“Having your heart broken can make you do unspeakable things.” So says the The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) in this week’s Once Upon a Time episode “Heart of Darkness.” And the Evil Queen knows of what she speaks—her own damaged heart. Since the series began last October, we have seen the evil, the revenge, and the damage done in the name of lost love—starting with the queen’s vendetta against Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin). Her actions, as we know by now had been motivated by misdeeds perpetrated against her.
We’ve also seen the damage love’s loss has done to Rumple (Robert Carlyle). We don’t know the real circumstances under which he lost his wife—and we don’t know what happened to his son. (Yes, I know the black knight said it was for cowardice, but we don’t really know why Rumple ran from the battle—or its effect.) But the romantic tragedy that we do know about is Belle (Emilie de Ravin). It is clear from “Skin Deep” that Rumple wants to not feel, but he can’t help it—no amount of guarding, masks or thick, green skin will shield his heart from the pain of that loss (and his feeling that she died because of her association with him).
So it makes me wonder whether that potion he’d given to Snow to make her forget Charming (Josh Dallas) was a potion he, himself had taken to forget the love he has for Belle. And perhaps the appearance of Emma (Jennifer Morrison) in Storybrooke had marked the unraveling of potion’s effect on Rumple, himself (albeit very, very slowly).
The effect the potion has on Snow is interesting. Yes, she forgets Charming as she’d wanted to, but she also loses herself in the process, turning her into a loveless, vengeful woman—in essence a female version of Rumplestiltskin, but without the magic powers or gift of prophecy.
But now, Snow wants to assassinate the queen, and is more than willing to consult Rumple for the means to do it! And Rumple is equally will to oblige, wanting nothing in exchange for his help, which in itself is remarkable. “I’m invested in your future,” he explains to her.
In retrospect, I have to wonder if Rumple really believes that Snow will kill the queen. Rumple can see the future, and probably knows what will unfold—therefore he must know that the key lies in the love between Snow White and Prince Charming. He has undone their love; does he realize that he needs to put it back together? And this little scenario is part of his puppet mastery (recalling his complex series of manipulations to get
After sending Snow on her way to find the queen and do her in, he has an encounter with Charming as well—a very interesting encounter. He blames Charming for destroying the Snow’s love, solidifying in my mind the importance Rumple places on this fragile emotion. Love is elusive to him—the most powerful sorcerer in Fairy Tale Land, and arguably the most powerful being in all the realms. Yet—at least in his own self-image—has made himself the most unlovable of beasts, incapable of being loved. Yet, try as he might to rid himself of that emotion, he cannot—it is more powerful than he can ever be, fragile as it is.
He knows he must make things right between Charming and Snow—because within their particular love lies the secret to breaking some future evil—something he can sense, can see. So he sends Charming off to find her, knowing that he will do anything to save Snow from embarking on a path of evil. As Rumple warns, once she’s starts down that road, there’s no turning back. And he should know (as does the Evil Queen).
Rumple has potions for pretty much everything; the one he lacks is a potion for love. And in Rumple’s humble (and very knowing) opinion, “if you can bottle love, you can do anything!” It is the most powerful thing.
It’s hard to know when in the timeline this episode occurs, but it’s certain that Rumple’s reactions both to Snow’s desire for revenge and his conversation with Charming about love strongly suggest that he is thinking about his own tragic love story. Ah, but which one? The tale in which he loses his wife? Baelfire, his son? Or the beautiful Belle, which seems to have affected him most of all?