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Once Upon a Time - Unforgiven - Review

This second Once Upon a Time episode of the 4B season did not disappoint, diving right in to the juiciest of secrets: what dark deed did Charming and Snow White perpetrate? For me, “Unforgiven” whizzed by. The story telling was very succinct and no part of the episode felt as if it dragged. As always, the Queens of Darkness got some of the best lines, especially Cruella who has become quite the sass machine. However, the most intriguing thing that this episode has to offer is its take on heroes and villains. I’ve said it before, Once Upon a Time operates in a gray area, but this half of the season is shaping up to be a real flip on our story so far. We are seeing villains seeking justice and heroes committing grave deeds, more so than ever before. It’s as if the traditional fairy tale roles are to be reversed with that angle being explored in more depth. With all the secrets and lies flying around, I wonder what developments are in the works for Once Upon a Time.

This episode opens with Snow White starting from her sleep. Charming is nowhere to be found and when the princess goes to check on the Bouncing Baby Neal, she is in for a rude surprise. The Queens of Darkness have invaded her loft and are threatening her family. Maleficent in particular seems to be taking pleasure in dangling the threat of revealing Snow White’s big secret. I found myself periodically shouting, “What did you do, Snow?!” at the TV screen while watching this episode. Before things can get too hairy for Snow, she wakes for real. The visit from the Queens of Darkness was only a nightmare. Charming is having trouble sleeping as well and when Snow gets up to check that Baby Neal is indeed safe, they discuss the possibility that Maleficent, from even beyond the grave, will make them pay for what they did to her. Charming is adamant that he wants Cruella and Ursula out of town before anyone learns his and Snow’s dark sin. Honestly, this was the thing that kept me hungry for more during the episode. What could be such a terrible secret that it had Charming up drinking at all hours of the night and Snow White joining him in lowering themselves to sneaking about and exiling people?

Flashback to the Enchanted Forest and we see Snow White and Charming returning from their honeymoon at the summer palace. At first it seems that someone unwisely left Sleepy at the gate, but upon closer inspection all the guards are asleep, victims of a sleeping curse. It turns out Snow White and Prince Charming have visitors. Not Regina, as they suspect, but the Queens of Darkness trio. Here, Maleficent makes an off-hand comment about the change in her appearance. I am so torn about that development. I like that the character looks more like, well the character, but the radical design change is distracting to me. Anyway, the Queens of Darkness are not at the castle to terrorize Snow and Charming; they want to make a deal.

Back in Storybrooke, the aforementioned Snow White and Charming are huddled together in a booth at Granny’s, sipping coffee and honestly looking generally shady. That’s because Cruella and Ursula are at the counter, trying to order drinks from Granny, who is having nothing to do with these divas and is pointedly ignoring the pair, instead serving coffee to the Knave of Hearts who breezes in to the diner. Cruella mutters under her breath that if Granny still “wolfed out”, she’d be on her way to becoming another coat in Cruella’s collection. Everything about this line is intriguing. It gives a hint to Cruella’s back story and her tie with the Enchanted Forest and it plays into a theory going around that Cruella skinned werewolves to acquire her powers. I can’t wait to see more of her story.

Henry and Regina arrive to Ursula and Cruella’s delight and they ask for the evil queen’s help in getting their beverages, referencing Regina’s past misdeeds and tendency to use force to get what she wanted. Regina send Henry along and turns on the pair, warning them not to bring up her past in front of her son. Ursula and Cruella leave in a huff, off to cause mischief elsewhere. Regina may think the two are morons, but Snow and Charming see them as a problem and want the mayor’s help with an investigation. Regina smartly reminds the heroes that tailing suspects is under the jurisdiction of the sherriff’s department. While departing from Granny’s, Ursula and Hook have an awkward encounter which leaves the pirate shaken, brushing off Emma’s inquiry as to if they know each other. Seems like the Queens of Darkness get around. Charming stops Emma before she can satisfy her grilled cheese craving and explains his suspicions that Ursula and Cruella are up to not good, and that they have to be quick to pick up the trail.

While this is happening, Cruella and Ursula have already rolled into the pawn shop. Belle is immediately alert and prepared for their arrival, brandishing a shapeshifting potion. Question, did Rumple just leave the potion supplies extremely well stocked or has Belle’s research been yielding some interesting results in the form of new skills? The sarcasm is palpable between the librarian and the queens and it’s a wonder if they ever thought they could maintain their cover since Cruella and Ursula were too busying sassing most of Storybrooke. The pair distract Belle by bringing up the Dark One and listening to her squirm as they congratulate her on his defeat. While this is going on, Ursula lets her tentacles loose and they snake all the way back to Rumpelstiltskin’s private room, plucking a box from the workstation. And speaking of the Dark One, he’s busy under the town using his magic to sweep together Maleficent’s ashes. I’m really not sure how bringing her back from to dead will work. Perhaps she is the Black Fairy that was hinted at throughout season three. Considering how easy it was to resurrect Blue, it makes sense Maleficent could also be a fairy.

Elsewhere on Main Street, Henry is in the mayoral office, going over The Book with a find tooth comb, or in this case, a magnifying glass. He hasn’t found any clues yet and takes a break from the search to ask after Regina. The Queens of Darkness got under the mayor’s skin because they reminded Regina of who she was and made her doubt if her happy ending was even possible. It’s the same thing as a recovering alcoholic being tempted by two boozehounds. Regina fondly remembers her happiness with Robin, Roland, and Henry and hopes to get that back soon. As Henry reassures his mother, she notices that the pages he is currently examining are a different texture than others in The Book. Henry explains that this is because August added his own story, the story of Pinocchio, in an effort to get Emma to believe. Regina seems to regain hope at the thought of questioning Pinocchio. I wonder why it didn’t occur to them to ask the one person who we know has successfully edited The Book first.

Back out on Main Street, Charming and Emma are on a stake out, watching for signs of Cruella and Ursula. Emma asks if her father knows the pair from back in the day in the Enchanted Forest. She is correctly picking up on the fact that Charming is leaving something out. I wonder if that’s her “super power” coming into play. However, father and daughter get distracted as the De Vil-mobile speeds away. As Cruella cruises along, with the sheriff squad trailing behind, Emma puts in a call to Belle and confirms that there is an item missing from the shop. Charming springs into action and within minutes has Cruella pulled over. The prince searches the car, the interior of which is both fabulous and littered with unpaid parking tickets, and comes up with the stolen box which gives him pause. Prince Charming is up to no good when he announces the car is clean, something that even surprises Cruella and Ursula as they share a significant glance behind Emma’s back.

As the De Vil-mobile speeds away, Emma offers to check the pawn shop security footage just to makes sure. The savior is also still not 100% certain that everything is ok with Charming, even despite the prince’s assurances. Emma is correct in believing her father is hiding the truth, for we see he has pocketed the trinket from the stolen box. Later, Charming shows the trinket to Snow White, who instantly knows that it is a totem very important to Maleficent. The pair surmise that Cruella and Ursula intend on resurrecting the third person in their party and the only way they can stop that from happening, and keeping their secret, is stealing Maleficent’s remains. So the Charmings are stooping to grave robbing, interesting.

We flashback to the Enchanted Forest, where Snow White and Prince Charming’s confrontation with the Queens of Darkness as moved indoors to the often seen war room. Maleficent explains that Regina has acquired the Dark Curse, which will punish both villain and hero alike should the Evil Queen successfully cast it. There’s a bit of discontinuity with the pilot here, however many things do change between a pilot of a show and the actual full order of episodes. I would be interested to see if the writers go back and retcon how the Charmings learn of the curse to fit in with this current story line. The only way Maleficent can think to learn how to defeat the Dark Curse is to visit a fabled Tree of Wisdom. The fairies tell that it is a tree deep in the forest capable of answering any query. As you all know, fairies make me suspicious, and I’m betting now more than ever that Maleficent is the Black Fairy, which explains how she knew of the tree. The Queens of Darkness need Charming and Snow to activate the Tree of Wisdom as only the most valiant of heroes can unlock its magic. This strikes me as an awfully convenient coincidence, I would have liked something like this tree woven into the story a bit better. Maleficent is running the show here and produces a map, more insisting than offering to escort the Charmings to this tree. Snow White and her prince weigh there options, do they trust evil to beat evil?

A while later we see our heroes and villains stalled at a bridge. The guards standing watch won’t let the party pass, annoying Cruella who believes that traveling with the Charmings should afford more perks. Snow reminds the Queens of Darkness that while the guards know that Charming and Snow fight for the side of good, they are also aware of the queens’ reputations. The group tries to hash out an alternate route, only Maleficent has gone missing. Well, not missing so much as taken matters into her own claws, as the horned queen in dragon form swoops into sight, roasting the guards and clearing their path. Snow and Charming are noticeably upset, but Maleficent, back in human form, justifies her actions as doing what is needed. Snow and Charming then fall silent. They are in way over their heads here.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma is parked behind a very outmoded computer, checking ATM footage for any clues when Hook arrives with the grilled cheese she missed out on earlier. Emma again asks how Hook knows Ursula and the pirate clams up immediately. At first Emma is a bit playful and teasing in trying to get the story out of her lover, but grows more upset as Hook shrinks further and further back, denying her any information. The proof Emma needs for her investigation soon pops up on her screen and Hook leaves the station, both he and the savior noticeable hurt and distraught. Considering what Emma knows of Hook and all they’ve been through together, one has to wonder what Hook considers so loathsome he can’t share it with his girlfriend.

Emma runs into Snow and Charming, who are packing the pickup truck for their mission into the mines. Charming abruptly changes his tune in regards to the Queens of Darkness and advises Emma to let it go, saying that perhaps they should give Cruella and Ursula a chance. Remarkably they flat out lie to their daughter, claiming they are going on a hike. Emma is confused and a bit wary of this sudden change, but drops the subject. I feel terrible for Emma as she’s getting lied to left and right in this episode. Emma Swan is a person who took a very long time to trust others and it’s going to be hard for her to deal with the current situation when the truth comes out. It might have been better for the Charmings to come clean with their daughter because who knows how she will react to this betrayal of trust.

While this has been going on, Regina has brought Geppetto and Pinocchio to her office so that Pinocchio can take a look at The Book. Understandably, Pinocchio can’t remember anything relating to his former life, and the mayor grows more and more frustrated. Emma arrives and the group believes that her bond with Pinocchio’s older alter ego could be the thing to jog the boy’s memory, but it doesn’t work. This is the last straw for Regina, who pours her frustrations out by being downright nasty to young Pinocchio. Geppetto steps in and removes his son from the situation, questioning Regina as to what makes her believe she deserves a happy ending after all she has done. The evil queen throws this right back in Geppetto’s face, reminding the carpenter of how he lied and jeopardized the plan to defeat the Dark Curse by putting Pinocchio in the wardrobe. Geppetto has had enough and warns Regina to stay away from his son. Again we are seeing the grey area that these characters have dwelled in. Neither Geppetto nor Regina made noble choices, both doing what they believed to be right to get what they thought they needed, even if it hurt others.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and Charming have given the Queens of Darkness the slip, determined to find the Tree of Wisdom on their own. They finally come across it and activate the tree, asking how they can defeat the darkest of curses. There is a moment when nothing happens, then the tree glows a brilliant red and a burst of magic flings them away. Snow and Charming believe they are tricked, but this is not so as Maleficent and her posse saw the whole thing. Maleficent muses that perhaps the prince and princess aren’t as valiant as previously thought. The horned queen theorizes that some interference might have affected how the Tree of Wisdom reacted to the heroes, when it hits her. Snow White is with child. Snow and Charming, despite the situation they currently are in, appear surprised and excited that their family will grow. But what does this have to do with the tree? Maleficent goes on to explain that their child, the Product of True Love, has vast untapped potential that can either be used for good or for darkness. Their child could either be a great hero or a terrible villain. With that hanging over the Charmings’ heads, Maleficent leaves, predicting great suffering in their future. I feel this thought that a hero could have potentially become a villain goes back to the idea that villains often see themselves as the protagonists of their own stories. I like the idea that choice is on the table, that had things turned out slightly different anyone who currently walks the dark path could have been one to fight on the side of light.

In Storybrooke, we see this idea in action as Regina goes to visit Geppetto. The carpenter is understandably defensive, but all Regina wants to do is apologize. The mayor acknowledges that if anyone in town had spoken to Henry like that she would have obliterated them where they stand. Regina also admits that she was out of line, explaining her frustration in hitting so many dead ends in her quest to find the Author. She knows if she goes back along that dark path though, she will never find her happiness. Such a big change from early incarnations of Regina, who believed that the dark path was her happy ending. Before she leaves, Geppetto softens, offering Regina August’s old things, including his motorcycle bag, in case something within will hold clues to the information she seeks.

Let’s not forget about Snow White and Charming, who are currently skulking around in the mines. Snow is still very upset about lying to Emma, as she should be, but Charming reminds her that all their problems will go away as soon as they get the Queens of Darkness out of town. Finally, the pair come across Maleficent’s neatly piled ashes, only to get ambushed by Cruella and a tentacle-happy Ursula, who knocks the heroes out cold with her appendages. Rumpelstiltskin appears, making certain that neither Snow nor Charming are aware of his involvement. I wonder if he plans to make amends and will let the Queens of Darkness take the fall for all this villainy. This has the potential of coming back and biting him in the rear. Interestingly enough, the queens lie to Rumple about their encounter with Belle, saying the librarian never even mentioned him during their conversation, which is far from true. I wonder what their game is. Rumple hands Cruella a knife and disappears from the scene as she slices open both Snow and Charming’s palms.

Spilling the blood over the pile of ashes, Cruella explains that the trinket they stole was simply a ruse to get them down where Maleficent’s remains were. The spell to resurrect this queen required the blood of the people who wronged her the most. Interesting that it’s Snow and Charming who fit this description and not someone from the Sleeping Beauty story. And so, Maleficent rises again in all her glory, and I have to say the effects here are rather glorious. This has to be one of my favorite visuals from the episode, it looks amazing. With Maleficent restored, Snow and Charming try to talk the horned queen down, but Maleficent claims that simply hurting the pair would be too easy. She doesn’t care about their big secret, only their pain, and she wants it to be as long and drawn out as her own. Sauntering off, Maleficent assures Snow and Charming that all she wants is to watch their world crumble. Alone in the caves, Snow laments that they should have asked for help, that Maleficent’s return was a result of their lie. The pair resolve to come clean and tell Emma everything.

At the sheriff’s station, Emma is having a heart to heart with Hook. She knows there’s something the pirate is keeping from her and assures him that this is ok. What’s not ok is the fact that Hook lied about it in the first place. Emma knows that despite whatever it is Hook has done, he’s changed. The pirate is skeptical, remarking that the savior is putting quite a bit of faith in him. Emma has done this because of her parents. She admits that she doubted Snow and Charming, that she thought they were lying, but is sure now that they couldn’t have. The doubt she felt today reminded her of her past, of being let down so many times before, but Emma knows things have changed. Snow White and Charming are eavesdropping on this conversation in the doorway and have chosen not to reveal the truth. It’s going to be heart breaking when Emma finds out.

The savior tells her pirate that she will do what her parents do and choose to see the best in people, leaning in for a kiss with Hook. Snow White tries to duck out of the door at this point only to make a ruckus, alerting her daughter that they are not alone. Between keeping secrets and eavesdropping, Snow White is not a smooth customer. Charming breaks the news that they were right, Cruella and Ursula were up to something, and that Maleficent has been restored. Emma is confused as to why the Queens of Darkness have chosen to wage war on Storybrooke now, but Snow brushes this off by simply stating that the queens are villains, that’s what they do. Snow White reverting to this black and white outlook on heroes and villains is going to come back to haunt her once things continue to twist and turn on Once Upon a Time.

In a final flashback of the episode, Snow White wakes in the Enchanted Forest. Maleficent is waiting for her at the end of the bed, having put a spell over Charming so he slumbers on. Maleficent is there of her own accord, desperate to stop Regina’s plans. It turns out that the light side and the dark have something in common; Maleficent is also pregnant. The horned queen wants to defeat the curse for the sake of both her and Snow’s unborn children and offers to work together to defeat Regina. However, Snow White is unwilling to work with Maleficent because of what she is. Snow won’t succumb to darkness and is willing to risk the entire realm to ensure that her child will grow up a hero. Snow refuses to become like Maleficent. I wonder why Snow White refused to acknowledge the potential portion of what her child will come become. Dark or light side, the unborn Emma’s alliance is up to her alone. I can see how Snow White wouldn’t want evil outside influences disturbing her baby, but at the same time I question if the princess made the right choice. As we will see, it’s very likely she didn’t.

In Storybrooke, Snow and Regina meet under cover of night. Snow White informs Regina that Maleficent is back, with the mayor grumbling that she knew “Fish Sticks and Pound Puppy” were up to something. Despite the seriousness of this final scene, I got quite a good laugh at that line. How it was delivered with a straight face I will never know. Snow White elaborates, telling Regina that the Queens of Darkness plan on destroying the happy endings. And what Snow asks of Regina next definitely delves into a debate of whether the ends justify the means. She wants Regina to go undercover, to pretend to have gone evil again, in order to gather information on how to defeat their new foes. Snow White is sure that the queens are after the town because of what she and Charming did. The princess references her inability to keep a secret when asking Regina to keep her’s. Snow then explains of Emma’s potential for darkness and that the savior is just that because of the great lengths the Charmings went to ensure this was her fate. Regina, ever practical, asks why they simply can’t tell Emma what happened, but Snow explains that this situation is the same one Regina is in with Henry. The princess doesn’t want to talk of her past sins in order to protect Emma so the savior doesn’t lose faith in the person Snow has become. Letting Emma down like this could cause the savior to spiral into the darkness.

This speech by Snow is in the form of a voice over and we see several different scenes going on throughout Storybrooke as she talks. We see Henry, going through August’s bag from the motorcycle. It’s filled with notes and leather bound journals. The most intriguing piece of paperwork is an illustration showing a door with a note on it questioning if this will lead to the Author. Sharp eyes will note the similarity between this door and those found in Jefferson’s portal jumping hat. The implications here are sucking me deeper into the mystery of who this Author is and what his grand scheme could be. Where did this picture come from, was it from another version of The Book?

At the pawn shop we see Rumpelstiltskin watching Belle through the front window from across the street. Suddenly, The Knave of Hearts steps into view and he and Belle share a kiss. What is this?! Rumple is shaken and backs away, sinking into the shadows cast by the nearby streetlamps, a visual representation of someone whose faith has been broken retreating into the dark. I wonder if what Rumple saw is merely an illusion cooked up by the Queens of Darkness.

Finally, we see all three queens standing on a cliff overlooking Storybrooke. Maleficent takes out the trinket stolen from the pawn shop and attaches it to part of her necklace. Restored, the object turns out to be a baby’s rattle, which Maleficent shakes, her expression collapsing into one of sadness and mourning. I never thought I’d feel pity for Maleficent, the Mistress of All Evil, but the expression on her face, that quiet loss did it for me. And here is where we finally learn the dark secret hanging over Snow White and Charming’s heads. Because of our heroes, Maleficent lost her child. Lost as in gone or lost as in dead, we aren’t sure, but one thing is certain and that’s the fact that Snow and Charming inflicted a parent’s greatest fear, their own greatest sorrow, on another person.

Wow, and that was “Unforgiven”. Do you think anyone in this episode is unforgiven? Leave a comment below!

I suspect that Maleficent’s missing baby is Lily, Emma’s childhood friend. If this is true, the potential to show how choices, not fate, result in a hero or villain will be a satisfying story line. Also, if Maleficent has a reunion with her child as Rumple and Nealfire reconnected, what parallels will be see? What would it have been like for someone to raise a child in darkness? Both Rumple and Regina’s struggles with their children are different than this situation and I am interested in seeing it explored further.

It’s bad news that Regina will be going undercover with the Queens of Darkness. We saw from her temper tantrum that she has the potential to lose her way. What will she have to do to prove to Cruella, Ursula, and Maleficent that she is truly evil? How far will Regina go and what will this mean for Henry and her quest to find the Author. Also, And why was August collecting all those notes on the Author? What did he learn or hope to learn about the magic behind The Book?

Also, I’m not sure how I feel about this pairing of the Knave and Belle. I am hoping it was the queen’s messing with Rumple, if only for the sake of Will and Ana’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland happy ending. I am interested to see Rumple dealing with the fact that he can’t go running back to Belle this time. The Dark One is going to have to work harder than ever to get his happy ending back.

Be sure to tune in next week for Maleficent’s back story in “Enter the Dragon”!

About the Author – Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Galavant, as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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