Tiny is, of course, a relative term. 16 feet may be pretty short when everyone else around you is topping 20 feet. However, regardless of Anton’s size, there was nothing “tiny” about this last episode of Once Upon A Time. In fact, this was for me one of the densest episodes of the season, so far. It wasn’t an action episode. Nothing climatic happened. Instead, we got a great deal of exposition and well as a lot of positioning for the remainder of the season. All good stories have these moments where the action slows. Both the need for exposition and for pacing demand it. Often these “slow” moments can be rather dull. I was impressed at how much that was NOT the case in this instance. We learned a great deal and I suspect we are set up for a rather explosive next few episode.
So, what have we learned? And what does it all mean? I’ll break it into major sections. Forgive me though if my thoughts come out a bit scattered in the process.
Giants and Beans
As far as what we learned, the most obvious is about the giants. Contrary to common perception, the giants were a peaceful people and the scarcity of magic beans was their attempts to protect the other lands from conquest. We also learn that the slaughter of the giants was not just Jack, of whom we learned earlier in the season, but also that Prince James and King George were up to their ears in the attack. Frankly, James is really a nasty piece of work. I mean, if King George thinks you’re slimy you have to be pretty low. With James for a son, at least I can understand his bitterness a bit better.
I’m not sure about why the made Jack a woman. Other than showing James for the low-life that he is, it really didn’t serve any purpose in the story.
Another thought that comes to mind is that if the 100 years of work Arlo was talking about at the giant’s dinner table was just the growing of the beans, the folk in Storybrooke are going to have a long wait before magic beans become an option to get back. Perhaps magic can be used to speed things up a bit?
Snow and David
First, finding out that David is David in both lands is really not a surprise. I know it’s been discussed for quite awhile. It makes perfect sense; a good and kind shepherd boy who is tapped to become king replacing a less than upright monarch. We even got a giant story in the mix. The only thing missing was a sling.
The argument on the run with Grumpy on David’s name has got to be one of the funniest pieces of exposition in the show to date. I expect it to go down as a OUAT classic moment.
It also appears that there may be problems in “Happily ever after.” Snow may not be so anxious to get back to the Enchanted Forest as David. Her excuses had previously been connected with the devastation over there, but now it is coming out that she is not going to be separated from her daughter again. If that is the real reason, I don’t think it will be too much a problem at the end of the day. After all, there are beans growing now. Hook’s ship will probably be available by the end of the story. There’s also magic in Storybrooke. By the time all is said and done, it will likely not be too big a deal to pop between lands for visits. If Snow’s real issue, though, is that she really likes this “simpler” life in our world, then there may be some problems.
Cora’s plot and Regina
So far, my predictions when I was discussing the nature of magic regarding Regina are proving true. After her two steps forward, she is certainly taken a step back. One thing I’m trying to remember was whether or not she knew Archie was still alive. I don’t recall that coming up when Cora caught up with her. It did seem to me that Regina’s act when talking to Snow and David came off a bit lame compared to her truly evil past. Perhaps she is a bit conflicted over her current path. Remember that I said her original shift towards good was based on preserving a relationship with Henry. Her real redemption will come when she does what’s right for its own sake.
I think that is something that will connect with Cora’s real objective. On thing that became clear is that there is more to her goal than simply making amends with her daughter. I believe that the eventual realization of that betrayal will be crucial in Regina’s true redemption.
What is that objective? We did find out that it involved the giants’ beans. That’s a good hint that it is something that spans the Lands. Is it merely empire building? That seem awfully limited for Cora’s devious mind. More likely it involves the pursuit of power. Remember that she rather adeptly got Rumpel out of town. Is her goal to be the Dark One, herself, as well as controlling all other magic? We’ve already seen her go where even Rumpel won’t, so that would hardly be a surprise. There’s certainly plenty of magical power in Storybrooke for her to consolidate; a certain magic dagger somewhere in the woods, a vault full of magic hearts, caves of fairy dust-grade magic diamond and now magic beans on the way.
Belle (and Greg)
These two have connected as the fandom had expected. We also got our confirmation that Greg did see Rumpel using magic. I still hold that he managed to cover his initial lie with the excuse of texting and that this part of his story was true. That’s how he managed to get past Emma’s ability. In spite of his very significant name historically, I’m beginning to suspect he may end up being collateral damage. I don’t know if he’ll be killed outright, but something sufficiently unpleasant is going to happen to him that it brings “Her” to town. After all, in spite of all the Lost references in this episode, his name still is not Leslie Arzt.
Belle is a bit more of an immediate problem. After tonight, I’m sure the original Belle is in her still. Notice how she rebelled against even hearing her name? Her love of books is now active disinterest. Plus there is her fear of Rumpel and I think that is more than just because she saw him using magic. It seems that anything that hints back to her true self has the potential of driving her to hysterics. I don’t think that would happen if the true Belle wasn’t there for the curse to torment. It’s driving her away from the people that care for her the most, and that’s more than just Rumpelstiltskin. I think that “drive away” is going to take a more literal form soon with a physical disappearance or escape. Which brings us to…
Rumpel and Bael, not to mention Emma and Henry
I was glad that Rumpel appeared to back down from his death threat somewhat when he arrived to pick up Emma. Considering that some form of harm is going to be coming to Belle, that’s no surprise since you really can’t have him killing of most of the main cast. His promise to watch over Emma and Henry was as much empathy on his part as it was remembering his “truce” with David. Even if he meant the threat at the time, that truce gives him a justification to back down.
We also see Rumpel set on the path to his redemption. He no longer has magic and now has to face his fears on his own. Except, of course, he’s never been really on his own. He’s just been too blinded to see the people who might care that surround him. In this case, that is Emma. Her promise to take care of him was clearly heartfelt. I think – considering her own colored past – she suspects she has more in common with Rumple than she may have considered before. Whatever the cause may be, something certainly seems to have connected between them. It was an act of courage to trust himself to her as he did. It seems she has not yet left her role a Savior.
Henry being with them is, for me, a major reveal. As far as I’m concerned this is a confirmation that Bael and Neil are the same. Setting up that disclosure is the only reason I can think of – story-wise – for bringing Henry along. More on this in the next section.
So What Is Coming?
Emma is going to have a reality check coming very soon. As I just said, I believe Bael is Neil. There is going to be a real shock coming when Gold, Emma and Neil all come face to face. However, the worst shock is going to be for Henry. Remember that he believes his father was a heroic firefighter who died in the line of duty. What is his reaction going to be when he meets Neil and all the lies are laid bare. Will the betrayal be enough to drive him back to Regina? What is going to happen to his opinion of magic when it sinks in that his adoptive mother, his birth mother and his grandfather are all magic users?
The next obvious question is how is Bael going to react when he meets his father again? And with his True Love along, as well? Somehow I don’t think this is going to be all hugs, kisses and happily ever after. There’s a whole lot of baggage that’s going to have to be resolved. Will he even be willing to go back to Storybrooke as I’m sure Rumpel is expecting?
I do think Rumpel will get his magic back once he returns to Storybrooke. I don’t think it was lost when he took off the scarf, I think it was lost when he crossed the town line. His fireball when Belle was shot occurred after he stepped back into Storybrooke’s border.
I also think it is a matter of time before the dagger comes back into the story and that it will be sooner rather than later. I’m expecting him to feel its bite before the end of the season and am sure it’s going to be connected with sacrificing himself to save Belle. I believe this will also break the power of the dagger and there will no longer be a Dark One. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Rumpel will lose all magical ability. After all, he’s learned a lot over the centuries, so he wouldn’t be entirely dependent on the power of the Dark One.
At the end of this, we are going to see Emma and family, including (a perhaps reluctant) Rumpelstiltskin arrayed against Cora and a conflicted Regina. The realization of Cora’s true plan will spark Regina’s redemptive moment at the moment when all would otherwise be lost.
Finally, I do expect Cora to escape. Her heart is still protected somewhere and I have a feeling that – like a horcrux in Harry Potter – she will not be able to be killed without the heart being found. If I am even partially right in these theories, the writers will want a great villain around for future seasons.
One person should be notable by his absence in my discussion. Hook. I really don’t know where he’s going to fit in. He’s the ultimate opportunist and as Snow said, he’s going to go wherever the wind blows.
So those are my thoughts for this episode. Obviously, there is a lot more going on than just these pieces of the story. August is still roaming around. Dr. Whale still has a part in the story. Don’t forget that Mulan and Aurora are still out then in the Enchanted Forest. The long-rumored interaction with Oz is still waiting. But those may well be other stories and other seasons.