Once Upon a Time: Poor Unfortunate Soul Review


By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

While I always enjoy Once Upon a Time, every so often an episode comes around that feels utterly perfect, and such is the case with “Poor Unfortunate Soul,” which was not only one of the best of Season 4, but also the entire series. It hit all the right emotional and thematic notes, included an intriguing and relevant flashback, and was filled with adventure, sweetness, nods to classic Disney moments, the return of beloved characters, outstanding writing, and wonderful performances. In present day Storybrooke, the villains attempt to torture information about the author out of August and Regina is able to get a message to the heroes about this, as well as Gold’s return. They ask Belle for the dagger but she says that Killian has it (I guess that Pirate oath didn’t last long). Of course he is confused and Emma realizes Gold’s deception. Killian is furious but Emma tries to calm him down, while Belle sadly doesn’t express anger but rather resignation that he managed to deceive her once again. Emma and her parents set out to rescue August, and in this venture we see a wonderful moment for her character and perhaps foreshadowing of things to come. Emma defends Killian’s reaction about Gold, saying she completely understands where he was coming from, but assures Snow and David that neither of them would ever truly give into the darkness. It was lovely to see her unfailing support of her love, while also offering the intriguing notion that Emma might be tempted in the future and may need help back into the light. Meanwhile, Killian seeks out Ursula, hoping if he restores her happy ending she will reveal everything Gold has planned. We know he can. As we see in a flashback, as a young mermaid, Ursula (Tiffany Boone channeling Merrin Dungey to a T) is commanded by her father Poseidon (terrific Ernie Hudson) to use her singing voice to lure pirates to a watery grave. But Ursula and her father feel very different about said things. After her mother was killed by a pirate, Poseidon forces Ursula to use her voice as a weapon, but she wants to sing to make people happy and keep her mother’s spirit alive within her. She spares Hook and his ship and when the two meet in a tavern he expresses genuine desire to help her run away and find her own happiness. Poseidon attempts to thwart their plan by offering him squid ink that could help him gain his revenge in exchange for stealing her voice, but Hook is not persuaded. It is only when his chance is taken away by the sea king that he goes back on his promise to Ursula. This breaks her spirit and motivates her to transform herself into the creature she is now. In the present, Killian and Ursula strike a deal. He can give her back her voice, but it’s aboard the Jolly Roger. With a portal and Wonderland magic (because his ship was, somewhat amusingly, in a bottle) he is reunited with his vessel. Unfortunately, Ursula has no such luck with having her voice restored. Furious, she tosses an unconscious Killian overboard. Luckily, Ariel (who had been trapped in the bottle as well) rescues him. First of all, the presence of Joanna Garcia Swisher’s Ariel is always welcome. She embodies Ariel perfectly and I adore the dynamic between her and Killian. She gives him a slap (which he knows he had coming), but also clearly has forgiven him, knowing that he traded his ship to Blackbeard who has been terrorizing many, including some from Arendelle, and Elsa trapped the ship as punishment. Ariel also succinctly relates a truth about one of the show’s major themes- villains can’t get happy endings because they go about getting them the wrong way. This gives Killian an idea. Ariel brings Poseidon to Storybrooke and he reunites father and daughter, as well as finally restoring Ursula’s voice.

One of this episode’s strongest points was the way the flashbacks so perfectly connected with the present day drama. Merrin Dungey had been playing Ursula with a cold cynicism that reflected more a jaded than evil mindset and now we know why. She was a brave and kind girl whose motivation was spurned from a crushed soul. The connection between Dungey and Boone who portrayed her younger self was never doubted. Moreover, I loved seeing that even in his darkest times Hook still showed sensitivity and a code of honor. Though in the end he made a mistake, his remorse was obvious, and it makes his present day actions more touching and believable. The moment Ursula and her father were reunited illuminated such a prescient theme of the series. Poseidon sincerely apologizes, telling her he was wrong to let his pain lead him toward vengeance, and this felt so reminiscent of characters like Regina and Killian who have realized that revenge will not lead to happiness, only an emptiness vengeance can never fill. It brought tears to my eyes seeing the look of pure joy on Ursula’s face as did the little touch of absolution she gives to Killian. In this moving scene, we see the importance of family and the power of forgiveness. In fact, the entire episode was filled with small moments that felt grand in meaning. Although it was brief and only a dream, it was wonderful to see Regina and Robin Hood reunited. I’ve missed Sean Maguire’s presence so much. And Regina fearing that an image of her old self is somehow a premonition that her true love is in danger was definitely interesting. And who else loved all of the Disney references? Ursula’s story was so much like that of Ariel’s in “The Little Mermaid.” She even sang the same melody and the film’s opening song “Fathoms Below.” Snow channeled Rapunzel using a frying pan as her weapon of choice and August’s growing nose when he told a lie depicted the iconic Pinocchio moment. Speaking of August, he has been deeply missed and seeing him reunited with Emma made me smile so much. I always loved their friendship and I adored her touch of his cheek and the genuine smiles between the two as he happily sees that she finally believes in herself. August also reveals a shocking twist in our tale. The torn Storybook page that depicts a door is not simply an illustration of the portal the author is behind. The author is trapped inside the book! In another alarming twist, Ursula tells Killian about Gold’s plan. The author can’t give the villains happy endings in this world because Emma did, and as long as she’s the Savior that won’t change. Gold plans to fill Emma’s heart with darkness so happy endings will finally come to him and his fellow villains.

The concept of a happy ending is something Once Upon a Time addresses at length. As we have seen, happy endings always start with hope and they can often change. Since the beginning of the series it has been Emma’s destiny to bring back the happy endings- something she once reluctantly accepted, but now happily embraces and takes very seriously. A beautiful scene between Emma and Killian expressed this abstraction in a new and moving way in one of the loveliest moments not only for the couple, but also the entire show. When Killian reunites Ursula with her father we see Emma look up at Killian, beaming with pride and adoration, but he expresses no such joy. When they are alone, Killian explains to her why. He almost reverted to the man he was and that fear that he could slip back into the darkness is very strong. Emma reassures him but he then reveals his deepest fear. Despite his redemption, he reminds her that he was a villain. Despite her reassurance that he longer is one, he says if they are to believe the rules of the Storybook, sooner or later he will lose his happy ending. Emma realizes that he means he has found it and asks what his happy ending is. He can’t believe she doesn’t know- it’s her. She looks at him in disbelief, and slowly moves towards him, meeting him in a soft kiss, with a tear streaming down her cheek. I speak a great deal about Emma and Killian’s characters and there is a reason. It is because their love story has captured my heart in an immeasurable way. Surrounded by magic, their relationship is grounded in reality and is truly poignant because it is about two wounded souls, whose love for each other repaired the broken pieces of their hearts. And this exquisite moment embodies perfectly how much these two have come to mean to each other. We know how much Killian loves Emma. He has shown and told her in countless ways, and indeed she has begun to do the same. As the Savior, Emma helps others find their happy endings, but rarely thinks of her own, let alone thinks that she could be someone’s. Hearing that she is Killian’s, Morrison’s expression is utterly heart wrenching, matching O’Donoghue’s equally touching expression and declaration of incomparable vulnerability. In a single, unflinching, tear filled look, Morrison showcases a woman who spent a lifetime feeling unwanted and unloved, who was lied to and abandoned, suddenly realize that she is loved in the most profound way possible. It is one thing to tell someone you love them, it is quite another to tell them they are your happy ending. When Killian told Emma he traded his ship for her, what he truly told her was that she is his home. When he tells Emma that she is his happy ending, he is not only saying that he loves her, but that she is his happiness and his everything. Forever. They’ve expressed their affection for each other in so many ways, but none so meaningful as this soul baring moment. Emma is rendered speechless and so overcome with emotion, all she can do in move towards him, the two of them never blinking their tear filled eyes. And they kiss with a sweetness and purity like we’ve never seen. It says something profound to cry when kissing the one you love. It expresses the truest of true loves. And this scene may be the most magical the show has ever seen. For Emma and Killian, this moment began with an expression of fear but ended with one of hope. And it felt like the beautiful beginning of two people starting to believe that the happy ending they never expected, and now fear losing, may truly be possible.

Favorite Moments:
The moment Killian told Emma she was his happy ending was one of the most exquisitely moving moments we have ever seen on the show and its beauty is unprecedented. All of the reunions filled my heart with joy and I adored seeing Ursula reconcile with her father, Emma and August share a sweet moment of friendship and understanding, and Ariel save Killian’s life. Killian’s reunion with the Jolly Roger was also fantastic and I am so happy he has his ship back.

Favorite Lines:
Emma: Wait, if you’re afraid of losing your happy ending, that means you found it. What is it?
Killian: Don’t you know, Emma? It’s you.

Will: That’s your ship is it? Bit small isn’t it?
Killian: Careful mate. It’s unwise to insult the size of a man’s ship.

Killian: Maybe Ursula was right. Maybe villains can’t get their happy endings.
Ariel: Maybe that’s because villains always go about getting them the wrong way.

August: (sees Emma using magic) I see someone’s been practicing.
Emma: Well I seem to remember someone telling me I just need to believe in myself.
August: I always knew you’d figure it out.


  1. CindyMarch 24th, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Lovely review. I agree this is one of the top episodes of the season and the series.

  2. SarahMarch 25th, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Couldn’t agree more! Best episode of the season so far and the actors were letter-perfect. Colin’s delivery of the “It’s you,” line just KILLS me. Love the review!

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