Funny, I keep thinking of Junot Diaz these days. He has a quote, from his book This is How You Lose Her that has stuck with me, through good times and bad times. It reads:
‘And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Rumbelle and its beginnings. Because this is the end of Rumbelle. There’s no going back.
And I don’t mean by this that I’m sure the show won’t try – they might. I really hope they don’t, but sometimes they can be too in love with the idea of happily ever after. They might try to patch this up. I just won’t buy it. More than that, I’ll feel insulted if they ever do.
Because, in season six, the writers have done the thing I consistently asked them to do for years – they’ve chosen a side.
It just wasn’t the side of romance.
There were only two ways to go with Rumple – either you made him an example of how love can redeem a person, and you made Belle’s love for him into the shining light that would point him towards being a better man, or you just made him the evil guy, unredeemable, doomed.
Once Upon A Time has seemingly gone with the second.
The thing about Beauty and the Beast that we all appreciated from the original, I think, was that it wasn’t a straightforward and simple love story. The Beast didn’t really deserve to be loved – and yet, Belle loved him anyway. And it was the fact that she loved him before he deserved it that, in a way, made him strive to be the man who was worthy of that love.
Back when Belle was first introduced, that’s where Once Upon A Time seemed to be going with the story. Sure, Rumple didn’t really deserve her love, but she gave it anyway, because she believed he could change. He could be a better man. He just needed to be strong.
Maybe that Belle was right – maybe she wasn’t. Maybe, in an alternate universe, Rumple choose to try. And maybe in that universe he failed, over and over again, but he kept trying. And, in that world, Belle stuck by him, because she understood it was hard. Because she believed in him. And maybe, in that alternate universe, Rumple won.
I’d like to read/see that. I really would. Because it’s not what’s happening in the show.
No, in this universe, Rumple is so caught up in the narrative of villains and heroes that he doesn’t realize that you make your own destiny. In this universe Rumple has gotten chance after chance after chance and he’s squandered them all because he could never trust the people around him to stay. Because he could never let go of control.
This Rumple doesn’t understand love as freedom. He sees love as possession. And that is why he will never be happy.
Well, that, and because the writers really, really like him as a villain.
All my problems with Rumple, and with Rumbelle, stem from the writing. And, at first, I thought, maybe it’s just, well … bad writing. It happens, more often than we’d like to believe. I thought, maybe these people don’t know what they’re doing. Maybe they’re just misguided. Or maybe they’ll try to fix it in a way that won’t totally satisfy me, but that will still make a twisted sort of sense.
I don’t think that anymore. I think they know exactly what they’re doing. I think they’re smarter than I gave them credit for.
And that’s why this is the end. Not because I say so, or even because I want it to, but because …it was either plot or romance. And in this particular case, plot won.
Plot won because Rumplestiltskin was too good a character to “waste” on a romance, too good a villain to redeem. And so, once the show decided that they’d rather have the bad guy than the romance, they went full out with the reasons to make us hate him.
Take last episode, for example, and Rumple putting that cuff on Belle so he’d know where she was at all times. It’s not the first time Rumple has tried to dictate where Belle can go, or even the first time he’s used magic to get her to do his bidding, but, maybe because of the rhetoric we’ve been exposed to during the last Presidential election, this time, it feels like the line he’s crossed is a much more important one.
Or maybe it’s because he’s dropped the notion of love and made it all about Belle, the mother of his child. Though mother’s too big a word for how Rumple is treating her. Belle the human incubator would be better. Her well-being doesn’t seem to matter, after all. Just the child’s.
Familiar rhetoric, isn’t it? Why should women get to control their own bodies? Why should they make decisions about their own lives or their children’s? That’s what men are for, isn’t it?
Rumple doesn’t – shouldn’t – get to dictate what Belle does or where she goes. He doesn’t get to manipulate her into staying. Fact is, she wanted him to be involved in his child’s life. She wanted him to be a father. Just like she wanted to be his wife. But, time and time again, Rumple’s fears have pushed him into shooting himself in the foot. He can’t let go of control for one second, even if it means losing everything.
And lost it he has. Again and again. It’s just that, this time, he’s not getting it back.
Or he shouldn’t. If you wanted to play the redemption card, you’re about three seasons too late with Rumple. If you wanted me to ship these two, you squandered your last possible chance when Belle banished him from Storybrooke in Season 4 and he returned not a changed man, but the same Beast he’d always been.
You’ve drawn a line in the sand, Once Upon A Time. Now it’s time to throw Rumple into the ocean and get Belle back to the guesthouse and away from the waves.
Goodbye, Rumbelle. You were once a beautiful promise. Now you’re just an uncomfortable reality. But hey, at the very least, we have a live-action Beauty and the Beast movie to look forward to. That should help with the disappointment.