ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME breaks a long hiatus this week with “Lacey.” Regina (Lana Parrilla) helps Belle (Emilie de Ravin) get her memories back, but not her fairy tale ones. Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) is not too happy with Lacey, Belle’s new persona, who is somewhat the opposite of the girl he loves. Will they be able to find each other again, as true love’s kiss is needed to break Regina’s spell?
“Lacey” gives us another piece of the Rumplestilskin / Belle back story. We see them living together when they aren’t getting along. This is the part of the Beauty and the Beast story where things are unhappy, and ultimately culminates in the library / “there may be something there that wasn’t there before” bit. Yet, even in their most miserable times, Belle sees something in Rumple that gives her hope.
A young man named Robin Hood (Tom Ellis, Miranda) ventures into Rumple’s home to steal a magic wand. Rumple captures and tortures Robin Hood, intending to set an example for anyone else that might think to steal from him. Belle can’t stand to hear the suffering, and allows Robin to escape when Rumple isn’t looking.
I feel like these scenes in “Lacey” take Rumple in a darker direction than we’ve seen him before. Yes, we have witnessed him kill out of revenge, and use magic to manipulate and get what he wants. But we haven’t seen him being cruel, inflicting physical pain, without good reason. It’s not like he even knows Robin; Robin is just a man willing to break the rules to save the woman that he loves, with no personal beef.
It’s a little strange that Belle sticks by Rumple at this point. I mean, I get that she thinks she can save him, and sees the inner part of him that isn’t bad. But as Rumple is hurting Robin, making her wash his aprons full of blood, there should be more outrage here. Belle should be disgusted and turned off, maybe even trying to run away, despite her duty, or take down Rumple. How does she keep from judging him, even as she begs Rumple to show mercy, which he eventually does, sparing Robin’s life in the end.
Quick side musing: might Robin’s never-missing bow, which Rumple ends up with, be the same one that Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) eventually owns?
The Storybrooke versions of the characters are different than their fairy tale personas, and yet there is a thread connecting them. Lacey is nothing but dark, loving alcohol and violence. At first, this is confusing, because Rumple has always regarded Belle as a sweet, pure innocent. But I think “Lacey” shows us that his view is simplistic and wrong.
Lacey urges Gold to keep beating on the Keith, a.k.a. the Sheriff of Nottingham (Wil Travel, All Saints), in Storybrooke, delighting in the dark side it brings out of him. This can’t come out of nowhere. I think the purpose of the “Lacey” back story is to show us that Belle doesn’t flinch at darkness, and may even be attracted to it. Yes, she encourages Rumple / Gold to act good, but perhaps she also likes knowing that, deep down inside, he is bad. Or she likes the influence she has over this part of him, making her feel powerful to be able to control someone like that, even if it comes across as her encouraging Rumple to better himself.
It’s a sobering and depressing turn. It reveals the more complex nature of Belle, but it also shows us something about her that we won’t like. This kind of changes the game, giving us a new understanding of a pivotal character that could have long reaching affects.
There is an immediate consequence in “Lacey,” and that’s that Gold is now embracing the evil nature he fights to overcome. He is in love with Belle, or Lacey, or whoever she is. He is going to do what makes her happy, even if it’s what the old version of her wouldn’t have wanted, at least, so he thinks. The fact that she eggs him on when he is beating Keith, and so Gold keeps going, is a bad sign for where the character of Rumple may go in the last few episodes of the season to impress his gal.
See, “Lacey” opens with a powerful scene in which Rumple murders Henry (Jared Gilmore), his own grandson, because Henry has been foretold to be the instrument of Rumple’s destruction. At the beginning of the hour, Rumple is deeply bothered by this vision, and clearly is not comfortable carrying it out, hoping Belle might remember who she is and help him overcome these desires. However, if Lacey wants him to be bad, we’ve seen how easily Rumple can get caught up in that darkness. His behavior late in the installment is bad news for Henry.
Which means Regina has screwed up again. By manipulating Belle to be Lacey, thinking she is just going to hurt Gold, she actually puts Henry is danger. This is similar to last year’s late arc, in which Regina tries to poison Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Henry ends up the one in the coma. Clearly, Regina has not learned her lesson.
Regina is also causing trouble in another way. She secretly investigates what the dwarves and Anton (Jorge Garcia) have been doing, and discovers their beanstalks. The question is, what will she do about it?
She doesn’t immediately burn the fields, so maybe she wants to go home. It seems the Charmings have no intention of taking her with them, based on a line Emma lets slip, probably a good move considering the threat Regina poses in the past in fairy tale land. But this now means they can’t just escape her. Which, they couldn’t have anyway. The disappearance of many, if not all, of the townsfolk would have eventually raised her suspicion, and she would have found them. Now, though, she may threaten them leaving in the first place.
It is doubtful that Regina will team up with Gold, considering she doesn’t trust him. Regina only finds out this week that Gold is Henry’s grandfather, and considering that he arranges her adoption of the boy in the first place, she doesn’t believe that he didn’t know who Henry is ahead of time. Might the two baddies battle each other, rather than the heroes?
Even if they do, the end of “Lacey” triples the threat count when Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Greg / Owen (Ethan Embry) bring Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) back to town. He is their prisoner, but surely he will have no objection to causing trouble for their enemies. Plus, Hook arrives along with quite a few boxes. What is in all of those?
“Lacey” is very much setting up some big end-of-the-season plots, and is interesting, if a bit depressing, in its own right. For every amusing scene of David (Josh Dallas) giving Gold dating advice, we get one of Lacey ditching Gold during dinner, balancing the enjoyable with the story elements that cause dread. The next three hours should be very exciting.
ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET. on ABC.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.