely in a holding pattern until the writers decide what to do with her.
    And finally anyone else get the feeling that Rumple is pulling more than a few strings? He definitely has more going on than what he told Cruella and Ursella.

    • Thanks, Mary! I’ll start with your last question and say that I am always sure Rumple is pulling more than a few strings. If this episode reminded me of anything, it’s that he’s always thinking about 10 steps ahead of everyone, so I’m sure he has more going on than he’d ever tell anyone else.

      I agree that the shot of Regina with the fireball was a little too extreme for where the writers seem to be going with her character. Sometimes I think they have trouble balancing how much fun “Evil Queen” Regina can be with the story they’re currently telling about her growth toward becoming a better person. It definitely felt jarring though to see her ask Hook to drop the “Evil” when she was still using the magic she employed as the Evil Queen to get rid of something of Snow’s. But I think it was more about a misguided attempt at humor than a sign she’s still more evil than she’s letting on.

      As far as her self-awareness goes, I saw it as a natural progression after six weeks of stewing over what happened with Robin. But I could see where it would look like a quick turnaround to others. Hopefully the way they handle her story this season—especially her interactions with Emma—helps make her character direction clearer to everyone.

      But like you, my favorite thing about this episode was seeing Emma so happy. I know it’s not going to last forever, but that’s why I’m so appreciative of these little moments while we’re seeing them. For a character who struggled for so long with letting herself be happy, it’s been a true joy to see her really enjoying these good moments with the people she loves.

  13. [“It’s time for Emma to become aware of not just who she is at her best but who she could be at her worst. Because it’s only after that trip into her underworld that she can become a true hero. (Think Luke Skywalker in the cave in The Empire Strikes Back.)”]

    It’s time for Emma to become aware of any unpleasant aspects of her character. Because when I heard her tell Regina about how she came in possession of that yellow VW, I could only shake my head in disbelief at her lack of remorse. As a victim of theft, I take umbrage that Emma’s continuing theft of that car is not taken seriously by the writers, Kitsis & Horowitz, and the fans.

    • I’m so sorry that you were a victim of something so terrible. And I do hope that this storyline allows Emma to confront things about herself in a way that might make you feel better about her character and her sense of self-awareness. I have hope that we’re going to see a lot of characters, including and especially Emma, deal with the fact that they have parts of their pasts and therefore parts of themselves that they’re not proud of and want to be better than. I don’t think that line was meant to show she has no remorse about her time as a thief, I actually think it was meant to remind us that Emma did bad things in her past as she was being chased by a creature designed to seek out the heart with the greatest potential for darkness.

  14. I’m still not sold on a Regina/Emma friendship either. I think they can be sassy as hell with each other but it’s going to take a lot for me to accept Regina as Emma’s friend. Like for Regina to say sorry for her growing up without her parents, that was Regina’s fault.

    I did enjoy Belle and Hook’s bonding scene in the library. It was very honest and both them are really at the same point now where they’ve both been hurt by Rumpelstiltskin. And I thought it was wonderful for Hook to say, even though Rumple is a bastard, Hook accepts and realizes that Rumple truly loved Belle. There was no denial there whatsoever.

    I look forward to seeing them work together more throughout the season.

    I love how when Emma found Hook brooding and contemplative in the hallway at Granny’s, she put her hand on his chest, over where his heart is, to reassure him that what happened with the fairies, was not his fault. And she doesn’t blame him. Hook still thinks he’s the worst human being around but all Emma can see is how much she knows he’s truly changed (especially when compared to Rumple) and it’s going to take a lot of time but I think and I hope, Hook eventually gets there and realizes, the past is in the past and it doesn’t define who he is now. He’s a hero.

    The CGI with this show, it’s a come long way from season one. It was decent, okay but lately, I’ve just been in awe since Once came back, how much it’s improved over all. Chernabog looked amazing!

    I was secretly hoping that the Oxford Professor Belle was communicating with was Giles from Buffy. I know, two different shows and fandoms but how cool would that have been? I was sad it was actually Rumple, but in hindsight, it made sense because only he would have been familiar with what she was talking about. I don’t think ordinary people, non-fairytale characters outside of Storybrooke would have understood Belle’s request.

    • Giles as the Oxford prof? That is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I understand the need for it to be Rumple, but still . . . LOVE the idea of Giles acting as a consultant for Storybrooke.

    • I can understand needing more time to warm up to Regina and Emma’s friendship, and I’m hopeful this half-season will see a lot of development for both of them inside of this friendship and out of it.

      I’m so happy you noticed the detail of Emma putting her hand over Hook’s heart, too. It was a lovely little touch that added even more depth to that scene. And I also agree that the CGI for Chernabog was great. Between Grand Pabbie last season and Chernabog now, I have to say I’m becoming more and more impressed with what this show is pulling off, CGI-wise.

  15. Pingback: The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (3/1 – 3/8) | Nerdy Girl Notes

  16. Sooo late to the party, but I thought I’d post anyway. Color me SHOCKED that in four seasons, I didn’t realize that Rumplestiltskin didn’t need the cane in Storybrooke, but did in the “real world”, and obviously in the Enchanted Forest. The scene of him crossing the town line and tossing the cane was spectacular.

    Loved the sharp one-liners: “I don’t bow down to fish”, anything with “ghastly” included, Cruella’s whole persona, “tete a tete…a tete”, the callbacks to Season 1 with Regina putting Henry on the bus, Snow White teaching, Regina putting her office back together (and destroying the bird painting in the process.)

    The Hook and Belle scene was fantastic. “He did love you” was particularly painful.

    I thought all along that the author could have been a woman, and Blue did nothing to dispel that.

    There were so many great lines, including “Our best defense against magical beasts follows the same rules as chickenpox?” “Is there a dwarf named evily?” “It’s yellow. I stole it.”

    Rumple’s “I love how you underestimate me. Adorable.” and “I’m not exactly the religious sort”. “Shocked” were both just spectacularly delivered. And the road trip, including the drive thru was just amazing. And speaking of Rumplestiltskin, how he was able to pull the puppet strings, even from outside with no magic and no resources, was indeed, so impressive.

    Obviously, I’m loving the darker Snow and Charming more than words can say, and it was not lost on me that evil as they appear to be, Cruella and Ursula do not go back on their word to save Maleficent, in what was a very sharp contrast to what Rumple did to them.

    Can’t wait for tonight’s episode!

  17. Pingback: TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.13 | Nerdy Girl Notes

  18. The issue I have with Rumple’s cane is that he needed it for two seasons and then it seemed, after coming back from Neverland, for whatever reason (and there was no reason which was given at the time), all of the sudden, he did not need it. It was never addressed why either, which I always thought was really odd.

    And then he leaves Storybrooke and he needs it; which made sense because there’s no magic in our world. I can accept that he needed it, but it was never explained why he stopped using it in season 3 after coming back from Neverland. That’s what continues to drive me crazy.

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