'Once Upon a Time' Recap: 'Darkness on the Edge of Town'

This portion of the season kicks off with Ursula and Cruella dropping in on Maleficent, only to discover that she did not summon them. Who did? Why, Rumpelstiltskin, of course.

Their initial bickering seemed to be a display of powers: Maleficent has her dragon topped staff, Ursula has strong tentacles, and Cruella seems to possess the power of persuasion. As she exhales a green mist into the faces of her dogs, they become instantaneously submissive.

After Rumple appears, he explains that he’s gathered them together so that they can steal a dark curse that will help the villains win. Thus, it will give them their happy endings. He leads them to Bald Mountain, a dark foreboding place that resembles the Bald Mountain in Disney’s Fantasia. This is where the curse resides, but a curse that dark is not lightly guarded. Each one of their powers is needed to overcome the obstacles between Rumple and the curse.

Cruella convinces the blood scarabs shielding the door to move out of the way so they may pass through it. to help. Inside, the curse is surrounded by a crevice and a magical fire that originated from a dragon. Maleficent captures the dragon fire in her staff. This leaves Ursula and her tentacles to stretch across the void, snatch the curse, and deliver it into the hands of the Dark One.

Everything seems to have gone as planned until an unearthly sound is heard and the ground rumbles with the sound of large footsteps. Rumple takes this opportunity to explain that the real reason he needed them was to lure the guardian demon, Chernobog, away from him. He leaves them to face dark heart-eating Chernobog alone.

It turns out that Chernobog is an evil Slavic demon whose name means “black god.” In some stories he was a god of the dead and only came out at night. He was the inhabitant of Bald Mountain, and is depicted here in much the same way as he was in Fantasia.

Maleficent figures it will pick the one with the darkest heart and the other two can get away and figure out how to work together to save the one left behind. As she suspected, he picks her. Ursula and Cruella get away, and appear to leave Maleficent behind, until one of Ursula’s tentacles snatches out of Chrenobog’s reach.

In the present, life seems to be boringly normal as people go about routine daily business. Hook goes to the library to work with Belle on finding a way to free the fairies from the hat and is demonstratively upset that they haven’t been able to release them. Belle tells him she’s reached out to the best minds via the internet or as Hook calls it, the magic box. Belle and Hook discuss how Rumple used them, tricked them, and how love is a weapon. Belle sadly declares he’s gone forever and she hopes he finds what he’s looking for.

I suppose he does find what he’s looking for when he contacts Ursula and ends up crashing on her couch in New York. He is also making use of the internet, an unbeknownst to Belle, translates a spell for her that will free the fairies. He knows this is his doorway back into Storybrooke, so he convinces Ursula to take him there, and they pick up Cruella along the way. It wasn’t easy to persuade them to go along with his plan, but he explained to them that it all comes down to the author. What he writes is powerful, and according to Rumple, if they want to enlist his help they need to get to him before the heroes do.

*Here’s an interesting fact: The fast food restaurant they stop at on the way to Storybrooke is Mr. Cluck’s Chicken Shack, the same chain bought by Hugo (Hurley) Reyes in the show Lost.

Excitedly, Belle provides Regina with an ancient spell to release the fairies from the hat, one that she had translated by an “Oxford linguist.” Regina enacted it and set the fairies free, but something else snuck out, something black and foreboding, dragonoid in shape…Chernobog! While everyone was celebrating the return of the fairies at Granny’s, Regina takes the opportunity to ask Bule if she knows the sorcerer and how to contact him so that he can write her a happy ending. Blue is clarifies that the sorcerer and the author are not the same person. Hmmm.

It is at this time that Chernobog makes himself known to the inhabitants of Storybrooke. Regina and Emma manage to get it to go away, but they know it won’t be long before it returns. Conviently, along come Ursula and Cruella to help Regina get rid of Chernobog if she lets them in Storybrooke; all part of Rumple’s elaborate plan.

Regina says she’ll consider allowing them in after they provide assistance, so Ursula tells her that Chernobog devours the hearts of those with the darkest potential. Regina thinks it’s after her, and therefore devises a plan with Emma to lure it Emma to the town line. Since it is made of magic, crossing the town line will cause it to poof away. It worked, so despite the hesitance of Snow and Charming, Regina and Emma provide Ursula and Cruella with the means to enter Storybrooke.

Rumple sends them into town, and waits for them to return. Late at night he’s still standing on the town line and feels abandoned, but then they show up. He tells them they have to get Maleficent back (she’s not entirely dead), but Ursula is worried about Regina because the Chernobog was not able to defeat her. Since the Chernobog went after her that means she has the darkest heart. However, Rumple explains it doesn’t necessarily go after the darkest heart, but the heart with the greatest potential for darkness. It was after Emma. Wait! What?

In closing, Snow and Charming meet with Cruella and Ursula and tell them they can stay if they really have turned over a new leaf, but on one condition: They cannot tell anyone what happened between them in the Enchanted Forest, especially Emma. Snow threatens to rip their hearts out if they do.

I suppose we’ll have to wait until next week to find out what their dirty little secret is, and why the episode is titled Unforgiven.


Top image courtesy of Tina Kaawaloa/INFevents.com

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Carissa Shuman

Carissa is a writer, editor, and artist with a love for science and science fiction.

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