Beautiful princesses! Sexy pirates! Questionable plots! Villains pulled directly from Disney cartoons! Truly awesome evil cars! (Well, one truly awesome evil car, at least.) Yes, we’re back for the return of the fourth season of ABC’s Once Upon a Time! SPOILERS AHEAD.
General disclaimer: I have not seen 101 Dalmatians in its entirety since I was small, largely because although I liked all the puppies my little self was outraged that the movie CHANGED THE BOOK which was totally wrong (this may have been the first time I encountered this) and I never quite got over that. Thus, the chances of me remembering a single detail correctly, other than “Puppies!” are basically nil.
Previously on Once Upon a Time: Everyone in Storybrooke turned out to be either related or romantically involved with one another. Emma and Hook hooked up at last, to the joy of seemingly everyone on Tumblr, but before anyone could be too happy about this, Rumple and Belle had a very sad breakup, ending with Belle exiling Rumple from Storybrooke forever, or, in terms of this show, the hiatus. Once Very Evil But Now Not So Much Queen Regina fell in love with Robin Hood (roll with it). Shocked, shocked, shocked to realize that years of making everyone that she didn’t simply kill absolutely miserable did not entitle her to a happy ending with an already married man, she decided to track down the author of Henry’s Magic Book of Fairy Tales to demand that the author writer her a happy ending. Emma agreed to help.
Also, an enchanted Hook forced fairies to go in Mickey Mouse’s Hat, trapping them there forever, or, in terms of this show, the hiatus.
Also, some characters from a little film called Frozen showed up, but since they’re now off the show, we’re not going to worry about them.
Got it? On to the show!
Over in Fairy Tale Land: Rumple summoned Ursula, Maleficent, and Cruella De Vil to Maleficent’s Forbidden Castle, without even asking Maleficent’s permission, which, bad form, Rumple, bad form. To my great disappointment, Cruella showed up with Rottweilers, not Dalmatians. Or cute puppies. I get that Rottweilers are easier to train and look more evil than Dalmatians, but bad form, Cruella, bad form. Though, in this version, at least she has magical powers, which might be distracting her from puppy thoughts. Anyway, Rumple, not interested in dog problems, quickly explained that he would be able to summon what all three of them wanted. No, not, as you might be thinking, puppy fur coats, world domination, or poor unfortunate souls, but a happy ending. Which for them probably would be puppy fur coats, world domination, and poor unfortunate souls, but I digress. Two of the three looked interested; Cruella, rapidly ascending to the role of Coolest Person on the Show, kept her look of complete contempt.
To get their happy endings, Rumple explained, they first had to get the Evil Curse, which naturally was on Bald Mountain behind Evil Things that the three of them just happened to have the magical powers to destroy. Equally naturally, once the four obtained the Magical Item by breathing on things (Cruella), defeating a dragon (Maleficent), doing something boring (Ursula) and just grabbing it (Rumple), Rumple took off, leaving the three of them to face the demon from Fantasia. Despite mutual distrust, the three women worked together to escape—not defeat, mostly because of a Needed Plot later—the demon who we will just go ahead and call Chernabog even though nobody called him that on the show.
Unanswered questions: How did Cruella get her magical powers anyway, given that she’s a London socialite, not a wizard, and why didn’t she use those powers to finally summon every adorable little puppy in the world to her so she could finally have the fur coat of her dreams? And how exactly do puppy training techniques, even magical puppy training techniques, work on bugs?
Also, where are the dancing hippos? I feel this is important. Or just avoiding the CGI that would be needed for them, but let’s stick with important.
Over in Storybrooke: Six weeks have passed since our Frozen friends left town, and life has been great, with only one, tiny, tiny little flaw: the nuns—that is, the fairies—are still eternally trapped in the hat, which leads to library time for Belle and Hook, a brief note that Hook still doesn’t get the internet or computers (to be completely fair to Hook, based on the computer monitor we see at the library, Belle’s not exactly on the cutting edge of technology either) and Regina continuing to look sadly at The Book in between Frustrated Moments with root beer bottles. We’ve all been there, Regina. Those screw off tops are maddening.
Before things can get too happy for this show (read, boring) Belle receives a not at all suspicious email from a not at all suspicious Oxford professor who is apparently more than happy to translate random spells for mysterious librarians in Maine that he’s never even met. Belle takes the translation and runs with it, because, as we have previously established, Belle does not think very much. Regina, now armed with a nice magical looking knife, some mysterious gestures, this completely unsuspicious email, and special effects, is now ready to free the fairies from the box once owned by the Sorcerer himself. Which, you might remember, at one point contained Mickey Mouse’s hat. And might still contain Mickey Mouse. This is not entirely clear.
What is clear is this: if four seasons on this show have taught us and the characters anything, it’s that something always goes wrong when you turn your backs on magical objects, especially magical objects once owned by the Sorcerer himself.
Naturally, therefore, the moment the fairies pop out, everyone turns their backs on the magical object once owned by the Sorcerer himself for a big Group Hug. Equally naturally, this is followed by the appearance of a big, very noticeable smoke demon sliding out from said magical object to go flying off into the sky, presumably in search of smarter characters, or at least coffee. Caught in their Group Hug, everyone misses this, even though this demon? Not exactly small. Smaller than Smaug, sure, but larger than a Ringwraith, is what I’m saying.
Nobody on this show ever learns anything.
In an effort to combat this lack of knowledge, though, Regina rather nervously takes The Book to the Blue Fairy, explaining that she—that is, Regina—wants the author to write her a happy ending because he can. The Blue Fairy, rather than objecting to this, says this is a really awesome idea, and then further proceeds to completely arouse my suspicions by:
(a) Looking suspicious, which on this show, usually does mean someone is suspicious.
(b) Telling us that the Author and the Sorcerer are totally, totally separate people even though uh, no, she hasn’t met the Author and why ever would you think that she’s met the Author even though yes, yes, she’s really really sure that they are totally separate people and by the way, the Author could be a woman. Maybe. Kudos for being the first person on this show to remember this even if she’s totally lying while doing so.
(c) Looking suspicious again.
Regina and Emma accept all this. Regina and Emma have clearly been spending way too much time with Belle. I’m just saying.
Meanwhile, over in New York City, Rumple and Ursula are trying the whole housemate thing, which is not going well since (a) Ursula has a job, and Rumple doesn’t, (b) Rumple has to eat ramen noodles, which is very sad, (c) the apartment has way too many fish tanks, and I say this as someone who loves to watch tropical fish, and (d) Rumple is apparently still using AOL which is enough to make anyone miserable. Fortunately enough, a few emails later and Rumple is set to escape New York City for—
—Long Island, where Cruella, a number of magnificent fur coats and an even more magnificent if quite obviously evil car have been casually hanging out. We should probably not be focusing too hard on exactly how Cruella got from London to Long Island or what this implies about Long Island. Cruella wants to know exactly why working with Rumple is going to be any more successful than it was last time. Because you have an EVIL CAR, Cruella! Deducting a point from your awesomeness for missing that point now. Rumple fails to mention the car, but suggests trusting him. Again.
Cruella’s response to that lives up to her name: she takes all three of them to a Mr. Cluck’s drive thru. You may remember Mr. Cluck’s from Lost. If you don’t, don’t worry: none of the characters on this show do either, though it’s pretty clear that given the chance, Cruella would happily arrange to have Rumple crash land on an evil island. Rumple declines the fast food on the grounds that he wants to live long enough to get his happy ending. Rumple, for many of us, the toys in those little kiddie meals at those places are our happy endings. Also the french fries. Live a little, Rumple. You’re supposed to be evil.
Anyway, fast food detours over, the three of them roll up to the Storybrooke line, where Rumple drops his next bombshell: he can’t actually get them inside Storybrooke. Cruella, prepared for this and, well, pretty much everything, pulls a really elegant gun on him. Say what you will about Cruella: she had the hands down best shoes in the entire episode, plus this gun. Girl knows how to accessorize. Rumple, probably overcome with the elegance, whimpers and says, really, this is all going to work because—new twist!—he’s going to have to trust them, not the other way around. It’s not clear why Ursula and Cruella go along with this, but for irredeemable villains, they’re remarkably honorable, so, plan implemented.
Trusting them involves handing his phone over to Regina, currently ever so slightly distracted by a flying demon, and still not totally recovered from the earlier root beer incident, but not so distracted that she couldn’t take a few moments to insult Ursula with phrases like Squid and Uncooked Calamari, like, really, Regina, no one really has to the time to think about seafood just now. Ursula and Cruella managed to convince Regina that really, they were all good now, deserving their own happy endings. It’s not entirely convincing, but Regina and Emma do have an evil demon to contend with, so they’re not overly picky. Also, as mentioned, spending way too much time with Belle.
Fortunately, it turns out that the evil demon is the sort of evil demon who likes to follow things filled with evil potential, which would seem to describe most of Storybrooke but in this case, Regina is certain, means her because, as she points out, none of the dwarves are called Evilly. (Give them time, Regina, give them time.) So Emma and Regina zip out to the town line in Emma’s yellow Bug. (Regina doesn’t like the color. Regina, even good, likes her cars to look properly evil. Regina is going to bond with Cruella over this. I can feel it.) One smashed windshield later and Chernabog has flown straight into the magical barrier, going poof! That seemed suspiciously easy. Regina tosses the entry spell over to Ursula and Cruella, who enter. With the evil car. I like the car.
A sad and sorry Rumple, without a single evil car to wait in, waits outside the town lines under a very large moon. And waits. It was all very sad. I considered heading to the bathroom. Just before I completely gave up, but after Rumple did, a nice magical scroll was tossed through the barrier over to him, allowing him to walk through, ditch his limp and his cane, stand in the middle of Storybrooke even though many members of the town want him exiled or dead, and declaim how gloriously evil he is.
Part of being gloriously evil involves, no, not excellent coffee, but summoning the apparently not quite as dead as we all thought Maleficent back to implement the evil plan. Ursula and Cruella are not enthusiastic about this. I’m totally on their side, largely because, last time we checked, Maleficent was a dragon, a species the state of Maine, in general, is just not equipped to handle.
Rumple, however, points out that even at his lowest, darkest, most powerless moment, he was still able to pretend to be an Oxford professor—see what we’re saying, Belle?—which in turn led directly to the release of Chernabog which allowed them to enter Storybrooke, so just imagine what he can do with powers. Ursula is kinda impressed. Cruella wants to be on a better show. Both of them point out that Regina is still a problem, given that she’s more evil than all four of them combined, which is why Chernabog was after her. Rumple points out that they’ve got it all wrong—sure, Chernabog was chasing the greatest potential evil in Maine.
But that’s not Regina.
It’s Emma Swan.
I’ll just let you ponder the complete lack of buildup (ABC trailers notwithstanding) for that for a moment. Though, to be fair, dealing with some of the characters on this show—hi, Belle!—might be enough to drive anyone to evil.
Elsewhere, Snow and Charming—remember them? Major characters on the show? Thought you might—threatened Cruella and Ursula with complete death should either of them reveal the great and terrible secret, a scene that probably would have been a bit friendlier if everyone hadn’t been hiding under umbrellas; the rest of the town responded to a flying demon with a general “Eh, it’s Sunday,” with Hook explaining that it wasn’t their first Monster Bash; Emma and Hook decided to strain Tumblr’s servers again with multiple Adorable Moments Just Meant To Be Turned Into Gifs, which undoubtedly means one of them will be dead or evil next episode; Regina, in a moment of weakness I’m sure she’ll regret later, admitted that she had once been, gasp, evil, and if she could be redeemed, maybe others could as well, an opinion sure to harm her later; and Henry—remember Henry? Trying to repress Henry?—did something so shocking none of us could ever have predicted it:
He went back to school.
I know. I know.
And this show claims to be about fairy tales.
Mari Ness lives in central Florida.