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'Once Upon a Time' recap: 'Unforgiven'

Posted on

Jack RowandABC

Once Upon a Time

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla
Fantasy, Drama

Um. Did Snow White and Prince Charming murder Maleficent’s baby?!

I mean, no—of course they didn’t. When Snow took a break from vague monologuing to finally confess the deep, dark secret that she and Charming had been alluding to all night—the reason she and Charming believe they must stop the Queens of Darkness once and for all, the heavy original sin that’s apparently so dastardly even so much as learning of its existence could set Emma on the fast train to Evil Village—said secret was worded extremely carefully: “Because of us, Maleficent lost her child.”

The key word there, of course, is “lost.” (Isn’t it always?) Given Once‘s love of twisted family dynamics, chances are very good indeed that Lil’ Mal isn’t dead at all. In fact, I’d bet my best horned headdress that her true identity is that of a character we’ve already met—maybe one within Storybrooke’s town line, maybe one wandering somewhere in the so-called Real World. (The smart money pegs Emma’s old pal Lily as Maleficent’s secret spawn; we know already that the character will pop up again in the back half of the season, and she’s apparently important enough that the show decided to name a whole episode after her.)

Chances are, though, that we’ll be waiting awhile for all the down-and-dirty details of how the True Luvvahs wrested away Mal’s dragon baby—not to mention the reveal of who fathered said baby. (Any guesses? I’m gonna say… Scar.) In the meantime, Once has us mostly treading water, especially with a fairyback that neglected to provide any real answers.

That fairyback follows Snow, Charming, and the Queens of Darkness, who accost the royal couple as soon as they return from their honeymoon. They’ve got a quest for the newlyweds: As the baddies explain, Regina is preparing to unleash a curse so dark “it makes that poisoned apple thing she did to you look like child’s play.” (That’s right, Snow: It’s a curse that’ll… force you to cut off your weave and take a job as an elementary school teacher in small-town Maine! The absolute horror!) They may, however, be able to stop Regina by taking a little jaunt to Grandmother Willow the Tree of Wisdom, a mystical plant whose wisdom can only be unlocked by two extraordinarily valiant heroes.

Snow and Charming agree to their terms uneasily, figuring that the enemies of their enemy are their friends. They’re spooked, though, after a couple of red-shirt bridge guards try to pull a “you shall not pass” on the Queens of Darkness—and Maleficent responds by going full dragon and spit-roasting the poor guys. (Wait—she’s a dragon! Why aren’t they mad at her for not just flying them over the bridge?) So Snow and Charming decide to head off on their own, reaching the Tree of Wisdom before the Queens do… only to be harshly rejected by it when they attempt to ask how to stop Regina’s curse.

Why, exactly, did the tree refuse to play ball? Oh, any number of possible reasons—but the one Maleficent comes up with, when she and the other Queens catch up with the Charmings, is that the baby Snow doesn’t know she’s carrying could be a great force for good—or, possibly, a great force for evil. That message, which seems pretty logical and straightforward (of course enormous power could go either way!), completely rattles the unborn child’s parents. Clearly, “you can be anything when you grow up!” is a message that isn’t too common in the Enchanted Forest. The heroes and the villains uneasily part ways, but we know from the end of the fairyback that their paths will cross again—because, as Maleficent later tells Snow, she too is with child.

Maleficent is also at the center of the episode’s present-day story line, even though she doesn’t actually appear in this timeline until the hour’s almost over. That’s because Ursula and Cruella spend the ep preparing to resurrect her—and naturally, they achieve their goal by playing everyone in Storybrooke like a fiddle.

Remind me again how these two clearly malevolent mega-villains weren’t kicked out of town immediately after being let inside? Anybody? Bueller?

NEXT: The Mother of All Dragons[pagebreak]

It takes some degree of cleverness to figure out precisely how to use Good Guy Predictability to your advantage—though the ladies must wish that the saps of Storybrooke didn’t make their jobs quite so easy. First, Cruelsula swan into the pawn shop, where they distract Belle with talk of Rumple as the sea witch sneakily reaches for a box with the longest tentacle on record. They count on the fact that Charming will think they’re up to no good—and true to form, he ropes Emma into tailing them, then pulling them over when Belle informs them something might be missing from the shop. David discovers the contents of the box—a talisman tied to Maleficent—in Cruella’s car, but keeps Emma in the dark about it for… reasons. 

Instead, he takes the news straight to Snow: The two Queens must be getting ready to resurrect their third. The couple determine that they’ve got to get to Maleficent’s ashy remains before the Queens of Darkness can… not knowing that they’re playing right into their finely manicured/fishy hands. So Charming and Snow arrive in the cave where Mal was most recently slain; right on cue, Cruelsula show up to knock them out cold. See, the secret ingredient they needed wasn’t that bauble from Rump’s shop—it was the blood of the people who wronged Maleficent most. (You’d figure that since Regina trapped the evil fairy in her dragon form beneath a frickin’ library, she might also be on that shortlist—but then again, Charming and Snow were probably a lot easier to snare than Mayor Mills.) 

And so Voldemort—er, Mal—rises again, just as beautiful and terrible as ever. Because she knows we’ve got weeks to go before the finale, she lets Snow and Charming go without harming them—but does warm them that she’s going to cause them pain, and “revel in every torturous moment.” So she’s got that going for her, which is nice.

This, for the millionth time, is why you never put Charming in charge. At least Snow has a plan for what to do next: She meets with Regina in secret to ask that the formerly Evil Queen attempt to infiltrate the Queens of Darkness, going undercover to learn their wicked happy ending-nabbing plan and nip it in the bud.

Regina as a more fabulous Donnie Brasco? Yes, please—anything to take her attention away from molasses-slow Operation Mongoose, which still hasn’t gotten our heroes any closer to discovering the identity of the storybook’s Author. Sure, it’s amusing to watch the queen yell at Real Boy Pinocchio for not remembering his past as a full-grown, self-destructive book binder (this show!)—but I’d much rather see her struggling to maintain her wicked sobriety. May next week’s episode, in which Double Agent Regina makes her glorious debut, prove juicier than this one.


  • Emma and Hook have a slight tiff tonight because he and Ursula clearly have a past—one that, so far, he’s refusing to explain. All he’ll say is that he did something worse than break the sea witch’s heart. Maybe he stole her voice?
  • On the Author tip: Geppetto hands over Full-Grown August’s old backpack, which contains materials including a photo of a door with a post-it reading “Author?” stuck to it. Riveting.
  • Fairyback Maleficent purrs that she wasn’t sure Snow and Charming would recognize her—possibly because at this point in the timeline, she’s actually supposed to be dressing like this.
  • Present-Day Cruella is horrified at the implication that she’s wearing costume jewelry: “These are blood diamonds, I’ll have you know.” Ha! I will say, I’m looking forward to her backstory ep.
  • Nice to see that the Queens of Darkness are dressed in full wicked regalia from the moment they open their eyes in the morning. #WokeUpLikeThis
  • Yes, the MacCutcheon whisky was the night’s big Lost Easter Egg—but the episode also featured a surprising amount of Sawyer-esque nicknames. The best: Sheriff Chisel Chin (a.k.a. David), Pound Puppy (Cruella), and Fish Sticks (Ursula).
  • Oh, that Maleficent talisman? It’s actually a rattle. An eeeeeeeevil rattle!!
  • Belle and the Knave of Hearts? Totally smooching. Good for them!
  • On a similar note: Rumplestiltskin is straight-up walking the streets of Storybrooke, and nobody has yet noticed that he’s back in town. Maybe these guys deserve what’s coming to them.