Once Upon a Time: Stories and Lies

So, after last night’s episode, I think I can 411Cruelladefinitively say this: Cruella DeVil is officially my favorite Once Upon a Time villain. And I gotta say that I’m bummed she was killed off just as we were starting to really learn more about her. I’ve got some questions, and I’m a little disappointed knowing I probably won’t get them answered.

See, I’m going back and forth with Once right now. On the one hand, things happen that I just love – Cruella’s inherent darkness being one of them – but then on the other hand, I feel like there are too many loose threads that don’t seem to be coming together. The mythos of good and evil, heroes and villains, has been a complicated one almost from the very beginning on Once, and yet the latter half of the season is trying to bring those things back to a sense of black and white. And it’s not working for me simply because the show has made it so clear that good/evil and heroes/villains are never black and white. It’s hard to watch the attempt to pour that mess of gray back into the bottle.

Regina, Rumpelstiltskin, Cora, Hook, Peter Pan, Zelena, Ingrid, and Ursula are not just inherently evil people. They are not people devoid of all positive emotions and motivators. They are just people. People who have been hurt or betrayed or oppressed or abused in some way and come out the other side of it with something twisted. Something broken. It was only then that they turned to evil.

Let me make it clear, this is not an attempt to excuse any of their villainous actions. Simply an effort to explain them. “Cool motive, still murder” certainly applies here (and won’t I forever thank Brooklyn Nine Nine for bringing that phrase into the entertainment lexicon) and I don’t think any of these characters should be off the hook for their respective atrocities. But neither should any of those who claim to be heroes, from Ruby who killed Peter and Ava who ruined Cora all the way to Snow White and Prince Charming separating Maleficent from her child to Emma killing Cruella.

I guess what I’m having trouble wrapping my head around is this: how can the same season try so hard to show us these character shades of gray – Snow White and Prince Charming’s most un-hero like act, humanizing Maleficent and Ursula, the continued redemption of Regina and Hook, Emma’s turn to the dark side, Rumpelstiltskin’s quest to keep love in his heart – and yet still have the over arching conflict be that only heroes OR villains can have happy endings. How does that even work when the happy ending conflicts between two people? We’re told explicitly that Regina and Robin Hood are soul mates. So how do either of them get a happy ending in this either/or scenario?

Which brings me to a new wrinkle in this story line. What even constitutes a happy ending when these stories don’t end? This season isn’t the end of the show. These characters are going to go on and do more things and have more experience and tell us more stories. So how is anything that happens considered an ending, happy or otherwise?

And lastly – I don’t quite know how to transition to this so we’re just going to jump right in – I don’t get The Author. Which stories is he responsible for? Just the ones in the Enchanted Forest? Because he was already The Author when he met Cruella, but he didn’t know her story. Was someone else responsible for her story? Did she not have a story until he met her and wrote it down (since he said he was collecting stories, so I guess he doesn’t have to be there at the beginning)? Are all the people in these storybook realms storybook characters or do they have to wait until someone comes to collect their stories? At what point did this author begin writing the stories instead of just recording them? That was a big enough offense to get him imprisoned for it, so what is the real consequence of that? If he was writing their stories instead of just recording, then Snow White and Prince Charming are absolved of their actions in regards to Maleficent. They did not have free will at the time, and so can’t be held accountable. But then that’s true of all the characters whose stories he wrote. So when did he start and when did he stop?

And this is what I’m struggling with the most when it comes to this season, this issue of Free Will. If there is an author, someone who has written all these stories, how can any of the characters be considered a hero or a villain? They’re just nothing.

Okay, this wasn’t the post I set out to write. I really intended to actually talk about Cruella DeVil. But I got side tracked. And I don’t know how to get back. So I’m just going to leave you with my dissatisfaction with what’s happening this season and maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to come back and try again.

4 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time: Stories and Lies

  1. I love that you put these points into words. I have been thinking about them for a few weeks now and agree wholeheartedly. Too many conflicting story lines/ideas. And if The Author has been writing for many many years how many of the evil deeds the villains have done are absolved for lack of free will? I’ve also got an issue with Emma killing to save her son and then instantly being dark… When Regina went dark she didn’t look like a junkie who hasn’t slept in a month either. Great post.

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    • Exactly. To be honest, I don’t consider Emma’s actions to be unjust in the slightest. Sure, Cruella was bluffing, but that was her choice. Now, had Snow White gotten there in time and told Emma that Cruella couldn’t hurt Henry and then Emma still killed her? THAT would be crossing a line and going dark. Not a mother protecting her child.

      And yeah, Emma looks TERRIBLE! I’ve decided it’s because she has that pure, savior soul and so darkness doesn’t agree with her the same way it does for someone like Regina.

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      • I’d like to think the writers will comment on the junkie look but I doubt we will ever get a clear answer… I like your reasoning though so let’s go with that!

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