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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

“Devil’s Due” proves that Rumple is Once Upon A Time’s best character

Illustration for article titled “Devil’s Due” proves that Rumple is Once Upon A Time’s best character

Need any more proof that Rumplestiltskin is Once Upon A Time’s best character? The episodes focused on him just seem to fly by. A lot of this is due to Robert Carlyle’s baddassery, able to bring vulnerability to Rumple the coward, and ruthlessness to the Dark One, all in the same episode. His complexibity makes him far and away more interesting to watch than those boring Charmings, for example. Snow spent an entire episode last week devoted to changing her name, for God’s sake; she was absolutely most compelling when she was wrestling with the darkness on her heart after killing Cora. David’s rogue twin brother is leagues more interesting than he is. Regina’s journey is second only to Rumple’s, and she’s always better when she’s less friendly, more nasty, the same way that Rumple is better the farther away he is from Belle.

Now in season five, the show is not only leaning on its best character here but is also wisely drawing on its own history with this Hades storyline, and the inclusion of Milah is a masterstroke. Rumple and Hook’s ex-in-common is a fierce woman who can see right through Rumple, and her past with both men gave her role in Hook’s rescue so much more weight. When she died, she was still in love with the pirate, right?

And who could blame her: After a few episodes of just seeing Hook as a battered and bloody mess (loved the high-pitched squeal as Hades pulled him up by the hair), this episode also wisely included Hook and Milah’s first meeting, so that we can remember the rogueish charm of early Hook. It’s easy to see how a woman stuck in a provincial village could be enticed by his tales of spices and jewels. And after Rumple’s contract with Frederick (a clever twist on the classic Rumplestiltskin story, as he’s usually the one asking for children), Milah’s departure, while still unfortunate for young Baelfire, makes a little more sense.

Casting Greg Germann as Hades was also a genius move (give or take a few blue flame hair sequences), so the showdown between him and Rumple, and Germann and Carlyle, seems like a long time coming. We so rarely see anyone get the best of Rumple, that devastating ending showed us that just what makes Rumple such a interesting villain: He actually has things and people in his life that he cares about. So becoming Hades’ henchman while keeping that secret from those 45 other people should be a hoot.

In fact, the only real downside to Hades’ plot is how infallible he appears to be. He’s a god, with complete control over his domain, so how is this bunch ever supposed to get out of there, let alone defeat him? The CGI team is going to town crafting various hell-ish elements (those lost souls were legitimately creepy), so that the players (again, give or take a flaming hair effect; even my 8-year-old son rolled his eyes) don’t seem like they’re flailing against a green screen, but legitimately floating down the dire River Of Lost Souls. Combine that with another powerhouse performance by Carlyle (so many by this point), and dialogue from Buffy’s Jane Espenson, who always knows how to get smooth line readings from these characters, and you have a powerhouse episode that takes full advantage of “Underbrooke” for the first time.

Stray observations

  • Could have lived without seeing that entire eyeball, thanks.
  • Also creepy: the unicorns stuck in webs over the crib.
  • In Milah’s continuing history of being indifferent to children, she finds out she has a grandchild, doesn’t ask any followup questions.
  • “I’m sure we’re going to laugh ourselves sick about this one day.” Apparently not.
  • I love the three choices Hades made to stick around Underworld: Emma, Regina, and Snow. If that means that Pan and Cruella get to visit the living world for awhile, all the better.
  • For a horrifying moment, when Hades showed the image of Belle and said to Rumple, “That’s your child,” I thought that he was talking about Belle, a discovery that would have made my head explode.
  • What do you suppose Charming and Robin and everyone else does while other people are off on their missions? Also, how did they know immediately to look for those three tombstones in the graveyard?
  • “I’m supposed to be watching the kids.” “Well, they’re dead anyway.” Harsh.
  • Hades hanging Hook over the River Of Lost Souls is straight out of a Bond movie, as it takes just long enough for him to get rescued.
  • I knew this episode was written by Jane Espenson before I even looked it up. Hers are always the best ones.
  • Frederick, of course, is Aaron Douglas, Chief from Battlestar Gallactica.
  • Was the horse supposed to symbolize Daniel for Regina or something? I thought he’d moved on. Maybe on to the equine world. That B-story was extremely weak, especially when compared to Rumple’s awesome one. Regina should have looked up what happened to that hottie sheriff.