ONCE Channels Led Zepplin!


Season 1, episode 8: “Desperate Souls”

With Led Zepplin!

So, the show is back. Graham is still dead.

[show images: ABC]

So we move forward with an episode many have been wanting for a while – giving the devil his due, the show finally gives us the back-story on Rumpelstiltskin.


Who’s spinning thread in his village. He’s not the evil troll we all know and love to hate. He’s a normal guy. And turns out, he’s got a kid! Who comes in to tell him the soldiers are back.

The soldiers are recruiting teenagers to fight in the Ogre Wars – and by recruit, I mean “grab the kid and throw them on the horse”. When the villagers resist, they’re overcome by the Dark One – a mysterious dark hooded figure on horseback.

Rumpelstiltskin clearly is not the bold, brash man we see later. He even has a limp. Same as Mr. Gold, who’s in his shop when Emma comes to visit. She’s overcome with the stench of the lanolin Gold is using – used for waterproofing. Ew, she thinks. I’m wondering what that book is that he’s got on the desk under the new coats of lanolin. He’s called her to express his condolences, and to see if she wants to rifle through his things… take any memento.

Turns out Graham was Gold’s tenant. And Gold has a few of the good sheriff’s personal effects, which he thought Emma might want to inspect to see if she wants any keepsakes.


[And if you look closely, you’ll see that Graham’s last name was Humbert, which is a form of the Latin humbertis, meaning “warrior” (hun) and “bright” (beraht). Oh, those clever writers. It’s these little details that make this a much richer world than the one over on “Grimm”.]

So, Gold’s going through Graham’s things, takes out the walkie-talkies and tells Emma “your boy might like these”… wait. Her boy? There seems to be a shift at play with regard to who Henry may belong with. Emma takes the talkies, but she’s clearly creeped out by Gold. Which is silly, because he’s just the friendly neighborhood pawn broker, right?

Anyway, Emma meets up with her youngling who’s not legally her youngling anymore… and Henry has decided that the stakes are too high. Graham’s death has made this whole thing real for the boy, and he want to cut his losses. “You don’t mess with a curse.” He’s sure more people are going to be hurt because, “Good has to play fair. Evil doesn’t.”

Welcome to the real world, m’boy.

Regina’s decided that Sidney Glass – editor of the Daily Mirror and formerly the Mirror Mirror On the Wall – will be the new Sheriff. Because he’s been covering the sheriff’s office for the paper for as long as anyone can remember. Yeah. That tracks. Like anyone would appoint a journalist to a political position without any… oh, wait. nevermind.

Mary Margaret comes home to find Emma butchering the toaster to the mellow tones of Sonic Youth. At 11. While Miss Swan froths over Regina getting her goat, Mr. Gold shows up with a proposition – and a handy three-ring binder. Oh, look! The town charter that no one ever bothers to read. Probably because they been stuck in 8:15 limbo for the last twenty-eight years…

Back in Fairy Tale Land, Rumpelstiltskin takes his boy Baelfire and they skedaddle, because the boy’s about to turn fourteen, and Papa is a rolling stone. On the way, they meet a beggar. And as soon as I see him, I know he’s going to figure into the story. Usually these are the “angel in disguise” type of character. Or a person of high breeding looking to reward someone. Well, in this case… uhm. Yeah.

Hordor – with a name like that, he must have escaped from Middle Earth – and his soldiers see them on the road, humiliate Rumpelstiltskin in front of his boy, and make threats and haw-haws at the fact that old Rumpelstiltskin was a deserter who essentially caused the Ogre War to go badly. (Really? One man can make a difference? Well, OK, Winton Knight, one man can make a difference, but he had a talking car and smokin’ hot mechanic…)

OK… making a difference. Yeah. Regina’s going to announce Sidney is the new sheriff, when Emma shows up to spoil things and make everyone do it all legal-like. She throws her hat into the ring, and the race is on!

[Note the crowd in the back, among them Miss Ginger, the older lady who is going to be featured soon. I think she’s the blind witch from the curse-casting party.]


Rumpelstiltskin has some great lines in this one. And as they point out over at io9, Robert Carlylse really gets a chance to chew plenty of scenery this week. When he offers his roof to the beggar, the old man tells him he has to choose his destiny, what kind of life he wants to have. To which Rumpelstiltskin replies: “I’m the town coward. The only choice I have, is which corner to hide in.” The writers are pumping out some tasty stuff.

Beggar Man says the Duke has the power of the Dark One because he possesses an enchanted dagger. Steal the dagger, and command the Dark Lord. (OK, I’ll go with an io9 commenter who asked a very good question: If the Duke has the Dark One in thrall, and the Dark One has so much power, exactly why are they taking kids as cannon fodder? Shouldn’t the Ogre War be over?)

Back (or should I say “forward”?) in Storybrooke, Regina confronts Gold about the whole town charter thing and how slimy he is and how she thinks he’s supporting a loser and blah blah evil blah… Her line about how he likes to “trifle with technicalities” speaks so much to their history together. You know there’s more to the story than just what we’ve seen. It’s this sort of thing that I like about how the writers assume the audience is intelligent enough to recognize a throwaway line as a call-back to part of the Fairy Tale Land history.

The writers know we’re not stupid. Thank you for that.

Speaking of backstory, Henry finds out more than he wants to know when the newspaper reveals that Emma gave birth while in jail. Which were juvenile detention records, sealed, and for Regina to have gotten into them and made them public is all sorts of illegal and unethical and how will it impact Henry? And Regina says it’ll all come out in the debate, and oh by the way, Mr. Gold is a nasty one, not someone to be in bed with. (Spoken with a straight face. Really.)

Now, here’s where the writers get a little cheeky. (io9 calls them out for cheesy) Emma’s “fighting fire with fire” line right before the big explosion?

Yeah. A little much.

Fire is the thread burning through the next few scenes – Rumpelstiltskin telling his boy of the plan to burn the castle and steal the dagger, Emma using the fire extinguisher and getting Regina out (Lana Pafrilla’s face is priceless when Emma leaves and walks through the fire), the crowd all going ga-ga over Emma’s heroism (except she discovers it’s not, really), and just how did Rumpelstiltskin know exactly where to find the magic dagger before he was overwhelmed by heat and smoke?

OK. I trifle with little details like that.

So, as the GOP caucus and primary movement heats up in our very real world, over at the Storybrooke Town Hall everyone’s getting ready for the Great Debate – and David is on the opposite side as Mary Margaret; awkward. The good news is that David is now working at the animal shelter. The bad news is that his whipped, because his wife is a friend of the mayor and he wants to make nice and oh! Look! Mary Margaret’s out of posters. Bye.

[Sidney’s poster looks very much like he does when he’s the Mirror. I don’t think that’s an accident.]

Archie – not a deputy mayor or county judge or other media type of person, but the town shrink – is backstage practicing his lines as moderator. I guess it’s fitting, since the town’s becoming a chess board with two passionate lunatics about to play. Mary Margaret and Emma have a heart-to-heart in what’s commonly known as the “stage whisper” while Emma looks at Henry with a great deal of longing, crushed because she’s convinced that she absolutely must win to prove to him that heroes can prevail. Because if she’s not his hero, she has no place in his life.

Methinks the maternal instincts doth stirreth more.

Back in Fairy Tale Land, Rumpelstiltskin has gotten away from the burning castle, where we never saw anyone in and around the castle reacting to the whole fire thing… guess the extras had the night off or something. So, Rumpelstiltskin (man, that’s getting harder to type…) sends his boy on ahead back to the village, and then he stands up and this is when we almost have a Led Zepplin mashup with Beetlejuice. Seriously. The man actually says “Zoso” twice; he should have said it thrice. Because that would have been more fun. Seriously.

Turns out Zoso the Dark One is the beggar (and yes, everyone called it because it’s Brad Dourif playing the guy…), only Rumpelstiltskin (seriously… ctl+C, ctl+V from now on) doesn’t figure it out until after he’s stabbed the poor guy. Because that’s what Zoso wanted all along – a release from the curse of his power. “Magic always comes with a price,” quoth the wizard. And when the knife comes out of Zoso’s body:

This week’s Best Line Award goes to Dr. Archie Hopper while introducing the candidates: “Glass. Swan. Sounds like something a decorator would make you buy.” No reaction. “Wow. Crickets.”

It was so fast, I almost missed it. “Wow. Crickets.”

Glass recites Regina’s words about being a “reflection” of the town’s best qualities, and then Emma blows the whole thing in her speech when she exposes Gold as the mastermind behind the fire in order to get her elected as a hero. “I can’t win that way.” Gold storms out. Regina smirks. Only this time I’m going to ding Lana Parrilla -2 points because the smirk morphs into something else – like she’s kissing a ferret or something.

In the end, good triumphs over evil. At least for now. Emma is now Sheriff Emma, and Regina has to regroup, telling Emma to watch out for Mr. Gold. “He does make a superlative enemy. Enjoy that.”

[In this scene: the woman in the background looks like the mother of the girl carted off at the beginning of the episode.]

And now that Rumpelstiltskin has the power of the Dark One, he makes sure Hordor and his band of merry men aren’t able to make merry anymore, killing all of them in front of his boy. Probably scarring him for life and turning him into a vegan, but you know…

Gold visits Sheriff Emma and basically says, “I planned the whole thing.” A bit of political theatre to get her elected. Because now everyone thinks she stood up to Gold. And they fear him more than they fear Regina. And now that Emma’s the Sheriff… oh, by the way: remember that little favor?

So now the questions I have are thus:

  • Where is the dagger?
  • What happened to Baelfire? Who is he in Storybrooke? Or did something happen to him between then and Curse Day?

Next week: Hansel and Gretel before they turned into Witch Hunters. Oh, wait…

[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap: “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”]     [Known Fairy Tale Land Timeline]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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