At its best, Once Upon A Time can take a familiar story, turn it on its head and teach us a lesson at the same time. At its best this show can intertwine the stories from the people we’ve known and cared about for years, with new stories, new characters. At its best, this show can make us scream, rage and even smile at what’s happening on screen.
Tonight was Once Upon A Time at its best. Last week was Once Upon A Time at its best. Balanced, honest, and character-driven. Most importantly, tonight, the show reminded us both that there is no black and white, only shades of gray, and that hope is the most important thing you can have.
Well, that and love.
So join us as we discuss the end (?) of Rumbelle, Regina’s development, Daddy Charming and the difficulties of being a teacher.
WHO’S THE VILLAIN?
A few episodes ago Once Upon A Time made the Count of Monte Cristo uninteresting, bland and frankly, a prop for our heroes to come to some realizations. Tonight, however, they did Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde justice, not just by pulling out a nifty (and somewhat predictable) little twist there at the end, but by making their story mirror Regina’s and, in a way, even Rumple’s journey.
The message of “Strange Case” wasn’t about Hyde not being a villain. Hyde was a villain. He was one because, after Mary’s death, he chose to give into anger. And Jekyll was a villain, even though, after Mary’s death, he behaved like a hero would. Being a hero, however, requires more than pretending. It requires taking responsibility for your actions.
It requires making the hard choice when easier ones are available.
Hyde didn’t. Jekyll couldn’t. And, in the end, that probably says a lot about who the good doctor really was. After all, when not even the “good” part of you can actually be good, then, what are you but a straight-up villain?
THE DARK ONE
Which leads me to …Rumplestiltskin. Always Rumple. He seems to be single-handedly responsible for so much misery that, sometimes, it’s hard to keep track of all the bad he’s done.
And yet, Belle believed in him. Belle gave him chance after chance. For a while there, it seemed like Rumple was willing to change. But, maybe, the message of this episode – the one about villains – is more about Rumple than it is about Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.
Rumple has a good side, yes. We’ve all seen it. It comes out to play from time to time, and it even seems to grow exponentially at the sight of Belle. It’s not just a small part of him, and that’s what has led us to believe that good or evil is a choice that Rumple can make. That he can just put the darkness behind.
But is it that simple? As I said before – if the good parts of you aren’t really all that good, then what are you but a villain? Rumple’s “good” intentions lead him to trap his pregnant wife in the Jolly Roger, like she’s an object he can decide where to put. His “good” intentions almost got her killed. And his “good” intentions have led him to choosing the darkness over and over again, rationalizing it as the only way to keep her safe.
It’s clear that his good intentions just aren’t that good. Sure, he cares about Belle. He cares about his son. But he treats them just as Jekyll treated Mary, as a possession that you must protect because it belongs to you. And Belle belongs to no one, much less Rumple. Belle is a free woman, who’s finally taking control of her destiny. Maybe, if Rumple had ever seen that, they could have had a chance.
But he didn’t, and they don’t. This fairy-tale was just not meant to have a happy ending.
THREATS WON’T MAKE ME LOVE YOU AGAIN
Belle spouts off at her husband. (Is there a lawyer in Storybrooke? How would you go about getting a divorce?). “But necessity will,” he responds, proving that, even after all these years, even after all that Belle had sacrificed (her own sense of self, her family, the possibility of friends) he 100% doesn’t get what love is.
Love is not being by someone’s side because you have no other choice. Love is not possession. Love is freely deciding that you’d rather be with someone, not because it’s for the best of because other people want you to be, but because that’s what makes you happy.
Has Belle ever been happy in her relationship with Rumple? Has she ever done something other than expect/hope that things will get better? Has she ever been free to enjoy the love she feels? Has she ever been cherished as a person and not just a possession?
The answer is no. Belle has always been waiting for things to change. But things haven’t changed in six seasons. Things won’t ever change. She understands that now. And she’s putting her foot down.
Is this the end of Rumbelle? It’s hard to say it categorically – this is, after all, a show about hope. But if it isn’t, then it should be.
Because Belle deserves better. The baby deserves better. And we, the viewers, deserve better than this abusive, manipulative excuse for a romance. Enough is enough, Once Upon A Time. You let Belle break free; now allow her to remain this way.
Let her be the heroine she was always meant to be. Let her choose her own path.
I WON’T LET IT COME TO THAT
Ah, Emma and Regina. Henry’s two mothers. The Savior and the Evil Queen. The most beloved non-canon ship on this show. And now, two women who think they’re each destined to die because of what they are.
I see why people ship it, I do. In this day and age, with representation being almost nonexistent in most TV shows, it’s easy to see yourself in two characters and just want things from them. For them. I even think this would have been a great story to tell. It’s just not the story the writers chose.
They’re not lovers – they never will be. They’re not best friends – and they probably never will be that, either. They are, however, family. They didn’t choose to be, and maybe, at many points in the story, they would have changed this if they could have. But this is what they are. And family takes care of each other.
What does that mean in this case? It means that, just as Emma understood that Regina would be the only one able to put her feelings aside for the greater good – Regina now understands this is a favor she has to ask OF Emma. No one else. It doesn’t matter if she’s closer with Snow, it doesn’t matter if Charming or Hook might agree. This is Regina’s sacrifice, and if she has to make it, she wants Emma to be the one to do it.
But why, you ask? For me, the answer is simple. We all know what the most important thing in Regina’s life is – Henry. And Emma wasn’t the mother she wanted to be for him, she wasn’t there when Regina was. And yet, but asking this favor, Regina is absolving Emma and entrusting her with the thing Regina loves the most – the thing Emma loves the most.
This is not about Regina’s feelings. It’s not about Emma’s either. At least, not their feelings for each other. It’s about Henry. And that’s why Emma’s answer could be nothing but yes.
RID YOURSELF OF THE DARKNESS
Rumple taunts Regina in this episode with the notion that she can’t rid herself of the darkness any more that he can. This is, of course, a misdirect. The differences between Rumple and Regina couldn’t be more obvious if Snow had produced a flow-chart and explained them in class.
Regina doesn’t want the darkness. Rumples does.
Basic. Simple. Rumple thinks he can use the darkness to his benefit, he thinks he can control it. He wants the power, he craves it. He needs it. There’s no part of Rumple that wants to be all good.
Regina doesn’t. In fact, if anything, Regina’s scared at the notion that she hasn’t gotten rid of all the darkness. That it’s not as simple as cutting out a part of yourself.
In this instance, though, fear is a good thing. Fear is proof that Regina is on the right path. She might need to fight the fight daily, but Regina, unlike Rumple, is willing to do it.
Who’s the true villain here? The answer has never been as clear-cut as it is now.
TWO ORPHANS MAKE A HOME
Am I going to write a whole section about a throwaway line? Why, yes I am. I’m talented like that.
Emma and Hook are both orphans. They’re a lost boy and a lost girl who, after many years, tons of pain, disappointment and even bad decisions, have found not only true love, but a home, with each other. The home might have been emotional before, but now, it’s physical. This is the beginning of them building a life together.
What does Hook bring to this new life? Not much. He has a chest of possessions – Emma had just a box when she moved in with Mary Margaret. Aka, there’s not that much there. But that’s in the past – just as the disappointment and the loneliness. They’re starting over, together, and the possessions they amass from now on will be theirs. Just as their life will be.
Forgive me, I’m getting emotional here. And maybe a bit giddy. You see, Gods of TV? You see Network Executives? We continue to care about our OTPs, even after they’ve gotten together. In fact, in possible, we’re even more invested.
THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST
Yes, I found more stuff. What can I say? I have a talent for spotting the ridiculous. At least the list is getting shorter!
- Rumple being in the middle of every bad thing that has ever transpired. I get that Rumple is the bad guy, I do, but does he really need to have a hand on EVERY bad thing that has ever happened to absolutely everyone? It’s a bit much.
- Jasmine not being able to find Aladdin. Storybrooke isn’t that big. More importantly, people CAN’T LEAVE. How difficult can it be?
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
- Is Henry living with Emma now? Is he like splitting time between her and Regina? What’s the custody agreement like?
- I want my parents to come cook me breakfast.
- These people have finally learned how to communicate effectively, like the rest of the world does, using cell phones. Thank the Lord.
- Daddy Charming is the most glorious thing ever. And it’s fun that he’s still trying to pretend he doesn’t like Hook when Hook’s his BFF.
- I still enjoyed that we got a glimpse at him being – well, a bit unsettled. This is his daughter moving in with a guy. It’s normal.
- Snow’s reaction to seeing Regina – “This can’t be good.”
- OMG Hyde escaped. What a surprise! Who could have seen THAT coming? *rolls eyes*
- Hook being there for Belle – not just to save her from Jekyll, but to talk to her, to make her feel secure, is such a huge thing for both of them, and I’m glad Once Upon A Time is going there. This show is surprisingly light on male/female friendships – probably because everyone is somehow related, and I’m looking forward to how this connection is developed in the future.
- Belle could use a friend. And I’m pretty sure it’s been ages since Hook has had one.
- Violet lives!
- Was anyone truly surprised at the revelation that killing Regina would get rid of the Evil Queen? Anyone? Then why the need for the dramatic music and Regina going all “KILL ME” to Emma? This was always a possibility. Relax. Go to Snow, she’ll give you a hope speech.
- Since Rumple considers Belle a possession, does that mean that, since Hook saved her, Rumple now owes Hook one? Because that could open up an interesting storytelling possibility.
- The Oracle gives me the creeps.
NEXT, ON ONCE UPON A TIME
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.