Title Strange Case
Two-Sentence Summary When it seems Belle is in danger of being attacked by Hyde and the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin goes to drastic measures to try to keep her safe. However, flashbacks reveal that Hyde may not be the one everyone should be worried about.
Favorite Line “I don’t need your protection!” (Belle, to Rumplestiltskin)
My Thoughts Once Upon a Time has always asserted that no one is completely good or completely evil. “Villains” have the potential for goodness in them, just as “heroes” have the potential for darkness. “We are both,” as the show has said time and again, and, as such, it was hard for me to understand how the show’s version of story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that was introduced in last season’s finale—which seemed to be about physically separating yourself into two halves—could fit into that ethos. It turned out that Jekyll and Hyde fit perfectly into Once Upon a Time’s vision of good and evil because neither half was exactly what they appeared to be. Hyde was not the singularly sociopathic monster we thought he was, and Jekyll was far from the meek, harmless man he appeared to be at first sight.
Ultimately, just like every other character on this show, Jekyll and Hyde were both, and no amount of magic or science could completely separate them. At first, I was annoyed with Mary’s obvious attraction to Hyde because the “every girl loves the bad boy” trope is not one I agree with or want to see on television—especially not on a television show kids watch. However, upon discovering just how inseparable Jekyll and Hyde really were, I came to believe that Mary’s attraction was to the fact that Hyde was brave and uninhibited, not that he was bad. She appreciated his passion and his ownership of that passion, which if Jekyll was brave enough to show to her when he was himself, she might have come to love in him as well. Mary was attracted to Hyde because he wasn’t afraid to be himself, while Jekyll felt he had to hide and eventually physically break with part of himself.
It was fascinating to watch Rumplestiltskin act as the devil on Jekyll’s shoulder throughout the flashbacks, encouraging him to separate the “weak” part of himself from the “strong” part. It was easy to see long before his revelation to Belle at the episode’s end that he wanted the serum to separate the part of himself that wanted to love Belle and the part that wanted to remain the Dark One, but his plan fell apart when Hyde fell in love. You can’t cut off the part of yourself that loves just because you think it’s weak. In truth, it’s the strongest part of a person. The sincerity of Hyde’s love for Mary (played with heartbreaking honesty by Sam Witwer) made him feel less like a monster and more like a tragic figure.
Seeing the pieces fall into place with Jekyll and Hyde’s story in this episode was fascinating. When the twist eventually came that Belle was stuck on the Jolly Roger with the real killer of the two, I applauded the show’s ability to still surprise me. Hyde may have appeared to be intimidating and evil, but Jekyll’s brand of darkness was far more realistic—and far more terrifying. When he killed Mary out of desperation because he wanted her to love him, it felt like every woman’s worst fear—a “nice guy” turning into a monster because she doesn’t want to be with him romantically. And when he went after Belle, I was honestly terrified for her, even though I knew nothing bad would happen to her. (The show can get dark sometimes, but never that dark.) Jekyll was willing to hurt not just Belle but also her innocent, unborn child, just to get back at Rumplestiltskin. That’s the mark of a true villain. And Belle was trapped on the Jolly Roger, unable to free herself because Rumplestiltskin wanted to protect her the only way he knows how—by locking her up like a possession (which he has done so many times that it shouldn’t have come as a shock to her—or to me). That’s not love; that’s taking away someone’s agency because you don’t believe they can take care of themselves. And it nearly got Belle killed.
Luckily, Belle wasn’t alone. I did a fist pump on my couch when Killian came to her rescue (though part of me would have loved to see Belle take care of Jekyll herself). They have developed such a beautiful friendship, and my heart melted when Killian gave her the shell to contact him if she needed him. Killian went from trying to shoot Belle to saving her life, and that is the kind of relationship development I thoroughly enjoy watching.
In the end, Killian killed Jekyll, which also killed Hyde. This didn’t really shock me—after all, as Jekyll told Mary, “I am him!” Jekyll and Hyde were ultimately inseparable, even as they existed in different bodies. They were both; Hyde could not escape the ability to love and to care for someone else, and Jekyll couldn’t cut himself off from the darkness inside of him or disown that darkness by giving it a different name and face.
You can’t escape your darkness, your demons. All you can do is learn to live with it and work through it instead of trying to hide it or cut it out of you like a tumor. That’s where Jekyll failed, and that’s where Regina is failing right now. She doesn’t have to meet Jekyll’s fate of dying to destroy the Evil Queen. All she has to do is be brave enough to find a way to reconcile with that part of her identity. She is both the Evil Queen and Regina; it’s clear to everyone now that they’re not two different people. But instead of dying in order to stop her, I think the key is going to be accepting that she has to live with her.
I really liked the parallel of both Regina and Emma thinking they have to die this season because of the parts of their identity that have defined them since the show’s pilot: the Evil Queen and the Savior. These two women are living on what they think is borrowed time, and I found it especially poignant that Regina made Emma promise that she would kill her if it would save everyone else—not just because it echoed the promise Emma made Regina make in Camelot, but also because of the fact that it echoed Emma’s self-sacrificial visions. There was an extra layer of depth to that exchange between them because of what Emma believes about her own destiny, and I thought Jennifer Morrison played that inner conflict and realization really well. Both women don’t see a way to escape their destiny or find a happy ending for themselves, and I hope that Emma’s pledge to help Regina find another way will be echoed by Regina when she finds out about Emma’s visions.
Regina has to come to terms with the fact that she can’t escape her darkest self, but it seems Rumplestiltskin came to terms with that fact long ago. This was the darkest he has been in quite some time, which I should have expected after a few weeks of me starting to soften toward him. Just like Jekyll, Rumplestiltskin does not handle rejection well. First, he trapped Belle on the Jolly Roger under the guise of protecting her. Then, he resorted to threatening her when she stood her ground and refused to take him back. But Belle did not back down. This was the most I have respected her since she pushed Rumplestiltskin over the town line in Season Four. She rejected his offer of protection with a fierce sense of self-respect, and she’s right; she doesn’t need him. She has friends like Killian who will drop everything to help her when she needs it, and having that support system has made her stronger. Emilie de Ravin was excellent in that confrontation scene, giving Belle the backbone I have wanted her to display for so long. Robert Carlyle was equally compelling; I wish I didn’t love his acting so much when Rumplestiltskin is at his worst, but I do. Whether he was trying to scare Belle into taking him back in the present or unleashing his unhinged rage on Jekyll and Hyde in the past, Carlyle was at his most captivatingly dark in this episode. (Or maybe I just really like his new haircut.)
“Strange Case” dealt mainly with the dark side of the “We are both” theme, but one storyline highlighted the beauty of it. Snow’s first day back as a teacher was a triumphant moment of reconciling Mary Margaret and Snow White. I loved seeing her combine her love of teaching with her badass archery skills, emerging more sure of herself and stronger as a teacher because she accepted that she can live with both parts of her identity and use both parts to help her students learn. And who wouldn’t want to learn about Newton’s Third Law by shooting arrows at bad test grades? I’ve really been enjoying the work Ginnifer Goodwin has been doing so far this season, and I hope it continues.
Snow found support in her journey from an unlikely source—her new teacher’s aide, who happens to be Princess Jasmine. I’m excited to see Jasmine’s backstory, because this episode hinted at the fact that she ran away from her problems to the Land of Untold Stories—another character who put her life on hold out of fear. I’m also intrigued by Jasmine’s relationship with the seer who foretold Emma’s death. I still believe that the seer is Jafar in disguise (because of the staff), so it will be interesting to watch what happens between those two characters in the future.
“Strange Case” was an episode that reminded us that none of these characters are one-dimensional. Jasmine is a princess and a refugee. Snow is a warrior and a teacher. Emma is a Savior and a girl who loves her dad’s pancakes. Charming is a sheriff and a dad who just wants to take care of both his kids. Killian is a hardened pirate and a protective friend. Regina is the Evil Queen and the woman willing to die to rid the world of the Evil Queen for good. Hyde was able to love, and Jekyll was able to kill. Belle always saw the man behind the beast, but she now knows when to walk away as the beast overtakes the man. And Rumplestiltskin loves his wife, but he doesn’t love her enough to let her be free.
No one should be defined—or should try to define anyone else—by one facet of who they are. People are complex, and Once Upon a Time has always understood that. We are the sum of our parts—the best and the worst parts. And once we realize that, we can finally live the fullest version of our story.
• Did anyone else die of “Daddy Charming” feelings when Charming worried that Killian moving in meant that he couldn’t make breakfast for his daughter anymore? I will always have a soft spot for Charming and Emma’s relationship, and this episode was full of adorable moments for them. I found it especially moving that he shows his love by cooking for her, given the fact that we’ve seen that Emma went hungry often in her past.
• Speaking of Charming and his kids, I have discovered that Josh Dallas holding babies is my ultimate weakness.
• I thought Killian’s single chest full of possessions was a nice little parallel to Emma’s single box of possessions. They’ve always been kindred spirits in that way.
• Can the Evil Queen please stop hitting on Rumplestiltskin soon? It’s not getting any less uncomfortable.
• I was so excited to see that Violet is still around—and still clearly into Henry.
• Is there any way Rumplestiltskin and Belle can find their way back to each other at this point? I feel like this was entering into “last straw” territory, but I’ve definitely said that before.