Thursday, October 4, 2012

Once Upon a Time 1.19: "The Return"

I can hardly believe that I haven't done a Once Upon a Time episode review since April. APRIL! I am such a bad little television blogger. :-P Without further ado let's dive into episode 19, a nicely Mr. Gold-centric story featuring the tantalizing title "The Return."

For much of August W. Booth's (Eion Bailey) tenure on Once, I was pulling for his fairy tale identity to be that of Rumple's long-lost son, Baelfire (first introduced in "Desperate Souls"). With season two under way, I think it's probably alright if I go ahead and acknowledge that August's fairy tale identity is Pinocchio  a long-held season one rumor that I denied to the end (since that film has never been a favorite of mine, and I thought August was too handsome and deliciously enigmatic to be A Wooden Boy (*wink* oh, those subtle clues with initials!). But now that  the mystery has been resolved, here I'll try to touch on how the writers kept the suspense going throughout this fantastic episode.

Right at the opening we see August laying in his room at Granny's, writhing in apparent severe pain. He barely manages to make it to the phone where he places a call, cryptically urging the person on the other end of the line to "accelerate the plan." Clearly, the clock is ticking for my favorite motorcycle, leather-wearing mystery of a writer. In short order it is revealed that August called a meeting with Henry (Jared Gilmore), who really rather idolizes him since he's the only adult who believes the curse exists. While Henry enters Mr. Gold's shop, ostensibly to purchase a gift for Mary Margaret, August sneaks in through the back door and begins scouring the shelves of Gold's office, clearly looking for something specific. His search is interrupted by Mr. Gold, who orders him out, but not before there is a tense moment that reads like possible recognition between the two men -- is there a connection? what could it be? Well played, writers, well played.

Meanwhile Emma (Jennifer Morrison) heads to the hospital to interview the not dead yet Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith). Poor woman has no idea who took her or where she's been, only that she was chained in a dark basement, fed, and then inexplicably freed. I was rather relieved that she thought it was ridiculous that Mary Margaret would want to kill her (I was afraid the show might go down that road, relieved when they chose instead to move on), especially since she had come to the realization that her marriage was over and left David her "blessing" (which Regina conveniently BURNED). Dr. Whale (David Anders) is attending during this exchange, and interestingly enough at one point they share a look seeming to suggest that they both share an idea of who would want Mary Margaret framed for murder. I am DYING to know Whale's fairy tale identity, especially since earlier in the season his appearances seemed to suggest he might be Regina's ally, while the season two opener is a 180-degree turn in the opposite direction. (Side note: Wasn't David's visit with Kathryn kinda sweet? I liked that it showed his compassionate side, without suggesting that he YET AGAIN wants to maintain the farce of a marriage that he doesn't know is a CURSE.)

Things get REALLY interesting when Regina (Lana Parrilla) visits Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) and angrily accuses him of reneging on their deal to frame Mary Margaret for murder. Seeing Regina lose it like this, admitting she's such an evil witch, that was a sweet moment. And nevermind that Mr. Gold is not exactly a hero, because I LOVE HIM, and watching him rattle Regina's cage, is indescribably satisfying. She's made what could be a fatal error in assuming that Gold was on her side, since he created the curse at her behest -- but as we've seen thus far in the season, Gold never has less than six possible reasons for doing anything (ha!). Gold's almost off-hand comment that he only broke one deal in his life and that it wasn't Regina's is the segway into Fairy Tale Land where we see Baelfire (Dylan Schmid) playing with a ball. When the boy is nearly hit by a donkey cart, he hurts his leg (which immediately made me think that HERE was the confirmation I'd been wanting that August was Bael! sneaky writers...) -- and when Rumple sees the wound, he uses his dark magic to transform the driver of the cart into a snail which he then squashes, to the horror of his son and the townspeople.

It's fascinating to watch the relatively newly-minted "dark one" interact with his beloved son. At this point Rumple is pretty far gone, but not so far that he isn't wounded, or at the very least peeved when his son repeatedly rebuffs his powers. Rumple has latched onto the idea that his magic can make him a better father, when all Bael wants is the gentle man Rumple once was, one who doesn't drive away all his friends because they're afraid he'll kill them if they beat Bael in a game of tag. Bael manages to extract a promise from his father -- if he can find a way for Rumple to lose his powers without endangering either of them, will he give up power and magic for a peaceful, average life with his son? Rumple agrees, the type of yes that might be extracted from a harried parent who is just humoring their offspring. But apparently Bael isn't Rumple's son for nothing, because he takes this challenge and runs with it.

A young girl who isn't as put off by Rumple's fearsome magic as most children Bael's age suggests that Bael seek out "Ruel ghorm," a magic more ancient than that of the Dark One that transformed Rumple. One evening Bael sneaks into the woods, determined to call this ancient power to him -- and who shows up but the Blue Fairy (Keegan Connor Tracy). WHERE the writers came up with "Ruel gorm" as code for fairy magic is beyond me, but whatevs. :-P She tells Bael that the only way to save his father is to send him someplace without magic, a world that would neutralize his powers. Similar to how we saw Belle awaken a spark of warmth and humanity in the wily trickster, at this point Bael is the only person keeping Rumple's humanity alive, keeping the dark magic from utterly consuming him. She gives him a magic bean (this lends credence to the idea that Bael is the show's "Jack and the Beanstalk" character) and wishes him luck.

At this point, let's catch up on the Storybrooke action. The townspeople have thrown an impromptu getting out of jail party for Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), who is a bit peeved that she suddenly has TONS of friends. :-P During the party, August drops the cryptic remark to Henry that he thinks what he's looking for will find him. Shortly after that Jennifer sends Henry home with a bereft David (Josh Dallas) to avoid an awkward conversation with Mary Margaret, she confronts Gold with her suspicion that he's responsible for Kathryn's reappearance. I love how he's all "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'D ASK ME THAT." :-P He's more interested in her opinion of August (I love how she describes him as "a typewriter wrapped in an enigma wrapped in stubble"!). Later a pensive Mr. Gold picks the lock to August's room and searches through his things -- and under a carved donkey figure, he finds a piece of paper with a drawing of a knife identical to the Fairy Tale Land relic that denotes his status as the Dark One. It was only after it was confirmed that August wasn't Bael that I remembered the donkey figure, and how those animals featured in the Pinocchio film. Well played once again, writers. I love how you keep messing with my mind, seeming to hint by Gold's visit to the "fairy" convent, and August's questions about his father, that you're taking the story one direction when in fact you've quite a different path in store for a character.

The thing (okay, one of MANY things) that makes Gold such a fantastic character are the many possibilities the show keeps meting out, possibilities suggesting that Gold isn't beyond redemption, that he hasn't fallen so far that he can't find his own happy ending one day. And given Carlyle's acting in this episode (he KILLED it) I so desperately want to see that play out. Seeing the feared Mr. Gold humble himself enough to go to Archie's office for counseling was a stroke of genius. Archie (Raphael Sbarge) played the delicate balance between fear and professionalism really well, and I loved seeing him recognize, however briefly, that for all his notoriety Mr. Gold is a man burdened by heartache.

Back in Fairy Tale Land, Baelfire takes his skeptical father into the woods, thrilled with the idea of imminent restoration for his little family. Planting the magic bean in the ground, a magical whirlpool opens, slowly dragging Bael and Rumple into its vortex -- and its at this point that Rumple starts to FREAK OUT and makes the decision to break his deal with the one closest to him -- his own son. Using his knife he clings to the side of the whirling earth-vortex and lets Bael go. Once the earth closes, he's immediately overcome with grief and remorse -- but seeing as he is the Dark One, his heart may (sorta) be in the right place but his methods are *ahem* questionable. 

In Storybrooke, Gold has followed August into the woods where he's gone to Gold's cabin, searching for something. Gold broaches the elephant in the room topic, and August doesn't deny it, calling Gold "Papa." And at that point, Gold melts. In rewatching this episode, I can't help but imagine where the show might've gone if Gold's son had been restored to him this early in the game. I realize for dramatic purposes that probably wouldn't be a great idea, but it just killed me seeing all of the hope and raw emotion Carlyle poured into the next few scenes. Gold pours out his heart, telling "Bae" he'd never given up searching for him -- and then the other shoe drops, as August asks for the knife as proof that Gold is truly reformed. And once he gets it, he attempts to call on the Dark One -- the one thing Gold knows his son would never do. 

That pivot, where Gold's all-too-brief joy was replaced by rage is just heart-wrenching. The Storybrooke scenes, where he urges the dying and desperately in need of magic August to push Emma harder to believe -- a task that up to this point has proved distinctly unrewarding, but interestingly enough Gold comments that if August can get Emma to believe him, he may "get" something out of August's death that he wouldn't if he'd simply killed him outright. In Fairy Tale Land, following Bael's disappearance, Rumple calls on the Blue Fairy to reappear. Rumple is ENRAGED, determined to do anything to regain his son, even if that means sacrificing the entire world. While the Blue Fairy seems to believe that type of magic is beyond even the Dark One, Rumple keeps yelling "I will find him" -- and I only realized after rewatching that episode for this post how that declaration eerily echoes Charming's promise to always find Snow. Two lost loves, one pure, one bent on destruction -- both hearts bruised by loss, determined to find the missing pieces.

While August and Mr. Gold OWNED this episode, there are a few other scenes that bear mentioning. First of all, there's David and Mary Margaret's first meeting following her release from jail. Mary Margaret's palpable heartache at David's betrayal, his refusal to believe in her innocence when all the evidence pointed otherwise is crushing. And David's grief, his palpable desire to make it up to her (his TEARS! Dallas can cry really, really well) BROKE MY HEART. Also, Emma's meeting with Sidney Glass (Giancarlo Esposito), where she confronts him with the bug as proof of his complicity with Regina's schemes -- that was a lot of fun. And the concluding scene, where Regina's convinced him to take the rap for Kathryn's kidnapping was pretty contrived -- but worked as well as anything to write the Glass character off the show (since he'd been cast in Revolution - he was my least favorite character, so it isn't a great loss IMO). But the icing on the proverbial cake was Emma's declaration of war on Regina, her promise that she would get her son back, no matter what it took -- that moment made me cheer. Long time coming Emma, long time coming.


Heidenkind said...

This is one of the best episodes of last season, I think. I still want to find out why David acted like such a jerk, but maybe there is no explanation. :p

Rissi said...

This episode was fabulous! I loved that August didn't end up being Gold's son just because it felt too... easy. I suspect he will re-appear at some point though.

As you say: Emma was AWESOME in this episode - finally she actually stood up to Regina! YES!

Unknown said...

@Tasha - Agreed. Of course anything prominently featuring Gold is going to win! ;) Re: David being a jerk...I suspect the show wrote that off to the impact of the curse, and the "poison" Mary Margaret refers to that is determined to keep them apart??

@Rissi - Glad you enjoyed it! :)

Kristin said...

So glad you're reviewing these last few season 1 episodes! :) I just finished watching the last disc Adored the finale. :) I'm so excited about starting to watch season 2!


Unknown said...

@Kristin - Oh thank you! I'm hoping to get 1.20 written up tomorrow. Maybe, someday, I'll be current with OUAT blogging again. :) I'm so happy you enjoyed the final episodes -- I think the season finale is one of my favorite finales EVER. :)