Well, for the moment I’m sitting pretty smug. Not only did I get a lot of predictions right, Charming and Snow were actually discussing exactly the holiday situation and family relationships that I did just a few blogs prior. I know I may sound a bit “gushy,” but I continue to be impressed by this show. Pretty much everything in this episode has been telegraphed at some point, sometimes as early as season one. Then the writers made the “Big Reveals” of the show at or near the beginning. A cynic could argue that the episode was essentially over within the first 10 minutes.
And yet, my family and I were riveted until the very last moment. It requires a great deal of courage for writers to risk the approach they did in this episode. It also takes great planning. When it’s done right, you get great television. The consequences of a great many actions came due and the bulk of the episode was spent in the ramifications of those consequences. This episode easily falls into my top three best.
I’m going to start with the secondary stories – or at least what appears to be secondary – first and tackle the main drama of Bael last. So let’s start with the Greg Mendel thread. I’m not sure how much he is going to matter this season considering all the other threads in progress. Dealing with the outside world coming to Storybrooke could make a great season 3. Still, he’s following a very dangerous game in spying on Regina. When you consider how tempted the rest of Storybrooke was to let him die, I wonder how easily they would be willing to look the other way if he becomes a threat. I think the real point of the character is going to be as a “complication” in the “Belle’s Memory” arc.
Mary Margaret and David provided a good conscience for Emma during this episode. I don’t really consider this being parental as much a simply honest advice from a friend. Remember that it was Mary Margaret that had warned her about being honest about Henry’s father back in season one while still under the curse. Her advice has been 100% consistent as both friend and mother. Oh, and I am claiming bragging rights on the “holidays” comment. Go back and read my review on 16 January for episode 11, The Outsider. I made almost exactly the same observation as David. Of course the script had been written well before my article, but I do think I’ve earned some analytical bragging rights! That said, keep in mind those family relationships. So much of this show is about family so I’m sure it’s going to be important in the end.
Now on to the heart of this episode. So Neal is Baelfire. I called it. My 9 year old son called it. So did probably 90% of the fans, many back in season one. The reveal for us wasn’t so much the surprise of the information but how the characters are going to react when they find out. I know the show runners have said that they didn’t expect us to work it out that soon, but I’m glad they stayed with the planned story. It raises the bar for the writers, but it can be a really fun time for the fans when we know something crucial that characters do not. Both the writing and the acting have to be spot on for it to work. In this case, both script and acting were flawless.
Mary Margaret warned Emma to tell the truth about Henry’s father in season one. It was no surprise that the truth did come out. It always does and we saw the realization as she watched her world fall to pieces before her eyes. Being the eternal optimist and hopeless romantic though, I wonder if this is not for the best. The only time I can think of when I’ve seen Emma truly happy was when she was with Neal. Except for that one time, there is always a certain sadness to the character. Perhaps now, with everything laid bare, there is a chance for her to find that happy place in her life again. She has some real work to do, not just with Henry but with every significant person in her life, still I am a believer in happy endings so I hold out hope that she will get hers.
Rumpelstiltskin has some real soul searching to do as well. Seeing his back-story does give us a much greater understanding of the character. His state of cowardice seems to be something of a cloak that he has assumed rather than his inherent nature. There is an odd sense of courage in his self-maiming based on what he heard in the seer’s prophecy. This episode really defines Rumpel as a tragic character more than anything. That though cannot excuse him for his actions. Let’s be honest; he is responsible for more death and misery the Cora and Regina combined. And he has acted so even more casually. While I can see a path of redemption and making of amends by Regina, it is much more difficult to see for Rumpel. Yes, I can imagine a redemptive path for him, but I don’t see how the good man we saw last night will easily reconcile the guilt for all the blood on his hands. His need for forgiveness goes far beyond just Bael and Belle. Is there peace for him that doesn’t include his death?
That brings us to the prophecy of his undoing. Remember, that Mr. Gold did not want Henry to go with them. I think that is due to his awareness of that prophecy. Truth is, regardless of his flippant comment in the Enchanted Forest, I really don’t think that even after all the years as the Dark One, he would be able to kill Henry. That, before knowing Henry was his grandson. Now? Absolutely not. Besides, Rumpel has already knows those prophecies seem to have problems with “pesky details.” You cannot take them at face value. Henry will be his undoing. That doesn’t mean his death. There’s a lot of room for interpretation there. Personally, I think a bit of “undoing” will make him a lot happier. I think it means that the power of the Dark One will be gone – at least for him. That will be important if there is to be any reconciliation with Bael/Neal. It will also be important if there is any hope for his repentance.
That said, I’ll go out on another limb. Just because he loses the powers of the Dark One, does that mean he will lose all his magic powers? I think not. True there is a lot of power he has as the Dark One, but he has also spent a couple hundred years studying and learning on his own. Consider; his ability as a seer is not dependent on his power as the Dark One. Nor, I think, are his skills with potions. Magic learned from book or other sources make me wonder, as well. So I think there are going to be people very surprised when they think they have beaten Rumpelstiltskin by eliminating the Dark One’s powers only to find there is more to him than they realize. My theory is that this is going to play a part in The War that Rumpel prophesied in the very first episode. The wildcard in this is going to be Regina. I still think that we will see her pulled along Cora’s path for awhile, but at the end of the day, she will chose what is right. Redemption is never an easy thing. That’s why it makes for such good stories.
I’m going to close with some thoughts on one topic that has been going around the fandom for some time now. Is Baelfire also Peter Pan? Initially I was very much in the NO crowd. Though with Hook coming into the story I fully expected to see Pan showing up. Part of my hesitation has been that Pan has none of the aversion to magic that we see in Bael. Another part is that this just felt too much like a cop-out to me. The time difference I had put down to simply being due to the fluid nature of time. However, as this season has progressed, I am far less certain. It seems that there is a consistent correlation between Lands as far as time is concerned, so a connection from the far past to the near present appears less likely. That means we need a way for him to have lived a few hundred years and the only option at this point seems to be Neverland. I’m hoping it will be the case that Neal is just one of the Lost Boys rather than Pan, but I’m going not be surprised to be wrong.
To be honest, I fought the idea of August being Pinocchio tooth and nail for much the same reasons. However, I found myself very happy about how it was done. At the end of the day, I’m going to trust the writers to tell an excellent story that my family and I can enjoy and discuss. Until next time, remember to say “Federal Express.”