At the end of last week’s Once Upon a Time episode “The Outsider,” Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is cradling the wounded Belle (Emilie de Ravin) after Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) shoots her. Out of nowhere, a car comes barreling into town nearly hitting Belle and Rumple before crashing into Hook. This week’s “In the Name of the Brother” picks up directly from that point.
Belle, who had fallen into Rumple’s arms just over the town boundary, and with no memory of herself, let alone her beloved, is now in the hospital while he tries frantically to reconnect with her. Hook has accomplished his mission to eradicate Rumple’s main tether on his humanity. Killing Rumple’s love, to Hook, is just as tasty as killing him, if not more so. (On the other hand, as long as people keep reminding him to temper his more violent instincts for Belle’s sake, Rumple will, stay more or less tethered.)
Hook and the car’s driver are also in the hospital. Hook has broken ribs, and the driver Greg Mendel (Ethan Embry) is bleeding internally. The good folk of Storybrooke now are confronted with a moral dilemma. If the Mendel lives, he can lead a parade of outsiders into Storybrook to witness the freak show: fairies, witches, werewolves and all. Grumpy (Lee Arenberg) speculates that they might fall victim to the fate of ET, to be poked, prodded and studied before being locked up. But if they let Mendel die, what does that say about their own morality?
After a despondent Rumple refuses to work his magic in order to get the stranger out of town ASAP, all eyes turn to Dr. Whale (David Anders) to patch him up and find out what he knows. In the meantime, Rumple tries desperately to help Belle recover her memory, and Cora (Barbara Hershey) approaches him with a deal that’s almost impossible to refuse. She offers him a device that will at last locate his son, the only person, she reminds him cruelly, left in the universe who loves him. They strike bargain, sealing it with a kiss “like in the old days” (suggesting a past between them that goes beyond the mere practice of sorcery).
Cora certainly knows which button to push to make him compliant as a lamb. When he quietly asks Cora whether she knows any magic that can restore memory, she brushes him off, telling him that she only knows what he’s taught her.
Cora is busy in this episode; as soon as she handles Gold, she sets her sights on her daughter Regina (Lana Parrilla), manipulating her into giving dear old Mom a second chance. Both Regina and Gold have so much to lose that Cora walks through them both like butter. (And I still don’t trust that Cora’s kiss is just a kiss, and Gold’s expression suggests that she imparts to him something other than lip gloss; he looks horrified.)
The other part of the story is a continuation (or a prequel, I guess) of “The Doctor,” which tells Dr. Whale’s Tale. Like so many others in Once Upon a Time, Dr. Whale/Dr. Frankenstein’s story involves a troubled parent-child relationship. Victor is a disappointment to his father, who sees no use in his science. Again we see the Rumple-Whale conflict between magic and science, with Whale coming to the conclusion that like magic, science too comes with a cost.
Of course, the cost of science can be the loss of magic in our lives. When everything can be explained in the mundane terms of blood and flesh and bones and chromosomes, the world can so easily lose its sense of wonder. Although I’m not sure that’s what writer Jane Espenson was going for in this terrific episode and “The Doctor,” it certainly resonates with me and something I think about a lot.
This is a fabulous episode, one of the season’s strongest. All of the main characters have important roles to play in different story threads.
I loved the richness and texture afforded by the high-definition black and white rendering of Frankenstein’s story. Adding Rumplestiltskin in very majestic red (loved that costume) was a nice touch, and since Rumple is not from Whale’s Gothic horror movie world, Rumple’s fanciful (and colorful) attire makes sense.
Resident werewolf Red (Meghan Ory) and Whale together make a great couple. Both troubled and slightly dangerous, with monster reputations to boot, it’s nice to see them drawing comfort from each other. Anyone else raise an eyebrows (or spit out whatever you were drinking) when Ruby tells Whale she ate her boyfriend? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, never mind.)
I have to wonder about that wrist watch Whale took off the Greg Mendel. Is it simply a trigger for a bad memory, or does that watch signify something else to the good doctor? Is it something Whale has recognized from another time or place? As Henry wonders, realizing that Frankenstein is no fairytale character (and not in his book), who else, from what other fantasy lands live amongst them? And are that watch and the Pennsylvania license plates a clue? What do you think, O wise readers?
And it’s clearly not the last time we’re going to see Greg around town. It can’t be coincidence that his name is Greg Mendel (as in the father of genetics Gregor Mendel). So what is he doing in Storybrooke?
Is it possible he’s a character from another fantasy land? Does crossing into Storybrooke from the outside makes you lose your magical memories the same way that leaving does. So, maybe it’s not that he doesn’t belong in Storybrooke, maybe he just can’t remember that he does. I could be completely wrong, but I keep coming back to that watch and its possible significance for Whale.
A couple things perplex me about this episode. First, Victor’s brother Gerhardt’s (Chad Michael Collins) hands look stitched, but he was shot in the stomach; his hands hadn’t been injured. So why the hands? Continuity error? Or is there an explanation?
Second, when Emma interviews Mendel, why doesn’t she spot the fact he’s lying? It’s series canon that Emma can easily spot a liar (although she’s not been quite as good at it lately). Is that because no longer a very wary, very cynical loner, but a loving mother and daughter? Has her spidey sense dulled at this point in the narrative?
Speaking of Emma (Jennifer Morrison), I really loved her scene with Hook. “You’re looking awfully chipper for a guy who failed to kill his enemy and then got hit by a car!” Hook is quite smug and satisfied, however, that he’s exacted an even greater toll on Rumple than killing him ever would have. “I killed his heart,” he declares.
But I loved even more Emma’s rejoinder, “You’re handcuffed to a bed, your enemy’s still standing, he’s immortal, got magic and you hurt his girl. If I had to vote for dead guy of the year, you’d be it.” Great line, perfect delivery. There is real chemistry between Morrison and O’Donoghue in that scene.
I also loved the Cora-Regina storyline. There is no doubt in my mind about to whom the Manipulative Bitch of Storybrooke crown goes. Lana Parrilla really shows Regina’s emotions as she struggles to hate Cora, who is doing her manipulative best to reel her daughter in, as Rumple would say “lika da feesh.” But you just know that Cora is up to no good. All is love and forgiveness, sweetness and happy Mother’s Day? Doubt it. Just as Cora has, I’m sure, exacted a cost from Rumple (still to be revealed), she’s up to something with Regina as well. What is it? Anyone’s guess.
And now to the story of Rumple and Belle. I know many of you are upset that 1) Rumple would leave Storybrooke with Belle still afflicted with amnesia and 2) Belle breaks the iconic “chipped cup,” Rumple’s most cherished possession. Neither of these things upset me at all. I really loved the way the story played out, and I have to say that I was right there with Rumple, feeling his growing panic and abject terror that that cup would break. My heart broke for him when Belle hurls it against the wall, smashing it into a million pieces. Rumple realizes he’s lost her, and he is bereft. He’s so down, he walks right by the shards without even trying to collect them.
He tries so hard to bring back Belle’s memory. I adored the scene early in the episode when he hesitantly kisses her, perhaps hoping against hope that “true love’s kiss” would break through her memory.
But it’s no curse Belle is under, it’s amnesia. So it’s going to take more than a kiss. And when he returns later, imploring her to focus on the cup, which he has enchanted, my heart went out to him. Carlyle is just brilliant conveying Rumple’s anguish and growing panic throughout the episode, from the first scene when he heals Belle’s wounds and tries to calm her to the last moment, when he gives up, completely defeated, telling her how sorry he is for upsetting her.
As to his decision to leave Storybrooke, what else can he do as long as Belle is so upset? She doesn’t want to see him, Rumple frightens her, and that’s the last thing he wants to see in this woman he loves so much. If he keeps trying, she will only get angrier. I suppose he could enthrall her, but I’m guessing he wants her not through magic, but through her love for him.
As his sadness deepens so to must his rage against Hook also deepen. And as he tells Emma, the longer he stays in town, the more likely he is to kill Hook, something from which he’s refraining because Belle would not want him to do it.
With Belle wanting him as far away as possible, and the belief he can finally reunite with Baelfire, which is, as we know, the entire driving force behind the curse and everything set into motion before Regina casts it, he must go. And so he does.
So, where from here? Gold and Emma are off in pursuit of Baelfire. (I wonder why he wants to bring Emma along.) Cora and Gold have a truce, and he will not act against her. But I wonder why Cora needs that truce. What’s she up to? I can’t imagine it’s good, and if I were Regina or Gold, I’d be worried, no matter how sickly sweet she seems. Cora uses the word “snake” to describe how the Storybrooke townsfolk view Regina. Is that what she has in mind for her daughter? I have a bad feeling about Cora (and I suppose we’re meant to).
This week’s episode is also the perfect excuse to have the great Jane Espenson on Let’s Talk TV Live. She will be on my show tomorrow night to talk with me about “In the Name of the Brother,” Once Upon a Time, and her other projects. She will take calls from the fans. It’s the second time Jane has graciously appeared on the show, and it should be a fun and informative hour for all Once Upon a Time fans.
The series will be back on the air with new episodes February 10 as Jorge Garcia returns as the Giant, and Mr. Gold ventures forth into the real world to find his son in “Tiny.” Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights on ABC at 9:00 p.m. ET.