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Recap / Once Upon A Time S 4 E 18 Sympathy For The De Vil

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Season 4, Episode 18:

Sympathy for the De Vil

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Before Regina can make her way to New York City to save Robin from Zelena, or Emma can track down the Author, Cruella manages to kidnap Henry and deliver an ultimatum—him for the Author. The quest to rescue him, however, will have tragic consequences no matter how it turns out... And in a London storytale realm of years ago, a young Cruella and the Author cross paths, a meeting that will have serious repercussions in the present.

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Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Cruella's mother in spades, locking her up in an attic, abusing her with vicious dogs. Even though Cruella is a sociopath, her actions are appalling enough that it makes you wonder why Cruella turned out the way she did.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • It doesn't matter how scheming Gold can be, it's impossible not to feel sorry for him after Regina mercilessly kicks the dog.
    • Cruella, at least at first (see Abusive Parents, above).
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Cruella's mother abused her by having her locked her away in an attic and threatened her with vicious dogs: supposedly to keep her in line, because she was a Creepy Child who murdered her three husbands in succession. Meanwhile, Cruella claims her mother is a Black Widow who killed her three husbands and kept her prisoner in the house to keep it all a secret. It's really murky who's telling the truth and who's lying. Cruella killing her mother might lend credence to her mother's story, or it could simply be a case of the dog biting back (after all, being locked in an attic and being abused isn't exactly great for one's mental state).
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    • It's unclear if Belle willingly gave her heart to Regina or if Regina merely took it. The next episode pretty strongly implies (since she wasn't even aware it was missing) that Regina just took it.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • After Gold's reveal about baby Lily lets her know that Cruella and Ursula lied about her child's fate, Maleficent confronts Cruella. The latter...tells the truth, that she simply left the baby to die in the woods while using the egg's magic to stay young, provoking Maleficent into Scaling Up and attacking her. Because she knew as The Beastmaster she could put her to sleep, thus leaving her unimpeded in her own plans.
    • Regina takes Belle's heart and threatens to crush it to maintain Gold's silence, knowing this will allow her to get to Robin Hood with Zelena none the wiser.
    • Gold uses both Cruella's desire to kill the Author and her inability to kill to get her in a situation where she threatens someone Emma loves—knowing this will push Emma (who doesn't know about Cruella's Restraining Bolt) to kill an innocent and thus drive her onto the dark path he needs.
  • The Beastmaster: Unlike her daughter, Madeline de Vil's control over her dogs comes from training, not from dark magic. And it turns out Cruella received that magic in the first place in order to turn Madeline's dogs against her.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Cruella is a lying, manipulative, murderous, hateful creature. She hid it behind an innocent beautiful face and fake personality, but an accident with Isaac's magic ink turns her appearance severe and disturbing to reflect her inner nature.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Regina and Hook actually feel sympathy for Snow and Charming, since as ex-villains they've done their fair share of horrible deeds. Emma feels that at least Regina and Hook were being honest about the kind of people they were, and that her parents built up a false image of themselves to ease their guilt. Hook merely replies that even heroes make mistakes.
  • Black Widow: Cruella says her mother's had three husbands and killed them all. As it turns out, however, Cruella was the one who killed Madeline's husbands.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The flask of brandy which Charming gave the Author in his peddler guise (already used to identify him to them two episodes ago) was dropped when he fled the convent. David and Mary Margaret are able to use a locator spell on it to lead them to Gold's cabin where he's hiding out.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Possibly a pun on Cinderella and Cruella sounding a bit alike...Cruella is locked away in an attic room by her Wicked Stepmother after the death of her father...because she poisoned her father, maybe. Lampshaded by the Author.
  • Cruella to Animals: After having the Dalmatians kill her mother, she kills them and then makes them into that coat which all of her other incarnations so desperately desired.
  • Creepy Child: What Cruella's mother claims about her daughter anyway...although if what she said was true about wanting to 'take a swim in the darkness' right from childhood...
  • Cutting the Knot: After the dilemma Gold set up for Regina last episode—she immediately tells Emma and the others about Zelena being alive and the danger to Robin, and when Hook points out Gold won't just let her come to the rescue, she says she has a plan to deal with him. Two scene cuts later, and she's got Belle's heart and (after indulging in some nasty manipulation of Gold) threatens to crush it unless he stays silent while she goes to New York.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Author gets in a good quip:
    Isaac: The joy of getting lost in a good book just isn't the same after it's happened to you literally.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Cruella clearly failed to consider that anyone willing to kill the Author to save their child would be willing to kill her for the same reason.
  • Disney Villain Death: For Cruella.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Cruella's inability to kill despite her desire to, seems like a metaphor for....something else.
  • Enfant Terrible: Cruella's mother claims she was one, having poisoned her father and two subsequent stepfathers. Judging by Cruella's confession to Isaac that she just used him, it seems that she really was Evil All Along.
  • Evil Eyebrows: Cruella got hers along with her trademark black and white hair from being doused in Isaac's magical ink.
  • Evil Is Petty: The reason why Cruella wants the Author dead? He took away her ability to kill people (but not her desire).
  • Foreshadowing: The Author warns Cruella of what will happen if his quill and ink are separated...
  • Freudian Excuse: Played with. It's unclear what effect her mother's abuse had on Cruella's sociopathy.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: Cruella's realm appears to be modeled on this.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: For the death of Cruella's mother as she is ripped apart by her own Dalmatians.
  • Heart Trauma: We finally see the state of Mr. Gold's heart after centuries of evil deeds when he removes it to show to Belle. It's black as a lump of coal, save for a single ray of red light shining out from it. Gold says he needs the Author so badly to change his story because even that light will soon be extinguished and there will be no good left in him at all.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Cruella's mother used vicious Dalmatians to frighten her daughter. When the Author gives Cruella control over all animals, she uses those powers to have those same Dalmatians kill her mother.
  • Hostage Situation: Cruella engineers one with Emma and Regina: kill the Author for her, or she kills Henry. But the whole thing is a bluff, since she can't kill...and Gold manipulated her into this so as to carry out his plan for Emma.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Regina thinks Emma is acting "like a petulant child" and that she needs to get over the fact that her parents did a bad thing. Emma quickly reminds her about the grudge she held against Snow for almost her entire life.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Maleficent turning into her dragon form when faced with someone she knows has the power to control animals.
    • Cruella's mother locked her daughter up in an attic, instead of an asylum or a hospital, thinking it would cure her sociopathy; all it did was make it worse.
      • Possibly justified, however, by the social stigma of the era towards families of the mentally ill.
    • Cruella knows that heroes have a Thou Shalt Not Kill policy and even tries to invoke this in her confrontation with Emma, yet for some reason, she believed that Emma and Regina would be willing to kill The Author in exchange for Henry's safety. (She also seems to have missed the memo that heroes have killed throughout history and Emma until recently had actually been under the assumption she had killed Maleficent several years earlier. And Maleficent wasn't directly threatening her son at the time.)
  • Ironic Episode Title: Cruella's backstory really doesn't makes her more sympathetic.
  • Irony: Emma uses her light magic to make Cruella fall to her death. But that's precisely what starts the process of turning her dark.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: What Gold wants to do to Emma...and it looks like the process has started.
  • Karmic Death: Madeline used her Dalmatians to force Cruella to obey her. When Cruella gets her magic, she takes control of the Dalmatians and commands them to kill Madeline.
  • Kick the Dog: Regina uses Belle's heart to take control of her to make Gold think she might take him back. The bit about Will being a better kisser is just petty, not to mention having Belle forget about Gold's confession.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Madeline had Cruella locked up in their attic since she was a child. Turns out it wasn’t entirely unwarranted.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Maleficent turns into a dragon when she finds out Cruella abandoned her baby daughter in the middle of the woods.
    • Just take a gander at the look Emma and Regina share when Cruella calls to tell them she has Henry. This, sadly, is exploited by Gold.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: While Isaac wrote in how Cruella would never kill, he never thought to write out her desire to kill on top of it. This results in Cruella still being a sociopathic villain and leads to Gold's gambit to darken Emma.
  • Out-Gambitted: Zigzagged. On the one hand, by getting hold of Belle's heart, Regina manages to blackmail Gold in turn so that he cannot stop her from going to New York to face Zelena and save Robin. On the other hand, his plans for Cruella and the Author go off without a hitch, and what seems like saving Henry and getting rid of a villain goes rapidly dark, playing into his hands.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Whereas the other flashbacks have a fantasy, medieval drama, or even a soap opera feel, Cruella's flashbacks feel more like something out of a detective novel, with a mystery to solve and a killer exposed.
  • The Reveal:
    • The Author's name is Isaac. He and Cruella met each other years ago in a realm of story, like Alice's London, but this London is in the Jazz Age. Now she wants him dead.
    • Cruella's distinctive hair is because the Author accidentally spilled some magic ink on her blonde hair when they fought over it.
    • Cruella and Ursula didn't age because of residual magic they took from the egg Lily was in.
    • The Author's magic quill not only must be made from the wood of an enchanted tree, it's useless without special magic ink.
  • Start of Darkness: A possible one for the Author. Though he already knew he could manipulate events with his quill by the time they met, he says that the whole "take the things they love most and destroy it" was something he learned from Cruella.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill:
    • The Author wrote that Cruella couldn't kill anyone so she literally can't no matter how much she wants to.
    • This is an unwritten rule of being a hero, and thus the line Gold wants Emma to cross in order to darken her heart. She does so at the end of the episode...and the consequences are dire.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The Author of the episode's flashbacks doesn't seem like quite as much of a jerk as the one we know in the present day.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Cruella and her mother both claim the other is a monster. Turns out they are both right about each other.
  • The Un-Reveal: This episode explains many things about Cruella....except how she ended up in the Enchanted Forest. Also, other than her making use of her power to control Pongo so that he corners and captures Henry for her, it's never revealed how or even if she and the Dalmatian ever interacted prior to this.
  • Ventriloquism: Gold uses a form of this to trick Emma, Regina, and Hook into getting separated when they are chasing Cruella and Henry—by making the latter's voice come from some of Ursula's seashells.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Cruella passes the time playing Angry Birds on her phone.
  • Wham Shot: Emma's face after she kills a harmless Cruella.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Cruella? And look how she turned out....
  • What Year Is It?: Isaac asks Cruella this. Her inability to give an exact date proved what he had been trying to tell her: that her London is actually one of many timeless story realms, much like the aforementioned Victorian London Alice is from.
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