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Once Upon a Time - Best Laid Plans - Review: "Author on the loose!"

No plot this season has peaked my interest as much as the author story arc; ever since the season premiere, when Regina said she would seek for him, I’ve been talking about how much I’ve been wanting OUAT to tackle this subject; Frozen arc? Sure, it was fun, but I was still waiting for the author. Queens of darkness arc? Cool! A legion of doom-esque group on OUAT, but can we get more of the author plot? That’s been my attitude all season, so my expectations were incredibly high and this being the very first episode to feature the author I ended the episode being both excited for what’s to come, but a tad disappointed about the execution of the episode as a whole.

There’s been plenty of development through this season 4B about the author and the wheels finally start moving towards freeing him. I honestly thought the writers would make us wait until the season finale to see him, but I’m really glad they brought him in earlier than expected.

One of the most important reveals on this episode is that the author’s original role was to record the stories that take place on many worlds, stories worth recording; as such, the author that gets freed in this episode is merely the last one to take on the job, and he has been making changes to the stories to suit more interesting storylines. For doing that, he got sealed on a page of the book, and the key to freeing him was on the sorcerer’s house.

That’s a very interesting and creative direction that I’m quite glad the show tackled. I would have liked, however, that the author would have answered at least one question from our heroes before going AWOL. As of right now we may say he is the strongest character on the show and he will do as he pleases, so how is the story going to unfold? Will Gold and the evil ones get to him first or will Emma and company get the upper hand? And even if they reach the author, can they truly make him do their biddings?

All of those questions will be answered on the following episodes, which is why I’m a tad disappointed; there’s been plenty of build up and now we get yet another setup for the upcoming storylines regarding him, but that’s understandable, it’s not like the OUAT writers can mine on this story arc forever, but I would have appreciated more time with him.

I think my biggest complain about the episode is going to turn later on my biggest praise; the flashback scenes felt stale, but what they setup bring awesome scenes.

Let me explain: David and Snow go for a unicorn to get a vision on to what their baby will become, and each one of them get a vision of both Emma being good and evil. That’s essentially every child on this universe and every other in existence; there’s potential for both great good and great evil in each and everyone of us, so it’s up to our parents to raise us and guide us to the rightful path. So when Snow and David go to the apprentice seeking a way to ensure Emma is going to be on the good path and he says he can ensure that, but that they still have to guide her, I rolled my eyes a little.

That’s an understatement, and this half back of the season we’ve heard plenty of times that Emma being good or bad is 50/50, so this feels like extra exposition. And also, Snow should know that the best way to ensure your child is going to be good is by raising him/her properly, loving, caring and taking care of your child gives you pretty great chances of having a child to turn up into a great adult, and yet she is so consumed by fear that she goes for the idea of transferring Emma’s potential for evil into another child- Maleficent’s - to ensure her light, even though she and David still have to guide her, so that means she can still become evil. So the whole quest they have feels a bit silly and pointless.

If they have to care and nurture Emma into a hero, then what is the difference between the moment she had potential for darkness and the one after she has none? She still can go dark - and she most definitely will before the end of the season - if she is not guided properly. As such, the whole quest feels pointless.

That feels like a big logic hole, but I’m willing to give it a pass because it leads to incredible moments: though it is silly to think of a human baby hatching from an egg, seeing Maleficent so desperate about it that she begs Snow - mother to mother - to give her back to her is incredibly affecting, especially since Kristin Bauer continues to deliver an amazing performance as a humanized Maleficent.

We also finally have Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas with good material to play with; once they get the hands on the “Once Upon a Time” book we can see David’s urgency to destroy it, showing us a darker side to him; he is usually the righteous one, but he is so scared to see Gold and company corrupting Emma’s heart that he is willing to throw away Regina’s chance of happiness and everything she, Henry and Emma have worked for months.

Snow steps up and delivers a killer line:
When Regina showed me my heart after Cora, after I killed Cora! My heart was dark. Regina thought that it was because of what I did to her mother. But the darkness started long ago.
Snow knows that she hasn’t truly been a hero in a long time, sacrificing Maleficent’s daughter to make sure Emma was going to be good was the first step into making him the kind of person who thinks ends justify the means. Which is why she has taken easy routes whenever available, out of fear. She has done what’s easy instead of what’s right, and now she finally realized that in order to be a hero you have to do the opposite: no matter how hard it is, you have to stick to what’s right.

This season has made sure that the heroes have more to them than just being good people to which bad things happened; that was the approach for a long time, and now it feels like they are as responsible for their misery as the villains are, and that’s a huge step forward for the show. It’s on the same vein as making sure Regina sticks to the good path, no matter how hard it is; she realized that the easy route is a looping cycle of misery and as such she is finally building something towards a happy ending, and even though she doesn’t realize it yet, the strong bond she has with Henry, Emma and even the Charmings, is all leading to it.

It’s interesting to see that nowadays the role of Regina and Snow is reversed as Snow is the one that has taken the easy way out of things while Regina has been stuck doing the right thing as hard as it may be. It’s an important parallel for the show to draw, showing us that heroes aren’t defined by birth, by light or whatever, they are defined by their willingness to own their mistakes and to do what’s right.

And that meant damaging David and Snow’s relationship with Emma: they are going to make amends by the end of the season or the beginning of season 5, I’m sure of it, but for now they have to deal with the fallout of their relationship with Emma, which is only the tip of the iceberg of what they have to go through after snatching Lily from Maleficent. They not only damaged Maleficent, they also damaged Lily, which was an innocent child, so there’s a price to that, and Emma being pissed at them is only the beginning.

Talking of which, it was truly great to see Maleficent finding out about Lily; I’ve known a while back that it was going to be her as there were plenty of clues on episodes titles and theories on the site, but I don’t care that it wasn’t surprising, I’m glad that it came organically and that it makes sense.

I also liked a lot to see Regina handling the villains the way she did; the photo of the book, and then using Emma’s forged page to buy time were great moments, but nothing can beat Regina’s mute signals to Henry to give her the fake page, posing for the evil queens while managing to keep Henry out of danger without compromising the author. Lana Parilla killed it once again and Jared S. Gilmore stepped up to the task of keeping up with her; the kid has come a long way from struggling in the early seasons to finally being able to play alongside the beats of the cast. That’s very commendable.

By the end we have Regina trapped on her vault, with Gold ready to do something to turn her to their side, while the author is set loose, Maleficent found about her daughter and chaos will surely ensue on Storybrooke; there were some moments that dragged, silliness and faulty logic which are things that I truly hate on this show, but as a whole the episode more than makes up for all of that with memorable moments for both our heroes, villains, and the plot that is becoming increasingly interesting by the minute: if it keeps up this way, we may be on track for the best season of OUAT, but the writers have to keep up in order to reach season 1 hights - or even new highs.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

-So Henry’s middle name is Daniel. For some reason it seems more fitting than Henry. He just have a “Danny” face, I think.

-I like how the show remembered that only those who fell on the sleeping curse are immune to it; Henry, Snow and David were all affected by it and as such they become the major players on the episode.

-The only thing I think I missed is when was the sleeping cursed lifted on the rest of the town? Did Maleficent undo the curse? And why? Only a true love kiss wakes someone from the curse, and since Hook and Emma were both asleep, how did they wake up? This was one of the issues that kept the episodes from an “A” grade; it was quite sloppy to let that slide.

-Maleficent essentially said that both Ursula and Cruella are just bonus addition to the team and not really necessary for their success. A bit cold considering they seemed to became quite tight in the past - Ursula and Cruella did try to save her baby and ended up trapped in our world - and also it undermines their use during this season. The writers better come up with a good Cruella storyline to justify her being around.

-I think August will be key to finding out how to deal with the author. Have I said how much I’m glad he is back?

-17 episodes in, there is still no use for Will Scarlet; how is it possible to introduce a character to do next to nothing on a season of television?

-Hook was pretty underused on this episode too, but since he had more than enough time on the sun, it was fair enough to let some other characters to have the spotlight.

-Last, but not least: sorry for the delay! I had a excruciating week and I was unable to come up with this review until today. The following weeks the reviews should come on a 1-3 days range after OUAT has aired, unless something gets on the way. Crossing my fingers to bring them on time from here onwards!

-See ya next week!

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing reviews for Once Upon a Time, The 100 and Community
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