Once Upon a Time, Season 4 Episode 19 Review: “Sympathy for the De Vil”

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

Once you’ve recovered from the corny yet delicious fun of this week’s episode, we can get stuck into this week’s Once Upon a Time Cruella-centric episode. The episode begins as a little girl runs through the woods chased by a Dalmatian. She ends up cornered and it turns out that the dogs belong to her mother, who’s less than friendly towards her now that her father has died. The woman locks little Cruella up in a room and tells her that she needs to be able to follow orders.

In the modern Storybrooke Cruella admits to Maleficent that she left her daughter Lily to die in the woods, which was why she never told her about Lily surviving. Mal tells her that her death will last for days and turns into a dragon, but Cruella easily shuts her down with one of her sleeping breathmists. At the same time the Charming crew are still a tad tense because of what the Charmings did. However Regina shows up and finally drops the bomb about Zelena. She wants to go off to New York in order to save Robin but she’s sure she can deal with Mr Gold this time and asks Belle for her help.

The Author – named Isaac – is brought to the little hut on the outskirts of Storybrooke. Yet the new quill is still useless without ink and Gold says he will get some. He says that when the heart of The Saviour is dark everything will fall into place. However Belle is calling him because she wants to know why he’s here. Gold pulls out his heart, which is all black apart from a tiny red spot. He says that the only man who can reverse the process is The Author, which is why he’s here in Storybrooke. Him and Belle kiss once more but she turns on him… because it turns out she’s got Belle’s heart.

In the house Isaac is finally confronted with Cruella. She asks him to give back what he took but he says no, and what’s more, she doesn’t have the power to hurt him. He notes that Rumplestiltskin doesn’t know they know each other and he uses this threat to get her out of the hut. We flashback to young Cruella’s past, who’s stepmother admonishes her for stealing a a radio. A young journalist comes to the door – Isaac – and he asks her for her time about her great dog training skills. However when she starts to talk about her past husbands Cruella’s mother gets offended and throws him out. As he leaves again Cruella calls for him out of the window and says she has a great story but will need to get her out in order to hear it.

Back in modern Storybrooke Henry sees Pongo on the street and eventually gets led astray right into Cruella’s trap. However we’re sent back into the past again as young Cruella finds a key by her window and manages to be get out. He takes her somewhere wonderfully flashy whilst she sits and tells her story. She tells him that she knows her mother poisoned her father. They end up dancing together and they both agree to live for tonight. In Storybrooke Emma gives Regina a gun for safety and tells her to take care of herself without her magic. Regina thanks her but just then a video call comes in from Cruella, who tells them that they have to kill the author or they’ll never see Henry again.

Isaac is peacefully talking until Mr Gold storms in and says he knows about the author’s like to Cruella. He also tells Isaac about Cruella’s threat and says he needs to know why the dog-whisperer wants him dead so much. In the club back in the past Cruella and Isaac are dancing the night away when she tells him that she never wants the night to end. He shows her his magic pen and tells her about what he does. He says that this very realm exists out of time; at first she doesn’t believe him, but he proves it to her by creating some beautiful jewellery for her. He tells her that they can be together and gives her powers so that she will never be subject to her mother again.

She tells him that she wants to confront her mother once and for all, and that she’ll come for him at the hotel once it’s done. In the flat the Charming family come up with a plan to find and save Henry. However Emma still doesn’t want to be near her parents, because right now she wants to be with people she trusts – and her parents don’t fit the bill. Both Regina and Hook tell Emma to give her parents a chance but she’s obviously still struggling through it.

Henry manages to escape in the forest as we flash back to the past once more. In the hotel Cruella’s mother shows up and tells Isaac that her daughter was the once that killed her mother’s husbands. She tells her that the trumpet flowers Cruella loved so much were poisonous flowers and the only reason she hasn’t called the authorities yet is because it’s her daughter. In the room Isaac is crushed and doesn’t quite believe it … until he sees that she’s stolen her quill. What he doesn’t see is Cruella confronting her mother back home and killing her with the dogs.

In the forest Emma, Hook and Regina are sent on a wild goose chase via some enchanted shells. Henry reaches a cliff and is finally cornered by Cruella who threatens to kills him when Emma shows up.

In Cruella’s old home Isaac shows upย and realise with horror what he’s done. She tells him that he was a means to an end. He sees the quill on the table and reaches for it, but they struggle with the ink until it splashes over her face, turning her hair into what it is. He writes a new sentence on a piece of paper and she finds that she can’t kill him… or anyone.

When Snow and Charming confront the author they find out the truth and realise that’s what Gold will use to turn Emma’s heart dark. However this time they’re too late and with Henry’s life on the line Emma pushes Cruella off the cliff to her death.

Jazz age folks! How great was it to see Once Upon a Time go all period. So far we’ve seen the romance of the Enchanted forest, but this new period added to the beauty and effectiveness of Cruella’s story. Furthermore, it paid lovely tribute to the original Disney film and opened up much greater possibilities when it comes to the ‘realms of storytime’ and what this means for future seasons. Once again we saw some royally great female team ups, with Regina and Belle joining forces and Regina and Emma forging their friendship. The relationship between Cruella and Isaac also put an interesting spin on the Cruella story which gave a new meaning to the much touted idea that evil isn’t born. I see herย instead as a victim –ย someone who didn’t manage to get help and as a result became who her parents didn’t want her to be. Wether or not she deserved to die and not get her happy ending is an idea which I feel will be bandied about for quite a while. Of course not everyone can be redeemed but was her outcome the right one? Emma’s struggle with her parents’ actions was well done, especially using Hook and Regina as a contrast.

Our two favourite has-been villains are so loved because of their oscillations between good and bad. It only seems fitting that Emma is finding her way to understand two people that have in some senses been put more on a pedestal to her than anyone else. As Lily enters the picture for the first time in years next week we begin to see what Emma’s heart taking a dark path means for both herself and the show. This episode proved that the show is willing to take a dark path if it wants to, even if its final execution might be questionable. However, I loved it – bring on the daughter of the Dragon (and no, it’s not Daenerys Targaryen)!

Quote of the week: “Blasted birds, I’ll show you what angry looks like.” I never knew I needed that quote in my life until now.

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