I apologize for the brief hiatus that caused me to miss the last episode, fellow Oncers! I was off having a magical Disney adventure and then having a very non-magical adventure catching up on all the work I missed during my time away. But I’m back now and ready to talk about all things Storybrooke!
Two-Sentence Summary As Belle is faced with the threat of her pregnancy being sped up so Rumplestiltskin can take her baby and Emma is faced with more detailed visions of her death, both women find the strength to fight for the fate of those they love. In flashbacks to Belle’s time in Rumplestiltskin’s castle, she witnesses a confrontation between the Dark One and his long-lost mother.
Favorite Line “I never wanted you to be perfect. I just wanted you to try.” (Belle, to Rumplestiltskin)
My Thoughts Love is not easy. It calls for sacrifice, selflessness, and the knowledge that sometimes you have to put your own pain and fear aside to do the right thing for the person you love. Love asks us to be brave, to try, and to believe. To love fully and truly is a hero’s calling, and Once Upon a Time has always shown that the most heroic thing a person can do is open their heart to love.
“Changelings” was an episode that proved that the strongest, bravest heroes on Once Upon a Time are the characters who are willing to do the difficult thing for the ones they love. And it did this by contrasting the heroes and villains in incredibly stark ways.
At the center of this episode was the conflict between Belle and Rumplestiltskin over the fate of their child, and that conflict has its roots in Rumplestiltskin’s inability to understand what Belle clearly does: Love does not demand perfection, but it does demand effort.
No matter how much power he amasses, Rumplestiltskin will always be a coward. He’s afraid that his son won’t love him, so he wants to force him to love him by cutting the ties to his fate. He’s afraid of losing his son, so he goes to drastic measures to keep him—including threatening Belle with an expedited pregnancy. And he’s afraid to put the hard work in that it takes to truly love someone, so he takes the easy way out—hiding behind the idea that he’s “unlovable” instead of trying to be a better person for his wife and unborn baby.
That’s always been Rumplestiltskin’s way—he always looks for a magical solution instead of making sacrifices and working hard to do the right thing for the people in his life. His actions in this episode were no exception. As Belle stated so perfectly, she never asked for him to be perfect; she just wanted to see him trying to be the best version of himself. Once he stropped trying and clearly stopped believing in himself, she stopped believing in him, too. As sad as that is, it also fills me with a sense of pride for Belle. This season has been all about her standing up for herself and her child, and it was powerful to see her refuse to give in to her husband’s demands and tell him that he would lose her forever if he used magic to take away their son.
Belle has found the strength to walk away from an unhealthy situation because of the True Love she has for her son. Her love for him has given her the courage to stand up to the Dark One himself and has helped her become a stronger version of herself than she was when she lost her way trying to bring out the best in Rumplestiltskin. It seemed for a long time that Belle would be stuck in a pattern of walking away from her husband and then running back to him, but that pattern appears to be broken now. Belle’s happy ending no longer involves bringing her husband back into the light; it is safely standing in the light with her son by her side. And I think that sends a powerful message to women who feel stuck in unhealthy relationships that they can find a way out; they can write a new ending for themselves.
It was so important to see Belle at her strongest as we saw Rumplestiltskin at his worst. Although he never actually used magic to speed up her pregnancy, he threatened her with the idea that he could to terrorize her into going back to him. That’s not love; that’s fear. That’s not a marriage; that’s intimidation. Love and marriage involve work and sacrifice by both parties, but Rumplestiltskin wanted everything on his terms once again. I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier to see him lose.
But Rumplestiltskin losing did not mean Belle won. Sometimes there are no winners. In this case, Belle made a choice to change her child’s fate that didn’t involve magic shears—just a mother’s sacrifice. Like Snow and Emma before her (It hurt to watch Emma watch Belle make the choice that kept her from both her parents and her son for so many years.), Belle knew that her child’s best chance was not with her—at least not right now. Emilie de Ravin broke my heart in the moments after Belle decided to give her son to the Blue Fairy to take him someplace safe; you could feel Belle’s incredible love for her son and her incredible pain at having to say goodbye to him in every uneven breath she took.
Love is sacrifice, and there is no greater sacrifice than the one Belle made for her son. Unlike her husband, Belle has never been afraid to do the difficult thing for love. She knows that when you truly love someone, you don’t take the easy way out; you do what is right for them, even if it’s hard for you.
It broke Belle’s heart to say goodbye to Gideon (I loved that she named him after her favorite literary hero.), but she found the strength to do it because she believed that being apart from each other forever would not be their fate. She believed that they would be reunited in a safer world, and that belief allowed her to do the brave thing. It’s the same belief that fueled Snow’s decision to send Emma through the wardrobe—the belief that family always finds each other. Belle had hope, and it was the one thing she could cling to during one of the hardest moments of her life. And it was Belle’s hope that made what was a horribly painful scene (Why do all the moms on this show have to say goodbye to their babies?) a little easier to take. In a season that’s been all about fighting back against your destiny, I have hope that Belle will find a way to write a happier ending for her and her son.
Belle—like many of the mothers on this show—gave up her child because she wanted to give him his best chance. However, some of the parents on this show abandoned their children to give themselves their best chance. Cora, Malcolm, and Rumplestiltskin all left their children because they couldn’t bear to sacrifice things for them. And “Changelings” gave us another character to add to that list: the Black Fairy, also known as Rumplestiltskin’s mother. I was honestly shocked when that connection was revealed; I am so pleased that this show has managed to surprise me so much this season. The discovery that Rumplestiltskin’s mother also abandoned him for power and magic helps further explain why he turned out the way he did. However, just because it explains some of his traits (“The sins of the father [or mother]” is a common theme on this show for a reason.), it doesn’t excuse his actions. Maybe this heartbreaking piece of backstory was simply revealed too late for it to make me feel bad for Rumplestiltskin; no family tragedy or further abandonment could make me empathize with him after he threatened his wife the way he did in this episode.
However, what the revelations about Rumplestiltskin’s mother did do was make Belle appear all the more heroic in comparison. His mother left him with his immature father before he even had a name, while Belle carefully chose her son’s name before entrusting him to the care of the epitome of good magic, the Blue Fairy, showing that she was already attached to him in a way Rumplestiltskin’s mother never wanted to be to her own child. Rumplestiltskin’s mother abandoned him because she loved power more than anything; Belle gave her child up because she loved him more than anything. Rumplestiltskin’s mother left her son feeling unloved; Belle made sure Gideon heard how much she loved him before she let him go—even if he couldn’t understand it, she needed him to know. Rumplestiltskin’s mother made the selfish choice and put her desires before her son’s needs; Belle made the selfless choice to put her son’s safety above everything.
In another interesting twist, it turned out that Rumplestiltskin wasn’t actually the one who expedited Belle’s pregnancy, despite his threats. The Evil Queen did it to spite him and fully turn Belle against him. The only joy I found in that storyline was that it hopefully means the end of the Evil Queen and Rumplestiltskin’s romance.
The more important storyline that Lana Parrilla was involved with in “Changelings” dealt with the more heroic half of Regina. However, even that half still has a long way to go before fully embracing her most heroic self. It was good to see her save Zelena, and it was even better to know she did it despite still being angry with her over what happened with Robin Hood. That’s what heroes do; they do the right thing even when it’s hard for them. The next step for Regina is doing something that might be even harder than saving Zelena’s life, and that’s forgiving her.
My heart broke more for Regina than it did for Zelena when the former revealed she still hadn’t reached a place of forgiveness. It showed how much pain Regina is still in, and it showed how much she is still ruled by the emotions that led her to become the Evil Queen all those years ago. I’m not expecting her to get over Robin’s death immediately, but she will need to learn to forgive in order to find lasting happiness and. Although Zelena did make it possible for Hades to kill Robin, she is not solely responsible for his death, which makes Regina’s current grudge only a little more reasonable than the one she held against Snow for so long. Regina is still looking for someone to blame, so she blames Zelena. As such, she won’t ever be able to reach a place of peace until she learns to let go of the anger in her heart and make room for the love she was starting to feel for her sister. Forgiveness—like love—requires sacrifice. It’s not easy, and it asks us to put aside what we want in order to do the right thing for someone else. But I think one of the next steps on Regina’s hero’s journey will involve her finally learning to forgive Zelena in the same way Snow, Charming, Emma, and the other heroes have forgiven Regina for what she did to them in the past.
Speaking of Emma, she also dealt with the idea of doing the hard thing for love in this episode, much like she’s been doing all season. When her visions returned, I was so happy to see her open up to Killian about them and to see him support her. (The symbolism of him helping her stand when the visions made it hard for her to do so was not lost on me.) In an episode that highlighted what had gone wrong in Rumplestiltskin and Belle’s relationship, it was lovely to see Emma and Killian represent what True Love should look like: a partnership filled with openness, honesty, teamwork, and sincere support. And Killian’s support allowed Emma to open up to him about choosing to continue being the Savior: She has chosen to continue down that path because she knows it’s the right thing to do for the people she loves. She’s willing to risk her life—the ultimate sacrifice—to keep her loved ones safe.
While there is something beautiful about Emma’s desire to make that sacrifice for her loved ones, I thought Colin O’Donoghue’s face in that scene was fascinating and heartbreaking. There was real sadness mixed with love in his expression, and it reminded me that Killian didn’t want Emma to keep being the Savior if it meant sacrificing herself. Emma is his fighter, but it’s clear that he wishes she didn’t have to fight all the time. However, just as she is willing to sacrifice her own life to keep him and the rest of her loved ones safe, he is willing to sacrifice his own desire to protect her at all costs to support her on the path she has chosen. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is.
One more pair of characters dealt with the idea of sacrificing for love in this episode, and it was a pair I honestly didn’t expect: Aladdin and Jasmine. This was the first episode where I really believed they could enter the pantheon of Once Upon a Time True Loves for more reasons than just their place in the Disney canon. When Jasmine needed a genie to help her find their home, Aladdin sacrificed his freedom to become a genie to grant her whatever she wished. For a man who severed the ties to his originally destiny as a Savior to become tied to the fate of a genie just to help the woman he loves is no small thing. It was a smart twist that felt true to this universe (where very few characters are just one thing), and it also represented another example of someone who is willing to sacrifice and make the hard choice for someone they love.
• I loved seeing Killian and Emma spending so much time with Belle in this episode. She needs friends, and I can’t imagine better ones who will be more protective of her than those two characters.
• Rumplestiltskin destroying his office after losing his son was a nice callback to him destroying his castle after losing Belle. It also reminded me of Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums in The Force Awakens.
• I would like to start a petition for no more traumatic births/mother-giving-up-baby scenes on this show. They’re always done so well, but just once, I’d like to see characters get to enjoy their first moments with their child.
• I’m so happy we finally got an explanation for why Rumplestiltskin hates fairies so much. I thought that was just going to be something that fell through the cracks.
• Emma and Killian looked like such a power couple in that final shot of them with her holding the sword and him standing right behind her. That’s pretty much the whole show summed up in one image.
• Who do you think the sword with the red stone belongs to?
• I’m very intrigued by Rumplestiltskin’s comment that he’s still playing the long game here. What do you think he ultimately wants?