Well, talk about losing the parent lottery! After five years, we finally meet Rumplestiltskin’s mother. Since we still don’t know what happened between her and Malcolm (later Peter Pan), I am actually feeling tentatively sorry for Rumplestiltskin’s father. Despite being a sociopathic coward who didn’t want the responsibility of being a parent, he did at least try to look after his son. I hope the writers reveal this backstory in the second act. Either way, Rumplestiltskin was abandoned twice and both of his parents were selfish enough to pursue evil magic. It is surprising how well he turned out, everything considered.
There are two ways to end an act – everything on a happy note and seeming to go well (just waiting for something bad to happen in the next scene), or everything on a note of anxiety. This year, Once Upon A Time chose the latter. Everything seems hopeless and we as the viewers are wondering how they are going to put the pieces back together.
The Changelings is primarily devoted to Rumplestiltskin and Belle; the latter trying her hardest to protect her son from the former. The Evil Queen also breaks her ties with Rumplestiltskin, since she couldn’t bring herself to kill Zelena, and she ends up further driving a wedge between him and Belle. While I am no fan of Rumplestiltskin, I was quite satisfied to watch him vow revenge on the Queen. Seriously, do not mess with the Dark One on matters of family!
Belle gives up her son to protect him, despite not wanting to do so, and Emma has to relive giving up Henry (although this is only implied) as she stays with Belle in hospital. In both cases, they had to surrender control of their babies to ostensibly give them a better chance in life. They were both estranged from their children’s fathers, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t love the children. They were just in no place to raise them.
Unfortunately, all of Belle’s good intentions go awry in Wish You Were Here, when her son is kidnapped and taken to another realm entirely. One the one hand, at least he was kidnapped by his grandmother; on the other hand, his grandmother is darker than the Dark One. So Rumplestiltskin and Belle, while not reconciled, are now willing to work together to save him.
In the rest of the story, the end of the episode leaves the following situation: Regina and Emma trapped in an alternate dimension, where Regina may have a second chance with Robin Hood but also has a price on her head and a vengeful Alternate-Henry out to kill her; Snow and Charming still only able to be awake one at a time; Hook and Henry left to try to deal with the new threat to Storybrooke (assisted by whichever of the Charmings is awake); Zelena trusting no one; the Evil Queen turned into a cobra; and Jasmine and Aladdin (who has turned himself into a genie) disappeared to find and save their kingdom. Yay, curtain time!
The alternate dimension, created as response to the Evil Queen’s wish that Emma’s desire not to be a Saviour be granted, is quite fascinating. In it, Snow and Charming defeated the Evil Queen, who never cast the Dark Curse, and Emma was raised as a typical princess in the Enchanted Forest. Somehow, she still met Baelfire (who died honourably in battle) and had Henry, who is a young prince on the verge of knighthood. This Alternate-Henry has no connection to Regina and no qualms about attempting to kill her when she inadvertently kills the Alternate-Charmings.
What this does show is that Emma is not really Emma without being a Saviour. Regina discovers her nearly a completely different person – demure, meek, pampered, and living vicariously through her parents and her son. She does not actually seem to be happy, either. So much of our personalities and identities are shaped by our upbringing and life experiences. Emma needs to be finding and helping people. She needs to be doing something.
And now, she needs to do it in a pink fluffy dress!