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Once Upon a Time - Sympathy for the De Vil - Review: "Step into the darkness"



Up until now Cruella has only brought her sassy energy to the show, which is already quite a positive sign for a show that sometimes tends to take itself a bit too seriously. She hasn’t had much time to be explored as the main focus of the queens of darkness was obviously Maleficent, who is the most tied down with the storylines. But that changed, at least for a little while, with this episode, an episode that was darker than usual and that continue to capitalize on this very creative arc.

“Sympathy for the De Vil” is one of the darkest episodes the show has done up until now; Cruella finally shows her true colors as we see that she is essentially a psychopath, a pure evil villain of those we don’t see so often on the show (aside from Cora, maybe).
Usually I’m not fond of villains who are just bad for the sake of being bad, but the show makes it works as it builds up to it and Cruella as a character brings an amazingly twisted energy that makes it feel like the show is trying fitting new outfits.

There’s really a lot to like about the episodes; some of the kinks that really frustrate me on the show is when characters take dumb choices to fit the plot the show is trying to tell, but thankfully we haven’t had that in months, or if we had it has been toned down greatly. I say this, because every choice taken during the episode makes sense with the character that we’ve been presented thus far.

Regina’s way out of Rumple’s blackmail was just brilliant, as she used her knowledge of Rumple and used it against him as she went for Belle’s heart, of which I imagine she gave her consent as they met on Gold’s shop to see how they would deal with it.
Belle is still Rumple’s kryptonite and Regina used her masterfully to keep him from hurting Robin and manipulating her all together. This are the moments in which we remember that it’s best not to try to cross Regina.

Then we have Cruella and the Author - or Isaac, as he says he is named -, and we learn about their history together. Isaac helped Cruella escape from her mother so that he can get a closer grasp to her story, and they have fun with it. So much fun that for the first time in his life - I assume - Isaac lets himself go as he dances with Cruella.

He gets really close to her, and he jumps the gun by showing her that he can change the course of the stories he witness, and thus gives her the power to control animals. That was a very smart way to explain why Cruella has magic, since originally her character had no connection to magic whatsoever. And it also led to some very unsettling developments.

At the beginning of the episode it seemed like Cruella’s darkness was caused by her mother, locking her up and killing her husbands, but later it is revealed that it was in fact Cruella who killed her father and subsequent stepfathers. And later on, her own mother.
It is a nice twist on the clich├ęd villain who is bad because of their parents doing; in this scenario, Cruella was evil all along, and as she said she just stepped right into the darkness.

This revelation takes Isaac by surprise, and as he realizes that Cruella just used him and that she is going to do evil deeds forever, he tries to get his pen back from her, while also spilling the ink on her, turning into the Cruella we now know. And as a way to stop her, he writes that Cruella can no longer take a life, which turns out to be the thing that she loves most.

It is very dark and twisty turn and it serves Cruella right. In present day, as the author is captured, she wants him gone so she can kill again, so she kidnaps Henry to force Regina and Emma to kill Isaac for her. And this is all part of Rumple’s plan to make Emma go dark, as he is forcing her to kill Cruella, leaving the Author safe while getting rid of Cruella. Two birds, one stone.

And as Snow and David find Rumple’s cabin and confront Isaac, they learn that Cruella can’t kill and what Rumple is planning, but it is already too late. Regina and Hook are separated from Emma, and she isn’t going to let Henry die by Cruella.
You are a hero, and heroes don’t kill.”
But she does, to protect her son. And yet her face seems to tell another story; that she had it with it, that she is tired of trying, tired of fulfilling the role she was imposed into, taking her first step into the darkness.

The great thing OUAT is doing now is getting into morally grey areas for our heroes characters; the villains have been the most compelling part of OUAT since they are allowed to be more complex and tortured, but just as we were shown that Snow and David have their dark side, now we are really getting into Emma.

I think it is important that the show establishes that heroes and villains are roles that can be reversed. Just as Regina who once was a villain can be a hero now, Emma can go the other way around. In the end it is where their choices led them that defines them as such, and there is only so much the writer can change: we now know that the Author’s powers come with limits, he is in need of ink and quill to make changes, and the degree of his intervention on the story doesn’t seem to be as huge as it could be, after all, he was supposed to be a simple recordist.

I’m honestly really fascinated by the direction the show is taking; it has come to a place in which it allows their characters to get off their comfort zone and show us more to them that what it seems to be on the first glance, and that’s really good for a show on its 4th season.
This arc is filled with creative ideas that are being developed properly and well executed, but the most important part of it is that is filled with amusing characters that give the show a brand new energy, may it be a psychopath like Cruella, a Regina fighting her way through the darkness or Emma stepping into it. As a whole, the show seems to have finally found a comfortable place to tell stories.

Grade: A-

Stray Observations:


-So why isn’t this graded A? Well, there were kinks during the episode that affected my enjoyment: for instance, Emma’s attitude over her parents is more reminiscent of a pissed teenager rather than an adult human being; also, I would like if the show was more subtle about it instead of reminding us about it every 2 minutes.
Also, I’m not much of a fan of the actor who portrays the Author; he gets the job done, but he lacks the charisma needed to take on such an important role.

-That Cruella and Maleficent face off could have been better, but it was good nonetheless. Cruella reveals that she left Lily to die, and that she took the dragon egg she hatched from to use its magic to prevent from aging. As the episode showed us, she is cold blooded.
Also, it was kind of smart and at the same time silly that Cruella used her magic to control Maleficent in her dragon form: smart, because it makes sense considering Cruella’s powers, and silly, since Maleficent should’ve known that it would happen.

-I like how Regina is constantly trying to help Emma to stay on the right path, she outright said that it was her heart they tried to keep clean, declaring that she was willing to kill Cruella if necessary. Also, she brings a fresh and pretty well thought perspective as to why she shouldn’t be holding a grudge on her parents.

-Hook was quite underused during the episode, though he has a few things to say, he was kind of just… there.

-I love that Cruella was playing angry birds while waiting for Regina and Emma to make contact.

-And one stellar line from Cruella to Isaac: “Don’t bother studying the great, darling, you’ll never be one of them.”

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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