This is the real world, Regina. There are no heroes and villains – just real people with real problems.Emma
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Michael Socha, and Robert Carlyle.
As we all know, when you kill somebody – regardless of the reasons – you are evil. No, I will have no counter-arguments. Always evil. Every time. Well, according to Once Upon a Time, that is. Never mind the fact that Cora was planning on murdering all of Storybrooke. Snow was evil for killing her. So evil. And Emma, protecting Henry by offing Cruella? She is the worst, and everybody around her just seems to be getting twitchy that everything suggests that Emma has gone dark. Punching a wall? She’s in a rage. Driving quickly. Murderous rage. Pulling a gun? Wait, what? Emma’s pulling a gun, that seems out of character.
Yes, it is. But let’s put Emma Swan’s abrupt and, frankly, naive descent into evil to one side for the moment to focus upon the positives of this episode.
The massive success of this episode is by putting Regina and Emma’s partnership front and centre. Their friendship is truly heartening whenever it appears. Seeing Regina try to break Emma out of her slump, and asking her to come with her to New York by saying “perhaps I need you” was really touching, and it’s such a tremendous step forward for Regina to be displaying genuine affection for Emma. They’ve come so far, guys! Happy, happy day.
It’s also so different hearing Regina talking Emma off the ledge compared to Snow and Charming. Whenever they do it, it always comes across as hypocritical. They’ve put themselves forwards as these brilliant, untouchable heroes, yet they don’t actually embrace all actions and emotions, but just invalidate anger as being evil, which is far from the truth. Being good doesn’t mean repressing every negative emotion. Sure, it’s not excuse for behaving poorly, but shouting every so often doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a villain and I’m so sick of hearing Snow whine about it. It was hilarious having Emma brush Snow off so successfully at the beginning of the episode, however.
Regina talks to Emma as an equal. She doesn’t patronise. When she speaks about going down an evil path, it’s for nobody’s benefit but Emma’s. Regina knows what that road looks like, and every line and piece of advice that Regina gives throughout this episode is imbued with as much in the capable hands of Lana Parrilla.
The flashbacks this week into Lily’s backstory was honestly quite interesting. I’m still confused as to what the relationship is between Lily being destined for evil and yet in the modern world just looking as if she’s miserable and dreadfully unfortunate. It’s not as if Emma’s life was exactly sunshine and rainbows so I’m surprised to see such a profound effect from the world around her. Ironically, it was probably the Apprentice clueing her into the universe’s plan that sent her further down a villainous path, but that’s just my two-cents worth.
The concept of Emma and Lily being drawn together is interesting. I sort of envisage them as two sides of the same coin, and I’m intrigued to see whether Lily has any magic of her own. After all, she is descended from Maleficent, so I’d be surprised if she didn’t.
However, Emma and Lily’s conflict just didn’t seem organic somehow. Firstly, Emma is dramatically losing control for little discernible reason. She did not kill Cruella for fun. It was not her intention, she was backed into a corner and was protecting Henry. To portray her as a ticking time bomb now is just reductive, especially when the character even says “just because I killed Cruella, doesn’t mean I’m turning evil” and yet proceeds to do exactly that. Dramatic car crashes, punching strangers, pulling a gun to somebody’s head – this is all a very dramatic decline over the course of about a day.
I’m surprised that Emma wasn’t able to be more empathetic to Lily, considering how angry she has been at her parents for what they did to her. She was, in fact, more angry when she thought that Lily was an unknown other baby than when she discovered it was her childhood friend, which seems bizarre. You would think that being able to put a face and an explanation to the way that Lily seemed to carry chaos in her wake would make her more sympathetic, and help Emma to explain that she strived to reunite Lily with her family and make up for the acts committed against her.
As for Lily, who can blame her for wanting revenge against Snow and Charming? After all, that is how her entire life was cursed, and they are ultimately responsible – nor did they make any attempt to find the baby once the curse was broken and they remembered the incident. Emma threatening to kill her is merely there to show how “evil” she is becoming.
Look, I have no problems with the concept of Emma’s allegiances shifting, but it has to be done in a way that actually seems organic. This is unfounded, baseless anger, as if suddenly Emma’s brain is unable to inhibit her actions after Cruella’s death. If Emma was suddenly pushing her family away because she was dealing with feelings of resentment over Neal’s birth, coupled with her reconception of them as the heroes, then it would be a solid base for her to be exploring and testing the limits of good and bad, but this honestly has spiralled in out of nowhere. I agree with what Emma says about there being no good and evil in the real world, just trying to solve their problems, and Emma hasn’t exactly gone looking for opportunities to be evil. Yet, her solution for Lily stealing her car is to shoot her in the head? I don’t think so. Anger management issues there.
Elsewhere, I was confused by Robin’s demeanour when Regina arrived telling him about Zelena. Firstly, I was quite surprised that Robin didn’t believe her straight away – Regina’s never given him reason to doubt her before. In fact, it was she that made him leave Storybrooke in the first place, it’s not as if she’s a crazed ex or anything. What’s more, the fact that Robin was still anxious about leaving Zelena even when she’d revealed her true identity is slightly ridiculous. Sure, she’s pregnant, but you’d think discovering that she’d killed your actual wife would be enough to push him over to Regina’s side.
What’s more, just because she’s pregnant doesn’t magically mean that she’s off the hook for all she’s done either. It doesn’t even mean that Robin and Regina can’t be together. The only reason they weren’t is because he wanted to make it work with Roland’s mother, but now that she’s definitely dead, they can be together, even if Zelena pushes a little one out.
Finally, Rumple’s plot was slightly frustrating. I appreciate that he did a good thing for Belle, and he said a nice speech about how he didn’t deserve her heart so Will was going to look after it and protect it. I have thoughts: firstly, Belle should be able to protect her own heart. I said should be because she doesn’t actually seem capable of doing terribly much, secondly she’s not just an object to be passed around from man to man to be protected.
Additionally, Belle then staring longingly after him like “he’s changed” is truly ridiculous. Would Rumple even be trying to rewrite the endings with the Author unless his heart was so blackened by his bad deeds that he was going to die? Probably not. He’d be out there, trying to achieve as much power as he physically could. Belle needs to stay as far away from Rumple as possible. She also needs to be taking more of an active role in taking him down, because so far their entire story is told from Rumple’s point of view in trying to win her back, which is ridiculous. She is also a main character, and has a brain of her own. She’s already conceded that him changing is not likely and that he used that to hoodwink her before in their relationship. Why would that change? It hasn’t. It’s a bad idea.
Once Upon an Additional Brainthought
- I’d care much more about this Lily storyline if I had any confidence whatsoever that she’s anything but a temporary character. Despite the fact that her and Emma’s fates are intertwined, she’ll appear for a couple of episodes and then fade into obscurity, never to be mentioned again. Calling it now.
- Why does the show continue to pretend that Emma can just slide into darkness with zero say in the matter whatsoever? That’s ridiculous.
- Will continues to just be in the background storyline-wise. Why they bothered making him a regular, I don’t know.
- I’m quite excited for Lily and Maleficent’s reunion, but I am worried about what might happen to Snow and Charming. Sure, they’re being really annoying at the moment, and are sort of bland, but I don’t really trust the pair. I just hope it doesn’t get too in the way of the main Author storyline that’s speeding ahead.
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
You completely described my numerous issues with this episode.
1. The writers have not justified Emma’s emotional state, and would have been better off having Gold trick Emma into drinking some kind of potion that caused her to act so completely and violently out of character.
2. What exactly has Lily done that was so villainous, even with all that “darkness” dumped into her? Emma herself was a liar and a thief. And why does Lily merit a gun pointed at her head when other villains have done far worse than threaten Emma’s parents, but killing them was never considered? Because writers.
3. The writers are making the Charmings their scapegoats for spouting their warped philosophy that good guys are not allowed to have any emotions except fluffy rainbow feelings. This is unhealthy to preach to a youth audience: that people are “evil” for having feelings such as anger.
4. Why would Robin be anything but horrified at what Zelena has done, and desperate to get himself and his son away from her? Because writers.
5. Why is the Belle/Gold relationship so repetitive and abusive? Because writers.
You have put much more thought into the stories than the professional screenwriters — this does not bode well for future episodes. Only a few brief scenes are worthy of rewatch (Regina/Emma road trip!), which unfortunately has been true for most of season four.
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