Reviews

ONCE UPON A TIME: “The Outsider”

COLIN O'DONOGHUE, EMILIE DE RAVIN, ROBERT CARLYLE

While last week’s Once Upon A Time centered on Regina’s downfall, this week’s episode centered on Belle and, subsequently, Rumpelstiltskin. Through flashbacks, we were treated to Belle’s fairytale back story that brought us up to date as to where she was when the curse finally hit fairytale land (with Mulan, apparently! Props to Jamie Chung for finally getting more screen time, and let’s hope for a flashback sooner rather than later.) But we were also treated to some forward plot movement regarding Hook’s agenda with Rumpelstiltskin, which has been our pirate’s main focus since descending into Storybrooke two episodes ago.

In previous episodes, we’ve been led to believe that once you leave Storybrooke you forget your true identity – that is, you forget your fairytale self. Rumpelstiltskin, however, seemed to devise a potion that would counteract this spell – by pouring the potion on an object one holds dear, it allows them to cross over to the outside world with their memories still intact (a theory tested, in a nice connection, on a man none other than Smee.) For once, Rumpelstiltskin’s idea behind the potion was not grounded in any malicious way – he simply wanted to leave so that he could go find Bae, and planned to use his son’s cloak as a ticket. Yet because we saw Rumpelstiltskin as less of a villainous man and someone more reformed (who seemed to be on wonderful terms with Belle, no less) it meant that we needed something that would stir up old emotions and conflict. Enter Hook, who not only took pleasure in facing off with his old foe but also managed to extract his revenge by taking away “the thing you love most of all” (though Belle being shot in the back just seemed unnecessarily cruel – wouldn’t pushing her over the line and erasing her memory have been enough?) After being absent most of last week, I’m extremely glad that we got to see more of Colin O’Donoghue, whose presence is always a welcome addition to any storyline.

“The Outsider” – a reference to the mysterious character that entered Storybrooke via a hit-and-run with Hook – was a strong hour not just because of the individuals it centered on, but because of the subsequent emotions that were brought into play. While the show has done an admirable job of balancing a decidingly large cast, there are certain characters and relationships that I’ve missed focusing on – Belle and Rumpelstiltskin among them. For a couple seemingly hampered by the tug-of-war between good and evil, it looks like we’re finally getting to the point where Rumpelstiltskin is comfortable enough to believe in his own redemption and where Belle is comfortable enough to believe that he can change his ways, even when provoked otherwise. The small instances between the two (Belle calling Rumpelstiltskin for help when Hook attacked her, talking him down during Hook’s assault, being supportive of his quest to find Bae) were lovely moments that served to remind us that for all its fantasy, this show does its best work when it taps into the emotional core of its characters.

One of the strongest aspects of this series is how the show writes and portrays its women. To that end, how awesome and resourceful was Belle in her pursuits, both in fairytale world and in Storybrooke? Looking up Hook’s knot and tracing it back to the boat was a wonderful way to explore the representation of a character who would be so curious about such things, and taking on a mission to kill beastly creatures was a perfect example of Belle’s headstrong sense of adventure. Once Upon A Time women: they get stuff done. And I’ve always been a fan of the way that Once mixes up its fairytale stories, so while I wouldn’t have necessarily teamed up Mulan with Belle, the pairing ended up totally working for me. Having Belle pursue the Yaoguai (also known as giant flaming beast, also know as Prince Philip, cursed by Maleficent so that he would stop looking for Aurora) was a nice segue into the beginning of Philip’s relationship with Mulan. Letting Mulan bond with Belle by opening up about her own growth to heroism was also a fun tie-in to the Disney lore that we’re so familiar with. To say I found myself very much enjoying the chemistry between de Ravin and Chung would be an understatement, and I hope that despite the fact that the two seem to be separated between worlds, they can find a way to reunite.

In other Storybrooke news, the townspeople held funeral for dearly departed Archie and while I loved the nod of “friend and conscience” on the tombstone, I was skeptical about how long the show would drag out the “Archie is dead but not really” plot. As it turned out, not long. By the episode’s end our favorite cricket had escaped from Cora’s clutches, his presence leaving Emma and Henry in shock – both at the fact that Regina was innocent, and that their friend was alive. I feel that this was somewhat of a set-up in order to get our major characters into a position where they’re aware of the evil that they’ll soon be dealing with, but nonetheless, it excites me that we’re apparently going to get our Regina/Cora showdown next week.

And regardless of how that confrontation and Cora’s ultimate storyline plays out, it seems that Grumpy is right – Storybrooke really isn’t the safest place, something that puts Snow and Charming at odds once again as they struggle to balance their newly intact family and domesticity situation. Snow wants to move on, possibly buy a house and settle down, while Charming is wary about staying in town given the threats that Regina, Cora, and other such evil pose towards their safety. It remains to be seen if these instances will contribute to some sort of future conflict, but I think this could be an interesting string for the show to explore, especially since I’m not sure what kind of plot exists between them at the moment aside from Emma’s new magic skills. And personally, I’m always a fan of humanizing characters, especially if they’re more on the fantasy end of the spectrum – just like Emma’s struggle with abandonment and belonging, it would be interesting to see some struggle with belonging between the two worlds from the Charmings’ point of view.

Final Thoughts:

  • Totally on board with Belle’s fairytale outfit – you just can’t go wrong with a girl in leather.
  • I never trust a cliffhanger, and in the same way I can’t imagine that Once would randomly kill off Colin O’Donoghue, I can’t imagine that it would randomly kill off Emilie de Ravin…even with Rumpelstiltskin’s cries of the fact that Hook’s act was something that couldn’t be reversed. My predication? Belle survives, but Rumpelstiltskin has to resort to some dark magic in order to bring her back due to the graveness of her situation, which in turn leads him back into his dark ways. What are yours?
  • I’ll credit my friend for this one, but did anyone else think “Wormtail” after Rumpelstiltskin turned Smee into a rat?

What did you think of the episode? Share your thoughts below!

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