After a month long break, Once Upon A Time kicked off its run of the final four episodes of season two by laying new ground with plotlines and developments that will certainly become vital to the culmination of most of the main characters’ journeys this season. “Lacey” gave us a bit of everything – a fun (and sexy!) Emilie de Ravin, a new character (hi, Robin Hood) and more backstory on the history of Belle and Rumple when Rumple was still a “beast” of a man. But at the heart of it all, “Lacey” was really about setting the stage for the crumbling of what has been somewhat of a redemption arc for Rumple throughout this season.
For the past few months, we’ve spent most of our time watching one of Storybrooke’s most interesting characters lie alone in a hospital bed, desperately attempting to locate the memories she lost after being pushed over the town line. This episode finally brought that plotline to a head, with Regina ever so sweetly returning Belle’s memories via magic – and although the recovered memories weren’t exactly truthful, seeing so much of de Ravin during the hour reminded me of how much I had missed her presence.
In Storybrooke, our focus was on a struggling Rumple who was desperately trying to fight against the knowledge of the prophecy that claimed he needed to kill the boy that was now his grandson. Belle – Rumple’s “constant,” the one person in his life that could and would inspire him to be a better person – is an Achilles Heel whose importance is not lost on Regina, especially after she learns that Rumple is none other than Henry’s grandfather. And so instead of giving us back a sweet, book-loving princess, she elects to create the opposite. Lacey is cunning. Lacey is sexy. Lacey is dangerous. We all have a bit of Lacey inside us, and I love the fact that while Belle encouraged good and was the one who brought about Rumple’s best side, Lacey encouraged bad and is the one who will undoubtedly bring out his worst.
Rumple tries hard to win back the heart of his former lover, even (almost hilariously) enlisting Charming for help when he realizes that Regina’s spell has put Belle completely out of his league. Unfortunately, despite all his best intentions, Belle is not interested in a “good” man – she would rather have a more dangerous one, like bar boy Keith (Wil Traval), also known as the former Sheriff of Nottingham. It’s truly a testament to his chemistry between de Ravin and Carlyle that I felt so much empathy towards Rumple’s situation as he tried to win back his one true love, only to get continually burned in the process, and as usual Carlyle’s acting was one of the strongest points of the episode.
Back in fairytale land, the introduction of Robin Hood (stealing a magical wand from Rumple’s house) helped formulate more history between Belle and Rumple as Belle got a deeper glimpse into how very much of an evil man The Dark One was. Still, Belle was able to hold her ground and prevail with good by helping Robin Hood escape from Rumple’s torture and convincing him that there was no need for an innocent man to die. I know that fans of the show have been upset about new characters being introduced at the expense of not giving enough attention to the current storylines of original ones, and I think that the way the writers chose to incorporate Robin Hood into the Once world tonight was perfect. We spent a considerable amount of time with the character, we got the gist of his storyline (right down to his relationship with the Sheriff, and the person who we’ll assume is a pregnant and formerly sick Marion) but we weren’t overwhelmed with trying to figure out how he would figure into an already crowded Storybrooke. Should the opportunity exist (and I have no doubt it will), we can always return to Robin Hood’s history at a later date – but for now, we are content with all we need to know about the famous arrow-slinger.
I very much enjoyed the way Robin’s wand stealing tied in to Rumple’s dream at the beginning of the episode, a nice way to show how he continues to be haunted by memories of the man that he was for so long - and to show how he continues to be worried that those actions could still be engrained in him. In addition, the many parallel exchanges between the two where their fairytale flashbacks and current circumstances were concerned really drove home how important Belle is to Rumple, and how much of a difference it makes to have her presence in his life.
Following Rumple’s change of heart as he decides to listen to Belle and not murder his wand stealer after all, we witnessed a moment most fans of the show have been waiting for see since the beast took his princess hostage last season – the presentation of Belle’s infamous library. I loved that the writers chose to showcase this singular moment, which in both the show and the beloved film is one of the most poignant moments between the two characters…and the one that truly marks the start of a change in how they see each other.
Elsewhere in the hour, we got a bit of plot set up from Greg and Tamara, with Tamara revealing the contents of the precious cargo she’s brought back to Storybrooke (welcome back, Killian Jones.) Meanwhile, the Charmings – intent on getting home to the Enchanted Forest – have enlisted Tiny (Jorge Garcia) and the dwarves to grow magic beans in a crop hidden by magic. While Emma is no doubt entranced by the notion that fairytale world is a way to start over, she’s also reluctant to leave the real world – what she feels is her home. Given Regina’s stealthy sneaking and what I’m predicting will happen by the end of the season, I’m pretty sure this whole storyline will take a backseat (at least for a bit) - but I do wonder if the story would ever move towards re-creating the fairytale world in the way that the Charmings hope. Personally, I think it would be an interesting game changer to have our characters move back to the fairytale world with their Storybrooke memories still intact – talk about needing a visit from Dr. Hopper!
There were a number of strong scenes tonight between all our core characters, but the two that stood out to me the most – Regina and Rumple’s quiet exchange in Regina’s office, and Lacey and Rumple’s date in the diner.
Neal and Henry’s “father-son” sword fighting was a nice parallel to the scene between David and Henry earlier in the season.
I loved how cleverly Henry’s birthday was done. Usually, I can tell quite easily when something is a dream or a real situation, and until Gold “killed” Henry, I actually believed that what we were watching was in real time.
What did you think of the episode? And what are you looking forward to in the final episodes?