First of all, I want to thank all of those who commented on the article last week through the site, Facebook, and Twitter (remember, y’all can find me @virtual_lyzard). It is great to know that I’m not the only Outlaw Queen shipper out there. Also, congrats to Leslie Knechtel for spotting the hidden mickey in last week episode.
The screenshot is blurry because it goes by that fast! Sharp eyes, Leslie.
This half of the fourth season has had its moments. The Queens of Evil banter has been spot on and the reveal with Zelena last week was somehow just able to sidestep deus ex machina status. But “Sympathy for the de Vil” is easily the best episode of the entire season.
All the Makings of a Classic Cinderella Story
The backstory for Cruella begins by taking the typical Once route, part of that overdone trend to turn classic villains sympathetic. We meet Cruella as a young girl whose mother keeps her locked up in an attack, with guard dogs at the ready in case she tries to escape. Years pass by, imprisoned by her cold and cruel mother, until the Author arrives. Cruella promises the Author, who is posing as a journalist, a great story if he’ll help her escape.
The Author falls for Cruella and tells her how they can get away from her mother together. He speaks of various realms, some magical and others timeless, that he travels between and then reveals the magic pen and ink he uses to capture, but also create, stories from these lands. To prove his claim, the Author gives Cruella a gift. He writes:
Cruella is able to control the actions of any and all animals she desires.
Too bad the Author just gave a complete and utter sociopath the ability to control wild beasts like, oh I don’t know, dragons!
You see, Cruella isn’t the sweet, innocent, and naive young woman the Author believed her to be. Her mother wasn’t being cruel, but careful. For it was Cruella that killed her father (since we all know Disney characters can’t have two happy parents). And her stepfather… and the stepfather after that. Now, with her new powers, she uses her mother’s own well-trained Dalmatians to kill her and then, because she ain’t evil enough already, kills the dogs and turns them into a fur coat.
So when a women like that kidnaps Henry, the gloves come off.
Evil Bites Back
Cruella sends Regina and Emma a video message, showing her with Henry, and threatening to kill him unless they kill the Author. Emma, who is currently much more righteous than her parents, has no intention of killing the Author and so tries to save Henry without any bloodshed.
Last week I predicted that “this episode may indeed prove the perfect moment for Emma to turn dark, for kidnapping the child of two powerful magic-wielders is a damn near suicide mission and could result in Emma killing de Vil.”
And I was right! Emma finds Cruella holding Henry at gunpoint and standing on the edge of a conveniently located cliff. Before her mother, father, Hook, or Regina can come assist, Emma takes the open shot and force-pushes… I mean uses her magic, sending Cruella to join the ranks of Disney villains who have plummeted to their deaths (ex. the Evil Queen, Frollo, Gaston, Maleficent, Mother Gothel, etc. etc.).
Now this isn’t the first time Emma has killed. She slew Maleficent in Season One and that didn’t bring her to the dark side. It’s all a matter of justification. One would think that killing the woman who is about to kill your child would be utterly justified. Probably. But that would be too easy for a show like Once.
When Snow White and Prince Charming find the Author at Rumple’s cabin, he reveals to them how the Dark One plans on turning Emma. While the Author’s magical pen blessed Cruella once, upon learning of her true nature, the Author cursed her as well.
“Cruella can no longer take the life of another.”
Either way, whether Emma killed the Author to save Henry or killed Cruella to do the same, she turns dark. It’s convoluted, but I would expect nothing less from Once.
We saw with Emma’s mother, after Snow White killed Cora, that darkness fills ones heart slowly. So just in case the unnecessary murder of Cruella wasn’t enough to turn Emma’s heart into a black mess, next week her family is threatened again.
No sign of Maleficent in the promo, so I’m guessing they are going to continue with the under-utilization of Kirstin Bauer van Straten and have her crash the party near the end of the episode, probably stopping Emma from hurting anyone else.
- The Cruella flashback is set in “1920s London,” quotations being used since the Author describes this realm as timeless and there are no specific hints to the year and setting outside of the music and accents. Speaking of music, listen to the record Cruella describes as her favorite song. It plays on the radio in her bedroom and she dances with the Author to it later in the episode.
- It appears that Storybrooke has quite strong cell coverage, for while the dialogue between Cruella and Maleficent early on in the episode was delightfully diabolical, Victoria Smurfit’s best line just had to be: Blasted birds! I’ll show you what angry looks like!