Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Once Upon A Time Recap: “Best Laid Plans” [4x17]

     Happy Tuesday, dear readers, and welcome to another recap of ABC’s hit Sunday-night fantasy drama, Once Upon A Time. The show has really started to pick up speed this season, throwing the audience for a loop with all-new plot twists and additional backstories for our beloved characters. This week’s episode was an especially emotional roller coaster ride for its characters and its viewers, so allow me to proceed immediately with only the necessary disclaimer before we begin:

     When last we left Storybrooke, Ursula found her happy ending and returned home to the sea with her father, leaving the Jolly Roger now in town. While she didn’t stick around to undo any of the damage she wrought with the other queens of darkness, she did warn Hook that Emma was the target of Rumpelstiltskin’s latest scheme: the Dark One plans to fill the savior’s heart with eternal darkness and use her power to give villains their happy endings.

     Meanwhile, August (now cursed to grow a long nose whenever he lies) was tortured by Gold until he admitted that the Author was banished behind a Door, which was somewhere in Storybrooke. A page in the Book held an illustration of the Door, and Gold sent Regina to steal the page. After August was rescued, he explained to Henry and his mothers that the Author is actually locked behind the Door on the page itself; trapped in his own book (which has thus far led me to suspect that it might be Yensid/Mickey).

     Now that they know the page’s true worth, the Heroes have to decide whether Regina can really bring it to Gold. And on top of that, Regina had an uneasy dream that makes her wonder if Robin Hood is alright, and she wants to try and get ahold of him.

     And, last but certainly not least, we will finally find out how the Charmings are specifically responsible for the loss of Maleficent’s child. Because for weeks they’ve been trying to keep their secret from Emma, but this week she (and we) will finally find out… the Truth.

     The episode begins in the past, when the Charmings are still pregnant with Emma and they’ve discovered their child’s potential for either great goodness or great darkness. Snow is worried that the child could grow to become evil, but David is sure that they can be good role models and raise a brave hero. The royal couple are racing through the woods, tracking down… a unicorn, as it turns out.

     Apparently if they can just touch its horn, they can see a glimpse of their child’s future.

     The creature, completely undeterred by their swords or bows and arrows for some reason, allows them to approach, and they both reach for the horn.

     David finds himself in some sort of Neverland-esque jungle, and he finds the infant Emma calm and innocent in her baby basket: just what he had hoped to see. Meanwhile, Snow sees just what she has been fearing as well: in a similar jungle, she comes face-to-face with an adolescent Emma in a princess gown… but to her utter shock, the teenager rips out her beating heart! Snow stares at her in horror and gasps, “I’m your mother!”

     Emma crushes the heart in her hands and snarls back, “I don’t care.” (And since we all saw the trailer for this week, we all know that this quote is going to be used with the current adult Emma and her distraught mother later in this episode.)

     Back in present-day Storybrooke, Emma and Regina are debating about whether or not to bring the page with the Door to Gold; if the Author is trapped in that page, the last thing they want to do is hand over the real thing. But they must put the matter on hold when August passes out suddenly, and they must take him to the fairies for treatment; he’s had a lot of magic messing with his body for years, so he’s very weak.

     On the way out, Regina insists that she must bring Gold the real page. Emma creates a magical forgery and suggests that she take a fake instead, but Regina warns her that Gold can tell the difference. Instead, Regina takes a picture with her phone, and Henry tucks the forgery into the book right… next… to… the real page.

     Once Emma returns home to the Charming household, she finds Hook waiting for her to confess terrible news: Gold’s plan to darken her heart with the Author. Emma doesn’t think there’s much danger, but Hook confesses that darkness creeps up on a person. As Emma assures Hook that no one can tell her who she’s supposed to be, the Charmings have a whispered conversation right behind her back.

     Snow’s afraid of this new development, but Charming reminds her that they were told (hmm, by whom, I wonder?) that Emma’s fate is in their hands and they were the ones who could influence her destiny. Regardless, Snow is still on a major guilt-trip. She wonders if Emma’s goodness could be altered because they’ve been lying to her (and just about everyone else in Storybrooke) about… the Truth.

     Once Regina returns to the villains and endures their complaints about her late arrival, she explains that the page was “guarded by a protection spell” and she shows them the picture on her phone. However, much of the image is blocked by a glare. Not of light, Gold says, but of magic. He realizes that the page itself is the Door, and Emma is guarding it. But Maleficent may have just the thing for that.

     Over in the Charming apartment, Hook and Emma catch a moment alone to talk. Hook isn’t too comfortable with the idea of August’s return; “I know you have a thing for men in leather jackets…”

     But Emma assures him that August is just a friend and nothing more; he was just one of her few real friends in the outside world who didn’t betray her, the way Lily did (the girl with the star tattoo who is obviously only being mentioned now because she’s going to be brought up later in the show for some reason).

     Suddenly they notice a wave of magic swooping across town: it hits them both an they fall asleep. It’s a sleeping curse, as it turns out: ordered by Mr. Gold, and cast by Maleficent over the entire town.

     Back in the Enchanted Forest, the Charmings are on their way back home; Snow is refusing to talk about what she saw in her vision because repeating it out loud will make it too real. Once they reach the road, they find a strange peddler with a stuck cart who asks for their help (sort of like the folk tales when fairies take undesirable forms to test the true kindness of any passersby).

     David gives the man some brandy to quench his thirst (because the king carries flasks of alcohol around everywhere, apparently?), and the peasant warns them that Maleficent took up residence in their direction they’re headed. Not only that, but she’s laid an egg. He recommends that they seek answers from a nice old man, who has taken up residence on the edge of the Infinity Forest… gee, is that right over the Rainbow Canyon next to the Stream of Sparkles?

     The royal couple travels to the cottage, where Yensid invites them in for tea because he’s been expecting them.

     Meanwhile in the present, Maleficent tells Gold that she wants to alter her deal with him. After all, she was the one to put the town to sleep, and she’s going to be the one to get the Door for him. Seeing as Ursula and Cruella have been more or less useless since her resurrection, and seeing as how valuable that page really is, she’ll fetch it only if he helps her to find out what happened to her lost child.

     Down in the town, Snow and Charming are… not asleep. They’re walking the streets and still debating about if lying to Emma is the best way to keep their vow to protect her… but then they notice all of their subjects passed out in the midst of their daily activities. It would seem that the Charmings are immune because they’ve both been under a sleeping curse before. Wait — if that’ the case, then where’s Henry!?

     The Villains reach the Charming apartment to find Emma asleep… but as she’s necessary to her plans, they’re not going to kill her. (I’m sure that’s a decision that they won’t regret in the future…) However, the page with the Door is gone. Where could it be? HENRY TOOK IT, OF COURSE!

     Sure enough, Gold has an inkling of the one other person in town who has also been under a sleeping curse. He and an internally-screaming Regina prepare to hunt the Truest Believer down. And where is he? Running alone to the Sorcerer’s house!

     The villains depart in Cruella’s car — however, unbeknownst to them, they are being watched from a distance by Snow and Charming. The couple then gets a call from Henry, hiding in the Author’s room with the page. As the two adults prepare to go protect him, Charming suggests suddenly that perhaps it would be better for them to destroy the page. After all, they’ve gone too far and can’t go back, so they have to see this through to the end and protect Emma from… the Truth.

     Back in the past, the royal couple ask Yensid which of their visions was the true one. Yensid admits that either could be; children are born as blank slates with the free will to become either good and evil by choice (it’s a fairly heavy Arminian-esque philosophical discussion).

     But the Charmings ask if there’s anything they can do to ensure the goodness of their future child. And of course, there is. The magic will come at a price, but they insist they’ll pay it (as if the price is ever just money).

     To banish a child’s potential for darkness, the royal couple must secure a living vessel — another “blank slate,” to be exact — to absorb and contain said darkness. And if that wasn’t appalling enough, the spell can’t be reversed!

     After some thought, Snow suggests that they use Maleficent’s egg: after all, it’s not quite human but it’s still a blank slate, and it’s probably going to be an evil monster anyway.

     (Hmm, what if Maleficent’s child were given that double-portion of evil, then sent waaaaay back in time to become Rumpelstiltskin? He does have scaly-ish skin, after all…)

     Meanwhile in the present, Henry hides under the table in the Author’s room (because apparently he was the world’s worst player of Hide and Seek ever). Suddenly he sees a light flicker through the crack beneath the Door on the page… then the light shines through the keyhole, and shoots up to illuminate one of the Author’s desk drawers!

     He opens the drawer, and finds… A KEY!

     Of course, rather than using the key right away, he just… stares at it.

     Suddenly the door to the room opens, and the villainesses storm in with his mother at their head. They demand the page (give them the duplicate, Henry!) and after a stern look from Regina, he slips a page from the book and hands it over without much protest. That done, the ladies leave on their quest to set the Author free. At least they don’t know about the key that he found.

     Back in the Enchanted Forest, the Charmings find Ursula and Cruella guarding Maleficent’s cave. The royal couple knocks them out with… magic dust or something?…

     …and they enter the lair, finding Maleficent’s baby rattle as they go. They spot the egg in the middle of the chamber (wrapped in what is obviously a dragon tail even if it’s not moving!) and upon attempting to take it, they find themselves face to face with the enraged dragon mother herself. Charming snatches the egg and passes it to Snow, who warns Maleficent that if she wants to burn them up with her fire breath then the egg will burn too (because apparently dragon eggs aren’t immune to their parents’ fire? Obviously these writers don’t read Harry Potter. Or Game of Thrones. Or How to Train Your Dragon. Or Eragon. Or any dragon-lore at all, really).

     Maleficent takes human form, disgusted that they’d threaten her child. But it’s not a child, the Charmings say: it’s a monster. Maleficent fires back that they’re the monsters, and she begs — mother to mother — for their pity. But the Charmings merely flee with only the not-so-comforting promise to return the egg once they’re finished with it.

     I’m sorry, but do they actually expect Maleficent to be okay with that? “Oh, in that case, it’s fine whatever you’re planning to do! So long as you return the shell and the omelet, it’ll be as if nothing happened! Go right ahead!”

     Meanwhile in the present, the Charmings finally reach Henry and find out that he gave the Villains the duplicate page. He shows them the key and is about to open the Door, but Charming abruptly orders him not to. Instead, they tell him to hand over the page and the key for safekeeping. Wow. Great move, guys. These decisions just keep getting better and better…

     While Snow is filled with remorse and second thoughts yet again, Gold slips into his shop and takes a sleeping Belle gently off the floor to a sofa (which, I’ll admit, is rather sweet). He talks to her about the price of magic, and how he’s used so much that he’s over his head in unplayable debt. However, now the world is changing — and he has to change the rules quickly to survive. So, if he can, he’ll come back for her. It's a not-very-specific one-sided conversation...

     After leaving his shop, Gold meets the evil ladies and sees the duplicate page — but he (eagerly) calls Regina’s bluff. After all, she had plenty of time to learn what the real page looked like, and now she’s purposefully given him a fake. Maleficent knocks Regina out, and they take her to her vault.

     Back on the edge of the Infinity Forest, the royal couple give the egg to Yensid and he begins the transfer of dark potential. He waves his wand and begins to recite a set of rhymes, one of which (to Snow’s horror) mentions distant shores. But the spell is already cast, and Yensid explains that the darkness inside the egg is too great to remain in their world, so it must be sent where it can hurt no one. Snow begs him not to, because they promised Maleficent they would return it… and then it starts hatching!

     On the edge of the portal, a tiny cry comes from inside the vessel and a (rather obviously-CGI) baby’s arm pushes out from within the shell. The Charmings are horrified; they (for some reason) didn’t realize it was going to be a human child!

     But before they can snatch the egg up to safety, Cruella and Ursula catch up to them and attack! Snow barely has time to roundhouse kick them into the portal, and they fall through into our world… along with the hatching egg.

     Let’s see, what other human characters in this show lived in the modern world, and were roughly Emma’s age? I know! What about the single obscure character that Emma mentioned for almost no reason at the beginning of the episode!? Lilly the starbaby is Maleficent’s child!

     As the portal closes, Yensid tells the royal couple that the baby is lost forever… but at least their child will be pure and heroic (so long as they guide it and keep it in the light and basically run the same risk that parents generally run anyway), so that’s got to be a great consolation, right?

     But of course, Snow and Charming are finally beginning to realize that they’ve made a terrible mistake.

     Meanwhile in the present, David prepares to burn the page in the Sorcerer’s fireplace — but Snow asks him what they’ll tell Henry. David tries to think up all sorts of excuses, insisting that they need to burn the page now and worry later. But Snow can’t handle more lies, especially to yet another dear family member. And what about Regina? She’s been risking her life to keep their secret, and they’re going to destroy her one chance at a happy ending?

     Snow reminds David of when she killed Cora (Regina’s mother: it was a few seasons ago, if you recall). Regina ripped out her heart afterwards, and found a splotch of darkness in it. But that darkness wasn’t just from killing Cora: it started long before that, when they stole Maleficent’s child. But the time for hiding is past now, because heroes do what’s right, and not just what’s easy.

     The Charmings immediately return home to Emma, where they show her the door and the key and finally confess to her… the Truth.

     She’s shaken up, to be sure; all this time she’s wanted to believe them, and they’ve let her down (despite the excuse that they were “trying to protect her”). Even Hook can’t comfort her: Emma pushes him away and heads for the door. Snow tries to stop her and pleads, “I’m your mother!” But Emma looks back at her and says (together now, everyone)…

     Despite her headstart, eventually Hook manages to find Emma at the docks. He tells her that August is awake and fine, and that the Charmings are with him. They didn’t come to her because they knew she wouldn’t listen, so Hook came to comfort her instead.

     Back in the Enchanted Forest, the baby’s nursery is being prepared… and Snow White nearly has a meltdown at the sight of Cinderella’s gift: a glass mobile for the cradle, displaying nearly a dozen unicorns. Snow pleads with David not to have such a reminder of their sins literally hanging over their child; they’re both already haunted by their victim’s cries every night when they go to sleep. Their actions to protect their own heir may have been brave, but they weren’t kind (two traits that were recited repeatedly in the new Disney movie Cinderella, I might add): they were selfish. Snow tells David that they’re not Heroes anymore: is it even possible to redeem themselves?

     David thinks it is. They’ll have to be the best people, and work as hard as they possibly can: so maybe the unicorns are a good reminder. The Charmings will have to try and be the very best versions of themselves.

     Meanwhile in the present, Maleficent brings her baby rattle to Regina’s vault and demands Gold hold up his end of the deal. He says that she didn’t earn it since she didn’t get the page, but she insists that she did everything possible and has earned his help in this matter.

     Gold softens and warns her that this is her last chance to preserve herself; after all, pain fades so long as it isn’t fed… and this could be the one meal that she doesn’t want. But Maleficent doesn’t know anything about the child she had, not even its gender: she needs to know its fate.

     Gold enchants her totem rattle and shows her a vision of thirty years ago, when a dark-haired baby with a star-birthmark on her hand was adopted in the modern world and named LILITH!

     Wow, her adopted father was really asking for trouble there: he might as well adopt more kids and give them the names Ophelia, Hannibal, and Rasputin.

     Maleficent and Gold realize her child was transported to the modern world: perhaps someone in town knows her! But who?

     Emma (cough, cough) comes to visit August. He may be doing better, but he can tell that she isn’t doing so good. She shows him the key and the Door, and prepares to unlock it — despite Snow’s warning that releasing the Author was just what Gold wanted.

     Yet August explains to them that this Author wasn’t the only Author: he was just the most recent person to hold the title. The job of recorder and witness actually dates back thousands of years, as a sacred job of ancient time… but this current author started to manipulate events rather than just record them, and something he did eventually pushed the stories over the edge. What was this last Author’s name? Walt.

     Back on the edge of the Infinity Forest, Yensid approaches Walt (whose back is turned) while he writes eagerly in the Book. Yensid is appalled at what the Author made him do to “that child,” (likely Lillith, but it’s hard to tell for sure because everyone has fifteen tragic backstories on this show), though the author claims that the events made for a more interesting story. But Yensid has had enough, and so with a wave of his magic wand, he banishes the Author into the his own book.

     The Sorcerer and the Author may have chosen Walt, but they also banished him to take responsibility for his actions. If he were to be released now, he can begin to alter the course of things all over again. Emma sets down the page… takes the key… and opens it.

     The Door releases a strange man who doesn’t look quite familiar, but doesn’t quite look like a stranger, either. He smugly pulls out a bottle of brandy, and suddenly we realize that he was the peddler on the road who conveniently told the Charmings all about Maleficent’s egg.

     Emma says they have a lot of questions for him, but in a sudden turn of events Walt yanks down the curtains over their heads and makes a run for it! Emma untangles herself and races outside, but despite her years working in the bail bonds business, she still somehow loses him.

     Tune in two weeks from now

     …to see Robin Hood ride a horse through New York City, then take a trip to Oz! Gold will somehow find himself helpless in the hospital, the Wicked Witch will return (really? She was not my favorite), and Walt is absolutely nowhere to be seen!

Current Questions:
1. Who. Is the father. Of Maleficent’s child!?

2. If Walt and Mickey/Yensid are two separate people (despite their both representing roughly the same person), then who exactly is this all-powerful sorcerer? Is he good? Bad? Both?

3. Why didn’t Ursula or Cruella care for Lilly when they came through the portal?
     A. Were all three of them separated in the process? It’s not a difficult leap to assume so, but it would be nice to have that issue clarified.

Current Theories:
1. Originally, the Blue Fairy made it sound as if the Sorcerer was evil and the Author was good… but if Walt is such a slimeball, then maybe it’s the other way around?
     A. Also, with Walt around, I guess I should start calling Yensid “Mickey” instead, so as to distinguish them from one another a bit more.

2. I’ll bet Robin’s adventures out in the real world will somehow connect Lilith to Storybrooke… via Oz and whatever other weird lands he might travel through. Maybe.

1 comment:

  1. EEEK! I can't wait to see what happens. These are interesting theories you have. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought it was strange that Malificent's egg wasn't fireproof. It's a dragon's egg! Seriously?! Overall though, I found the episode really exciting, and I have lot's of questions. (-: