Once Upon a Time: Unforgiven Review

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By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

Spoilers Ahead


This week’s Once Upon a Time was another gleaming example of why this show continues to enchant and remain so special to so many of us, showcasing a blend of mystery, emotional and character development, brilliant acting, poignant writing, and beautiful direction. Some important things to note are that this marked the directorial debut of series creator/writer Adam Horowitiz, and that after a very long and noticeable time, Snow and David were brought into the forefront with a very intriguing story. This big mystery was a dark secret the couple has kept for a long time- one that involved doing something terrible to Maleficent and one they are desperate for Emma never to learn. In the Enchanted Forest of the past, pieces of the puzzle are slowly revealed as we see Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella approach Snow and David, wanting to join forces to stop Regina from enacting the Dark Curse. They all journey to the Tree of Wisdom where the couple’s valiant hearts will allow them to ask for a way to defeat the Evil Queen. But they are blasted back without any answers, and Maleficent realizes it’s because Snow is pregnant. Being the product of true love, their child has the potential for both tremendous goodness and great darkness. This dark potential is what makes Snow refuse Maleficent’s clandestine plea to still band together, even after she reveals that she is pregnant too. This refusal to ensure her, David’s, and their child’s heart remains good is only part of their secret. In the present, Snow tells Regina that they were responsible for Maleficent losing that child. How they are responsible is unsure, but this “betrayal” in the past is what motivates their actions in present day Storybrooke, which drove home the real emotional resonance of the episode.

Firstly, I must mention how much I adore the presence of Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella who all chew up the scenery with the best of them. Cruella especially could compete with Regina in a sass contest and every line out of her mouth is golden, while their kind of villain sisterhood is quite entertaining. What’s interesting is that you have to wonder if their hopes are not that different from that of the heroes. When I saw that the trinket that Ursula and Cruella stole from Gold’s shop for Maleficent was a baby rattle I was brought to tears. Kudos to Kristin Bauer van Straten’s performance for giving a dark character such a believably moving moment. In that instant, she was not a villain or a witch. She was simply a mother grieving for her child. In the quest the find the illusive Storybook author we were also treated to some fantastic moments for Regina. When Henry tells her that August had added his story to the book, she calls Pinocchio and Gepetto to her office hoping to jog his memories of his former adult self. But he remembers nothing, not even his friendship with Emma (which I always loved), causing Regina to harshly lash out at the child. Gepetto of course is furious at her and gives her some much needed words. Perhaps her quest is ill fated because of her past wrong doings. Of course he is only half right because if there’s one thing OUAT has taught us is that our pasts do not have to dictate our future. But Regina, who lacked self awareness in the past, has grown so much and in a scene where she seeks Gepetto out to apologize, she shows genuine remorse, makes a sincere apology, and shows a tremendous sense of self awareness saying that her happy ending will never happen if she reverts to her old ways. He not only accepts her apology but gives her some of August’s old things wishing her true luck, as the two share a smile and small touch of the hand. This may be one of my favorite of Regina’s moments ever and Lana Parrilla played it so well, as did Tony Amendola (who, by the way, is a season one favorite of mine and so wonderful). I never thought a scene between these two characters would move me so much, but it goes to show that a series about fairy tales so often has very human moments.

It is not nearly mentioned enough, but Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas provide so much heart to the show through their superb acting. They conveyed their fear, guilt and desperation to keep their secret, especially from Emma, impeccably well and the moment when they almost decided to tell her but change their minds so as not to shatter her heart, nearly crushed mine. Their characters have always embodied virtue and strength, and although they may have stumbled from that pedestal a bit, one cannot help but still love and empathize with them. In the past, their dealings with Regina made them unflinchingly refuse to align with anyone less than virtuous. In the present, it is their desire to protect Emma’s new found sense of optimism that informs their decision to remain quiet. It is difficult to see them lying to Emma, but it leaves ample room for dramatic development and gives the idealized characters a new dimension that once again feels very human.

Emma’s parents were not the only ones keeping something from her. A cold greeting between Killian and Ursula reveals an obviously bad history between the sea witch and the pirate. When the ever doting boyfriend Killian brings Emma her lunch at the Sheriff’s Station, the couple are all smiles and adorableness as she looks up at him as adoringly as we’ve ever seen. But their happy moment is fleeting when she asks about his past with Ursula and he will not say anything about it. Colin O’Donoghue plays Killian’s obvious discomfort, shame, and fear brilliantly, and whatever happened between them, it’s certain he is not proud and fears Emma will never look at him the same, very much the same fear her parents have. The difference however is that Emma is unaware of their secret and her belief that her parents would never lie to her brought forth a truly lovely moment, though also a bit bittersweet.

Emma calls Killian back to the station to have a serious heart to heart and this scene was not only one of the most touching of the episode, but one the most poignant, glorious, and real moments we’ve ever seen with the couple. Emma assures Killian that it’s okay there is something from his past he’s not telling her, but that it’s not okay to lie about it. Even after he admits that what he did was ugly and worse than breaking her heart, she touchingly tells him that whatever it is, it will not change anything between them. For Killian, who has rarely had anyone believe in him, this must mean a great deal, though you can still hear the doubt in his voice and fear that her faith in him is undeserved. The reason behind this faith and following promises they exchange was absolutely heartwarming and beautifully portrayed by O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison. Never letting go of his hand, Emma tells him that her troubled childhood always consisted of people letting her down, to which he says he intends to never do so. What is beautiful is that she says she knows that, and that a moment where she doubted her parent’s truthfulness made her realize that she once had a tendency to believe the worst in people. But Emma does not want to be that person anymore. And what was exquisitely moving was when she says she is going to choose to see the best in Killian, and he promises to do the same with her. With looks of true love and nearly whispered vows, this beautifully written, truly intimate moment was the first time Emma and Killian have ever genuinely talked about the feelings they share for each other. Although they have not yet said those three special words, the depth of what they feel is expressed in this promise to always see the best in each other. Is this not the kind of love we all long for? To have someone look at you with such affection and show you unfailing devotion. Someone who trusts you and you can trust with the most precious thing you have to give: your heart. Someone who believes in you even when you make mistakes, does not judge you for past wrongs but instead sees the good person you truly are. Someone who sees the best in you and helps you to see the best in yourself. Someone who chooses you. Someone you can walk, hand in hand with, together through life. The incandescently, radiant smiles on Emma and Killian’s faces as they walk home together are a pristine example that no matter the dangers or struggles we face, having someone we truly love, who will walk through life with us is always worth it. As she rests her head on his shoulder with a radiant smile, matching the equally bright one on his face, we see the two once lost souls the happiest they’ve ever been in a quiet moment of pure, luminous joy that will be cherished as much as they cherish each other.

Their happy moment on the street was also part of another of the episode’s finest moments. OUAT has always done montages exceptionally well most notably in “There’s No Place Like Home,” “Quiet Minds,” and “Fall.” The end of “Unforgiven” was no exception as Snow’s speech about wanting to protect those we love from things that may shatter the bonds they’ve forged played over many significant scenes. Emma’s parents, amusingly, interrupted her romantic moment with Killian, and hearing her daughter open her heart makes her realize she does not want to jeopardize that. Her speech also plays over Rumple watching Belle from afar, who surprisingly shares a kiss with Will Scarlet. Though it’s lovely to see these two sweet characters happy, especially after the pain she suffered, I am desperately wondering what happened to Will’s true love Anastasia. The juxtaposition of joy and heartbreak plays perfectly with the crux of the scene’s dynamic and was deeply powerful and poignant.

Favorite Moments: Emma and Killian’s heartfelt promise to always see the best in each other made my heart soar and eyes misty, Snow’s powerful speech over a haunting montage was a beautiful example of the shows brilliance by every contributor, and Regina and Gepetto’s genuine moment of understanding was surprisingly moving.

Favorite Lines:
Emma: Whatever you did, you’re not that person anymore. It’s not going to change anything between us.
Killian: That’s quite a lot of faith you’re putting on me, Swan.

Emma: I’m going to choose to see the best in you.
Killian: And I, with you.

Cruella (to David): Is there a problem Sheriff Chisel Chin?

Cruella (about Granny): You know if that old bag still wolfed out, I’d turn her into a coat for my collection.

Regina: I should have known fish sticks and pound puppy were here for more than a second chance.


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