S1E8: It’s hard to follow a heart-breaking episode like Once Upon a Time’s midseason finale in which Emma quickly fell for Graham and then lost him completely, but delving into Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold’s back story is certainly one way to take the pressure off.
“The only thing I’ve got is my boy and they’re going to take him away from me.” –Rumplestiltskin
In the back story portion this episode, we find a small village under siege from a Duke’s forces as a firey war rages on in the background. The soldiers are taking young children who they determine are of age so they may fight and when the soldiers meet resistance, they are assisted by a hooded man with dark magic. Rumple’s son’s birthday is nearing and he fears he’ll lose the boy, so he and the young man try to escape but they only run into further troubles. They are met by the soldiers in the woods, where it is revealed that Rumple was a deserter at war and he lost everything as a result. The soldier humiliates Rumple and forces him to kiss his boot before storming off. Luckily (or eventually unluckily), a mysterious man offers to act as a benefactor and tells Rumple he needs to steal a mystical dagger from the Duke so he can control “the dark one.”
Plagued by his inability to control anything, this option is fairly attractive, but his son plays devil’s advocate, suggesting that it may be good for him to be brave and fight. Rumple shoots this down saying he’s too young to fight and the boy asks if his mother is really dead or if she left Rumple out of shame for his cowardice. Rumple says she’s dead and this seems to be enough to convince the boy to help his father burn down the Duke’s tower and steal the dagger. When they’re remarkably successful, Rumple takes the dagger into the woods and summons the dark one only to find he’s the old man from the forest. He warns Rumple that his boy is of age and that the soldiers are probably heading to take him away at that very moment, but Rumple wants the power and kills the dark one, transferring his powers and the name on the controlling dagger to himself. He now has the power to wrest his son from the soldiers’ clutches, but he does so at a price: after he slays the invading men, his son looks at him with terror. He’s lost his father completely, though he’s now safe from war.
Since Rumple is one of the more interesting characters on the show, I looked forward to his back story. The idea that he lost his humanity and control in order to save his son is an interesting one, but it also brings us to question him even more. Was he really a good man made evil, or was he being selfish all along? Did he really kill the dark one as a means of saving his son, or did he do it as a means of elevating himself from the scum who kisses soldiers’ boots?
“Good loses, good always loses. Because good has to play fair.” –Henry
Well, his real world interactions certainly point our spidey senses in one direction. Emma pays him a visit and picks up some of Graham’s things reluctantly before Mr. Gold tells her that her two weeks as acting Sherriff make the title official. When she stops to see Henry, he tells her he’s done with Operation Cobra because it’s too dangerous, he knows the Mayor is responsible for Graham’s demise. Plus, Regina squashes everything when she fires Emma as Sherriff and hires Sidney Glass from the newspaper.
Of course, that’s just the set up. Mr. Gold offers to be Emma’s benefactor to beat Regina’s plan and he shows her that the town charter allows the Mayor to appoint a candidate for election. Emma informs Regina that she’s running, It’s obvious that Sidney is an idiot and a yes-man, because he can barely wrap his head around the concept that he’ll be running against her. I just wish some of these characters were a little less like lost puppies sometimes.
Henry begs Emma not to get help from Mr. Gold because she already owes him one favor and he’s convinced it will end badly, but when Sidney somehow gets ahold of the sealed record that shows Emma had Henry while she was in Juvenile Hall, she knows she’ll need help to beat Regina. Emma’s more concerned that it hurts Henry than that it could kill her campaign, so she confronts Regina about it, who says, “As for the legality, I did nothing wrong.” This seems to be the theme of the episode: technical wrong versus actual wrong.
Just as Regina tells Emma about the impending debate with Sidney, there’s an explosion and Regina is injured, requiring Emma’s help to escape alive. Of course, Emma saves her and the Mayor is indignant. Emma is proud to show Henry that this is how good wins, as a crowd of townspeople volunteer to help her campaign. But still, things are amiss; Emma instantly figures out that Mr. Gold started the fire, and she says she doesn’t want anything to do with him. He warns her that exposing him could cost her the election and disappoint Henry.
“If I’m not a hero and I can’t win, then what part do I have in his life.” -Emma
At the debate, Emma is convinced she’ll lose, but that’s partially because she’s determined to tell the truth about the fire. She does and Regina thinks she’s won, but it turns out the townspeople are taken with her honesty and her ability to stand up to Mr. Gold. Henry is in favor of Operation Cobra again and all seems right in the world, but this is Rumplestiltskin we’re dealing with, so it’s not over just yet.
Mr. Gold brings Graham’s jacket to the Sherriff’s office and tells Emma that he set this whole thing up because he knew she’d do the right thing and that the people of Storybrook would love her for it. I don’t know if that’s actually believable, but Mr. Gold could sell just about anything so it might as well be. Of course, even though she didn’t want any of this, he’s Rumple under everything, so he’s still expecting her to pay him back now that she’s the Sherriff. While this episode, itself, wasn’t all that jarring or exciting, it seems to set in motion some serious conflict. While Emma was trying to free the police station from Regina’s grip, it’s now under Mr. Gold’s and she’s just garnered herself an extra enemy. And considering how much she loves to be defiant and do the right thing, we can bet that she’ll do something to really anger him, and soon.
What did you think of last night’s episode? Are you excited to see what Mr. Gold has in mind for those “favors” Emma owes him? Do you think we’re on the road to exposing Regina? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@KelseaStahler).