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.
To be honest, I’ve gotten really annoyed at the show lately. I’m nowhere near quitting it by any means, but it has made me want to avoid it because every episode lately just seems to make me anxious and/or sad and/or mad.
I’ll start off, though, with what I liked about this episode, which is basically the same as what you liked about it: the focus on Belle and Rumplestiltskin (and not much of Tamara!). To be honest, I enjoyed the fairytale flashback scenes more than the present-day scenes, mostly because of how their present-day scenes concluded, but I’ll get to that later. Carlyle is a brilliant actor and seeing the flashback scenes with him and Belle in that time period between a few of the scenes from 1.12 Skin Deep, between the time where they first meet and before they’re really truly in love with each other, was really wonderful. Seeing Belle start to influence Rumple and draw him towards goodness was really nice to see. I loved the parallel to Beauty and the Beast with the library scene, it made me squeal with delight as that is one of my favorite scenes in the Disney movie. Also, on a more shallow note, I love Belle’s clothes in fairytale land so much, she gets to wear such pretty things!
Now, what I didn’t like. To start with, I do not like the way they’re taking Regina’s storyline this season, and it seems like they’re going to continue with her going down the path she started on once her mother showed up. For me, the draw of Regina’s storyline was always her struggle to do and be good, if not for herself then for Henry, and I was hoping after the first few episodes of this season that we would get to see Regina try for her redemption storyline and it would be a beautiful, extremely difficult struggle of her trying to do the right thing, occasionally failing but trying really, really hard for Henry. Instead, I feel like the writers have taken her even further down the un-redeemable path, and I now have lots of trouble seeing how her character is ever going to get redemption unless she does something drastic like sacrificing herself for Henry (or the town, or something) and being killed off completely. This annoys me, because while I wouldn’t say Regina is a cookie-cutter evil stereotype villain, I feel like the more we see her be mean and cruel and evil the less complicated she feels to me. What she did to Belle this episode to turn her into Lacey is exactly my point: she had no purpose for doing that other than to hurt Rumplestiltskin. It’s like she’s not even trying to win Henry over anymore, and it’s weird to me and makes me sad because the complicated villain in her and Rumple is part of why I was so drawn to this show from the beginning.
This brings me to what happened with Rumplestiltskin at the end of the episode. If we are going to have two antagonists on the show, like Regina and Rumple, who are not good but are also not pure evil, then I want to see at least one of them striving for good, not both of them seeming to not care anymore about how their actions will affect their relationships. Apparently without Belle, Rumple has no reason to be good, and has COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN about his son Bae who is IN TOWN WITH HIM at this very moment, and Rumple’s actions at the end of this episode would surely put further strain on that relationship if Bae finds out about it. What happened to trying to mend that relationship, with the one person who has been the motivating factor behind almost every action or plan of Rumple’s since we first met him? Not to mention that if Belle ever does regain her true memories, she will be extremely disappointed in Rumple for giving into that dark side, and that will put a strain on that relationship too.
I’m just tired of playing this back-and-forth game with Regina and Rumple and whether they’re going to possibly be eventually redeemed or if they’re going to slide into evil villain forever territory. Personally I’d much rather see them struggling to be good for their sons and have the show bring in outside “big bads” for the town to deal with, and see how they have to work together when many of them still hate/dislike each other. This is starting to feel like an on-again off-again romantic relationship trope, only instead of romance it’s their goodness that’s hiding inside of them (And 99% of the time I really dislike on-again/off-again relationships when shows do it with their main couple, so.). The more they continue to play this back-and-forth with these two characters, the more I feel like they’re not going to be able to be believably redeemable when or if the show ever gets around to it.
Also, I’ll be honest: I’m glad Hook is coming back because I feel like we’re not done with his storyline, but after what he’s done the last few times we saw him, a) his character totally gives me skeezy gross vibes (even though the actor is really hot) and b) I’m not sure if I can forgive him for shooting Belle, who is one of my favorites lol. But I’ll be glad to see him if he has some good scenes with Rumple, because I feel like that’s a really interesting plotline still.
(On a sidenote, I liked that this episode gave us a concrete answer to the few times on the show where we could have wondered “Why hasn’t [insert characters] kissing broken the curse if they’re one of the destined/fated/endgame/true love pairs?” The way that true love’s kiss only works if the person whose memories/mind is present is truly, completely in love with you, and not just the person they used to be, like we saw with Belle, is what I had thought was probably the case but am glad to have confirmed.)
I guess I had a lot of feelings about the show today lol, thank you for indulging my rambling! Here’s to hoping that the last 3 episodes wrap up at least some of the show’s storylines because at this point they have so many loose ends I don’t think they can do all of them before Season 3 hits us.
“Not to mention that if Belle ever does regain her true memories, she will be extremely disappointed in Rumple for giving into that dark side, and that will put a strain on that relationship too.”
Is it wrong that I am *so* looking forward to that?! I think she will also be disappointed in herself for encouraging that violence in Rumple. I don’t like how characters seem so divided between good and evil, except for Rumple. And I’m looking forward to maybe Belle realizing there is some dark in her.
I love when you write comments like this because you address some really legitimate concerns that I don’t think to address in my reviews. And now I get to talk about them too!
I agree with your confusion/disappointment with Regina’s arc. Honestly, I like Regina when she’s unashamedly evil because Lana Parrilla’s take on her villainy is delicious to watch. But the writers made a decision to give her a redemption arc, and I was starting to see how good a story that could be…when they abandoned it altogether. Regina’s complexities make her a fascinating character, and I feel like those complexities are being lost in the story right now.
I also really like the complexities of Rumplestiltskin’s character—even more than Regina. And I totally understand your disappointment in the fact that he doesn’t care at all that Bae is in town and seems to only be affected by Belle’s opinion of him. He enacted a curse just to try to find his son, and it feels like he’s giving up on a chance for redemption with him so easily. I don’t want to watch any episodes of him being purely evil because, unlike Regina, I don’t really like that side of his personality at all.
I don’t really want a “big-bad” coming in anymore because I don’t want any more new characters, but I agree that the show loses something when both Regina and Rumplestiltskin are both working towards purely evil gains. I actually prefer one of them attempting to be good and the other almost taunting them about it. I feel like these characters are good antagonists for one another, and that relationship is negatively affected when they’re both embracing their evil sides.
I’m intrigued about the end of this season, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up for any storylines getting resolved. There’s just too much to wrap up, but I hope what they do wrap up (and introduce) in the finale is done in an emotionally satisfying way. That’s all I ask for.
“Why would Belle have needed a cursed memory if she was kept in the asylum for 28 years?”
I had this question too. I rationalized it to myself that “Lacey” was Mr. French’s cursed memories of his daughter, who he thought he had institutionalized for alcohol/drug dependency.
I like this explanation a lot!
Once Upon a Time is having a rough, very inconsistent second season – and the Tamara & Greg storyline is only rivaled by Kalinda’s husband over on The Good Wife for horrific missteps. OUAT was the last show on earth that needed MORE storylines. That said, Carlyle continues to be the standout of this show and his episodes are always riddled with great fun, depth and evil. I think OUAT is having a similar problem that LOST had. It spent season 1 establishing characters and inter-relationships which had layers of mystery built into them. Now that mystery is gone and there needs to be something else compelling these characters (thus the Tamara & Greg misguidedness) back to Fairyland. I do think the bait and switch on Belle’s personality is actually interesting because it directly supports David/Charming’s claim that being ‘meant to be’ outweighs any curse. Belle is double-downed on curse right now – so the personality alter being drawn to dark Gold makes sense. It makes sense that he would feed into it, because lest we forget – Rumple loved Cora who in turn loved him (and power).
I think they simply haven’t had a clear direction for Regina this season and it shows. As for Rumple’s giving in to his dark side. I think the reason Bae doesn’t change the equation is because while Rumple became the dark one for Bae, Bae turned on Rumple for doing so. Belle has been the only character (expect Cora) to accept and love Rumple both for and in spite of that streak of evil and to see the pure part of him. When the seer told him a young boy would take him to Bae and that he would be his undoing I think they were setting up the fact that Henry would destroy the Dark One and ultimately lead Rumple to what he had wanted for him and Bae.
“the Tamara & Greg storyline is only rivaled by Kalinda’s husband over on The Good Wife for horrific missteps.”
This is so true! As someone who was turned off of The Good Wife for most of this season by the Kalinda’s husband storyline, I relate to this comment so much. I think you are incredibly astute in your thoughts about Rumple becoming the Dark One for Bae as well as your assessments on this season as a whole. It reminds me a lot of LOST (which shouldn’t surprise me given that the creators worked on LOST) with the need to replace the mystery of the first season with something that just doesn’t feel as interesting as well as the overabundance of characters. I’m just hoping the writers use the summer hiatus to refocus on the things and the characters that made this show work so well during the first season (and at times during this season).
Everyone was turned off by Kalinda’s husband, the powers that be have done a good job of cutting that storyline short and pivoting away from it. I think OUAT is in need of a LOST type overhaul – as when LOST set a time stamp on how long the show would last and then built the story accordingly. OUAT could use that type of structure. It would provide for a few episodes to clean house and refocus on the central characters (just like when they killed everyone from the back of the plane off). There are several shows that suffer from open ended schedules. I had this conversation recently about how some premises don’t lend themselves to open-ended long runs. Revenge is one that immediately comes to mind and given the fact that David Kelley is now leaving that rings even more true. Last Resort got short changed because of a similar problem. I think LOST needs to become more the rule not the exception. Good story ideas should definitely be told, not all require 24 episode seasons that go on for 5-8 years. I think this dilemma used to be dealt with through the development of mini-series like Rich Man, Poor Man, North and South, ROOTS. With streaming and cable broadcast TV needs to adapt otherwise great story ideas like OUAT will suffer from an antiquated model. OK, I will get off my TV soap box now. lol.
“Why would Belle have needed a cursed memory if she was kept in the asylum for 28 years?”
I’m confused by your question. Belle didn’t have cursed memories for 28 years because she was locked in the asylum. She just didn’t know who she was as seen in the finale of Season 1 and her recent amnesia episodes. Regina gave her a cursed identity in this episode because she was no longer locked away and Regina is a jerk (albeit an awesome one).
The same thing happened to David last season. He didn’t have cursed memories initially because he didn’t need them because he was in a coma. After Emma came and things started changing, Snow woke him up and Regina sent him to Gold’s shop where he saw the windmill and received his cursed identity.
I enjoyed this episode much more than I had been enjoying the show, mostly because they focused on characters I actually care about. I enjoyed seeing Anton and Granny again, although I still miss Ruby.
I kind of like Rumple’s storyline right now, mostly because he has such good chemistry with Emilie. I don’t mind if he temporarily goes dark while Belle thinks she’s Lacey because I think it could lead to some really interesting character development when Belle remembers who she is. I can be patient if I think the payoff will be worth it.
I didn’t like Snow and Charming surprising Emma with the beanstalks. She was born in Fairytale land, but the world she’s currently in is her home. I wish they would have told her that was what they were working on so she could have been a part of the decision making.
I definitely enjoyed this episode more than the previous one. Like you, I am drawn more towards episodes that focus on the characters I care about, and thankfully Rumplestiltskin and Belle are two such characters (but I miss Ruby too!). I’m really interested in seeing where this road is going to take Rumplestiltskin, mainly because I know Robert Carlyle is going to be incredible with whatever storyline he is given.
I agree with you about the Charming Family, too. Yes, it was sweet for them to all think about having a chance to be a family together in the place that should have been Emma’s home. But this is Emma’s home now, and I don’t like the fact that she was never included on these plans because she’s an adult and a leader in the town.