Once Upon A Time was back last night, looking to pick up where it left off before the holidays. Taking place about 2 weeks after the death of our favourite Sheriff, Storybrooke finds itself in the hunt for a newone, and the audience finally gets a look into the past FairyTale life of the very mysterious Mr. Gold (aka Rumpelstiltskin). In yet another wonderful episode penned by Jane Espenson, we find out that Rumpie didn’t start out as a deal-maker, nor did he always prefer to dance around the meanings of words the way he does now.
Turns out Rumpelstiltskin was once a powerless man who only wanted to protect his son from being drafted into the ugly-sounding Ogre Wars, from which he himself had fled. Bullied and ridiculed by the knights charged with taking children 14 years of age and older from their homes to the battlefield, Rumpelstiltskin is unable to bear the idea that his young son may also be taken away, and desperately seeks to find a different path for them both. A seemingly chance encounter with a beggar on the road sets Rumpie on a course from which he will never return.
Some brilliant nods to the original myth – especially the knights forgetting his name, as well as the power that is held when speaking the “Dark One’s” name – were seamlessly woven into the solid script, and as always, the cast performances were top-notch. I loved the interactions between Mr. Gold and Emma, and the added depth that Robert Carlyle brought to Mr. Gold – even as the audience is first learning of his former heartache – set the tone for the entire episode. In fact, watching Rumpelstiltskin change from terrified man to wielder of magic power was amazing to witness. Kudos to Carlyle for performing such a complex role with such able subtlety.
However, as much as I loved the battle between the moms (we even got to see more of Sidney Glass, who works for the local paper, The Mirror – guess who he was in FairyTale Land?), my favourite parts of the episode – after finally getting to see where Rumpelstiltskin came from – was watching young Henry’s change and growth throughout. Played by the very capable and endearing Jared Gilmore, we were shown a child who, at the start of the episode, is completed defeated. He went from being sure of himself and confident in his truth, to not believing in anything anymore. His only real truth had turned into “good never wins”. It was like all the air had been let out of him, and he sat deflated and beyond the reach of even Emma. Gilmore has been one of the reasons that this show was so easy for me to fall in love with – he’s utterly charming (which makes sense, considering who Henry’s grandparents are) and completely believable in the role of Henry. But this episode showed us a different side of Henry. This wasn’t just a kid who was told there was no Santa Claus. This was a kid who’d lost his very foundation – his whole belief system got set aside because his one overpowering truth was that evil was always going to win out over good. He believed that being good was going to get him – and those he loves most – killed. It was heartbreaking to watch.
Seeing Emma try to do the right thing for her son, much as Rumpelstiltskin had struggled with what the right thing would be for his son, was the meat of this episode for me. I loved the understated and beautiful moments between David and Mary Margaret while hanging campaign posters, as well. There’s really just never enough of the two of them. Watching the characters of Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin and Henry change and grow throughout the course of the episode was literally breathtaking, given the strong performances of the actors, the amazing writing, and the incredibly complex cast of characters who fill up Storybrooke every week for us.
I’m so glad you’re back. 🙂