TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.14

Title Devil’s Due

Two-Sentence Summary In order to save Killian, Emma and Rumplestiltskin—who’s eager to get home to Belle for mysterious reasons—seek Milah’s help. Flashbacks to Rumplestiltskin and Milah’s past reveal more about their broken marriage and the deal he once made that threatens his future in the present.

Favorite Lines
Killian: You’re impossible.
Emma: And you love me for it.

My Thoughts
“I still see hope in your eyes.”

When Hades finally explained that this—the hope Killian still has—was the reason for his torture, it made perfect sense. If there’s one thing Once Upon a Time has always preached, it’s that heroes hold on to hope even when things seem hopeless and work to spread hope to those who need it, while villains often feel hopeless themselves and want others to feel that way, too. Hope is the heroes’ greatest weapon and the villains’ greatest enemy, so the villains will do whatever it takes to destroy hope. And that central conflict between those who spread hope and those who try to snuff it out played a major part in “Devil’s Due,” which was ultimately one of the most tragic episodes of Once Upon a Time in recent memory. (Yes, I would argue it was even more tragic than “Swan Song.”)

The tragedy of “Devil’s Due” came from the fact that sometimes hope isn’t enough. Sometimes you can’t escape your past. And sometimes you can’t get closure after you lose a loved one.

Lost souls were an important concept in this episode, and I don’t think there’s a better example of a lost soul than Milah. I’ve always been fascinated by her as a character because she’s seemed so complex, and all this episode did was add even more layers to her character. (Of course it added more layers to a fascinating female character; it was written by Jane Espenson, who literally never lets me down.)

Have I always agreed with Milah’s decisions? No. Have I always liked how she spoke to her husband after he came back from the Ogre Wars? No. Would I have done some things differently than she did? I’d like to think so. But that’s what makes her such a well-written character. I may not believe I would have done things the way she did them, but I completely understand her actions and the thoughts and feelings behind them. And who knows? If I was in her situation, maybe I would have handled things the same way. That’s the beauty of fiction; it asks us to be empathetic toward people who seem different from us. It asks us to walk in their shoes. And now, knowing what we know about Rumplestiltskin’s deal and Milah’s first meeting with Killian, I understand better than ever how she could leave her family to be with a man who gave her a choice when she felt all her choices had been taken from her.

Milah felt trapped. Her story always makes me curious about gender roles during her time in the Enchanted Forest. Were they more rigid than they seemed to be in the time of Regina and Snow, when no one really batted an eye at a princess with a bow and arrow? Because Milah certainly seemed to believe it wasn’t up to her to take action to save Bae; it was up to Rumplestiltskin. I kept wondering why she wouldn’t just try to steal the antidote herself instead of making him do it. Maybe it was her way of pushing him to be braver, or maybe she felt like she couldn’t act herself because she was a woman. Whatever the reason; she clearly felt like she had no way out, and desperate souls do drastic things—that’s something Once Upon a Time has taught us from the start.

Rumplestiltskin was also a desperate soul in those flashbacks; he knew he needed to save his son, but he didn’t want to have to kill to do it. And the healer preyed on that desperation with his deal, which is something Rumplestiltskin became famous for as the Dark One. So Rumplestiltskin traded away a possible future child to save his current one. He was caught in an unenviable position—he was trapped—but that didn’t make it any easier to watch him tell Milah what he’d done. He made a decision about their future without her, and it never occurred to him that just because he was satisfied with one child, she felt the same way.

I think that moment made me so uncomfortable because of its relationship to things happening in the real world. Rumplestiltskin essentially made a choice about his wife’s ability to have children without consulting her. And men making choices about women’s reproductive rights is something far too common in the world today. Rumplestiltskin closed another door on Milah, making her feel more trapped than ever. Maybe another child would have brought joy into her life, or maybe she wouldn’t have ever wanted to have more children. But now that choice was no longer hers to make. The hope that another child might have represented was taken away from her. So even though it still made me sad to know she left Bae, I better understood the desperation that drove her decision-making. Choice has always been an important theme on this show, and when characters are stripped of the ability to choose, they often push others away and lash out. That’s a human reaction, and Milah is nothing if not heartbreakingly human.

“Devil’s Due” helped explain why Milah left Rumplestiltskin for Killian in two ways: It showed why Milah felt she couldn’t live with her husband anymore, and it showed why Killian was the one she chose to find freedom with. I was surprised to see the charming Captain Killian Jones in this episode’s flashbacks, but it was by no means an unpleasant surprise. From his first moments interacting with Milah, it was clear he respected her. (It was also clear they had amazing chemistry. WOW.) He saw in her an echo of the boy who spent his youth under the thumb of masters, dreaming of freedom. So he offered that freedom to her. He filled her with hope, which she felt she didn’t have at home. But he also gave her a choice. When he heard she had a husband, he didn’t try to get her to run away with him. Instead, he simply told her she could find him if things ever changed. Agency is such an important part of Killian’s character, so it felt right for him to put the decision in Milah’s hands. It was a nice moment of character consistency and further emphasized the fact that Killian never “stole” Milah. So can people please stop using that awful word to describe their relationship now?

No matter what you think of the choices Milah made, there’s no question she met a terrible fate at the hands of Rumplestiltskin once he became the Dark One. So my greatest hope for this episode was to see her finally move on and put her unfinished business behind her—possibly with Killian, but I actually hoped it’d be Henry who allowed her to move on, knowing Bae lived on in the grandson she finally got to meet. But if this episode showed us anything, it was that hope isn’t always enough, and sometimes things don’t happen the way you expect them to.

From the start, I was annoyed that Rumplestiltskin seemed determined to use the inherent awkwardness between Milah and Emma to pit these to women against one another. So imagine my delight when Emma used her empathy (which I still believe is her greatest superpower) to understand Milah’s unfinished business and to help her make peace with it, when Rumplestiltskin still thought her unfinished business was Killian. Emma knows better than anyone that the love between a mother and her son is something special, a kind of True Love that never dies. And Emma also understands the guilt of a mother who left her son behind. So to see her reach out to Milah to tell her that her son is in a better place was wonderful. It was a moment of connection between two women who are so much more than their awkward romantic connections; they’re both strong mothers who’ve made mistakes and who know how it feels to yearn to make your own choices. Jennifer Morrison and Rachel Shelley were excellent in that scene. They played the depth of understanding and empathy between Milah and Emma so beautifully, and now I’m left mourning the relationship they could have developed if they would have had more time.

It sincerely moved me to see Milah volunteer to guard the boat, staying behind with the man who murdered her, while Emma went off to rescue Killian. Honestly, if I was in Milah’s place, I would have been terrified to be alone with Rumplestiltskin again. But instead, Milah was shocking vulnerable with him as she told him about her unfinished business. I was completely captivated by Shelley and Robert Carlyle in that scene, because they made me feel the history between those characters and the power of their shared love for their son. My heart broke when Milah talked about how her job as a crossing guard for children in the Underworld  wasn’t given to her by Hades but was chosen by her as a kind of atonement. (It’s sad enough to think about there being children in that place.)

All Milah wanted was the hope that she would see Bae again, that she could tell him she loved him and was sorry for leaving him. She never got that closure with her son—the closure Rumplestiltskin got in life. But Rumplestiltskin gave her that hope; he helped her believe in that moment on the boat that she would see their son again. And that’s what made what he did to her even worse.

Rumplestiltskin took away Milah’s hope not long after he gave it to her. Instead of getting to move on and see Bae again, she was thrown into the River of Lost Souls, a victim of Rumplestitltskin’s quest to get back to the world of the living. Not only did he kill her on Earth, he essentially did even worse in the Underworld. This arc has focused on the hope that even if someone dies, they can one day move on to a better place. But Rumplestiltskin made sure that would never happen for Milah. He took away her ability to move on, which I see as a fate truly worse than death. And in doing so, he robbed Henry of the chance to meet his grandmother, he robbed Bae of the chance to see his mother again, and he robbed Killian of the chance to see the woman he loved on more time. Watching Milah disappear into that river was hard enough to watch. It was even harder to watch Killian discover that he once again wasn’t able to save her. Colin O’Donoghue was excellent throughout the episode, but his reaction to Milah’s fate might have been his single best moment in “Devil’s Due.”

And how did Rumplestiltskin deal with what he did to Milah? He lied about it, of course. He put the blame on Hades instead of on his own choices. Ever the master manipulator, he even acted as if Killian should be thanking him. In my mind, Rumplestiltskin was past the point of no return when he chose to become the Dark One again despite having a fresh start. But this—pushing Milah into the River of Lost Souls and making it look like he tried to save her—was the last bit of confirmation I needed. Yet I’m still holding out hope that someone will free the lost souls trapped in the river before the heroes leave the Underworld, allowing Milah’s restless soul to finally find peace.

Although I found myself angrier with Rumplestiltskin than ever before in this episode, I also thought he had a great story arc throughout it. I found some incredibly twisted but excellent irony in the fact that Milah wanted him to be brave enough to kill to save his child, and that’s exactly what he ending up doing to her. I wondered why seeing Belle in the crystal ball made Rumplestiltskin freak out, and I had a feeling they were going to write Emilie de Ravin’s pregnancy into the show. But I didn’t connect the two until Hades revealed that Rumplestiltskin was looking for his child and saw his unborn baby instead of Bae.

That was a great twist, but the greatest one was still to come. My jaw dropped when Hades showed Rumplestiltskin the healer from his past, whom he’d killed in order to negate their deal. Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you. It did for Milah, and it did for Rumplestiltskin, too. With Hades now holding the contract, the fate of Rumplestiltskin and Belle’s baby is in the hands of the god of the Underworld. And once again, I was reminded of the real-life parallel to those two men sitting in a room talking about their rights to a baby, while the woman actually pregnant with said baby wasn’t consulted or even informed about their decisions. It made me giddy to see Rumplestiltskin get some comeuppance, but that glee was mitigated by the knowledge that Belle is also going to suffer in the process. I just want better things for women who are or were married to him—is that too much to ask for?

For as mad as I am about the effect of this twist on Belle, I’m so happy to see more scenes between Hades and Rumplestiltskin. It’s amazing to see a villain manipulate the show’s greatest manipulator. Also, Carlyle and Greg Germann are perfect scene partners. I’m looking forward to seeing this dynamic develop, because it’s always fun to see two actors who really relish playing villains play opposite each other.

Hades preyed on Rumplestiltskin’s desperation to get home, and he used that desperation to get what he wanted. In short, he out-Rumple’d Rumple in order to get one step closer to draining the hope from the Underworld. That’s a true villain’s agenda if I ever saw one.

But all hope isn’t lost. Although this was a very dark episode, there were still moments of light. (And I’m not just talking about the levity provided by Cruella and her fur coat that’s probably Bambi’s mother.) It was good to learn that Daniel had moved on to a better place, even if Regina didn’t get to see him again. She got her farewell in Storybrooke when he told her to move on and love again. And it was nice to see her get her magic back, healing what I could only assume was the horse she once had to kill.

However, the most dramatic symbol of hope amid the hopelessness of the Underworld was the scene in which Emma rescued Killian before he was also lost to the River of Lost Souls. Emma and Killian have been saving each other from feeling like lost souls since the day they met, so it seemed fitting for her to save him from such a fate (while Milah’s life with Rumplestiltskin made her feel lost, hence her fate). I loved that their reunion wasn’t sweepingly intense; it was soft and gentle. It was punctuated not with a passionate kiss but with an exhausted, relieved embrace. It was a moment of quiet comfort after so much drama led them to that moment. And it felt exactly right.

I loved the way O’Donoghue and Morrison played the joy and familiarity of that reunion. His small smile when he called her “impossible” and her little laugh after she said he loved her for that made the moment feel unique to them—their own version of “The glass coffin gave me pause.” There was such tenderness in their facial expressions and body language, and that added a really lovely intimacy to the moment.

But, of course, it would be too easy for Emma to find Killian, split her heart with him, and then head back to the land of the living. There had to be a catch, and the catch involved her heart. (I think another catch is going to involve Killian still not thinking he deserves saving—he basically said as much in this episode—and needing to make his own choice to come back. But that’s another story for another time.) I have a lot of questions about the logistics of heart-sharing: Couldn’t Emma have taken the heart out of his dead body and then put half of hers in (like her mother did with her father) without needing to go to the Underworld? Can anyone actually take out Emma’s heart since Cora couldn’t do it? But those questions aren’t relevant right now. Right now all that matters is that Emma can’t share her heart because she’s been condemned to stay in the Underworld along with her mother and Regina.

When you look at who’s been condemned to stay, two things stand out. First, they’re the three main characters this show was built around. Second, they’re the three characters who’ve spread hope in the Underworld so far (Regina with her father, Snow with Hercules, and Emma with Killian). It’s clear Hades sees them as the biggest threat to him, and it’s because those three women represent the thing he detests: hope. All three women were lost souls at one time who’ve found their truest, most hopeful, and most heroic selves. And that can’t sit well with the god who’s cornered the market on lost souls.

In some ways, “Devil’s Due” felt like a hopeless episode of Once Upon a Time—because of the sheer tragedy of what happened to Milah. However, it’s a hero’s job to never stop hoping and spreading hope—even in a place as bleak as the Underworld. So I’m going to continue to hope that all the lost souls with unfinished business—both the dead and living—will find the closure they need to leave the Underworld and discover where they belong.

Just a quick note before the commenting begins: The promo for next week’s episode is causing a lot of fandom stress, and, as we all know, I work really hard to keep NGN a safe place for fans to escape that kind of anxiety. So I would sincerely appreciate it if—just for this week—we kept all promo speculation out of the comments here at NGN for everyone’s sanity, especially my own.

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38 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.14

  1. Another great emotional episode, even if the prevailing emotion was anger. Milah so did not deserve her fate, but after we got two lovely happy endings to start the season, I was thinking it was only a matter of time before something bad happened. Does anybody else have Rumple is THE WORST fatigue? Cause I think I do. I just don’t know how much more my poor heart can take of Rumple screwing everyone over time and time again. And I am so happy you touched on men making decisions for women about their reproductive rights Ugh, the three of them in that lair talking about that contract was rage inducing. When Rumple gets back, and Belle finds out what he did (oh which bad thing am I talking about? I don’t know, try the whole Dark One power thing, or throwing Milah into the river of lost souls, or the whole selling his baby thing, or any number of more despicable things I am sure he will do before they return) I hope Belle, Emma, Snow, and Regina and all of the other women in Storybrooke drag that man back to the town line and never let him return. Or maybe turn him into a fish without even the courtesy of putting him into water first, cause you know, he did that once too. Ugh, go away Rumple. You really are THE WORST. His new name is now Rumple-THEWORST-ilskin. That said, even in this episode, you could see the internal conflict between Rumple the man and Rumple the Dark One. The man was in the boat having a genuine conversation with Milah, the Dark One betrayed her. The differences in his demeanor were quite dramatic. But even Rumple the man gets no sympathy from me anymore after the man made the decision to take the darkness back. And it was the man that made the shady deal in the first place.

    I adored the Milah/Killian flashback. We have seen so little of Killian’s past between Liam and Milah’s deaths, it was nice to see the type of pirate he was back then before his quest for revenge. Milah had some major self control to not just up and follow Killian right then and there. Damn.

    The Emma/Milah interaction in this episode was everything I could have hoped for. As you pointed out, I love how their connection and empathy in this episode was more about their role as mothers than their relationship with Killian. And Rumple thinking he was going to start a cat fight only to spectacularly fail on that point was the best. And Milah putting him in his place was perfection.

    It was disappointing that Killian wasn’t able to see Milah again, but I think it also helped emphasize that she is not Killian’s unfinished business either. Killian was able to move on and love again and give up on his revenge quest while he was still living thanks to Emma. Next week we will be Killian’s real test.

    While the side plot with Regina seemed a bit out of place, it did give us very important information regarding the logistics of who is in the underworld and who has moved on. I have a feeling we have not seen the last of this plot point, especially when it would be a logical way to verify identities.

    I am glad that Emma and Killian are back at each other’s side. Their reunion was perfect and I loved that even in such a dramatic moment they were able to smile and joke. But I definitely agree that was far too easy of a rescue. I think Hades learned they were not going to give up until they were reunited. Time to move on from the physical separation tactic into a more emotional one. I am just hoping we can move beyond the angst by the end of the next episode and just enjoy them as an awesome team again. No more pain writers, I need a break. Let Killian and Emma be happy 2016. You have no idea how much I want them to go on a simple vacation.

    Randomness:
    -Props to the GCI team for getting the most mileage possible out of their echo cave background.

    -I loved the way Milah wacked that snake and then carried it around in her bag like nothing.

    -Cruella IS the new mayor! And from the looks of it actually quite dedicated. I mean, carrying around town maps in her purse and everything!

    -I enjoyed having the Underbrooke equivalent to Ruby at the diner. Also enjoying the effort to keep some of the side characters like the blind witch and Pan in the world without them appearing in every episode.

    -I honestly hope this show never runs out of reasons to give us Killian in the red vest at least once a season.

    • P.S. I lied about the fish thing…that was Cora I believe. But he did turn Smee into a rat. Maybe they should just turn him into pond scum.

    • I will totally get on the Rumple-THEWORST-ilskin train with you. Belle really deserves better, so I may be enjoying Hades’ manipulation of Rumple a bit too much. But honestly, is there ANY way Rumple can come back from this? Self-sacrifice didn’t take. A clean start didn’t take. I want Belle to find a nice guy, settle down, and use the Dark One dagger to make Rumple her own personal slave for the rest of time.

    • YES to my new favorite nickname: Rumple-THEWORST-ilskin. I have seriously said he’s the worst (in my best Jean-Ralphio voice) about 100 times since Sunday night. But I actually don’t feel as fatigued by it as I once did. I think it’s because I’m not worried that I’m ever going to be asked to like him again, so I’m just riding the anger train all the way now—no conflicted feelings anymore. And sometimes it’s just nice to love to hate a character, especially when he’s played by someone as great as Robert Carlyle.

      I’m also really happy that you brought up Milah not being Killian’s unfinished business either. As you said, he came to a place of closure on his own during his life, so he didn’t need to see her again. But it would have been nice (DAMN YOU, RUMPLE!).

      Finally, I’m with you on hoping we see the end of the parade of angst for Emma and Killian soon. I don’t mind some conflict, but I’m always more of a fan of allowing a couple to face things together instead of apart—either physically or emotionally. This relationship has been put through the wringer, and I think it’s time to give the pain a rest for a little bit. There comes a point when the conflict stops having meaning and starts to feel contrived, and things could start crossing into the latter territory soon if they keep piling the pain on Emma and Killian. But we all know I’m the kind of fan who would literally watch an hour of her favorite characters smiling and doing domestic things together. 😉

  2. Great job on this. (Seriously, gonna find the “preach, sister” button soon.)

    I love your examination of Milah for so many reasons. (The most shallow being it makes me feel better about my utter glee that, as you put it, Rumple has been out-Rumple’d.) Milah’s frustration with Rumple practically leaped off the screen. I loved your point that Milah isn’t perfect but “heart-breakingly human.” I’m just watching this and I want to shake Rumple until his teeth rattle. (Any version of him. Take your pick. There will be shaking and teeth rattling. Possibly more.) I would not be Belle if I had to deal with this man.

    I, too, am a little puzzled why Milah forced Rumple into procuring the antidote rather than taking the initiative, but I wonder if she was just sick and tired of being the one who had to fix and take care of everything. She knew how much Rumple loved Bae, and she may have thought “this will be the thing that makes a man of him . . .”

    Oh how I loved Milah and Emma’s interaction. I loved watching them be the adults in the room. And yep, “Milah was here?” pretty much slayed me. I also loved Milah’s dismissive “Killian isn’t my unfinished business” remark to Rumple.

    One of things I have also ADORED about Killian Jones (beyond the obvious shallow stuff) is the fact that he always, always, always gives Emma room to make choices. He lets her initiate; he doesn’t use his sacrifices to manipulate her. (How many men would have lead with “I gave up my ship for you”?) I find it fascinating that this is the same thing that Milah was attracted to — the power of choice. He gave her hope that there was more for her. What’s so sad about Rumple’s decision to trade the second born is that he probably never even realized he was taking Milah’s choice away. He was just that clueless.

    So imagine my glee to see him being boxed in . . . to see his choices being taken away . . . to see him on the receiving end of a bad deal. I don’t want to see anything happen to Belle’s upcoming wee one, but I really don’t mind seeing Rumple twist in the wind for awhile.

    Randomness:
    — Loved that Snow accompanied Regina to find Daniel’s grave, but then left Regina alone. I love how well Snow gets Regina.
    — Cruella as Mayor? Oh, the possibilities . . .
    — Sexy red vest. (Ok, I may be drooling on my keyboard.)
    — Of course, I didn’t laugh at the coat possibly being Bambi’s mother . . .it was small chuckle or three or five.

    • I’m so happy you brought up Snow going with Regina to Daniel’s grave and then leaving her alone with her memories. I didn’t get a chance to talk about it in depth in my post, but it was such a beautiful little moment. I also loved Snow’s motherly concern when she first saw Killian. I just love Snow, and it feels good to say that again.

      Now it’s my turn to wish for a “preach, sister” button with your paragraph about Killian and the way he gives the women he loves the space to make their own choices. It’s always been my favorite thing about his relationship with Emma (especially because people always seemed to be making choices for her), and it made me smile to see that he made Milah feel the same way: like there was someone out there who was going to let her make her own choices. I loved that he wasn’t just some guy hitting on her in a tavern; he was a man showing her what she could see and explore and do with her life if she chose to travel beyond her tiny port. If a man who looked like that offered me a chance to see the world, I’m not sure I would have ever gone back home. 😉

  3. I love everything written above me.
    I was happy to see more of Milah, so that we could see her as a person, a character, rather than just a plot device. I might feel like some of her decisions were still motivated by writers needing her to do certain things without explaining to use why, like the whole potion thing, but I am willing to give them a pass because they gave us some really good backstory and a really, really good explanation as to why Milah had to get away.
    Way to go, Rumple, for stirring the pot but never addressing the whole “hey yeah I killed you, I guess I should maybe pretend to be sorry about that.” Too busy making Emma look bad. A torrid affair? That’s not how I would describe Neal and Emma in any universe. God, what an ass he is. But how much did I love that scene?! So much conveyed in the looks on those women’s faces! So awkward!! (SO Once!) And then, suck it Rumple – they’re mature and they can work together and they get things done, and no, Killian isn’t Milah’s unfinished business. Why would it be. She died loving him. Of course it’s Bae. I was pretty devastated that Milah didn’t end up being able to see Killian (although I’m not sure that was necessary in the grand scheme of things) or to move on to Bae, but I also hold out hope that there will be a lost-soul-river loophole and she’ll get her happy-ish ending. Because dang, they owe her that.
    And I’m so upset for Belle. Again. Poor girl doesn’t even know there’s a baby coming, and it’s already been taken from her. I hope she gets some justice eventually. Rumple is THE WORST. I really enjoy the character in a lot of ways, but there’s no way they can redeem him…
    The acting in this episode! Colin was so skillful, conveying so much with so little. I mean, he only had ONE eye to work with even… And getting a nice flashback Pirate Killian being respectful and charming and flirty and not in any way “stealing” Milah. Giving her an option. Expressing an interest and putting the ball in her court. Just as many of us would have expected, based on the Killian this show has presented to us.
    What a great episode. And hey, Emma rescued Killian! They’re back together! Snow is worried about him! Yeah, there’s a lot more trouble to come – I mean, our favorite ladies have gravestones in the Underworld! But it’s a show about hope. It will all work out in the end.

    • I love your mention of Colin’s single eye acting. Seriously, bloodied up with a swollen eye and you can still feel the emotion radiating off him. Bravo!

      And I agree, “torrid affair” was unnecessary and rude. They loved each other and got pregnant, and he failed to even mention that it was THEIR son that framed her, abandoned her, and left her in prison. Seriously Rumple, out of all the things you want to try to shame Emma for you pick THAT?! THE WORST.

      • I’m going to just echo everything Shauna said about the “torrid affair” comment. It made my skin crawl. It was a blatant attempt to shame Emma for a situation that left her broken, pregnant, and alone in prison, without ever once mentioning that it was their son’s fault that things happened the way they did. YUCK.

    • What a great breakdown of the episode, Jo!

      I’m so happy you brought up the fact that Rumple and Milah never really talked about the fact that HE KILLED HER. There was no remorse there at all, and that was chilling to me. All I can hope is that there is some kind of “saving the lost souls” scenario at the end of this, because not only did she deserve better than her fate in life; she most certainly deserves better than her fate in the Underworld.

      JUSTICE FOR MILAH! (Sorry, that’s been my rallying cry on Twitter for the past two days. I just needed to say it again.)

      • Sign me up for the JUSTICE FOR MILAH! If the writers don’t address this — and I do realize they have a lot to cover — I figure we’re all clever enough here that WE will come up with a convincing justice scenario for her.

    • While we are are still in our Milah mourning mode, I think the major reason why I am sad that Killian and Milah didnt get a chance to talk again was because of Killian’s relationship with Bae. The fact that he found him and they did get to spend some time together, his guilt over betraying him, and ultimately choosing to stay and be a part of something as a way to honor Bae’s memory. I just have so many feelings about Milah/Killian/Bae especially knowing that Milah wanted to go back for Bae for them to be a family (screw you Rumple). Just so much of Killian’s character doesnt exist without Milah and Bae, and I have always been sad that the show hasnt been able to focus more on those relationships. Luckily Colin is such as good actor you can still see and feel all these things in everything Killian does. Heres hoping we havent seen or at least heard the last of Milah.

      • Oh, that’s a really good point! I hadn’t thought about the Killian/Bae side of things. Yes, it is a shame that the show can’t go deeper into some of those relationships. I guess we need to get fanfic writers on the job for us!

  4. I will expand on this comment soon, as I digest your wonderful recap, but I have to say that mixed in with all the heart stopping angst were the funniest lines of Once I can remember. The gallows humor is perfectly spot-on; Jane never disappoints.
    “Well you are standing in the middle of Main Street.
    ” I’m supposed to be watching the kids”
    “They’re dead anyway”
    “You’ve been with my former lover and my son?”
    “I’m sure we’ll all laugh ourselves sick about this someday”

  5. Hi Katie, just wanted to chime in and compliment you on your terrific reviews of this show. It’s a series that is often smarter than it appears at first glance, and I think your writing beautifully captures the things it does well, and you really seem to ‘get’ the intent of the producers.

    This episode is a season, and maybe a series, highlight for me, for all the reasons you state above, but especially because of Milah. “The Crocodile” is one of my all time favorite episodes, not just because it cleverly turned the bitter end of Rumple’s marriage into a Captain Hook origin story, but because of the surprising depth and complexity with which it portrayed Milah. There’s a moment in that episode where she strides onto the deck of the Jolly Roger with an injured Killian, and she starts giving orders to the men. You can tell in that scene that she is respected by the crew and used to being in charge. It’s a bit of a surprising twist, given that we may have thought she was just running away to be some pirate’s girlfriend, or worse. It shows that even though she did what we often consider unthinkable (leaving her child,) in doing so she may have found the life she was meant for, a life of action and authority. (It also told us a lot about Killian and his feelings about strong women, laying the groundwork for the strength of his relationship with Emma.)

    There were times in “Devil’s Due” where I was worried the show was asking me to judge Milah more harshly than I had previously (her urging Rumple to kill for the cure, spending time away from her ailing child.) But ultimately, even though I couldn’t justify her decisions, I could sympathize with her desperation and need to take action for all the reasons you noted, and I thought her desire to reconcile with Baelfire in the afterlife was heartbreaking. Finally, I am really glad the show gave Killian and the other characters a few moments to mourn her tragic fate.

    A couple other highlights for me –
    – The look Emma shoots Rumple after she and Milah decide to team up is PERFECT.
    – Since we haven’t had many CaptainCharming scenes lately, Snow and Regina are definitely my new favorite friendship. They convey a palpable sense of affection and shared history.

    Anyway, sorry for the long first post, but this one really resonated with me. Again, kudos to you and your wonderfully thoughtful and articulate commenters!

    • Thank you so much, Kate! I really appreciate your kind words about my writing, and, even more than that, I appreciate you sharing your wonderfully insightful comments on this episode with us!

      Your analysis of Milah was perfect. I have so little to add or to reply because I was too busy nodding my head in agreement.

      But I have to single out your point about the characters—especially Killian—being given a chance to mourn her. So often on television things have to move so quickly from one dramatic moment to the next that characters don’t get to react like humans to tragic and stressful events. Therefore, I’m always appreciative of moments when characters get to mourn and take a beat to process things before moving on to the next challenge. It makes them feel more realistic and relatable.

      I hope to see you around these comment sections again! Never apologize for long posts—do you see how much I write?! 😉

    • We love long comments here at NGN! Most of us have a lot of feelings and this is a great place to share them 🙂

      I love your love for Mliah. Despite her limited screentime, I have always felt her presence ever since she was introduced, even more than some of the recurring characters due to the lasting impact she had on Killian. Her fate was upsetting, and I do hope there might be a way to free those lost souls!

    • Great points about Milah. I had forgotten how thoroughly at home she was as a pirate — which makes sense given what we’ve seen here. Thanks for the reminder about that. This is why long posts are good. We all benefit from the various memories and insights of others (and realizing important things such as the need for more Captain Charming scenes). Plus long posts make the rest of long posters feel better. 🙂

    • Yeah, we’re all long commenters here 😉
      Your comments make me want to go back and watch The Crocodile again. There’s so much said about Milah in fandom circles, and so little of her actually on screen (and even less chance to see WHY she made certain decisions). I loved seeing her again this episode to find out more about how and why and who she really was.

  6. Thank you so much for doing these reviews! They are always so well said and bring out pints I didn’t notice the first time! A definite highlight to my once watching experience I look forward to them every week!

  7. I enjoy reading your analysis of episodes, but have never commented before. Generally, I just watch episodes for entertainment value. I don’t contemplate the symbolism on what is happening until later, after pondering the episode, reading some reviews, etc.
    But here I am, making a comment. Certainly I don’t have any major revelations to make or am pointing out anything new. Just thought I’d throw my two cents in because I do enjoy ‘the water cooler’ discussions about these episodes.
    I usually watch Once without a huge show of emotion. It’s not that it doesn’t touch me or make me happy/sad. But this week, I had a jaw dropping moment as well. It was when Rumple ‘pushed’ Milah into the River of Lost Souls. It was a lovely conversation that the two of them had, where he showed empathy toward her and told her that Bae would have forgiven her, just as he had been forgiven. It reminded me of two people who had been in love once, gone through a nasty divorce, but with the passage of time realized that they didn’t completely hate the other person and that maybe there was some blame on both sides. Then he coldly takes all that away from her, removing any memory of anything. To me, that was the breaking point on Rumple. I hate to ask the question of how much worse can he get.
    If I was a Rumbelle shipper (I am not, no offense intended to those who are), I would be so done with this by now. I am tired of watching Rumple be a jerk, to put it nicely. I am tired of watching Belle constantly forgive him. I love most of the characters on this show and I love the twists that they have given them, but Belle has got to be my least favorite. She just has no backbone and keeps coming back for more. She reminds me of the stories of abuse victims who keep saying ‘I can change him. He didn’t mean it.’ The rest of the world is wondering why someone would stay in that relationship. Her finest moment was when she used the dagger to push him over the town line. Rumple is bad to the bone and I do enjoy him being under Hades thumb, but it does not bode well for anyone else if those two are going at it. Because neither will let any concern for others get in the way of what they want. (But being as this show is about hope, I hope the Rumbelle shippers get a happy ending.).

    Other musings:
    – I loved how Milah has had Rumple’s number all along. While the others are willing to put some level of trust in the man, Milah was having none of it. Like when Emma went to get Hook and she decided to stay with Rumple and the boat., ‘If he is staying here, I’m staying here to make sure he doesn’t pull a fast one.’ Of course, since he has magic, it was all for nothing, but I loved the look of distrust in her eyes. She is/was no fool.
    – Hoping that we get to see a bit more of warrior Emma in upcoming episodes. She seems so much tamer and docile since the Underworld arc began. Maybe it is just me or maybe coming back from being the Dark One does that to a person.
    – Almost sad we won’t get to see Hook all bloodied up anymore.
    – Cruella sneaking by the doorway of the diner was priceless.
    – And I agree that this episode felt hopeless, like the good guys are never going to win.
    – Finally, did anyone else catch that Emma said ‘Yes’ to Milah’s question ‘You’ve been with my former lover and my son?’. Does that mean that Emma and Killian have had ‘coffee’ and we missed it?

    • Welcome, Kate, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us! I hope you join us around this little virtual “water cooler” again!

      I’m right there with you when it comes to being afraid to ask how much worse Rumple can get. He seems to be topping himself over and over again in that department lately.

      As for Belle, I’m always torn with her. She’s definitely the one character on this show I still can’t get a good read on, and I think that’s because she was never supposed to stick around past her one episode in Season One. So I can never figure out if her relationship with Rumple is supposed to be seen as tragic (in which case I think they’re doing a good job of writing her as a victim of abuse and Stockholm Syndrome at this point) or if it’s supposed to ultimately be romantic (in which case—NO). I’m also sick of other characters keeping secrets from her about Rumple and using it to blackmail him at Belle’s expense. That needs to stop ASAP.

      I’ve seen the last point you made brought up in some other discussions about this episode, and it could go either way. “Been with” could imply just being in a relationship or being with someone in a physical sense. Either way, I’m fine with it. I’m not of the camp that needs to see that first encounter between them; I’d just like a scene that implies it at some point before the show is done because we’ve paid out dues as fans in terms of angst. 😉

    • Kate, we must have been on the same wavelength the other day – we have the same name and were first time posters! (I added an initial to my name on this one.)

      I enjoyed your thoughts and wanted to comment on your point about Emma seeming docile. I have noticed this too. They definitely seem to have deliberately softened her look and even her demeanor a bit in this arc. They may just be trying to paint a clear contrast with her Dark Swan persona. However, I think she is still showing the quiet exhaustion of grief given everything that happened, and she seems a little shell shocked at times. I am with you that I am ready to see her stand and fight a bit more, although this episode was a good step in that direction (she didn’t have a ton to do in the first two eps.)

  8. What a great review, Katie! I thought Milah’s ending here was shocking, because I felt sure she was going to get to move on. Especially so after her heartfelt talk with Rumpel. The fact that he could betray her after that (and after what he did to her in life) was stunning, to say the least. I enjoyed Emma’s interaction with her, and that they appeared to appreciate one another despite Rumpel’s attempt to put Emma in the worst possible light in their introduction.

    I have to say that I do enjoy the fact that Rumpel had been caught on the bad end of his own contract. I think he’s going to have a lot to regret in this half season. But, I still expect he will come through it unscathed at the end. I’m really not sure that Belle does deserve better at this point, since she turns a blind eye and sees what she wants to in their relationship.

    I’m glad that Killian and Emma were reunited. I also hope that they will get a break after all this is over. I’m not the least worried about them or their relationship. They’ve come too far to be defeated at this point! I’m counting on a True Love reveal, if not this season, then later on I’m sure!

    Thanks again for your beautiful writeup!

    • Thank you, Jennifer!

      I really hope this season doesn’t end with Rumple completely unscathed. I’m sure he’ll be back to continue to give our heroes grief, but I’d like it if he got a little punishment for how absolutely awful he’s become. And I’m still in the camp that thinks Belle deserves better. She might have turned a blind eye at times, but he had everyone fooled when he became the Dark One again, so I can’t blame her on this one. And now I just want her to run away to the Enchanted Forest where Red and Mulan can protect her.

      I also think we need to start a “Give Killian and Emma a Romantic Vacation” petition. 😉

  9. Lovely review, although I must respectfully disagree about Rumple’s deal being the equivalent taking away a woman’s right to choose for the following reason:

    The deal said Rumple had to give up ‘HIS’ 2nd born. He made a choice about ‘HIS’ body. Milah was never mentioned in the contract. She had every right to be sad/disappointed/ect about this, but if she wanted another child, they could’ve arrange an adoption or found the EF equivalent of a sperm donor. Nothing was taken from her.

    • Thank you, and I appreciate you bringing a different viewpoint and opinion to this discussion. It wasn’t a perfect analogy that I made by any means, but to some degree I feel as if he was still taking away her choice to have a child with him if she wanted to. Yes, there were other options for her, but he did take away a choice for her. It might not have been all her options, but it was still something that was taken from her without her consent.

  10. I’m going to echo what everyone’s already said and say that this is such a beautifully written review. I especially loved what you said about Emma and Milah and the honest, raw bond they chose to establish as opposed to disliking one another and immediately hating each other. I especially loved what you said about Milah staying behind even though it’d be terrifying too and I too don’t know if I’d be brave enough to do so. That shows so much character on her behalf.

    I think for me personally, this was one of those episode where I kept thinking how will people interpret my work? Can I stay true to myself and do a great job and the fandom kept coming into my head whilst writing. So I just want to say that you did an admirably perfect job of such a complicated, and tragic episode. I honestly believe with everything in me that all the souls will be set free. I hope we get to see that reunion with Milah and Neal in an episode (if I remember correctly, MRJ was spotted in Van recently), but if not, I hope we’re given at least some sort of confirmation that she was able to move on and reunite with her son.

    • Thank you so much, my dear!

      This was a very hard episode to write about, and I could see where worrying about fandom opinions would happen even more with an episode like this one. At the end of the day, I suppose I just attribute my ability to write about episodes like this one to my natural stubbornness. I get caught up in worrying about fandom sometimes, too, but then I realize that no one’s opinion should change how I feel or how I write. All I can do is speak my truth and put my feelings out there, and I’m so happy it resonated with some people. If you ever need a reminder that you will always have someone in your corner no matter what, you know where to find me. ❤

  11. If “The Crocodile” was Killian’s side of the story, I would say “Devil’s Due” is Milah’s side of their love. I know Milah isn’t a very popular character with some fans, but other than Belle and Emma sometimes, she is one of the few characters who isn’t afraid to stand up to Rumple and this was before he became the Dark One!

    I really liked how Milah was fleshed out a little more in this episode, and ultimately we see what drove her to run away with Killian in the first place. What happened to her, in the past and in the present, I have a lot of sympathy for her. Despite the breakdown of her marriage, she always loved her son and it was lovely to hear that he was her unfinished business; that she truly regretted leaving him and her abandoning him is what has haunted her all this time.

    I know Rumple felt bad and tried to find a way for centuries to get back to Bae, but Milah has had to live with her guilt in the underworld for a long time as well. It was really nice to see that conversation between them on the boat, talking about her unfinished business. It was also nice for Emma to give her that little piece of closure that Neal/Bae was in a happier place and he had moved on. (I had mixed feelings about that scene in 5×12 but I like how it was actually referenced in this episode to help another character).

    And Rumple, oh, karma’s a bitch. I already hate Rumple but what he did to Milah and to Belle, it’s a sad but perfect way to connect these two women who I used to think of as very different from each other. Rumple didn’t know it at the time but he signed away his and Belle’s child’s fate, and I do feel bad for Belle because she has no idea what’s going on. But I know once she finds out, I hope she doesn’t hold back on her anger towards Rumple because he deserves every bit of Belle’s wrath.

    Some things are forgivable but what he did, I wouldn’t forgive. But knowing Adam and Eddy, they will find a way to make Belle forgive Rumple or something and knowing that might happen, honestly, makes me ill. But it was a clever way to write in Emilie’s pregnancy into the show.

    The best parts of the episode: seeing Regina finally get real closure with Daniel, by finding his grave in the Underworld and seeing that he’s moved on. It was a very brief but lovely moment, even better was that she asked Snow to come with her. The last time these two women stood over Daniel’s grave, it was in a very turbulent period in their relationship where they were at war with each other. Of all the familial relationships on Once, I think the one I’m really starting to appreciate and love more now is the bond between Snow and Regina. They know they have a painful history together but they’ve moved on from that long ago and accepted each other as friends and family.

    It was nice for Snow to be there for Regina when he was going to look for Daniel’s grave. It gave a nice closure to what started their feud to begin with, knowing that Daniel had moved on and was in a happier place (and knowing finally after five seasons, what is his last name?).

    The best moment, of course, seeing Emma rescue Killian without even a hesitation. Seeing that, I couldn’t help but think of Emma coming to rescue Neal in 3×06 and see, how different these two scenes are in terms of Emma’s body language. When Emma found Neal in Neverland, she was very hesitant to go after him (when she found out he was alive, and when she finally came face to face with him). But there’s zero hesitation when she finds Killian in a perilous situation. She dives right in, making it across that very narrow bridge to get to the man she loves.

    I have to re-watch this episode when I get the chance because there’s probably more stuff to love about it.

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