Warning: Spoiler Alert
This week’s Once Upon A Time is entitled “Sympathy For The De Vil,” so it’s no surprise when we open to a young, blonde girl running through some misty English countryside woods with Dalmatians chasing her. Eventually they catch her and a car pulls up. A somberly-but-elegantly dressed woman emerges and orders the girl into the car. The girl refuses, and the woman threatens her to set the dogs on her. “Now that your father’s gone,” she says, stepping towards the girl and leaning into her face, “we’re going to make a few changes around the house, Cruella.”
She takes the girl back to the house and summarily locks her in the attic. Cruella protests, but her mother will not be swayed. She’ll stay locked in this room until she obeys her mother.
But hold off on that story for a minute. Let’s find out how present-day Cruella is terrorizing the denizens of Storybrooke!
She’s tearing along a road on the outside of town at a seriously unadvisable speed. She screeches to a halt when she sees Maleficent standing directly in her path. Annoyed that she had to stop, Cruella gets out of the car and begins to berate Maleficent. Maleficent though, won’t have it. She demands to know what became of her daughter. Cruella, without much remorse, admits that she and Ursula left her in the woods to die after stealing the egg she came over it. They used the magic to keep themselves young. She’s a terrible person, you see.
Maleficent is enraged and turns herself into a dragon, presumably to begin slow-roasting Cruella. But Cruella isn’t afraid. She’s been hoping for this. Since, yanno, she can control any beast, and a dragon is definitely a beast. She orders Maleficent to go to sleep and stay out of the way while she gets hers. She tears off again in the opposite direction.
So, The Charmings, Emma, and Killian arrive at Casa de Charming, brainstorming ways to try to find The Author. They’d probably make more progress if Emma could go ten seconds without throwing her parents’ lies into their faces, but this is a soap opera. And also Snow and Charming did some seriously bad shit to Maleficent’s kid. So, there’s a lot of angst to the planning.
Regina then shows up and spills everything about Robin Hood and the Zelena/Marian nightmare. She’s going to New York City come hell or high water to save Robin, and she knows how she’ll get Gold to let her do it. She goes to visit Belle in the pawnshop. The confrontation is a bit tense at first, but Belle soon realizes that Regina doesn’t want to work with Gold, so she agrees to help.
So what’s Gold up to? He’s locking The Author (who introduces himself as Isaac) up in the cabin. The Author chatters nervously, but Gold is all business. He taunts Isaac with the magic quill. Isaac retorts that the pen is worthless without ink. But Gold knows that. And he’s going to obtain some ink when The Savior turns dark. Once that happens, The Author will be able to write happy endings for Gold and his associates. Those associates, Isaac notices as he reaches out to grab one of Cruella’s coats on the coatrack, seem to have intriguing tastes. Gold remarks mildly that he assumed that The Author knew his associates, but The Author clarifies: he only knows of them, since different stories are handled by
different authors. The Author tries to further explain, but Gold grabs his chest and, upon informing Isaac that something more important has come up, immediately leaves. Isaac is a bit nervous about being left without protection.
Gold doesn’t care, though. His Belle has summoned him at the wishing well where they were married (and a billion other important things have happened). He’s astonished that Belle has summoned him and begins to apologize, but Belle refuses to hear apologies. She simply wants the truth about why he’s in Storybrooke.
Without hesitating, Rumpelstiltskin reaches into his chest and shows her the black mass that is his heart. There’s a faint, glowing light in the center, and it’s obvious that the light is the only part of his heart that still works. He won’t die, he replies when Belle asks what exactly his deteriorating condition will do to him, but he’ll lose all ability to love. And so, he’s in Storybrooke to try to keep that from happening.
He assures Belle that he doesn’t expect her to understand, but brave, forgiving Belle understands better than he could have hoped. She’s wondered if she threw away the chipped teacup too soon. Rumpelstiltskin gives her a look. The two kiss. I cry.
When they break apart, Belle admits she has a bit of a problem. Will’s such a better kisser! And Rumpelstiltskin is pathetic, begging for her like a dog for scraps. Rumpel is devastated and confused. Why is his Belle saying such things?
Well, that’s what happens when Regina takes your heart and commands you to say awful things to your (ex?) husband. Regina emerges from the forest, holding a glowing heart in her hand that could easily be assumed to be Belle’s. The Dark One is furious and threatens Regina after she sends Belle running along home without any memory of the encounter. Regina reminds him that it’s unwise to threaten the person who can kill your true love just by squeezing. Rumpelstiltskin calls her bluff, but Regina’s face and twitching fingers make him think twice.
He asks her what she wants, and she informs him that she’s going to New York to save Robin and that Rumpelstiltskin won’t be doing a damn thing to stop her.
Don’t mess with The Queen.
With Gold absent and Maleficent taking a dragon-nap, Cruella is free to get to The Author all by herself. She finds him reading The Great Gatsby and taunts him that his writing skills could never hope to be as good as Fitzgerald’s (she’s probably right.) Isaac slowly lowers the book and glares at her. He’d hoped he’d never see her again, he spits. Cruella is only amused by his ire with her. She marches up to him and threatens him for that thing he has that she wants. Now, Isaac is amused, because he knows that they both know that she doesn’t have enough magic to hurt him, even if she’s able to control all the dogs within a hundred miles. Cruella softens, and asks nicely, for old times’ sake, if he’ll give her what she wants. He refuses. And, he continues, he knows that she lied to Rumpelstiltskin about knowing him, and once she’s caught in her lie there will be hell to pay. Cruella, furious, storms out. She’ll have what she
wants, and Isaac will pay for turning her into what she is today. There’s more than one way to skin an Author.
What’s she gonna do? And why? Well, you see, once upon a time, the young girl who had been locked away by her mother has grown into a lovely young woman who is still locked away but now listening to the radio. Er, she listens until her mother comes in and rips it out of the wall.
She knows Cruella stole the radio the last time Mother Dear let her out of the room. Cruella desperately tries to explain that she’s been bored for years, and she wouldn’t have to steal things to keep her occupied if she could just go outside! Mother Dearest isn’t having it. And then the doorbell rings.
Isaac, smartly dressed as a 1920s seedy-type-dude can be, is on the other side. He’s a newspaper reporter collecting interesting stories, and he thinks there might be one right around this locale. He hustles his way inside, remarking on Mother Dear’s uncanny and sought-after dog-training skills. Mother Dear is tight-lipped as Isaac continues to prattle until they wind up in a grand living room with three portraits hanging on the wall. Isaac assumes they’re family, but Mother Dear corrects him. They’re her late husbands.
Three late husbands! Isaac is astonished. There’s a story that’s even better than dog training! Mother Dear is appalled at his insensitivity and throws him out. If he understood what it was like to actually live and lose someone, instead of just writing about other people’s lives, he’d know better than to be so callous.
Isaac stands in the driveway, disheveled and a bit stunned. But Cruella’s seen the whole thing. And, she calls down to him from her attic room, if he can get her out of there, she’s got a story she knows he’ll want to hear.
Hours later, Cruella is waiting anxiously when she hears tapping at her window. She opens it to find a key! She dresses quickly and sneaks out of the house and towards the street, noticing her mother’s dogs are fast asleep instead of keeping guard. She sees Isaac standing on the sidewalk. She’s so happy to see him! He suggests they go somewhere quiet to, ah, talk, but she insists she wants to go somewhere loud. Living in an attic is quiet enough. She wants music! Isaac smiles. Cruella can have music if she wants music. He points her toward his car. Of course, it’s THE car, the Coupe de Ville roadster she terrorizes motorists with to this day.
They head to a totally-roaring-twenties-type joint. The two sit down for cocktails. Cruella is absolutely gushing with excitement, and chatters easily about Mother Dear’s dirty secrets. She’s doing more than just keeping her daughter locked up in an attic. She killed her husbands! All three! Cruella is certain. The Author is enraptured and wants to keep talking, but Cruella wants to dance. He resists, but who can resist a beautiful blonde woman, all done-up and crackling with excitement, begging you to dance with her?
The two shut the place down, talking quietly back at their table as the staff cleans up around them. Isaac is moved by Cruella’s beauty and concerned for her terrible situation. He wants to help her. He begins to
explain his position as The Author. Cruella doesn’t believe him at first, but he shows her the pen and ink. Cruella still isn’t convinced so he writes a few sentences and suddenly she’s wearing some beautiful jewelry. Jewelry will always convince a woman like Cruella.
Isaac implores her to run away with him, but she’s worried about leaving. Her mother might follow her somehow! Isaac writes a few more lines to keep her safe, giving her the power to control any animal around her. Cruella leaves to confront her mother. The two agree to meet back at the hotel. She won’t allow Isaac to accompany her, but she gratefully accepts the keys for his car. She kisses a napkin, rubbing her lipstick into it, and slips it into his jacket pocket as she bids him goodbye.
Isaac goes back to his hotel room to sweat things out. He answers a knock at the door, expecting it to be Cruella, but instead it’s Mother Dear and some angry dogs demanding to know where Cruella is. He isn’t happy to see her. He tells her what he knows about her and orders her to leave. Mother Dear goes from furious to sympathetic. There are some things, she begins, that he should know about Cruella.
Like, basically how she killed her father and her mother’s two subsequent husbands. About how Cruella has been wicked since birth and no amount of parenting had ever changed that. Mother Dear was disturbed that Cruella wasn’t crying after watching her father die of a heart attack, and then saw a slight smile on her face. Isaac dismisses this as a lie, but Mother Dear keeps coming back at him with facts that make much more sense than Cruella’s version of events. Isaac, rattled but blustering, orders Mother Dear to leave again. This time she does, wistful and pitying him as she goes. Cruella destroys everything you love, she cautions.
Could Mother Dear have been telling the truth? Nah, Isaac reminds himself. It’s just a bunch of fiction. He goes to his desk and reaches for the box that holds his quill and ink, perhaps to write himself a story. Except they’re missing. Cruella stole them. Mother Dear must have been telling the truth.
Sure enough, Cruella confronts her mother in a spooky, moonlight hallway with curtains blowing everywhere. Mother Dear pleads a bit, but Cruella turns the dogs against her, ordering them to kill her. Guess that answers that?
So, yeah. Cruella really has been a psychopath this whole time, and The Author gave her magic. Lovely!
Anyway! Let’s go to Storybrooke for a second! Regina’s packing her car to leave for New York when Emma finds her and offers to go along. Regina refuses, but thanks her for the offer. Emma is concerned about Regina’s safety and hands her a handgun. It’s not magic, but it might be her best bet. The women share a sisters-in-magical-badassery look, but they’re soon disturbed by their chirping cell phones. They’ve both received a video message from Henry. Um, that’s probably not good.
It’s not. Henry has been kidnapped by Cruella (who used Pongo to lure him into an alley and then turn on him), and she’s demanding that the two women kill The Author, or she’ll kill Henry. Cruella has to mean serious business to poke the two most powerful witches in the realm, right?
So, the Storybrooke Magic Brain Trust assembles and it is decided that Killian, Regina, and Emma will look for Henry (since David was able to identify the area she’s holding him in from a convenient trail
marker in the background) while David and Mary Margaret use a locator spell to find The Author. There is more angst between Emma and her parents.
With Cruella holding Henry hostage, Isaac is again alone in the cabin. But, not for long. Gold arrives to finish their earlier conversation. See, he knew that Isaac and Cruella had both lied to him about knowing each other. And he knew that Cruella’s happy ending wasn’t a reunion with her mother, but rather to see The Author dead. He’s known all along. And, of course, he also needs to use Cruella to turn The Savior dark so that The Author can write happy endings for villains. Gold explains Cruella’s ransom to Henry’s mothers. Isaac is confused. Why would Cruella sending Regina and Emma to kill him help Gold with his plan? Gold only admits that he wants to keep Isaac alive because he’s got him over a barrel and the next Author might not be so willing to help his cause. Gold will keep Isaac alive, provided Isaac provide Gold with what he wrote about Cruella all those years ago.
Sweating, Isaac reaches for a leather pouch around his waist. He produces a piece of stationary monogrammed with a dog. Gold unfolds it, reads it, and chuckles.
SO WHAT DID ISAAC WRITE?
Well, after setting the dogs to rip her mother apart, Isaac found Cruella in her dimly lit attic room, the radio blaring, frantically sewing something at a sewing machine. He’s concerned, he begins, but he’s cut short as Cruella turns around to give him a vacant, way-too-happy smile. Isaac is stunned. And, as she continues to explain how she’s always been drawn to darkness since she was a child, and how she gleefully used the dogs to kill her mother and then made a coat of their hides, incredibly terrified.
He spots the pen laying on a desk across the room. Cruella catches it as well. They lunge for it at the same time. In the scuffle, the ink (which is magical and very dangerous of course) spills over Cruella and she collapses.
Isaac gulps. Cruella rises, no longer the apple-cheeked blonde but the terrifying, eye-lined, lipsticked, monochrome-coiffed witch we know today. Isaac has managed to find the pen, though, and he scrawls something on a piece of paper as she advances on him with a gun. She tries to pull the trigger, but it won’t go.
And it won’t go. Isaac smirks. Cruella demands to know what he’s written about her, but he only tells her that he took what she loved and destroyed it. Cruella is enraged and somehow powerless. He leaves her to rant in her darkened attic.
Regina and Killian try to reason with Emma as they search through the forest for Henry. Emma will not relent. She’s too hurt and betrayed by her parents lies to be able to forgive them. They continue to bicker back and forth about it until Emma stomps off ahead of them.
Nearby, Cruella is playing Angry Birds on the hood of her car while Henry is tied to a nearby tree and Pongo stands guard. Cruella has bound Henry with a flimsy scarf, very close to a lot of broken glass.
She’s no just a terrible person, she’s a terrible kidnapper. Henry takes off through the forest. Pongo, still enchanted, growls and sets off after him. Cruella might be a terrible kidnapper but her underlings are pretty competent. I think that’s the first time that’s happened in Villain History.
Mary Margaret and David make it to the cabin to find Isaac waiting, presumably unguarded. They demand to know his part in this. Isaac, again terrified, begins babbling that he’d only been trying to protect the world from Cruella–even he didn’t know how the story would end! David releases his hold on Isaac only enough so Isaac can speak a little easier. The story, he tells them, ends with The Savior turning dark. Mary Margaret and David don’t understand what Cruella has to do with any of this.
Isaac again reaches into his pouch to procure the same paper he showed Gold earlier. When he was scrambling to undo his mistake in her story, Isaac wrote “Cruella De Vil can no longer take way the life of another.” So Cruella can’t kill Henry. Her ransom is an empty threat.
And Emma doesn’t know.
In the forest, Regina, Emma, and Killian split up as they hear Henry shouting and Pongo barking. Killian and Regina are led astray by some seashell-speaker-magic, but Emma is led to find Henry moments after Cruella caught up with him at the edge of a very inconvenient ravine. She hauls Henry close to the edge and pulls a gun on him. Emma tries to talk sense to Cruella for about thirty seconds, but Cruella keeps mocking her and threatening her. Emma has faced evil queens and witches enough to know that you don’t let them chatter about how they’re going to kill someone. In a burst of white magic, Cruella is thrown backwards off the cliff and into the ravine.
Mary Margaret and David arrive with Regina and Killian as Emma and Henry peer into the canyon to see Cruella’s twisted body on the rocks below. They all look very sad and serious. Emma’s eyes look like she’s been on a four-day bender. She’s just killed a defenseless woman. Is she about to turn dark? Or does she look like that because it’s allergy season?
Guess we’ll find out!