Scene Breakdown: David’s Moment of Vulnerability in Once Upon A Time’s “Murder Most Foul”

Once Upon A Time “Murder Most Foul” Spoilers Ahead

Captain Charming in Once Upon A Time's "Murder Most Foul"

It’s been one of the strongest weeks on television leaving us with a number of choices for this category. Madam Secretary had our heroine punch a man for sexual harassment. (This was our second choice, actually.) When Calls the Heart was as adorable as ever. This is Us gave us on an emotionally charged season finale. The Americans reminded us of how lonely the life of spies can be. And Black-ish dealt with pregnant women in the workplace beautifully. But it was Once Upon A Time’s “Murder Most Foul” that became one of our all-time favorite episodes.

As we’d mentioned in our review, Jane Espenson and Jerome Schwartz make magic together. Both writers have an impeccable grasp of the nuances that make these characters special, and their means of exploring the deepest parts of them are unparalleled. “Murder Most Foul” was the prime example of a character-driven episode that successfully told an exceptional story while keeping the audience thoroughly engaged. And it’s episodes like this that remind us of why Once Upon A Time is such a special show—it never shies away from exploring raw human emotions through characters we’ve loved as children.

Charming’s breakdown and Killian’s support is something we’ll remember for a very long time. As we broke down in our review, it was a poetic masterpiece that’s left us in awe.

“We learned early on that David’s greatest fear is failing 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’s “Murder Most Foul” 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.”

And you could read our full episode review for “Murder Most Foul” here.
Also check out our performance review on Josh Dallas here.


  1. What a powerful article! I agree about everything you wrote about Once upon a time. That’s one of the many reasons why I’m addicted to this show. It brings about so many different emotions that I’m glued until the next episode. Well done 😊

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