Welcome back, fantasy fanatics, and welcome to your weekly recap and review of ABC’s Sunday night fairytale drama, Once Upon A Time. Allow me to declare the necessary warning before we begin:
Last week’s episode left several of us either hiding under our beds or running through the streets bellowing at the top of our lungs, for one simple reason (which is, in fact, made of two reasons): Zelena killed the real Marian and has been in disguise this entire time! So while a happy ending may truly come for Regina, she must now help Mr. Gold corrupt Emma with the author’s help, or risk losing the man she loves!
Also, Emma’s angry with her parents and Lillith still has yet to show up.
And now, for the backstory of the whiny, not-supposed-to-be-magical villain that nobody cares about!
We begin… at an undisclosed location, with a little blonde girl — let me guess, it’s Cruella? — running from a pair of angry dalmatians. When they finally manage to corner her, her mother drives up in an antique car (so is this London? The Enchanted Forest? Arendelle? Bueller? Bueller?) and orders her to return home. Cruella refuses. Her mother warns that she could order her dogs to attack if Cruella does not obey.
They return home to their mansion: it would seem that Cruella’s father has passed away, and so her mother (or perhaps step-mother? That would certainly explain the entire lack of relationship between these two) is going to make her live in the attic, where she will remain locked up until she learns to obey. Wow, no Mother-of-the-Year awards to be given in this scene; has anyone ever told that woman how to parent? Or even that children aren't trained in the same way as dogs?
We then return to the present, where Cruella is halted in the midst of a joyride by Maleficent, who wants to know about Lillith. Apparently Cruella and Ursula lied about falling through the portal, and told Maleficent that her child died in transit. However, the truth is that neither woman was mother material, so they left the child to die in the woods and used the enchanted eggshell to keep themselves magically young.
Maleficent warns Cruella that she’s going to die a very slow and agonizing death… but Cruella’s surprisingly cool about it. And sure enough, as soon as Maleficent transforms into a fire-breathing reptile to begin her work… Cruella coughs out a little green dust and immediately has the dragon under her magical animal-controlling abilities. She leaves Maleficent snoozing and goes after her revenge.
Meanwhile, the Heroes are trying to think of how to find the Author. Emma is still more than upset with her parents for their actions, but Charming goes so far as to claim that their sacrifice was worth it.
Regina joins them, and spills the beans about Zelena’s return and the danger she currently poses to Robin and Roland. Regina is going to leave for New York to deal with this new development, and she even has a plan to keep Gold from warning Zelena ahead of time. To enact that plan, she shows up at the pawn shop and tells Belle that her ex-husband is up to no good (again); he’s trying to force Regina into conspiring with him. Belle immediately offers to help, no holds barred, to do whatever is necessary to stop the Dark One.
Speak of the devil, Gold has brought the Author to his cabin for interrogation. The Author introduces himself as Isaac — wait, he’s not Walt? Well this is confounding — and he wants his quill. However, Gold merely gloats over him with said writing utensil. Besides, it’s useless without ink, and turning the Savior dark will produce ink and make everything fall into place… somehow…
Isaac notices Cruella’s furs and seems to recognize them, but plays dumb about meeting Gold’s ‘compatriots.’ But then Gold hears something from afar, orders Isaac to stay put, and departs.
That sound is Belle calling his name through the magic Wishing Well in the forest. However, she hasn’t come to Gold looking for any apologies… just the truth about why he’s really there. The Dark One warns her that it’s complicated, then wrenches his own heart from his chest. The enchanted organ is black as coal, barely shining at all: the result of decades of hatred and immorality.
If the corrupting process is not halted or reversed, he’ll soon die in a manner of speaking, losing all ability to love anyone. Only one man can undo the self-induced damage, and that’s the Author.
Belle worries that she gave up on him too soon. They kiss (despite their chemistry, I can’t help the fact that this age gap still bothers me tremendously)…
…but then Belle muses that Will is a better kisser. Suddenly she’s gloating about how pathetic he is, running to her in desperation.
Suddenly Regina appears, carrying Belle’s heart; she’s been controlling his beloved bookkeeper this entire time. She orders Belle to forget everything and leave for home. Gold is enraged, warning Regina that she is treading dangerous ground… but she knows he’ll do nothing to her so long as she holds the heart of his wife. With her security ensured, she prepares to leave for New York — and she warns that if Zelena finds out and kills Robin, then Belle will die as well. It’s a magnificent, genius bluff!
While Gold is gone, Cruella reunites with Isaac — it would seem they’ve met before, and judging by her seductive flirting it would seem they were an item at some point. But now she wants something back from him and threatens to send her dogs after him to succeed, but apparently even her magic can’t hurt Isaac for some reason. All the same, she warns that he’s going to pay… but he knows that she’d better leave before Gold returns, since the Dark One has no idea of their tangled history.
Back in the 20s, a now-grown Cruella listens to the radio in her attic, enjoying big-band jazz until her mother snatches away her radio. It would seem Cruella stole it last time she was “let out” — boy, this ‘mother’ really can’t distinguish between animal and human, can she!?
But down at the front door, Isaac the “news writer” shows up looking for a good story. Since Ms. DeVille is London’s finest dog trainer, he insists upon an audience with her, searching for a tale with pizazz and even a touch of magic to it. As he roams the mansion, Isaac happens upon three macabre portraits: three husbands, in fact, of the grim widow DeVille.
He’s fascinated by the story that could be lurking behind their deaths, but Cruella’s mother naturally gets very touchy on the subject. She wagers that he’s never been married, or even in love — and she throws him out.
In the midst of storming off, Isaac halts at the “pssst,” of a young woman leaning out of the attic window. If he’s interested in a great story, then she’ll gladly tell him one… if he can get her out.
Meanwhile in the present, Henry arrives home from school to find Pongo (Jiminy Cricket’s dog, remember) waiting for him at the bus stop without its owner in sight. To his surprise, the dog suddenly bolts off, and he chases the runaway in confusion. The two of them race all the way into a dead-end alley, where Cruella pulls up and corners the son of the Savior, then orders him to get into the car.
Back in the 20s, Isaac sends Cruella the key to her prison and she slips out of the mansion to find her mother’s guard dogs all asleep. Isaac won’t tell her how he managed either feat, but she doesn’t mind. She’s ready to tell him everything, provided they can go somewhere loud and far away from her vindictive mother — who not only keeps her dogs patrolling around Cruella but even ripped up her daughter’s favorite flowers from the garden. And they’ll be traveling in a special vehicle — none other than the fabulous future Cadillac DeVille.
At Murray’s Club where jazz and flappers abound, Cruella tries gin for the first time and tells Isaac all about her “modern cinderella” self. She claims that her mother kept her locked up to keep from divulging a grave secret: that her father died of poison, not a heart attack — as did husbands 2 and 3.
With that done, Cruella invites the hesitant Author to dance, and soon the two of them are swinging the night away.
Meanwhile in Storybrooke, Emma meets Regina to warn her that New York might be a trap. Regina won’t be used to fighting without magic, so Emma offers her a handgun for protection. Regina is surprised that Emma isn’t angry with her for keeping the Charmings’ secret, but before they can talk more, a video message arrives from hostage Henry: Cruella orders both mothers to kill the Author and deliver his body, or else Henry will die instead.
As the world of the heroes is thrown into turmoil, Gold storms back in on the Author and demands to know of his past with Cruella. Having learned of Cruella’s desperate measures via crystal ball, he demands the truth since the kidnapping and death warrant on Isaac are disrupting his plans. Isaac requests protection, but Gold reminds him that the title of “Author” can easily be passed on (does he want Emma to kill Isaac in order for her soul to be corrupted?).
However, Gold admits that he apparently does need Isaac in particular, and luckily Cruella’s desire for revenge can be manipulated. However, for Gold to use Cruella’s actions, he must first know exactly what the Author wrote about her, and why she wants him dead. She obviously doesn’t desire reconciliation with her mother. For Gold’s convenience, Isaac just happens to keep that… exact page… about Cruella… in his belt.
He shows Gold the sentence… and Gold smiles faintly.
Back in the 20s, Isaac and Cruella have finally halted their dancing late into the night. Daring to open up, Isaac decides to trade secret for secret, since Cruella told him everything. He shows her his quill and explains its enchanted power, as well as how he can travel through realms, of which there are many.
And he can not only write, but change stories! He proves it by writing a phrase that makes a diamond necklace appear around her neck, then diamond earrings in her ears! Cruella is excited, but Isaac warns her not to tamper with his writing materials; “there’s no telling what would happen if that ink spilled.”
Isaac tells Cruella he could even whisk her away, out of her mother’s jurisdiction forever. He even gives her magic to keep her safe from her mother’s dalmatians, writing that she now has the ability to control all animals. Filled with this new power, Cruella decides to face her mother before they elope… and it’s something she must do alone.
He gives her the car keys, and they’ll meet at the hotel — she teases him not to run off with any other girls (gee, I wonder if he’s going to do just that? “Hell hath no fury,” you know).
Meanwhile, having brought the ransom video to her parents, Emma sulks while David identifies the trail marker behind Cruella in the clip. A full charging rescue with guns blazing could endanger Henry, so perhaps the Author knows best how to defeat her: they could find him using a locator spell on the flask of brandy that used to belong to him. Emma agrees and sends the Charmings on that errand rather than Regina, because right now she needs trusted comrades by her side… which they are not.
Out in the woods on Cruella’s trail, Regina and Hook try to tell Emma to get over her family squabble. After all, they each have crimes in their own past to be ashamed of — but Emma reminds her friends that neither of them ever tried to set themselves up as paragons of virtue the way her parents did.
Still, Regina reminds her that her parents have been working to be paragons of virtue because of what they did… and that they’ve been trying to redeem themselves for a long, long time.
Not far ahead, Cruella is… playing Angry Birds.
Sitting on the side of the road beside her, Henry spots a piece of broken glass (which Cruella apparently didn’t see when picking where to place her bound hostage)…
…and uses it to cut through the ropes around his hands. With that done, he makes a break for freedom and charges off into the woods!
More irritated than concerned, Cruella sends a snarling Pongo after him.
Back in the 1920s, Isaac hears a knock at the door of his apartment (ten bucks says it’s Ms. DeVille).
He opens it, only to find Cruella’s mother and her vicious dogs there!
Apparently the hounds smelled her daughter down, even though Cruella and Isaac spent all night at the bar and Cruella never actually entered Isaac’s apartment…
Isaac warns Ms. DeVille that he knows the truth, but she warns him that she didn’t kill her husbands; Cruella did.
It would seem that Cruella was a troubled little girl, and her favorite flowers also happened to be poison flowers. It was she that tainted her father’s tea and stood in the room while he died. Her mother didn’t dare go to the authorities and tried to “fix” Cruella by keeping her locked up, but that just ended with two dead husbands.
Opening the door to leave, Ms. DeVille admits that it doesn’t matter whether Isaac believes the story… but he should still stay away from Cruella.
Ms. DeVille then returns home to find her daughter dressed up and waiting and… able to control their dogs. Without so much as flinching, Cruella turns the dalmatians upon their master and teaches them a new command: kill.
Meanwhile in Storybrooke, Henry is racing through the woods and calling for help. Not far away, his trio of rescuers hear the cry… but it seems to be coming from three different directions! They split up, with Regina and Hook finding conch shells that were transmitting the sounds to distract them (thanks to Gold, who now seems to be overseeing the events for reasons of his own).
Despite his lead, Henry finally has to skid to a halt before nearly hurtling over the edge of a cliff. Cruella catches up to him and draws her gun, holding it to the boy when Emma shows up.
Back in the 20s, Isaac finally finds Cruella in her house, sewing away madly. To his horror, she tells him of her mother’s death… and then shows him her new fur coat made with (really badly faked) dalmatian fur.
Isaac was just her pawn the entire time! Appalled, he runs for his pen and ink — which are… inexplicably already in the room — but Cruella tries to snatch them from him! The ink spills all over her, changing her hair black and white and practically painting fake eyebrows and lashes onto her face! And… that's it.
Still, Isaac’s quill has just enough drops to write a little something on a scrap of paper. Cruella draws a gun and warns Isaac to stop… but she can’t shoot him. Something that Isaac wrote is stopping her — it would seem that she can’t kill him herself.
Meanwhile, out in Gold’s cabin, the Charmings burst in and capture the Author; they try to assure him that he’s in no danger, but he doesn’t believe them after what they did to protect Emma.
That ticks David off, and they press him for information. The Author confesses that now Gold is controlling the situation, using Cruella in a way that Isaac didn’t expect. If all goes as planned now, the Savior will turn dark in the end. Why?
Isaac hands over the truth about Cruella: she can no longer take away the life of another. That means that right now she’s bluffing and is truly defenseless, but Gold wants Emma to be in a standoff with her right now…
On the edge of the cliff, Cruella taunts that Emma doesn’t have what it takes to kill. With no gun on her holster and the life of her son on the line, Emma summons a surge of magic and blasts Cruella off the cliff—
…while somehow magically not knocking Henry off, even though Cruella was holding onto him at the time. Now Henry is safe, but Cruella is dead and Emma’s soul is in jeopardy (you can tell because of the red eye-liner that’s supposed to make her look like she’s been crying).
Tune in next week for… LILLY!
Her fate is still tied to Emma’s according to Mickey’s commander — a blue force with a James-Earl-Jones-worthy voice, which may be the closest we’ve gotten to the Sorcerer yet. Now the two childhood friends are reunited as enemies when Lillith finds out what the Charmings did to her and then goes on a rampage for revenge!
A. So let me get this straight: Cruella can’t kill anyone herself, but she wanted the Author dead… so she kidnapped the son of the Savior, ordered the Heroes to kill the Author, and didn’t even bother to give them said Author’s location. Why didn’t she, I dunno, maybe… just order dragon-Maleficent to incinerate the Author since she actually knows where he is!?
1. Or Pongo! She could have ordered Pongo after Isaac, too!
B. After Isaac wrote about Cruella and left her, how did she end up in the Enchanted Forest?
C. When Zelena (disguised as Marian) crossed the town line, why didn’t her magical-clover-necklace-of-disguise stop working? Enchanted objects only retain their charm if brought via portal to the world outside Storybrooke — not when brought directly from Storybrooke. Gold even said as much to Robin in the last episode.
D. Who is Lilly’s father?
A. Could Rumpelstiltskin be Lilly’s father? It’s a long shot, but he and Mal were pretty messed up back then… Lilly would be Neil’s half-sister, therefore niece-in-law to the Charmings themselves! (Ish; I know there was never an official marriage between Emma and Neil…) Boy, that would really warp the Charming family tree, wouldn’t it? Not that it isn't already a mess...
B. Now that I've added that Godzilla GIF above, I realized why not? Lillith could be Godzilla. The only obstacle to that brilliant storyline is a little copyright issue …