Once Upon A Time 6×12 “Murder Most Foul” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

It’s okay not to be okay.

Episode Summary: In flashbacks, we’re taken back to the moment when David and James were separated while in present-day Storybrooke, David attempts to uncover the truth behind what really happened to his father. Killian struggles with David’s perception of him, and because he wants to take things with Emma to the next level, he needs her father’s blessing. Regina shows Robin around Storybrooke and after a kiss, she learns that he really isn’t the man she fell in love with.

Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time has proven many things within the last six years, and one of them is the fact that Jane Espenson and Jerome Schwartz make magic together. “Murder Most Foul” was the perfect demonstration of just how fascinating these characters are, and the strength that’s found through honest, enduring friendships. In spite of the horrific ending, “Murder Most Foul” is an episode that’s bound to leave viewers remembering why they fell in love with the show in the first place.

Once Upon A Time is a series that at its best uses fairytale characters to emphasize real, human emotions. And in a cathartic way, “Murder Most Foul” showcased the importance of seeking help. It reminded viewers of the fact that there’s no shame in asking for it, and that as human beings, we are always enough just as we are.

There are a number of things human beings can achieve on their own, but they don’t always have to. When we fall, it’s okay to ask for help. And that’s exactly what our heroes did this week. Killian and David both needed to deal with the pain that’s lingered in them for a while now, and “Murder Most Foul” gave them the opportunity to do so while strengthening their relationship as friends. The choice to place the men front and center, allowed for the episode to tell riveting stories about the struggles that confine people while revealing the fact that sometimes, just talking to someone can be enough. Sometimes, baring our souls is all that we need to reach our cathartic breakthrough.

Killian’s past is especially dark — there’s no denying the fact that he’s done abysmal things when his heart was filled with vengeance. However, it’s a fact that from the moment he met Emma Swan, he’s done everything in his power to properly atone for his wrongdoings, and taking full responsibility has differentiated him from most villains. And to see him go to therapy was a wonderful addition I wasn’t expecting. Once Upon A Time’s means of handling therapy weren’t as intriguing in earlier seasons because issues were essentially glossed over, but in season six, we are given the chance to see that it’s vital for people to get help. We’re also given the chance to see that there’s nothing wrong with it. And that’s kind of the thing with therapy that’s often misrepresented in TV/film and by extension, the real world. It’s somehow perceived as a weakness to need help, but the reality is that even the strongest fall. It does not matter how brave or collected a person is because at the end of the day, life can get overwhelming, and we were never created to go through anything alone.

Emma and now Killian, going to therapy serves as the heartening truth that a hero isn’t weakened by needing to rely on another. In fact, they’re even more courageous than before as this series has time and time again showcased that it takes immense bravery to be vulnerable. It reveals to viewers that no one should ever be ashamed if they feel the need to confide in a professional. And I’m proud of the series for giving this message the proper attention it deserves. No two people ever feel the same, and what may be overwhelming for one won’t be too bad for another. Thereby, showing different cases of what may prompt a person to seek help was a lovely display of the fact that mental health is important. David’s belief in the fact that Killian’s nothing but a pirate has pained him since the very beginning, but today it matters more than ever. Because Killian wants to marry Emma, and he’s 200+ years old so evidently a bit old-fashioned, he needs her father’s blessing. And who’d want to marry into a family where they’re constantly looked down on? David and Killian are a lot closer than they’ve been, but David’s inability to see beyond Killian’s past at times is something that though subtle, it’s haunted him.

The truth is, it’s clear that David cares for Killian (we watched him grieve his death after all), but in his pain, it’s easy to take it out on Killian. And that’s another interesting issue that’s pleasantly resolved in the end. “Murder Most Foul” took on a few of the rawest, most compelling human emotions we all face. It’s fair to assume that there’s not a single person in the world who hasn’t thrown their anger out on another person. And ultimately, sometimes a person doesn’t notice what they’re doing until they’re confronted. Advice that came from Archie this week who mentions to Killian that life is too precious to wait. The only way he’ll ever truly know how David feels is to ask.

Killian and David haven’t made one another “best friends bracelets” like Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but at the end of the day, they’ve always cared for one another like brothers. And sometimes, caring for someone means stopping them from doing something they regret even if that means they’ll blame you. That’s why it was great to see Killian talk David out of vengeance. He’s spent centuries trying to fill the void that was left in his heart, but he knows more than ever now that all it has done is inflicted more pain. But Killian’s not the man who’ll ever give up on someone he cares for, and David is one of those people. Colin O’Donoghue was the perfect scene partner for a tormented Josh Dallas. The sheer level of vulnerability both men projected was astounding to watch, and the perfect reminder of why the show is at its best when it focuses on its characters. And the reality is that as much as Killian would have preferred for Emma to be alongside her father, magic wouldn’t have helped them the way Killian’s words could have. Honesty is a powerful weapon, and the choice to be vulnerable alongside him gave David the platform to dig into parts of him he may not have otherwise been able to.

Now before we get into the ending that brought the men together in a beautiful way, let’s break down what made the episode remarkable. We’ve always known that Josh Dallas was a gifted actor, but “Murder Most Foul” gave him exceptional material to work with proving that there’s no emotion he cannot convey. Dallas’ depiction of a man on a mission with the subtle emotional adversity lingering, led to a full-blown breakdown, which masterfully showcased catastrophic pain and grief.

After getting the much-needed sleep, David’s visited by his father’s ghost once more prompting him to do everything in his power to learn the truth once and for all. After a location potion leads to the understanding that the last place his father was is an island called “Pleasure Island”, he and Killian decide to find August in order to learn if there’s anything more he can tell them. And once they learn that his father was indeed sober on his quest to bring back James, David goes off to find King George. And it’s after their confrontation that David learns that his father was always trying to do the right thing. It’s also the moment where he finally confronts himself. (And I cry.)

We learned early on that David’s greatest fear is a failure as a father and a husband. He’s often been victim to the idea that he’s somehow never enough and that one day, he’ll be the disappointment he believes he is. And it’s real emotions like this that have made me fall in love with this series. While we have one man believing that he’ll never be worthy in the eyes of Prince Charming, the reality is that Prince Charming’s greatest fear is that he’ll never be enough. Now tell me that’s not the most authentic emotion we all face. While we may admire someone for something we believe is incredibly special, they may be crumbling on the inside because of that very thing.

And that final breakdown, the somatic fall of a man who has always been perceived as the strongest of them all was a poetically engulfing display of the power of fear. Fear has been a constant in David’s life because of the amount of responsibility he has taken upon himself, and slowly, it has terrorized him until this final confrontation with himself. The affirmation that he’s terrified and encompassed with the belief that he may not be enough — a moment which reminded me a lot of Emma’s breakdown in “Nimue.” Serving as one of the most powerful moments in Once Upon A Time history, we watched David fall on his knees as Killian chose to meet him at that level. It’s never easy to be vulnerable, but the representation of surrendering that the scene painted was cathartically beautiful. There’s a reason that we pray on our knees — a manner of release in a purely innocent moment of giving our all to God. And for David, this was a moment where he gave in to all the pain by letting go of the image of Prince Charming. At that moment, he wasn’t Prince Charming, he was David, a shepherd boy who’d just learned that his father truly loved him. A shepherd boy who allowed himself to fall in order to rise higher than ever before.

Once Upon A Time does an excellent job of layering its characters while exploring each and every emotion that governs them. We’ve seen a number of beautifully liberating moments of vulnerability with the women, but there’s been nothing like this for the men. And for this scene to be between two men who’ve always been under the impression that they’ll never be enough was strikingly powerful. David was next to someone who’d never judge him but rather a person who understands pain all too well. It speaks incredibly highly of Killian to continuously give his all in spite of the hardships he’s endured because of David’s words. He too is profoundly wounded, but at this moment, none of that mattered because as he watched a man fall, he decided to meet him on the ground where they’d be on the same level of understanding. A gesture and a moment, where they both surrendered to the fears that ceaselessly attempted to convince them they’d never be enough. They have both lost brothers but found a similar level of comfort and support in each other.

That’s why as the men walked off the docks with David’s hand on Killian’s shoulder after he’d given him his blessing to marry Emma, you could see the entire relationship come full circle. It’s important that we acknowledge our mistakes, and that’s what David did as he apologized to Killian for what he had made him do. And one thing Once Upon A Time has always been good at is the exhibition of heartfelt apologies. As a perfect example of the fact that our vulnerabilities don’t weaken us, the fact that Killian saw David at his lowest, but still believed that he sets the highest standard as Prince Charming was brilliant. A truly brilliant reminder of the fact that we are not defined by the moments we fall, but rather by the choices we make in our lives. And our vulnerabilities, no matter how big or small do not showcase weakness, but rather the amount of strength it takes to confront all that’s within us to be freed from the crosses we carry.

On another note, I appreciated that Rumple reminded viewers of the fact that “small things can hold great power.” Because if there’s any universal truth all around the world, this is it. Whether it’s a small gesture or an actual object, it can be indescribably sentimental to someone. And that’s what the little coin meant to David’s father — when his son gave it to him, it served as a reminder of the notion that he can leave alcohol behind in order to be the father his sons deserve. A person’s choice to hold us as we cry could end up healing us in a way words may never. And although the saying came from the Rumpelstiltskin none of us could trust, at this moment, the expression Robert Carlyle wore spoke wonders. He’s been selfish in everything, but his love for Bae has always been unwavering.

On a list of characters owning up to their actions, I really appreciated Regina admitting to Snow that this is her fault. Her track record isn’t always great, but this was a beautiful moment of declaration that she messed up. And the kiss between fake Robin broke my heart. You know she desperately wants to be happy, but this isn’t the way and admitting to that without anger showcases palpable growth. Admitting to hypocrisy also showcases palpable growth. But now the question is, who is this Robin and what does he want? Why hasn’t he aged and when will we know?

And now the part of the episode other than the unsurprisingly confusing timeline, the final reveal. I’m tired of having to watch the same storylines with Captain Hook killing someone and then Killian being tortured by it. We get it. He was horrible in the past, but as David states, he’s done the hardest thing someone has ever had to do and he changed. And he changed without anyone forcing him to but rather a decision he made in order to be worthy of the woman he’d love to marry. To reveal that he’s the one who killed David’s father and then has him hide it for two episodes or so is a tad bit too redundant at this point. And after such a beautiful display of brotherhood, it’s heartbreaking to imagine what will come next. Colin O’Donoghue and Josh Dallas are such excellent scene partners that I’m sure it’ll make for an extraordinary moment, but if this were to happen, I rather it have happened during this episode as opposed to later on.

“Murder Most Foul” rekindled the spark I had always had for this show. “Murder Most Foul” reminded us of the very fact that the serenities we can find in human beings surpass all. As it’s written in Ecclesiasticus 6:5-6, 14-17, “a faithful friend is a sure shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure. A faithful friend is something beyond price, there is no measuring his worth.” Each and every one of these characters, much like all of us, have suffered in adversary through seemingly ongoing battles, but we’ve learned through this show that if we’re brave enough to open up to someone, it can be the utmost wondrous adventure we’ll embark on. And who would’ve ever imagined that Captain Hook would stand as an equally noble figure next to Prince Charming.

Worth Mentioning:

  • Did anyone else cry when David watched Snow’s video and her voice broke as she said she missed him? It was such a small scene but Ginnifer Goodwin delivered it with raw, undying adoration cobbled with sincere longing in a way not many people are able to. I need her and David to reunite ASAP because this is already too much.
  • And also, does Emma’s smile melt anyone else’s heart when she’s around Killian? The sheer elation Morrison projects is heartwarming. And although Killian was trying to distract her, O’Donoghue delivered his fears with such sincerity, you knew that even though that’s not what he spoke to Archie about, it’s something that he’s been thinking of. The thought of Emma dying undoubtedly destroys him, and the fear of it becoming a reality haunts him despite how hard he tries to keep a straight face for her. And the choice to reveal that will come full circle when he proposes because ultimately, Killian doesn’t want to live in this world without Emma. Asking her to be his wife is his way of revealing that he truly wants to share everything with this woman in a way that he’s never done with anyone else. And if their time is limited, he doesn’t want to waste a single moment.
  • I didn’t want to talk about Josh Dallas too much on here as I’ve decided he’ll be our noteworthy performer this week. I mean, we all saw the groundbreaking work that man did. Can anyone top it? Nope. Be sure to check back on Sunday afternoon for that bit.
  • Did this episode remind anyone else of Chamber of Secrets? When David was hearing the voices and then making the potion with Killian? Yup, they’re the Ron and Harry and Emma is the Hermione. Done and done.


  1. First let me say again: Thank you, thank you! for being more understanding than you needed to be.

    And go on to say how wonderful your analysis was as well as how much I enjoy your writing style. You have a way of focusing and explaining so much of what is positive about this show and this episode in particular that it helps me enjoy it even further.

    I couldn’t agree more about Josh Dallas’ performance and the writing of Espenson and Schwartz. Between the two of them, they have written what I consider to be the three best episodes this season (thus far): “The Other Shoe”, “Heartless”, and “Murder Most Foul”.

    Here’s my take:
    For me, this was an episode beautiful in its dealing with the acceptance of loss and the acceptance of oneself.

    It was refreshing to have the focus on David and see him do what we rarely get to: run the gamut of emotions from fear to anger to desperation to manic obsession to a heartbreaking, cathartic breakdown to acceptance. Acceptance of who his father really was, that he, David, need not fear becoming like his brother, that he is enough as he is, and acceptance, and dare I say joy, that there was man who would follow him down a dark road when he needed it and pull him back when he needed it more.

    Regina took a much needed step towards acceptance that sometimes people are gone and can’t be brought back, no matter how much we may wish it. And this in part through her continually fascinating and strangely compelling relationship with her former enemy, Snow. I also agree that her finally taking some responsibility was at least a small step in the right direction, long overdue.

    I was surprised (in a good way) to able to feel sympathy for Robert, a man we barely knew yet could still understand.

    And with Rumple came the reminder that even the darkest soul can nevertheless contain tender human emotions.

    Even Robin played a part, though dark, in leading Regina towards acceptance, as did King George for David.

    These are wonderful, and not small, accomplishments. All of them together are what make this such a great episode.

    But then there is That Scene.

    While I have objections to the mechanics of it (plus we’ve seen this trope 8 times before according to my count); in some sense I don’t object to it in principle simply because I was 100% expecting this to happen. So it took time for me to realize why it really bothered me so much. Perhaps because it was at the end and it shows a graphic brutality I don’t recall seeing before, but whatever the reason, the problem with this scene is that it partially overshadows the rest of the episode.

    It may be just my personal impression, but I feel as if there’s excessive attention to this scene across the fandom. I’m as guilty as anyone. In some ways, this could be arguably the least important scene, yet it manages to change the tone, to shift the focus from David and his father’s arc to the start of another part of Hook’s redemption arc. This not entirely true, but it is not entirely untrue either. I understand it “ups the ante” and may make David and Hook’s relationship stronger in the end, but I question if that was truly necessary. The last moment between father and son showed that Robert cared that David see that he had tried and had cared; who killed him was not important. So the last minute “revelation” altered the focus in some fashion from David coming to terms with his father’s death to Hook needing to come to terms with his guilt.

    So the question is, did that scene add to the episode or detract and, furthermore, distract? I don’t feel like that story should have been started Here. Starting it in the next episode would lessen the shock value, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. And without it, the focus would have remained squarely where it should have.

    That is what bothers me; I’m not certain it added to the story, if anything, it took something away. And that is a shame as this was a great, funny, moving, lovely episode that, had that final reveal not been there it would been about as close to perfect as it could’ve been.

    So that’s my 2₵ or $2 or whatever, for what little it’s worth.
    Thank you.
    (I apologize for going on so long.)

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Amy. This comment put a huge smile on our faces.

      And never apologize for the length of a comment. We are clearly huge fans of writing a lot! I couldn’t agree more with you even if I tried. Exactly, without that scene, the episode would’ve ended focusing on what’s actually great: a story of self acceptance. And an overall, powerfully perfect episode.

      Did you actually count 8!? That’s insane. I thought I was exaggerating when I assumed it was over 5. This isn’t fair to anyone really — the character, the performer, the fans. There are so many tropes to tackle and something like this has been overdone way too many times on this show.

      I also agree that I was impressed with how much I was able to care for Robert in a span of a single episode.

      Again thank you so much for taking the time to write such an amazing comment which provided further analysis!

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