Once Upon a Time has had some really underwhelming episodes recently, so it was good to see it get back to form in the episode Murder Most Foul. Regina is back with the not Robin Hood from an alternate reality, and he’s having some trouble adjusting. So much so that Regina is forced to say lines like, “I need you to promise that you’ll stop running away and trying to kill people.” Unintentional or not, it’s hilarious fun. It seems as if she and Robin won’t be riding off into the sunset anytime soon, since the kiss they share lacks any semblance of the sparks that flew with her deceased lover. However, his would-be replacement seems to have a secret agenda for coming to Storybrooke. Once again, Regina just can’t catch a break.
Once also remembered that there’s a bit of drama surrounding David’s father Robert, and he enlists Hook to help him uncover the truth. He figures he needs a pirate, just at the time when Hook wants to prove to David he’s more than that, seeing as he’s planning on asking Emma to marry him. Oops. Mostly, we get why the women are the brains in the Charming family, as Hook and David’s attempts to steal a bit of magic to track Robert’s whereabouts around his time of death are just barely successful. We learn that Robert was actually on a mission to rescue David’s twin brother James, and in the process, OUAT does what it hasn’t been able to do in a while: give us the feels.
Six-year-old James fled his adopted father King George because James wanted to be something different, and we get the sense that it was nurture, not nature, that made him an evil twin…who ended up making it with Cruella and getting dumped in some bad Underworld water. A cruel fate indeed. Even harder is we see how hard Robert is trying to save James and redeem himself after years of guilt made him turn to alcohol to numb his shame over selling his own son. And we know he won’t succeed. He’ll die, and James will grow up to be a monster.
It’s nice to see Once address a hard truth it usually glosses over, the fact that not everyone will get a happy ending. David’s father fought hard to do the right thing, and he still lost his life. So why shouldn’t David take vengeance on the man who ordered his death? What if David also fights as hard as he can, and fails? What do you do in a world where your fate can be determined by something as arbitrary as a coin toss? Once Upon a Time doesn’t actually offer an easy answer, rather seeming to suggest that doing the right thing is contagious also. It makes it easier to face the person who fought and lost, as well as yourself.
But just when you think everyone is on their way to a happy ending, Once drops another major bombshell. The king may have ordered Robert’s death, but his men were interrupted by a band of pirates looking for a big score, and the man who killed Robert was none other than Hook himself. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the show explores this, especially as it looks like Rumple’s son Gideon is gearing up for more next episode. That said, an ep that spends so much time away from the main storyline felt like too much of a relief. Here’s hoping OUAT can still keep it fresh when it brings its main conflicts back to the front and center.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.