‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: The Author Is Revealed In ‘Best Laid Plans’
Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 4 Episode 17 – Best Laid Plans:
Once Upon A Time is doing something interesting with this Queens of Darkness storyline: it’s making the heroes earn their heroic status, while forcing the villains to prove their villainy. “Best Laid Plans” is an episode that illustrates how morality isn’t something intrinsic, it’s something a person assumes through his or her actions, even if they were driven to those actions by personal hardship.
For instance, while Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten) was evil long before she lost her child, whatever humanizing influence motherhood might have had on her is eliminated when Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) steal the egg containing her unborn child. Their belief is that they can prevent their own unborn child from being consumed by darkness if they can simply transfer that darkness into another being. And I can understand how the Charmings would think that’d be fair, since their assumption is that they’d be doing no harm to the child, considering that as Maleficent’s child, it’s likely to be consumed by darkness anyway. But that assumption speaks to the inherent fallacy of the Charmings’ morality. They condemn a child to darkness on the assumption that children are simply born evil, and they’re doing it to prevent the same thing from happening to their child. But evil isn’t born. It’s made. And they essentially create that potential for evil in themselves by handing the egg over to a sorcerer who ends up reneging on the plan to transfer the darkness. Instead, he opens a portal that takes the egg, as well as Cruella (Victoria Smurfit) and Ursula (Merrin Dungey) to our world. Charming and Snow have now done something irrevocable that darkens their morality. And yet, that action may have an unintended side effect. We see that Maleficent’s child in our world, held in the arms of a man who names her “Lily”. Presumably, this is the same Lily that Emma (Jennifer Morrison) grew up with, the same Lily with whom she had that massive falling out. I can’t say this is an entirely unexpected twist, but it certainly adds an intriguing dimension to the Queens of Darkness storyline, since the survival of Maleficent’s daughter implies that she can still be redeemed through True Love. Perhaps that’s a rote fairy tale cliche, but it’s one worth exploring for the character.
Similarly, I like how Regina (Lana Parrilla) is actually having to prove she’s still evil to Gold (Robert Carlyle), considering how long she’s tried to convince the people of Storybrooke that she’s capable of goodness. Gold and Maleficent require Regina to steal the page of the Author’s door, but the best she can do is snap a photo. But this is enough to prove to Gold that the page is magic, and that the Author is somehow sealed inside the storybook. For Gold, he seems to have a larger plan to get Belle (Emilie de Ravin) back. When the entire town is knocked out by Maleficent’s sleeping spell — intended to allow them to steal the Author’s page — Gold visits her and tells her unconscious form that he needs to change the world if he’s ever going to be able to be with her. But is Gold beyond redemption, at this point? I’m not entirely sure. If nothing else, Regina fails to prove that she’s still as evil as she always was, as Gold discovers that she’s deceiving him by turning over a false copy of the page with the Author’s door. As if on cue, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) finds the key that will open the magic door and release the Author. Naturally, this would be kind of ridiculous if the show didn’t do a good job of establishing the stakes that magic holds in this world. It isn’t simply that the Author is sealed away through some absurd mistake of his own design, but rather because he chose to interfere with the stories he was creating. This is explained by August (Eion Bailey), who adds that the Author they’re seeking is simply the latest in a long line of Authors, and that he was confined to the book as punishment for interfering in the stories.
This inevitably brings us to the last big reveal of the episode, as Henry releases the Author, and he is…the merchant that Snow White and Prince Charming run into in their flashback at the beginning of the episode. The man calls himself the Peddler (Patrick Fischler), and suddenly, August’s tale about how the Author too often got involved in his own stories makes a little more sense, since he was present while Snow White and Prince Charming were figuring out what to do about their unborn child. It’s a bit convenient, but I like this revelation, if only for how it keeps the story moving forward. There’s no more hemming-and-hawing about the Author’s identity, nor is there a big delay in getting him to Storybrooke so he can get involved in the action. Basically, this plot has far more momentum than I expected it would have, even while I find my interest waning in Gold’s side of things.
The Author’s arrival presents another interesting quandary worth exploring: what’s the nature of his morality? Was he a good man who got carried away with the awesome power that comes with being the Author? Or is he a bad man who decided to abuse his omniscient privilege? I’m guessing the answer is somewhere in the middle, but it should be fascinating to explore this facet of the overall theme about morality. Actions are what earn a person the title of hero or villain, not birth. And “Best Laid Plans” is one of the better Once Upon A Time episodes to engage with this theme in some time. So, for that reason, I feel like this episode is well worth checking out.