From the start of season one, I have always felt that in a very important way, Once Upon a Time is the story of Rumplestiltskin’s (Robert Carlyle) journey, his search for redemption from the mistake made hundreds of years before, when he let go the hand of his son Baelfire (Michael Raymond-James). It is fitting that Rumple’s journey (or at least this phase of it) ends here, without magic, and calling on his internal strengths, and the courage he can command from it and the strength his great love has given him to end Pan’s potential reign of terror. This act of self-sacrifice saves the life of not only Belle (Emilie de Ravin), Baelfire and grandson Henry, but the lives of everyone in Storybrooke. As he tells his father, waiting for his dagger to put end to both their lives “villains do not get happy endings.”
I do not for a moment believe this is the last we’ll see of Rumple or of Mr. Gold. Full stop. The brilliant Robert Carlyle is too important a character to simply let go. The show cannot live happily ever after without his presence. Written as the most complex character on the show, his absence would be devastating to Once Upon a Time.
The aptly titled “Going Home” marks an end and a beginning. It almost feels like a series finale (and would have served exceptionally well as the end-end). But in any event the reset button is pushed, and Emma is a happy mom, never having given up Henry for adoption. She has no recollection of Storybrooke or Regina (Lana Parrilla), or even, I’m guessing, Neal.
The episode is a story of sacrifice and doing the right thing, even if it means there’s a very high personal price to pay in order to secure the welfare and well-being of those you love. Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) had given up Emma to save her; Emma had given up Henry to ensure a happier and better chance in life. And now it is Rumple’s turn — and Regina’s.
I really loved this episode (and I’m saying this despite the apparent death of my favorite character). I thought the performances were spot on, particularly from Robbie Kay, Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle. The confrontation between Pan (Robbie Kay) and Rumple was beautifully constructed and acted. It had been inevitable, but actual execution of it still manage to surprise me.
There was almost an operatic quality to the showdown. Pan’s seeming victory and humiliation of Rumple, rendering him impotent, without magic and panicked. But then the understanding of what Belle has said all along: that Rumple does not need the crutch that magic provides. If only he would draw strength from his reserves — and from his great capacity to love. Finally, Rumple acts upon what he knows: love is a strength (perhaps the greatest and most powerful magic), not a weakness. And so girded and in the presence of all he holds dear, he finds the resolve to no longer fear: his father, his destiny or his demise. Beautiful.
Where the show goes from here on out is anyone’s guess. There is a preview of the next episode (airing March 9, 2014), and it shows our heroes (minus Rumple) back in the Enchanted Forest. We also see what appears to be Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West skulking around Storybrooke. (Hmmm. I thought Storybrooke no longer exists!)
We know a year will have passed (in human time), because that is where tonight’s episode epilogue leaves us. But what of the fairytale characters? How far back has the clock been set (if at all)? What do they remember (if anything)? Is Fairytale Land the ruin it had become in the aftermath of Regina’s curse? Or are things as they’d been before? Had Emma been born yet? How are all the pieces set upon the chess board in the finale’s aftermath?
The episode is not without its flaws. It was a bit (more than a bit) deus ex machina for Rumple’s dagger and his shadow to magically appear. How can he call them without magic at his disposal? Also, the show has never explained why Pan’s death requires Rumple’s as well. Is it just what Rumple believes — a prophecy provided by his seer abilities? Or is it something more “real?”
I will have more to say on my radio show tomorrow night on BlogTalk Radio with fellow Blogcritics TV writers JeromeWetzelTV and RHeart Chrissy. So, please do join us to tell us your thoughts on tonight’s episode and what you think is in store for the second half of the season.