I, for one, am glad to see the end of the Frozen storyline on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. This week’s winter finale “Heroes and Villains” ends on an intriguing, even if unsatisfying, note, with the banishment (albeit temporary) of Rumplestiltskin (the first time actor Robert Carlyle–has been given anything of substance to work with in portraying him).
In a way, as Belle, now in possession of Rumple’s real dagger, is a stand in for us Rumplestiltskin fans. She is betrayed, having been manipulated, perhaps by rose-colored glasses to have misread all the signs throughout the first several seasons of the series to believe that Rumple has at least a streak of humanity within his ancient, immortal body?
But is this, too, a ruse? A manipulation–this time by the show’s creators? We have seen more than signs of Rumple’s essential humanity, haven’t we? Or have we all seen the character through the filter of our own romantic lenses–and Robert Carlyle’s ability to suggest something more of Rumple and to Mr. Gold than the manipulative b*tard we now have before us?
Is that glimpse of something more in evidence during the gauntlet swap really reflective of something deeper in Rumple, or are we to understand that the gauntlet, presumably swapped for Belle’s life, had merely been manipulation? No matter how much we’ve (and Belle) wanted to believe that beneath it all Rumple has the ability to love and be loved. But everything he’s done is chicanery, smoke and mirrors, the basest sort of manipulation?
Belle now believes it, and rightfully banishes Rumple from Storybrooke–alone–and into a land with no magic. And as rumpled and destitute as he seems six weeks on (in the episode’s epilogue), I cannot feel sorry for him. How can I (or any of us), duped as we have been for three and a half seasons into thinking that Rumple is a tragic anti-hero, give a flying frack about him?
So now the half-season of revisionism is complete, and we have a Rumplestiltskin in love most of all with power. This is no tragic figure, victimized by his own fear, humiliated by Captain Hook, and driven only by his desire to find his son Baelfire (after all, the original curse had nothing to do with power–at all!). We are now to believe that Rumple has never loved anything above power. His pleas for understanding are the sniveling of a slimy coward–a despicable manipulator. His promises are not spoken from the recesses of a broken heart and weary spirit, but the lies of a power-hungry villain. There is nothing redeemable about him, so why should we care? And maybe that’s the point the writers are trying to make. Belle–and we–have been duped, manipulated and sold a bill of goods. Feh.
Do we draw that line back to before he’d become the Dark One as well? To the time when Hook stole his wife Milah, leaving him to raise Baelfire on his own? And then there’s the promise, the vow, made at the start of the season at Baelfire’s graveside to honor his son’s memory–something important enough to put in the season premiere, but essentially forget. Had that, too, been manipulation? And for whose benefit?
I have to say, I loved the final confrontation between Rumple and Belle, full of Belle’s righteous fury (and as I said, she, in a sense, is “us”). It was a beautifully acted scene by both Emilie de Ravin and Robert Carlyle. I’ve missed them both sorely this season. So, did I miss something (please tell me in the comments), or can people now freely leave Storybrooke–memories intact? Rumple crosses the town line, and presumably cannot return–nor should he be able to recall who he is (unless some curse or another erased that problem). Yet, he does seem to quite well recall who he is when he gets to New York. I’m confused. But curious.
As for Regina (the wonderful Lana Parrilla), she really has changed, hasn’t she. She does the right thing–again–despite having to say goodbye to the love of her life–her happy ending. How very Rick (of Casablanca) is that. I can almost hear her say to Emma (Jennifer Morrison) as they share shots, “I think this may be the start of a beautiful relationship.”
Both Rumple and Regina have in common an interest in locating “the author.” Henry’s mystery library filled with blank storybooks (have to wonder if Rumple had anything to do with that–somehow) could be the key to reuniting Robin Hood with Regina. And Rumple’s plan has everything to do with visiting “the author,” who apparently lives in the Big Apple. Hmm.
I can’t end this commentary without talking about the introduction of the next vilenesses to come on the scene: Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella de Vile. I’ve always liked Maleficent as a villain, and I’m glad she’s back. Although I could probably do without the triple threat, especially Cruella.
Now, I loved 101 Dalmatians as much as the next kid, but Cruella is a strictly Disney creation, and I’m not sure she really belongs in Once Upon a Time. Even less-so than the Frozen gang. Yeah, OK, so Archie (Raphael Sbarge) has always had Pongo, which was clever, but a far cry from actually incorporating the Disney villain. Anyway, if their introduction is any indication, it will be a bit (?) over the top. Then combining with Rumple? Oy. His transformation is complete. Done. And, frankly, if this is the “real” Rumplestiltskin, I’m sorry I’ve bothered to care for him at all these past years. Whatever.
Like I said, the liked the episode itself, even if I finished watching it feeling I’d been manipulated for several seasons into thinking Rumple isn’t at his core a true villain. The hour was well-written (please someone, tell me what I’d missed about the town line, though). I even liked some of the kitschier moments, including the reappearance of the “broom,” and, hokey as it was, the Star Wars shout out. (Raise your hand–or better yet, Tweet me, if you know what I’m talking about). Anyway, Once Upon a Time will return in March on ABC.
We’ll talk Once Upon a Time, Walking Dead, and more on this week’s Let’s Talk TV Live this Tuesday night on the Blogcritics Radio Network.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00HZI8DOU,B00OU30SQY,1416959432,B008X7TSQY,B00BOV3R4A,B00C79NMUM,B00Q05KPGS]