Title Murder Most Foul
Two-Sentence Summary When Charming enlists Killian’s help in discovering the truth about who killed his father, Killian sees an opportunity to earn Charming’s respect before asking for Emma’s hand in marriage—until a terrible truth is revealed. Meanwhile, Regina struggles with the complications of bringing Wish-Realm Robin to Storybrooke.
Favorite Line “Someday, may we all be reunited with our sons.” (Rumplestiltskin)
My Thoughts What does it mean to be enough, to have enough, to do enough? When you spend your whole life chasing the idea of being “enough” (respected enough, powerful enough, good enough), what happens when you discover that sometimes “enough” isn’t enough? Bad things can still happen even when you try your best to be good enough. You can still lose those you love even when you try to be powerful enough. Your past can still come back to haunt you even when you try to be respected enough.
A discovery like that can break you, or it can open your eyes to the idea that you don’t have to chase anything; you’re enough exactly as you are.
With its central theme avoiding the temptation to give in to darkness, it made sense for “Murder Most Foul” to deal heavily with Killian and Regina. However, I loved that it actually focused most closely on Charming. He’s a character we don’t get to explore with great depth that often, but when we do, we are shown a picture of a man who is often tempted to give in to darkness when he feels he isn’t doing enough to protect his family. And in this case, he felt he wasn’t doing enough to avenge the one member of his family we knew the least about until this episode: his father.
So much of who Charming is came from a desire to be different from his father. He thought his father was a careless alcoholic who left his family without a provider, so he was determined to be a man who was defined by his sense of duty and responsibility, always putting his family first. But it turned out that Charming’s father was far from the cautionary tale he’d always believed; he was a flawed, imperfect man, but he ultimately died doing exactly what Charming would have done—trying to do the right thing for his family.
It’s nice to know that after six seasons, Once Upon a Time can still make me care about flashbacks and backstories. I loved seeing this new chapter of Charming’s story unfold (and not just because the kid who played young David was so cute I could barely handle it). I should have known Jane Espenson had a hand in writing this episode (along with Jerome Schwartz), because she has the best sense of the show’s fairytale elements and how to continue to weave them into something exciting and magical after being on the air for so long. For example, the way this episode blended aspects of Charming’s original origin story with the classic Rumplestiltskin tale and a strong dash of Pinocchio was masterful. I actually clapped when the Pleasure Island reveal happened because I couldn’t believe we’d gone so long without using that location and the show managed to use it in the just the right story.
Pleasure Island is a place of temptation, and “Murder Most Foul” was about characters giving in to and turning away from temptations in their quest to be good enough. Charming’s father struggled with the temptation to drink and, because of that (and because he was the one who made the choice to give up James), he always felt as if he wasn’t good enough for his son. But he ultimately chose not to give in to temptation in the end. He chose the hero’s path instead. And although he was still defined by his past for many years after his death, the truth eventually came out, and his son learned that his father was more than who he was at his worst; he died a hero.
The quest to be defined by more than your past is something many characters on this show are still working through, especially Regina. This episode forced her to confront once again who she was at her worst when she took Robin to her vault. But she’s not the same person she was when she committed the dark deeds that filled that vault with hearts. Not only is she no longer a killer herself; she’s working to help this new version of Robin fight the temptation to kill his former enemies.
However, there is still a part of Regina that can’t resist the temptation to take a shortcut toward happiness. Of course I wanted to think that she and Robin might have been able to have a second chance, but I liked the realism of showing that things can’t be that easy. (I also liked Snow being the voice of reason; she can be hopeful, but she can also be practical, which is why she’s still my favorite.) As I said last week, all magic comes with a price, and it seems the price of bringing this Robin to Storybrooke is that he’s not the man Regina fell in love with. He’s much darker and colder, and he doesn’t care about her. (Stealing from her vault clearly proves that.) Seeing this version of Robin actually made me wonder if we’re going to see a little dalliance between him and the Evil Queen if she ever reappears. (Though at this point, I’m hoping she just remains a snake forever.)
Regina is learning the hard way that sometimes you can do the right things and it still isn’t enough to prevent suffering. Life isn’t easy for heroes; they struggle and suffer and are often tempted with dark paths that promise to make them feel more powerful and happier. But what makes a hero a hero is their ability to resist that temptation—and also their ability to admit to the times in their life when they failed to do the right thing and gave in to their worst impulses.
August is a great example of this. Despite his beginnings as a lying piece of wood (I was actually quite impressed with the CGI used to bring him to life.), he admitted in this episode to the fact that he spent time on Pleasure Island giving in to the temptations that land laid out before him. That honesty helped Charming and Killian learn the truth about what happened to Charming’s father. August is far from perfect and he has much in his past that he isn’t proud of, but he’s learning to stop hiding his mistakes (which he tried to do by ripping the pages out of Henry’s book) and instead used his experiences to help others, which can only happen when you’re honest about who you are and what you’ve done.
Although Regina, Robin, and August had important roles in this episode, this was really an episode about two men and their quest to live up to their idea of “good enough”: Charming and Killian. Both men are haunted by their pasts—Charming is literally haunted by his father’s ghost, while Killian is haunted by the idea that people will never stop seeing him as the man he once was. And for part of this episode, it seemed Killian’s fears had a basis in fact. We know Charming doesn’t see Killian as a dastardly pirate the way he did back in Seasons Two and Three, but he did appeal to Killian’s worst self when asking him to help him steal potions from and lie to Emma.
However, Killian fought against those temptations to help Charming on his path to exacting revenge on King George, doing instead what Charming’s father did—putting his family first. Charming has become Killian’s family, and when you’re family, you fight for each other. And Killian fought for Charming by reminding him of the hard, painful lesson he spent 200 years learning: Revenge isn’t worth it. Killing someone out of vengeance won’t bring loved ones back, won’t heal old wounds, and won’t make you feel stronger. All it will do is drag you into a world of darkness that could take centuries to crawl out of. Killian used his struggle to help Charming avoid making the same mistakes he did; he was a hero in that moment not just because he saved George’s life, but also because he saved Charming from giving in to the temptation to kill.
That scene between Killian and Charming in George’s cell was one of the best moments of the entire sixth season so far, and it was because both actors brought so much to it. Colin O’Donoghue and Josh Dallas attacked that scene fearlessly, showing a kind of vulnerability and emotional honesty that two male characters are rarely allowed to display so openly. Their intensity was something wonderful to behold throughout the episode—the growing desperation in Dallas’s eyes and the heightened tension in O’Donoghue’s body language—but watching it boil over in this scene reminded me that when this show goes for the gut, it can break me like little else on television.
Charming’s fears were so real: His father tried to do the right thing, but he still died. What does that mean for him? What if he’ll never be able to do enough to keep his family whole and safe? What’s the point in trying to be good if it’s not enough to prevent senseless suffering? The panic in Dallas’s delivery broke my heart, because it was so clear that being without Snow has left Charming without hope, and he’s reeling.
However, Charming may be without one partner, but he has another who is willing to help him out of the darkness of self-doubt. Killian was there for him when he was at his lowest, reminding him that his father died a hero because he resisted temptation and did the right thing and helping Charming find the strength to do the same. The image of Killian kneeling down to comfort Charming as Charming leaned on him was so powerful. It was a reminder that this show has always been about the power of love to give you strength when you can’t stand on your own anymore—the power of finding a support system and being brave enough to lean on them when things are hard. Charming finally allowed someone to take care of him and help him after being everyone else’s rock for years, and I thought it was beautiful that the character who got to be that rock was Killian.
In the end, “Murder Most Foul” could be summed up in Rumplestiltskin’s quote in the flashbacks, “Someday, may we all be reunited with our sons.” I found that quote incredibly powerful because it showed not just a rare moment of vulnerability for the Dark One but also reinforced the importance of the father/son dynamic within this show’s universe. So many acts of both beauty and brutality have happened on this show because of the impact fathers and sons have had on each other, and that extended into this episode.
I loved the symmetry of Charming finally letting go of his father’s ghost—making peace with that part of his past—and gaining a son in Killian. When Killian asked Charming for his blessing, I absolutely melted. O’Donoghue and Dallas once again perfectly captured the vulnerability of an emotionally charged moment—this time, giving it just the right amount of quiet joy and radiant warmth. I’ll never stop being impressed with the way this show manages to have to actors around the same age play such different relationships, and this one is especially complicated because Killian clearly sees Charming as a father figure, despite being hundreds of years older than him and looking the same age. There was such a gentle affection between the two characters in this moment, and it was everything I could have asked for when dreaming up a scenario where Killian asks Charming for his blessing to marry Emma.
But, of course, nothing can ever stay happy for long in Storybrooke. This is a TV drama, after all, and that means it should have come as a surprise to no one that the actual killer of Charming’s father was Killian during his darkest years as Captain Hook. It was clichéd and telegraphed from about 12,000 miles away, but I actually find myself not as frustrated by the contrived nature of it as I thought I might be. Yes, I’m a little tired of the “Will Killain reveal his dark secret?” cliffhangers, but this one is actually thematically relevant.
Killian spent most of this episode worried that Charming thought he wasn’t good enough for Emma—even going to Archie to talk about it. (I could talk all day about how happy I am that we’re getting to see these characters go to therapy to deal with everything they’ve been through—mental and emotional heath matters, kids!) So naturally, after he finally got the acceptance he craved, he was shown something that threatened to destroy all of it. This put a new temptation in front of him to hide this part of his past that he’s not proud of. However, we saw that Charming was able to separate the person his father once was from the person his father became in the end, and I’d like to believe the same will be done for Killian—as long as he’s honest about what he did. Charming, Snow, and Emma are forgiving people (Look at their friendship with Regina if you need proof.), and they know Killian is a better man than he was at his worst. So I actually have no doubt that—after a little drama, because that’s the whole point of a twist like this—Charming will accept that who Killian was when he killed his father is not who he is now. He’s grown and changed, and who he was in his past shouldn’t determine his future happiness with Emma and her family. He’s more than enough to make her happy just as he is.
• Speaking of Emma and Killian, their small moments in this episode were absolutely adorable. I loved seeing Emma so happy, and I also loved seeing Killian once again deliver a speech to her that knocked me off my feet. Give O’Donoghue a sincere soliloquy about how much Killian loves Emma, and I’m a goner.
• I think the ring Killian picked for Emma is perfect. It’s classic and beautiful without going over the top—just like her.
• Archie’s joy over the ring mirrored my own pretty accurately.
• I will say it every week until it happens: Can we please end the Snow/Charming sleeping curse NOW?
• My heart broke for young James, who didn’t want to grow up to kill anyone and was so close to being reunited with his true family, especially knowing who he eventually became because he was raised by King George.
• The next scene I want to see is Killian talking to Henry about asking Emma to marry him or a moment where we find out Henry helped him pick out the ring.
• Did anyone else laugh ridiculously hard at Charming and Killian turning counterclockwise, or was that just me? More funny moments, please!
• What do you think is in the box Robin stole from Regina?