I really want to shake the show writers’ hands for this episode, simply for taking me by surprise. First time I saw this episode, I really thought that this was just going to be a Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold episode, and that the pirate captain he encounters in the Enchanted Forest flashback was just a one-time character. It wasn’t until that one fateful moment when Rumpelstiltskin teleported himself off the ship, and the pirate captain in question picked up the fallen rigging hook, that it finally clicked, and I was all ‘OH! No way!’ I think one of the reasons this took me by surprise was because they chose to have this version of Captain Hook’s real name be Killian Jones, when his first name in J.M. Barrie’s original story was James. I guess they didn’t want any confusion, since Charming’s ‘real’ name is Prince James. If that’s the case, I appreciate that immensely. I sometimes find it a bit difficult to keep track of who’s who if there are a high number of characters with names beginning with the same letter. In Secret of NIMH, for instance, we had Jonathan, Justin, Jeremy, and Jenner. That’s a lot of Js to keep track of. Imagine having two characters who share the same name.
We’re finally told what happened to Rumple’s wife, Milah, and how she’d grown dissatisfied with her life, leading her to run away with Killian Jones. Of course, after he became the Dark One, his quest to find a way to enter the Land Without Magic to find his son results in him crossing paths with Milah and Killian again, and the truth comes out. Needless to say, he doesn’t exactly take it very well. While killing her for just preferring another man over him was way extreme, to put it lightly, it’s not too surprising, as this is a guy who killed a man just because Baelfire got a scrape on his leg. Like with ‘Skin Deep,’ it was interesting to see OUAT’s unique take on an old story; much like how Rumpelstiltskin filled the role of the Beast, he’s now also the crocodile who took Hook’s hand. How many aliases does this guy have? The significant difference is that Peter Pan (oh, trust me we’ll get to that creepy little punk before too long) wasn’t involved in this incident, so Hook is only focused on revenge against Rumpelstiltskin, a path that we see has resulted in his path crossing with Cora’s. We also get an introduction to Mr. Smee, because it’s probably some kind of violation to have Captain Hook involved in a story without Smee at least being mentioned. (So, does that mean ‘Red Scarf Pirate’ was Gentleman Starkey?)
I might be flamed for saying this, but I think it was totally fair that Dark One Rumpelstiltskin didn’t get the magic bean in the end. The deal Milah tried to make with him was the bean in exchange for their lives. Okay, sure, Rumpelstiltskin never actually agreed to the deal, per say, but even so. The fact remains that Rumpelstiltskin didn’t honor his end of the deal, so he didn’t deserve to get the magic bean. For that reason, I do applaud Killian/Hook for the slight-of-hand (no pun intended) he pulled. Not to mention it strongly reminded me of this classic scene:
So, let’s talk about Killian/Hook for a minute. I’ve seen some people saying he was a bit of a jerk in this episode, and I can see where they’re coming from, but I have to disagree with them. Let’s start with him trying to force Rumple to duel with him for Milah’s return. I once came across someone’s theory about this scene which said Killian was simply testing Rumpelstiltskin here. The more I think about it, the more I agree that this was Killian saying ‘hmmm, this man has guts coming on to my ship. Perhaps Milah was wrong. Maybe he’s not a coward, after all. Well, only one way to find out.’ I’m 95% sure that if Rumple had just picked up the sword, Killian would have relented and maybe even asked Milah to reconsider leaving her husband. After all, we’ll see later that this is a man who respects a woman’s agency. He’ll even later be seen putting his own feelings aside to give another man a fair shot at the woman he’s falling/fallen for. And then there’s the fact that Rumple is practically a cripple at this point in time. Killian says straight out in a later episode that he doesn’t fight invalids, which only gives more strength to the theory that he was only testing Rumpelstiltskin’s resolve. A test that Rumple failed. And yes, we do see him being rather mean to Dark One Rumpelstiltskin when their paths cross again, before Rumpelstiltskin reveals who he is. But keep in mind that Killian was drunk, or at least less-than-sober, at the moment. Plus, he had some of his crew with him at the time. Let’s not forget that Killian Jones had a reputation as a fearsome pirate captain to maintain. If he went around being all Gary the Happy Pirate, chances are that reputation wouldn’t have been able to stand up, and he’d loose the respect of his crew. While I’m no expert on the whole piracy rulebook, I’m willing to wager that losing the respect of your crew is not exactly a good thing.
There’s also the Storybrooke plot, which I probably should discuss. It’s a nice continuation of what we saw in ‘Broken,’ with us wondering how many chances Belle will give Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold. She is understandably annoyed when she finds out Gold is still dabbling in magic and won’t even explain to her why he brought magic to Storybrooke to begin with. Fed up, she up and leaves, history repeating itself once again. Poor Belle really couldn’t catch a break in this episode. First, it’s the whole issue of Gold not being completely honest and open with her, and then her father Maurice/Mr. French, in an attempt to keep her away from Rumpelstiltskin/Gold, nearly forces her over the town line to make her lose her memories. In the end, while Belle is spared from having her memories forcibly removed, she is still rightfully angry with both Gold and her father and announces she doesn’t want anything to do with either of them. However, you do see that David/Charming’s advice about how honesty in a relationship is vitally important had sunk into Gold’s head, as he gifts Belle with the key to the town library and even opens up to Belle about his past, and how his reasons for his actions was all about finding his son. He even admits that magic has become his crutch. To his credit, Gold does seem to respect Belle’s decision to leave him in the end (a glaring contrast to the past), but Belle, seemingly pleased with him finally letting her in, tentatively decides to start over with him.