Unforgiven Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 13

Because, when you betray the people you love, when you make them see the worst parts of you, what you’ve done changes everything.


Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Michael Socha, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 4
Episode 13: Unforgiven

So, what are the Queens of Darkness going to do now that they’re back in Storybrooke? Why, they’re going to go to Granny’s cafe of course, and be treated horribly by the so-called heroes, because they’re as judgmental as the villains they despise. Granny is a dick. There. I said it.

Moving that to one side, the dastardly duo set their sights upon restoring their beloved sister sorceress Maleficent. It doesn’t take a genius to recognise they’re up to something, but all it does take to get Emma to drop it is her parents unconvincingly telling her that the pair are trying to make a new life in town, and they should all leave them to it. The fact that this doesn’t immediately ring alarm bells in Emma’s ears in a town where people are regularly enchanted or have their hearts ripped out is monumentally confusing, especially considering her “superpower” for telling when somebody is telling a lie.

All of those frustrating elements to one side, Cruella continues to be an absolute riot in this episode. She chews the scenery with more vivacity than a Doberman munching upon a toddler. Every single line is spot on. Let’s face it, Cruella’s never exactly been a subtle character. She’s a fashionista, and she’s glamour personified. It’s nice to see a character who is so unabashed, and Victoria Smurfit is clearly having the time of her life.

Unfortunately, Ursula is still woefully generic. All she seems to do is wander around with Cruella, using her tentacles for illicit means. Her costume in the Enchanted Forest is also still horrendous. So that’s a thing.

Cruella and Ursula’s plot to resurrect Maleficent is crafty, and makes them appear as credible villains, if only it weren’t for Rumplestiltskin putting them up to it. I feel like they’re just Rumple’s puppets, and ultimately he could be playing them just as much as he manipulates everybody else. It’ll be disappointing if they portray this great triad of women just operating underneath Rumple the entire time.

I feel like Snow and Charming’s quest to keep Emma from learning whatever secret they have, because apparently they did something in the past to ensure her “goodness”, is the flashbacks finally becoming too much. I mean, I’ve complained about them for a great deal of time, but there comes a time when you add too much to a person’s backstory. Are we really meant to believe that Snow and Charming – in between their wedding and the curse being enacted – went on some massive quest to make sure that Emma would be good, while simultaneously managing to make Maleficent lose her child? It’s clearly just an attempt to make Snow and Charming interesting by adding more grey morality.

Honestly, these flashbacks just seem to have come out of nowhere narratively. There have been no hints in the past four seasons that Emma could end up being evil. She was even put on the curse as the one who could break it by Rumple, so it’s a bit of a stretch for the show to pretend that that was only because of something that Snow and Charming did. Emma is constantly referred to as “The Savior”, destined to restore people’s happy endings. Changing all of that now just seems like a way to pique the audience’s interest as much as possible.

The idea that Charming and Snow hurt Maleficent’s baby is an intriguing one, and does serve to add more to the morally grey concept that the show leans towards, but it’s jarring. Once tries to lean into these ideas, but then also literally refers to its characters as heroes and villains. What is it that makes Snow and Charming heroes compared to the villains if they’ve just done just as terrible acts? Is it the commitment towards treating others with respect and being a good person, or is it just an arbitrary nomenclature? It seems reductive that the show continues to reduce the characters to “good” and “bad”, even when they go to great pains at fleshing them out far beyond that.

Having said that, I am intrigued to see what the dynamic is between Maleficent and the Charmings, and I hope that they tackle these issues head on. The idea of villains being wronged has been touched upon before, but since heroes and villains have properly entered the fore of the show, it would be nice for the show to address what makes the two breeds so distinct. It would be nice to see Snow and Charming appear as more villainous compared to Maleficent, and I hope what they did is really terrible to justify this level of secrecy.

Once Upon an Additional Brainthought

  • The fact that Emma can tell when Hook is holding something back from her, but does not detect her parents acting really shifty is bizarre. Also, her sudden U-turn to “my parents would never lie to me” seems a little out of nowhere. I mean, it’s great that she seems to have developed this unshakable faith in her parents, but wasn’t it only a few episodes ago where she was complaining that nobody understood her the way that Regina did?
  • Snow and Charming’s story ultimately went in a massive circle this episode. They kept secrets, it went badly and it was used against them, so they resolve to tell Emma, and then they didn’t want to so now it can still be used against them again. And undoubtedly will be, and it will be worse because they lied to her about it. Calling it now.
  • Throwing Regina into the lion’s den does make sense, but it is hugely callous of Snow. The chances are that they will force Regina to do something nefarious to prove her allegiance to them, and even though Regina is a hero and has come a long way, will she be able to go through with it?
  • Belle is also uncharacteristically dim when Ursula and Cruella come to Gold’s shop. Has she forgotten so easily about Ursula’s tentacles?
  • How is Belle running Gold’s shop and the library? Why is she even bothering with his shop? She should let Regina in and harvest all of magical objects.
  • I don’t like that Belle has moved on with Will. Not because I want her with Rumple, because bleurgh. But because now Rumple is upset because she’s “moved on” and “replaced” him, instead of him being upset that he hurt her. She can have moved on and have no space in her life for him without having to be tied to somebody else. I don’t think that Belle and Will have ever had a conversation before, so it just seems like a convenient way to actually use Will since he’s been regular cast for most of this season and done absolutely nothing.
  • It’s like Rumple wants people to discover him at this point. For a man who seeks to be undetected, he’s spending an awful lot of time wandering around in the middle of the streets.

You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Serena says:

    I am glad I’m not the only one who thinks this “twist” to the Charmings’ backstory is a clunker. A “twist” is only valid when it evolves from established characterization, and interprets the rules of internal logic in a clever (ie. surprising but still consistent with established canon) way. That is not the case here, as you clearly explained. The writers shoe-horned a completely contrived “dark secret” into a narrative that does not support it at all. When gimmick is prioritized over craft, we lose out on good stories that come from organically exploring the flawed humanity of our beloved characters.

    I despise that the writers have turned the Charmings into self-righteous hypocrites — that is not true to their characters. They were originally shown to perform heroic deeds out of a real desire to help people and alleviate suffering, not to acquire the label of “hero”.

    These writers seem determined to assassinate every character until the viewer has no reasons left to watch — I already fast-forward through most of the Rumple and Belle scenes for this reason.

    I am still finding some scenes enjoyable (Regina, Hook, Cruella), but I am hoping the writers stop undermining the characters instead of developing them in a manner consistent with what made us fall in love with them in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

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