Monday, March 9, 2015

Once Upon A Time 4x13 "Unforgiven" (Evil And Good And Evil) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Original Airdate: March 8, 2015
Deborah McArthur is one of Just About Write's newest weekly contributor. She graciously covered Once Upon A Time while Jenn was on vacation and we look forward to having her aboard more when Community's sixth season premieres on March 17th and she becomes a weekly contributor. Also, Deborah is from Florida. Which automatically makes her more awesome than like, 90% of people.
It seems that the underlying theme for the B-half of season 4 is the nature of good and evil, and how those are not mutually exclusive traits in any of the show's characters. Jenn talked about it in her review of episode 12, and it's been brought to the forefront even more in episode 13 - "Unforgiven."

I have always thought that Once Upon A Time does a pretty good job showing the possibility of both good and evil in its characters. Even though they repeat ideas like "villains never get happy endings" and "heroes always win" a lot and that sort of thing would generally indicate a clear and concise line drawn between Good and Evil, they've never actually shown this to be true. They've never - as far as I can tell - actually shown us a character that was wholly good and incorruptible or wholly evil in that mustache-twirling villain kind of way.

And if a character pops up who seems to be completely on one side or the other there is usually some development to reveal that there’s a bit of the other side somewhere in them. We get a lot of that in this episode.

The Charmings (AKA: Good People Being Evil)

"Unforgiven" doesn't only drive the "good and evil" themes home, but also highlights how lying affects people and possibly turns them (the liars and the lied-to) toward darkness. There's a lot of lying going on in this episode and it clearly, absolutely will have negative consequences for the characters.

The thing is, though, that the big liars of this episode are two of the main heroes: The Couple in True Love, Snow White and Prince Charming. Snow and Charming take up most of the episode's plot as they sneak around town trying to figure out what's going on with Cruella and Ursula. They also keep going on and on about their guilt (Prince Charming's even sitting in his darkened kitchen, getting drunk on scotch in the wee hours of the morning!) and a secret that they're keeping – which was hinted at in the previous episode – and are desperate to prevent anyone from learning.

Their sneakiness involves Charming lifting "evidence" from Cruella's car and not telling Emma about it, Snow lying to Emma's face (and not being caught, because the writers apparently forgot that Emma has a preternatural ability to absolutely, 100% tell when people are lying) and the both of them accidentally causing what they wanted to stop in the first place: the resurrection of Maleficent.

And why did they want to prevent the rise of Maleficent? We don't really know the complete story yet, but the flashbacks tell us that the Charmings and Ursula, Cruella, and Maleficent once teamed up in the Enchanted Forest to try and find a way to stop Regina by seeking help from a magical tree that only responds to questions asked "from two of the most valiant heroes." It didn't go well, and later on we see Maleficent try to align herself with the Charmings: she's pregnant, Snow's pregnant, and Maleficent just wants to make sure that her own baby's safe from whatever trouble may be brewing. She tries to appeal to Snow as a mother-to-be, and asks for Snow's help and cooperation to stop Regina's curse.

Snow's reply to Maleficent's request is a definite "no." Because Snow doesn't want her baby to turn out evil like Maleficent, and she hasn't yet realized that anyone - including herself, including her husband, and including her daughter - is perfectly capable of having darkness in their hearts, even without the influence of an evil sorceress.

Emma (AKA: Caught in the Middle)

Emma's story was very much in the background in this episode, but it's still important. Her "innate" goodness - her role as the Savior - is the reason why Snow and Charming did a bad, bad thing back in the Enchanted Forest. They wanted to guarantee that Emma turned out on the side of Good because they learned from Maleficent, via the flashbacks, that a child of True Love is not only capable of great good, but also great evil. Possible retconning of established Once Upon A Time canon aside, this is a perfect parallel with the general idea of good and evil as presented by this show. Because all people are capable of good and evil and all people are capable of good and evil at the same time.

Snow's naive inability to understand that good and evil aren't necessarily an either/or situation is what makes the Charmings do something terrible during Enchanted Forest times, which leads to them sneaking around in Storybrooke and - most importantly - lying to Emma. They do so repeatedly and in spite of overhearing Emma's (kinda overdone, let's be honest here) speech about her unshakeable and absolute faith in her parents not to lie to her.

This is on top of Hook also lying to Emma, but at least he comes to her and apologizes and inspires Emma to open up to him, to admit that she doesn't always see the best in people and she wants to try to change that. She wants to be able to be happy with her life, and let people in, and love the people around her. She doesn’t want to be the guarded person she’s had to grow into and she no longer wants to assume automatically that everyone in her life will eventually let her down.

So of course this realization and growth as a character into a more accepting, open person is in the middle of her parents keeping a big secret and constantly lying to her. Because, of course.

Regina (AKA: Evil People Being Good)

There are hints of other evil people trying to be good in this episode - or at least presenting themselves as sympathetic and well-meaning, if a bit self-serving - such as Ursula and Cruella's dedication to bringing back Maleficent and Maleficent's genuine wish to keep her unborn child safe.

But Regina is the one trying to redeem herself, the one who is actively attempting to literally change her story with her search for the Author. Although her role in the episode is, like Emma's, more sidelined than usual she is seen repeatedly denouncing her past and trying to get back to that good, honest happiness she had for a short period of time when it was just her, Henry, Robin, and Robin's son.

Regina and Henry are working together to help get Regina's happy ending and they get the idea that Pinocchio - formerly August - might be able to remember something that could help them. They think that, since August was able to edit the Book, he might be able to tell them something about it - or the Author. But Pinocchio doesn't remember his time as the adult August and Regina ends up yelling at a little boy, which - step in the wrong direction, there, Regina.

Gepetto/Marco (you know what? Let's just call him Marco because the synopsis online calls him Marco) yells at Regina for yelling at his son and, once again, brings up Regina's role as the Evil Queen.

When Regina comes back to apologize to Marco for yelling at Pinocchio, she shows her commitment to never being the Evil Queen again by acknowledging that reverting back to her old ways won't do anything to make her happy. Marco gives her some of August's things to help her along in finding the Author and wishes her luck.

At the end of the episode, we see that Regina is meeting with Snow in the rain because Snow wants to tell her a secret. She brings up the secret Regina had asked her to keep when she was younger, the one that set this whole story in motion, and how Snow hadn't been able to keep it. It's a really nice touch and a nice reversal of roles.

Another role reversal: while Snow has been lying this whole episode, Regina has been totally honest about everything she's been dealing with. She's expressed honest doubts to Henry about her ability to rewrite her story, has been open and pretty accepting of Cruella and Ursula being in town, and confessed her wrongdoing - and fears - during her apology to Marco. She's also, apparently, the person that other people are honest with, considering that Snow has chosen Regina to keep her deep, dark secret.

She's telling Regina specifically because she wants Regina to go undercover as a villain and figure out what Ursula, Cruella, and Maleficent are up to. Before Regina agrees, she asks what it is that makes Snow so sure that the trio is evil. Unfortunately, Snow is very vague about what she and Charming did and we don't get any real details.

Just know that it was bad, it involved Maleficent losing her child, and it was a choice made out of a desperate hope to keep Emma “good.” Also: it happened because if the Charmings are intrinsically good at anything, it's messing stuff up.

Other Things:
  • Gold was in the episode too, being a puppet-master and living in a cave or something. Whatever. One important thing: He saw Belle kiss her new boyfriend (Will Scarlet) and we can probably expect him to go off-the-rails crazy about that in the future.
  • Regina continues to be the best by nicknaming Ursula and Cruella "Fish Sticks and Pound Puppy."
  • Emma/Hook were so couple-y in this episode, it was adorable.
  • Snow awkwardly trying to run away when she’s caught eavesdropping on Emma and Hook’s conversation was hilarious.
  • The montage of Snow talking to Regina over scenes of things related to what she was saying was well done, even if it made no sense for a person to talk the way she did. It would have been well within Regina's rights to cut her off about halfway through that rambling monologue and tell her to get on with it.
  • Fingers crossed that the Really Bad Thing that Snow and Charming did is an actual Really Bad Thing, and not just a self-inflicted guilt trip that everyone brushes off later as "not their fault." This is a lot of build up; it better pay off.
  • Once Upon A Time comes on before a show called Secrets and Lies and I almost felt like this episode was some kind of bizarre promotional strategy for that one.
Okay, that’s all, everybody! Thanks to Jenn for letting me cover this episode of Once Upon A Time for her, and thanks to everyone who read this review. It’s been fun!


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