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Once Upon a Time Recap: "The Return"


After a three-week absence, Once Upon a Time roared back with a solid, Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold-heavy episode. 

In FairyTale, Rumple’s young son Baelfire narrowly misses being run over by a cart, when he carelessly runs into its path. Daddy Dearest Rumple ignores the innocence of the cart’s driver and turns him into a rather large snail as punishment for almost hurting his son. Adding fatal insult to injury, he then crushes the snail under his boot. Eww.

Not surprisingly, Baelfire becomes something of a village pariah, as most of the other children are too terrified to associate with him. Bael tells his Dad that since he became magical, all he seems to do is hurt innocent people (not only did he crush the snail-man, but he also killed their maid for overhearing a secret convo between father and son). Baelfire just wants his Dad back the way he used to be but Rumple reminds Bael that the only known way to remove the magic is to kill Rumplestiltskin with the engraved knife. Still, he promises that if he can find a way to remove his power without having to actually die, he’ll do it. The two shake on it, and Bael is convinced his father’s word is good (Oh, you foolish, foolish boy).

Believing in his father’s bond, Bael seeks out the Blue Fairy for some magical help of his own. She informs the boy that it’s impossible to undo what’s become of Rumple, but she can send them to a place where Rumple’s magic will not work. WAIT A MINUTE! Is that place Storybrooke? Is this why all these fairy tale characters exist in two realities?

Hoping this may be the answer and that he will be able to get his true father back, Bael accepts the fairy’s offer and she hands him a magical bean. Hold up. A magical bean as in Jack and the Beanstalk magical bean? Is Baelfire also Jack?  More mysteries to unravel.

In any event, Baelfire goes home to tell his father he can save him. Upon hearing the offer, Rumple tries to backtrack, but Bael reminds him of his promise to uphold his end of their deal. Rumple relents, but reluctantly. It’s hard to give up the power once you’ve had a taste of it, no?

The two venture deep into the woods and Bael drops the magic bean onto the ground. A giant hole appears and Bael tries to slide in. Rumple balks and refuses to let his son pull him with him. He’s suddenly afraid and won’t budge. Baelfire, heartsick and furious at his Dad’s betrayal, slides into the hole, alone. 

Upon realizing his son is gone, Rumple panics and screams that he will come with him, over and over, all the while digging into the dirt with his bare hands, searching for the magical hole. But to no avail. It’s an emotional, difficult scene to watch and Robert Carlyle very effectively conveys the anguish a father must feel, knowing he’s lost his son forever.

Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, August is clearly suffering from some sort of medical distress. He looks in terrible pain as he staggers out of bed and makes a phone call.  He tells his mystery call, “This is taking too long; we need to accelerate our plan.”  Hmm. More mysteries.

The next morning, a healthier-looking August enlists Henry’s help in diverting Mr. Gold while August snoops through Gold’s office. But Henry obviously doesn’t do a great job, as Gold catches August red-handed. Curious what August is up to, Gold asks Mother Superior about her mysterious tenant (August). She reluctantly tells her landlord that August came to town searching for his estranged father.

Gold wonders if August could possibly be his long-lost son, Baelfire?! Excited, he finds August and August confirms it, calling him “Papa”.

But not so fast – after a mushy heart-to-heart, where Gold/Rumple apologizes to August/Maybe Baelfire for being a coward, Gold shows August where he’s been hiding the magic knife.  August takes it, wields it with both hands, turns and says, “By the power of darkness, I command thee, Dark One.” So I guess he’s not Baelfire? Instead, he seems to be another character from FairyTale, come to destroy Rumple? This episode is just layering mysteries on mysteries!

Whoever he is, he made a bad error assuming the knife would work in Storybrooke, because it doesn’t. And Gold rather easily wrests the knife from August. Under threat of being impaled, August tells Gold a “little fairy” told him the truth. He also reveals he’s dying, so he doesn’t care if Gold stabs him now. With that little tidbit, Gold decides to let him live. He wants to see what August can learn from Emma. Everything always circles back to Emma. Emma is the key, even though Emma doesn’t realize it.

A few side notes from this episode:  Kathryn is awake, but remembers nothing of her abduction. David, being the yellow-bellied, wishy-washy putz he is, tells  Mary Margaret that since Kathryn’s been found alive, he now believes MM didn’t kill her. Needless to say, MM isn’t impressed. I loathe this storyline. Please make it stop. Just give us Snow White and Prince Charming, okay?

Since Kathryn’s been found alive, Regina needed a scapegoat to cover her guilty butt, so she manages to get poor sap Sydney to take the rap for her abduction. There’s just no shortage of weak-willed men in Storybrooke, is there? I hope that mystery gets explained at some point, too.

OUAT is hurtling toward an interesting season-ender. Who IS August, really?  And will the residents of Storybrooke learn the truth of their true identities after just one season?  And what does that mean for Season Two?  Three more episodes to find out!

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