Once Upon A Time 4×16 “Best Laid Plans” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

Even the seemingly best-laid plans can end terribly.

Enchanted Forest Flashbacks: Snow and Charming have different visions of how Emma will grow up, so they turn to the sorcerer to ask for help. The sorcerer states that there’s no way of knowing because choices play a part in the outcome; however, there is a way to take the darkness if it’s placed in someone else with a similar faith (ie: a child who’s to be born at the same time). After they’re told that Maleficent’s having a child as well, believing that it’ll be a dragon just like her, they choose to use it. However, the sorcerer didn’t tell them that they couldn’t return the child to Maleficent, and when they see that it’s an actual human baby, guilt instantly consumes the Charmings.

Present-Day Storybrooke: After Killian reveals that the Queens of Darkness + Rumple plan to corrupt Emma’s heart, Snow and Charming continue to keep the truth concealed. With the exception of those who’ve been placed under a sleeping curse before, the entire town falls victim to one as the villains attempt to free the author from the book. However, Henry and Regina buy the heroes some time by giving them the fake page. Henry’s also the person the author reveals himself to by showing him where the key’s placed, but unfortunately, things aren’t always as they seem and the author trapped inside the book isn’t the only one. Surprise surprise.

Anytime we think we couldn’t possibly love and respect the Charming family more, we’re proven wrong. And before we get into all the details, it’s key to mention that the reason we love them so endlessly is because of how layered they are. Their goodness comes from a place of sincere determination, daring uniqueness, and everlasting love. They’re a reminder to viewers that imperfections and mistakes aren’t to be condemned or praised but rather fixed with nobility – and that’s exactly what they did this week. There’s no denying that their actions in the past were terrible and continuing to lie to Emma was far from honorable, but the important thing is they’ve acknowledged how wrong they are. Henceforth, while we’re not condoning their choices, it’s necessary to mention that they believed they were dealing with a baby dragon and not an actual human. If they knew, they would’ve found another way to ensure Emma’s goodness because there’s no way Snow and Charming would’ve sacrificed another child. No one in his or her sane mind would sacrifice a child – except probably the author whose sanity we’ll discuss later in the review.

Present-day Snow and Charming were at their most complex — we loved how realistic their actions felt because while they were entirely wrong when it comes to protecting loved ones from something hurtful, things aren’t ever simple. Honesty is always the best policy, but as flawed and imperfect human beings, more often than not perplexity and anguish lead to circling around the truth before coming clean. Their panic and turmoil at the realization of what they’d done in the past and present are the rightful signs of growth — the acknowledgment of a mistake made is the first step to atonement.

Most significantly, the Snow and Charming we’ve grown to love are the couple who’d put their own happiness at risk in order to insure someone else’s. And it’s noteworthy that in the end, they chose to risk their relationship with Emma by telling her the truth — by making sure that they didn’t continue building a solid foundation on lies.

When it comes to Emma and lies, it never gets easier to watch — and this time especially, it was probably the hardest. For a woman whose entire life has been one betrayal after another, nothing could be worse than the two people she’s grown to trust most hurting her with lies. When it comes to manifesting heartache, Jennifer Morrison’s ability to showcase childlike innocence and vulnerability through her expressiveness is always a tearjerker.

Here’s the issue we’re debating ––magic or no magic, the reality in any world seems to be fairly evident: everyone’s born with a blank slate. Innocent. And like every single villain in the series, Emma has had experiences that could’ve easily led her down a path of absolute darkness. It was her choice to enlist in a career that brought justice and order. In the very first scene we watched her in, she demanded that the man she was hunting make right by his wife — no matter how much she’s suffered and how alone she’s been, she’d never want that same fate for anyone else. And while it appears that the sorcerer got rid of “all her darkness,” it doesn’t actually seem as though it’s possible.

Emma’s not perfect – we’ve seen her wanting to destroy Regina after she poisoned Henry, we’ve seen her ready to hurt a lost boy, and just last week we watched her angrily declare that she too was willing to hurt Rumplestilskin. And the truth is, it’s normal. People get angry and when they do, there’s a form of darkness that consumes them. However, it is a person’s free will to decide how they want to greet darkness when it enters their heart. And the heroes aren’t the ones who don’t let it in, but they’re the ones who kick it out before they can make a permanent residence.

Emma’s a woman who’s constantly chosen to rise above it, and as she told Killian, no one gets to tell her who to be. She’s been good for too long — while certain goodness runs in her veins, what brings her the most happiness are the acts of nobility. In “True North” we watched Emma reunite Hansel and Gretal with their father as she stood on the sidelines happily smiling while in tears over the beauty of the moment and the desire for a family. As someone who’s never known a real family, she wouldn’t selfishly rid someone else of the happiness she could’ve had. As Snow said, they may have been brave in choosing to save their child’s fate, but they weren’t kind. And kindness is the key to heroism – even in her darkest hours, Emma’s remained kind to those she knew needed it most. Although it isn’t fun to see the Charming family divided, we know that the temporary drift is something that’ll bring them closer.

Before we continue discussing more heartrending events like how a paper cut would hurt less than watching the pain we saw in Maleficent, we need to express our delight in watching Snow and Charming grow as a couple — in the past and present. Charming’s response to Snow about their redemption being possible was exquisite — the lovely message of what it means to be heroes and halves of a whole.  “I have to believe we can earn forgiveness, a chance at grace. But to get there, we have to be the best people we can – work, spread hope, and faith every day…and as long as we have each other, we can be the best versions of ourselves. It won’t happen overnight, but we can take the long hard path.” As stated above, it isn’t sheer perfection that grants heroes their title, it’s their desire to do good and to remain honorable even after they’ve made a mistake. We love the fact that Charming owns the responsibility of being wrong by validating that forgiveness is something that must always be earned.

And in order to earn that forgiveness, they must never stop working towards being the best versions of themselves. There’s endless beauty in the detail that when love is true, it’s easier for people to be their best selves — much like Snow and Charming, Killian and Emma have authenticated that this is indeed how it works. It’s inevitable to make mistakes, but at the end of the day, one can always help the other up when they fall. And when she was hopelessly consumed with guilt, Charming was the guiding light to assure her that they’d rise from this, they’d make amends, and together, they’d grow as better people. A loving embrace preserved their promise to one another — whatever lies in the future, they can get through it together.

That said, Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas were nothing short of wonderful in this episode. It’s always nice to see their flashbacks because it’s a great amount of fun to watch these actors showcase a full range of emotions. And while it’s perpetually picturesque to see the two of them illuminate just how in love Charming and Snow are, it was incredibly fascinating to see them deliver a multitude of regrets when they realized how terrible their choice had been. The sincerity in the guilt both Goodwin and Dallas exhibited played a prodigious role in shaping their characters wonderfully — reminding us viewers that although they’re flawed, the fact that they try continues to make them admirable.

Upon learning the truth about what the villains had planned for Emma, Killian instantly told her — beautifully exposing his loyalty and protecting her at the same time. However, our favorite part in regards to the duo was the scene at the docks, for it was a graceful way of revealing that sometimes, a person’s other half is the easiest one to talk to. There’s something indescribably wonderful about embraces, and the irreplaceable serenity they can bring even at the saddest times. We love the fact that although they didn’t talk about what had occurred back home, a heartfelt embrace was able to momentarily bring her ease. In the past when she’d run away, she wouldn’t lean on someone with all of her, she’d endure it all on her own as her walls rose higher. In this very moment, Emma’s briefly giving herself to tranquility in the arms of her anchor – the one whom she can feel safe and hopeful with; the man whose adoration has an unparalleled way of bringing her home.

We’d also like to address that we love how proudly Emma spoke of her and August’s friendship to a jealous Killian. Although August was wrong with some of the decisions he made, he did play a massive role in helping her come to terms with who she is as the savior. It was hilariously heartbreaking to know Killian feels a bit threatened, but it was sweet of her to sincerely assure him that the friendship she has with August isn’t something that could potentially threaten their relationship.

And now it is time to get into discussing Maleficent, but most importantly Kristin Bauer van Straten heart shatteringly brilliant performance. Maleficent was the one villain we’d always felt a bit indifferent towards because she’d come in and leave without giving us any sort of emotional thread to hang on to. However, when it came down to her storyline in 4B, and we saw that the Chernabog was after her heart, we found ourselves fascinated with her. Plus, Bauer van Straten has been flooring us as Maleficent during this arc.

Ultimately, it’s really difficult to get into detail about how horrendous it probably feels to have your child taken from you. It’s never easy to watch Snow do it. It’s never easy to watch Emma do it. And now, it’s never going to be easy to watch Maleficent do. The issue with Maleficent is the fact that she’s not exactly trustworthy. She’s known to be even more powerful than Regina, and at times, probably even more powerful than Rumplestilskin as the Dark One. However, even though she’s untrustworthy and evil, no mother deserves to lose her child. At the end of the day, all a person needs to achieve full redemption and happiness is love. And they may be two different stories, but that’s exactly what we saw in the 2014 feature film for Maleficent. It was Aurora’s love and kindness that brought light back into Maleficent’s heart.

Thus, perhaps if Maleficent could’ve kept her child, the same would’ve happened to her. It broke us to see Maleficent beg for Snow’s consideration but it broke us, even more, when she realized that her daughter, Lily, is still out there in the world. At that very moment, Maleficent wasn’t a villain or a dragon, but a woman. A mother whose entire purpose is her daughter. Bauer van Straten was stunningly evocative in the way she exposed her heartbreak — we were able to see a shattered woman who’d never been and never would be whole until she was reunited with her child. And seriously, Bauer van Straten is such a beautiful crier (random, but it needed to be said).

We cannot wait to see where the storyline goes when Maleficent is reunited with Lily (who at this point it’s safe to assume she’s definitely Emma’s ex-best friend). We cannot wait to (hopefully) see the love of a daughter fuel a mother’s heart and vice versa. It’s interesting that Lily’s adoptive parents chose to name her Lilith for the name’s known to represent chaos. However, when we met Lily, even though she lied about her family life, she didn’t seem like a child with great potential for darkness. She seemed normal — it’s ridiculously common for teens to rebel at that age so it’ll be interesting to see how she’s grown up.

Lastly, from this storyline, we’d love for Snow and Charming to make amends with Maleficent. Surely there will come a time when they’ll state that they only did what they did believing it was a dragon they were harming. And hopefully by that time, Maleficent will be so full of love that she’d find it in her heart to forgive them. If Snow and Charming could forgive Regina for robbing them of Emma’s life for 28 years, then there’s room for Maleficent to do so as well.

Finally, it’s time to discuss the author and the fact that August blatantly authenticated the fact that they don’t really have the type of power the villains believe they do. We’re once again back to the conception of free will vs. fate and the thing is, in the real world, we feel they align often, but the choice is always more powerful than fate. Furthermore, it’s one of the most complicated matters to analyze and if we did so at the moment, we’d be here for about 192 more pages. What we can say, however, is that at the end of the day, no matter what you are destined for, the choices you make play a much bigger role in the person you become. And now that we’ve learned the author was selfish enough to mess with people’s lives for the sake of a better story, it proves that events are documented as they occur.

The stories are manipulated as the people are. And that’s something we’ve wanted the villains to really understand because while they’ve been in the pursuit of the author, during that time they could’ve found the will within themselves to truly find redemption. Snow, Charming, and Killian are paradigms of the possibility — without seeking any author, they’ve found it in their hearts to do good in order to make up for the bad. As we always say, no one’s perfect, but mistakes don’t mean a person is doomed forever — the important thing is to learn and truly be remorseful. Our current author is basically a tad odd hence it’ll be interesting to see where this goes, but we’re more interested in the person who wrote Emma’s story. Also, the subtly fantastic mention of the brilliant Walt Disney was a great touch.

Next week, Zelena returns. (!!!!!!!) Who’s as excited as we are to see Rebecca Mader back on our screens as the Wicked Witch!? If you can’t tell from the exclamation marks, let us state that we’re super excited and have a lot of faith the episode will be amazing.

What were your thoughts on this week’s episode?

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