"Sympathy for the De Vil" is a really misleading title for Sunday night's episode of "Once Upon a Time." Cruella De Vil, sort of the third wheel when it came to power among the queens of evil triumvirate, proves that she is most likely the worst of the bunch, and may have put Rumpelstiltskin's plans right on track.
First we go back to England in the early 1900s where we meet a little Cruella De Vil, tormented by her mean mother as she's chased through the forest by her mom's two dalmatians. It seems the little girl has a Cinderella type of situation with a father who's recently deceased and what appears to be a wicked mother or stepmother.
In the present, Maleficent confronts Cruella, who skids to a stop to avoid hitting the all-powerful sorceress. Apparently Cruella knew something about Maleficent's child, Lily, and never told her. It's simple, actually, says Cruella. "I'm a really terrible person and I left her in the woods to die." Wow. So, of course, Maleficent dragons up, but that made her vulnerable to Cruella's power: control over animals. One breath, and maleficent is out.
"People are always underestimating a girl in diamonds and furs." Victoria Smurfit is great in this role, and there'll be a Q&A later to show just how great she is -- but I digress.
Even the "Once Upon a Time" logo had dalmatians running along the bottom. Again, a tangent.
Back in Storybrooke, Emma is still mad. At her parents for lying to her, and now, at the Author for running. They split up, with Hook and Regina join Emma on the hunt, and Snow and Charming doing a locator spell. She won't take Charming and Snow because she "can't trust them." It's been three episodes now, Emma. Gotta get over it.
Regina has left the evildoers club, and is back with the heroes. She tells the crew that Zelena the Wicked Witch of the West has been in league with Gold the whole time, and now she has Robin in New York. She's going to the Big Apple to deal with her. But first thing's first: Deal with Rumpel.
To do that, Regina drafts Belle into the fight. Belle calls to Rumpel, who was busy lording it over the Author about how his plan is going to work. He goes to her after she summons him through the wishing well. Belle wonders why he came back. Did he still love her? Why mess with the Author? Rumpel takes out his heart, and it's almost completely black. His Dark Lord magic has a toll, especially over centuries of use. He tells her that he needs the Author because he's dying and needs to rewrite his happy ending. Rumpel embraces Belle, at which point Belle tells him he's like a dog begging for scraps. In a very mean tone! But, Regina apparently has her heart! She threatens Rumpel: You mess with her people, or say anything to Zelena, any warning about her going to New York, there will be two hearts to mourn. #goregina!
The author and Cruella finally have a chat. She doesn't like him very much at all, and threatens to kill him. For some reason, he's not worried, and she can't seem to pull the trigger. She leaves, saying, "There's more than one way to skin an author." So, they know each from long ago.
Back to the '20s in England. Cruella listens to a radio, but her mom walks in and snatches it. Cruella stole it because her mom would never let her out of the house. Poor Cruella. Their mother-daughter moment is interrupted by a traveling reporter, a man who writes stories of human interest. It's the Author! He decides to interview Cruella's mother -- a noted dog trainer "hired by princes and kings." He pries a bit into her history, especially in terms of her three dead husbands. She wants nothing to do with him and kicks him out. But Cruella hears the whole pitch, and she has a story to tell -- if he can get her out of the house. He does, helping sneak her out with an unusual key. After hearing her story, he says it has the makings of a classic Cinderella story. She then tells him that she thinks her mother poisoned her father. Uh-oh.
Back in Storybrooke, Henry follows Pongo the dalmatian, but the dog was under the spell of Cruella and leads him to her. She tells him to get in the car as the dog who was once Henry's friend bares his teeth at him.
Meanwhile, Emma gives Regina a gun to protect herself in New York. No magic, you need something. A call from Cruella: "Hello darlings. As you can see, I have your dreadful son." Is she crazy to rile up two of the most powerful people around -- his mothers? Well, I guess she is, actually. Time to mobilize the troops to go after Cruella. While searching, Regina and Hook try to talk to Emma about getting over the fact that her parents lied to her. Emma can't move past it. Ugh.
Rumpel is back with the Author. He knows that they've been keeping their past relationship a secret, but now he needs to know since Cruella has taken Henry. He knew that she wanted the Author dead the whole time, but what secret could the Author have over Cruella that would cause her to turn against him? It's fine, because it's still within his plan. A slip of paper from the Author, and Gold now knows.
The Author also finally reveals to Cruella, in the past, that he's not just a newspaper reporter: He travels across realms, chronicling them and sometimes even directing them. He tells her that he has a powerful quill and ink, and can change someone's life by writing their story. He gives her a few things, like diamond earrings, just by writing them. But he fancies her more than that, and decides to give her magic to control all animals. She has the power to fight against her mother, and she wants to go back and confront her right away. He gives her his car to do it. They're going to run away together. Awwww.
Or not. Cruella's mother comes to warn the Author not to deal with Cruella. She's evil, and she was the one, even as a kid, who killed her husbands. Dang! That's why her mom kept her in the house her whole life. She ripped out the flowers in their garden not because Cruella loved them, but becasue they were poison that the girl used. She goes to find Cruella, who apparently also stole the magical quill from the Author.
Cruella's mom finds her, and thinks to use her dogs to hold her at bay, but Cruella takes control of the dogs, and has them kill her own mother. The Author later finds a crazed Cruella, busy sewing away. She's making a new coat -- a dalmatian coat. "You were, what is the phrase, 'A means to an end.'?" As she's about to shoot the Author, he grabs the quill and ink and writes that Cruella can't kill anyone. So all of that evil, and she won't ever be able to kill anyone again.
But Emma doesn't know that. She, Regina and Hook had to split up to find Henry, and Emma was the one to find him --- at gunpoint. Cruella, standing in front of a cliff, is holding a gun to Henry's head. She's trying to force the Savior to kill the Author so that she will be able to kill again. Regina and Hook aren't there, thrown off by magical echoing conch shells, so they can't help.
Back at the cabin, Snow and Charming have caught up to the Author. He tells them that Cruella can't kill anyone, and that's why she wants him dead. But he also tells them that Rumpel wants Emma to kill Cruella so that her heart can go black, and that will somehow play into Rumpel's plans to rewrite his story. The story the Author actually wrote ends with the Savior turning dark. He was trying to protect the world from Cruella, actually, in writing it.
Emma plays her part. In a burst of magic, she pushes Cruella off of the cliff, not knowing that Cruella would never have been able to hurt Henry. Snow and Charming show up, with Hook and Regina in tow, just in tome to see the broken body of Cruella down on the rocks below as Emma hugs Henry.