When I watch a show, I watch for the characters really. If the characters don’t get under my skin, then the show doesn’t either. I might still watch it but I won’t care, I won’t think about it afterwards, I won’t ever be desperate to watch more. Characters are compelling, plot happens but characters make it worthwhile.
Rumpelstiltskin has got under my skin.
I’ve watched up to episode 15 of season 2 now. I’m further on than I was when I wrote the last post on Once Upon a Time. I have some vague awareness about what’s happening next, but no real context to go with it. For me, that’s about as unspoiled as I ever really get, so I’m learning about the characters as I watch.
My last post was mostly about Rumpelstiltskin because, for me, he’s the most compelling part of the show. From the time of my last post to now I’ve watched another ten episodes, which include some pretty big revelations about Rumple’s past, plus some very difficult current events for him.
Yes I’m probably going to try and talk logic again.
Magic as a Crutch
In my last post I talked about how I didn’t think Rumple really was a coward. I just re-read what I wrote and realized I didn’t do more than touch on his real issues. Maybe that’s because I didn’t see them back then, and they’ve only become clearer over the last ten episodes.
The episode ‘Manhattan’ was a big Rumple episode. I’m going to start with the flashback portion which showed the beginning of his story, or the beginning that we knew about at this point. He was called up to the front, to fight in the ogre war. Apparently his father had been a coward, Rumple had been tainted by association. His wife, Milah, had seen past the rumors to the man he truly was. In this scene, she really does truly seem to love him and he seemed to love her. Rumple said he’d prove he wasn’t a coward, I could hear his sincerity.
How did he go from that to the village coward? The title of this post is ‘a self-fulfilling prophecy’, which is exactly what happened. However, when it comes to Rumple’s actions it applies more than once.
On the front I think he was scared, as any man would be, his comrades were talking doom but he was holding it together. Then, by luck or by fate he was asked to guard a prisoner – the seer. This seer told him that his actions on the battlefield would lead his son to be fatherless. Now Rumple’s father had abandoned him. Parents leaving their children seems to be a big theme in this show (one I’ll come back too). That wound of abandonment cut deep. Hearing he was going to be a father, he swore what many a survivor of childhood abuse/neglect swears, that they will never turn into their parents. He swore that he would be there for his son.
The problem was, he interpreted the seers words that if he went into battle he would die. Perhaps this is because he was already thinking that way, he was already frightened as any sane person would be when others talk of certain death and doom. He was primed to believe he was about to die and then desperation set in. What wouldn’t a loving parent do for their child?
He smashed his leg with a mallet, unfit to fight he was sent home. Rather than proving himself in battle, instead he had confirmed what everyone believed. He was the village coward but he didn’t care, he loved his son and he would do anything for him.
The show seems determined to brand Rumple a coward but he knew what he was doing, he knew what he was letting himself in for when he swung that mallet and he did it anyway. He knew that he would never walk properly again, he knew he would be branded a coward and would live in shame, he could probably even guess that his wife wouldn’t support him. He was prepared to be hated and spat upon, Forget the original pain of the injury, the on going pain as fairytale land isn’t exactly flush with good medicine. He sentenced himself to a horrible life for his son. How can that be cowardice? When by any usual definition that would be self-sacrifice – bravery.
It could be argued, that perhaps the self-fulfilling prophecy started young, everyone branded him a coward and he came to believe it. However, from that scene with Milah when Rumple got his war orders, I don’t think he did believe it, no that belief came later when he was beaten down by life.
Milah resented Bae, resented Rumple, tying her to a life she didn’t want. She ran, she abandoned her child, leaving Rumple to once again pick up the pieces. Pre-curse I wouldn’t be surprised if Rumple wasn’t Bae’s hero, it would certainly make sense, Rumple was the one that always took care of him.
On that day, Rumplestiltskin intended to save his son from the misery he himself had lived with. Later he took the power of the dark one, desperation once again setting in, he had to save his child. That’s when the problems started because magic gave him power. Rumple had always been powerless, power brought safety but the problem is there is always others with power.
Once you have power, it’s never enough, plus you put a target on your back as others will have fear and jealousy. Paranoia sets in, the power is never enough but without it you have nothing, without it you are helpless. Rumplestiltskin wound up abandoning his son. Yes if you get right down to it, he chose his power over his son. He had taken the power in the first place to protect him and then he got so caught up, so emboldened with being free for the first time in his life, so relieved at not feeling scared for once, that he lost sight of what was really important.
He fulfilled his own prophecy and broke more than a deal that day, he broke the only promise to himself that had ever mattered.
Magic had healed his leg, magic had saved him from being the helpless, powerless man he was. Without magic he felt he would have nothing, he needed it. When he lost Bae, he just turned deeper into the magic, as that was the only way he could have him back. He didn’t need a crutch to walk any longer, but magic was now the crutch that moved him through life.
Nothing ground breaking here
I don’t think I’ve said anything above that you couldn’t read elsewhere. The whole ‘magic is a crutch’ business is hardly new. However, watching the last few episodes, I was just struck by how unfair his life has been. No-one ever breaks a deal with him, he always makes deals to suit himself but that’s just business. The richest man in the world can also be the poorest man in what really matters. Everybody hates Rumplestiltskin, yet they are willing to use him when they need him. There have only been three people who have perhaps cared for him, they have all turned on him in their own way.
I should have mentioned more in my last post the very truthful line “Because no-one! No-one could ever, ever love me.” I say truthful not because it’s true, but because Rumple believes that it’s true. Like Emma’s denial stopped her from seeing the truth, from seeing August’s wooden leg. Rumple’s denial that no-one could ever love him, stopped him from seeing that Belle really did love him.
How did he come to this belief? Perhaps because everyone he thought loved him, everyone he thought understood him, didn’t understand him at all and they all branded him – coward.
Milah, once wife to the son of the village coward, who had seen past that and loved Rumple anyway. She turned on him without listening to the truth of his words, without understanding the pain in his heart that had caused his terrible choice.
Baelfire, Rumple’s beloved son who he would and did do anything for. He was a child and can be forgiven, but he was old enough to know that from him the words would hurt the most. He was old enough to know what he was doing, anger drove his words and it was forgivable, but he still lashed out. He took the word – coward – which he knew would cause the most pain.
Belle, his true love, who didn’t stay and fight for him. I said in my last post I understood why she left but she really should have stayed. All leaving did was prove to Rumple that he wasn’t worth fighting for, that he was right and that she didn’t love him.
He is a fractured, broken man, holding onto magic because it’s all he’s got, it’s all that is keeping him together. He plays the role of the trickster, he shows everyone what they expect to see, maybe hoping perhaps that one day it will become true, that he won’t really feel anymore, that he won’t truly care about anything and that the world will stop hurting.
Over the last few episodes Belle and Rumple were shown to be sort of dating. I thought then that perhaps that was for the best, that maybe her walking out just took the intensity down a notch, that maybe slow and steady would be something Rumple could handle and believe in. He confided in her, he told her almost everything, not the exact truth of what happened to Milah but once again he didn’t lie. After all a betrayal like Milah’s couldn’t go unanswered, not after what she did to Bae and plus it was in the past. She seemed to accept it, or at least when they got to the town line, things were fine between them. Which is when things took another turn for the worse for Rumple.
Belle fell over the town line, she lost her memories. Hook took Milah from him, he tried to take away his chance to find Bae, then this thing with Belle. Honestly I was hoping Rumple would kill him.
Which brings me to the next section.
Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys
That’s a line from Leverage and one that I think applies. I’m going to branch out a little now, I’ve been basically arguing Rumple’s defense. I’ve been talking about his motives, about how I understand why he did what he did, a fair of this is frustration that the other characters in the show don’t seem to see it. I guess he has a wall up around his heart, he doesn’t let people in, and they don’t have the benefit of an outside perspective. However, even so, I feel like they should use their eyes.
Anyway, one of the last things that happened in the last episode I watched, was Snow White deciding that she was going to kill Cora. Charming was trying to talk her out of it, the episode clicked off and I was left wondering – ‘why?’
Cora is evil, she has done terrible, awful things. I suppose Regina is the same in some respects, but I’ll get back to her. Cora has killed, schemed, manipulated and never shown a shred of remorse. I don’t buy the argument that “if we kill we’re the same as those we fight” and I never have. Lots of other shows/books/movies etc. use that argument and it never makes sense.
Good guys could do exactly the same things as the bad guys. However, what makes them the good guys, is why they did it. Bad guys would kill because they wanted to, because it benefited them personally in some way, for profit or advantage, it would be a selfish motive whatever that might be. Good guys would kill because it saved others or even themselves, they would kill to protect, to draw a line and stop the misery. Once the war was over then they wouldn’t kill again, they did what was necessary and nothing more. Killing isn’t evil, it depends on the motive.
If Snow White did kill Cora then the world would be a much better place. The world would be safer, the war would be over, no more lives would have to be sacrificed. You know it always annoys me that the villains get a second chance, a third chance, a twentieth chance because we have to be good, we have to turn the other cheek and maybe they’ll change. However, in the meantime good people, that don’t deserve it, who are still on their first chance so to speak, they suffer and they die. Why is the villains life more important than everyone else’s? Are we so concerned with possible redemption, that we sacrifice those who never went evil in the first place, who always chose good?
Belle always pleads for mercy for the bad guys. Perhaps that’s a self serving thing, after all Rumple would technically be called a bad guy so if she wants him to have mercy, then everyone should have it. However, Hook will keep on coming. Belle pleaded with Rumple to spare him on the ship, Hook wound up shooting her over the town line. Not satisfied with that, Hook pursued Rumple to New York and attacked him, poisoning him with the intent to kill. That’s hardly going to be his last attempt, he won’t stop until Rumple is dead, so why shouldn’t Rumple kill him? It’ll protect Rumple and everyone around him who might otherwise be hurt in the crossfire. I’d say that would almost be the responsible thing to do, the cycle has to end somehow.
I know it’s a slippery slope, that there is a line but that line is a long way from where they are standing all high and mighty.
A word about logic now. Why on earth are they lying to Belle? She lost her memories, she was confused and scared, everyone was calling her by a name she didn’t know, she didn’t know anyone. Rather than settle her down, talk to her calmly and explain the situation honestly they lie, they pump her full of drugs and tell her she imagined the magic she saw. Seriously I do not get this at all.
Why didn’t they explain things? Why not say that she had amnesia, that the magic she saw was real, that magic was behind her amnesia. They should be giving her time, space, letting her find out who she is now without her fairytale memories. Telling her that when she’s ready she can meet people again for the ‘first time’. Not pushing, instead giving her control, that would calm her, that’s what she needs.
Plus my heart broke when Rumple was pleading with her to listen, to take the cup and concentrate and she threw it away, it smashed and broke into pieces like his heart. She was hurt because of him, he lost her because of his actions long ago, actions he can’t go back and change. How horrible must that be, to feel so utterly responsible and so helpless? Especially for someone who was once so completely helpless, found something to change that, seized power, came to trust it and then found that it can’t fix what truly matters. He must hate feeling helpless more than anything.
If this is how the good guys treat people on their own side, why are they labelled good guys? I’m serious, when they should lie they won’t because “it’s wrong” and when they should be honest, suddenly they are completely down with lying.
A father’s love
I don’t understand Baelfire. Perhaps I am too sympathetic to Rumple and I’m not quite seeing the situation from Bae’s perspective. From Bae’s own words it’s been a long time, a couple of hundred years. From what little I do know about the future of the show I believe that’s because he spent time in Neverland. However, anyway the point is, it’s been a long time. Bae has had more than enough time to think about what happened.
With experience, should come perspective. Quite frankly I think Bae needs to grow up a little, build a bridge and get over himself. After all that time and he’s still angry? He hates his father? I don’t understand. I suppose it comes down to personality maybe. If I was Bae than I would have analysed the situation, I would have come to understand the motives behind what happened. I would have played out alternate scenarios, playing the ‘what if’ game until I accepted the inevitability of what did play out.
Rumple didn’t abandon Bae because he wanted too, there was no malice there. What Rumple did, he did for Bae, he did because of Bae. I understood and accepted Bae’s angry words at the magic bean portal when Rumple couldn’t let go, he was just a child. However, now he’s an adult, he’s lived through life and he has to know how it works by now. Then again, the supposed heroes always seem to have immense difficulty putting themselves in other peoples shoes. I think it comes from their unparalleled belief that they are always right, that they are the good ones, merlin forbid they ever consider the complexity of a situation before casting judgement.
I did find ‘Manhattan’ horrifying from that perspective really. After all, Bae made a choice himself, one which led to Emma suffering, to Henry being without both his parents for ten years. I know that Bae, or Neil as he’s called in the real world, didn’t know about Henry but he didn’t bother to find out either. He made a choice about what was best for Emma without ever consulting her, once again it seems he decided what was best with no consideration for how the other person might feel or what they might want.
My point is Bae has made choices, his hands aren’t exactly clean. However, like all good guys he’s utterly uncompromising, utterly unwilling to bend because he’s right, only his pain could ever matter.
Although I suppose with how little self-esteem Rumple has, if Bae had forgiven him then I doubt he would have believed it. The coincidence of Emma knowing Bae would have played right into his paranoia, plus the cryptic words of the seer about ‘a boy being his undoing’ who he has come to believe was Henry. I could easily see him deny Bae was his son, as his son would never forgive him. I guess Rumple expected hatred and that’s what he got.
I know I’m coming across as hard on Bae. I understand that he was hurt badly, I realize that I’m saying that villains get too many chances in one breath, and saying Rumple should get another chance in the next. However, Rumple’s motives were never really self-serving, not with what he did to Bae, it was just all a horrible trainwreck of events, with more than enough blame to go around.
Anyway, Bae wasn’t entirely wrong with everything he said. Rumple is still looking to magic to fix all his problems. Honestly that proposal about wiping Bae’s memory, turning the clock back and making him fourteen again, that was a pure delusional fantasy. That is something that Rumple will have to get over, the fact that he can’t undo it, that he can’t go back and make it right, that there is no going back. He will have to find out how to move forward with how things are now, build a new relationship with his adult son, rather than try and gain back the one he had when he was a child.
As I said earlier when it comes to parental abandonment there is quite a club. Rumple’s father ran out on him. Snow White and Prince Charming abandoned Emma, they did it for the best, because they felt they had no choice but she still grew up alone, feeling unloved and unwanted. Geppetto did the same with Pinocchio/August, again it was to save him as he was unwilling to take a chance that the curse could kill him, but August still grew up alone. Snow White’s mother died, though that wasn’t her fault. Hell even Regina had parental problems, quite awful ones really. Seriously, someone should just kill Cora, it would be for the best.
A small word about Regina. I said in my last post that I didn’t understand her, I didn’t understand how she went from being the compassionate person she was at the time she rescued Snow White, to the evil queen. I didn’t understand how in present day she seemed to go back and forth, between being evil and professing to care for Henry. I understand a little better now, it’s really down to unintentional cruelty and playing a role.
I don’t think Regina is half as evil as even she pretends. I think like Rumple she knows what people expect and she doesn’t disappoint, she plays her role well and nobody sees how it’s suffocating her, how it’s destroying her slowly. I felt really sorry for her when she got invited to the homecoming party, the look on her face, how unwelcome she was made to feel. I get that the curse was awful but either punish her, or move past it, this flip-flopping where they go back and forth is cruel.
They do it for their own convenience of course, it’s like what some relationships do. One person does something wrong, the other person says they forgive them, then they proceed to bring up the misdeed and use it as ammunition, use it to get what they want over and over. That’s a really wrong thing to do, either get over it or be honest about it.
Plus the situation with Henry, how roles have been reversed. Before Emma was constantly trying to get Regina to agree to visits, now it’s the other way round. I don’t get this really, either they trust her enough to let her be part of their lives, part of Henry’s life, or they don’t. However, letting her in and then shutting her out. Why are they surprised when people turn to the dark side? They make all this noise about choice, about redemption but they never actually give people a chance, they constantly push them, wait for them to make a mistake and then crow when they do.
I really don’t have much respect for the so called good guys.
I’ve written a very long post again, after only another ten episodes. I guess that’s good, means that maybe I’ll have more Once Upon a Time posts to write in the future.
I really do feel sorry for Rumplestiltskin. I also feel sorry for Regina at the moment, I know that right now she’s teamed up with her mother but that’s only because she was pushed there. It really didn’t have to be that way.
I think Henry should consider that the world doesn’t revolve around him. He’s eleven and old enough to know better. He must know that likening Emma to Regina is one of the things he could say that would hurt her the most, seriously kids have the gift for picking up on the most hurtful things. Yes Emma lied, yes maybe she did it to protect herself but so what, she might be his mother but she is also a person. At eleven Henry is more than old enough to be able to understand that. I suppose I feel sorry for Emma, I don’t normally but she is definitely one of the more palatable good guys. I think it’s because unlike most of them, she actually has some common sense and realism.
I also feel sorry for Belle, how they are lying to her and it’s so unnecessary. Seriously it’s like they want to make life as difficult as possible for her and themselves. Does nobody just stop and think to themselves, this would be easier if we were honest. I don’t get it. Plus where’s her father in all this? I would have thought, especially now she’s lost her memories and doesn’t remember telling him to go away, that he would be all over her trying to make sure ‘the beast’ didn’t get his claws in again.
There’s another seven episodes left in season two. Then I have season three and four to watch, there’s still so much to learn and discover. I want to know how everything turns out, how Belle gets her memories back, whether Bae ever grows up and forgives his father, whether Regina could ever be accepted, whether Belle and Rumple could ever get their happy for now. Yeah, there’s a lot I want to see.
Till next time.