Much like in the first season of the show, while the story arc continues throughout the episodes, each individual episode tells a self-contained story that furthers along character-development and reveals more of the past.
In Ill-Boding Patterns, the main plot is primarily sidelined in favour of Rumpelstiltskin (and Belle, to a lesser extent) confronting Gideon. In the process of learning more about what happened to Gideon and the ill treatment that he received at the hand of his grandmother, we also learn more about the relationship between Rumpelstiltskin and Baelfire in the past. While interesting, this plot was not so much needed in of itself as much as it was needed to show how far Rumpelstiltskin was willing to protect his son from following him down a dark path. Ultimately, he had a choice between allowing his son to become addicted to power and making him forget about ever having wielded it, widening the rift between them in the first place. Would knowing this have changed how Baelfire felt about his father? I don’t think so – from what we saw in earlier seasons, Baelfire did come to believe that his father had the potential to be good.
What this backstory mainly does is give some context for how hard Rumpelstiltskin will fight for Gideon’s salvation, even at his own expense. This episode marks the beginning of Gideon turning away from “evil for the sake of good” and learning to trust and work with others. How this pays off in future episodes remains to be seen.
The B- and C-plots for this episode feel a bit shoehorned in for time – it is as though the writers need to remind us that the other characters exist. Regina, alternate-Robin, and Zelena’s adventures with trying to escape Storybrooke feel overly melodramatic. It does serve to reconcile the two sisters and also bring back the Evil Queen from snakedom, but this plotline wavers between drama and comedy. The content is too dramatic to be a funny sideplot, but it is the most lighthearted of the plots in the episode, so it seems that the writers were trying to make it more amusing. It ended up feeling a bit odd. As for the C-plot, well, all we get of Hook and Emma is an awkward proposal scene after Hook wrestles with telling her that he killed her grandfather many years earlier. He ends up not telling her (of course), which only sets up their relationship on the wrong foot. Thus while this little plot might seem happy, it is anything but that. Even the lighting is dark!
Ill-boding is right!
But moving on the Page 23, which actually brought closure to the story arc between Regina and the Evil Queen. To be honest, it brought closure to Regina’s character arc altogether – she has finally learned to love herself and not be pinned down in self-loathing masquerading as hatred for Snow White (or anyone else). Now what? On one hand, the future is full of possibility, but on the other, what will the writers do with her character?
In the end, the not-so-Evil Queen and alternate-Robin get their happily-ever-after, which really worked well for the story. Not only did it tie up loose threads, but it got extraneous characters out of Storybrooke. Now Regina can turn her focus back to her family and the town is down one (or potentially two) villains.
While the main plot is hopeful and enjoyable – which I appreciated after putting up with the build-up to it in previous episodes that only came across as melodrama – the B-plot involving Emma and Hook is most definitely not.
Snow White is ever hopeful and excited about the possibility of her daughter getting married. Undoubtedly due to having missed out on her daughter growing up, she is dreaming of weddings and dresses and flowers, while Emma herself is still processing that she just got engaged. Emma is a practical woman – saving Storybrooke is much more important to her than planning a wedding. Plus she can tell there is something wrong with Hook.
Unfortunately, Hook chooses not to confide in her, which understandably makes her upset. As a viewer, on the one hand I wanted to laugh because after all they have been through, she is ready to postpone their engagement after finding him hesitant to confide in her all of his horrible deeds? On the other hand, I understand the feeling. When you are engaged, you are supposed to be a team, and teams confide in each other. (Emma has her own issues, of course, but she has never killed Hook’s grandfather.) But rather than simply berate him for forgetting this, she gives him his ring back! Oy, in this kind of show? Seriously? A bit too much, I think, but still understandable.
In light of all of this, I can sympathise with not wanting to spend time gushing over wedding plans.