Written by Jane Espenson, “Skin Deep” was a very well-wrought retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Originally a French fairytale, in the original a young girl lives with her father and two wicked sisters, and the father loses his wealth to bad debts, until he hears that one of his ships has returned and he might still have some assets on it. He travels to find the ship, and his two older daughters tell him they want lavish gifts, but Belle, his youngest, only wants a single rose. The ship isn’t what he thought it was, and he stays at a castle on the way home and picks a rose from a garden that belongs to the Beast. The Beast says he can give the rose to Belle, but he must return as the Beast’s servant. The man goes home, and his daughter decides to go to the castle in his place. She loves the Beast as a friend, but dreams at night of a handsome prince. Eventually the Beast lets her go home to her family to visit them but when she returns, he’s lying near death from grief over losing her, and as she cries over him, her tears fall on him and he’s transformed into the handsome prince. In the Disney version many of us are familiar with, the story is altered to remove the sisters and add a jealous suitor, Gaston, who tries to kill the Beast.
This version pays homage to the others. The father’s name is originally Maurice. In this one, in Storybrooke, he’s Moe French (Moe being short for Maurice, and French alluding to the language it was originally written in). He sells roses, which is what got him into trouble in the first place (just as it gets him into trouble here), and Gaston is turned into a rose when he dares to challenge Rumpelstiltskin.
In this episode we get the revelation many of us have suspected since Mr Gold first walked into the mayor’s apple orchard – that he knows exactly who he is, and like the mayor, remembers the fairytale world. Where he’s wrong is in thinking he’s the one with all the power, for once again, despite him being the man who can find a price for everything, she is the one who knows everything, and is keeping Belle captive in Storybrooke when he thinks she’s actually dead.
Robert Carlyle put in a brilliant performance, both as the grieving Mr Gold who shows up the mayor, beats the local florist, deals out of anguish, and then finally reveals himself to get back his one token to remember Belle; and as Rumpelstiltskin, who starts off as his gleefully mischievous and evil self and begins to fall under the thrall of the lovely Belle, finding love where he didn’t expect to, and then going mad with fury when he thinks she’s betrayed him. The scene where she defiantly tells him that all he’ll end up with is an empty heart and a chipped cup (which is actually the case now) is beautifully done, both by de Ravin and Carlyle. This is the second episode where the writers have humanized Rumpelstiltskin, and both have been highlights of the season.
Highlight: Belle: “Why do you spin so much?”
Rumpel: “I like to watch the wheel. Helps me forget.”
Belle: “Forget what?”
Rumpel: “Guess it worked.”
Did You Notice:
• The homage to Game of Thrones? Not only does the episode open with the camera panning over maps of the kingdom and music that’s very similar to GoT’s opening theme, but it immediately cuts to Storybrooke, where the florist is called Game of Thorns. Haha!
• David is reading Anna Karenina, which [spoiler alert] not only plays into his own situation – Anna is torn between two men and eventually one of them convinces him to leave her husband and run away with him, a twist on what’s happening with David and Mary Margaret – but it also plays into the story the Queen tells Rumpel at the end, since when Anna runs away with the Count she is shunned by society (the way the queen says Belle’s father shunned her), and she kills herself, just as the queen says Belle did.
• At the beginning when Belle’s father was scared of the ogre, was anyone expecting Shrek to be standing on the other side of the door? No? Just me?
• Just as Rumpelstiltskin takes Belle (which means beauty) away from her father in the fairytale world, he takes away Mr French’s beautiful things (his roses) in Storybrooke.
• Geppetto’s parents hang in Rumpelstiltskin’s dining room.
• I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr French’s roses were the offspring of Gaston.
• I also can’t help looking around scenes like where Ruby, Mary, and Ashley go to the bar and wonder who the fairytale creatures are around them.
• Sneezy is running the convenience store. We last saw him busting Henry when Hansel and Gretel set him up.
• The queen’s umbrella is divine. Seriously, I want to know the Goth clothing and accessories website she uses. It was like a creepy spiderweb.
• The rectangular windows in the jail were like the ones in the castle.
• The queen refers to “a certain mermaid,” hinting at an Ariel story to come.
• I loved the title of this episode, and the play on words it created.