Monday, March 30, 2015

Once Upon A Time 4x16 "Best Laid Plans" (We Were Brave, But We Weren't Kind)

"Best Laid Plans"
Original Airdate: March 29, 2015

Does it really matter how you get to your happy ending or how you rescue someone or how you accomplish a task? Do the ends ever justify the means? Some might say that they do -- some might say that the accomplishment of a task or fulfillment of a goal is more important than how you get there. In "Best Laid Plans," we're asked this question. Or, more specifically, the Charmings are asked this question in the flashbacks as they try to determine a way to save their daughter's heart and ensure its purity. But the things that they do to get there... well, they're not heroic. They're actually pretty exemplary of what villains would do. And in the present-day, Charming and Snow are very close to toeing that line again: the line between lies and truth and between villainy and heroism.

Hook says something in "Best Laid Plans" that hits a bit too close to home for Charming and Snow's liking. With all the talk of darkness, Emma tells him that she won't go dark. And Hook's reply is that darkness is a funny thing because it sneaks up in you. He's not wrong, as we saw last week: it's easy to let the person you once were back inside. It's comfortable and it's familiar. But what's so interesting is that this episode chooses to focus on what happens when the heroes of the fairytales aren't as good and noble and valiant as their stories make them out to be. And it tells us what happens when you let the ends justify the means.

Team Charming (+ Emma, Mal)

Does it matter what the Charmings do in the flashbacks as long as it is under the guise of saving Emma's purity of heart? The answer that they seem to give is "no," as they kidnap Mal's unborn egg/child in order to basically use as a vessel in which to transport all of Emma's potential darkness into. She's a darkness surrogate, if you will. Snow and Charming do everything that they do in the past and present in order to protect Emma because they're fearful. Do you know what happens when you make decisions out of fear? You make decisions based on emotions and not logic. The interesting thing is that Charming and Snow are (for the most part) content to justify their actions. They plan to steal the storybook page with The Author's door and destroy it, thereby putting an end to 1) the villains' plans and 2) the potential for Emma to go dark. Charming and Snow put a lot of stock into predestination -- they choose to kidnap Mal's child in the Enchanted Forest because they believe (or Snow, really does) that Emma's potential dark heart means they must stop any darkness from ever touching her. Period. Snow believes that given the choice, people will choose wrong; Charming is a bit of an optimist and a romantic because he believes that if people are given the chance to choose, they will choose well. So of course, when the pair touches the horn of a unicorn to see the future of their child, they see two very different women.

And stealing Mal's child? Well, Maleficent is evil, remember? She's a dragon and a monster and any child of hers will become one, too. The irony is strong with the parallelism but in case you don't catch it, let's break it down: the Charmings don't believe anything good can come from a villain -- they believe that Mal's child or egg or whatever it is, is already predestined to become evil by proxy and parentage. Meanwhile, it's extremely evident that just because a child is born of two "heroes" doesn't mean it will necessarily grow up to become a hero. Mal's child could have been a villain, but it also could have been a loving hero. There's a moment in which Snow holds up Mal's egg as a way to threaten the dragon and then -- in a moment of vulnerability -- she turns back into her human form and pleads for her life, asking the questions aloud that Charming and Snow were too blinded by their mission to ask: what kind of people -- what kind of HEROES -- would threaten the life of a child or use it as leverage, a means to an end?

But Snow and Charming justify their crusade because they call the child a monster, just like Mal. It's easier to justify your actions when you place separation between yourself and your malicious decisions. It would have been impossible for Charming and Snow to kidnap the child if they saw it as a child. And so they rationalized their decision by reminding themselves of the fact that Mal was less than human, that her child was less than human, and that they were actually HELPING prevent anything evil from spreading. Isn't that... well, insane? Doesn't it sound crazy that the supposed heroes of the story are the ones actually kidnapping a child, ripping Mal's bit of happiness away from her, and trading the life of one for the goodness of their beloved.

Remember that phrase Once Upon A Time always likes to utter? It's uttered again in "Best Laid Plans" as a reminder that we cannot escape the consequences of our actions unscathed. "Magic always comes with a price." Charming and Snow are horrified when Mal's egg begins to hatch and it is a child inside -- a human baby. Snow desperately tries to rescue the child from being sent into another world by the magician, but it's futile. She and Charming try desperately to save the baby when they realize what is happening but by then, they cannot undo the consequences of their actions. The lesson that the magician imparts before leaving them is this: they made their choice; Emma has only goodness within her. And it's their job to keep her that way.

But the methods by which Snow and Charming have secured Emma's goodness and her light are less than admirable. They lied to her. They concealed from her. They did it all in the name of protection, of course, but they were willing to do whatever it took in order to get there and that's not the mark of a hero, really: it's the mark of a villain. In the Enchanted Forest, Snow receives a mobile for the baby's crib with unicorns on it and she begins to spiral, the guilt of what they had done in order to keep Emma pure constantly gnaws at her. It gnaws at Charming, too, and what they decide -- together -- is to follow the magician's advice and to start being the heroes that everyone believes they are; they will not just fight for Emma's happiness but for happiness everywhere, too. They will not just be brave, they will also be KIND. And they will do things the right way, not the way they had.

I found it so interesting to see these flashback versions of Charming and Snow because knowing what they did to Mal and who they were provides a good base for the couple we see in the present. In the present, Charming and Snow nearly destroyed the storybook and when Snow questioned her husband as to what they would tell Henry, he suggested they lie to him. Not exactly heroic behavior, you two. This moment seemed to remind the heroes of who they were and what they had done. Ironically enough, the revelation of what they had done and had kept from Emma causes her to walk out of her home, away from her parents. She wants nothing to do with people who deceive her; we know that of Emma Swan.

And the inherent irony is that the very act meant to protect Emma from becoming dark has actually caused her heart to harden toward Charming and Snow. There are some really complex themes at play, too, in this season of Once Upon A Time, honestly, especially the idea that the line between villainy and heroism isn't as distinct as we all anticipate. Charming and Snow may have been written as heroes, but that doesn't mean their methods are heroic and it certainly doesn't mean that because they "secure" goodness for Emma that she will remain that way. Snow's vision came to life in present-day Storybrooke and the reason? Well, it was because of what they had done in the Enchanted Forest to make Emma pure of heart in the first place.

Because, as Sirius Black said once in Harry Potter: "We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are."

Are you a hero or are you a villain? The point is that it doesn't much matter who we were "written" as. It doesn't matter what are circumstances were. It matters what we choose to do.

“It is our choices [...] that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Additional magical moments:
  • (And yes, I just used two Harry Potter quotes within the span of two paragraphs. I REGRET NOTHING.)
  • "What are we supposed to do? Draw a key?" Sass master Regina Mills was strong this episode.
  • "You can't just un-savior the savior." Good logic there, Henry. Really solid.
  • "I feel like I've aged a year." "Well, you certainly look it."
  • So... do sleeping curses work like chicken pox, then? Once you've had it, you can't ever get it again?
  • "You have a problem with that, you can take it up with one of my fireballs."
  • "But as with all magic, it comes with a price." If only I had a dollar for every time that was uttered on this show...
  • You know someone is in the wrong when you feel bad for Maleficent. Her begging for the Charmings to give her back her child was so sad and heartbreaking and I could write a novel about how important it was that she transformed back into her more vulnerable human form to do so. Ugh.
  • So there is some Hook/Emma stuff throughout the episode which isn't super important so I'll talk about it here: Hook is a smidge jealous of Emma's relationship with August but she assures him that he has nothing to worry about; August is one of two people in her life who has ever been a genuine friend and she cares about him in that way, nothing more. I can see Hook's concern, though, because... well, he still doesn't know how Emma feels about him, really, right? He's confessed a lot to her and she's still keeping parts of herself locked away. I understand why he's uneasy, especially after the fact that oh LAST WEEK HE CONFESSED THAT HE WAS AFRAID OF LOSING HIS HAPPY ENDING, EMMA. WHICH IS YOU. I did appreciate the fact that Charming and Snow sent Hook to talk to Emma because she trusts him and listens to him above pretty much anyone else. He supports her, literally and physically, and that's one of my favorite things about their relationship: she constantly reminds him of who he is, not who he was, and he always helps to anchor her and remind her of how loved she is. Bless those beautiful idiots.
  • I hate Rumple and the idea of Rumple/Belle so blegh to that scene in his shop. Also vague much, Rumple with your conversation to her while she's asleep?
  • "Heroes do what's right, NOT what's easy."
  • The parallelism of what Snow foresaw Emma becoming and saying when she ripped out her heart in the flashbacks and the line that Emma delivers in the present when she's hurt would have been much more effective had the promotional team not repeatedly used the line in commercials this week.
  • Speaking of Regina, I didn't mention it above but the woman tried valiantly to keep up the charade of her being a villain. Alas, Rumple figured out what Regina was really up to and he and Mal took her to her own vault. What their plans are remain to be seen, but I'm pretty sure they're not good.
  • Mal's daughter is named Lily, also the name of Emma's childhood best friend. REMEMBER HER?
  • Apparently Walt Disney was also one of the Authors at one point. Also, we finally met the elusive figure once Team Charming (and August) rescued him from the storybook. Now he's run away and that's probably not good.
What did you all think of this episode? Were you excited that we finally got some questions answered? And why do you think the Author bolted? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts. See you in two weeks for a new episode. :)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jenn! I just wanted to say how much I love your New Girl and Community reviews but I consider you OUAT ones so underrated.

    I do have a question though : Is there a chance you could see Emma being the baddie for Season 5 in some way? With the way they are pushing her character and how she has seemed darker each episode, I would love to see Jennifer play a real mean baddie.

    Also it would heartbreaking but also really interesting to see Hook if this happens. (Which is a longshot but you never know with this show.)

    Thank you for the wonderful review!