Her Handsome Hero 5X17

Her Handsome Hero: 5X17

Finally! I was grinning in horror the entire episode. That laundry that’s been festering in a corner for literally seasons? Someone’s decided to take it out and beat it in the broad light of day. How wonderful!

Speaking of wonderful, seeing characters we haven’t seen in several seasons continues to be a highlight of 5B. There are many, many dangling threads just waiting to be woven back through the tapestry of Once and it is nice to see these opportunities visited.

Performance of the night? Emilie de Ravin for showing us quite a range over the course of the episode, but mostly for the power of her gaze which is rather arresting. It’s all in the eyes.

Rating: 8 or maybe even 9 out of ten. We’ll see after the breakdown.

Here endeth the spoiler-free overview. Below there be dragons!

Scene 1: Especially not that cretin

Opening Image: Belle’s castle and that lovely Rumbelle theme we have all missed so much!

One walk couldn’t hurt anyone.

Maurice has arranged to set up his daughter in exchange for soldiers because they’ve got ogre troubles.

I have missed Sassy!Belle. Cretin indeed.

I have also missed Maurice. I am so glad they managed to get Eric Keenleyside back for the job because he has always been a delight. Belle’s relationship with her father has long needed fleshing out and seeing Maurice weigh the worries of his people with his love for his daughter humanizes him. In Skin Deep, Belle was treated much like property. Here we see a father who listens to his daughter and deeply values her.

Also, Lord Legume??? They named Gaston’s father Lord Vegetable. Gaston Vegetable. Pffft!

To de Ravin’s credit, she plays younger Belle with panache. Belle now has much harder edges and is weighed down by the grief and sorrow of a tough life. This Belle glares daggers at her father like a teenager, but softens when she sees her fathers fears. De Ravin’s eyes make this scene, so expressive! Is it any wonder she and Robert Carlyle are such magnificent scene partners?

This opening scene is one of innocence and a light carried by de Ravin’s ebullient Belle.

On a side note: I want Belle’s coat. I realize that it is designed to hide certain undeniable and frankly obvious facts of life, but that color and the embroidery… I am not a particularly vain woman myself, but I have an eye for things beautiful, and that coat is.

Scene 2: Whatever it takes

And now the contrast with the present. Outside the Pawn Shop, Belle hesitates.

Inside, Rumple is holding Pan’s flute. Is he thinking about fatherhood? I wouldn’t believe he’s considering his father’s deal.

He is always glad to see her, but is still uncertain after how they left things. And Belle has made a decision. She needs him, but she wants it her way. Rumple rather pointedly, and doubtfully, tells Belle again she needs to accept him as he is.

This nakedly honest conversation is so charged, so fraught. Rumple insists that Belle can’t have been in such denial when she married him, or does he suspect that she knew when she kissed him and they conceived that baby? Belle can’t give up on fighting for what she believes in though: that Rumple can do better than darkness.

It’s in this argument that Rumple gives us the theme of the episode: in the heat of the moment, you do whatever it takes. Darkness and light are a matter of perspective.

Ever the pragmatist.

Belle doesn’t have time for that though, she wants him in her life and she wants his help and she knows he wants the same. So she gives him an ultimatum.

I am not a fan of ultimatums. Here Belle manipulates and controls Rumple as surely as if she held the dagger in her hand. Belle doesn’t see it here, but this is a flavor of the desperation Rumple just spoke of. In the heat of the moment, you do whatever it takes.

For Belle, this is whatever it takes. Belle whom, a scene ago, took her father’s words to heart about judging people, is, in the here and now, judging her husband. How far she has come and where will she be at the end of this episode? Will she grow toward pragmatism a bit?

PS: I wouldn’t enjoy being on the receiving end of de Ravin’s stare.

Scene 3: Brewing storm

Emma tries to burn the names off of their shiny new graves, but Snow gets killed by the something out there.

Scene 4: Maybes and Hopefullys

Not really, Emma was dreaming.

Exposition for our B story/main season thread. The Charmings, their pirate mascot and Regina hatch a plot to go after Hades more directly. Emma decides to act on her dream.

Regina saves us from mush with a well timed snark. Oh Regina, I appreciate you!

Any chance for Regina and Emma to work together is a bright spot in an episode.

Continuity hiccup: it was dark when Hook and Emma joined Regina for the big finish of that spell. When they fail and then finish their Plan B chat, it’s daylight streaming through the doorway of the library. Plus, Regina has decided to go gab with Zelena, who wouldn’t be all that keen on spilling her heart out to her sister if woken up in the middle of the night. Oops. Note: Emma still doesn’t take her craft seriously and leaves the bookish stuff to Regina.

Scene 5: Hades lurking

This is a lovely bit of shown thematic material. We already know nothing grows in the underworld, and yet here’s this flower and Hades looks apoplectic. There is such a stark contrast between the writing of this episode and the writing of The Brothers Jones which leaves naked thematic material waving from the clothes lines in a stiff breeze like we wouldn’t recognize it any other way. And here, we recognize it clearly with no trouble and NO dialogue. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: NEVER make thematic material explicit/obvious in the dialogue. Characters can say what needs to be said, but it needs to be found out later that that’s what happened.

Rumple’s heat of the argument line about the heat of the moment (sorry… couldn’t help that one) felt like him making excuses to his pissed off wife, not the theme of the episode, at the time. That line only becomes glaringly obvious upon subsequent viewing.

Hades never says a word in this glue scene (short scene in which not much happens other than a vital piece of information to move the story forward) but it has motion, tension and, through objects and Hades’ simmering rage, we know instantly what is going on.

Scene 6: The Perfect Job

Gaston, it seems, now has to care for beasts, since he was such a schmuck to them when alive. How perfect. Hades arrives to offer Gaston the chance of a life- er, death-time.

Hades didn’t show up to discuss “girl trouble.”

Artful exposition here. I think the setting makes this scene. Gaston working at the pound is quite brilliant. This adds depth and just a little satisfaction to the outcome of Disney’s Beauty and the  Beast as well as here, in Once. Shooting Gaston in the place of his greatest misery is quite simply perfect when offering him a way out. Get Rumple.

Hades confirms in this scene what we figured out from the previous one symbolically.

Also, Gaston leaves the toilet seat up, of course he does, the uncouth brat.

Scene 7: Does that line work…

Gaston lays it on thick and Belle isn’t buying… until he starts talking about a woman of substance. She remains suspicious. Gaston hears something large and runs off to go kill it. Belle isn’t wild about this either. Turns out it’s a wee ogre.

De Ravin really sparkles when there is mischief and snark to be had. I just love her in this scene.

Sure, blame it on Le Fou…

Here again we get well placed thematic material. Belle believes in compassion and understanding above all else, quite admirable. She thinks things can be figured out. A common trait among smart people. Gaston thinks with his bow.

This dialogue plays through the entire episode and interestingly, the complaint Belle has with Gaston is the same one she has with Rumple: resorting to violence and darkness isn’t the way. Except… Pragmatism and optimism go head to head throughout this episode and it is elegantly illustrated.

Also, Gaston had thought he was the one doing the charming on their little walk, but he finds himself charmed by Belle, just like Rumple does, and she knows she’s got him. Just as she knows she’s got Rumple.

Scene 8: My optimism clouding my judgment

Belle and Rumple find the light magic recipe for tea, squawk at one another, Belle throws a in the towel and finally storms out. Gaston greets them by trying to put an arrow through Rumple and Rumple whisks his wife away so they can discuss this new threat.

How can I be so delighted by these two going head to head? See above about grinning in horror.

Here we begin to delve a little deeper into the nature of magic, dark versus light. Rumple thinks Merlin’s a moron -could be when put next to Rumple- but he still, as he did when he took the curse of the Dark One originally, thinks he could put dark magic to use for light.

I think Belle is beyond hearing though because she “won’t allow it.” She is going to figure out that blackmail is in fact an obstruction of Rumple’s free will as surely as if she’d used the dagger. Right now though she’s caught in the throws of doing what she must in the heat of the moment, struggling in the way she thinks will work best to save those she loves.

Perhaps with a cooler head she could have just heard that Rumple agreed to her terms, to use his power for good and try to go in the direction Merlin suggested. He loves her that much.

I love how Rumple calls after her. Such a simple, one word line which conveys so much. He’s frustrated, exasperated, desperate… OMG, you’re-driving-me-nuts-I-love-you-so-much! Oh Mr. Carlyle, how do you do it? Their relationship never felt so real to me as it does with just this one word.

Speaking of performances, these two bring this scene to life like a fireworks display. This argument is believably written, both stay true to their perspectives and they blaze away at each other like a pair of magnesium flares. Get your PPE or you will be blinded! While I imagine this scene was emotionally taxing for both de Ravin and Carlyle, I bet it was at least a little bit satisfying to let what’s been simmering for seasons boil over.

From my perspective, this scene oozes authenticity from both the writing and performance ends of the stick. Who hasn’t unintentionally eavesdropped on such a discussion which has bubbled up out of the private realm and into public? Or been a participant? Very well played all around.

It sounds like Belle was about to tell Rumple she’d had quite enough of his justifications for his bad behavior when Gaston intervened via pointy stick.

Belle, naturally, tries diplomacy first. Now let’s be quite clear, this is a good choice, the right choice, but not ultimately an effective one in this case. Rumple postures and sneers at the pipsqueak until said pipsqueak gives him an up close and personal look at the pointy stick.

I have to wonder how Belle feels about Rumple using dark magic to whisk them out of harms way. Or to help him catch a speeding arrow?

“It was an arranged marriage. I was doing you a favor!!” Hilarious. Line of the night?

An incredulous Belle strikes back.

That line, “Once again I have let my optimism cloud my judgment,” really hurts Rumple. He does want her to feel he’s worthy of her. He remembers when she saw the best in him and now she tells him, again, that she’s seen through his crap and found him wanting. Oh ouch.

I love how he all but rolls his eyes at her when she suggests helping Gaston. He closes them and averts his gaze, perhaps still not wanting to be any more offensive/blatantly dismissive to her, but clearly frustrated with her lack of pragmatism. He does however, appear to hear her out.

Scene 9: In my dreams

Next time, Emma, argue with your mother.

Emma takes Hook and Snow to use her magic eraser on their graves. Here there be monsters.

While I appreciate Emma’s abundance of caution here, this is her mom after all, I rather miss the more brash and brave Emma we knew from a few seasons back who would have gone after the beast herself, or found a way to neutralize it on the spot. It seems to me that since Emma became the Dark One she’s been oddly helpless. Not the usual effect of acquiring power.

Scene 10: Smooth Regina….

Zelena’s moping in Granny’s Down Under when Regina finds her and rather obviously pumps her for information under the very thin guise of sisterly concern.

Rebecca Mader does a nice job with this scene. We rarely get to see Zelena without the bluster, in fact aside from anger, this is a uncommon opportunity to see genuine emotion from Zelena. I am so glad this scene gives Mader the chance to show off what she’s got.

I am torn between wanting to see a sisterly bond form between Regina and Zelena and my need for Zelena to remain unapologetically who she is. I don’t think I could bare it if Zelena lost her zeal.

Scene 11: Regina’s vault, but less… homey.

Emma, Hook and Snow decide to cool it in the crypt while Emma comes clean about the nature of her dream.

This scene feels a bit unnecessary to me, and stretched out. This conversation could have been tacked on in about three sentences or less while hiding behind the tomb stone. There’s something I didn’t tell you- dramatic pause which isn’t dramatic because the audience already knows- you died in my dream. Um. No… this time could have been better spent elsewhere.

Failed glue scene because the audience already knew the reveal.

Scene 12: I can get through to him

Belle rifles Gaston’s personal effects.

I enjoy Rumple’s snide comments here. Letting us see him cut by Belle’s judgment lends authenticity to the argument and the character. They could have written Rumple being quite patient with Belle’s innocence as he has been in the past about other things, frequently coddling her to the point of deception and worse. But Belle has hit him where it hurts and his lashing out at her feels incredibly real. Hurt people aren’t totally calm, rational and kind, and Rumple, though he hasn’t reached the point of storming off, isn’t really on the rails any more than Belle is.

Rumple wants to throw Belle’s judgments back in her face and he does so.

Of course Belle isn’t wrong, “This isn’t murder, we’re opening a locker!”

There just must have been a little bit of fun here, sneering at one another indignantly. And Rumple takes just a little bit of pleasure at getting to put his chalk mark on the wall.

I was just thinking that I am getting a perverse sort of pleasure from their pain, but I realized that this is just catharsis that has been stored up for years.

Rumple doesn’t buy that Belle is Gaston’s unfinished business and he doesn’t want to leave her there alone, but still he wants to help her even when he isn’t sure she won’t be hurt in the process.

Scene 13: Sounds a bit dense

Belle figures out how to determine the ogre’s intentions and Gaston tries his luck.

In Belle’s library we have the foundation of her being: compassion and forgiveness, the things that truly make a hero. Belle’s value system is all around her.

Her Handsome Hero is such a great title for this episode and I just love that it appears at first glance, to me and to Gaston, as a cheap romance book… but to Belle, it is so much more. Colette raised a daughter with specific values and many of them come from the books surrounding Belle right now. This is Belle’s fictional world, the world as she believes it can be, rather than as it is. Her optimism and innocence.

And, like her personhood, it’s beautiful.

But the world isn’t like her favorite book. Beasts can be heroes and handsome isn’t Gaston (not a commentary on Wes Brown).

If anyone demonstrates compassion for Belle, it’s Rumple who patiently, and in spite of virulent disagreement with her, tries to nurture and protect her because he values her world view even without sharing it. Her hope is something he doesn’t want to squash because he’s clinging to it for his own salvation even as he sees it for the fantasy it is. He wants her to broaden her perspective to include reality while not giving up hope that it can be better and working toward that end. There is no need for Belle to stop being hopeful and optimistic, only to see the nuances present everywhere.

I don’t see Rumple as patronizing or pejorative toward Belle, but more parental in this case. He’s lived a very long time and has a vast world view to share. He holds no disdain for her youth.

And our contrast with Rumple’s patience is Gaston’s amused scorn at Belle’s silly little book.

Scene 14: Getting Colder

Love makes you do crazy things…

Belle and Hades have a little heart to heart in the pound.

Notice the dirty fishbowl on the desk? All kinds of good details here. Set design must be a blast.

Interesting that Belle suggested to Rumple that they help Gaston instead of disposing of him and now she swore she would help him? When did she make that promise? Or was that little distortion just for Hades benefit?

I love that Belle holds it together in spite of fear. She and that baby are alone with Hades but Belle keeps her cool and listens to what Hades has to say.

Hades offers Belle a deal which she rejects: let the two gentlemen duke it out until one throws the other in the river and she keeps her kid.

Misdirect alert!

Scene 15: I don’t have any issues…

This is a terrible plan!!

Regina just so happens to wander by her vault and Hook nearly cuts her a second smile. Ya-yas are aired out and Snow White talks sense, for once.

Yes, Emma, what were you and Regina thinking bring Henry down here??? BAD PLAN is right. Not saying coming alone is a better one, but your best judgments have not had the most sparkling track record recently, your Saviorness.

Sure, everyone wanted to come, but I really wish Snow would confront Emma and Regina about how ridiculous it was to bring Henry along. She didn’t bring Neal. Duh.

This isn’t a writing criticism! I LOVE that Emma and Regina showed some really poor judgment. If they were perfect, they’d ring false.

I do need Emma to start facing her fear again though. It’s almost like she’s been traumatized to sniveling since becoming the Dark One. I just don’t buy that. The Emma I remember is tougher than that. Sure she should struggle with what happened, but cowardliness just doesn’t fit. This is a writing criticism.

While we’re on the subject… Deeply thinking about other people’s writing is a worthy activity. Nothing I write here is meant to be nasty or hurtful to writers, cast or crew, it is done to seek a deeper understanding of the craft. And of course for joy and the chance to snark.

Scene 16: Can’t sneak in a belled door

Belle tests Gaston’s intentions and discovers his true nature.

The bit with the mannequin was nice. I believed for less than a heartbeat, sure it was a trick because Rumple can’t end up in the River of Souls. Of course, Once only got me that long because they’ve come out of nowhere with all kinds of stuff before.

I sure seem to be looking at sets today because my eyes were drawn to the silver vase full of roses which appears to be the same one from the Dark Castle foyer. How many foes has Rumple turned into flowers? It is a creative disposal method.

Belle’s innocence takes a hit in this scene. She wanted to believe the best of Gaston, but the guy really doesn’t share her values. And he blames her for his demise. So after a fashion, Belle was right, she is Gaston’s unfinished business?

He’s my husband.

Now we see the proof of what we suspected was Gaston’s mocking from a few scenes ago: you always did have a soft spot for a monster.

Belle hasn’t been too sure how she feels about that whole husband thing for the better part of a season and a half, it is nice to see her confront it out loud. To embrace it as reality. She’s beginning to grapple more effectively with it as she faces what Gaston is made of.

Scene 17: The eyes don’t lie

And Maurice doesn’t have evil in his soul. (Great costume! Again!)

Belle returns to the Ogre Pit to find Gaston in a heap. She STILL wants to sort out the truth about its intentions regardless of the evidence. Gaston asks to lead the hunt and Maurice sends Belle packing.

This is the first evidence of the infantilizing behavior we have seen from Maurice previously when he discounts Belle’s idealism by apologizing for it. Really obnoxious, that. Very disrespectful to both his wife and daughter.

Scene 18: Just, not today.

Belle tells Rumple about the deal Hades offered her. She makes Rumple promise not to hurt Gaston and he… doesn’t promise squat as usual. Belle falls for it, again. You’d think she’d have learned to be more careful with words by now.

I’m torn between loving that we come into this scene in the middle of a conversation and being upset because I didn’t get to hear everything. I definitely love how intimate this scene feels because of that ragged edge and the camera placement behind a bunch of stuff. It’s like eavesdropping.

You can trust me. Oh Rumple. Buddy, I know you are probably thinking that Belle can trust you to be exactly as you always have been: Rumple. And you didn’t promise her jack. Your wife objects to being deceived and tricked, this is reasonable.

But, Rumple has his baby to protect and an easy mark of his own. For him, this is an expedient way out of a bad situation. Again he weighs the pros and cons and disappointing Belle is the lesser of evils here. Is it the right thing to do? Murder isn’t right, but neither is handing over his baby to Hades. And Gaston is such a goober.

Since Rumple trades on the concept of flexible morality, i.e. murder isn’t always wrong, he is willing to judge Gaston, find him wanting and decide that while murder isn’t a great option, it’s the best option available. He doesn’t value Gaston at all.

Belle, of course, finds the prospect of murder far more foul (believes murder is always wrong) and remains willing to find another way around the Hades problem. Optimism/not so flexible morality. More on morality later.

Scene 19: I hope for all our sake[s], it was the right one.

The hunt proceeds, but Belle follows. She confronts Gaston and sees the truth in his eyes.

We never saw the ogre’s eyes in the mirror so we really don’t know that they both didn’t have evil in their souls… but the likelihood is that Gaston did as Belle accused. It bowed to Belle on its way out. Ogres, who knew, are creatures of understanding. Hmm.

The torture and hunting of one of our young would indeed be provocation for war.

Continuity problem: ogres are blind. Remember they hunt by sound? Emma fires a gun in Season 2 and brings the ogres down on them. Oops… this ogre looks back and forth between Belle and the rest of the party before going on its way.

Scene 20: You’re making a big mistake

Rumple taunts Gaston for good measure out on the docks, but just as he’s about to take out the trash, Belle intervenes.

Two can play that game. Rumple manipulates Belle, but now Belle’s willing to manipulate Rumple, or control him, to get what she wants.

I’ve always known who you really are and that’s why I love you. But I also know who I really am…

That kiss, oh wow. Rumple has given the symbolic literal form. He’s holding on to magic and Belle at the same time. Very nicely written.

And Gaston, for all that his air has nearly been choked out of him, appears to try to gag at this kiss. Chuckle.

Here’s where we get down to business. Belle will do whatever she has to in the heat of the moment. For now, that means controlling Rumple and picking his pocket. A few seconds from now, she kills Gaston.

After several times through, I really think Belle meant to bump Gaston’s elbow as opposed to body check him into the drink. The results are the same and intentions don’t matter. Gaston’s in dire straights for eternity and Belle has to live with the fact that she committed him to those waters.

This is that moment of experiential learning for Belle that will hurt probably for a lifetime. And more, if I understand how this world works now.

I hope Once doesn’t come up with a way to fish folks out of the River of Souls because that would mean diminish the long term psychological consequences.

Interestingly enough, Rumple looks horrified at what just happened. I was right, he does value her hopeful outlook and her innocence. He never wanted this for her, no matter how instructive the lesson on his point of view.

Scene 21: I will.

Belle tends a horse before her father brings her the news: their army is no match for the now attacking ogres, but Gaston still wants her hand. Oh ick.

Maurice isn’t totally wrong to call Belle foolish and petulant. Would it have been right to dispose of the ogre-ling? No, but it might have prevented a war. Maurice, as a leader of many, must take a look at the broader morality. One life or thousands? He couldn’t make that decision lightly, but it is the coldly logical one, repugnant or not. Morality really isn’t cut and dry. Thus, Belle’s actions, by her own words even, were selfish. She didn’t want to live with blood on her hands. Well, now there’s more blood.

Her act of mercy probably did get that war started, but possibly not for the reason Maurice thinks. That ogres parents probably only heard the part of the story where their kid got beat up by a nasty human and barely escaped with his life. The part where Belle was the reason for that escape probably didn’t matter to the pissed off parent ogres. So yeah, Gaston caused the war by beating on a defenseless creature because he’s a buffoon, but the ogres got the tale because of Belle.

Belle is right, letting that ogre go was the right thing to do as was trying to determine its intentions. But the world of consequences is bigger than one moral action. If events had played out according to Belle’s script, the war might have been prevented. But sometimes all the choices are bad. What then? Even the wise cannot see all ends. See this article about two competing forms of morality which interestingly deals with likability among people.

We can lay the entire mess at Gaston’s feet.

And now she’s engaged to him. Poor Belle! At least we know he ends up as a rose, or rather a lost soul. Seems he was lost before he met the water though.

You’d be our hero.

Whatever it takes in the heat of the moment. Including marrying Mr. Demonic Fire Eyes.

Scene 22: I didn’t order anything

Zelena received a favor from Hades. And she likes it.

Scene 23: A print in the woods

The monster from the storm turns out to be none other than Red in wolf form.


Rating 9.5 out of 10 with the missing half point being for the unnecessary glue scene. I don’t really care that much about small continuity issues, tell me a good story and I’ll overlook quite a bit via suspension of disbelief.

This episode is not about how Belle’s ideals are wrong, but it is about how Belle’s ideals are not one hundred percent right either. It’s about flexibility and the painful folly of black and white thinking.

The concept of willingness is a tough one. Considering, deeply considering, that what we hold most dear, what we cling to tightly, might not be the only perspective, might not be the rock of surety we thought it was, is painful. Willingness is the first step toward embracing an existential crisis, which takes a whole ton of courage. And mental flexibility is harder still when stress is involved.

Belle has a veritable bedrock of certainty about what is good, what is light and what isn’t. Being willing to consider that Rumple might not be wrong, someone to be guided into the light, takes aim at who Belle feels she is as a person: the compassionate, nurturing, helping hand for those whom she perceives as wayward.

Black and white thinking is extremely difficult to overcome and only, in my experience, shatters through experiential learning. Talk just won’t do it.

Can Belle get to a place where she takes each of Rumple’s actions on its own merits, applies the situation and then begins to see magic, light or dark, as just a tool? Pragmatism is tough for black and white thinkers because pragmatism, by definition is the grey scale in between which does not exist to those with a dichotomous world view.

None of this is said to justify any of Rumple’s more reprehensible acts or to say that he isn’t influenced, heavily, by the curse of the Dark One. He definitely is. But Rumple is quite a self-reflective being and while he frequently makes wrong choices, he is not a black and white thinker.

For his part, Rumple gives up on people too easily, discarding them as not worth it, but he is capable of caring deeply. I think Rumple’s rather jaded and cynical view of the worth/worthiness of others comes from a very long life of being spat upon rather than being solely a product of the curse. So yes, Rumple makes terrible choices, with regularity, but Rumple is as much a product of his life experiences as Belle is of hers regardless of the curse.

This is the nature of the gulf of understanding between them: black and white thinking skewed heavily toward optimism versus pragmatic thinking skewed heavily toward pessimism. The balance is obviously somewhere in the middle and that is why together they make a hell of a team.

Oh how long have I waited to see Belle and Rumple really go for it? To not step back from the differences between them? Rumple is who he is, but Belle is who she is too.

Belle, angry as she is, refuses to give up on Rumple who refuses to give up on Belle. I loved hearing Rumple, tenderly an episode ago, tell Belle that this is who he is. That he loves her and he loves the power.

Belle continues this episode to stand her ground, to deliver ultimatums. We can feel her desperation and how tightly she is clinging to who she is. I’m not a fan of ultimatums nor of Belle trying to manipulate Rumple into becoming what she wants using the baby as both a stick and a carrot. But I love that she does it because it feels so real and it gets Belle away from being too perfect. Belle is quite idealistic, permeated by her hope that the world will bend itself around her light, but she cannot be without fault or the character would lose all relatability, all authenticity. While Belle is strong, smart and hopeful, she is also petulant and her black and white worldview is both a strength and a weakness.  She will do whatever it takes, whether she sees it or not, to bring Rumple around to being the man she needs.

Perhaps best of all, Rumple has stopped apologizing for who he is. He’s the Dark One and that’s what he wants. He, as he says, feels that darkness is a matter of perspective. I really do think he does want to be the man Belle deserves, but Belle may have to come around to a slightly more pragmatic way of thinking. If she can do that, and if Rumple will start engaging his heart where others (aside from Belle) are concerned, then there really is hope for these two.

I’ve been waiting for this since Belle threw Rumple over the town line.

I’m thrilled by them fighting, saying honest things to each other, struggling together even with the gulf of understanding between them. This feels so real, so broadly applicable to life.

They love each other. Rumple will do whatever he must to protect what he loves. He has been waiting for Belle to learn that lesson, unfortunately for her, the hard way. Speaking of showing and telling…

We’ve had a few episode earn poor marks for overtly stating the thematic material. This, my friends, is how it’s done. Belle pitches Gaston into the river and Rumple never says, why yes Belle, I told you so, you do what ever it takes for those you love. He just holds her and comforts her.

Even better than that, he loves her for her idealism and hates it when her core beliefs are shaken. He wishes the world for her and never wants her to lose her hope, not her hope that there is a way aside from darkness and not her hope that he can be a better man.

We begin to see where Belle’s ideals, and yes, some of her naïveté, come from. I have been waiting and waiting for Belle to get some time out in the fresh air. Belle has so much promise as a character, but ensembles, especially large ensembles, have to share screen time. Belle hasn’t been a priority much lately, much to my chagrin.

And to see Maurice! He’s always been wonderful and tonight was no exception. I am glad that they didn’t only show Maurice as the caring and indulgent father from the beginning of the episode because that would have been inconsistent with his rather substantial flaws in that regard. Kidnapping his daughter to wipe her memory, for example. We get to see the weight of his kingdom on his shoulders and how that affects him as a parent.

Overall, this may be the strongest episode of this half-season and possibly the strongest episode of the entire season. We have long needed this honesty between Belle and Rumple and we have waited so (im)patiently for it. Using the Belle/Rumple relationship as a tableau for some of Once’s broadest thematic arcs works really well, in my view.

While I still feel that Once needs a very long-term direction, at least we got long term character goals for both Belle and Rumple. Belle needs to accept Rumple for who he is, not who she hopes he can be and Rumple needs figure out what he wants, Belle and family or his cynicism/darkness and go that direction. He hints that he wants to be the man Belle desires, but they both need to grow toward the other.

Come check out my Once projects:

Before you go, you can check out my research project! I have conducted a study of OUAT viewer preferences and you can check on my progress here. Yay for science!

Fan-art in the making! I’m in the midst of a Once-themed Gratitude Project. Take a look at my progress!