Note: this review assumes knowledge of Once Upon A Time through Season 6, episode one, The Savior. Trying a new review format for this season, please bear with me!
Once Upon A Time’s Season 5 finale racked up quite a bar tab in hot and cold running promises. The Savior began paying it off in earnest, almost like the writers were trying to avoid paying interest on a credit card bill. This is not a complaint.
A lot happened.
Really, a lot of plot got done in one tiny episode. This is such a departure from what we have become accustomed to. Usually, the premiere is more an extension of the finale which deepens whatever the writers set up previously. Not typically many answers to be had in a premiere.
But not so this time!
I have divided the plot review from the in depth film-craft review this season. For your convenience, there will be a link at the bottom to the scene review as well as one right here.
The introduction flashback took us to meet Jafar and Aladdin as well as, it turns out, the Oracle. This opening action shot of a running horse is a bit reminiscent of the series opening image: Charming racing on horseback toward his True Love. Except our rider dies before the end of the scene. I’ll be interested to see how this plays in to the rest of what’s currently happening in Storybrooke.
I, for one, expected Hyde to run amok for several episodes creating chaos before the heroes “solved” this issue and threw him in jail or killed him. Nope. Emma, tremor not withstanding, bagged him and tossed him in Belle’s ex-cell tout-suite. Speaking of Emma, nothing like a little vision of your own mortality to make you start telling lies to your sweetie and everyone else. Anyone think (hope) this Oracle might not be all she says she is?
Regina’s roommate situation lasts about two seconds. Friction between the sisters delighted me. I got this tingle of hope that the writers would do the hard thing and address the rape of Robin Hood when Regina said, “I blame you.”
But those hopes were quickly dashed. This is an ongoing critique: the R word needs paid. It’s right there on the tab in bold print and it’s not going away. Regina’s friendship with Snow White and that beautiful scene between them on the bench? Give me more of that. I have missed Snow White so much and I did not even know it because Mary Margaret clouded my memories of her. I cannot say I had too much love for Mary Margaret and I am glad to see courage from Snow White again. This is definitely a step in the write direction.
I loved the dirigible by the way! And Archie!!! Can we have more Archie??? Please?
Hyde’s comment about nothing being more dangerous than an untold story bodes well for forcing our friends to deal with uncomfortable situations for the rest of the season. And that’s where I want them, uncomfortable. Stories about kittens and flowers are nice, for about two seconds or less. Feed me angst or go home.
Speaking of angst, poor Emma is at it again, trying to deal with her problems alone. She really does need Archie.
But I hope she isn’t Archie’s only customer.
On to the B Story:
The last great pay off to discuss genuinely surprised me. They woke Belle in the premiere. How are we going to recognize this show as Once if Rumple and Belle are not separated or asleep? Ok, so Rumple did not follow Belle through the portal, he stood there like a lost puppy, but no force in the universe keeps Rumplestiltskin from his children forever, so I anticipate he will follow her with haste. And he can because he, last one to arrive at the portal jumping party, has the Apprentice’s wand. I mean wrinkled old knob. (I still haven’t gotten over that line.)
While we are on the subject of Rumbelle, did I hallucinate or was Once’s opening volley a Rumbelle story? We have not seen Rumbelle as the season focal story… ever? Love stories are almost always the B Story in fiction primarily because they need so much background to back them up and make them feel real. None of this is to say love stories are any less important than A Storylines, in fact sometimes they are the most important thing, but they are a serious amount of work to write and require careful scaffolding.
Could Rumbelle be our B Story for the season? Help me on this, they have typically had a couple of centric episodes a year. What about the other couples? Snowing had all of Season 1, more or less. Season 2 saw a smattering of everyone, which I liked. Season 3, likewise. Season 4 same-ish. Fair enough. For three seasons, we got focal episodes for our cannon pairings. Then Season 5 rolls around and it is very focused on CaptainSwan. Unless I have grossly misremembered, which is always possible. I won’t go count screen time to see exactly how everyone stacks up, minute for minute. Someone more obsessed than me can do that and I’ll go read their article. Of note, the other major cannon pairings are half-dead: SwanFire and OutlawQueen, so that leaves us with our three major cannon pairings: Snowing, Rumbelle and CaptainSwan. And of them Rumbelle is the only one yet to have been B Story for a season.
Yes, there have been other consequential pairings (and as many as the fans can imagine which is WONDERFUL), but they are beyond the scope of this article. SwanQueen is one fanon example- which I truly enjoy. There are many great things to say about all of Once’s love stories, but this one little review article is about The Savior and won’t delve into them.
Getting back to the point, could we be seeing the birth of a Rumbelle-centric season???
The indications are very strong so far. When we are talking about paying off storyline debts, the Rumbelle tab is a long one. The writers just made a serious inroad into having Rumbelle deal with their issues out loud and in public, meaning in front of us fans. In addition to this, Beauty and the Beast is HUGE right now, with the new live action film coming up and new teasers emerging frequently. It would be very smart to capitalize on this opportunity.
Beauty and the Beast has been in the hearts and minds of the public for a very long time. We have not forgotten about it and it sings to us. There is SO much potential ahead for the Rumbelle story I can’t hardly sit still.
There are a few plot specific details of this episode I do want to bring up.
At first, when we met Morpheus in Belle’s dream I frowned a little thinking that they had used the “guide” device as a literary short cut to do some exposition about Belle’s dream world. I thought Morpheus to be rather inconsequential at this moment in the story, not that I didn’t expect to see him again, but I did not see his true purpose coming. And they did use Morpheus as an expository tool, but then… Then I got over my distaste for this shortcut because what they did I felt was excellent.
With Rumple unable to wake Belle with True Love’s Kiss, just kissing her again in the veil of a dream where she is unaware would be a cop out. And, as Morpheus pointed out, a pretty awful deceit-after a fashion, but we’ll come back to that. With all the candidates for waking Belle out of the equation and Belle not being consciously aware enough to make her own choice in the dream, options for actually waking her this episode seemed very slim indeed.
Using Rumbelle’s unborn child to do the deed, I think, was brilliant. I am not sure I buy how a fetus is conscious and aware in the dream world with an adult set of faculties and seemingly future, or at least present, knowledge of how things sit between Rumple and Belle, but that there was another source of True Love available, I do like. Very much.
The writers will have to pay off that strange adult version of Belle’s child somehow, but for now I will suspend my disbelief on account of cleverness. And I theorize that Morpheus might have had something to do with facilitating interaction between Rumbelle and their still tiny ball of unaware cells. Makes me think we could still be in for some surprises about Rumbelle’s baby.
Back to deception. Rumple was right about one thing, he truly loves Belle and asleep or not, her feelings are real and present. But Morpheus was most assuredly correct to say that taking advantage of her lack of awareness is a deceit. It would have taken away Belle’s choice.
Speaking of true feelings, it appeared to me that when Belle kissed Rumple, he was allowing his curse to break, right then and there. This may not be the case though, because what we saw might just have been how Belle became aware in the dream even if she did not kiss him long enough to wake herself up entirely. But it does prove something very important to the audience: Rumbelle remain True Love.
That leads me to what I think I love most about this episode. If this were a fairytale, Belle would have become aware, listened to what Rumple said about their marriage and their child, and then kissed him again to break both of their curses. But Once is not a fairytale. That’s the whole point of this show. Once uses fairytales as a substrate for story telling, but brings them into our real world.
Think about that for a moment: what happened between Belle and Rumple after their kiss is the entire premise of the show. The promise of the premise fulfilled. What would happen if the fairytale collided with the real world? In real life, love is not always all it takes to make a relationship viable. In the real world, broken trust can be difficult if not impossible to mend. Smart girls like Belle don’t put up with their partner’s lies and deceits, not to mention casual murders. They leave. Even if they do truly love them.
Belle has a huge responsibility growing inside. Rumple has proven to her over and over again that he will do what he thinks is expedient regardless of her wishes. She knows, believes, he loves her, that is not the question. His darkness is. Does she think he is a fit parent? I would not parent with Rumple, or someone like him, and I ADORE is character. Does Belle know that Rumple will do anything to protect his children? Yes, she knows that, but that is not enough.
The problem is the example he sets and the lengths he is willing to go to without being mediated by, or even bothering with consultation of, her values and morality. Rumple has his own code, but it does not match Belle’s and he does not always seem to put much stock in her views. No one would feel an equal partner in a situation like that. I am not saying that Rumple is purposefully discarding her point of view as a way to control or hurt her, he’s not, but his choices reflect his lack of compromises in this area.
To be clear, I am not judging Rumple as a bad person or an unfit father. I think that this baby has the potential to help Rumple reevaluate his choices from a brand new perspective. I have tremendous amounts of hope for Rumple because he just put his money where his mouth was. Literally. Would he have allowed his curse to break right then and there before Belle pulled away from him? I am uncertain. But he began changing as Belle became aware and when she pulled away, his imp form snapped back into place. To me this implies that he meant what he said about being the best man he could be for her. He demonstrated change. (I am so proud of him!)
But what I think doesn’t matter. Belle just told him she doesn’t consider him fit. That’s her choice.
Remember what Rumple said to her in response to her thinking she did not have choices there, with him in the Dark Castle? He said, “You do.”
And he let her kiss him rather than pushing her. No, he did not recognize her non-cognizance as a major flaw in his plan, because as he said, his feelings are true, but he did not go about it intending to abrogate her free will. Belle puts a premium on honesty, she needs to be able to rely on him, to trust him at his word. Rumple sees this in a more fluid light. See above about values conflict.
And this is why I am a Once fan, in spite of whatever missteps have happened and I’m certain will continue to happen as the show progresses. This scene demonstrated the rational, real life choice that many would make faced with this situation: the fairytale in the broth of real life.
Belle and Rumple have True Love, but that is not all it takes.
I hope for Rumbelle, vigorously. As I mentioned, having a Rumbelle-centric season opener bodes well for our getting to spend some time with them, as does the current Beauty and the Beast craze. There is a lot of work to be done between them and choosing to put that in the season opener demonstrates some level of commitment toward that end. I don’t need Rumbelle’s story to be smooth and sweet, but I do need it to be told. I need to see this struggle, to see if Rumple can change enough to earn Belle’s trust again AND to see if Belle can/wants to accept Rumple for the man he is.
Aside from my earlier complaint about not addressing the R word, my only other real gripe, and it’s a small one is pacing. I always seem to want more time with each scene. Yes I just got through praising how much got done in one episode, but there’s a cost to that and that’s feeling rushed. I could have happily spent an entire episode in Belle’s dream world and an entire episode in Storybrooke with our other heroes. At least.
All in all, I felt this episode was solid: 8/10 for the two reasons mentioned above.
I have high hopes for this season because right off the bat, the writers have given us something different from what they have in the past. And they have made us a lot of promises. Regina wants a new story. Emma is going to die. Rumple does not want to be a beast anymore. And we know the land of untold stories is going to wreak havoc. I can’t wait.
Post Script: If you have noticed my passion and enthusiasm over Rumbelle, how it tends to make me write a lot and go on at length, I hope I am bringing my joy into your life. I am very aware of fandom dynamics and I want this to be understood: I love Once Upon A Time. It means a hell of a lot to me. Rumbelle is very special for some very specific reasons which I will eventually share here in future articles. But loving one pairing does not exclude me from enjoying the others. I don’t like to think of myself as “anti” any character or any “ship” as they are called. If you continue to read on this blog, you will read my candid opinions about all kinds of things. I am not here to yuck on anyone else’s yum, even if it looks like I hold opinions contrary to yours. My opinions are just that, my opinions. I invite and encourage you to comment and tell me when you disagree with me. By all means, go write your own articles and tell me about them so I can go and read them. I believe in being respectful and will do my best to that end, always.
Up Next: In depth scene review for The Savior
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!