Once Upon a Time: Best Laid Plans Review


By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

At the center of the second half of Season 4, “Best Laid Plans” was the penultimate episode that answered many questions, raised even more, and delivered a great deal of emotion and intrigue in another one of the season’s best that also showcased the themes of free will, heroism, and redemption. In the Enchanted Forest of the past, Snow and David seek out a unicorn to see a glimpse into their child’s future. But they see very different things; David sees a beautiful, innocent baby smile up at him, while Snow sees a beautiful but very dark teenager who pulls out and crushes her own mother’s heart. While heading home, weighed down with fear and worry, they meet a peddler on the road who informs them that Maleficent has transformed into a dragon, scoured the nearby town and has laid an egg and created a nest. He advises them to stay clear, and perhaps unwisely, they blindly trust his advice to instead head into the infinite forest where an elderly man can lead them where they need to go. This man turns out to be the Apprentice who says that their child, like all, has the potential for light and dark, and that it’s guidance from others and our own free that will define us in the end. But their fears and desire to protect their child do not discourage the need for some sort of guarantee, so the Apprentice tells them of a spell that can transfer that darkness into another vessel. Thinking that the egg Maleficent laid will turn out to be a monstrous dragon, they steal the egg from her even when she begs for mercy. Importantly, Snow and David did so with every intention of returning it once the spell was complete. Unfortunately, the Apprentice left out a vital piece of information- the darkness isn’t merely transferred, the vessel will also be sent to another land. After the spell is enacted, the couple are horrified to see a baby’s arm break through the shell and try to retrieve it, as do Cruella and Ursula. But the two witches and the baby fall through the portal, seemingly lost forever, leaving Snow and David completely distraught and guilty, questioning their own goodness. Once again, these flashbacks were relevant and deeply connected to the present day drama. When Killian informs Emma and her family about Gold’s plan to get the author to darken her heart, her parents conspicuously leave, afraid for their daughter despite their actions to ensure her goodness in the past. And they keep stacking up lie after lie. In one heartbreaking scene they even lash out at Henry who was so happy and proud to have not only fooled the villains with giving them the forged page of the door Emma had created, but also that he found the key that can release the author from the real page. David yells at his grandson and tells him to go and it was this moment that seemed to wake them up and realize how deep they were descending. If they lie to Henry and take away something that represented so much hope to this sweet, brave child, they could not live with themselves. Snow says they must tell Emma the truth; they must do what is right and not what is easy. And when they tell Emma the truth, the looks on all of their faces shattered my heart, as her belief in her parents and everything she believed about herself is now shattered. She even pulled away from a concerned Killian as she leaves her parents’ home angry and heartbroken.

What I really appreciate about this half of Season 4 is that it’s tackling complex issues and emotions, adding new depth to well established characters. In the case of Snow and David, this allows Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas to showcase some of their best work on the show. Moreover, it wonderfully shows that no matter what they do, they do so together. They don’t pass blame on others, and importantly don’t cast aspersions onto each other. They face everything side by side. Seeing their grave mistake makes them fallible. And indeed what they did was undoubtedly wrong not only taking away their daughter’s agency, but also willingly darkening another to protect their own child. But at the same time one can also understand their motivations. Even if you’re not a parent, one can understand wanting to shield and protect a child at any cost; and they did believe that not only Mal’s child would be a dragon, but fully intended to reunite it with its mother. The very instant they realize the gravity of their mistake makes compassion for them possible. In an emotional scene, Snow realizes how they were brave but also unkind and selfish, importantly in an episode where the personification of being brave, truthful and unselfish (Pinocchio/August) is featured. I was moved by David’s reassurance and belief that they can redeem themselves. Heroes are not perfect and even the best of people can do wrong. But Snow and David’s vow to tread the hard path, do good, spread hope, and work to always be the best versions of themselves was especially poignant and demonstrates a lovely truth that we do not have to let one mistake define us. There is always a chance for grace.

It was not only beautiful how Snow and David vowed to be the best versions of themselves because that is what true love inspires us to be, but also because Emma and Killian have been striving to do the same. They vowed to see the best in each other no matter what, but they have been inspiring each other since they first met. What was profoundly exquisite about Emma and Killian’s scenes was the depth of emotional support they freely give and now rely on from each other. When Killian relays Gold’s plan to corrupt Emma his fear is potent because he knows how easily darkness can creep up on you. What was moving was that in a moment where Emma may have expressed fear or needed reassurance, she is the confident one saying no one gets to decide who she is but her. She comforts Killian cupping his face, and the two cling tightly to each other. For Killian, who’s lost everyone he’s loved, this comfort is lovingly accepted. It is only natural that he would deeply fear that the woman who brought light back into his life be threatened with the kind of darkness he used to live with. And what is lovely is that the way Emma comforts him, shows how much Emma understands his fears. He just told her she is his happy ending, and Emma wants to assure him that he won’t lose that. He won’t lose her. This scene was also a lovely mirror to a scene at the end of the episode where Killian shows Emma comfort and support after she learns the truth about her parents. Knowing her well, he finds her at the docks and tells her that August is awake- that her friend will be okay. You can see she is on the verge of tears when she falls into his arms. This was not only a beautiful counterpart to the earlier scene where now he is her anchor and safe place, as she had been for him, but also because he is reassuring her about a friend that means a lot to her. He had expressed a hint of jealously and insecurity about August in one of the episode’s lighter moments, asking if she cared for him. But she smiled and reassured him that August is simply her friend. But that doesn’t lessen the importance of the relationship. Emma opens up about her regrets in pushing away Lily when she was younger, and August is the only friend she had made since. Having always loved their friendship hearing this warmed my heart; but it is also moving considering the nature of Emma and Killian’s characters and relationship. Killian is often insecure so his jealously is understandable. That is why it was so sweet to see him so quickly move past it and instead be there to support Emma. But more beautifully so, it feels as if Killian not only does so because he loves her, but also because he understands feeling alone and friendless. Your truest friends know and accept the real you, and despite having a crew of “friends” and some new ones in Storybrooke, for Killian, the truest and best friend he’s had since his brother Liam is undoubtedly Emma. That is a touching revelation.

Before discussing the episode’s other intriguing revelations, I must mention how much I enjoyed seeing Henry more involved in the plot in a deeper, more mature way, as well as the unspoken understanding between him and Regina while she tries to maintain her cover. And who else was moved learning that Henry’s middle name is Daniel? There were also a few questions raised. It was difficult to see Regina’s cover slowly unravel, feeling frightened for her fate. And what does Gold have that he so confidently believes will make her do his bidding? Perhaps her premonition that Robin needs protection is true. Additionally, Gold said something is changing with him and fast. What is ailing him? Is he ill or even losing his powers? While these various questions were raised, two very crucial answers were revealed. We see that the child Maleficent lost was not only sent into our world, but also that she is none other than Emma’s childhood friend Lily. Maleficent now knows this and is determined to find her. This is surely the happy ending she is seeking. Perhaps Snow and Charming will try to help and right the wrong they made in the past. Lastly, the most intriguing and significant revelation came via August’s vast (though still unexplained) knowledge. There is not just one author. There have been many. It is a job tasked to men and women throughout time not to control, but to witness and record the greatest stories for posterity. The one trapped in the book, however, began to abuse his power and manipulate things to “create better stories,” so the Apprentice trapped him inside the book. Emma releases him hoping for answers and Snow and David are shocked to see that the author is the peddler they met on the road. This sinister figure fleas before they get any answers and we are left with more questions. Who wrote the story after he was trapped? And what power does he truly have? If authors only record, can he really change things and take away people’s free will? There is something very dark about this author and I look forward to the next chapter in this tale.

Favorite Moments:
Emma and Killian showing each other comfort was exceptionally lovely as was Snow and David vowing to be good people and spread hope and faith to others. August’s presence is also undeniably magnetic and I loved that one of the author’s over the years was named Walt, an obvious reference to Walt Disney, one of the greatest storytellers of all time.

Favorite Lines:
Snow: Do you really believe redemption is possible?
David: Yes. I have to believe we can earn forgiveness. A chance at grace. But to get there we have to be the best people we can. Work, spread hope and faith every day.

David: As long as we have each other, we can be the best versions of ourselves.

Snow: Heroes do what’s right, not what’s easy.

Emma: No one, not Rumpelstiltskin or some author, gets to decide who I am.

Killian: (Speaking about August) You care for him?
Emma: Yeah. Oh Killian, now’s not the time to be jealous.
Killian: Why would I be jealous? Though I do know you’re partial to men in leather jackets.

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