I think Once Upon A Time is finally hitting its stride this season with the latest episode, “The Crocodile”. Some fans may be disappointed, as this is a Regina, Emma, and Snow-less episode. But fans of Rumplestilskin (like me) can rejoice, this episode is all about him. Belle and Ruby are in there to keep the female numbers from reaching zero, we see some Cora at the end, and the dwarves are there, toiling away in the mine looking for fairy dust. There were a few bumps here and there, but over all a more than solid, and very enjoyable, episode. We also meet Captain Hook for the first time, as has been foreshadowed in different teasers for the season.
We start out with a dream sequence. Belle and Rumple are in his shop, getting ready for what passes for a night out on the town in Storybrooke (A milkshake at Granny’s then feeding ducks or something? I don’t think Storybrooke even has a bar, I could never live there.) Grumpy the Dwarf storms in, demanding his axe back. After he insults Belle, Rumple threatens give him back the axe, planted in his chest. Belle attempts to stop Rumple, telling him this isn’t him anymore. Rumple turns back, and his face has reverted to his Enchanted Forest appearance. He tells Belle this is him, always has been and always will be. Belle awakens from the dream in fright.
This is proven to be a lie. As we know from Season 1, Rumplestilskin was a very different man when he was, well, still a man. He was craven and cowardly. We meet his (way too attractive for him, sorry Robert Carlyle) wife, Milah, in this episode. He finds her in a bar, drinking with pirates. After insulting him and mocking his cowardice, implying that it would have been better if he had died in the Ogre Wars than run away, she returns home with him only when their son Baelfire enters the bar and asks for her. When they return home, she bemoans her life as the wife of the village coward. This sequence wasn’t my favorite in my first watch-through. I am a big Rumplestilskin fan, but I felt we had gotten enough background on him as a cowardly man in Season 1. But it is all brought together over the course of the episode.
In Storybrooke, Belle sees Rumple spinning straw into gold and making potions late at night. When she confronts about it in the morning, demanding he tell her the real reason he brought magic to Storybrooke, he tries to brush her off. He uses his standard “magic is power” answer. She tells him he needs courage, not power. She storms off.
Back in the Enchanted Forest of Yesteryear, Rumple opens his door to a neighbor telling him he needs to get down to the docks, as his wife has been kidnapped by the pirate crew she was drinking. He rushes off to the docks. After boarding the ship he is confronted by the captain, Killian Jones. Rumple implores Killian Jones to let Milah go, as she has a son who needs her. After stating that he has a ship full of men who need “companionship”, Jones challenges Rumple to a duel to get Milah back. Predictably, Rumple fearfully refuses and is thrown off the ship.
We see David and the dwarves grubbing in the mine looking for fairy dust (I predict this will be futile). David, who had decided to become acting sheriff until Emma returns, leaves early. He opens the door to see Rumple, who has discovered that Belle has either run away or been kidnapped (turns out both, we’ll get to that), asking for his help in tracking her down. Previously Rumple had confronted Moe, Belle’s father, demanding information on her whereabouts, but Moe was clueless. David refuses at first, but relents.
The Dark One is meeting with a man (Chris Gauthier, Vincent on Eureka) in a bar, inquiring after a magic bean like the one Baelfire used to travel to Our World. After promising the man a new chance at youth via magic, Rumple sends him away to fetch the bean. Preparing to leave, he notices Killian Jones and his crew ordering drinks. He later confronts them in an alley, demanding to know how Milah is doing. Killian informs him that Milah died a long time ago, and Rumple challenges him to a duel, at dawn. When they meet for the duel, Rumple is about to rip Killian’s heart out of his chest, but is stopped by the sudden appearance of Milah, alive and in pirate garb, who pleads for Killian’s life. She tells Rumplestilskin that they have kidnapped the man who procured the magic bean for him, and will give it to him if he spares their lives. Rumple demands to see the bean before he makes any deals.
Belle has run away. We see her at Granny’s, drinking iced tea for the first time (remember, she was locked up under the hospital for 28 years). She has a conversation with Ruby about what she should do with her life. Ruby suggests she look for work at the library. While there she is approached by a man, the same one Rumple bargained with for the magic beam, asking for spare change. When he discovers that she is all alone, he kidnaps her.
David has agreed to help Rumple search for Belle after he tells David that Belle is the lost love that they spoke about in the Enchanted Forest before he helps Charming wake Snow from the sleeping curse in the Season 1 finale. While searching for Belle, Rumple solicits dating advice from David. After learning from Ruby that Belle went to the library, Ruby uses her newly re-discovered wolf scent powers to track Belle to her father’s flower shop (Game of Thorns, draw your own homage conclusions). Earlier, Moe, who had the man kidnap Belle, became angry when she refused to agree to never Rumple again. He sends her with the man to parts unknown.
Rumple and David figure out that Belle is being taken across the town line via the mines, to ensure that she forgets all about Rumple (remember that if you cross the town line, you lose all memory of your previous life), even if it means she also forgets her father. Rumple saves her from crossing the line, but she tells both him and her father that because they have no faith in her, she never wants to see them again.
On Killian’s ship, things take a very bad turn. After seeing the bean and interrogating Milah about how she could have left him and Baelfire, Rumple becomes enraged. He kills Milah via the magic heart removal move (where was that combo in Street Fighter?), he cuts off Killian’s hand and takes it with him, believing that the bean is in Killian’s severed hand. He discovers later that Killian has tricked him and kept the bean. Killian, who has replaced his severed hand with a hook (If you hadn’t figured it out, he is Captain Hook), drafts the man who found the bean into his crew, promising him they are going to a land where they will never grow old and he can plot his revenge on Rumple. We learn the man is William Smee, and they are going to Neverland via the magic bean he kept.
Belle, who has mysteriously been sent a key to the library, goes there and discovers Rumple is the one who sent her the key; he has pulled a few strings and gotten her the librarian job. After assuring her he didn’t do this to force her to be with him, and finally telling her he needed magic so he could leave Storybrooke to find his missing son, Belle implies that she would like to go out on a date with him sometime (she has never had a hamburger before, and hears Granny’s makes a great one).
Rumple interrogates William Smee in his basement, demanding to know where Hook is. Smee informs him that for some reason, the curse didn’t Hook, and he is still in the Enchanted Forest.
At the end of the episode we see hook spying on the safe haven that Emma and Snow were taken to in the Enchanted Forest, from a nearby beach. Cora appears and tells Hook that she is working on a way to get them both to Storybrooke, where they can take their revenge on both Regina and Rumplestilskin. She shows him the glowing ashes of the enchanted wardrobe she collected from Snow’s castle. She tells him it isn’t enough yet, but will be soon.
So, over all, it was a very enjoyable episode. Cora and Hook are shaping up to be the main villains this season. At the end, we get an implication that Rumple hasn’t quite turned over the new leaf he told Belle he was. Next week we get to learn who Dr. Whale was in the Enchanted Forest, and the possible return of Daniel, Regina’s lost love that was killed by Cora.