ONCE UPON A TIME: “The Crocodile”

When Once Upon A Time took to the stage at San Diego Comic Con this summer, there wasn’t much that could be shown in the way of new footage as the cast hadn’t started filming their second season. But producers did tease one bit of information – the fact that we would be seeing (among characters such as Mulan and Aurora) another interesting and well-known fairy tale individual: the legendary Captain Hook.

In the same way the title of the episode effectively functioned as somewhat of a double entendre (referring to Hook’s well-known relationship with the crocodile and Rumplestiltskin actually being representative of the creature that destroyed his hand), the hour also functioned as a double back story wherein we were treated to the origins of Hook while learning more about everyone’s favorite mysterious imp. In a show with such a heavy ensemble wherein not every player is featured weekly, it generally falls to the actors to keep their characters interesting enough so that your focus doesn’t stray between who and who is not around. Fortunately, thanks to Carlyle’s strong acting and Rumplestiltskin’s intriguing nature, that’s not a problem – a fact that makes episodes like this one (and ones like Regina’s a few weeks ago) my favorites to watch.

The fairytale world story showed us Rumplestiltskin as we knew him to be before he took his power from the Dark One. A town outcast for not fighting in the ogre wars, he was shy and cowardly and couldn’t even keep his wife, Milah (Rachel Shelley) from wanting to spend her time with more interesting people – such as one Kilian Jones, aka Captain Hook. I have to hand it to both the casting department and to Colin O’Donoghue – Hook might be the most interesting (not to mention good-looking) character to exist on this show so far. Reinventing the Hook we know from Disney lore so that he’s a modern day, sexy pirate? Completely worked for me. Revealing that him and Cora are in cahoots to get back to Storybrooke together? Definitely worked for me. In my last review, when Cora was shown taking pieces of the magical wardrobe, I mentioned that I would love to see her cross over to the real world and give the town another strong villain in the wake of Regina’s apparent reformation. If this episode was any indication, I think we have a pretty good chance of that happening – and if it does happen, it could very well end up being one of the most interesting plot twists of the series.

When Rumplestiltskin gets word that his wife has been taken, he rushes to the docks to try to save her. Unfortunately, he’s meek and cowardly and bested by Hook, and the next time we see him he’s well into his Dark One days, attempting to bargain with Smee about a magical bean. When Hook shows up, he recognizes Rumplestiltskin and challenges him to a duel in which he’s the one now bested, thanks to Rumplestiltskin’s magical powers.

Hook tells him that Milah is dead – a believable lie until she shows up to save Hook from getting his heart ripped out. Milah then produces the magic bean and offers a trade: their lives for magic. And although Rumplestiltskin has no problem with this deal, as we’ve seen, it’s near impossible to harden your heart so much that you lose the humanity that made you turn so evil in the first place. He goes on a jealous bender, killing Milah and slicing off Hook’s hand so he can retrieve the bean (which it’s later revealed that Hook never had, thanks to some tricky finger work.) We can figure out why Hook wanted the bean – he used it to open a kind of whirlpool portal into Neverland. But what about Rumplestiltskin? Given that his first concern has always been his son, I’m guessing he knows the bean can help find him. Could both men have common interests leading them to Neverland? We’re nowhere near done with Hook just yet and something tells me we’re not done learning about all the intricacies of Rumplestiltskin’s story, either.

In Storybrooke, we were shown the juxtaposition of Rumplestiltskin’s character as he tried his hardest to care for Belle while attempting to prove to that he could survive without the crutch of magic. Unfortunately for Belle, she sees right through his inability to open up and a runaway attempt leads her to befriend Red who tips her off about the town’s library. I found it a bit interesting that in a show where relationships are often twisted between characters, Red and Belle were unaware of each other in the fairytale world. Given how much the two have much in common (both at one point were chained against their will from freedom, both needed to break off on their own to find themselves) I would love to see the writers go out on a limb and explore a friendship between them.

So what happened to Belle? Turns out that her father Maurice had issued orders for his daughter to be kidnapped so that she could cross the town line and forget everything about her past. I enjoyed the genuine desperation that we saw from Rumplestiltskin in Storybrooke as opposed to the jealous, over-the-top desperation that he exhibited when he went after Milah in the fairytale world. Even without magic, the only thing Rumplestiltskin was ever able to hold onto was the love of his son – something he eventually lost because he got too caught up in his powers. He wasn’t about to let the same thing happen to the only other person who ever truly loved him for himself (powers or not), and it’s a testament to Carlyle’s acting that I truly believed the struggle he was undergoing in this episode, as he tried to change his ways. And that’s why I loved the final scene between Rumplestiltskin and Belle, where he admitted that the reason he used magic was because he was, and will always be, a coward. Shot in the interior of the library, it was a quiet, intimate scene that was completely sold by de Ravin and Carlyle’s chemistry, reminding us that no matter what bad things we do – or what we’re known for – all of us are more human than we would ever admit to.

Final Thoughts:

  • I very much enjoyed the conversation between Belle and her father when she tells him that she stayed with Rumplestiltskin because she loved him – the language and undertones were almost exactly similar to the conversation Belle has with Gaston when she tells him she’s in love with the Beast.
  • I loved the small details that this episode produced, such as the writers working in Smee’s iconic red hat so that it became a vital part of the story (the hat was what held the magic bean.)
  • I’ve seen multiple theories that imply Baelfire is Peter Pan, and it’s something that I hadn’t considered before now – but I absolutely think it’s an entirely plausible guess. Plus, having Bae as the boy “who never grew up” would also allow the show to go the route of keeping Bae young, something that could cause an interesting dynamic with Rumplestiltskin.

What did you think of the episode and of our newest potential villain? Share your thoughts below!

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