Once Upon A Time: Skin Deep

“Skin Deep” is Once Upon A Time’s version of the Beauty and The Beast fairytale … with one major twist! The Beast is not a furry, clawed creature – he’s Rumpelstiltskin!

In the interest of full disclosure, I have HATED this idea ever since I first saw the preview. I’ve already expressed my growing frustration with the Rumpelstiltskin character and his inclusion in every single fairy tale. And now he’s taking centre stage in one of my favourite stories? Ugh. Why couldn’t they have stuck with the spirit of the story and featured a new character who could have done the Beast justice? One of the problems I have with this show is that they have a set number of fairy tale personas they focus on. They keep recycling them in different storylines rather than exploring completely new territory.

Anyway, reservations aside – here’s how it went down. Back in the Enchanted Forest, Rumpelstiltskin came to the aid of a small town besieged by ogres, but he demanded the beautiful young girl Belle in return for his services. Not because he’s kinky or anything like that, he just needed a full time slave … err caretaker. Once he gets her back to his large estate, they engage in some of the least convincing flirting I’ve ever seen. ‘Oh look, here’s a list of chores and some horrible jokes.’ ‘Oh dear, I dropped a teacup!’ ‘Oops I slipped off the windowsill, thank god you caught me!’ ‘Why do you spend so much time spinning straw into gold, are you lonely or something?’ Let me just interject here and point out that Belle has to be the only chick in the universe who would wonder why there’s too much GOLD!!! She confides in him about her arranged engagement to Gaston and how she yearns for a love less superficial (hint hint). He opens up a little and tells her he once had a son, but lost him.

Just when it looks like they’re about to get smoochy, Rumpel throws Belle a curve ball and tells her to go into town to fetch more straw. But … she’s his prisoner … and he’s trusting her to come back? Rumpel says he never expects to see her again – but if she does return, he’ll tell her all about his lost little boy.

Poor Belle is so confused. Should she escape her captor and return to her village for good? Or is she falling in love with a ‘monster’? Luckily she bumps into the Evil Queen on her journey into town and is offered some advice from the biggest busybody in fairytale land. If Belle has feelings for Rumpel, but fears his evil nature, why not try True Love’s kiss? She could break his curse and turn him back into a man!

Belle runs back to Rumpel’s castle – where he is not so convincingly pretending to be nonchalant. She wraps him up in an embrace and as their lips meet, the colour begins to return to his weird gold-dust skin. Belle is overjoyed and starts babbling about ‘her’ and how ‘she’ said it would work. Realizing that the Queen is behind this, Rumpel flies into a rage and accuses Belle of trying to trick him so the Queen could steal his power. He casts her from his side because he doesn’t believe she really cares for him. Belle calls him a coward. “You could have had happiness if you just believed that someone could want you. But you couldn’t take the chance.”

Later, the Queen shows up to antagonize Rumpel and drops an ugly bomb on him with great delight. When Belle returned home, her father shunned her because of her association with Rumpel. He locked her in a tower and tortured her until she threw herself off the balcony.

In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold is no more charming or likable than Rumpel. It’s the night before Valentine’s Day and he’s repossessing a flower truck because the owner defaulted on a loan. Shortly afterward,s Mr. Gold’s house is broken into and he suspects the flower store owner, a man by the name of Mr. French. Emma handles the investigation and warns Mr. Gold not to get involved … but this is Rumpelstiltskin we’re taking about. He kidnaps Mr. French, ties him up in the back of a van, drives him to a cabin in the woods and completely loses his shit. He starts pounding on Mr. French with his cane, ranting and raving about how ‘it’s his fault’, ‘he had her love and he shut her out’, and ‘you are her father’. Emma show up in time to keep Mr. French’s skull intact and tosses Mr. Gold in jail.

Regina, who has been trying to force Mr. Gold into a conversation all episode, shows up and offers Emma 30 minutes alone with Henry if she leaves her with Mr. Gold. Emma eagerly takes the bribe and runs off to spend time with her son. Regina is done playing mind games with Mr. Gold and wants to know what he truly remembers. She put Mr. French up to the robbery and instructed him to steal something very specific. She’ll give it back if Mr. Gold does one simple thing for her, “Tell me your name.” He answers “Rumpelstiltskin” and Regina’s façade crumbles just a little. She hands him a chipped teacup (something he must have treasured from his fairy tale past with Belle) and he responds, “Thank you, your majesty.”

The C plot in the episode is all about Valentine’s Day in Storybrooke and how the girls are handling it. Ashley/Cinderella makes a return appearance as a frazzled young mom, missing her busy boyfriend who is working double shifts to support them. Mary Margaret and secret lover David are still doing a terrible job at pretending they’re ‘just friends’ – flirting from separate tables at the coffee shop. Slutty Red Ruby tries to cheer everyone up and invites them out for a girls’ night!

Ashley spends the whole time pounding back shots and moping, while Mary Margaret is babbling about what a terrible, terrible burden love can be. But Ashley is swept off her feet when boyfriend Sean shows up on his break to give her roses and propose marriage. David shows up too, but all he offers Mary Margaret is a Valentine’s Day card meant for Katherine and a whole heap of apologies. Once again, she starts to distance herself and wonder whether they should be together. David’s all like ‘no, I really want to be with you, I’m trying so hard!’ Really dude? Because anytime you want to man up and tell your wife that you’re in love with another woman, you’re free to do that. I hate it when people act like they’re powerless to change their own circumstances. You’re not a trapped victim. Suck it up!

The big reveal at the end of the episode is that Belle is not so much dead … or at least her Storybrooke alter ego is alive and kicking. Regina has her locked up in what looks like a mental institution. Did she lie to Rumpel about Belle’s death just to mess with him? And why go to the trouble of locking up this girl? Is it to keep Mr. Gold suffering or is she dangerous because she remembers something?

Love It:

-I love that they tried to match Belle’s wardrobe to the Disney film – the yellow number she wears at the beginning and the blue and white ensembles. Nice throwback. And the chip in the teacup? AWWW – adorable homage!

-Emile De Ravin is just so cute. She actually made a perfect Belle.

-The name of Mr. French’s flower shop was Game of Thorns. PRICELESS!

Hate It:

-The episode did nothing to change my opinion of the preview. Personally I think they mangled the Beauty and the Beast tale; squandering a real opportunity for a killer episode! The biggest problem? I just don’t buy that anyone could love Rumpelstiltskin. And it’s not because he’s ugly. It’s because he’s a dick with zero appealing qualities. The Beast may have been hairy – and he had one hell of a temper – but he was awkward, funny and rather adorable! He transformed emotionally in Belle’s presence, paving the way for his physical transformation. Rumpelstiltskin is smarmy, stand-offish and grumpy – and we didn’t see him change his ways for Belle. He manages to make some stilted small talk with a pretty girl and I’m supposed to believe it’s True Love. Sorry. Try Again.

Photo Courtesy of ABC 

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