But, as Rumple has come to show us in previous Once episodes, magic is something not be trifled with—and comes with (and often steep) price. He has also warned that deals are tricky things, and in the end you better know in advance what you’re getting yourself into. This lesson comes hard for Rumple. Very hard.
Succeeding in stealing the dagger, he summons the dark power of Zoso. (Zoso is a magical symbol, closely associate with Led Zeppelin’s legendary Jimmy Page. Double Hmmm.) He learns that The Dark One is none other than the beggar, who has engineered the entire situation. He wants only to die, and in Rumple, he’s found a way out—a way to pass the torch to another desperate soul who's stumbled into a bad bargain without reading the fine print.
In the end, Rumple loses himself—and the son he fought so hard and at such great cost to protect. He comes out of this bargain as the new incarnation of The Dark One. It is a fall with great ramifications, most of which we’ve not yet experienced (but which I’m sure form many excellent bits of future Once Upon a Time narrative).
Back in Storybrooke, with Graham now dead, the town needs a new sheriff. Although Emma (Jennifer Morrison) has been serving as deputy, the mayor (Lana Parrilla) pulls rank and fires her, only to put in place her own man—the politics writer for The Storybrooke Mirror. His name? Sidney Glass (Giancarlo Esposito), a man who only wants to reflect well on the town. (Okay, enough with the bad puns.) But Emma doesn’t take this lightly.
Despite Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) admonition that good never prevails because it has to play fair, while evil can do whatever it wants, Emma is determined to win the mayoral race without resorting to political chicanery. However, Emma has a benefactor, who is equally determined to use whatever means necessary to win—and defeat Madame the Mayor. That, of course is Mr. Gold.
Apparently a master chess player, Mr. Gold plays Emma like a burnished knight, anticipating her moves and everyone else’s. In the end, Emma wins by defying him—all part of the plan. A greater good forged by underhanded means and a strategy that would make Niccolo Machiavelli proud.
I loved this episode. We learn a lot about what makes Rumple (and Mr. Gold) tick. Rumple is quite insane when we first meet him in the pilot episode; he bears no resemblance to the desperate soul we meet in "Desperate Souls." The deal he’s made with The Dark One has cost him everything. He says early in the episode that if he loses his son, he will have nothing. He will truly be “dust.” And perhaps that is what he's become.