Title The Black Fairy
Two-Sentence Summary When Rumplestiltskin, Emma, and Gideon travel to a dream realm to find where Gideon’s heart is being hidden, they actually discover the truth behind Rumplestiltskin’s abandonment by his mother. With this new knowledge, Rumplestiltskin makes a choice that will affect not just his future but also Emma’s—on the eve of her wedding.
Killian: This might be the most important mission yet: Operation Best Man.
Henry: Really? I’m honored.
My Thoughts Due to time constraints (and a certain other post I’m working on before next week’s big Once Upon a Time musical wedding extravaganza), I’m afraid I can’t go into as much depth as I’d like to when it comes to unpacking this incredibly rich episode. However, I still wanted to generate some discussion about what was another solid outing in what’s becoming a nice run-up to the Season Six finale. Therefore, here are my Five Fast Feelings about “The Black Fairy,” and I welcome all of you to share your feelings in the comments!
1. My biggest complaint with this episode was that I’m not sure even the writers can keep the show’s mythology straight anymore.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Emma was originally considered the Savior because Rumplestiltskin built a “Savior clause” into the Dark Curse that he made, right? So much has changed in terms of the mythology of the Dark Curse and the Savior since then, though, that it’s basically impossible to keep it all straight at this point. This season has given us multiple Saviors, different definitions for what it means to be a Savior, and even a different origin of the Dark Curse. Things like that generally don’t bother me too much, but I’m so confused now about what it actually means to be a Savior that it takes me out of the show from time to time. I thought this season would be about Emma learning that she doesn’t have to do all the saving on her own (because that’s far too much of a burden to place on one person—especially since she already seemed to have fulfilled her role as Savior by breaking the Dark Curse), but it just seems to be reinforcing that point instead.
2. I loved the parallels this episode created between Rumplestiltskin and his mother.
The story of their family is a story of parents who believe they need to give in to dark magic to protect those they love, who don’t believe they can be enough as they are to be the parents their children need. But by thinking this way, they make choices that separate them from their children because they’re too afraid to give up their power and give themselves over to hope. Desperation—hopelessness—makes characters on this show incredibly vulnerable to darkness, and that was certainly the case for Fiona, just as it was for her son. In her desperation to save her son from his fate as the Savior (one of the most unexpected twists in the series), she pushed herself deeper and deeper into the darkness, until she became the very evil her son was destined to fight. But instead of using the shears to cut off her ties to her part of that destiny, she refused to give up her power and instead cut her son from his fate. Fiona’s inability to give up her power and have hope that she and her son would be strong enough to face whatever comes started a cycle that has manifested itself in every generation of this family that followed—from Rumplestiltskin choosing power over Bae and trying to cut Gideon’s ties to his destiny to Neal being too afraid to choose Emma when they were younger. Fear and hopelessness have lived in the hearts of this family for so long, and I thought Fiona’s story was an interesting way to finally reveal how far back this painful cycle goes.
3. Robert Carlyle is a genius.
Rumplestiltskin is such a complex character, and this episode reminded me that even though he might not be my favorite, he’s one I’m always fascinated by because of how Carlyle brings him to life. And that’s all because I’m never quite sure how his story is going to play out. This episode took that ambiguity to the next level, and I loved it. The scene with Rumplestiltskin and Fiona on the bench was incredibly tense and layered, and so much of that came from the way Carlyle played that scene. Rumplestiltskin’s self-awareness has always been such an interesting part of his character; he knows he’s a villain. And in this scene, I liked the way he turned that back around on his mother, telling her that they both have done terrible things for their children. Rumplestiltskin was so torn in that scene, but Carlyle played it perfectly—without ever going over the top in either his understanding of his mother or his anger with her. And that ability to keep the audience guessing about his true feelings made their last scene together so interesting. Is Rumplestiltskin fully siding with his mother now, doing whatever it takes to secure his family’s safety? Or is he playing his mother, getting ready to betray her in the end now that Gideon’s heart is back? Either option feels believable, and I love that I genuinely have no clue how this will all end. Rumplestiltskin could be the true villain of the series—Emma’s true foil—or he could sacrifice himself like he did to defeat his father. Either way, I know Carlyle is going to leave me completely captivated in the process.
4. All I want is more “normal life” scenes with these magical characters.
Last week’s episode made me so happy because we got to see Snow White and Prince Charming scout venues for their daughter’s wedding to Captain Hook—something you can only see on this show. And this week, we got to see the Evil Queen teach the Wicked Witch of the West how to drive, which brought me more joy than I ever could have imagined. Rebecca Mader showed off her dramatic chops last week, but this week allowed her to show off her equally impressive gift for comedic timing. From fighting with IKEA instructions to complaining that the break and gas are too close together, every bit of the “Zelena navigates life without magic” side plot was entertaining. (Even if I was a little worried that Regina didn’t check with Emma before asking Zelena to get Henry out of Storybrooke for the Final Battle. I admired her protective instincts, but Emma should be shown getting some say in that, too.) And I can’t be the only one who clapped from her couch when Zelena hit the Black Fairy with her car.
5. I have never been this excited for a fictional wedding in my life.
I’m not even sure I’ve ever been this excited for a real wedding in my life. Ever since Killian and Emma were reunited, I have loved every detail of their pre-wedding plot, and this episode’s small moment at the end was no exception. I honestly didn’t expect Killian to ask Henry to be his best man (I thought it would be Charming.), but once he started talking about their adventures and I knew where the scene was going, I found myself with happy tears in my eyes because of how perfect that choice was. Henry has been such a important part of Killian’s character arc; he turned his ship around at the end of Season Two because he wanted to honor Bae and help Henry, and he journeyed back to Never Land to save Henry, a mission that brought him closer to Emma and to the best version of himself. Both Killian and Henry had holes in their lives without Bae/Neal; Killian was missing a boy to raise as a son, and Henry was missing a man to raise him as a father. In each other, they found that missing piece. So when Killian asked him to be part of Operation Best Man and Henry responded with such a perfectly sweet and sincerely happy reaction (Jared Gilmore sold the heck out of that brief moment.), I saw it as the perfect next step in their journey. And when that happy moment was followed by the even happier pre-wedding farewell between Emma and Killian, I just about melted into my couch. Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison are doing such a fantastic job of showing their characters’ joy and excitement about the idea of getting married. Their happiness feels as if it’s leaping off the screen, and that’s how it should feel right before a wedding. Killian’s playful smile and Emma’s laughter warmed my heart and made me even more eager for Sunday’s episode to get here.
Speaking of Sunday’s episode, I won’t be around to write about it at length since I’ll be on vacation enjoying a little magic myself in Disney World, but I do have plans to queue up a post that will basically just be a place for all of you to talk about it next week if you need a space to gush among friends!