Recap/Review – Once Upon a Time – “Desperate Souls” – 1/8/12

It’s been far too long since we’ve been able to lose ourselves in an episode of Once Upon a Time, so when it returned, I was overjoyed. This show has quickly become one of my must see favourites – especially because it helps me escape from reality. When we left our beloved characters, Sheriff Graham (aka The Huntsman) had been killed by Regina (the Evil Queen) – just after Emma’s kiss had helped him remember everything. It was a heart-wrenching moment, and tonight’s episode picks up a couple weeks after that. Jump ahead to check out my recap and review.

In this episode, “Desperate Souls,” we are given a glimpse into the past of Rumpelstiltskin (let’s shorten his name to Rumpel for all intents and purposes). He was a simple peasant, who was a single father trying to protect his son from being taken to fight in the Ogre war. Rumpel decides the only way to save his son is to run, so they flee in the middle of the night. While fleeing, they pass a very strange old beggar (Brad Dourif, Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings). This struck me as really odd. What was he doing on a road in the middle of the night begging? Can’t be a very lucrative time, in my opinion. Anyways, Rumpel gives the beggar some change and continues on his way.

Rumpel is stopped by the Duke’s men, and they belittle him in front of his son. They called him a coward because he deserted during a war, and the lead man made him kiss his boot, and then kicked him. They leave him for now, but promise to be back for the boy. The odd beggar comes to help Rumpel, and says he’ll be Rumpel’s benefactor, for as little as some food. This is all really fishy to me.

The beggar tells Rumpel that the Dark One is the reason the Duke has all his powers. He says that Rumpel can become powerful if he steals the dagger from the Duke; he’ll control the Dark One. If he kills the Dark One, he will inherit all his power. Rumpel foolishly believes that he can get this power and wield it for good. Silly Rumpel, doesn’t he know that dark corrupts? I guess The Lord of the Rings wasn’t released in Fairytale.

Well, obviously Rumpel thinks this is a good plan. He sets the castle on fire, and then steals the dagger. It was a little too perfect how he didn’t run into any trouble, but I suppose this was before there were fire trucks, so people were super scared of flames. He also has an easy time just walking up and grabbing the dagger that was hanging on display. A little careless of the Duke, if you ask me.

He summons the Dark One using the name ‘Zoso’ on the dagger, while putting it in fire. The Dark One shows up, and we learn that the beggar is actually the Dark One. (Surprise.) Rumpel kills Zoso, and when he pulls the dagger out, the name now says, “Rumpelstiltskin.”

One of the recurring themes throughout the series has been that “Magic has a price.” We immediately see the difference in Rumpel. His skin has become all gold dusted, his teeth are as bad as Shrek‘s, and he suddenly looks like someone you should run away from.

He heads back to his village conveniently in time to stop them from taking his son, but instead of wielding the power for good, he murders all the guards. His son looks appalled and admits to being scared. No doubt he’s scared. His dad has a very “Gollumish” appearance. Rumpel states he isn’t afraid. “I protected what belongs to me. I’m not scared of anything.” Creepy.

Now in Storybrooke, we see that Mr. Gold (Rumpelstiltskin) is taking an interest in Emma and her position as sheriff. He says it’s been two weeks, and she should be the sheriff. Regina has different ideas and names Sidney (newspaper editor/Magic Mirror) as the new sheriff. Mr. Gold tells Emma that the Mayor can only nominate a candidate, that there needs to be an election. He says he’ll be Emma’s benefactor.

Immediately after announcing her plan to run for sheriff, the story of how Henry was born while Emma was in jail is leaked to the press. How low is that? This is where Henry points out again to Emma that she can’t win, because Good can’t fight dirty like Evil.

Emma goes to Regina to confront her about this story being leaked, and of course, there is no remorse. Evil doesn’t have remorse. While there, a fire breaks out, and Emma saves Regina’s life, making her an instant hero. She figures out that the fire was set on purpose by Mr. Gold and confronts him. No good is going to come of that confrontation, but she has to follow her heart.

Follow her heart she does, because during the debate with Sidney, she confesses to the crowd that the fire was a set up. Emma tells them that Mr. Gold set the fire. Even if she doesn’t have proof, she believes it. Being the upstanding heroine that she is, she says she doesn’t want to win based on the set-up.

This declaration may have seemed like nothing to Emma, but good’s biggest redeeming quality is that the truth frees. Telling the truth, renewed Henry’s belief in “Operation Cobra” and in Emma.

Henry’s not the only one that was affected by Emma’s admission, because Regina comes to the pub and tells her that she’s the new sheriff. The people of Storybrooke found confidence in someone who was willing to stand up against Mr. Gold. Surprisingly, Regina doesn’t appear as angry as I would have assumed. She seems a bit giddy at the fact that Emma has just made herself a dangerous enemy in Mr. Gold.

The next day, Emma receives a visit from Mr. Gold, who shocks Emma that the fire wasn’t the actual set up. He knew that saving Regina wouldn’t be enough to sway the vote, but standing up to him would be. When she asks him why he did it, he reminds her that she owes him a favour. “Now that you’re sheriff, I’m sure we’ll find some way for you to pay back what you owe me. Congratulations.”

Is it worth it? Defeating one evil, only to owe another? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that unless Emma has a position of importance in the town, she won’t be able to touch as many people. So it’s a win for Emma and Operation Cobra, but at the same time, a well executed scheme by Mr. Gold. What a tangled web.

Other Thoughts:

  • The interaction between Mary Margaret and David at the bulletin board, such sparks. I need these two together soon.
  • Emma needs to stop wearing leather jackets all the time. Red, brown, tan – any color. Just stop.
  • What happened to Rumpelstiltskin’s son?
  • I find a lot of other writers commenting on how they don’t like the use of nods towards the original fairytales. For example, when the therapist’s joke fell flat during the debate, he said “Crickets”. I found that fitting, and I enjoy the little things like that.
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    Overall, it was another great episode, and I’m looking forward to being drawn deeper and deeper into the Fairytale – aren’t you? Tune in to Once Upon a Time, Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.

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