Best Laid Plans Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 16

Heroes do what’s right, not what’s easy.


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 16: Best Laid Plans

Considering the build up about the terrible act that Snow and Charming had committed, and their insistence to keep it a secret from Emma, I was slightly worried that their acts wouldn’t actually have justified this level of drama. Fortunately, Snow and Charming’s transgressions were far from them just being overly sensitive heroes, but was actually a genuinely terrible act. “Best Laid Plans” succeeds as it finally brings some forward traction on a few of these key plot elements, to stop the audience from becoming bored or frustrated with this ongoing Author arc.

The past storyline sees Snow and Charming growing increasingly paranoid in the wake of what Maleficent told them about Emma, in that she could grow up to be evil or she could grow to be good – which is, of course, slightly inevitable, as pointed out by the Apprentice. Snow and Charming take it upon themselves to assure their child of a noble destiny, but in order to do so, they must trade another’s goodness.

Snow and Charming come to the conclusion that Mal’s baby, considering she’s a dragon, is going to end up as evil as her mother, so it can do no harm to decide her fate for her in order to protect their own daughter. I cannot even begin with how much of a tremendous violation this is, and the show does give it the appropriate weight. Maleficent truly looks crushed as Snow and Charming steal the baby, and it’s never presented as the pair doing the right thing. The show knows that Snow and Charming made a bad call and doesn’t make any attempt to justify it.

The most unappealing aspects of this story for me were the elements of Snow’s sense of superiority to the villains based upon her own goodness. She looks down upon the villains, and assumes that Mal’s baby – who isn’t even born yet – is going to be evil anyway and is destined to that life, so it doesn’t make a difference if it means that Emma can grow up to be good. Of course, she fails to consider, even though the Apprentice tells her, that all people are born with infinite capacity to either be good or evil.

It’s also galling considering the way that Snow and Charming have become such goody-goodies in Storybrooke, acting as if they’re the authority on what makes good and evil, when they did this kind of thing. And, in terms of their personal timeline, it’s not even as if it’s that long ago for them. For them, it was right before when the curse hit, which was only about 2 years ago for them. It’s nice to add extra layers to them as characters and show that everybody is capable of great good and great evil, but I really need the vocabulary in the show to start matching that too. You can’t keep on terming characters as “heroes” and “villains” and then also have both sides experiencing stories like this one.

The main thing that makes me uncomfortable with this storyline both in the past and in the present is the way that Snow and Charming seem to have removed Emma’s free will from the equation. In the past, they used alternative methods to ensure Emma’s “goodness”, and now, in the present, upon learning Rumple’s schemes, also become obsessed with preventing her turning, as if Emma is somehow a victim to external whims, instead of them trusting in Emma’s own capacity for good.

The ruthlessness that Snow and Charming show in the present to protect their secret shows that they haven’t learned and developed in some ways since making those choices in the past. They still do not grant Emma the full story and seek to make decisions for her, as if anybody can decide Emma’s fate other than herself.

It’s good that Snow and Charming ultimately realise their error and confess to Emma. Even though she is the maddest that she’s ever been – and rightly so – it was certain to come out sooner rather than later.

Having said that, I can’t help but feel that Snow and Charming’s idea to get rid of the Author in the page was actually the right call, as ruthless as it initially appeared. August explaining that the Author had taken to rewriting reality, instead of just recording it, makes him the most powerful and most dangerous enemy they’ve yet faced, and the fact that they now expect him to bend to their will without pursuing his own goals is downright foolish. In fact, when Emma brings him out of the page, she doesn’t even seem to consider that he might not follow their instructions, and is surprised when he takes off. He truly was a creature who should have been kept tucked away, instead of manipulating events for his own entertainment.

As for the other reveal tonight, it was nice that we had some closure in the present day of Maleficent’s baby, showing that, upon being delivered to the Land Without Magic, she was fortunately adopted. The fact that she’s also Lily, Emma’s best friend, is further intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how that dynamic is tackled with the pair in their adulthood, aware that the Charmings stole Lily’s happy ending in order to achieve Emma’s goodness.

Once Upon an Additional Brainthought

  • I’m glad that Regina has been discovered by the Queens of Darkness, but I hope they find a way to rescue her from the vault before too long.
  • Snow and Charming are insistent at talking in whispers, but do they realise that when nobody else is talking in the loft they can probably hear the exact conversation that they’re having?
  • It’s really annoying how Gold’s plan revolves around Emma turning evil, yet ultimately that’s Emma’s decision. While the lies she’s heard from Snow and Charming have made her mad, it’s going to take a whole lot more than that to turn her to the dark side.
  • The little reference to Walt Disney being one of the past Authors was sweet.
  • The Author is clearly a villain. He’s obviously a villain just by August’s description, so why did they bring him out of the book?!
  • I don’t understand why Emma looks like a drug addict whenever she’s mad.
  • So Maleficent cast a sleeping curse over the entire of Storybrooke, but then surely Aurora would also have been running around as well as the others? Hey did nobody mention that? Also, where was Neal this entire episode?
  • At least now we know how Ursula and Cruella ended up in the real world from the Enchanted Forest. It’s nice how it didn’t become a whole story in itself, but just neatly slotted in here.
  • I wonder what the Author gained by making Snow and Charming sacrifice Maleficent’s baby like that?
  • The fact that Snow’s only horrified when she realises that it’s a baby inside the egg instead of a dragon is appalling. Think on your actions Snow. It was always a bad thing to have done.
  • Some more fantastic sleep acting by Emilie de Ravin here (it’s half of what she has to do. I really hope she gets paid the same amount regardless of how much she does in an episode – it’s only right that she should be making a killing while being barely used), while Michael Socha isn’t in the episode at all.
  • Surely now all of the inhabitants of Storybrooke are immune to the sleeping curse? I feel like they pulled that gambit a bit too early just to find a storybook page.

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 hate that the writers have made the Charmings into self-righteous hypocrites. This is not who the characters were originally. As shown in Season 1, they performed heroic acts because they genuinely wanted to help and protect others, not for the label of “hero”. Now they are portrayed as calling themselves heroes while acting in a manner that harms others to further their own goals. This complete reversal of their characters is unjustified — there are plenty of moral grey areas that can be explored that don’t require entirely negating the core values of these characters.

    Plus their motivation really makes no sense. All children have the potential for both good and evil. They themselves were able to make their own way, so why would they try to remove free will from their child? This “dark secret” does not add depth, it just distorts their characters beyond recognition. I am begging the writers to stop with the character assassinations!

    And then the plot requires Emma to be stupid enough to release the Author from the page without taking any precautions, in spite of ample warning. Please stop making these characters act like idiots!

    Liked by 1 person

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