After months of waiting, I can finally say about a Once Upon a Time episode that I enjoyed/ even loved it. And right when I was beginning to think that something like that wouldn’t happen in the near future. So today I want to talk to you about Best Laid Plans… yes, I will include spoilers. But really, go watch it. It’s not perfect (I’m not even expecting that anymore), but it finally offers some answers which will help tie certain loose ends.
Unlike the last episode, this one is clearly following different paths, like a network, from the past, to the present and hinting towards what is to come later on. The title points towards Maleficent and what Snow White and Prince Charming did to her back in the Enchanted Forest. They stole her child and now we get to see how and why. Hook tells Emma what he knows about Gold’s plan, Maleficent puts the whole town under a sleeping spell and we finally meet the Apprentice and the Author. Before anything else, I want to point out one thing: it’s a spell, not a curse. I know, that distinction isn’t clear in the episode and I heard many voices claiming that Rumplestiltskin and Belle are no longer true love (Really? Has everyone forgotten their other kisses? In case you don’t remember, Rumple’s still the Dark One), so I did what I usually don’t do: retrace the steps back to Jane Espenson and Kalinda Vazquez. People fell under a sleeping spell; it was not a curse, so true love’s kiss wouldn’t have worked (as we saw) and wasn’t even needed. This distinction should have been made clearer… and I’m not sure about the “immunity” part, it doesn’t sit well with me.
As I said, the whole episode was like a network, so we cannot really pinpoint a single most important thing. One of them is the attitude of Snow White and Prince Charming. The scenes from the past show us a young couple who is unable to understand free will, magic and goodness. Snow is concerned for her baby’s future and her husband follows her lead blindly. They are unable to comprehend (even in Storybrooke) that the future is not set in stone and slip towards a monstrous behaviour. Taking away a child from its mother is inexcusable. No, it doesn’t matter that you consider yourself a hero. Ah, but they do not see Maleficent’s child as a human baby, so they have little to no problem forcing a new life towards darkness. After all, according to them, it will still become a monster like Maleficent. After all is said and done, Snow and Charming begin their path to redemption… and they still have an incredibly long way to go.
As the baby is sent by the Apprentice in our world, Ursula and Cruella get pulled into the vortex with it. Is it just me or does traveling between realms seems to get easier with every passing season? Why didn’t these two age outside Storybrooke? I might be wrong, but didn’t Ursula say at one point that she had been banished? Was she talking about something that had happened before being stuck into our world? Since they are no more than means to an end for Rumplestiltskin, I rather doubt we’ll get too much information on these two. I mean, more than what we have seen for Ursula and what will come for Cruella. Oh, and the baby… big surprise there (not): it’s Lily, Emma’s friend. I can’t wait to see the reunion between mother and daughter.
We meet the Author (played by Patrick Fischler) and the Apprentice (Timothy Webber), we learn about what being the author actually means. It’s a job taken by many men and women throughout the years. Walt Disney is mentioned among them (why in the world does August know so much, too much?); that’s alright, he did play an important role in the way we see fairytales today. But there was a point when I felt like throwing a pen in the general direction of the writers’ heads. The current Author is, for lack of a better term, a jerk who enjoys playing with people’s lives, influencing their decisions. He is the one who manipulated the Apprentice in the whole situation with Maleficent’s child and we still don’t know just how big of a part he played from inside the book. For overstepping certain boundaries, he was trapped in said book and, now that he has been freed, let’s see where that takes us. So what does this have to do with the writers? The Author says that the product of his manipulation “makes for a better story” and that sounds like an excuse for every bad point of the series. No, twisting stories does not always make them better, especially if promising plot lines are abandoned or characters are not treated with the care they deserve.
Obviously, I loved getting some answers, but what made this episode truly enjoyable for me was the acting of Robert Carlyle and Kristin Bauer van Straten. The way I see it, Rumplestiltskin will always be a father first and foremost and Maleficent a mother. Both having lost their children… they can understand each other. Rumplestiltskin said at one point: “there’s no greater pain than regret“. And now he adds: “pain fades, unless you feed it“. He has always fed that pain… he knows what it’s like and warns Maleficent to be careful with her wishes. She finally sees her baby, even if she couldn’t fulfill her end of the deal. You know what’s one of the most important aspects of Best Laid Plans? We are shown (finally) that, despite his curse, Rumplestiltskin is not the all-dark-big-bad villain. There’s still some compassion in him, there’s still so much love for Belle (we’ll get there in a moment) and nobody knows his plans. We have great actors, memorable characters and potential that isn’t always used to the fullest.
Do you remember when I said that I don’t see Rumplestiltskin and Belle being together again by the end of this season? I can’t tell you how much I hope I was wrong! There’s not much to say about the couple itself since the characters haven’t properly crossed paths yet and Emilie de Ravin is once again overlooked, but there is a lot to say about Rumplestiltskin. I love the parallels with Skin Deep, I appreciate the light/ darkness play when we see him and (a sleeping) Belle on screen… and that speech. Wonderful! My love, I need to tell you this while it still matters. My magic comes at a cost as you know, and I have racked up so much debt I can never be clear of it. Unless I find a way to change the rules. But now, here’s the hard truth… something else is changing. So, if I’m going to have to change the rules, I must do so quickly. I will come back for you if, if I can.
I missed scenes like this one. Unfortunately, it was just for the audience, for us to realize that something’s not quite right with Rumplestiltskin (we’ll learn more about that in Heart of Gold, hopefully), that we are dealing with both a dangerous being and a man who wants… well, what everyone wants: a happy ending. But what is that happy ending? That’s debatable. My vote is on a life with Belle since I doubt the writers will bring Baelfire back. So Belle is under the sleeping curse and is still unaware of her husband’s intentions. Focusing on the good part, I’d like to point out the fact that yes, it is a short scene, but emotionally charged, very sweet and sad. The mask is down and we see a desperate Rumplestiltskin, one who’s heart is wounded… who shows concern towards his wife’s well-being. The tenderness in his voice, that kiss on her hand as if saying goodbye. I have to ask, are people truly worried that he might die? Personally, I believe that yes, he is in danger and death could be around the corner. However, without Robert Carlyle, I don’t see the series going too far. I look forward to a proper reunion (and a kiss, if I’m not asking for too much) between Mr and Mrs Gold.
I’ll stop here. There’s still so much to say, but I think you’ll enjoy uncovering the rest of this episode’s treats yourselves. As for me, I truly hope that Zelena will not return to Storybrooke, that she’ll appear only in flashbacks. In the meantime, you’ll find me browsing through season one. I miss it and I want to remind myself why I loved the series so much and why I’m still with it. Until next time!
by Elena Atudosiei