If there’s one thing Once Upon a Time is supremely good at, it’s introducing unknown hidden depths to characters we already know and love (or hate). Take, for example, OUAT‘s villainous crew: Nearly every villain introduced on the fairy tale drama has had some level of tragic backstory revealed, proving over and over again that these writers can make a real human being out of even the most despicable or one-dimensional characters.
For proof of that, look no further than Gold and Regina – the show’s arguably most popular and beloved characters were nothing more than classic, dastardly villains before the Once Upon a Time writers got their hands on them. Now, Rumple and the fashion icon formerly known as the Evil Queen are the two most complex, interesting characters on the show. Regina’s redemption arc, in particular, drives so much of the show’s plot.
Now that we’re six seasons into the show, it’d be easy to feel like nothing Once Upon a Time does could possibly surprise us. Yet somehow, they keep pulling tricks out of their hat. This time, their twisty version of the classic Cinderella story kept us all on our toes.
Safe to say we all know the traditional Cinderella tale, right? Abused and neglected servant girl, with the help of a fairy godmother, triumphs over wicked stepmother and dopey, cruel stepsisters to marry the prince and ride off into the sunset.
In fact, we’d already met Once Upon a Time‘s version of the classic Disney princess, way back in Season 1. In the series’ telling, her “IRL Storybrooke persona” was Ashley, and Emma helped her (and her baby) avoid Mr. Gold’s clutches.
Cinderella and her prince reunited in Storybrooke with their baby, and it was all happily ever after. Right? Well, not exactly.
In an unexpected twist, tonight’s episode of Once Upon a Time introduced a whole new aspect to the Cinderella story and her character – while providing redemption for one of the princess’ formerly “evil” stepsisters.
We didn’t actually see Clorinda, the not-so-evil stepsister in question, during Cinderella’s backstory episode years ago in Season 1. But “The Other Shoe” interestingly retconned a *major* aspect of Cinderella’s story, making the princess not as much of a hero as she’d originally been made out to be.
As the flashback sequences revealed, Clorinda was actually not all that bad and was in love with the prince’s footman, Jacob, but feared that they’d never be able to escape her mother, the evil Lady Tremaine. Cinderella offered to help them escape to the Land of Untold Stories, but ended up ratting them out when Lady Tremaine threatened to destroy her glass slipper – the “proof” Cinderella thought she needed to convince Prince Thomas of her identity.
Things went downhill for Clorinda pretty quickly, while things were on the up for Cinderella – on the same night that the Prince found and proposed to Ella (with Snow’s help and without any glass slipper needed, naturally), Clorinda’s evil mother knocked Jacob the footman out and dragged Clorinda through the portal to the Land of Untold Stories. Um, talk about an overly harsh punishment for your daughter running away.
It all worked out fine in the end, with Lady Tremaine being defeated and Clorinda reuniting with her true love Jacob back in Storybrooke – this is a Disney-owned channel, after all – but introducing a flaw in Cinderella’s backstory was a really unique way to revisit that fairytale and make her character (who, honestly, I’d completely forgotten about) more complicated and interesting. And it totally proved Once Upon a Time‘s “mission statement” yet again – to show us brand-new sides to the tales we thought we already knew so well.