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TV Review: Once Upon a Time – “We Are Both”

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There certainly was a lot packed into this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time, “We Are Both.” Writer/producer Jane Espenson has once again knocked it out of the park with a great script that really sets season two into high gear.

With Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) through the portal gone and back in a devastated Fairytale Land, David/Charming (Josh Dallas) is desperate to recover them – desperate enough to strike a deal with Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). But the heaviest news comes in the form of an experiment, and an answer to the question of what happens when a Storybrooke resident crosses the border into the non-magical world of Maine. Trying to experiment, Sneezy (Gabe Khouth) takes a tentative step across the line between Storybooke and the rest of Maine. As soon as he does, all memory of his existence as one of the dwarfs vanishes, and when he steps back across the line’s memory does not return.

It is a devastating blow to all of them, now trapped as ever in Storybooke. Of course, they can leave, but that would mean they would never remember whom they really are.

This hits no one harder than Mr. Gold whom we see packing maps into a case in his shop. He is clearly about to embark on a journey: the culmination of all his manipulations, the creation of the curse, as well as its breaking. All of it has been his grand plan to find Baelfire (Dylan Schmid), the son he lost so long ago. The news is a terrible blow; everything, all the planning, all the magic has been for nothing. Taking his frustrations out on the glass cases in his shop, the last we see of him in the episode is standing desolately inches from the boundary that separates him from where he might find his son; he is trapped.

It is not only the Storybrooke border that has become an impenetrable boundary. The boundary between this world and the realms of Fairytale Land, fortified by portals governing access, is insurmountable as well.

In fact, this episode is really much about boundaries, how they confine us, how they define us. Boundaries can keep peace; boundaries can also be toxic, corrosive, and eat away at us if they are imposed with force, keep us prisoner. But the lack of boundaries can lead to chaos.

The characters of Fairytale Land live in such chaos – two identities existing simultaneously. But as Prince Charming/David Nolan (Josh Dallas) finally tells the frightened residents of Storybrooke, they have to embrace both sides to their personas to thrive—the weaknesses and the strengths. For now, each of the characters is trapped within their own curse of dual and dueling identities as Jefferson (the Mad Hatter, played by Sebastian Stan) so eloquently states to Charming. It is a curse worse than the one in which they had been, because now they have knowledge of who they were – and what they’ve lost.

There is a boundary as well between good and evil with at its nexus the lure and power of magic. Even when the sort of power possible with magic is initially intended for good, it can be corrupted to something sinister. Nowhere is this more evident than in the parallel stories of Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Rumplestiltskin.

When Rumple acquired magic from the Dark One, he intended only to ascend from powerlessness to a position where he might do good – to stop a senseless war and the needless slaughter of children abducted to serve in the King’s army. But the power soon became toxic, corrupting him and placing a wedge between him and his son – and also between the powerful wizard he had become, and his true self.

Regina, too, was corrupted by magic (and evidently by Rumplestiltskin who likely saw in her a main part of his plan to recover his son).  But her intention was simply to break free of her mother’s emotional imprisonment, not to become her mother – any more than it had been Rumple’s intention to become the Dark One, while only trying to break free of his fear and powerlessness.

Cora (Barbara Hershey) with her imprisoning love of Regina; Rumple with his love of Baelfire, and now Regina with her attempt to use magic to imprison Henry’s love all run in parallel. None of it is good; all of it is corrosive, destroying love, not feeding it.

At this early point in season two, Charming, Regina and Rumple all stand at the start of what will surely be very personal and emotional journeys. Charming must find a way to cross back into Fairytale Land with grandson Henry at his side. Regina is on a quest for redemption. She has lost Henry, and everything she does will be with the intention of regaining his confidence and (perhaps) his love.

Rumple has just seen everything he’s put in place crumble just beyond his grasp, and I have to wonder whether he’s contemplating crossing that boundary no matter what the cost in the hope of finding Baelfire and setting things right with him. But if he does, he loses all his power and his identity as Rumplestiltskin – and likely the means to find Bae. On the other hand, he may be considering – calculating – conjuring some sort of new manipulation. But I think not; I think he’s confounded by this turn of events, and it has no easy way out for him. And I also think that his entire focus will be on acquiring a way to destroy the barricade between Storybrooke and the rest of the world without having to sacrifice his magic. This plan to find Bae has been the entire core of his existence for a very long time, and he’s not likely to lose focus when he’s come this close.

As for Emma and Mary Margaret: how interesting that they find themselves with a new ally imprisoned in the Fairytale Land wilderness! The circle closes, as there they find Regina’s mother Cora. How will that alliance work do you think?

“We Are Both” really sets season two in motion in so many ways. The only missing person this week, however, is the lovely Belle (Emilie de Ravin). Is she getting settled in back at Rumple’s house recovering in comfort from her years in the asylum? I missed her and look forward to her return in the weeks to come.

So? What did you all think? Had you guessed Regina and Rumple’s past relationship? In so many ways, he made her the evil woman she is today (and the evil woman who imprisoned his Belle). I hope we’ll learn much more about their past – and about the falling out between these two powerful sorcerers.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Betsy

    Hi Barbara!

    Gold won’t cross the boundary; he can’t. He’d lose all memories (assuming the ones he’d keep were pre-Emma SB memories) of Bae…….and of course, Belle. He would never leave Belle alone, but if he took her with him, he wouldn’t remember who she was and she’d have no memories of anything.

    Based on what Adam/Eddy have said, it’s clear that Gold will be planning something else, another way to find Bae. I completely understood his frustration and rage in the shop; he had not planned for this. Of course, being clever and smart, he will find another way.

    I missed Belle as well, but having followed filming, I know when she’s going to be on and not, so I wasn’t surprised. LOL I tweeted Jane about what Belle was doing in a house where she has no clue about modern appliances/conveniences…and she said, reading. I hope Gold comes home before it gets dark!

    Someone also asked what was in the trunk in the shop; Jane said items for Belle. Of course he was going to take Belle with him.

    I tweeted her (because I’m paranoid about Belle and I don’t just ship, I supertanker Rumbelle) and Jane said we’ll see lots more of her this year.

    I was confused about the Rumple stuff at first, but I loved the episode. Great recap!

  • I am an admitted Rumbelle shipper as well 🙂 I hope to have Jane join me for a livechat following a forthcoming episode. We tried to make it work for tonight, but never completed the plan. So stay tuned! I agree he wouldn’t leave Belle. I love Rumple story–it’s very tragic and driven. So very sad.

  • Betsy

    I agree, he’s a tragic figure; I adore him – especially as Gold. I really identify with him. He has a huge capacity to love – except himself. I hope Belle will help him see that there is still a good man inside, that the curse did not destroy him. Plus, I think he also has to realize that he has free will. I believe he wants to make the right decisions, so with some encouragement, he can. Forget the curse and stand on your own.

    I keep watching Rumbelle scenes in the premiere and the more I do, the more I think they were exqisitely done. I think had Belle not said they could be together if he promised not to kill Regina, Gold would not have promised – he looked pained. I just think that he wanted and needed to be with her so badly that he made a promise he really couldn’t keep.

    In the chipped cup scene, it was all about Belle. He didn’t care about revenge anymore, just that he lost Belle and probably for good. Soo sad, that he spun to forget. I wish he’d remember that letting Belle go, twice now, is NOT something a monster would do, but he never gives himself credit. I do feel for him. Rumbelle is a very emotional storyline…..and Jane ships them, too

  • Betsy

    Barbara, if you’re still around…….did you have the same questions I did about this episode? It’s really bothering me.

    1) Not showing Belle at home or in the shop is sloppy oversight and something that Jane disappointed me with. Lots of people had questions about where Belle was (Jane tweeted last night) and I’m sure people not on the internet felt the same. She said Belle was reading – but really, less than 1 full day after reuniting with Gold, he leaves her alone in a house full of strange appliances that she’s clueless about

    2) The trunk – obviously Gold was planning on taking Belle with him to find Bae. A vase to show he was packing for her? Most people had no idea it was Gaston’s vase. Why not a dress or something? Too many people on Tumblr/twitter had questions – about this and #1, which means the show didn’t do a good job in explaining this.

    #3) Does #2 mean that the talk with Bae happened off-screen? If so, I have to say that Rumbelle fans will be furious; that is something that NEEDS to be on screen. This is a major plot device that Gold hasn’t told her about Bae or why he needed to lie to her about Regina. If he just did that, then Belle would understand him more and she wouldn’t threaten to leave. It’s not a spoiler anymore since the press release came out. Belle is not in episode 3 either, so what happens between then and beginning of #4 that she would threaten to leave….after saying she had to stay? Or does he do something massively wrong at the beginning of episode #4?

    I think Rumbelle fans, and you are one, so I’m curious as to your thoughts, are concerned about this. I do not want to see them turned into a series of big events with no smaller, important scenes between them. Otherwise, the emotional heart of the story is gone.

    So I was wondering what your thoughts are? Also if you get a chance to speak to Jane (or Adam/Eddy), is there any way you can bring these things up? None of it really makes any sense.


  • Hi Betsy–I’m always around, even when I don’t appear to be. I read all comments 🙂

    One of the things I try not to do is second guess the writers. I’ve learned (as well from my own writing) that threads laid down can later be plucked.

    As disappointed as I was in Belle’s absence, I’m guessing her contract is not for a full 22 episodes (much as Robert Carlyle’s was not for last season–he was not in every episode, particularly at the beginning of the season).

    Right now, she’s part of Rumple’s storyline and since there are on only 43 minutes in an episode, and a huge cast with lots and lots of story lines, something has to give. Although yesterday’s episode definitely had a Rumple presence, it wasn’t really “his” story. I think they have to use Emilie judiciously. So, I’m guessing that much happens offscreen.

    I we will see Rumple and Belle talk about Bae, but he is so reserved and keeps so much to himself, I cannot see him opening up to Belle quite so quickly. Bae is his raison d’etre, and the reason for for the curse in the first place (in my mind). How can they have that discussion without the curse’s origin coming up. That would be sticky situation indeed for him.

    I will be talking to Jane (and in fact we all will) when she will be guest at my post-episode analysis chat. Her next episode is episode #6, Tallahasse. I’m introducing a new feature to my chats, which will be announced shortly.

    I do trust Jane (and Adam and Eddy) to catch the emotional beats. They would not have brought in Emilie if they didn’t realize they had a huge gift in the Rumbelle story. I would have patience at this point.

  • Jane E

    I love this show. So many twist and turn. It was very shocking to see Regina let Henry go with David. But, I have one question for anyone. What happen to Pinnochio?

  • August has always been a mystery man. I’m not sure, but he’s obviously been turned back into a real person. Just vanished. Sure we’ll hear more 🙂

  • Betsy

    Hi Barbara

    Of course, very good points!

    I just don’t see how they can have a relationship if he’s not going to open up to her. He may not be ready for a relationship, no matter how much he loves her. They simply can not be intimate when he’s hiding so much.

    Belle already knows he lost Bae…as to the origins of the curse, it all came down to his son, so I feel like if he broke down (which I think he would) and opened up to her, she’d have to have a heart of stone not to have compassion for him.

    I will be patient because I do believe the journey will make the destination worth the while. Looking forward to the next chat and the new feature and episode 4, lol.

  • Betsy–see, that’s where the conflict is. What I love most about Rumple is that the writers and Carlyle have created in him a tormented, complex character. As Mr. Gold (and even as Rumple), he is reserved (despite Rumple’s grand farce persona). He would not reveal much of anything to anyone. Any suffering he does is in private (very much the tragic/Byronic hero). If he opened up to Belle, esp. right away, he would be much less compelling a character IMHO.

  • Betsy

    Hi Barbara

    I understand that and Bobby is brilliant, but Gold might have to learn the hard way. I understand being reserved because I am that way, but he’s no longer alone in this world. I adore them, but perhaps they need to be apart while he does his thing because I don’t want to see Belle constantly unhappy or doing the heavy lifting. I know Gold loves her in the most profound way, but sometimes love isn’t enough

  • Nancy

    I didn’t mind the absence of Belle, since the return of Jefferson helped tie things together. The Stranger from the premiere was gone too, as was Philip. He could be running around soulless somewhere.

  • Hey Nancy,

    I have my own thoughts about that stranger. He’ll be back, I do know that much 🙂

    You’re right about Phillip. He certainly could.

    As far as Rumple/Gold, I think he will be torn between his frustration in being trapped (although I do know he’s got to be planning something) and thwarted from regaining Baelfire (something he’s sought for centuries, I’d imagine), his love for Belle along with his desire to stay both true to her and good for her, and his (what will certainly be) increasing despair at his grand plan ultimately having been a failure (magic comes with a price, and he has now paid a high one both for that and the evil he has done in his life, undoubtedly).

  • Rosie

    I disagree with your comments about magic, Regina and Rumplestilskin.

    I don’t believe that magic corrupted them. I believe their own personal flaws and demons corrupted the magic and power they possessed.

    People always try to externalize their flaws and mistakes. They refuse to accept the possibility that their own nature and emotions are a corrupting factor, not something as external as power.

  • Hi Rosie. It’s the power of it. And when you combine that with a flawed individual (and we’re all flawed), that power can be corrosive and corrupting.

    Rumple was a good man, at least that’s what we understand of him so far. He fought in the Ogre war and abandoned it (we don’t know why except that he believed the war was a useless sacrifice fought by powerful men for their own reasons–with no risk to themselves. Senseless slaughter). He had no desire for any power other than to save his son.

    But that power (more than he bargained for) corrupted his soul (didn’t destroy it though). He still believes in the power of love, and he is redeemable. He feels remorse and regret as well. Rumple lives under a powerful spell. Can it be broken? Yes, we’ve seen evidence. But he can afford to have it broken until he can reconcile with Baelfire, so…

  • Chantal

    I’ve never seen this show. What’s the basic premise? I watch Grimm and like it a lot. Is OUaT any better or different?

  • Rosie

    [“Hi Rosie. It’s the power of it. And when you combine that with a flawed individual (and we’re all flawed), that power can be corrosive and corrupting.”]

    I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. I see this argument as an excuse to externalize our flaws and avoid taking responsibility for it. Regina’s desire for revenge and inability to forgive Snow White led her down that path, not magical powers. This is like that idiotic viewpoint that magic made Willow Rosenberg corrupt in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. In reality, Willow’s own personality and personal demons corrupted the power she possessed. It was not the other way around.

  • You misunderstood me. It’s not the power of magic. It’s the subtle lure of power, and the ability of the magic to take the easy way out. Yes, fueled by revenge, grief, anger, fear–any emotion, even love (when taken to an extreme). But magic isn’t the easy way out–it costs, sometimes alot.

  • Chantal. OUAT is not like Grimm at all. It is an interesting mash up of fairy tale and modern life wound around the story of Snow White (mainly). It’s an inventive show, well-written, well-acted, and a couple of actually quite brilliant performances.

  • Rosie

    [“It’s the subtle lure of power, and the ability of the magic to take the easy way out. Yes, fueled by revenge, grief, anger, fear–any emotion, even love (when taken to an extreme). But magic isn’t the easy way out–it costs, sometimes alot.”]

    But in the end, it is still human nature that proves to be the corrupting factor, not power. Even a person with no power can still be corrupted by their emotions.

  • of course they can Rosie.

  • smkearns46

    “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” lord acton

  • Barbara Barnett


  • PixieMichele

    Hi Barbara,
    Brilliant summary and takes as usual from you. With so much in motion, you ground it all very well.
    One thought after a second watch. If the original Rumple fairy tale is kept in mind, he actually succeeded in taking the miller’s daughter away from her mother. He used magic to seduce both of them. Whether this came after Cora found out his name from the original story (maybe so due to his “together” comment), or it stands on its own, the writers flipped the tale again. I absolutely love the confident place this is written from, as the risks are so worth watching!

  • Pixie–fantastic idea. Me likee.

  • Betsy

    Hi Barbara

    More on Belle’s absence:

    I think they are hurting the show by shutting Emilie out. Look at all these questions we have – that’s not a good thing. Bele having culture shock makes no real sense since by the time they get to that part of her storyline, weeks will have passed. Again, I find it hard to believe that Belle and Mo would not have seen each other soon after the curse was broken, so if they have their reunion in episode 4, that’s weeks later. That makes no sense. Then the off-screen stuff with Gold and whatever he’s doing. They are hurting the show without Belle – expecting us to forget all these details. It’s disappointing.

    What do you think about these plot holes? Plus, I really think they underestimated how popular Belle is and how annoyed people are that she’s being ignored for the first 1/3 of the season. But really, the biggest problem is what I set out above – Belle’s absence hurts the show. It hurts her storyline and it hurts Rumbelles.

  • Betsy

    I am going to be positive and Jane did say that we’d see a lot more of Belle coming up….but I think the show is guilty of overstuffing the episodes at the expense of storyline

  • Action Kate

    @1 “I don’t just ship, I supertanker” — forgive me, but I am going to have to steal that for my own use. That’s hilarious. 😀

    I love that the villains, even as evil as they are, are all multi-faceted and all, in one way or another, driven by love and the loss of love. I was quite impressed that Regina had enough self-awareness to allow Henry to go back to David/Charming. (and let’s recall that in the fullness of the FTL family tree, Henry is Regina’s step-great-grandson. =80 )