Once Upon A Time does “Beauty And The Beast” with “Skin Deep, casting Rumpelstiltskin as the monster that steals Belle’s heart. Lost’s Emilie de Ravin guest stars as Belle, who is no longer the nerdy daughter of an inventor, just a straight-up princess. OUAT’s Belle might wear the same clothes, but without her humble beginnings, she’s a much less interesting character.
In order to protect her village during the Ogre Wars, Belle agrees to be the caretaker of Rumpelstiltskin’s estate, taking the opportunity to show bravery after a life of inaction. While trying to open the curtains in Rumpelstiltskin’s dreary home, she falls off the ladder and into his arms, and a brief moment of eye contact ignites an attraction between the two. That’s really all it takes for Belle to develop some serious Stockholm’s syndrome, and a major problem with the fairyback this week is that the relationship between Belle and Rumpelstiltskin doesn’t develop organically. All it takes to win Belle’s heart is a hint of a tragic past and she melts like butter.
When Rumpelstiltskin allows Belle to travel to town, she takes the opportunity to escape until she runs into Regina on the road, who convinces her to go back to her captor and break the spell he’s under by giving him true love’s kiss. It’s a move by Regina to take away Rumpelstiltskin’s power, but the conflict between the two Rs isn’t very well established in the fairybacks at all. What is the threat Rumpelstiltskin poses in the past? Why don’t these two just work together? Where does their animosity come from? These are questions that should have been answered in a fairyback already, and the longer they’re left dangling, the less tension to the characters’ relationship.
In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold is robbed by the florist who is also the present-day counterpart for Belle’s father, so he takes justice into his own hands, tying up the man and beating him with a cane until Emma puts a stop to the assault. Even though Mr. Gold doesn’t have the same hideous exterior as Rumpelstiltskin, he’s still a beast on the inside. Emma arrests him and locks him up in the Sheriff’s office, where Regina arrives to do her own private questioning in the episode’s strongest scene.
I actually enjoy Lana Parilla this week (no Regina BGLs!), and it looks like she is finally having some role with her role. It’s amazing how much more interesting this show becomes once Regina asks Mr. Gold to tell her his real name, the name that he’s used in other worlds. The characters need to start remembering their past lives soon, because the personal drama happening in Storybrooke is not enough to sustain my interest in the present-day sequences. If the writers are going for an overly serious story, they might as well get the fairy tale war started and have a reason to be serious.
Belle chipping one of Rumpelstiltskin’s glasses is one of those winks that should be cute, but comes across as forced. Unfortunately, it’s not just a wink, but a major plot point, and it’s hard to take any of it seriously. When Belle kisses Rumpelstiltskin, his curse starts to fade, but he’s immediately aware of Regina’s influence on Belle’s actions and shuns her. He’s unwilling to believe that somebody could truly love him so he rejects happiness, claiming that he power means more to him than love, but Belle doesn’t believe him. “All you have is an empty heart and a chipped cup,” she says, which is my cue to groan loudly. All of Rumpelstiltskin’s affections are transferred to that cup, so when it’s stolen from Mr. Gold’s shop, he reacts by going vigilante.
The episode’s subplot features the return of Ashley (Cinderella), who has had her child since her last appearance, and is now looking to recapture the spirit she had before getting pregnant. Ruby invites her and Mary Margaret to have a girl’s night out, erasing their man troubles with Cosmopolitans and flagrant promiscuity. Ashley is sad because her baby daddy has to work all the time and can’t be with her on Valentine’s Day (someone has to support that child), and just as she and Mary Margaret bond over being alone on V-Day, Sean shows up to propose to Ashley on his work break and make Mary Margaret feel like shit.
The Mary Margaret/David/Kathryn storyline comes to a head next episode, and Mary Margaret is back on the downside of her bipolar relationship with David this week. They’re fine when they sit across from each other at Granny’s during breakfast and talk about the progress David has made with Anna Karenina, but when he makes a romantic gesture he fails miserably. Outside the club where Ashley has just gotten engaged, David show up to give Mary Margaret her Valentine’s Day card, but accidentally gives her the “I woof you!” card intended for Kathryn. Smooth one, Charming.
This week ends with the revelation that Regina has been keeping Belle alive in a secret medical bunker located inside the Storybrooke Hospital. Sound ridiculous? It totally is! Everyone that loved Emilie de Ravin as crazy Claire in later Lost is probably going to love her as a crazy Belle, whenever she shows up next. Until then, we have the resolution of the Snow White love triangle to look forward to next week.
- The actor playing Sir Gaston is nowhere near large enough to fit that role, I’m glad he was turned into a rose.
- Ruby’s highlights are out of control.
- Mr. Gold buys rope and duct tape at the store, because that’s not suspicious at all.
- It’s beginning to seem less likely that Sheriff Graham is going to be revived, which makes me really sad.
- “I would never suggest a young woman to kiss a man that kept her captive. What kind of message is that?”
- “Place is looking dusty, Rumpel. You should get a new girl.”
- “I have a deal to discuss. A certain mermaid…” I really don’t want to see this show try to do The Little Mermaid. The VFX would be unbearable.