Of all characters in Storybrooke, one of my favorites is Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin and this episode focuses a lot on his story as he continues to try to get his life in order and find his son.
It’ also an episode that I’ve been looking forward to as one of my favorite stories when I was a child was the story of Peter Pan. I’ve seen many of the TV and theater adaptations such as ‘Hook,’ and ‘Neverland’ and have even seen the musical and of course the famous Disney version. Now we get to see the “real” backstory of the Captain as he was in Fairytale Land.
But let’s start the recap over in the past in Fairytale Land…
More of Rumplestiltskin’s background is explored as we flashback to Fairytale Land and find Rumpletiltskin returning home to find that his wife Milah is not there. He takes his son, Bae, into town to find her. Unfortunately she is at a tavern playing dice and drinking shots with a few sailors. Rumplestiltskin begs her to come home but she refuses and fires off a comment on how she is stuck married to the coward of the town. It isn’t until she sees her son Bae that she realizes she, indeed, has responsibilities and needs to go home.
That night, Rumplestiltskin asks Milah if she had wished he died during the Orge Wars. She replies that she wishes they could go away where no one knows them and see the world. Rumplestiltskin asks her to try to make the best of what they have there, if not for their sake, then for the sake of their son. She agrees to stay and try.
A village woman comes to Rumplestiltskin’s door to tell him that the sailors that Milah was partying with have taken her. He heads to their ship to get her back and there he meets Captain Hook… er… Killian Jones. Rumplestiltskin begs Killian to free his wife which the ship’s captain is willing to do if Rumplestiltskin beats him in a duel. He throws down a sword at Rumplestiltskin’s feet but the good man is too frightened to pick it up. Unwilling to fight for his wife, Rumpletstiltskin tries to impress upon the captain that his son needs his mother, but Killian tells him to go back and tell his son that his father is a coward.
Years have passed since Milah’s disappearance and now Rumplestiltskin has become the Dark One. While in the tavern, William seeks out Rumplestiltskin to tell him about a magic bean that can transport people between worlds. In return for giving the Dark One the bean, William seeks eternal life. The Dark One is unable to do that as only he can live forever, but strikes a deal that if he delivers the bean, he’ll turn back time and turn William into a young boy. However, if he fails to deliver, the Dark One will move time forward and turn William to dust. William agrees to the terms. After William leaves, Rumplestiltskin sees Killian and his crew come into the tavern.
He follows them as they head back to their ship and purposely bumps into Killian. Killian taunts Rumplestiltskin thinking he is just a beggar on the street. Seeing the man’s leathery skin, Killian calls him a crocodile. But when Rumplestiltskin removes his hood, Killian recognizes him. Rumplestiltskin formally introduces himself and tells Killain and the crew that his is also known as the Dark One. Fear hits the heart of them all as Rumplestiltskin asks about Milah. Killian tells him she died years ago. This doesn’t sit well with the Dark One and he reminds the Captain that they were supposed to duel.
He tells Killian the duel will take place at dawn and advises him that if he plans to leave, he will hunt them down and kill them all.
The duel begins but Rumplestiltskin defeats Killian. Instead of killing him with the sword, Rumplestiltskin decides to rip his heart out of his chest just like Killian did by taking his wife.
Just then, Milah comes out of the shadows dressed as a pirate lady. She tells Rumplestiltskin that she had fallen in love with Killian from the stories of far off lands he had spoken about. Since she didn’t have the heart to tell Rumplestiltskin the truth, she elected to let him think she was dead instead. This only makes Rumplestiltskin want to kill Killian more, but Milah shows him William’s red cap and tells him she has the bean. She is willing to trade him the bean for their lives. Rumplestiltskin agrees but only if he sees the bean first.
Milah, Killian and the Dark One head back to Killian’s ship where Milah takes the bean from William. Throwing it over to Killian, she asks Rumplestiltskin if they have a deal. He counters and asks how could she have left her son and let him think she was dead. Milah tells him that her misery clouded her judgment but after continued jeering from Rumplestiltskin, Milah finally confesses she never loved him. With that, he reaches in and pulls out her heart. Killian runs to her side and after watching Milah tell Killian she loved him, Rumplestiltskin crushes her heart to dust.
Killian, furious, refuses to give the Dark One the bean but he takes his sword and cuts the hand that was tightly holding the magical object. Rumplestiltskin tells Killian he will let him live and suffer from losing Milah just as he did. Now ever more enraged, Killian grabs a hook and strikes it into the Dark One’s heart. It will take more than that to kill him he tells Killian and vanishes.
Back at his cabin, Rumplestiltskin pries open Killian’s fingers only to find there is no bean. It is still in the hand of the Captain who tells William that the bean is now his. William demands to be paid for the bean so Killian offers him a position on his crew and the chance to travel to a land where no one ever grows old. William (who finally reveals his last name as Smee) is up for this.
The Captain throws the bean into the ocean where a portal appears. William asks Killian the name of the place they are headed to. As Killian attaches a hook to his chopped off wrist, he answers back – NEVERLAND!
Belle wakes up from a nightmare in which her love Mr. Gold has reverted back to his evil Rumplestiltskin ways. She heads out of the house and through the basement window, she sees Gold spinning gold thread that when placed in a beaker, it glows with magic.
In the morning, Gold comes into the house where Belle is waiting for him. She asks him why he’s been practicing magic but he assures her it is nothing to be worried about. She then asks why he brought magic back to Storybrooke and he replies because magic is power.
Back at Gold’s house, he realizes that Belle has is gone. He heads to her father’s shop, Moe French (aka Sir Maurice) who begins to get upset when he is informed she has gone missing. He tells Gold that the only reason she has disappeared is because of the deal he had made with him and that he is a monster. Rumplestiltskin tells him he just wants to know if she is safe, but Moe tells him that now neither of them will know.
Belle has gone to the diner who confides to Ruby. Ruby offers a room over at Grandma’s and suggests she tries to get a job at the library. As she peers into the library window, Belle is happy to see all the books but is interrupted by William (yes, the same one from Fairytale Land) who asks if she has spare change. Once he hears that she is not meeting anyone, he kidnaps her.
William takes Belle to a shed where he tells her he’s in the business of finding hard to locate objects and that he was hired to find her. When she asks who hired him, her father, Moe, steps inside. She embraces him as he tells her he’s sorry for allowing Gold to hold her captive, but Belle tells him she has fallen in love with him. Her father demands that she no longer see him but she refuses to follow his directive. Moe then tells William to take her away.
Gold is still looking for Belle and visits David for help. While David asks the townspeople if they have seen Belle, he finds out more about Rumplestiltskin’s evil nature and why they are reluctant to help him. They head to the diner where Ruby first denies seeing Belle but David knows she’s lying. He tells her that Gold is under control so she finally fesses up. She offers to help them find Belle as she can literally sniff her out (you know, being a wolf an all) and sets off to locate her after taking a deep sniff from the scarf she had left behind.
Ruby leads them to Moe’s shop where she loses Belle’s scent due to the flowers. Gold demands to know where Belle is but he tells her that he is sending her where she will forget him. Gold realizes that Belle is being taken to cross the town’s border and after seeing mine dust on Moe’s hand, David surmises that Belle is taken through the tunnels that lead out of town.
William handcuffs Belle inside a mine cart and sends it on its way to the outskirts of town. He throws in the key telling her she can use it to unlock herself once beyond the boarder. Belle is frantic as the cart heads out. As she tries to get free, she accidently drops the key over the side.
All of the sudden, the cart begins to move backward as a blue beam brings the cart back to where Gold, David and Ruby are located. They got her in time. Belle still remembers everything and tells Gold she won’t go back with him as he is still too cowardly to be honest with her. Moe tries to convince her to go with him, but she is still angry for what he tried to do to her. She tells them she never wants to see them again and walks away.
At the diner, Ruby helps Belle adjust to the single non-co-dependent life. She gives Belle a key that opens the library and when Belle heads over. Inside, Rumplestiltskin waits for her. He tells her she was right about him – that he was a coward and tried to collect power to overcome the cowardice. The power became so important that he couldn’t let it go and it caused him to lose his son. He has dedicated himself to finding his son and brought back magic in to help. But this new curse has the consequence that anyone who leaves the town would be stripped of their memories, so even if Gold did find his son, he wouldn’t recognize him.
He tells Belle he has lost so much of what he loves that he doesn’t want to lose her again without her knowing everything. He says goodbye but as he leaves, she invites him to have a hamburger with her. He graciously accepts.
Gold heads back to his basement where William is being held captive. Gold knows who he is and asks about his real employer, Captain Killian. William admits that when the curse hit Fairytale Land, it didn’t take him. So where is he?
Present Day – The Enchanted Forest:
Killian is seen looking at the island of sanctuary when Cora approaches him. She calls him by his new name Hook. She shows him the glowing ash from the magical wardrobe but explains it’s not quite enough to get them to their destination – Storybrooke. There, he comments, Cora can go to see her daughter and he can finally skin himself a crocodile!
I must admit, I really enjoyed this episode even though it was very light on the Mary Margaret/Emma/Regina drama. ‘Once Upon a Time’ seems to work best when the subplots all tie in together as this one did. I love how the fairy tales of our youth are really watered down versions from ‘Once Upon a Time.’ It would have been too easy to allow a real crocodile to have eaten off Captain Hook’s hand, but to allow a leathery skinned sharp tooth dark sorcerer as the culprit adds to the imagery.
And to think that Smee had a hand in it all as the magic bean trader was an added bonus!
One cannot expound upon this episode without mentioning how utterly wonderful Robert Carlyle was as Rumplestiltskin/the Dark One/Mr. Gold. We see the gambit of emotions in just one episode with this character starting with being so powerless that he cannot even gather the courage to fight for his wife to the darkness that has filled his soul once he has become the Dark One to the rage, revenge and cruelty he seeks once he finds out his wife betrayed him.
Yet with all that “beastly” components inside him, Carlyle still has the ability to allow the audience to empathize with this character and break not only ours but Belle’s heart as he finally reveals what drives him to do what he does. That emotional moment when he finally bears his heart with words that was filled with honesty and sincerity, almost makes one believe that the Beauty could truly tame the Beast with her love.
And yet, with all that, we are still reminded of Rumplestiltskin’s underlying brutal nature as he has a tied up Smee in his basement. Carlyle has the uncanny ability to make us believe that all the different sides of this character without any thought otherwise. And that truly made this an episode one of the best so far.
So what are your thoughts? Did you like this short departure from the main story arc? And what about the introduction of Captain Hook?
If you missed the last episode and you can get caught up with the recap for ‘Lady in the Lake’ here.