What if being Prince Charming isn’t enough? And I start losing and it keeps going and I lose everything that matters to me?David
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.
Episode 12: Murder Most Foul
It’s almost a running joke for me at this point that each year there is a “Charming” episode, where David bursts into centre stage and does something meaningful, before then fading back into the background and never having this be mentioned again. Back in Season 3, we had an episode where he feared what sort of father he would be and whether he’d be able to protect his child in the way that he failed Emma. In Season 5, David bonded with King Arthur over their fear at living up to the legend that surrounded their name. They’re decent enough dilemmas to face, but then David spends most of the rest of the season just being unshakably moral and self righteous, and it somewhat undercuts the character development seen in these quieter, more vulnerable moments. Sometimes they can almost seem as if random emotional beats designed to give Josh Dallas something good to do, instead of it coming from a genuine character-driven place.
However, this episode enriched Charming’s story and character in an unforeseen way. Charming’s quest to find out the truth about his father’s death, for one, is not a random idea out of the blue, but rather one that has been rattling on in the background since earlier in the season. Even though this plot was put to one side to make way for other plot strands, such as The Evil Queen and Belle’s baby, it makes it feel more organic to have this episode here with that foreshadowing in place, otherwise it would have felt like an unearned resolution.
The addition of the new information in the past did not feel superfluous or tenuous to the present storyline, which always enhances an episode when the audience isn’t attempting to work out the relevance of what is happening in the past. The fact that this is new information that is being unearthed in the present, instead of just a random vaguely symmetrical event in their past storyline that they are, for some reason, only just now recalling, was also welcome.
Having said this, it was monstrously convenient that Charming was only dogged by images of his deceased father at a convenient moment where nothing else was going on plot wise. I understand the logistics that are probably at play with having an actor appear in more than one episode, but it might have been nice to have seen a bit more of this foreshadowing for David. If he heard his Dad’s voice in previous episodes and had reacted to it, for example, it would have eliminated that idea of “why is this happening now?”. Indeed, after watching the episode, I am still none the wiser as to why or even how his dad appeared to him, but it helped bring the mystery of what truly happened to David’s dad to the fore.
The reveal that David’s dad was killed by King George due to interfering with Prince James was powerful enough and tragic on its own. It was already so affecting, and beautifully played. The twist on top of that that it was really Hook who had done the deed was genuinely shocking. It’s a massive revelation, and one that adds new layers and dilemmas into the show, demonstrating that, for once, David’s storyline shan’t be placed to the side and forgotten about in a few week’s time. The conflict that Hook now faces, knowing that he is responsible for David’s father’s – and Emma’s grandfather’s – death is gripping, and sure to drive a wedge between the pair. While sceptically it feels as though the writer’s are just throwing in obstacles for the sake of it, the reveal and the unpredictability of what might happen next is watchable nonetheless.
David probably has his most interesting episode to date, and Josh Dallas pulls out a series best performance. Which is either considerable, since this is the sixth season, or a true testament to how he’s a generally been written as a relatively two-dimensional character, compared to the rest of the main cast. Indeed, David has probably had the best season six development compared to anybody else. The brilliant thing about David discovering the truth about his father is just how much it affects him personally.
Throughout the entire episode, you can see how passionately and deeply the quest is affecting David. He shows himself to be impulsive, headstrong and, at points, aggressive – all of which are not traits that he typically demonstrates. The fact that this episode also separates him from Snow gives us something more unpredictable from him, and allows for there to be more focus upon Hook and David’s connection.
As a relationship, David and Hook has been focussed upon comparatively little, when you consider the massive forward traction and development that Regina and Emma have had since Season 4. David has seen on multiple occasions that Hook is more than just a pirate, such as in Season 3 when Hook saved his life, but has demonstrated after this point that he doesn’t wholly trust Hook with Emma. The way he distrusted Hook when he became the Dark One shows this, and the way that he continues to call Hook a pirate through this episode, even though everybody else sees something different within him was massively telling. It was a satisfying conclusion, therefore, when Charming gave Hook his blessing to propose to Emma – even if that moment of happiness was cut short mere moments later.
The way that Charming responded to the news that his father was, in fact, trying to do the right thing feels like a nuanced and reasonable response. The entire basis of Charming’s existence is to be virtuous and pure, and to try to do the right thing. It’s not without its struggles and difficulties, but it’s also not as if he and Snow have “lost” yet. The news that his father still died even though he fought to protect his own family and wanted to do what was good and right is earth shattering, and it’s nice that the show leaned into this without trying to wrap those ideas up too neatly. There was no resolution to the discovery. There can’t be, really, as there’s no way to undo his dad’s death. It was a lovely moment, though, to see David so broken and so shaken by what he has learned. In turn, even though David ultimately realises that the way that he behaved in his pursuit for revenge was wrong, it does not erase just how shattered we have seen Charming here.
Elsewhere, new Robin and Regina fail to click. It’s hardly surprising. The new Robin, from the Wish Realm, is very far removed from the compassionate and just Robin we know. Instead, he is hugely motivated by his revenge, despite Regina’s attempts to curb him. What is more confusing is the constant pushing that new Robin isn’t the Robin that we knew, and that Regina loved. This isn’t confusing because of the context within the programme, but because Regina knows that. She didn’t want to take him back from the Wish Realm, it was only because Emma had told her to.
Zelena being terrified of Robin taking her baby makes sense considering the massive conflict last season with her child, but it is also illogical considering that this Robin has no idea that the baby exists, and nobody could really claim reasonable ownership over a baby that they’ve never met before, regardless of if they are genetically related. The way that I view this Robin is essentially like an identical twin. You wouldn’t replace a relationship with one of the twins for the other and expect it to be exactly the same, so it’s the same principle here: they have the same DNA, but this Robin has lived a massively different life, and I feel like this storyline just exists to give Regina adequate closure over the end of her relationship with Robin.
“Murder Most Foul” does a brilliant job at advancing the plot lines and the characters involved. The episode looks brilliant, as the show continues to exist within its means without overly elaborate CGI, and introduced some meaningful and emotional conflict within Charming, who is often overlooked.
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.