I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about the latest episode of Once Upon a Time. There was nothing wrong with the episode itself, per se. It was an enjoyable episode. Most of my favorite characters made appearances. Rumple is in it sparingly, but delivers a commanding performance as usual. Cora makes no appearance, but Regina does work on her behalf. Hook also appears in the episode only sparingly. Hurly from “Lost” returns as the giant Emma and Hook encountered earlier in the season, and we get more of his backstory which is pretty interesting on its own. The episode on its own was very enjoyable. My main objection is that it didn’t seem to advance the major plot points set up thus far in a very major way. The only major plot point we really see be advanced is Cora’s manipulation of events in favor of Regina (or that is her intention anyway; it remains to be seen if all of this actually results in good things for Regina) and her continued manipulation of Regina herself. There is a lot of character exposition and growth, but very little plot advancement.
As I said Rumple only appears briefly in the episode; for a total of 5-7 minutes is my estimate. He, Emma, and Henry are on their way to find his son. On the way to the airport, Rumple refuses to tell Emma and Henry their ultimate destination. There is some drama at the airport as Rumple is forced to put his shawl, which is his memory-retaining talisman, in the x-ray machine (I have flown literally hundreds of times and I can pretty much assure you he would have been allowed to wear his scarf through the metal detector, but that’s beside the point). He comes through it with memory intact however. He goes into a bathroom stall and punches the wall in frustration. When he sees he has damaged his hand, he attempts to heal it with magic only to discover he has no magic right now. Emma notices the bandage on his hand but does not comment.
We learn that the “Jack” who killed off all the giants save one, Anton whom we met previously, was actually a woman. She was a lover of David’s deceased twin brother, James who was raised by King George. We also learn that James, having been raised from birth by King George, is a much different person than the David we have come to know. Anton the giant, scorned and mocked by his sibling giants for his interest in humans, whom the giants have hidden from because humans used their beans to plunder other lands, runs away to the human world. He meets James and Jack who trick him into thinking they are his friends. Learning that the kingdom is bankrupt, Anton agrees to bring them some of the giants’ treasure to help pay off their debt, though he has the presence of mind to lie and say the giants have no magic beans.
Jack and James follow Anton up the beanstalk and proceed to kill all of the giants to steal the beans. The lead giant tasks Anton with destroying all the beans so the humans cannot be used to invade other lands, and gives Anton a cutting from a beanstalk so that someday Anton can grow more beans. The lead giant is then poisoned by Jack, but kills her before he dies.
Hook brings Mary Margaret, David and Leroy to his ship. They find the giant in a cage on the ship. Cora brought Anton, whose nickname from his brothers was Tiny, to Storybrooke, albeit shrunken to human size. Upon seeing David, whom Anton mistakes for James, he attempts to kill David and runs off. He is found by Regina, who gives him a mushroom from Wonderland that restores him to his giant size temporarily. After going on a rampage, he crashes into a giant pothole where he reverts to human size.
Snow and David save Anton’s life and he comes to accept that they are not his enemies. Snow explains (once again) that they are trapped here even though the rest of the townspeople want to return to the Enchanted Forest. Anton tells them about his beanstalk cutting and offers to try to grow beans; though he cautions that this is likely why Cora brought him here.
So far Anton has not told anyone that Regina met with him and urged him to kill David. One could assume that when they learn this, there will be trouble. But then again Regina could just claim that Cora was impersonating her again.
One of my major objections to this episode, and I admit is a personal preference, is Rumple’s lack of ability to use magic in the Outside World. I am pretty tired of seeing the magic-wielding characters lose their powers, even temporarily. I realize de-powering a character can be an important plot tool and is often used (some may say overused) in fantasy/scifi and especially in comic books. If there is no danger to the character, are we really emotionally invested in their story? But keeping that in mind, I watch fantasy shows to see people use magic, not deal with their lack of magic. I was worried that this de-powering was permanent, but the previews for next week and some other things I watched imply that Rumple regains his power upon return to Storybrooke.