Once Upon a Time: “The Black Fairy” Review

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By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

“The Black Fairy” was the kind of thought-provoking, evocative, emotional Once Upon a Time episode that I always appreciate, with some character and plot twists I truly did not see coming. In addition to very deep and sad stories for Rumple and his mother, there were also some moments of levity and poignancy for Zelena and Regina, and incredibly sweet and touching moment for Henry, Killian, and Emma on the eve of the wedding of the Princess and the Pirate.

From beginning to end, “The Black Fairy” was filled with surprises and the unexpected, many of which were extremely emotional and tragic, especially when it dealt with the truth about Rumple and his family. It turns out Rumple’s mother Fiona, a.k.a. the Black Fairy, wasn’t always a malevolent and immortal being, nor was Malcolm, who would become Peter Pan, all viciousness and selfishness. No, they were a happy couple, deeply in love and overjoyed with the birth of their son, marveling at how beautiful and perfect he was. That was just the first surprise. The next was even more shocking. Upon Rumple’s birth, the Blue Fairy and his Fairy Godmother Tiger Lily arrive with prophetic news – he is the Savior, destined to be a great hero with light magic. But as we know, the fate of all saviors is that they are to die and he is meant to do so by saving everyone from a dreadful power – someone born in that winter with a scar shaped like a crescent moon. As plot twists go, I never once expected that Rumple would have been born a Savior, but seeing as he and Emma have always shared some similarities while also being like two sides of a coin, it’s certainly an intriguing development.

Of course, there were many more surprising moments. Fiona turned herself into a fairy in order to protect her son, determined that he wouldn’t die, descending so far in darkness that she began developing the dark curse, willing to sacrifice an innocent’s heart: Tiger Lily’s. Much like what happens with Dark Ones, that act is what transforms her into the Black Fairy. Blue intervenes to save Tiger and banishes Fiona, but not before she uses the shears of destiny on her son, severing his fate as a Savior. The child is then returned to his father, Malcolm, who was never the same again having lost the love of his life. It’s all so unexpected but heart wrenching to witness.

What’s most interesting about all these truths is that, at their core, they are not surprising in the sense that they demonstrated things Once Upon a Time has always depicted. Here we see the ways in which fear and grief change people and can take them down a very dark path. It was actually heartbreaking to see that Rumple’s father had been so loving, considering what he became. Losing his wife was too much for him, and he looked at his son as the one who stole her from him, deeply resenting him. It’s so sad but also something that could happen to people who lose their spouse, for example, in childbirth. It also makes his desire to return to a place of childhood, where he was in complete control, make even more sense. For both Fiona and Rumple, we see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and that “evil isn’t born, it’s made.” Their family is a tragic example of a vicious cycle of bad decisions, born out of a desire to protect their children, unwilling to forgo their power and descending into evil. Their choices are inexcusable but also sympathetic. They don’t begin as malicious, but soon they become a tidal wave of dark actions they can never take back. It’s like the struggles of people who lie. One lie becomes another, and another to cover that one up until it becomes a massive mountain of deception. Only for Rumple and his mother, it’s a mountain of hurting and sacrificing others in the name of love and protection. No one can fault a parent doing anything to protect their child but at the same time, hurting or killing innocent people and becoming a dark shell of your former self is not the way to do it. In the end, everything Fiona did was for Rumple and when she asked him for forgiveness, he seemed to give it to her, deceiving Emma and her family as well as Belle and Gideon (whose heart was safely returned), ready to join her in the final battle. Which leads me to wonder – what exactly are their motivations? If all she wanted was Rumple’s forgiveness, then why does she still have to kill Emma? And is Rumple truly on her side, or is he playing both his mother and the heroes? I do believe him when he says to Belle and Gideon that everything he is doing is for them. But the vagueness and the ominous tone gives me pause. The fatal flaw of their family is their unwillingness to give up power and control. It’s only when the power is sacrificed that true happiness can be found and forgiveness can be achieved.

One of Once Upon a Time‘s greatest aspects has always been it’s amazing characters brought to life by an incredibly talented cast, and the complex Rumpelstiltskin, portrayed brilliantly by Robert Carlyle, most certainly applies. “The Black Fairy” showcased this in spades in Carlyle’s exceptional talent as well as Rumples complexities, deep-seated issues, and shades of gray. His character is one where you often hate what he does and you are not rooting for him, but on the flipside, you can often sympathize with him, not but not excuse his actions. Above all, he’s always intriguing and fascinating to watch and you never know if you can trust him. Usually you cannot, but we have reached a point in the series where I never know what to expect. In this episode, he and Emma enter Rumple’s dream and it was such an interesting reflection of the many facets of his character. It was evocative, ominous, sometimes a bit creepy, but in the end, deeply sad. One of my favorite moments was seeing Emma relate to him on a level few can. While the two obviously deal with their tragic pasts in different ways, what mattered in this moment was that Emma was not judging but empathizing, knowing full well that sometimes the truth and being truly vulnerable is scarier than any monster. And the truth about why your parent would abandon you can be terrifying. Morrison and Carlyle have always shared such a great rapport in moments of reflection, fear, and commonality and this was one of their most poignant.

Moving on to the lighter and sweeter moments of the episode, I absolutely loved Zelena and Regina’s scenes, providing some of the best moments. After sacrificing her magic, Zelena is having trouble adjusting to normal life, currently IKEA currently being her foe. So Regina decides to help and teach her to drive, which resulted in some really golden comedy, from her knocking over trash cans to yelling about the pedals being too close together. And even though the lesson doesn’t really go well at first, when she’s trying to hit something, Zelena is more than capable and seeing her barreling down Main Street and taking out the Black Fairy was pretty hilariously satisfying. Additionally, although I’m not sure if Regina discussed it with Emma and should have, it was sweet that she trusts Zelena enough to want her to take Henry to New York and raise him should things go wrong in the Final Battle. That is one of the greatest forms of trust, and more than shows how far they’ve come as family.

Perhaps the sweetest and my favorite moment of the episode was when Killian enlists Henry in one of his most important missions ever: “Operation Best Man.” I had suspected that Killian may ask his future stepson to have this great honor, but it was no less touching to see, and Jared Gilmore and Colin O’Donoghue were just wonderful in this scene. The two have certainly gone through a lot and have grown closer, and it was heartwarming to see how genuinely touched Henry was. By framing it as a mission for Henry, it’s also a special way of making his role more than a simple figurehead or guardian of the rings. In doing so, it makes it more personal for Henry, including him on this special day in a way he’ll be included in their lives together, making it as much about him as it is about them. In marrying Emma, Killian is gaining a family, which in this case includes a stepson, and that is just as important and meaningful.

Equally sweet and lovely was the brief and blissfully happy goodbye for Emma and Killian as their wedding is the next day. Killian is superstitious about seeing the bride before the wedding and so decides to sleep on the Jolly Roger. Emma just smiles at his quip that after tomorrow, there will be no getting rid of him, to which she adds, “Promise?” Unaware the threat is still out there, they are all about seizing their happiness and not waiting any longer to get married, and their bright smiles were just so beautiful.

Some things of note that I found interesting: the Blue Fairy has always been called “shady” amongst fans, and while I do think she’s good, there are definitely some shady aspects to her, and this episode was a perfect example of such. The fact that Rumple had been born a Savior and had his fate severed might have been useful information, so why did she never share it? It’s also sweet that the heart of Storybrooke is considered Granny’s, with under the jukebox being where the other half of the wand was. Is this foreshadowing next week’s musical episode? I also couldn’t help but chuckle that they went from not wanting to have the wedding till it was right to Snow saying, “Good, then we can still have it tomorrow.” But Emma and Killian are getting married so when they decided doesn’t matter. Even with the threat out there, now is the time for celebration and joy, as this couple embarks on a new exciting adventure in life. And it is sure to be a magically musical wonder to behold.

Favorite moments: Killian asking Henry to be his best man was endearing, sweet, and special. Killian and Emma’s final kiss and smile before saying “I do” was so lovely. And Regina asking Zelena to care for Henry was quite touching. Speaking of Zelena, her barreling down the Black Fairy in her car was absolutely classic. Lastly, Rumple’s dream world (and Carlyle’s performance) was evocative and intriguing but the best moment were seeing him and Emma relate to each other and him being brave enough to face his fears.

Favorite Lines:
Killian: You and I have had quite a few missions together…and you and I have been through quite a lot together, haven’t we? Which is why I’m asking for your assistance now. And this might be the most important mission yet: Operation Best Man.
Henry: Really? Wow, I’m honored.

Killian: After tomorrow, there’ll be no getting rid of me.
Emma: Promise?
Killian: Aye.

Regina: You know I went 28 years without magic during the curse. And it seemed impossible at first. I mean, turning lights on by hand…
Zelena: It’s barbaric, and exhausting.

Emma: The dream realm, huh? I thought there’d be like, flying pigs or talking doughnuts or something.

Zelena: You really trust me to raise Henry?
Regina: No, I trust him to raise you.

Emma: No curse, no monster is ever going to be as terrifying as finding our why you were abandoned.

Killian: Hang on just a second, how do I know that you’re actually you?
Regina: Because it’s me.
Snow: Wait no, Hook’s right. We should have a safe word or something.


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