Monday, March 23, 2015

Once Upon A Time 4x15 "Poor Unfortunate Soul" (So Much For Our Happy Ending)

"Poor Unfortunate Soul"
Original Airdate: March 22, 2015

Do you deserve what you get because of who you are or who you've been?

That's a fundamental question this season in Once Upon A Time where the complex ideas of predestination vs. free will vs. good vs. evil seem to be constantly at play. For instance, does Ursula deserve a happy ending even though she's been a villain? Does Regina deserve to be happy, too, given all that she's done? And can Hook keep his own happy ending when -- once upon a time -- he, too, was a dastardly pirate, content to value revenge over doing the right thing? At the end of "Poor Unfortunate Soul," our favorite pirate seems concerned that his story is only destined to end one way: with him losing his happy ending. Because he was once a villain, he doesn't deserve the good things that come with being a hero. It's funny, though, because the heroes themselves are harboring darkness and secrets: Snow and Charming are both keeping something that happened years ago from Emma. So the question then is this: is your happy ending determined by what you were "written" as? Or should it be determined by who you become, in spite of your origin? Because though Snow and Charming were written as heroes, they still did very un-heroic things and manage to procure a happy ending for themselves, while characters like Regina (those who were once villainous and turned from evil in order to fight for the good) struggle every day to obtain even little glimmers of happiness and love.

(I told you this season of Once Upon A Time was complex.)

The layer of complexity and depth this season is because of The Author -- a mysterious figure, trapped in a book, who wrote everyone's stories. The villains and the heroes both want the same thing: they want him to change the ending of their stories. And if the villains get there first? Well, they're going to ensure that they triumph over the heroes. All the heroes want, meanwhile, is the opportunity for grace and redemption -- for everyone's endings to be deserved, not predetermined. There's a lot that is revealed, especially by Ursula, in "Poor Unfortunate Soul," so let's discuss, shall we?


First thing's first: Ursula reveals Rumple's plan once Hook manages to procure the queen of the sea's own happy ending. She tells him that the villains will never get a happy ending as long as there is a town Savior. Hook realizes that she means Emma, and when he states that Rumple will kill her, Ursula corrects him: no, she informs, Rumple intends to fill Emma's heart with darkness -- an irrevocable darkness that will alter her permanently. Uh-oh.

Ursula and Hook have a lot of screentime during "Poor Unfortunate Soul" and it illuminates both of their characters so much. Once Upon A Time took some liberties and used Ariel's story in The Little Mermaid as Ursula's: the young merwoman has a beautiful voice and is utilized by her father, Poseidon, to lure sailors to their deaths (so much mixing of mythology and fairytales) because her mother was killed by a pirate and her father decided that using Ursula's voice as a weapon was the perfect way to bring justice to those humans. But Ursula doesn't want her voice to be used for evil; she wants it to be used for good -- she wants it to be used as a reminder of her mother and her mother's legacy. So Ursula rebels, steals a bracelet from her father that allows her to be on land, and sings in taverns for humans.

One of the humans in attendance? Hook himself, still calloused and manipulative and seeking vengeance on The Crocodile for killing his love. But what we see in Hook is something really important: we see a code. We see him make a promise that he will help Ursula because she helps him (her singing, apparently, can soothe even the most troubled soul). I love that "Poor Unfortunate Soul" gave us a lot of insight into Hook as a character. In the past, he refused to betray Ursula, to steal her voice when Poseidon commanded it. Hook made Ursula a promise and he intended to keep it. That's something so integral that separates him from characters like Rumple: when Rumple makes promises, he lies. He makes them half-heartedly. He will keep his promise, but it will be conditional.

And true, Hook DOES eventually betray Ursula but only when he's backed into a corner by Poseidon and his one means of revenge against The Crocodile is ripped away from him. Hook values self-preservation, which is why he's so tortured: he's so internalized. He keeps secrets because he would rather hurt himself than hurt other people. But the man still lives by a code, even when he's a villain, which I think is really important to recognize in this episode. His darkness -- his decision to do evil -- is a snap-judgement response, not a continual pattern of behavior, if that makes sense. So Hook rips away Ursula's happiness and keeps it locked in a safe on The Jolly Roger. So it's Hook, in this episode, who realizes exactly what Ursula needs and how to get it back. If he procures her happy ending for her because he's the one who took it away, perhaps the heroes will be one step closer to stopping Rumple and his plans.

Ursula is a really interesting character and so is Hook, for that matter. Ursula's descent into villainy was based on how she was treated by her father; Hook's was one event that he chose to latch onto and caused him to spiral. Did Hook always have a pension for evil? Perhaps, since he was a pirate. But his story is proof that one moment and decision can change you forever. In this episode, Hook pulls a pistol on Ursula when she refuses to share Rumple's agenda with him. And it's a moment where Ursula tells Hook that he has not changed. You can tell that this visibly affects him -- he, for the briefest of moments doesn't recognize himself. (And then Ursula hurtles him into the water, only to be rescued by Ariel moments later.)

At the end of the episode, Ursula regains her happy ending and it's a sweet moment because Ursula's happiness and her life revolved around her family. She chose to become evil because of what was done to her and because she craved power. She took her father's trident and changed herself from helpless victim to feared ruler. Isn't that so great? Isn't that so interesting? The reason that Ursula became who she was, in a nutshell, is not because she desired vengeance or because she harbored some darkness in her heart that permeated it. It was simply because she wanted to feel powerful in a world and relationship that made her feel powerless. I thought it interesting that Ursula was so quick to return to her happiness and so quick to shift back to the side of the good but when you really contemplate it... it makes sense. Ursula may have done a number of bad things but the way she began her evil journey had nothing to do with WANTING to be evil and everything to do with wanting to feel like she had some control over her own life and her own destiny. Her journey was tied up in her family and that's why it's so wonderful that this is how her evil journey ends: with her father re-gifting her with the thing that made her so special. I loved Ursula's journey because out of all of the villains, her heart was never the darkest which made her return to the side of the good and the valiant much quicker.


The final scene between Hook and Emma in "Poor Unfortunate Soul" is so moving and so powerful that I might not stop talking about it for a very long time. As Hook gifts Ursula with her happy ending, Emma smiles proudly up at him, but you can tell Hook is preoccupied in thought. After everyone else leaves the cabin, Emma confronts him about why he's so despondent and he reveals to her that it was so easy for him to slip back into his old patterns -- to angrily pull a gun on Ursula and threaten her. Emma gently reminds him that even though he momentarily contemplate doing the wrong thing, the important thing is that -- in the end -- he did what was right.

This doesn't help ease Hook's mind at all. And it shouldn't: yes, he did the right thing. But he almost didn't. His instinct was to reach for that gun and to threaten Ursula. It wasn't to treat her well. It wasn't to be noble and heroic. It was to be a pirate. And Hook fears that part of himself -- the part that's so inherently tied to his past that even when he thinks he's shaken it off, he can't rid himself of it. Hook has done a lot of good in Storybrooke but the fact is that he was a villain and if the rules of the book are to apply to everyone, they're to apply to him, too. Regina is good, yes. She's a hero... now. But she wasn't. And she's suffering, Hook argues, because of who she once was -- because she is destined to suffer a villain's fate even if she does a heroes work; that no amount of good can erase who she was written to be. And Hook fears the worst for him, too: that just as Regina's happy ending was ripped unjustly from her because of what she used to be, so his will be ripped from him, too.

There's a moment where Emma Swan is excited and then bewildered as she asks what Hook's happy ending is. Because if he's so afraid of losing it, he must already have found it. Beautifully (a testament to Colin O'Donoghue's fantastic acting) and painfully, you can see Hook's heart break as he tearfully tells Emma that it's her. She's his happy ending. Hook is utterly terrified of losing her not because he will do anything to drive her away. He's not afraid of losing her because he thinks he'll become evil again, necessarily. It's easy to think that from what he said earlier in the scene. No, this is much more painful: Hook believes he will lose Emma because of what he was written as -- a villain -- and that he will have to stand back and be forced to watch his happy ending cruelly ripped away from him through no real fault of his own. (Predestination versus free will themes again, friends.)

And Emma... oh, Emma Swan. When Hook confesses that she is his happy ending, you can see the disbelief and the shock register on her face as a tear slips down her cheek because Hook is telling her this: she is all he needs to be happy. Forever. Permanently. She's not temporary happiness. She's not someone he can hold hands with and kiss. She's not just a girlfriend. Emma has spent her entire life being a 'just' or being an 'almost.' We've seen how many times she's been abandoned, how many times she's been brushed aside, how many people she's lost. And here, standing before her, is Hook -- at his most vulnerable -- tearfully telling her that she is his everything and you can see from Jennifer Morrison's portrayal that she has never been anyone's everything before.

And it breaks her heart (and ours) in the best way to know that she is so loved by Hook.

Queens of Darkness (+ Regina, Rumple, August)

Have I mentioned how much I hate Rumple? Because I do. Thankfully "Poor Unfortunate Soul" wasn't chock full of scenes with him. At his cabin, Rumple tortures August in order to gain insight about The Author and the book. There's not much to say about this story except that it helps to progress the plot: August reveals that the way to find The Author is to find a wooden door that is in the storybook, and the only thing that he knows is that the door is somewhere within the town. Meanwhile, the Queens of Darkness drop one more member when Ursula finds her happy ending and Regina's cover remains (thankfully) in tact.

When the heroes show up at the cabin, they fight off Cruella and rescue August who then reveals something critical at the Charming casa: the storybook page with the door? That is where The Author is. No... literally, he's trapped inside of the book behind that door. This is obviously a revelation for everyone and especially Regina and Henry. Speaking of: Regina has a startling dream that she is reunited with Robin Hood, only to be interrupted by her Evil Queen alter ego. When she tells Emma the dream, Emma assumes what we all do: that it means she's battling her evil self/past on the path toward happiness. But Regina isn't so easily convinced: she thinks the Evil Queen was actually protecting Robin Hood but doesn't know why or from what. So she sends Emma to investigate and see if the former bounty hunter can get a phone number to locate Robin Hood somehow.

"Poor Unfortunate Soul" was all about the question of whether or not our fates must be dictated for us or if we can change them based on our actions. From the looks of it, everyone believes that if The Author wrote something, it comes to fruition and the only way they can change their fate is by having him re-write their story. (If only the residents of Storybrooke learned what people do in Doctor Who: changing your fate and re-writing your past messes with a lot more than you'd think.)

Additional magical moments:

  • MVP for this episode is Colin O'Donoghue for a number of reasons: 1) He's got impeccable, dry comedic wit and timing (evidenced throughout the episode), and 2) That final scene between him and Jennifer Morrison was so beautifully acted. You can see every single emotion flickering across his face and through Hook's mind as he confesses his love to Emma. Absolutely wonderful.
  • "As long as you live in my ocean, you abide by my rules."
  • Regina speaking through Snow was hilarious and perfect. Also it gave Snow and Charming a purpose this week besides just barging into a cabin and knocking out Cruella.
  • Ursula sang The Little Mermaid's "Fathoms Below" in the tavern.
  • "I see you don't take well to ultimatums."
  • I called the twist of Hook being forced to steal Ursula's voice long before it actually happened. But also... that's The Little Mermaid's plot. So.
  • I don't know why but Hook's snark to Belle ("Oh, NOW you decide to question my identity?") was one of the best and most hilariously delivered lines in this entire show.
  • "Careful, man. It's unwise to insult the size of a pirate's ship."
  • "Never go up against a woman with eight hands. Especially when you only have one."
  • I was so glad to see the return of Joanna Garcia-Swisher's Ariel!
  • "You don't need to protect me, father. You need to fear me."
What did you all think of "Poor Unfortunate Soul"? Are you excited to see what dark thing the Charmings did in next week's episode? How much did that Captain Swan scene make you swoon? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts. Until then! :)


Post a Comment