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TV REVIEW: Once Upon a Time Provides Cruella’s “Swan” Song

BY The Screen Spy Team

Published 7 years ago

By Meredith Loftus

Talk about a killer ending, darlings! Once’s “Sympathy for the De Vil” gave us Cruella’s dark backstory as well as her wrap up, in a most surprising way. The show takes a darker turn as it shows the audience two different ways darkness can manifest itself in a person, through human nature and circumstance. The audience is now forced to wrestle both with the consequences of this episode and how they stand on what makes a villain and a hero.


Dancing with the De Vil

In a realm of perpetual 1920s England, we meet Cruella, whose mother locks her away in an attic for most of her life and tortures her with Dalmatians, using magic. Life seems to be bleak for her until Isaac (the Author) shows up on their doorstep. He seeks an interesting story from Cruella’s mother, but after questioning about her three late husbands, she dismisses him from the house. Having heard all of this, Cruella asks Isaac to help her escape in exchange for a story. After an agreement is reached and he helps her escape, the two venture to a jazz club. There, she confides in Isaac that her mother was responsible for killing her father and stepfathers with poison. Pleased with the story, Isaac and Cruella allow themselves to dance the night away and starting living. Not wanting the night to end, Isaac shares with Cruella his true identity as the Author, a traveler of  various realms who collects stories. He even shares with her that his quill and the ink have to be used together in order to write and alter stories. Swept up in his infatuation for Cruella, he wants her to run away with him and travel the realms together; he even gives her the power to control animals. She agrees but only after she confronts her mother first.

As Isaac is waiting for Cruella, her mother comes to his hotel room and demands that he leave Cruella alone. She confesses to him the truth about her late husbands’ mysterious deaths: it was Cruella who poisoned them. She locked Cruella in the attic in order to protect others from her. Isaac is still unconvinced by this even after her mother leaves with a final warning. Cruella’s mother returns to her home and finds Cruella. She demands that she return to the attic and not run away. Cruella refuses, turns the Dalmatians against her mother, and commands them to kill her. Afterwards, she kills the Dalmatians and sews together her iconic fur coat. Isaac comes to Cruella later and discovers that she tricked him into helping her kill off her mother. It becomes clear that he has been dealing with a psychopath all along. Isaac, in his attempts to change Cruella from harming him, accidentally spills the magic ink on her hair, which transforms it to the black & white style we know and love. He is able to stop her from shooting him with her gun after writing something on a piece of paper. She may be momentarily stopped, but she vows revenge against Isaac. The contents on the paper hold the motivation for why Cruella seeks the Author in the present day.



(ABC/Jack Rowand)


Cruel Intentions

Cruella has a run in with fellow Queen of Darkness, Maleficent. She confesses to Maleficent that she and Ursula abandoned Lily in the woods after traveling through the portal, to which Maleficent responds by turning into a dragon. In this form, Cruella is able to control Maleficent and put her to sleep. With Maleficent out of the way, she can finally begin seeking her revenge against Isaac.

Exhausted from searching for the Author, Emma, Hook, and the Charmings return to the loft to recover. Regina arrives and informs them about Zelena posing as Marian and her alliance with Rumple. Because of this, Regina wants to go to NYC to save Robin, but she needs to make sure Rumple doesn’t hurt him in the process. Using Belle as leverage, Regina gets Rumple to make a deal with her ensuring Robin’s protection while she travels to get him.

Cruella finds Isaac in Rumple’s cabin and demands that he give her back whatever he took from her all those years ago. He refuses to help her; even if he did, he was not in possession of the magic ink or quill. After she leaves, Rumple comes back and demands to know his real history with Cruella. He had been under the impression that she wanted to reconcile her relationship with her mother. He shows him the page that stopped Cruella from killing him in the past. Rumple is pleased with what he finds and continues his mission to turn Emma dark.


Save Henry 2.0

Cruella uses Pongo to kidnap Henry and attempts to forced his mothers to kill Isaac. After receiving the message, Regina, Emma, the Charmings, and Hook develop a plan to rescue Henry. Still not trusting her parents, Emma tasks Snow and Charming with making a locator spell to find the Author while she, Regina, and Hook track down Cruella and Henry. It speaks volumes that Emma trusts Hook and Regina more than her own parents right now. Because of this, as they search for Cruella and Henry, they try to reason with Emma, insisting that she forgive her parents’ transgressions. This kind of betrayal is hard, but they remind her that even heroes make mistakes; Snow and Charming have been trying to overcome those bad decisions by becoming the heroes they are today. Right now, Emma is refusing to extend grace to her parents and puts her focus strictly on finding Henry instead. Henry manages to escape, but Cruella sends Pongo after him. Emma, Hook, and Regina hear him cry out for help, and the trio splits up to find him. It turns out Rumple planted seashells to echo Henry’s cries for help, separating Hook and Regina from Emma.



(ABC/Jack Rowand)


Diving Into Darkness

Snow and Charming find Isaac in Rumple’s cabin and request his help in stopping Cruella. He tells them that he wanted to make sure he could protect the world from her, so he wrote away her ability to kill anyone on that page many years ago. Cruella is completely defenseless, but Emma doesn’t know that. Emma finds Cruella holding Henry at gunpoint on the edge of a cliff. She asks for Cruella to release Henry, which she refuses. Cruella taunts her by saying she doesn’t have what it takes to stop her. Emma is a hero and heroes don’t kill, according to Cruella. That doesn’t stop Emma from blasting Cruella with her magic off the cliff and to her death. Snow and Charming arrive at the scene too late. Emma saves Henry but she lost part of her goodness and has taken a drastic turn towards darkness.

Emma killing Cruella is a game changer. Her intentions were to save her son; she didn’t know that Cruella was powerless to do any real damage. As the Savior, she is supposed to give the people of Storybrooke their happy endings; she just denied Cruella hers and ended her life. This action, combined with her current anger towards her parents, now lays the groundwork for Emma’s heart to darken enough for Rumple to get his way. Can the Savior really be “un-saviored”? Her parents, Henry, Regina, and Hook will play a big role in helping her restore her goodness, but the only one who can save Emma Swan is she.



(ABC/Jack Rowand)


Worth Mentioning

  • The classic “Cruella De Vil” music from the animated film played twice in the episode: first on the radio in Cruella’s attic and later by the band at the jazz club, just in case you missed it the first time.
  • Highlight of the episode: Cruella De Vil playing Angry Birds.
  • Even though there was minimal Emma and Hook interaction, the scene we did get of them continues to highlight the depth of their relationship. He reminds her that she chose to see the best in him despite his villainous past; he wants her to do the same for her parents. Emma may not believe at the moment, but she lets his words sink in. Just as she was able to support him and help him see the goodness in himself, Hook is going to be very important in reminding Emma of her personal goodness if/when she goes dark. Hook really has become Emma’s emotional rock.
  • I love how Isaac referred to Hemmingway and Thoreau as he entered Rumple’s cabin in the woods. Also, as he waits in the cabin, he is reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This author is well-versed in the classics!
  • In case you were wondering, the reason why Cruella and Ursula did not age in our world was because they absorbed power from the egg that Lily was in.
  • Henry, didn’t your mothers teach you not follow animals to sketchy alleys?
  • Isaac gave Cruella the iconic Panther. She did not have it with her when she fell in the portal to our world. How did the Panther end up with Cruella in our world if her only powers are controlling animals?
  • The scene between Rumple and Belle was a powerful scene for a couple of reasons. It revealed what Rumple’s true intentions are for getting the Author to rewrite his story: he is dying, or at least his humanity is. Secondly, it showed that Rumple still loves Belle, which is why finding out that Regina was manipulating her was a bit heartbreaking. That kiss between them was just beautiful, and I’m still hoping that redemption is possible for the Dark One.

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