Warning: Spoiler Alert
With the Snow Queen’s Curse of Shattered Sight resolved, the midseason finale has a whole lot of time to dedicate to this season’s most compelling subplot: Rumpelstiltskin, Belle, and the Dagger Debacle. As a very dedicated Rumbelle fan, I can’t say I have very much hope for what this episode is going to bring. Rumpel has been plotting, scheming, lying, threatening, and killing people behind Belle’s back for a long time now, and because this is a soap opera about fairy tales, we’re due a heartbreak and a cliffhanger. I was at a total loss for how this was all going to unfold, aside from the fact that this episode has doom for my favorite characters written all over it.
Even though the Shattered Sight curse was broken, the ice wall Ingrid placed around Storybrooke remains. The Arendellers, along with Emma and Killian, go to the town line to see if Elsa can use her ice magic against it, since she’s so much better at magic now that her life has been completely turned around about six times in the last two months or so. The ice wall itself melts, but the protection spell Ingrid placed around Storybrooke remains. It seems that once you cross the town line, you’ll be unable to come back.
Emma and the Arendellers head off to find a portal or some other way to get back home, while Killian slinks back to Gold, who uses Killian’s heart to learn what’s happened at the town line. With Anna in Storybrooke, there’s someone else who knows about the Sorcerer’s Amazing Magic Stealing Dream Hat, and what Rumpelstiltskin is willing to do to get it. Killian receives orders to keep Belle and Anna apart. Killian’s displeased, but since he doesn’t have control of his heart, he does as he is bid.
Then, Rumpel goes to wake Belle. He does so by tickling her nose, because when this show breaks your heart, it makes sure the job’s done. He wakes her to tell her that he wants to take her to New York. Belle sets to packing, completely unaware of everything that he’s been up to, and unaware of the magic that’s still around the town.
Elsewhere, Regina and Robin gather around a less-frozen Marian. Regina plunges Marian’s heart back into her chest. She awakes, startled to be alive. She and Robin embrace while Regina quietly backs away and goes to drown her troubles in pie or whatever else Granny’s has to offer. Marian meets her there, and the two have a very forthright conversation wherein Marian makes clear that she doesn’t want to be an obligation to Robin. She understands that Robin’s life is different, and that he’s in love with Regina. Then she leaves Regina to think on that for a minute.
Cut to Marian and Roland playing at the edge of a pond while Robin and Regina look on from a nearby bench. Regina looks regretfully at how happy mother and son are together, and insists that she can’t come between that. Robin counters that staying with Marian for Roland’s sake would be dishonest and bad for everyone involved. He wants to be with Regina, and that’s the way it’s going to be.
Ha, ha! Gotcha! Roland begins screaming for help. Marian collapses. Seems like she’s not as cured from that curse as they thought (for some reason somehow because apparently curses can come back or something?) Regina looks at Marian and realizes that she can’t save her like she did the last time because the freezing curse has already reached Marian’s heart. The only way to fix her is to send her across the town line into a world without magic. Someone will have to go with her to help her navigate the new world. In order to not destroy their family, Robin and Roland will have to go with her.
So, Regina is in her Mercedes, glaring at Robin and Marian saying their goodbyes to the Merry Men. Who should happen along now except Rumpelstiltskin, there to gloat about how he’s going to take his happy ending because no author or any other person controls his destiny. He encourages Regina to let Marian die so that she can have her happily ever after with Robin. Regina refuses, because she’s “not that person anymore,” and points out that he’s not supposed to be either. Well, he hasn’t so much changed as evolved, he admits. He grabs Regina’s hand, looks her in the eye, and tells her that he really thinks she should do what he’s doing—wrecking whatever’s necessary to make sure he comes out on top. Then he jaunts off to do whatever terrible thing he’s going to do next.
Regina gets out of the car to say her goodbyes. Marian thanks her profusely and steps across the town line, shivering. Regina supplies Robin with things he’ll need in the new world (like money and a map! No word on drivers licenses or social security cards, though). She and Robin share a tearful, tortured goodbye, and then he steps across the town line, losing sight of Storybrooke and Regina. He takes Marian and Roland by the hand and they begin walking to the diner (where August/Pinocchio took Emma after the curse was cast).
And that’s that.
At Granny’s, Emma and the Arendellers are grabbing a bite to eat and sulking about how to cross realms. Killian enters, but he’s being puppeteered by Rumpelstiltskin. He very casually drops into conversation that Mr. Gold would like them to know that there’s a portal in the mansion’s ballroom that will take them to Arendelle. Emma’s surprised, and she knows that something’s definitely wrong with him, but she needs to get Elsa and Anna back to Arendelle so she leaves to go do that.
Henry and the Charmings accompany the crew to the mansion, where the portal that Gold and Killian found in an earlier scene that is utterly not worth describing stands waiting to take The Frozens back home. Tearful, triumphant goodbyes shared. And, very conveniently, Anna asks who this Mr. Gold was back in the Enchanted Forest. David tells her he’s was Rumpelstiltskin. Anna’s shocked! Emma’s shocked because clearly Gold lied! Anna is not shocked that he lied. And then she skips through the portal, leaving Emma and the Charmings to figure out what else Rumpelstiltskin’s lied about. (Psst. Emma. He’s lied about a lot of things.)
Presumably, they step outside the mansion to see the magic shooting from the clock tower at the center of town, where Rumpelstiltskin is performing the Hat Ritual to cleave him of the dagger. I mean, that’s kind of the only reason why Emma and her parents were able to get there just as Gold was about to crush Killian’s heart. Rumpelstiltskin quickly freezes Emma and Mary Margaret as they burst into the clock tower. He relishes his victory one more time, and begins to squeeze Killian’s heart. Killian groans in agony, but his heart does not crush. Wait a second, why isn’t it working, the Dark One wonders.
BECAUSE BELLE TOLD HIM NOT TO, AND SHE’S BEHIND HIM HOLDING THE DAGGER. WAIT A MINUTE WHAT HAPPENED?
While Regina was watching her heart get torn to shreds, and while Rumpelstiltskin was setting up his nefarious ritual, Belle was with Henry at the pawnshop, packing for her trip to New York. While they were searching for another suitcase, Henry accidentally unearthed a gauntlet that Belle is very surprised to see. A long time ago, while Belle was Rumpelstiltskin’s maid at the Dark Castle, she’s kidnapped by Ursula, Maleficent, and Cruella de Ville, who held her for ransom for that very same gauntlet. The gauntlet finds someone’s weakness, which just so happens to usually be the thing they love most. Belle was under the impression that Rumpelstiltskin gave up the gauntlet to save her life, but it appears that he went after it anyway, after he had her back.( In a somewhat related scene, we find out that the witches want the gauntlet to defeat the heroes so they can have happy endings.) She’s not very pleased about this. So she used the gauntlet to figure out Rumpelstiltskin’s weakness, and it lead her to the real dagger. The dagger she’s now wielding. She orders the ritual stopped, and then demands to be taken to the town line.
She has a heartbreaking speech about what a fool she’s been to trust Rumpelstiltskin. He begs for another chance, but she won’t have it.
And she damn well shouldn’t. Let’s just get that straight right now. I love Rumpelstiltskin, and I love his complicated and flawed character, but he as screwed the pooch on this one. (Whether or not I find his about-face from “hero who died to save Belle and Baelfire” a year ago to “coward villain who doesn’t care who he hurts” objectionable from a plot standpoint is neither here nor there at this point, but I’d like to go on record saying that I find it questionable at best. There’s either so much we don’t know right now, or this storyline kind of sucks.) His scheming and lying isn’t something that she should overlook. She’s devastated and betrayed. It’s kind of questionable about why she was so perplexed to see the gauntlet in Gold’s shop, since he has all sorts of magical items from different realms in there, and it seems like kind of crappy storytelling that this was the thing that set her suspicious after a half a season of very specifically laid clues, but she has every right to be righteously furious. Righteously furious, she is. But, because she’s Belle, she’s more disappointed in Rumpel than anything else. She knows that no good can come of his addiction to power.
So, she banishes him. Holding the dagger, she orders him to step across the town line. And he does. And that’s that.
At Granny’s, Regina and Emma are doing shots in honor of Gold’s misery. Henry rushes in and tells them there’s something the two of them need to see.
He was exploring the mansion as the Arendellers were leaving and found a secret room with a bunch of blank story books that look like Henry’s copy of Once Upon a Time. Oh, okay. The sorcerer is also the author of the book. Henry reveals the specifics of Operation Mongoose to Emma, who is enthusiastically on board. No one saw that coming, right?
Six weeks later, Gold is skulking around New York City. He visits an aquarium, where Ursula the Sea Witch is working as a janitor or something. He reveals that he’s found someone, who he calls “the Author”, who can see about some happy endings for villains. Ursula is in. Now apparently they just need to find Cruella and Maleficent. Rumpel appears to be going full bad-guy.
And, outside of a scene in Arendelle between Elsa and Anna just before Anna’s wedding where they squeal about chocolate, that’s that. That’s the wrap-up and set-up that we’re supposed to swallow after twelve maddening episodes of kind of nothing happening.
It’s going to be a long wait until March, and this show is officially on notice. Maybe I’ll think differently after I shotgun this on a re-watch, but this season felt very disjointed in many ways. It simply didn’t seem to have the tight, clever, character-driven plot that this show does so very well. The hero/villain polarization is becoming a little steep for my taste. While being worried about a character’s future isn’t something that’s new around these parts, for the first time, I’m worried that the plot won’t do a character justice. I really don’t want to see some sort of tortured, relapsed-to-super-villain Rumpelstiltskin, especially at the expense of Belle. At this point, the back half of this season is going to have to be completely amazing to make up for these barely lucid story arcs.