"Sympathy for the De Vil" is the 84th episode of Once Upon a Time.
In a world resembling 1920s England, a young Cruella De Vil, whose oppressive mother uses her Dalmatians to terrorize her daughter, is introduced. She is confined to her mother's attic until a mysterious stranger arrives and empowers her to challenge her captor. In Storybrooke, Regina gains leverage over Gold to keep him from interfering with her plan to rescue Robin, but her trip to New York takes the backseat when she and Emma learn that Cruella has kidnapped Henry.
Previously on Once Upon a Time...
Emma uses the key Henry found to unlock the door illustration and set the Author free. ("Best Laid Plans") After the Author has run away, Mary Margaret and David reveal to their daughter that they know him, and it was he who put them on the path to causing Maleficent to lose her child. ("Heart of Gold") Gold uses Maleficent's rattle to show her her baby girl, Lily, and the dark sorceress rejoices to see that her baby is alive, as well as in this world. ("Best Laid Plans") Zelena, who's been using a glamour spell to pose as Marian for a long while, greets her sister Regina on the phone, and the former Evil Queen is shocked, demanding to know the whereabouts of Robin Hood. Mr. Gold tells her that one phone call from him and her beloved dies at the hands of her sister. ("Heart of Gold") The Author demands to know what Gold wants from him, and Gold, toting an enchanted quill, tells him that he's going to write him a whole bunch of new happy endings. ("Heart of Gold") "You made me a monster," Regina accuses Gold down in her vault, "But I won't let you do the same to Emma!" ("Heart of Gold")
Cruella must do as she is told.
We fade in from black to see a young girl running through the forest, with the sound of vicious dogs' barking in the background. The girl has pale-blonde hair and is dressed for England in the 1920s, looking behind herself to see that one of the dogs - or, more specifically, dalmatians - is catching up to her, looking ferocious. She leaps over a log in her attempt to get away, hoping to outrun her canine pursuer, but he is faster than she is, and even when it looks like she might just get away... a second dog blocks her path, and barks at her. Fear envelops her face, and the sound of intense snarling causes her to turn around in further fright: the first dog has caught up to her, and she is now caught between the two. The noisy engine of a vintage car is heard approaching, and then it stops as the car pulls over nearby; the girl's mother, Madeline, steps out, dressed all in black as though in mourning. She stands beside one of her beloved dogs as her daughter draws tears, exclaiming, "Heal!" The other dalmatian comes running towards her also, both of them whimpering in the presence of their dominant mistress as she tells her daughter that she's gone far enough. "Now be a good girl, and come back home," she orders, but the child refuses, telling her mother that she can't make her. Madeline then steps forward, and she points out that - as a matter of fact - she can, snapping her fingers and making it so that both hounds growl scarily, baring their teeth. "And now that your father's gone," Madeline adds, leaning down to look her crying daughter in the eyes, "We're going to make a few changes around the house, Cruella." The young Cruella De Vil continues to appear distraught.
Mama De Vil makes a few changes.
Madeline is next seen leading Cruella through their large mansion, up the many stairs, as her two faithful dalmatians follow. She unlocks a white wooden door and opens it to reveal an old, cramped attic, filled with things covered in sheets and the like, which she says is to be her daughter's bedroom from now on. "So you're just going to lock me up here? Like one of your dogs?" Cruella asks desolately, to which her mother replies, "This room must be your world now, until someday you learn to do as I say!" She slams the door shut, using the key to lock it.
A really terrible person.
Cruella's own vintage car is seen driving recklessly through the outer streets of Storybrooke and, inside, the chic diva herself looks very pleased indeed; that is, until she's forced to slam the brakes suddenly due to the fact that an enraged Maleficent is standing in the middle of the road. Cruella looks irritated as she's forced to step out of her vehicle, and the dark sorceress before her says that the two of them need to talk. "Good thing I just had my brakes serviced, darling, I do hate getting blood on the car," Cruella rants, but Maleficent assures her that there's still time for that, further implying her anger. She then orders her associate to tell her about Lily but Cruella doesn't know who she's talking about, and so Maleficent is forced to make clear that Lily is her daughter - who Cruella said didn't survive the trip to this world (see "Best Laid Plans"), clearly having lied. "Perhaps you're right," Cruella admits, "But there is an explanation; of course, darling, you see, um... I'm a really terrible person, and I left her in the woods to die."
Maleficent's nap time.
"You did what?" Maleficent demands, but Cruella tells her not to be so flabbergasted, for she knows she's not mother material. The flapper girl then explains that she and Ursula took that dragon egg Lily was in and used its magic to help them stay young - she calls it a wonderful thing - but the little brat... "My daughter!" Maleficent interjects, and Cruella amends herself, unable to carry on. The sorceress lets her know that her death is going to last for days, before emanating a large flurry of black smoke around herself and taking the form of a dragon. Cruella looks up at it in awe as it prepares to kill, but she quickly blows green smoke from her mouth and the dragon is placed under her immediate control, due to it being an animal. "Oh, I was so hoping you'd do that," Cruella comments as the dragon sits down, "People always underestimate a girl in diamonds and furs, don't they? I mean, no one guessed what I was really after; not Gold... certainly not you. Now that the Author is here, today is the day that I get mine. Now, be a good girl, lie down, and take a nap." Maleficent does just that as Cruella smiles and heads back into her car.
ONCE UPON A TIME
The Charmings are exhausted by their daughter's anger.
David and Mary Margaret head into the latter's apartment as their daughter follows, insisting that they have to remember something about the Author, or at least some way to find him. As Hook closes the door behind his girlfriend, she orders her parents to think, but David assures her that they've already told her everything they know. "Are we sure about that? 'Cause secrets just keep coming out," Emma exclaims spitefully, leading Mary Margaret to yell, "Okay! You're clearly still upset..." Emma confirms this, angrily so, and points out that her parents are the ones who taught her that there is always a right way, a heroic way, and what they did to Maleficent's child utterly defies that. David argues that it was their only option to make sure she grew up good, but Emma maintains the idea that, no matter what, she could never harm a defenseless person. Mary Margaret indicates that that right there, that goodness her daughter is currently professing, is exactly why they did what they did; it was worth it.
Regina tries explaining the plot of 4.17.
Regina then walks in and Emma wonders what she's doing there, leading the Mayor to reveal that she's in the middle of a very bad day, promising to tell them the whole story after she rescues Robin Hood. Emma asks what she's talking about and Regina explains that she called that number the blonde gave her, but Marian answered the phone, leading Regina to discover that she's not really Marian at all. David wonders who exactly she is, clearly confused along with the rest of them, and Regina tells him she's Zelena. "The Wicked Witch?" harming questions, and Regina says that she doesn't know how it's possible, but her sister has been masquerading as Robin's wife this entire time - and she's in league with Gold. With her true love in danger, Regina has to go to New York to find him and stop her. Hook asks about Gold, who Zelena is apparently working with, and points out that the Dark One is unlikely to let the former Evil Queen just waltz off and spoil his plans, but Regina advises the pirate not to worry about Rumplestiltskin... "I know exactly how to handle him."
Belle offers the Queen a favor.
Belle is busy sorting books in Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer, crouching down to store some in a cupboard, and becomes startled when she stands back up to see that Regina is suddenly standing opposite her on the other side of an intermediate counter. She says that she didn't hear her come in, but the Mayor wastes no time in exchanging pleasantries, telling Belle that her ex-husband has done quite a number on her. The bookworm is sorry to hear that, sorrier still when Regina reveals that Rumple now wants her to work with him, and is sure that that would be a mistake. Regina knows this, and a pause ensues, after which Belle asks how she can help. "I'm glad you asked," Regina says with a smile.
The Author is turned on by fur.
The door to Gold's cabin is opened for the Author, who comments that the place is certainly homey; he spots the antlers on the wall and adds that they're a nice touch, for it makes him feel like Hemingway, or maybe Thoreau - he proceeds to introduce himself as Isaac. Gold, having shut the door long ago, tiredly asks if he always talks this much, and Isaac replies, "Only when I'm nervous. And you still have my quill." Gold confirms this, taking it out from his inside pocket as he says that, for now, they should probably all it "my quill", leading the Author to point out that it's worthless without its ink. The Dark One knows this, and he plans to obtain some very soon. Isaac wonders how he's going to do that, and Rumple tells him it's simple: "Now you're here, I'm gonna turn the savior dark." The Author asks what that will accomplish, and Gold explains that once Emma's heart has been blackened, everything he needs shall fall into place. Isaac spots something just as Gold is saying that he'll see soon enough, when his associates return. "Your 'associates' seem to have a taste for fur," Isaac deduces, the thing he saw having been one of Cruella's coats hanging on the door, which he then sniffs, "And perfume." He says he can't wait to meet them, but Gold points out that surely the Author must know them from his stories. Isaac explains that he merely knows of them, but an Author rarely gets to meet those he writes about, and Gold tells him to be quiet, for he senses something. After a pause, he informs Isaac that something's just come up; "You stay here until I return." "Until you return? But who's gonna..." Isaac tries asking, but the Dark One disappears in a flurry of purple smoke before he can finish, not caring. "...protect me?" the Author mutters to himself, looking around cautiously.
Gold's heart has seen better days... or has it?
Belle is staring down into Storybrooke's landmark wishing well as she chants the name of Rumplestiltskin, who soon appears nearby. She turns to and greets him, and he comments on what a curious place to meet this is. The beauty asks if he remembers what he told her there on the night of their vows (see "There's No Place Like Home") about how she chased all the darkness out of him; he doesn't answer, instead opting to apologize for everything, but she tells him to stop, not wanting to hear it. Another step closer is taken on her part as she declares that, for once in her life, she just wants the truth: why is he there? Is he trying to win her back? Rumple assures that it's a bit more complicated than that, and he proceeds to reach his hand inside his chest and pull out his own heart. It's almost entirely black save for a few brief red glows at its core, and Rumple explains that it seems his centuries of dark deeds have taken their toll. He says that all that's left is the limited redness, and pretty soon that will be gone too. Worried, she asks if he'll die, and he responds by saying, "In a manner of speaking, yes. I will lose any ability to love, and that goodness you once saw inside of me... well, that'll be gone forever. There's only one man who can reverse this process, and that's the Author. That's why I'm here in Storybrooke." He then puts his heart back into his chest, saying as he does so that he doesn't expect Belle to understand, but she insists that she does, much to his surprise.
Regina blackmails the Dark One.
"Sometimes I worry," she admits, "I worry I threw out the chipped teacup too soon..." Tears are brought to her ex-lover's eyes, and he kisses her, right there in the spot they got married; however, when the kiss is over, Belle says that there's a problem, and that's that Will is just such a better kisser than he is. Rumple is confused, and his wife tells him that he's pathetic, adding that watching him come groveling back to her is like a dog begging for scraps. Upset, he asks why she's saying these things, knowing this not to be like her - at this, Regina emerges from behind and points out, "But it is so like me." She is holding Belle's heart in her hand and speaks into it, ordering the bookworm to forget about all this and run home. She does exactly that, fleeing the scene, and Rumple tells the former Evil Queen that she has no idea just how much he's going to make her suffer for this. Regina assures him that he's not going to do a thing, unless he wants to see what happens when she takes Belle's heart and squeezes it, but Rumple is confident that she doesn't have it in her. She questions this, compressing the heart enough to make it creak, and Gold is forced to believe her, much to her delight. She explains to him that she's headed to New York now, and if he breathes one word of this to Zelena... he won't be the only one who loses a heart. She walks away with the maid's heart still in tow, and Gold appears defeated.
Cruella threatens the Author.
Isaac is stood in Gold's cabin reading a copy of The Great Gatsby when someone enters off-screen. "Don't bother studying the greats, darling, you'll never be one of them," says Cruella De Vil, prompting the Author to put down his book and reveal her presence. She greets him by name, pointing out that he probably thought he'd never see her again, and Isaac confirms that he was certainly hoping not to. Based on this, she suggests that he make their confrontation easy and give her back what he took, but he refuses, apologizing insincerely. She soon wipes the grin off his face by hastily grabbing him by the throat, pinning him up against the wall, and she makes clear that with one whistle she can send a hundred snarling dogs after him. "You could..." Isaac reasons, "But you and I both know that even with all your magic you don't have enough power to hurt me." Cruella lets him go, saying that she hates it when he's right, and compliments his new shade of confidence, commenting on how masculine it is. She asks if he's sure he can't help a girl out, for old time's sake, but again he refuses, stating that there's not a chance. He walks away from her intense closeness, and she assures him that he will pay for what he did when he made her what she is. "You know... idle threats don't make for good drama," he says, "But I do see one interesting story developing here..." Cruella wonders what that is, and he recalls that Rumplestiltskin has no idea that they know each other, which means that she lied to him. He concludes by suggesting that she be gone by the time the Dark One returns, and Cruella remembers that he always did know how to infuriate a girl; "Well, enjoy the upper-hand while it's still on your wrist, because I think you'll find there's more than one way to skin an Author." She exits the cabin as he returns to his novel.
This be her jam, yo.
A bunch of stray magazines and the like are seen strewn around Cruella's attic bedroom as the shot pans over to her sitting in bed, listening to the radio as the announcer introduces a popular song from Murray's Club on Beak Street in London - the tune is quite familiar, and Cruella enjoys it immensely, only to have her mother burst in and snatch the whole radio away, thus cutting the song short. She demands to know where her daughter found such a device, and Cruella begs her mother to plug it back in, for she simply has to hear this song. Madeline deduces that the radio was stolen the last time Cruella was let out, but Cruella argues that it's because she's bored out of her mind; "I've read every book in here a hundred times, and... I wouldn't have to steal if you just let me leave this house just once!" Her mother sees this as being out of the question, and there's soon a ring of the doorbell, causing the dog trainer's dalmatians to start barking downstairs. She wraps the radio's plug around itself as she orders her daughter to stay there and be quiet, proceeding to leave the room and lock the door behind herself. Cruella remains deeply disheartened.
Look who comes a-knockin'.
Downstairs, Madeline answers the door to Isaac - the Author - and sternly asks if she can help him. He certainly hopes so, introducing himself as a newspaper writer who travels around collecting interesting personal stories. Madeline assures him that he'll get none of those in her house and proceeds to bid him goodbye, only to have the door blocked by his notebook when she attempts to slam it in his face. Isaac urges her not to be modest, for he hears she's the best dog trainer in London; she's been hired by princes and kings, and all he's asking for is two minutes. She is next seen to have let him into her home, and Isaac requests that she tell him about this talent she has, readying his pen and paper, for he's heard the way she controls her dogs is almost like magic. "No magic, I'm afraid," Madeline assures, "Just hard work and routine." He comments on the dullness of this, looking for stories with a bit more "pizzazz", and a great story always needs just a sprinkle of magic; something unexpected. His interviewee appears fed up with him already, and he soon notices the three portraits hanging on the wall, wondering if the respective male figures depicted within them are her relatives, to which she reveals, "Husbands." She then suggests that it's time he be leaving, clearly uncomfortable, but all Isaac can do is marvel over the fact that she's been married three times, begging that she tell him more.
Cruella has a great story to tell, or so she says.
He asks if she's a widow or a divorcee and she suddenly snatches his notebook from out of his hand, concluding that he's never been married. He confirms this after demanding that she give him back what's his, and she says that of course he hasn't, for if he had then he wouldn't ask such questions so callously. Isaac apologizes, again asking for his notebook in a more polite manner, but she refuses to let up, guessing that he's never even been in love. "That is not your business!" the Author insists, following Madeline as she makes her way back to the door, opens it, and throws the notebook outside. He runs out after it and the dog trainer suggests that he write his own stories for once, instead of leeching off other people's pain, and she slams the door shut. With his notebook once again in tow, Isaac sticks his hat on his head and comments to himself, "Nice to meet you too, lady..." "Psssst!" someone is then heard exclaiming; and again, and Isaac turns a corner to see Cruella staring down at him from the open attic window. She tells him that she heard the whole thing and asks if he's really after a great story, which he confirms before asking in turn who she is. "I'm a girl with a great story," she promises, and he readies his notebook, assuring her that he's all ears. However, she apologizes, saying that if he wants to hear it then he's going to have to help her escape first. Isaac smiles.
Pongo is used to kidnap Henry.
Henry steps off the school bus and is happy to find that Pongo waiting for him, wondering what he's doing there at the bus stop. The dog just remains sitting, and Henry, looking around, concludes that he shouldn't be out there by himself, telling him as such. Suddenly, however, Pongo gets up and begins running away, and so Henry chases after him, ending up in the dead end of an alley. He tries beckoning the dalmatian, but he strangely snarls at him, barking viciously, and then a car pulls up behind the kid. Cruella De Vil steps out and tells Henry, "Don't blame the dog, darling, he's simply following orders and I told him to fetch." Frightened, Henry asks what she wants, and Cruella says that she wants him to be a good boy... and get in the car. Pongo continues to snarl and bark from behind the young man, compelling him to do so.
Young Cruella is sitting and waiting somberly in her constraining attic bedroom, clearly beginning to think that maybe Isaac has given up on her. The sound of a stone hitting her window is then heard - twice - and she decides to investigate, opening it to discover that a key has been left on the sill for her. She takes it and smiles, shocked beyond belief, and proceeds to hold it close to her heart as she prepares to finally exit her prison-like attic with this means of escape she's been provided with.
She is next seen in a coat as she cautiously makes her way out of the mansion's gate, where, to her joyful surprise, one of her mother's guard dogs is sleeping soundly. Isaac is standing near it, waving, and Cruella tells him how amazing this is, wanting to know how he did it. He tentatively reveals that he has his methods, and she holds up the key, expressing further amazement as she comments on how her mother never lets it out of her sight. "Do you wanna keep asking questions or do you wanna get out of here? I know a nice, quiet spot we can talk," he says, but Cruella says in turn that she'd prefer somewhere loud, to his confusion. She points out that she lives in an attic and her mother never allows her visitors or music or fun; "I mean, she even ripped my favorite trumpet flowers out of the garden because she 'doesn't like the smell'!" Isaac understands and takes her by the hand, leading her around the corner as he tells her that wherever she wants to go - he can take her. He gestures towards his vintage car parked nearby and Cruella is deeply impressed by it, smiling excitedly as she knows just where she wants him to take her in it.
A gripping story is divulged.
We are taken to the famous Murray's Club on Beak Street in London, where era-appropriate music is heard playing, gin is being poured into glasses, and multiple flapper girls can be seen dancing around the place as they serve drinks and enjoy themselves, taking this opportunity to have copious amounts of fun and laughter. Cruella and Isaac are sitting together at a table near to the jazz band, with excitement happening all around them, when a waiter serves them a couple of martinis. "This is just how I always imagined it!" exclaims the blonde, "The music, the dancers! Gin!" She takes a sip from her martini glass only to recoil in disgust, and Isaac assures her that she'll get used to the taste as he readies his notebook and pen. Wanting to get down to business, he concludes that - so far - hers has the making of a classic Cinderella story, and he asks to know why Madeline locked up her own daughter. Cruella says that it was a means of self-preservation, for "mommy dear" is afraid that if she gets out then she'll tell everyone her dirty little secret. The Author is curious about just what this secret is, and Cruella explains that everyone believes her father to have died of a heart attack... but she knows the truth; her mother poisoned him.
"How do you know for sure?" Isaac inquires, shocked, and Cruella adds that any doubts she had were put to rest when husbands two and three were found belly-up. The supposed newspaper writer appears excited by the prospect of a Cinderella tale with a "black-widow twist", commenting on what a great story this is as he notes it down, and as he does so Cruella begins to notice a change in the music - it's now the same song she was listening to on the radio back home, before Madeline unplugged it. She exclaims how much she loves it and stands up in order to dance, taking Isaac's hand in an attempt to drag him out onto the floor. He is confused, but she tells him to come on, wanting him to put his "silly pen" down and come dance with her. The Author explains that he writes stories, he doesn't dance in them, but Cruella rather insists. Enticed, he finally agrees, leaving his pen with his notepad as he stands up and begins to dance with the beautiful girl he's with. "Your mother might be a murderess," he recalls as he's up there doing it, "But she was right about one thing: I spend too much time recording life, and not enough time living it." "Well then tonight," she suggests, "Let's live!" They continue to dance and have fun together as the music plays on.
Cruella holds Henry hostage.
Regina is shoving a packed suitcase into the trunk of her car when Emma approaches, asking the Mayor if she's sure that going to New York is a good idea and pointing out that she doesn't know what Zelena has planned and could be walking into a trap. Regina says that Robin's in trouble and so she has no choice, but Emma tells her that she doesn't have to go alone. "Don't worry about me," the former Queen assures, "You have your hands full with the Author, I can handle one wicked sister." Emma states that things are different in New York, not knowing what will become of Regina without her magic, and so she hands her a gun, hoping she won't have to use it but wanting her to stay safe. "Thank you," Regina says as she places the gun into her purse, "So you're not angry with me for keeping your parents' secret?" "That's between me and them. You were just trying to help," Emma believes, and the Mayor's cell phone suddenly makes a noise - it's a video message from Henry. Emma's does the same thing, for she has one too, and both of Henry's mothers watch as he delivers his message: "Mom, Mom, Cruella has me. If you ever wanna see me again, you have to do what she says." "Hello, darlings!" Cruella exclaims as she takes to the camera, "As you can see I have your dreadful son. If you prefer him to remain intact, you'll do exactly as I say: kill the Author, and then, ah... bring me his broken little body. Or, your boy will meet a very unhappy ending." Henry is brought back into the shot for the last part of the message before Cruella signs off, and Emma and Regina look to one another with the same angered, determined looks in their eyes.
Isaac fears for his life.
Gold enters his cabin, where the Author is still reading in an armchair, commenting upon the Dark One's return that the joy of getting lost in a good book just isn't the same after it happens to you literally. Rumple, annoyed, requests that Isaac stop talking, for they haven't much time now that he and Cruella have been reunited at last. The Author pretends not to know of whom the Dark One speaks, but Gold tells him that that's enough, knowing that they've both lied to him about their pasts, and now those lies are coming to the surface. Isaac shuts the book and puts it down as he apologizes, standing up as he does so in an attempt to create some distance between he and Rumplestiltskin; he defends himself by saying that he didn't think it was relevant. "Oh, it's not only relevant, it is essential to my plans," Gold reveals, "Cruella is so desperate to see you dead, she just kidnapped the savior's son." Isaac wonders how he knows that, and Rumple says that they each have their tools, using his magic to make it so that his omniscient crystal ball appears in his hand.
Gold's plans are falling perfectly into place.
He explains that he watched as Cruella gave the savior a rather morbid choice: either the Author dies, or her son does. The ball is put down, and Isaac recalls the Dark One saying that he needed him to make the savior go dark, wondering if this is how he plans to do it - to have her kill him. Gold tells Isaac to relax because if he died then the mantel of "the Author" simply passes on, perhaps to someone less willing to help him - so he needs him alive. This leads the Author to question why he's working with Cruella, if she wants him dead, and Gold explains that a person obsessed with vengeance is easy to manipulate; she thought he believed her happy ending was reconciling with her mother, but he knew she was after something else (he squares up close): "Your death. Now I wanna know why. I wanna know precisely what you wrote about her. The exact words." "You wanna know?" the Author asks, slipping a folded up piece of paper from out of his belt; it is emblazoned with a dalmatian emblem, "Here. Read it for yourself." Gold takes the paper and unfolds it, beginning to read, as Isaac comments that it's better on the page anyway. Rumple is very happy with what's written.
Isaac wants to show Cruella something.
We are taken into flashback where Cruella and Isaac are slow-dancing together to the music of the band, with most of the Murray's Club regulars from before having left by this hour. The particular song finishes and the band walks off stage, leading Cruella to comment that she wishes this would never end; she thanks the Author, telling him that this is a night she shan't forget, and kisses his cheek. He stares into her eyes, and he says that he can make it even more memorable - there's something he wants to show her.
Isaac is next seen with his pen and notepad on the dinner table beside a thin wooden box, which he then opens to reveal a magic quill beside a pot of enchanted ink. He takes out the former and shows it to the girl sitting opposite him, but she doesn't think much of it at first glance, thinking it to be a mere pen. The Author assures her that it's more than that; it's the most important thing he has; it's... special. "See there's something about me I haven't told you," he goes on to say, but Cruella advises him not to worry whatever it is, since she's already told him all of her secrets.
The Author reveals himself to be... the Author.
"You can tell me anything!" she exclaims through whisper, and Isaac, clearly cautious, agrees, revealing the truth of that he doesn't go across the country collecting stories for the paper - the places he goes are a lot farther apart, because he travels across different realms of storytelling. Cruella is confused, and Isaac attempts explaining to her that this place they're in right now is one of them; it exists out of time. He requests that she tell him what year it is, but she doesn't know, wondering who bothers with such trivial things. "Exactly," says the Author, "We're not in a time, we're in a realm of story. There are many. Some beautiful, some horrific, and some just plain magical." She worries that he's had too much gin, and he understands how he's coming across, but adds that he hasn't even gotten to the craziest part. His pen and ink are enchanted with magic, being so powerful that he can do more than just write people's stories: he can change them. Cruella asks if he's really serious, and he nods, going on to prove it.
Cruella is given a few gifts...
He dots the quill in the ink and turns the page of his notepad, writing something down. Suddenly, a diamond necklace appears around Cruella's neck, and she is shocked, exclaiming that that's impossible and must be some kind of trick. "Is it? How about a pair of diamond earrings to match?" he asks, dabbing the quill again and writing something else down, causing the earrings he promised to appear on his date's ears. "That pen and ink really are magic!" she deduces, going to reach for them, but the Author warns her to be careful because they have to be used together; there's no telling what would happen if that ink spilled. She asks if he can write anything, and he confirms it, pointing out that he can use this power to whisk them both away to a place where her mother and her dogs can never find them. They can be together. Cruella wishes it were that simple, but Isaac believes it can be, suggesting that he give her magic so that no matter where she is she'll always be safe. "You'd do that for me?"
...as well as the almighty stank breath.
"Watch me," and with that, he writes, showing the words on the page to Cruella after he's done; they read: "Cruella is able to control the actions of any and all animals she desires." A shimmer washes over them, signifying the working of magic, and Cruella feels this inside of her, immensely happy with the power she's just been given. Isaac wants to leave now and get in his car and drive, saying that they shouldn't stop until they're far, far away, but Cruella refuses. She has to face her mother first so that she can know that she no longer has power over her, and the Author offers to take her. However, Cruella insists that it's something she has to do alone, and because of him she can. "Meet you at the hotel? And promise me you won't run off with any other lucky girl..." "I promise," he smiles, retrieving something from his pocket, "Here. Take my car to be sure. It's yours now." She takes the keys in her hand and presses her lips to a napkin, which she then walks around the table for to put in his inside pocket, kissing his cheek again as she does so. "Until then," she whispers in his ear, before leaving. Isaac is left staring lovingly at the lip marks left on the napkin he's been given.
Snow and Charming can't reason with Emma.
In a frozen screenshot of the video Cruella sent to Emma and Regina, David zooms in on a trail mark behind her, recognizing it as being a couple miles South of the Toll Bridge. Hook, who's sitting at the table in the apartment along with the prince, Henry's two mothers and his grandmother, asks what they do now, and Regina says that they get their hands dirty and do whatever it takes to get her son back. David wonders if she's actually considering Cruella's demand to kill the Author and the Mayor answers negatively, for even if they could find him it wouldn't be half the fun of killing Cruella herself; "Let's see how she likes being made into outerwear." "Regina!" Mary Margaret is quick to nip, but the former Evil Queen is confused, pointing out that it's Emma's heart they're trying to protect and not hers. Emma knows that if they go in guns blazing then they risk hurting Henry, so they have to find another way. Hook offers his services, having helped in many rescue missions, and Emma suggests that wherever the Author is he's an enemy of Cruella so maybe he knows a way to defeat her. Snow says that she and Charming might be able to help with that, and the latter explains that they went back to the convent and found the flask that they gave him - he dropped it when he escaped - and a locator spell might work on it. "Sounds like a perfect job for you two. I'll take Regina and Hook and we'll scope out the area where Cruella is holding Henry," the savior decides, and Mary Margaret knows that her daughter is still angry, but points out that avoiding she and David is not going to help. "I'm not avoiding you. With Henry's life on the line I need to be around people I trust, and right now that's not you." She gets up and leaves, followed by Regina, while her parents digest what's just been said to them by their own daughter.
Emma is unwilling to forgive.
As she wonders through the woods with Regina and Hook searching for Henry, Emma is told by the former that she's acting like a petulant child; "Your parents did a bad thing, they apologized, now get over it..." Emma tells the Mayor to forgive her if she doesn't take the advice of a woman who held a grudge half her life because a 10-year-old spilled a secret, and so Hook steps in, thinking his girlfriend might listen to him if not Regina. He proceeds to point out that she was able to forgive both of them for their villainy, all because she found it in her heart to see past it, but she insists that it's different because they never held themselves as some paragon of virtue; they were honest about who they were whereas her parents weren't - they said they were heroes. Hook assures her that even heroes make mistakes, and Regina goes on to recall that, not long ago, Mary Margaret gave her some advice (see "Smash the Mirror"): "She said... I needed to believe I could still earn forgiveness; that I get a chance at grace. I didn't realize it then, but... she was talking about herself. Emma, she's been trying to make up for what she did for a long time." Emma says that if Hook and Regina understand Snow and Charming so well then they can go forgive them, but she can't. She has more important things to worry about right now, like saving Henry. The savior swans off, and her two companions soon follow.
Cruella is sitting on the edge of her car, which is parked in the woods, as she plays on her phone, with Pongo guarding a bound Henry sitting nearby. "Blasted birds! I'll show you what 'angry' really looks like..." she promises her cell as she continues with her game, and Henry, seeing that his captor is distracted, takes a shard of broken glass from behind him and begins using it to untie himself. Cruella sees nothing, still losing at Angry Birds, and Henry breaks free, soon getting to his feet and running away. Pongo growls and barks, beckoning Cruella's attention, and she quickly realizes what's occurred, looking annoyed. "Pongo, sic!" she orders, and the dalmatian quickly obliges, proceeding to chase Henry through the woods. Cruella, meanwhile, rolls her eyes and hops off her car.
Isaac gets a couple visitors.
In his hotel room, Isaac is staring down at the lipstick-stained napkin when there's a sudden knock at the door, and he answers it, expecting Cruella but instead finding Madeline. Both of them are equally shocked to see one another, and the latter's two dalmatians growl at the Author menacingly as she demands to know where her daughter is. Isaac insists that he doesn't have to tell her anything, trying to shut the door, but Madeline won't allow that, using her vicious guard dogs to force her way inside. She explains that they can smell Cruella on him, and she once again demands to be told her whereabouts, as well as the reason why she was with this supposed newspaper writer. He says that he was following Madeline's own advice in living life instead of just writing about it, and now, thanks to Cruella, he won't ever be going back. "You foolish boy..." she whispers, and she orders the dogs to stay as she properly enters the room, exclaiming that the Author should have gotten far away from her when he had the chance. He wonders why, thinking that it's so her secret would remain buried and revealing that Cruella told him the truth about her father and the others... that Madeline murdered them.
Madeline reveals the awful truth about Cruella.
"She really did a number on you, didn't she?" the old woman realizes, "You'd think a newspaper man knew a tall tale when he heard one! Because I didn't kill anyone... don't you understand? It was Cruella." Isaac asks if she expects him to believe that the angel he danced with tonight is a killer, and Madeline says that she didn't want to believe it either, taking a seat on the armrest of a nearby sofa as she explains that her daughter was always a troubled little girl; she and her father had hoped she'd grow out of it, until one night he was having his tea in the parlor and Madeline heard a thump. She raced in to find him dead on the floor from a heart attack, and Cruella - the poor dear - was there, paralyzed with shock. After the doctor left, Madeline's first thoughts went to her little girl - what effect would seeing her father dead have on her already disturbed mind? - so she went up to try and comfort her, expecting to find her crying, but she wasn't... instead, she saw the hint of a smile on her face. She thought she was imagining things, but then she saw the trumpet flowers on the bedside table.
The quill is missing...
Isaac remembers Cruella telling him that said trumpet flowers were ripped out of the garden because her mother hated the smell, but Madeline informs him that she ripped them out because they were poisonous. Cruella poisoned her father. The Author insists that she's lying, for if what she's saying is true then she would have gone to the authorities, but Madeline wonders how she could - Cruella was her daughter, and she blames herself. She thought if she kept her close that she could somehow fix her, but there's no fixing her; she poisoned the next two husbands as well. Isaac orders her to leave before he calls the police, and Madeline says that he doesn't have to believe her, just so long as he stays away from Cruella... she takes the things you care about and she destroys them. The old woman proceeds to leave, dogs in tow, and the Author slams the door shut behind her, unwilling to accept all that he's just been told. "It's just a bucket of fiction, that's all..." he tells himself, proceeding to check the thin wooden box in which he keeps his enchanted pen and ink. He opens it, and the pen is missing; then he snaps it shut in devastation.
Cruella is able to teach old dogs new tricks.
Madeline is next seen stepping foot in her mansion along with her trusty dalmatians, and she calls out for Cruella, hoping to find that she's home. Footsteps are heard coming from around the corner, and Cruella indeed steps out into the hall, looking more confident around her mother than ever before as she greets her rather casually, yet very eerily. She adds that she's been waiting for her, and Madeline just exclaims, "Dogs!" They begin making ruckus, running at their mistress' daughter and barking at her viciously, but the pretty blonde just smiles and laughs and says that that's not going to work anymore, proceeding to crouch down and blow green smoke from her mouth into their faces. As her newly-acquired magic takes effect, the dogs quit making noise and sit down in submission - much to Madeline's shock - and they stand with Cruella, now growling at her mother. Madeline demands to know what her daughter did to them, and Cruella replies, "I simply taught them a new command: kill!" With that, the dogs leap forward and Madeline screams. Cruella just smiles with satisfaction as her mother's own two dalmatians eat her alive.
Fooled by a rata.
Henry continues to run through the woods of Storybrooke, being chased by a barking Pongo, as he begs for help.
Emma, Hook and Regina, meanwhile, are also running, because they hear both the barks and Henry's cries. "It's Henry!" Emma exclaims, "Quick, it's coming from over there!" "No, it's this way," Hook insists, to which Regina asks, "Has cannon fire damaged your hearing? It clearly came from over there!" They all hear the screaming, and Emma orders that they split up, meaning that the three of them run off in three different directions.
Regina calls out for Henry after having gone her way, but she soon discovers that the screaming she heard was being transmitted from a nearby magical conch shell. "No!" she exclaims as she picks it up.
From the direction he went in, Hook quickly discovers the same thing, picking up his conch shell which has been positioned behind a tree. "Magic..." he utters, annoyed, walking away with it as Mr. Gold watches him in secret, having set this all up.
Cruella makes an explicit threat.
Henry just keeps running, eventually coming to the edge of a high cliff, and he thusly stops in his tracks. Pongo quickly corners him, and the young man begs his canine friend not to do anything, but Cruella De Vil soon catches up with her gun in tow, asking who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks before aiming her pistol and exclaiming that Henry shouldn't have run. "Henry!" cries Emma as she finally finds him, and he's happy to see his mother has arrived to save him, but Cruella is fast in gripping Henry by the front of his clothes, turning him around so that she may face the savior with her own child in tow. Emma demands that her son be let go, but Cruella refuses, aiming her gun at the young man as she explains: "Come any closer, and he dies!" Henry appears frightened, as does Emma, but Cruella just shakes with determination, hoping to enhance the savior's fear.
Speak of the De Vil.
It's a dark and stormy night in 1920s England, and we are treated to a shot of the radio in Cruella's attic bedroom, which plays music while she is busy running spotted furs through a sewing machine. She works it all very steadily, and Isaac calls out her name as he enters the room behind her, confused by what she's doing and commenting that he's been looking everywhere for her. He wonders where her mother is, but she doesn't reply, just continuing to sew. "Cruella!" the Author exclaims, and there's a bright flash of lightning outside that continues to illuminate her as she finally vacates her craft, saying rather sinisterly, "Well thanks to you, she's dead, darling. Oh, you should've seen the look on her face when her beloved dogs turned on her... it's a memory I shall truly cherish." Isaac realizes what she's done, as well as the fact that everything Madeline told him back in his hotel room was true, and he cries out in defiance, with her simply telling him that he needn't fear the dogs anymore... "They're with mother now," she reveals as she gets to her feet, picking up the fabulous fur coat she was making in the sewing machine out of the dalmatians' skins and draping it around herself.
"Why not splash in and have fun?"
Lightning again illuminates her as she feels the softness of the fur against her body, with the thunder outside adding drama to the whole event. The Author asks how she could do this, but she ignores him, too wrapped up in herself and her new fashions. He laments thinking that she cared about him, and she tells him that that was the idea: "You were - what is the phrase? - a means to an end." More lightning, and Isaac is crying now, wanting to know... why? "That's the question on everybody's mind, isn't it?" Cruella knows, "I wish I had an answer. Some people struggle not to be drawn into the darkness... but ever since I was a little girl I said, why not splash in and have fun?" Another flash. Isaac spots his enchanted quill resting atop a nearby magazine, and Cruella finally notices him staring at it, meaning that she goes in to tackle him as he runs towards it. He manages to grab it, popping open his jar of magic ink and dipping the quill inside. He wants to write something, but the girl he thought he loved starts wrestling him for the jar, and it isn't long before the ink inside is accidentally spilled all over her face. It contorts around her, swirling magically, and shock is portrayed on Isaac's face. Something like this has never happened before, and the effects of that ink when used without the pen can be disastrous.
The new Cruella fails at killing the Author.
When Cruella De Vil finally stands up, she looks exactly as she does in the present: her face is overly made-up and her blonde hair has become half-black and half-white. One last illumination by the strike of lightning, and Isaac is stunned by what he sees standing in front of him. He quickly grabs his quill and the piece of dalmatian-emblazoned paper that will later be read by Mr. Gold, beginning to write as Cruella orders him to drop it, calling him a horrid little scribbler. He can't get it done in real life, so he scratches it out like a rat scrabbling in the filth. As she exclaims this, she puts the ink jar down and grabs her famous jeweled gun instead, pointing it right at the man before her and going to shoot him dead. However, she cannot. The trigger can't be pulled. The Author smiles, while she doesn't understand what's going on. She demands to know why she can't seem to do it; "What did you do?!" "I learned a lesson from you," he states, "Take what a person loves... and destroy it." He creases the paper he wrote on as he prepares to pocket it, and Cruella realizes what he's done as he begins to leave, calling him a fool. He grabs his ink jar, and she elaborates with, "You damned, insane fool! I'm not done! I'm not done at all!" Her words echo as she throws the now useless gun to the ground, and the storm rages mightily outside her window.
The Author appears nervous in Gold's cabin when David and Mary Margaret burst in, having tracked him there using a locator spell on the flask he dropped. He wields a fire-poker against them and warns them to stay back, fearing for himself, but they assure him that he can relax, for they're not there to hurt him - they want information. He wants guarantees from them because he knows that if he tells them everything then they just might kill the messenger, but Mary Margaret says that he can trust them, to his surprise. He points out the lengths they've gone to in order to protect their daughter, and an enraged David runs at the man, disarming him as he pins him up against the cabin wall. He demands to know what's happened to Emma, but Isaac assures him that he's done nothing to her - he was just trying to protect the world from Cruella and had no idea that Gold would use her like this; "Even I couldn't see the end to this story." "What are you talking about?" asks a confused Mary Margaret, "How does the story end?" And Isaac tells the savior's parents that it ends with her turning dark. David unpins him and takes a step back, immensely worried, and the Author takes a relieved breath, taking the piece of paper on which he ruined Cruella's life out from his belt and handing it to the Charmings to read. Snow doesn't understand what it is, and Isaac tells her that it's something he wrote... the truth. It says: "Cruella De Vil can no longer take away the life of another", and Isaac asks if they see now that Henry's in no danger because Cruella can't kill anyone... she's defenseless and Emma doesn't know. "Which means Gold wants her to..." David deduces, and his wife says that they have to stop this. They take the piece of paper and they rush out of the cabin, hoping that they're not too late to intervene.
Cruella goads the savior...
We are treated to a shot of the incredibly high and steep cliff on top of which Cruella De Vil is holding on to Henry and pointing a gun at him, as the camera shows us by moving upward. Emma is standing opposite this, having emerged from the woods behind her and being incredibly frightened for her son's life, and the fur-coated villain laments that all she asked for was one dead Author; she just wanted some simple revenge, but the savior failed utterly in getting it for her. She continues shaking, completely enraged and determined to get what she wants, and Emma, trying to maintain a rational tone-of-voice, begs Cruella to put down the gun. The shaking continues, and Henry notices something strange within his captor, uttering, "Mom..." Emma, however, thinks her son is crying out for help, and so she promises him that everything's going to be okay as she adopts a similarly determined demeanor. "I'll do it, savior," Cruella assures, "Believe me, I will," and Emma has absolutely no way to tell that she's bluffing, raising her hands and allowing her powerful light magic to flare up in the palms of them. Cruella urges her to put her hands down, because they both know that she, the savior, is bluffing.
...and it leads to her own demise.
"That's my son," Emma points out, her maternal instinct running very strong right now, and the villain argues, "But you're a hero... and heroes don't kill!" With that, Emma suddenly thrusts her hands forward, sending a burst of magic right at Cruella De Vil which causes her to go hurtling off the cliff's edge, to her death. Henry is let go in the process, and he stares down as the woman who held him hostage screams... and then promptly stops screaming. Pongo, no longer under Cruella's control, whimpers softly from nearby, and Emma sees her son stirring, deciding to approach. She crouches down beside him, moving him away from the edge, and the two of them embrace joyously, happy to be safe and out of the dangerous predicament they just found themselves caught in. At this point, Mary Margaret and David come running from within the woods, hoping to stop their daughter from killing Cruella but seeing that it is indeed too late, just as they feared. Emma stops hugging her son in order to look down at the woman she murdered: Cruella is lying dead on a lower ledge of the cliff, and the savior's face has an eerie emptiness to it as she stares darkly into space.
Cruella takes Henry's phone.
Cruella approaches the backseat of her car from the outside and opens the door, dragging the kidnapped Henry out and having to suffer his exclamation that whatever she's planning it won't work. She pins him up agaisnt the now closed door and he adds that if she hurts him then his mothers will come after her, to which she, annoyed, states that it's not him she intends to hurt; "Now be a dear, give me your cell phone." There is a pause and, even more annoyed, she insists, "Now, you little brat!" He turns to Pongo, who growls (VFX - dog face replacement), before finally submitting his phone to Cruella. She smiles as she pats him on the nose and commends, "Good boy." She then begins to play on it.
"The Lonely Author"
Isaac and Gold watch family drama unfold.
Gold and Isaac are watching the Charmings through the former's crystal ball after they've just been told off by Emma, and the Author comments that that's some heavy family drama, then asking if he has anything lighter on that, maybe some Jack Benny. Gold says that Isaac will have time to figure it out while he's gone; Isaac wonders where the Dark One is going, and Rumple recalls him saying that he knows him well, then asking if it's not obvious that he's going to go take advantage of an opportunity that's presented itself to pit a hero against a villain to get what he wants. He makes two conch shells appear in his hands with magic, and Isaac wonders what it is he wants, suggesting that perhaps he's after a recipe for New England clam chowder. Gold explains that what he holds are magical shells left behind by Ursula, and he has a bolder menu planned. He tells Isaac to say hello to the Charmings for him, before opening the door. Isaac asks what he's supposed to do if someone finds him and Gold admits that he expects the Author to tell them everything; because, after all, the success of his plan and Isaac's life depends on it. He finally goes and Isaac is left confused.
- The title card of this episode features a pack of rampaging dalmatians running through the forest.
- Although credited, Michael Socha (Will Scarlet) is absent from this episode.
- The title of this episode is a play on the title of the Rolling Stones song, "Sympathy for the Devil".
- Milli Wilkinson, who portrayed a young Cruella De Vil in this episode, also brought life to the role of Alice's daughter in the series finale of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.
- Isaac makes reference to Ernest Hemingway and Henry David Thoreau, and is later seen reading The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In flashbacks, he also mentions the classic Cinderella story.
- The song Cruella listens to in the flashbacks is an instrumental jazz version of the classic Disney number "Cruella de Vil", which was her character's main theme in the studios' 101 Dalmatians (1996).
- Murray's Club, which was visited by Cruella and Isaac in this episode's flashbacks, was a real club on Beak Street in London; it opened in 1913 and closed in 1975.
- Cruella can be seen playing the popular game Angry Birds on her phone while keeping Henry hostage.
- The title of this episode was confirmed by executive producer/co-creator Adam Horowitz, via his Twitter account, on February 8, 2015.
The episode held steady from the previous episode, as it posted a 1.6/5 among 18-49s with 5.12 million viewers tuning in, retaining its lead among scripted programs in the 8 p.m. timeslot despite coming in second behind the Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS during that hour.
The episode was met with good reviews.
- Hilary Busis of Entertainment Weekly noted "The thing about a show that specializes in twisted fairy tales is that sooner or later, those watching it will learn to expect the twists. Which meant that, halfway through tonight's episode, it was only natural to grow suspicious. The backstory we'd been given so far about Cruella de Vil—that once upon a time, she was an innocent, wide-eyed blonde completely at the mercy of her wicked, ultra-controlling mother—just seemed a little, well, familiar. Give or take a flapper dress and a pair of Dalmatians, her past looked remarkably like Regina's and Ursula's, for that matter. (Once does love its daddy/mommy issue stories, doesn't it?) Which meant that one of two things was happening: Either the show was really repeating itself almost to the letter, or things were about to take a right turn into Crazy Town (Not that one). Thankfully for everything, Once went with Option 2."
- Amy Ratcliffe of IGN said of the episode, "Overall, this week's Once Upon a Time made Cruella a stronger villain by giving her a twisted backstory. This is someone who doesn't have a softer side, and it's a nice change. She's unapologetic and cruel. Though there were clunky aspects in the episode, they expanded the mythology of the world and the Author's role as well as adding another layer to Rumplestiltskin's motivations." Ratcliffe gave the episode a 7.3 rating out of 10.
- In a review from Rickey.org, Nick Roman cites "I was probably too quick to judge last week's Once Upon a Time. One of the things that occasionally bugs me about the narrative for this season, and which “Sympathy for the De Vil” happily corrects, is this idea that every villain has a kernel of goodness in them. Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit) is bad all the way through, and the show is better for it."
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the episode.
- ↑ Adam Horowitz tweet.
- ↑ "TV Ratings Sunday: 'A.D.: The Bible Continues' Collapses, 'Revenge' Rises + 'American Country Awards' Up From Last Year" from TV By The Numbers/Zap2It (April 21, 2015)
- ↑ "Once Upon a Time recap: 'Sympathy for the De Vil'", by Hilary Busis, Entertainment Weekly (April 19, 2015)
- ↑ Once Upon a Time: "Sympathy for the De Vil" Review, by Amy Ratcliffe, IGN (April 20, 2015)
- ↑ "‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: Sympathy for the De Vil Offers Fascinating Look At True Villainy'", by Nick Roman, Rickey.org (April 19, 2015)