Once Upon a Time Tells A Tale As Old As Time When Belle Woos Rumple
The border between Fairy Tale and Storybrooke finally begins to dissipate as tensions rise between our antagonists, Regina/Evil Queen and Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin. And a lot more happened. So much, in fact, that our Henry/Emma and mysterious stranger story lines were ignored.
Our story opens in Fairy Tale, with a war raging in yet another unknown kingdom of Fairy Tale. After a costume check, and a little dialogue, this story’s obvious. ABC Television group is owned by Disney, so the references to Disney’s animated version of the Beauty and the Beast are unfortunately many. The good news is that this speeds up what could have been a two episode story.
After a knock on the barricaded doors, Rumpelstiltskin is allowed into the sparsely furnished war room, where he verbally spars with our unnamed king. In exchange for a victory in the war, Rumpel simply asks for the King’s daughter Belle as maid. After a lot of throwing around by Gaston, and some poorly chosen displays of manliness, Belle speaks up and agrees to go with the “Beast.”
This is the beginning of a look into Rumpelstiltskin’s back story and character that is actually successful in making us care. This time around, Fairy Tale will give us insight into a previously unknown set of characters, Rumpelstiltskin’s humanity post-power, and his relationship with the Evil Queen. Skin Deep also shows Rumpelsiltskin spinning straw into Gold for the first and perhaps last time, which is only significant to mythology nerds like myself.
The Storybrooke play is pretty flat this time around. There are a few set ups, but not any major changes to stories we care about, excepting Mr. Gold. He repossesses the truck of a florist named Mr. French (come on…), and is then immediately robbed by his victim. When Emma finds and returns the stolen goods, Mr. Gold angrily declares that one thing is missing, and stalks out.
Eventually, he tracks down Mr. French, ties up and duct tapes, then interrogates the crap out of him in the mysterious woodland cabin that brought Mary Margaret and David together in the rain. If we had any doubts about Mr. Gold’s physical fitness, we are quickly corrected. Turns out, the cane is for beating pawns of Regina, not Gold’s ever-present limp. Emma breaks it up just before we see the end of There Will Be Blood.
This isn’t the only thing happening at Storybrooke at the moment. Ashley, our very pregnant Cinderella from an earlier episode, shows up without a swelling stomach just in time for Ruby to decide it’s time for a Valentine’s Day Girls’ Night Out. The night itself is pretty boring. There are shots of David Nolan being confused about his love life intermixed with Ruby hitting on men while Ashley and Mary Margaret blandly discuss love. That boyfriend we forgot about (the alter ego of Cinderella’s Prince), shows up and proposes. It’s sweet, but plays its role as foil to Mary Margaret/David town all too well, as it’s quickly forgotten.
Davey Nolan shows up outside the bar to hand Mary Margaret one of two incredibly lame Valentine’s cards he bought hours earlier. Go figure, it’s the one intended for his wife. M.M. tells him to go home, which he does. Nothing is resolved.
The next morning, in jail, Emma offers Mr. Gold some of her pastrami sandwich. Their charming banter is interrupted by Regina’s entrance with her son. Good news everyone! Regina is a bad mom. In order to get Emma out of the station, she barters up time with Henry (whom Emma was banned from since last episode), while the adults talk. This is pretty much the worst thing Regina’s done with Henry since the show started. I guess it’s a pretty disappointing move when we know his mother collects human hearts in the literal sense.
What ensues is some straight talk from Evil Queen to Rumpelstiltskin. We’re still in Maine, here. This is the first time anyone but the Queen has shown knowledge of their Fairy Tale past. There’s an interesting turn around. It is Regina/E.Q. that has to ask a question, in return for Gold’s precious missing artifact. Regina asks Gold’s “real” name. We already knew that she was aware of Fairy Tale, but could this mean there are parts even she does not remember, or some characters her curse has blocked from her memory? Storybrooke leaves us perplexed.
Back in fairy tale we get some hints towards Gold’s quest. Her first attempt at serving tea in Rumpelstiltskin’s castle, Belle drops a tea cup, chipping it. Lame Disney references ensue. The interesting thing about this cup, however, is Stiltski’s foreboding comment that it’s “Only a cup,” after the princess apologizes, and the totemic importance this piece of dishware will take on for him.
A bit of charmingly predictable romantic build up progresses. Belle laughs too much at everything R-stilt says. Gaston, Belle’s princely fiancé shows up at the door to fight Rumpel, and is promptly turned into a rose and gifted to Belle. There’s a scene with a curtain. Blah blah blah, they’re in love. In an attempt to push the little princess away, Stilski lets her go to the village for straw. She is intercepted by the Queen, who peer-pressures the sweet girl into making out with Stilly’s face hard core, as it will end his curse. Belle returns, requests Rumpelstiltskin tell her about his son, then goes for 1st base without warning.
True love’s kiss does indeed begin to solve our Beast’s curse problem. However, that means he will be a normal sheep-dung farmer again with no wife, no son, and probably several prices on his head (just keeping things in perspective). Things get dark as we witness a couple fight no one should have to see. One line that sticks out is Rumpel’s declaration that, “My power is simply more important to me than you.” Finally, Belle is sent back to her father’s castle.
The Evil Queen triumphantly shows up to gloat, and inform her enemy that Belle’s father imprisoned her, believing her to be ruined. It’s pretty horrifying. The idea that Rumpelstiltskin must have raped the princess is heavy in the episode among the character that are not Rumpel and Belle themselves. So, believing his daughter was a rape victim, the king imprisons her, leading to her suicide. Maybe Fairy Tale wasn’t so happy for everyone.
When she first arrived at Rumpelstiltskin’s castle, Belle gave a less-than-rousing speech on bravery. What is more interesting is her commentary on women’s rights in Fairy Tale. This was hinted at last episode by the Queen’s imprisonment-by-marriage, pre spousal murder, also. In Storybrooke, Mary Margaret’s a teacher, not an ex-con trophy wife. Regina’s a mayor and successful single mother. Granny’s the owner of two businesses and never under threat of wolf-bite. Ruby drives a kick-ass truck while seeming to enjoy her job as waitress, instead of acting as go-between for the aforementioned convict. The town has got a freaking female sheriff. Which is the real happy ending for these ladies?
Unfortunately, it’s not so happy for everyone. Belle is alive, and being held in a padded room in a special section of the hospital. It can be assumed that Regina’s keeping her under lock and key as a final card to play on Mr. Gold. However, this final scene raised yet more questions. Who is the nurse in charge of Belle, and who is that tall, staring janitor Regina breezes right by? Also, while screaming at Mr. French, Gold referenced Belle’s fate in Fairy Tale before we knew what had happened to her. Does he remember more than Regina about their past lives?