At last we arrive at the original fairytale of "Rumplestiltskin" (played by the fabulous Robert Carlyle) in this week's Once Upon a Time episode "The Miller's Daughter." In the Grimm tale, Rumple shows a poor miller's daughter how to spin straw into gold so she can marry the king and live happily ever after. But there's a catch. For his secret, Rumple requires payment, for all magic comes with a price. And that is possession of the girl's first child.
There is, in the original tale, an "out" clause in the agreement. If she can say Rumplestiltskin's name, she will no longer be bound to give up her child. And of course, in Grimm, she does, and therein escapes her fate.
Because this is Once Upon a Time, Rumple's tale is altered, adding a layer of tragedy to Storybrooke's most tragic of antiheroes. For us, the story also lends us a new layer of understanding that echoes back to last season's brilliant "Skin Deep," making Rumple's deep self-hatred and his words that "nobody can love me" all the more resonant.
ABC has released several sneak peeks for the episode, of which I've embedded three. But be cautioned; they are very spoilery indeed.
"The Miller's Daughter" embodies everything that makes Once Upon a Time a great series: beautiful writing, wonderful, emotional, passionate performances, and a story that propels the show's narrative arc forward, involving every one of the series central characters in meaningful ways.
From the pen of the fabulous Jane Espenson, this pivotal episode is in expert hands, as Espenson understands this version of Rumplestiltskin as no one else can (well, except perhaps the series creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis).
The Fairytale Land story begins in classic fashion, well, except for the fact that the miller's daughter is, in fact, Cora (Rose McGowan), none other than the woman who will become Regina's (Lana Parrilla) evil, manipulative mother someday. Oppressed and victimized by snobbish royals, Cora is approached by our Dark One, who offers a deal, and one that will forward Cora's ambitions for both power and revenge upon the condescending King and his arrogant family.
Complications ensue when matters of the heart get in the way. Cora has a potentially life-altering decision to make when Rumple offers to slightly amend their agreement. But how will Cora react to the offer, and what does it reveal about her character?