Sunday, January 08, 2012

Once Upon a Time Ep 8: Desperate Souls

Before I begin this week’s writeup, I just wanted to mention a book I read in the fall called The Book of Lost Things. If you enjoy fairytale stories for adults (the same way OUAT is twisting the stories) I think you’ll really like this. A boy crawls through a hole in his garden and enters a fairytale world, where he is met with familiar creatures from the storybooks (and followed everywhere by the person who is the main character of this OUAT episode) only to find they’re not what they seemed in his books. Definitely check it out… it’s a great story.

The writers of Once Upon a Time have said one of their missions with this show is to show the other side of fairytales, to lead us along with the notion that what we’ve always known to be true (bad guys are bad, good guys are good, happy endings are always forthcoming and evil gets it in the end) is true, only to pull the carpet out from under us and show us the opposite. Evil can prevail, good guys aren’t all good, but bad guys are actually sympathetic. What made the Evil Queen evil? What turned Rumpelstiltskin into a trickster? Why are there so many people in storybook land who have a bug up their arse and are always plotting other people’s revenge?

And so, in the 2012 return of the show, we go back to the origins of Rumpelstiltskin, the man who is quick to make a bargain, and just as quick to turn it around on people and trick them into having to hand over more than they thought they’d bargained for. Rumpelstiltskin was a loving father who would do anything to keep his son out of the hands of the conscriptors who mercilessly pulled children into the ogre war when they turned 14. His boy is a couple of days away from that fateful birthday, so he attempts to escape from the men, until they’re caught on the road. The men taunt Rumpelstiltskin and tell the boy that his father was a coward who ran away from the ogre war and left the others behind to be slaughtered, and his wife couldn’t bear the sight of him when he returned from the war. He humiliates Rumpelstiltskin in front of his son, no doubt making him son see him as less than he once thought, and another man, disguised as a poor man looking for alms, takes him under his wing. He convinces him to go after the Dark One, and once he discovers that man’s name, he would be able to control him. He tells Rumpelstiltskin to steal the Dark One’s dagger, which has the Dark One’s name written on it, and he will call him forth by saying his name, and then he has to kill him. Rumpelstiltskin does that, and when he kills the Dark One he realizes he’s been tricked… the Dark One is in fact the poor man, and now Rumpelstiltskin will succeed him. Upon the man’s death, Rumpel’s skin begins to turn greenish-gold, his teeth rot, and he is all-powerful. He returns to his home to slaughter the men who threatened him, but instead of awe in the eyes of his son, he sees nothing but fear.

Meanwhile back in Storybrooke, another succession is taking place – Graham is died and Emma assumes she’ll take the mantle of sheriff. But, no surprise, Regina has other ideas and puts Sidney in place of Emma, until Emma challenges the appointment and demands an election. Mr. Gold tells Emma he’s on her side, and burns down the mayor’s office. Emma realizes what he’s done, and announces at the debate that he’s committed a crime on her behalf, but everyone in Storybrooke is thrilled that they have someone in town who’s actually honest, and Emma wins. In the storybook world, Rumpelstiltskin has had a role thrust upon him; in Storybrooke, Emma has reached for that role and earned it. But in both cases, they have taken on a dangerous power that, on the one hand, should make everyone respect them, but instead, they’ve adopted a whole new crop of enemies.

• Emma yelling to find out if Mr. Gold is in the store, and him muttering, It IS my store…
• Emma telling Henry to read something more reliable, like the Internet.
• Regina asking if Henry now knows that Emma cut his cord with a shiv. Haha!
• Archie’s stammering introduction of Glass… Swan…

Did You Notice?:
• Emma’s actually not one of my favourite characters on the show – she’s unnecessarily harsh at times and I just don’t like her that much – but I’ll have to rethink that after hearing her blaring Sonic Youth’s Kool Thing.
• In Mr. Gold’s shop, you can always prominently see a mobile of glass unicorns hanging near the cash register. I wonder if those unicorns were magically turned to glass. I don’t trust anything in that shop – I’m assuming everything in it is a result of dark magic.
• There’s a Mickey Mouse figurine in Mr. Gold’s cabinet. OMG, did he attack Mickey Mouse, too?
• There’s also a chess set… I’ve wondered if that’s a subtle Alice in Wonderland reference.
• When Mr. Gold said, “I don’t know… be a hero in a fire?” he flicks his fingers in the air the same way Rumpelstiltskin always did.
• The talks between Emma and Mary Margaret are very mother-daughter.
• When he sees his name on the dagger, it’s misspelled as Rumplestiltskin. (Rumple instead of the far more common Rumpel…) Rumplestiltskin is used on occasion, but Rumpelstiltskin is the far more acceptable spelling of the name.

Lost references:
• Emma still drinks the McCutcheon.

Ruby Red:
• Mr. Gold wears all black except for a tie patterned with red.
• Henry’s scarf has red stripes.

Any Questions?:
• I’m still wondering what Rumpelstiltskin had been gardening in the forest in the previous episode…
• How did Rumpelstiltskin go from being a fearsome Dark One to a cackling crazy person who hopped around and taunted everyone around him with an odd shake of his head and a flourish of his fingers whenever he talked?
• In the original fairytale, no one knew Rumpelstiltskin’s name – that was his power (just as the Dark One in this episode has a secret name, and the way to get power over him is to find it out). But in previous episodes, everyone knows Rumpelstiltskin’s name… he doesn’t try to hide it at all. Why the change? Especially when Rumpelstiltskin is still caught up in knowing names (remember him asking Snow White what her baby will be named?)


The Question Mark said...

I still think Rumple was planting a beanstalk during his "spot of gardening" :P

And on the topic of Mr. Gold's shop, I STILL can't wait to see the Aladdin storyline that they teased by throwing the genie's lamp in there a few episodes ago. Aladdin rocks.

And is it just me, or is Red Riding Hood getting hotter every time we see her?

Anonymous said...

And did you notice:

When the knight tells Rumpel to kiss his boot, his son is holding the lantern in his left hand. Then after a quick cut to Rumpel then back to his son (only a second or two) he is holding the lantern in his right hand.

Emma is wearing her usual red jacket inside Gold's shop, but at the debate and then at the restaurant, she's wearing a brown jacket. The jackets are custom made for Jennifer Morrison (Emma) at a Vancouver store.

Chris in NF said...

And did you notice:

The beggar, aka The Dark One = Doc Cochrane from Deadwood, = Wormtongue from LotR.

Dusk said...

I know some people wanted this to be more like Grimm's fairytales, I think this episode was the beginning of the balance between darker elements but still doing in in a way kids won't grasp all the undertones, so it still remains reasonably family-friendly. I agree, the fluff is nice, but the show needs to toughen up if it wants to last.

Archie's confidence at public speaking=me.

I'm betting Balefire (is that right?) either leaves his father or ends up dead, so that created the cooky dealer we know.

OK, Storybrooke's inexact population, and ever changng size remind me of a certain town in California that also had magic and huge things under it...not LA...I wonder where? :)

Lost candidate refrence.

Rumpelstiltskin keeps reminding me more and more of Desmond. Killing a man and regreting it while causing a major plot event at the same time.

OK, Ginnfer is adorable even when she's working out agression with a staple gun.

Em said...

As an adult re-reading Rumpelstiltskin, I find his character far more sympathetic than I did as a child. The King is the one that comes across as evil to me in that story now.

Nikki Stafford said...

Em: I'm so glad you that say that, because I feel the same way. When my daughter was 2, someone bought her this little box of fairytale books for Christmas. Even though they're for kids, they're a little harsher (ie truer to the originals) than is typical in kids' books. In Rumpelstiltskin, the king traps the miller's daughter, then tells her to spin gold. She cries and R shows up, spins her a spindle worth. King says that's awesome, now spin me this whole room filled with straw into gold and traps her again. R shows up, spins it all for her for another bauble, and the king is pleased. So then he gives her a full tower filled with gold and says she must spin it or he'll keep her father in jail, and if she does manage to do it, he'll marry her. R shows up, claims the first-born and spins the gold. And the king marries her.

I'd always pause there and say to my daughter, "Not the the king was a great catch. Who'd want to marry the man who had jailed her?" Not to mention in this book, they made the king look older than her father, with long white hair and a beard. And then R would come to get the baby and she refused, he gives her a way out to learn his name, she does, and he stomps his foot and falls into the hole. And at the end I said that Rumpelstiltskin was the only person who actually helped her and expected her end of the deal to come through. Everyone else in the book was nasty or cheated other people. It always left a bad taste in my mouth (but she was fascinated by the picture of the little man falling through the hole, so we had to read it all the time...) ;)

Anonymous said...

Is the Giant seen at

the same guy we see at the mayor's press conference and in a later scene?


I don't recall seeing the Duke, although we see the Duke's Knight, Hordor (rhymes with Mordor!)

Dylan Schmid as Baelfire, Conner Dwelly as Morraine, Kate Bateman as mother, Mark Gash as father, Ty Olsson as Hordor, Brad Dourif as old beggar, Michael Phenicie as The Duke, C. Ernst Harth as burly man/the ogre

Anonymous said...

* 2 worlds: Fairy Tale world and Real World

* 2 weeks since Graham died

* 2 badges seen together on table (sheriff badge and deputy sheriff badge)

* 2 candidates for sheriff (Emma, Sidney)

* Rumple's son Balefire to turn 14 in 2 days

* 2 walkie-talkies

* street scene: shot of Second/Main (Storybrooke)

* expression "kiss my boot" said 2 times--once by knight and once by Rumpel

* 2 caps: Mary Margaret and David each wearing one

Anonymous said...

In his shop, Mr. Gold told Emma that spending time with one's child is very precious, and before you know it, you lose them.

Is this the key to why Rumpel wants to acquire children--he own son Baelfire either ran away (in fear of his father), was killed in the ogre war, or maybe Rumpel killed him in a fit of rage, and now he's trying to redeem himself by making "deals" for children because he longs to have a child of his own, just as Regina and Marco (Geppetto) did, to fill the void?

In the Grimm version, what was Rumpel's motivation for wanting to take a mother's first born child?

Stacy said...

Am i just slow? I just figured that Sidney Glass is the "man in the mirror mirror on the wall", hence the last name, hence the name of paper- "storybrooke daily mirror".

Fred said...

Things to like about this episode, and things not to like. Whenever Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold appear on the screen, I am really entranced with the acting--too bad some of the other characters appear somewhat weak. Also the A-plot and B-plot: fire in both worlds to achieve what Rumpelstiltskin/Mr Gold wants, namely the dagger/Emma as sherrif (acheivement to power in both cases). In the B-plot, Rumpelstiltskin's sone looks on him in horror; while in the A-plot, Henry looks on Emma as a hero. The really bad was the Lost reference of having to kill the Black Knight to achieve his power, just a Jacob's brother kills Mother and becomes the Smoke Monster--too much of a parallel, and I wish they'd just give up on this aspect.

Annonymous, there is also the continuity error, when Mr. Gold has the Town rules book in his arm, he sets it down at the table he and Emma are at. The next shot it is still in his arms. Was this episode rushed in the shooting?

Anonymous said...

March 4/12

Once Upon A Time: Paley Fest 2012 (Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills)

Jezebel said...

In regards to the unicorn mobile. I believe that if you re-watch the first episode, you will see it hanging above what was to be Emma's bassinet.