Once Upon a Time, Season 4 Episode 16 Review: “Poor Unfortunate Souls”

(Beware, spoilers below – scroll down if you want to skip the recap!)

We start off this episode of Once Upon a Time on board the Jolly Roger during Killian’s old pirating days. However there are suspiciously beautiful songs in the air and the men are quickly becoming entranced. A quick witted Hook manages to snap out of it just in time to avoid smashing his ship on the rocks. Behind the scenes we see Poseidon chastise his daughter for not leading the pirates to their deaths ‘as long as you live in my ocean, you live by my rules’ – but this mermaid ‘Ursula’ doesn’t accept it.

In modern day Storybrooke the Queens and Rumple are looking for was to get the information out of August. He confesses that in Hong Kong the Dragon was following some leads about the author and he followed the man’s research. However the Charming Family + Killian are out looking for Pinocchio. Regina quickly summons herself into Snow and informs them that Gold is back. Aside from the fact that Belle obviously can’t keep an oath, this throws another spanner in the works which leads Hook to go to Ursula in order to find out Gold’s secret. He says he can return her happy ending because he’s the one that took it from her in the first place.

In the Queen’s Cabin Regina asks August about the page featuring her and Robin which he remembers. Ursula takes a step out and goes to speak to Hook who tells her he’ll get her her happy ending back in return for Rumple’s secrets. As we flash back to the Enchanted Forest Hook approaches young Ursula who’s singing in a tavern. He recognises her as the mermaid who almost killed him and his men. When he leaves the tavern he get s accosted by Poseidon’ and his men; the king tells him that he doesn’t want his daughter getting on the ship and enchants a seashell which will take away Ursula’s singing voice. Whilst Hook is hesitant at first he takes the deal when Poseidon offers a powerful paralysing squid ink. They exchange stories about each others’ pasts and he offers to take her to the destination she desires. In the present day Ursula opens a portal to summon the Jolly Roger, since her treasure is on the ship. But there’s just one catch – the boat is in a bottle.

Hook goes straight to Belle – but he’s actually looking for the Will’s help in getting his ship out of the bottle. In the cabin Regina’s having dreams of Robin and her split personality. When Rumple finds no fruits from August’s initial lead he forces a potion down August’s throat which turns him back into a wooden puppet. The Charming family are out still looking for him, but the parents get a little nervous when Emma making rather morose jokes. Unbeknownst to them Rumple has managed to activate Pinocchio’s lie detector nose and via some threatening reveals the significance of the door and the Sorcerer. He confesses that the door is somewhere in Storybrooke and Rumple enlists Maleficent and Regina to come with him to look inside the Sorcerer’s house for the door.

In the Enchanted Forest we find out that he tells Ursula about the deal he made with his father and the fact that he doesn’t want to do the deal. Instead he asks her to steal the squid ink and therefore he doesn’t need to betray her. When present day Hook manages to re-enlarge his boat he gives back Ursula’s singing voice, but we find out it doesn’t work. Furious, Ursula reneges their deal and throws Hook off his ship – where he’s rescued by Ariel who had been swept up in the boat’s magic and was trapped in the bottle.

We see that in the past Ursula finally managed to get the squid ink in his bottle but just then Poseidon turns up to stop Hook. The god destroys the squid ink and in vengeance her traps Ursula’s voice and keeps the sound from her. The Charming family seem to be caught up in all kinds of bad luck too, as they manage to free August, only for Ursula to show up at wind her tentacle around Snow’s throat. As we flashback once more to Ursula’s past we see the moment Ursula turned her fins into tentacles in vengeance for all of what he’s done. In the present day once more Hook tells Ursula that the shell didn’t work because she didn’t enchant it. In comes papa Poseidon to finally return her voice to her, and the father daughter duo finally reunite in happiness. This happy ending is short-lived when they realise that Cruella has slipped out, probably to warn Gold. Hook’s more than worried though, because he remembers that he was a villain and that he’s afraid of losing his happy ending.

Ursula finally divulges Gold’s plan: that he needs Emma in order to be able to give the villains their happy endings and the way to do this is by turning her heart to darkness. As the fracas has died down Regina goes to confess her dream to Emma and asks for her help in order to find where Robin Hood might be. August confesses that the picture of the door is the door itself, and that the author is trapped inside the book.

This episode of Once Upon a Time did great things by way of fleshing out Hook’s character and providing us more insight with some of our main characters. However, the reintroduction of Ariel, how Ursula’s father was able to magically show up at the right time and even the sudden use of Will seemed a little forced. The fact that Ursula got her happy ending is sure to cause debate amongst fans for a while, as well as raising a deeper question mark over the author of the book and his actual motives. Colin O’Donoghue managed to completely steal the episode this time around, and it’s almost astounding to see how far his character has really come since he was introduced two seasons ago. Once Upon a Time has never been shy of flaunting their strong female relationships and the moments between Snow/Emma/Regina help to buoy the episode with their acting of the small moments. Unfortunately the episode was not as enjoyable as it should have been due to the easy – almost textbook – story of Ursula. She’s a character that deserved more screen time and it would have been great to see her more, to the point where it seemed like the show was taking the easy way out. That being said, next week looks like a right kicker of an episode as we return back to Maleficent’s story. Now I’ll just take a seat whilst I tear up again over Emma being Killian’s happy ending…

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