I finished watching the first season of Once Upon a Time last weekend, and found it both entertaining and a great example of fully-formed villains.
If you’ve never seen the show, it takes place in the fictional town of Storybrooke, where fairy tale characters, like Snow White and Red Riding Hood, live in our world as real people with no memory of who they were. The Evil Queen, who’s now the mayor of Storybrooke, has taken away their memories with a curse, so none of them will ever have their happy endings.
Every episode deals with two stories: The present one in Storybrooke, and flashbacks to the fairy tale world to give you the story behind the fairy tale and insight into what the characters were like before the curse. The writers’ treatment of the Evil Queen was awesome.
For the majority of the season, I watched The Evil Queen killing, lying, manipulating, you know, being evil and then came the episode where her origin was revealed. I was shown a woman who barely resembled the monster I’d come to know. She smiled, had hope and was capable of being in love.
And then I watched it all be ripped away.
I couldn’t believe I felt bad for her, despite knowing her future evil ways. (Nice acting, Lana Parrilla!) At this point, she’s at her lowest and has to decide whether she wants to forgive or seek revenge. Even though I knew what she’d choose, it didn’t lessen the impact of it. It did the total opposite. (Nice writing, Once Upon a Time, writers!)
There were hints of her humanity throughout the season, but that episode brought it all together. So when she does lose, I don’t feel a simple, “Yeah! Take that, you evil see you next Tuesday, you!” It’s more of a, “You had this coming, evil person, but I wish your life would’ve gone in a different direction.” Because dammit, those clever writers got me wanting the Evil Queen to have a happy ending.
Not every villain requires the full This is Why I’m Evil treatment, but I’m definitely going to look into the villains I write, to see if their origins add depth and can create more compassion for the reader to feel.
Ever look at a villain thinking he/she got a raw deal?