We learn that sympathy for De Vil is misplaced. Or is it? The writers appear to be doing some deep literary work. And a fan favorite ship is upturned.
Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”
“Sympathy for the Devil”
The first track on Beggar’s Banquet, 1968, from The Rolling Stones. While the song doesn’t actually generate any sympathy for Lucifer, this episode goes out of its way to empathize with the baddies. Rumple gets played pretty hard. Cruella’s story is structured so that her nature only becomes clear at the end. And the Author’s heart gets broken.
He also stands in for the tempter in several cases. Setting Snow and Charming on the path that lead to Lily’s exile. Giving Cruella her magic. And who knows what else?
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
Cruella: That’s the question on everybody’s mind, isn’t it? I wish I had an answer.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
The title card featured the running dalmatians from the movie integrated into the standard forest scene. More and more appeared as they ran.
Cruella’s magic, the ability to control animals, manifested as green smoke; an homage to the orginal animated feature and the perpetual cloud surrounding the character.
Cruella: With one whistle I can send a hundred snarling dogs after you.
In this version of the story, Cruella gets the dalmatian coat. In fact, she sews it herself.
It’s not much, but Zelena’s inspiration and tagline gets a quick mention.
Regina: I can handle one wicked sister.
Isaac calls Cruella’s life “a classic Cinderella story.” While that title belongs to Storybrooke’s Ashley back in the Enchanted Forest, it not only makes sense that multiple realms would mean multiple iterations of the same story, it fits with how we classify folktales. Cruella’s an Aarne-Thompson 510A, “The Persecuted Heroine.” She’s got the missing father, the female antagonist, the confinement, and escaping for a magical date. The variation, of course, is that she’s a psychopath.
Murray’s Night Club
Cruella and Isaac went to a real place. Well, a place based on a place that actually existed.
Murray’s Night Club opened in London in 1913. While both its format and ownership changed over the years, it remained a durable Beak Street fixture until 1975.
The stand-in in the episode looks almost nothing like existing drawings or photographs, but it’s nonetheless a nice touch. If you’re interested, you can read more here.
Ernest Hemingway / Henry David Thoreaux
Isaac isn’t exactly impressed with Gold’s cabin, first mocking the antlers and then trying to recover with, “makes me feel like Hemingway; or Thoreau.” Both the intensely masculine Hemingway and the anti-establishment Thoreau might have been at home in such a place, writing the Nick Jones stories or Walden.
The Great Gatsby
Makes sense. An Author reading the classics. But it really informs the flashback scenes. The Great Gatsby is the quintessential Jazz Age novel. And he was a contemporary and friend of the aforementioned Hemingway. The text on the Introduction places the edition between 2010 and 2013, which is an eerie detail since it also places it before Frozen. I’m impressed they bothered to note when the season takes place like that.
Isaac and Ishmael
Something’s missing when you drop Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Thoreau without a fourth name. Another American Romantic or Renaissance writer. I can’t shake the feeling that the Author’s name is Isaac because that missing author, Melville, began his masterwork, Moby Dick, with, “Call me Ishmael.”
Because she’s not actually going to kill Henry, Cruella sits on her hood and plays the hottest new game app. It’s one of two game references. The logo would have looked like this at the time.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
In the 2003 XBox game, in game choices affected your characters position on a spectrum between the light side of the Force and the dark side. Jedi were hale and healthy, tanned and bright eyed. But as Sith slipped toward the dark side, or splashed in and had fun, their skin paled and cracked while their eyes sunk and rimmed with red. That’s pretty much what’s been going on with Emma.
Bonus! Return of the Jedi
I can’t call this one an actual reference because the irreverence would be unusual, but the resemblance is uncanny. Rumple’s heart looks a bit like Boushh’s thermal detonator during the confrontation with Jabba the Hutt. It’s even in a similar position.
Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments
I’d thought I’d lead with Rumpbelle, because they got the biggest high and then the biggest drop kick to the groin.
Regina visits Belle to help her make sure that Gold won’t be a threat to her trip to NYC to save Robin from Zelena. Belle asks what she can do to help. “I’m so glad you asked that.” Cut to next scene. When we return to Belle, she is calling Rumpelstiltskin to the wishing well in the woods. They have a moment of remembrance about what he said to her there–that she had chased the darkness out of him. Well, not quite. She asks why he’s back, what he’s after. Her? Gold pulls his heart out of his chest to show the blackened heart with only a small dot of beating red light in the middle. He explains that centuries of dark deeds take their toll. “Will you die?” she asks. Rumple answers, “In a manner of speaking, yes. I will lose any ability to love, and that goodness you saw inside of me will be gone forever.” Only the Author can reverse the process. “I don’t expect you to understand, of course.” Belle counters, “But I, I do understand.” “You do?” “Sometimes I worry I threw out the chipped tea cup too soon.” THEY KISS. Rumpbelle fans everywhere shout, “OTP!” and throw their hands up in victory.
But then the kiss breaks and Belle continues, “You know what the problem is though…Will is just such a better kisser than you are.” “What?” Rumple asks (as do the Rumpbelle fans who had just been cheering). “You are pathetic. Watching you come grovelling back to me is like a dog begging for scraps.” “Why are you saying this? This isn’t like you, Belle.” (The Rumpbelle contingent nod their heads energetically in agreement.) “But it is so like me,” Regina interrupts from off-screen. The cut to her reveals that Regina has taken Belle’s heart and has been controlling her this whole time. Regina tells Belle to forget this ever happened and scamper off before making her demands clear to Gold, who pretty much just got his black heart run through the cheese grater.
By the way, there’s an upside down ship hanging from the ceiling in Gold’s shop. Symbolic much?
Emma worries about Regina heading into NYC alone. And since Regina refuses to let Emma join her in NYC, Emma gives her her gun to protect her. (Because giving a gun to a person who has probably never used one before is a good idea. Headcanon fills in that since these two are in a committed relationship, Emma’s certainly taken her out to the woods and shown her how to shoot.)
But wait! Cruella has kidnapped Henry! The two watch their video message together and then share a very intimate, serious look. It reminds me of the look on Ripley’s face in Aliens: “Get away from her, you bitch!”
Making plans to rescue Henry, Regina comments that it’ll be far more satisfying to kill Cruella rather than the Author. When Snow is taken aback by the comment, Regina retorts, “It’s Emma’s heart we’re trying to save, not mine.”
Later, Emma splits the Henry Rescue Posse into two groups: 1) her parents, and 2) everyone else, showing that she trusts Regina and Hook while she doesn’t trust her parents. “So you’re not angry with me for keeping your parents’ secret?” Regina asks. Nah, Emma’s soft spot for Regina foists the blame solely onto her parents. Regina then teams up with Hook to coach Emma into forgiving her parents. Emma points out that while the two of them have been bad guys in the past, they’ve never lied about it and played themselves off as heroes. (And I begin wondering if there’s a name for this OT3. Captain Swan Queen?) The two attempt to reason with Emma using empathy. “Even heroes make mistakes, love,” Hook points out. It’s a cool little switcheroo and also heavy foreshadowing. But Emma doesn’t go for it. She continues her petulant little child act by saying, “You two understand them so well you forgive them.”
Regina makes plans to rescue Robin. She manipulates and endangers Belle to do it. I’m not sure Robin would approve, exactly, but it certainly shows her commitment to her man.
Other than the OT3 moment mentioned above, there’s just not much overt Captain Swan material in this episode. Hook is always in the background of Emma’s scenes (except when she gives the gun to Regina) and he’s always showing concern and support for her. That’s pretty sweet of him.
But the fact that he’s the one that says, “Even heroes make mistakes, love,” right before she goes off and makes a pretty big mistake foreshadows that he’ll be crucial to keeping her from going full-on darkside or at least bringing her back.