I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s episode of Once Upon a Time. The show has definitely redeemed itself from the slump of the past few weeks. Not only was there quite a bit of character growth and exposition, we also saw great advancement of the major plot points for the season. One of those points was so predictable that we pretty much all saw it coming from the beginning of the season, but it was still enjoyable; more on that later. We see quite a bit of Rumplestilskin, including some important looks back at his past as both a man and as the Dark One. We only see Storybrooke sparingly this week, but that involves Cora, Hook and Regina so the scenes were enjoyable. Snow White and Prince Charming are only in about a scene and a half. We also see brief progress on the Outside World visitor Greg and his investigation into Storybrooke.
As I mentioned, we see quite a bit of exposition of Rumple’s past as a man. We go all the way back to his service in the Ogre Wars, where he was branded the coward we have heard he was all past two seasons. We learn that his father was a great coward, and Rumple grew up with the shame of that. When Rumple learns he has been drafted to fight in the Ogre Wars, he tells his wife Milah that he hopes to overcome the stigma that his father’s cowardice brings. She expresses worry that Rumple will be killed.
At the front lines, Rumple meets a disfigured seer who tells his fortune. She tells him that his wife Milah is pregnant with his son. She also informs him in vague terms that his actions on the battlefield will lead to his son being fatherless. Rumple refuses to believe her at first. However after parts of her prediction come true, he comes to believe that her prediction means if he fights the next day he will be killed. He decides to cripple himself so he can go home and not fight.
Emma, Henry and Rumple arrive in New York City to find Baelfire. They approach the apartment where Rumple believes his son lives. Baelfire runs away and Emma chases him, Rumple tells her if she can get his son to talk to him, her favor will be repaid. Emma chases the man. She discovers, to no one’s shock but her own (unless you hadn’t figured this out weeks ago like I did) that Baelfire is Neal, her former lover and Henry’s father.
Meanwhile, Rumple of the past hobbles home from the front. He is rebuked by his wife Milah, because she has already heard that he crippled himself to avoid battle. She mocks him when he explains that he did it because of a seer’s predictions and tells him he is just like his coward father. He denies this.
Emma confronts Neal in a bar, where he is distraught that his father has found him. Neal swears he had no idea who she was and that he was not part of his father’s plan to create or break the curse. We learn that August convinced Neal of his sincerity by showing him that August knew he was Baelfire. Emma chooses not to tell him about Henry, and says that she will tell Rumple that Neal got away.
Rumple does not believe Emma when she tells him this. When he threatens Emma, Neal comes through the door and confronts him. Henry comes out and Neal demands to know if this is his son. Eventually Emma admits that he is. Gold manages to coerce Neal into talking to him, using Emma’s deal with him as leverage. Their conversation comes to basically no agreement. Neal has the beginnings of a heartfelt talk with Henry outside on the fire escape.
In the Enchanted Forest of Yesteryear, Rumple who is now the Dark One confronts the seer. He ends up absorbing her precognitive power. She warns him that a young boy will be the key to him finding his son. But that boy will also be Rumple’s undoing. Rumple says he will just have to kill the boy then. The logical assumption is that this boy is Henry.
Meanwhile back in Storybrooke Cora, Regina, and Hook search for the dagger that controls the Dark One. They decipher a map left behind by Rumple or Belle in the library. Cora then knocks out Hook, telling him that he doesn’t deserve the kind of power that the dagger represents. She then tells Regina that with the dagger they can control Rumplestilskin, causing him to kill everyone between Regina and Henry and only Rumple will take the blame.