New Show Recap: Once Upon a Time 4×19, “Sympathy for the de Vil”

In Cruella’s past, in an unknown realm that probably is supposed to be the origin of the tales of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie, we see a little girl running through the woods. A Dalmatian is chasing her. She is cornered by the dogs, and a woman pulls up in a 1920s car and urges the little girl to return home. Now that her father is gone, there are going to be some changes around the house. Cruella will have to live in the attic until she learns how to listen to her mother.

Years later, Cruella is listening to jazz on the wireless and her mother is angry and demands to know where she got it. Cruella wants to leave the house, but her mom won’t let her, and she takes the wireless away. Looks like Cruella’s mom has some issues. The author, Isaac, comes to the de Vil house looking to speak to Cruella’s mother about her awesome dog-training business, but as soon as he asks Mom about the marriages, she turns him out. Cruella calls to him from the attic and promises that she can tell him a great story. Later, Isaac has returned to spirit Cruella away. She sneaks out of the house without an incident. Isaac takes her to a bar so that they can do the Charleston, drink martinis, and exchange sad stories. Looks like Mummy dear has some dirty secrets. Her mother is a serial husband poisoner. Isaac is eager for the story, but they decide to live for once and dance the night away. Cruella’s Auntie Mame must have had a bad influence on her.

At the end of the night, the author shows Cruella the magic quill and tells her his secret about being the author. He can travel between realms of storytelling and time. The pen and ink are enchanted, and the author can not only write people’s stories, but change them. As he writes on the page, he gives Cruella diamond jewelry and offers to give her magic. He offers to whisk her away to another realm where they would be free of her mother and her dogs. Cruella insists on facing her mother down and declaring her independence. She and the author plan to meet at the hotel, and Isaac gives her the keys to his car and promises to wait for her. Cruella’s mother comes to him instead, and when Isaac accuses her mother of being a black widow, Cruella’s mother insists that Cruella was the one who killed her father and her stepfathers. Cruella is a sociopath, and she used the flowers her mother ripped out of the garden to poison these men. Isaac thinks Cruella’s mother is lying and tells her mother to leave, but her mother tells him to stat away from Cruella because she takes the things people love and destroys them. Torn, the author picks up the magic pen and ink.

Later, flapper! Cruella confronts her mother and uses her new magical power of persuasion to order the dogs to attack and kill her mother. Isaac arrives and finds Cruella busy at the sewing machine as jazz music plays on the wireless. Looks like she also killed the dogs and made a coat out of their fur. Cruella was quite the sociopath after all, and she had used Isaac as a means to an end. Cruella had been drawn to the darkness since she was a little girl. “Why not splash in and have fun?” she laughs, and the magic from the pen and ink turn her from a young, blonde ingenue into the Cruella we know now.

In present time, Cruella meets Maleficent outside of Storybrooke. Maleficent wants to know what really happened to her daughter, Lily, the baby who was transported to our world because Snow and Charming are assholes. Cruella has this information, but she uses her powers of persuasion to force Maleficent to turn into a dragon and go to sleep so that she might seek out her happy ending.

Emma is still angry with her parents regarding what they did to Maleficent’s child. Snow insists that what they did is worth it. Before the argument can continue, Regina enters and reveals that Zerlina lived and that she has been masquerading as Marian this entire time. They need to rescue Robin and find a way to outwit Rumpel.

Regina approaches Belle, who is now apparently Rumpel’s ex-wife (I don’t know when the divorce was finalized, just another plothole to add to the list of plotholes in OUAT). She asks for Belle’s help.

Rumpel takes the writer to an isolated cabin so that he author can work on writing happy endings for the villains. Belle calls for Rumpel using the dagger and asks Rumpel why he has returned to Storybrooke. Rumpel isn’t there to win her back, but he shows her that his heart has blackened from all of his dark deeds. he will lose all of the goodness he has inside of him, and he tells Belle he wants to keep the goodness she saw within him. Oddly, Belle understands Rumpel’s motivations, because she still loves the big lug and wants him to live. Then Belle’s tone changes; she tells Rumpel that he’s pathetic for crawling back to her. Turns out it’s Regina, who has taken Belle’s heart and is using it to control Belle’s behavior. Rumpel is angered and threatens Regina, but when Regina tells him she will kill Belle by crumbling the woman’s heart, Rumpel backs down and is willing to make a deal. Regina is headed to New York City to find Robin, and if Rumpel informs Zerlina of her arrival, she will kill Belle.

Cruella seeks out Isaac. He’s reading The Great Gatsby to brush up on his writing. Does he know Fitzgerald was a plagiarist? Also, looks like Cruella and the author knew each other before, and the author made her into what she is today. The author threatens to reveal this to Rumpel if Cruella doesn’t back off.

Henry sees Pongo in the street and goes after him, but Cruella has used her powers of persuasion to use Pongo as bait to kidnap Henry. She coerces Henry into getting into her car. As Regina tries to leave for NYC, Cruella calls her and Emma to tell them that she has Henry, and that if they don’t come to her with the author in tow, she will kill their son.

Rumpel bursts in on the author as he reads Fitzgerald, and Rumpel accuses the author and Cruella of knowing each other and lying to him about it. Cruella is so crazy with anger that she has gone and kidnapped Henry. Cruella wants the author dead, and that’s her happy ending. Rumpel wants to know what Isaac wrote about Cruella that made her so determined to have her revenge, and Isaac shows Rumpel what he wrote.

Snow and Charming have figured out where Cruella is holding Henry. Emma and Regina figure out that the best way to meet Cruella’s terms is to find Isaac and bring him to her. Snow and Charming have Isaac’s flask, and they can cast a locating spell on it to find him and bring him to Cruella. Emma still doesn’t trust her parents, but getting Henry back is the most important thing on her mind. As they look for Henry, Regina and Hook are trying to convince Emma to forgive her parents, as they made a mistake and have been trying to make up for what they did for a long time. Emma points out that Hook and Regina were honest with her about how evil they were, and that her parents held themselves up as paragons of righteousness, and that’s why she can’t forgive them.

While Cruella is touching up her makeup, Henry takes off running. Cruella orders Pongo to track him. Emma, Regina, and Hook each hear Henry calling to them from different directions and Hook deduces that magic is being used to separate them. We see Rumpel hiding behind a tree, using his dark magic like Jedi mind tricks to interfere with things. Cruella finds Henry just as Emma does, and she threatens Henry with her pistol, declaring she will kill him if Emma comes any closer.

Snow and Charming find the author and ask him what he has done with Henry. The author insists he hadn’t known what would happen with Cruella when he had written it, and the story ends with the savior, Emma, turning dark. The author also gave Cruella a weakness: she is unable to kill anyone.

As Cruella holds Henry hostage, Emma is trying to reason with her. Emma threatens to use her magic to save her son. Cruella laughs at her, saying that Emma is a hero, and that heroes don’t kill. The blast from Emma’s magic forces Cruella over the cliff. Snow and Charming arrive just as Henry and Emma embrace. All four of them look over the cliff to see Cruella’s broken body below. Emma has killed her.

Can I just remind the writers of OUAT that plenty of heroes have killed? Like Achilles and Beowulf and all that? I’m kind of disappointed there was no actual Charleston. Or that some Agatha Christie-type detective or a cheap imitation of Lord Peter Wimsey didn’t show up. Keep it up, OUAT. Keep being that show Penny Dreadful‘s writers strive to be better than.

Can I also say that Victoria Smurfit is amazing and shines on shows with shitty writing? Get this woman on Hannibal or some awesome BBC period drama stat!

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