Once Upon a Time: Darkness of the Edge of Town Review

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By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

Spoilers Ahead


After a three month long hiatus Once Upon a Time has finally returned firmly establishing new stories and mysteries, and further introducing fantastic new villains in a well balanced, action packed episode that continued to show the evolution of these dynamic characters. In the Enchanted Forest of the past we find that Rumple has called together Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella (aka the “Queens of Darkness”) for a council claiming they have a common and attainable goal- all of their happy endings. What we discover is he, in true Rumple form, tricks the three woman whose specific talents he needs to obtain the heavily guarded Dark Curse. Once he has it in hand, he abandons them to the mercy of the Charnabog, a ferocious Hell beast that devours the person whose soul has the greatest potential for darkness. They manage to escape but just barely. These flashbacks provided an interesting contrast to present day down and out Rumple, sleeping on Ursula’s couch, scheming to get back to Storybrooke and find the author. They recruit an equally downtrodden Cruella and devise a plan, but not before stopping at the Drive Thru of Mr. Kluck’s (the restaurant Hurley worked at in LOST). The image of Cruella’s car driving up to a fast food window with the three of the most infamous villains ever is something I shall never forget and probably the funniest moment the show has ever had. Seriously, Rumple’s statement that their misfortunes are because of the author’s will, not their missteps, was an obvious example of his character’s dissension, and felt like a set up for the rest of the season. For OUAT has always shown that it is our choices that matter. Meanwhile, the residents of Storybrooke have been living a peaceful life for the past six weeks. Snow is back to teaching, Regina back to being mayor, also searching for clues about the author with Emma, with Belle and Killian tirelessly trying to find a way to release the fairies from the Sorcerer’s hat. They are able to, but they also release the Chernabog. Per Rumple’s plan, they are able to get the monster over the town line and Ursula and Cruella are welcomed into town, much to Snow and David’s chagrin who seem to have a dark past with the two women and threaten them to never to speak of it, especially to Emma who we discover was the person the Chernabog was truly after.

Whew! A lot happened in this episode, did it not? And these new mysteries and changing character dynamics were a real treat to watch. One has to wonder what dark secret Snow and David are keeping if sweet Snow threatens to rip out hearts; this certainly adds a new layer to her character. Seeing the Blue Fairy shaken and nervous when revealing that the author and the sorcerer are two different people, seeming to be holding back, earned her the descriptor the fandom so often calls her: shady. Moreover, seeing who the Chernabog sought after was interesting. The people who have the heart with the greatest potential for darkness were Maleficent and Emma, and hearing that such a pure heart like Emma’s could be corrupted was both scary and intriguing. But as per usual, the various character dynamics were the real highlight. I already adore the Queens of Darkness, most especially Victoria Smurfit’s Cruella. Her costume, makeup, sharp tongue, and erratic driving were all perfect. But it was the different dynamics for my favorite characters, Emma and Killian, that I enjoyed the most. Emma and Regina’s relationship, once fraught with anger, now seems like the start of an actual friendship. It was difficult to see Regina snap and balk back at Emma earlier this season, but that finally seems to have evolved and seeing them combine their magic and resourcefulness was wonderful. What I liked best was that their scenes in many ways had the feeling of an older/younger sister relationship. Regina’s “You eat like a child” was sassy but didn’t feel patronizing and her opening up about missing Robin was poignant because it showed a vulnerability she usually reserves for Henry and Snow. Let’s not also forget that she earnestly thanked Emma for trying to save her, willing to sacrifice herself to the Chernabog. This evolution may have taken a while, but it was great to see a genial camaraderie between the two characters.

Speaking of emerging friendships, Belle and Killian have developed a new found respect and understanding of each other, and their scene together was touching and beautiful. When Killian expresses frustrations about finding a way to release the fairies, Belle encourages him that they will find a way. They commiserate on feeling tricked and deceived by Rumple, both blinded by love, and having their hearts held in vastly different ways. And when he sees her on the verge of tears, he tries to comfort her, saying that despite everything Rumple did love her. It’s difficult to express how moving it was to see the enemy and wife of The Dark One, the man who hurt her in the name of revenge and the woman who called his heart rotten, now working together with ease and friendliness, showing each other genuine care and kindness. This was a true testament to the show’s themes of redemption and forgiveness. She knows the darkness in his heart has faded away and the two can relate in a very unique way. Despite her own heartbreak she can be happy for someone else’s joy in love, and seeing her brightly smile at Emma and Killian’s morning farewell was lovely. Colin O’Donoghue and Emilie DeRavin also played the subtle nuances of the scene beautifully. They are more open when discussing the task at hand, both of them intelligent and adept at research. But when their talk grows more serious and vulnerable, we see a slight hesitation between them before they open up. It’s a fine depiction of two people learning to become friends and I truly hope we see this friendship continue to grow.

Emma and Killian’s scenes were a shining example of not only the types of moments that make the show so special and resonate with me the most, but also the kind of equal partnership that true love encompasses and has been developing between the love struck couple. In my 2014 year in review I expressed a hope and assertion how they will continue to grow and showcase that kind of supportive relationship: ” They will be a light for each other when the other is lost in the darkness, a hand to hold when the other needs solace, a shoulder to lean on when the other needs support…and lips to kiss to make each other feel truly loved.” And indeed, Emma and Killian demonstrated all of these aspects in their moments together. As they greet each other in the morning with bright smiles, a gentle embrace and a sweet kiss, it’s clear the six weeks of peace in Storybrooke has brought them closer together. After nearly losing each other they have learned to enjoy the quiet moments. The sweet goodbye kiss on her forehead was also another lovely first for the couple, while the natural ease as they walked down the street with their arms around each other, showcases both a deeper bond and a need to retain that connection, having it almost severed weeks before. We see that in moments of peace they are truly happy, and this scene in particular felt like the kind of “Have a good day at work” moment that couples so often share. In the scene before the fairies are released, Emma and Killian join hands and never let go, a lovely instant where it is Emma showing comfort and support, knowing how guilt ridden he has been. Even when he almost pulls away she grasps his hand even tighter- a gesture purposefully placed in the foreground of the shot while the newly emerged fairies are clinging to each other in the background. It’s an exquisite juxtaposition meant to emphasize that we should hold on with reverence and fervor to the ones we love. And as the fairies emerged with a blast of golden light, everyone is knocked down and the first thing these two do is look to each other to make sure they are okay. It’s a quick moment but no less meaningful.

Perhaps the finest moments for the couple were their touching final ones. Even after the fairies are free Killian waits in the hallway of Granny’s for Emma, still feeling guilty for, though unwittingly, trapping them in the first place. Killian has always been one to build up Emma’s confidence, unfailingly believing in her and showing her comfort and support. But in this scene it is Emma who so beautifully reciprocates what he has always given her. She playfully teases him with pirate lingo of “swashbuckling” and assures him that he is a hero. The somber look on his face and response of “I hope so” demonstrates how he still has doubts and issues of self worth, especially when it comes to being worthy of Emma’s love. But she believes in him and will no doubt continue to show her pirate boyfriend that he is a better man than he thinks. Her sweet boost of confidence obviously resonates with him because moments later we see him happily celebrating with Storybrooke’s residents, including Snow (something I have wanted to see for a long time), and in their final scene they are enjoying a cozy dinner at Granny’s, waiting for her parents and watching Henry with pride, Killian commenting on her new sense of optimism. She takes no personal credit for this change, but it is her choice to look at life from a hopeful perspective. Just as it’s her choice to open her heart to love and light after being closed off for so long; just as it’s Killian’s choice to let go of his darkness and tread a path of light. Darkness may be emerging in Storybrooke and struggles may come, but Emma and Killian will surely continue to be a light in each other’s life, and fall even more deeply and truly in love. And all of our heroes will need to make some important choices.

Favorite Moments:
Seeing Emma assure Killian of his hero status while also attempting to talk like a pirate was both touching and adorable, and Belle and Killian showing each other comfort and understanding was extremely poignant. It is also hard to beat the hilarity of the image of Cruella Devil, Ursula, and Rumplestiltskin ordering fast food at the Drive thru. Lastly, the opening montage of a happy, peaceful life in Storybrooke had a sense of wonder and felt like a preview of what these character’s lives will be like when the show’s happy ending eventually arrives

Favorite Lines:
Emma: You have a mark in the hero column.
Killian: I hope so.

Killian: If we’re reduced to those magic boxes, then I’d say hope is in short supply.
Belle: They call it the internet.

Emma: Let’s go, it’s a party. We should buckle some swash.

Ursula: I’ve missed you, too. How are you?
Regina: Mostly wondering how a plate of undercooked calamari ended up with the Dark One’s cell phone.


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