If Once Upon a Time has taught us anything, it’s that there is a very fine line between good and evil. Evil Queens weren’t always so evil; monstrous beasts really can fall in love; and even the most fairest of them all can have an inner dark side. Complex storylines like these are the backbone to the show’s success, making fans yearn to hear their favorite bedtime stories played out in a way they never imagined possible. April 22’s episode “The Return” takes fans deeper into the heart of Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold’s mysterious past, where we discover the one weak link in this complicated character’s magical armor: his son.
Speaking of mysterious characters, for months, fans have watched in heightened curiosity to see what role writer August Booth plays in this mystical series, never fully knowing if he’s friend or foe. But it turns out the good writer has a fairytale past of his own along with a deadly problem that needs fixing — and time is running out.
But let’s catch up with old Rumple’s past demons first…
Just like the Evil Queen, Rumpelstiltskin wasn’t always so heartless. In fact, before he became “the dark one” he was just a loving father — a life that his son, Baelfire, desperately wants him to return to. Rumple has become consumed by the dark magical powers he now possesses, making him greatly feared throughout the fairytale world. In fact, the only person who seems to bring out in a glimmer of good in him is Baelfire, who is heartbroken by the vicious monster his father has become. The only known way to extract the dark power from its possessor is to kill them with the sacred knife, however, Baelfire is confident there must be a loophole to rid his father of this dreaded curse. So he makes a deal with Rumple: if he can find another way to return him to his mortal self, then Rumple will willingly give up his powers.
Eventually, Baelfire decides to call on “the original power” (the blue fairy) for help. She reveals there is a way for him and his father to be together in a world without magic. All they have to do is plant a magical bean in the ground and go to wherever it takes them. And at first, Rumple is ready to go along with this Jack-and-the-Beanstalk sounding plan, but when his son opens the portal into the new world he chickens out and in his haste to escape being sucked into the magic-free realm, his son falls into it, disappearing into parts unknown. Perhaps this is why Rumple is so strict with his deal-making agreements in both worlds. He broke off one deal and it cost him his son. So now he makes it his priority to never break any sort of deal with anyone ever again.
But here’s where the really interesting part of the story lies. Rumple then calls on the blue fairy and demands to know how to get his son back since there are no more magic beans left. In the end, he discovers that there is one way: a curse. Not just any curse though — a curse powerful enough to completely alter the lives of every single person in the fairytale world. Sound familiar? All this time we’ve been blaming the Evil Queen for coming up with this whole world-altering spell when really it was Rumpelstiltskin’s idea all along. Yes, she still played a significant part in letting this all come to pass, but it seems like it was him who set the whole plan in motion — all so he could try to reunite with his son.
Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Regina is furious with Mr. Gold for abducting Kathryn, but not actually killing her, thus allowing Mary Margaret to be set free. That leaves a lot of loose ends in need of tying up. But being that she’s Regina and always one step ahead of everyone, she makes Sidney admit to the entire thing thereby removing herself as the main culprit. Emma is no fool, though, and knows Regina is the true guilty party. So as a way to fight fire with fire, she announces that she’s taking Henry away from her…for good. Regina tried to take away someone Emma loves, so now Emma is going to take away someone that Regina loves — an eye for an eye, as they say.
Next: Mary Margaret and David’s not-so-happily ever after.
It’s also worth mentioning that Mary Margaret and David have a brief reunion after her release from jail. But these star-crossed-lovers are far from a reconciliation. David tries to apologize for not believing in Mary Margaret’s innocence, but she’s unwilling to forgive him. She feels like there’s something or someone trying to pull them apart and doesn’t want all of their memories together to be “poisoned” by this unfortunate incident. And while it’s tempting to give a well-deserved eye roll to all the Snow White pun potential, I’m more concerned and annoyed about the reasons these two aren’t together. Sure, we can point fingers at Regina all day long, but really Mary Margaret hasn’t even given the relationship a fair chance. Let’s face it, she looked pretty guilty and David was distraught about his wife’s death. I say give the guy a break and let’s see a bit of romance between these two for a change.
And last but certainly not least, we get a much bigger glimpse into August Booth’s true intentions in Storybrooke. After Mr. Gold finds him snooping in his office, Gold makes it his personal mission to find out what he’s up to. Eventually, Gold believes August is really his son who’s come to kill him for breaking his promise all those years ago. And at first, it all makes sense and you feel like you’ve finally solved a clue in this on-going mystery. Gold even digs up the magical sword he knew August was looking for and offers it up for him to destroy as a way to prove that he’s finally willing to choose his son over having power.
But it turns out August isn’t Gold’s long lost son after all. He’s yet another fictional character who hasn’t forgotten his fairytale past and is trying desperately to return to it. Why? Because he’s dying and only magic can fix him. Originally, he thought getting Emma to believe the truth would reverse the curse, but he’s running out of time. So he was hoping to wield the power of Rumple’s sword in a last ditch effort to bring magic into this world. Only it didn’t work. So it looks like he’ll have to hold out a little while longer and pray that Emma learns the truth before his mystery ailment overtakes him for good. But now that we know his intentions are for purely selfish reasons, do we even care? I, for one, am not so sure anymore.
What did you think of tonight’s surprising episode? Were you disappointed to discover August’s true reasons for arriving in Storybrooke? And if he isn’t the real Baelfire, then who is? Are you getting frustrated with Mary Margaret’s continual rejection of David? Sound off in the comments below.
Follow Kelly on Twitter at @KellyBean0415.