Two-Sentence Summary After Regina restores Belle’s cursed memories to her, she becomes Lacey, a hard-drinking, bad-boy-loving woman who is drawn to Rumplestiltskin’s dark side, which is the opposite of the Belle we see in flashbacks to Fairytale Land, whose desire to find the good in people saves Robin Hood. In other parts of Storybrooke, Emma has to deal with the possible choice of returning to Fairytale Land, Regina finds the magic bean crop, and Hook returns to town with Tamara’s help.
David: You want me to help you?
Rumplestiltskin: Well I’m certainly not here for the over-priced lasagna.
My Thoughts “Lacey” was a true return to form for Once Upon a Time after what I felt was a very disappointing episode before this latest hiatus. Was I disappointed in some of the characters this week? Yes. Were there some plot holes that had me scratching my head? Yes. But ultimately, this show’s strength has always been in its cast, and this hour allowed some of its most talented members to shine.
This episode belonged to Robert Carlyle and Emilie de Ravin, who both played the duality of their roles to absolute perfection. This was the first time we’ve seen de Ravin be anything but sweet and gentle as Belle, and she seemed to really thrive onscreen in her time as Lacey. I’ll admit to being disturbed beyond anything I was expecting from Once Upon a Time as I saw her attraction to Rumplestiltskin take over as he was beating the Sheriff of Nottingham outside of Granny’s, but that was exactly what I was supposed to feel. It was wrong and dark and tragic on so many levels, but it was brilliantly done. I used to think that Ginnifer Goodwin was the best at making both sides of her character feel real during the time of the curse, but de Ravin gave her a run for her money in this episode alone (and she looked absolutely stunning while doing so).
What made Belle’s transformation into Lacey so sad wasn’t that she drank a lot or kissed a man who wasn’t her date; it’s that Lacey was such a perversion of who Belle was as a woman and who she was for Rumplestiltskin in terms of what she believed about people. Belle is a hero because she fights for the good in everyone, including herself. She’s brave because she stands up for what’s right even when that means standing up to the Dark One himself. But Lacey is drawn to darkness; she finds goodness boring and instead wants to enable the darkest parts of people. And Rumplestiltskin at this point is all too easy a target.
I’ll admit, I’m not as passionate about the “Rumbelle” relationship as many people in the Once Upon a Time fandom are. They’re not my favorite couple (that would be Snow and Charming), but I was incredibly moved by their interactions in this episode. From the moment of quiet hope between in the hospital before all hell broke loose to that beautiful take on the library scene from Beauty and the Beast, there was something beautifully innocent and gentle in their chemistry this week, and I loved how that contrasted with the darkness that enveloped both of them at the end. The flashbacks to Rumplestiltskin’s growing humanity in the face of Belle’s inherent faith in goodness made the collapse of that human side all the more tragic.
So much of that tragedy came from Carlyle’s performance. Once again, he was in a league of his own. His performance is like a coin continually spinning, with one side showing a broken man simply trying to love and the other side showing a ruthless tormentor—and we’re never quite sure which side it’s going to land on or if that side is going to stay down for long. The way he can say so much without words is Carlyle’s true gift as an actor. It was there in the radiantly hopeful smile he wore on his date with Lacey, the confused but slightly awestruck expression when Belle first hugged him, and the murderously cold glint in his eyes as he began to raise his cane at the end. Carlyle is the best actor on this show, and I love when he gets to work with scene partners, like de Ravin, who really bring out his excellence.
Another of Carlyle’s best scene partners is Lana Parrilla, so it goes without saying that their scenes together were some of the highlights of this episode. They both bring so much controlled power and delicious sass to their roles, and every scene between them crackles with a kind of chemistry found nowhere else on this show. I could watch an entire hour of the “Regina and Rumplestiltskin Are Evil and Sarcastic Show” and never get tired of their interactions.
This season also showed us that Carlyle has great chemistry with Josh Dallas, so it thrilled me to no end to see David as Rumplestiltskin’s wingman and confidant in this episode. These two characters could not be more different, but there’s a strange sense of respect between them that makes their scenes work on a realistic level. Dallas was once again solid throughout this episode, although the Charming Family in general was given relatively little to do. I loved his moment with Emma where he told her that this world had been nothing but cruel to her (more daddy/daughter moments, please!). And I was way too happy to see his little wink when he told Leroy he was heading home with Snow.
Speaking of Snow, it was nice to see the show moving on a bit from the “dark heart” storyline. It makes sense to have Snow want to go back to Fairytale Land for a fresh start and a chance to make things better, and I’m just hoping that was the last we have to hear about the unnecessarily black spot on her heart. In other “let’s just move on” news, I’m hoping August/Pinocchio just fades away as a character so we don’t have to think about how weird that resolution was. It was smart to show Emma address the ridiculously weird situation, but I just want to forget it happened.
Unfortunately, I can’t forget that Greg and Tamara happened to this show (especially Tamara). I was rolling my eyes at the mention of the “package” throughout the episode, but I was happy when that package actually made sense and gave us back one of the only new characters I actually like (aka Captain
Hottie Hook). Besides brining Hook back to Storybrooke, I still don’t care about these two characters. And there are too many plots to wrap up by the finale already for their story to feel anything but tacked-on at this point.
Despite some plot holes (Why would Belle have needed a cursed memory if she was kept in the asylum for 28 years? How did Regina not figure out that Bae was Henry’s father once he arrived in Storybrooke? Why was Rumplestiltskin’s voice in the flashbacks so much deeper than his usual flashback voice?), I really enjoyed this episode. It certainly wasn’t the happiest hour of Once Upon a Time ever, but it was a kind of dark that I could appreciate—mainly because it made sense for all the characters involved. It allowed for the talents of the cast to take center stage, and that’s always a good thing. When this show focuses on the central characters and their relationships, it’s at its best, and that’s exactly what this episode was all about.