For me this episode didn’t get a good start at all. And I’m not talking about the ep’s beginning itself; I’m talking about what happened before it. As mentioned countless times, I like spoilers. I read, watch, whatever them. And even though I try to not get every spoiler of ONCE, there’s still a lot I know beforehand. Now, spoilers are fine because usually they are made clever enough to only tease, often make waiting worse, and especially still keep the tension.

ABC, however, doesn’t seem to be able to do that. Before 2×16, they spoilt and teased A LOT. Including giving away the big “secret” of who’s gonna die. And yes, I think that was a secret because it could have worked; it could have left people on edge. But even for those who don’t read spoilers or don’t look at the countless set pictures from upcoming episodes’ shootings there wasn’t much of a secret left when ABC posted a picture with Rumple and Cora that said “One will die”. This was beyond stupid. Everyone knows that Rumple isn’t going to die; not permanently though, because let’s face it, he’s the most important character of this show, besides Emma maybe. Without Rumple OUAT wouldn’t work, period.

The only thing I can think of could to excuse this is that they wanted to prevent people going nuts like they obviously did after Graham’s death, which however came more as a surprise back then (esp. considering that it was only ep 7). But Graham was a popular character – whereas Cora certainly isn’t.

And that’s the second thing that totally turned me off: was what was going on on Twitter. For one, people freaked out because even though ABC knocked them down with spoilers that left no room for speculation, they still didn’t know who was going to die. And second because there was so much Cora hatred that it made me sick. As much evil as Cora has done – and even with her whole history with Rumple – she is a) still a human being and b) viewed from outside the show a very interesting character. Oh, and c) is she a mother!

 

Enough ranting. Let’s take a closer look at the new episode.

As promised and as the episode title foreshadowed this is all about Cora – and the original Rumplestiltskin story. And indeed does “The Miller’s Daughter” give us Cora’s backstory and Rumple’s involvement, and that in an OUAT typical different even though not as different as usual way. Oh yes – and it gives us big emotions.

Young Cora, probably in her late teenage years or early twenties (was it ever said?) doesn’t lead an easy life. Her father is a drunk and it looks very much like she is the one who has to do all the work. She also knows work; and she’s not afraid of it.

As a miller’s family they also bring flour to the castle; and that’s what Cora does when she first meets Eva. And is tripped by her. Here we see anything but the nice and kind Eva (a visiting princess form another realm) we got to know in the last episode; this one is a spoilt brat (like Snow later turned out to be as a child… interesting, I must say…), a teenage girl, obviously younger than Cora, who looks down at people like Cora, at “normal” people who are below her standing as a princess.

Now, I have to take a look ahead at what’s to come, because considering this one wonders if King Xavier’s behavior when he makes Cora apologize (and kneel!) is pure calculation. As it seems, he wants Cora to where all this bring her later – which makes me then wonder if he has a deal with Rumple as well. I’ll come to that in a bit; first, Cora needs a reason to meet Rumple, and in all her defiance and unwillingness to accept the humiliation as she should as someone from a low standing she appears on a mask ball (where did she get the dress anyways?), dances with Prince Henry (we know later becomes her husband), is however identified by Xavier, and then claims that she can spin straw into gold. Xavier calls her bluff, much to her horror it seems, and makes her a deal (ha!) – if she can indeed do what she claims to be able to, she shall have (the “dimly lit prince” – words courtesy of Rumple) Henry. Of course she has no idea how to spin straw into gold; but she is locked into a tower room full of straw she has to turn into the precious metal overnight.

Cue Rumple. No surprise here, even though I did expect a bit more… begging and desperation. Why Rumple appeared just like that (without her asking for help from some higher instance or whatever) we never get to know, unfortunately, but I guess it’s safe to assume that if Rumple, as he repeatedly mentions during this episode, can see the future (or has seen it, anyways), he also knows of Cora’s importance for his life and plans. Not in detail though; nor sure he would have approached her if he had known that it would result in heartbreak.

Anyways, Rumple shows up, and Cora – well, Cora shows no fear, that much is clear. She has to be the only one who’s not freaked out by Rumple; almost a bit like Belle, but I think even Belle was taken aback for a moment when she first saw Rumple. Cora is more like her usual arrogant self at every time, and more interested in what he can do for her. And then the next thing that surprised me: Rumple openly tells Cora what his price for helping her is. If we remember, later on he gave evasive explanations, like with Ella, who then thought he was talking about jewels and stuff. Here he just says – I help you, and you give me your firstborn. But then Rumple also knows that Cora most probably doesn’t care much, as this will be no marriage out of love, and she, at her young age, may just assume that she then also won’t love her child. Ironically, she indeed won’t…

The scene itself, their whole deal making, was hilarious. Hilarious because of Robert Carlyle’s amazing acting skills who made a scene that was clearly written like this look like one big outtake. What is no criticism; Rumple was so funny with his reactions to Cora, because she completely caught him off-guard, and not only once.

Because Cora, instead of having Rumple do what she needs to be done to fulfill her deal with Xavier, wants to learn how to spin straw into gold. Which immensely confuses Rumple. But my guess is that it also sort of fascinates him, because she wants to be independent, and she wants to learn how to use magic – his dark magic most people fear. I’d even go as far as to say that Cora successfully wrapped him around her little finger without even blinking. So he agrees – and teaches her. I assume that he had recognized that Cora has it in her after all; this evilness, the capability of hate she needs to use this magic, as we then learn.

The scene at the spinning wheel when Rumple teaches Cora is… I can’t think of any other word than hot. Really, really, hot and erotic. In this moment those two definitely create a tension in the room that should have set the straw on fire. And they wouldn’t even have noticed it. This scene was incredibly played, by both of them, but mostly Bobby when he displays a Rumple who is torn between his usual self and the weak spot he’s already growing for Cora. He is still the Dark One, but he also clearly wants her – as a man who is, despite everything, just a man and someone who wants to be loved. His face tells whole tales here, and once again I’m amazed by his acting skills.

When Cora later presents the result of her work, and even demonstrates for everyone to see how she spins straw into gold, she convinces a still-skeptical, yet nevertheless accepting Xavier and gets prince and royal standing when Henry, now with the blessing of his father, proposes to Cora. But during all of this, she has only eyes for Rumple who is standing in the crowd. Their eyes lock and never leave each other, and if we hadn’t known before (did we?) now it would have been clear that their story hasn’t ended yet.

The next time we see them Cora is wearing her wedding gown – in “snow white”, as royal brides have to be (thought I’d say this dress is not white but cream-colored…), as Cora comments and seems to complain about at the same time – and what leads Rumple to comment

“When you see the future there’s irony everywhere.”

Leave it to Ed&Adam to have Cora say snow white instead of just white. It’s a great pun.

Less of a pun, but instead absolutely serious is the fact that Cora and Rumple at this point are lovers. There’s no “maybe” or “possibly” or anything – they just are. I have to admit that it is a bit… strange to see them like this, kissing and all. Even stranger it is to see their conversation that takes place then and during which Cora announces that she would rather be with Rumple.

Rumple: “I can give you nothing but darkness and isolation.”
Cora: “And love?”
Rumple: “Yeah… and love.”

Rumple is confused here for a moment, still not expecting anyone to love him, but he as well as Cora are not lying then – they do love each other. I don’t doubt that their feelings then are true, that they have fallen in love with each other. When Cora says she wants that, she believes so herself; in that moment, she is ready and willing to go with Rumple and stay at his side, be with him, no matter what it entails; how isolated she will be then.

So yes, it is true love between Cora and Rumple. However, it was a different kind of TL than he later shares with Belle – and this is also why I think Cora isn’t able to break his curse. With Belle it is an innocent love, born out of the desire to be truly loved despite of what one is. And for what. Cora gave him the passionate kind of love, the kind that makes you burn and long for the other. Oh, it was true, and obviously it never died entirely. But it missed the pureness, especially because they both were too hungry for more than just love; hungry for power.

I admit it, I’m absolutely okay with the Cora/Rumple (someone called it Crumple on Twitter, sounds about right ^^) relationship. I don’t know why people complain about it; especially because it was long before Belle. Even though I don’t like Rose McGowan – still think she has nothing of Barbara Hershey’s class and style. Actually, I disliked her Cora right from the beginning, because she never had the decent side to her she should have had in my opinion. Of course she could be defiant and angry, seeing what her life is like, but the arrogance and hostility written all over her face from the very first moment on just didn’t fit. Even older and heartless Cora was more friendly.

That’s also why, even though I believed the love story between Crumple, I had a hard time not taking the behavior/personality McGowan gave Cora as reason for all what happened; most notably the failed relationship. For me she never made it entirely believable that Cora indeed loved Rumple and for that reason had to rip out her own heart so that her love wouldn’t stand in her way to gaining power.

Now, one can say that of course the desire to be powerful, to reign and rule, is enough to show that her heart and love weren’t true to start with. But sometimes the things we suffer from when we’re younger, the things that burn itself into our being and make us go on – because love and hate are still the strongest emotions – are also the ones that make decisions for us. Cora’s young life was defined by hate – for her father because he was a drunk, for Eva, for her whole situation. Most probably she learned to hate before she learned to love, and this was guided by negativity instead of being able to see the good in things.

Nevertheless her readiness to be with him, to choose his love over a marriage with a prince shows that she at least has it in herself to love, and to be good. Love is born out of goodness of a heart. No one can love with a rotten heart. Sure is it debatable whether all this was only but a trick to get Rumple to do what she wants, but I think unless it is said so by herself, both interpretations are possible and right, and I tend to go with her loving him then.

In some way, Rumple is weak. His love makes him weak (ironic, isn’t it?). Here he shows that he wants nothing more than love and a family (again), so he offers Cora to rewrite their deal: Not any random first child she bears she will have to give him – instead, their child will be his to have. A child that would belong to him anyways, as he would be the father. Which then also answers the question whether Rumple is able to father a child (as the Dark One) – at least he believes that he is. Doubt that he’s ever tried it; would have been interesting to see. I asked that question in one of my last reviews, because creating new life, innocent and pure life, seems to be nothing a Dark One should be able to do. Wonder if we’ll ever know (Belle and Rumple?).

Basically, on second thought, we see that by changing the deal Rumple also sort of let her out of it. Sure does he hope to be with her and become the father of her child(ren) – but at the same time does the contract not force her to fulfill her end of the bargain. He wouldn’t make her fulfill it (and if only because this is a family show and they know better than to include rape…), so in the end it’s up to her. I believe that in this moment she indeed wants to keep her promise. Too bad life has this strange habit of interfering.

There is one thing Cora wants from Rumple – she wishes to be able to literally show the king his heart before she crushes it. This speaks of a level of cruelty that should warn everyone involved, and I count the audience here as well. If someone wants something like this, there is the capability of being evil that screams a truth in one’s face. As in – she can’t be good. Not in the long run, anyways.

The plan itself though doesn’t have that bad a background. She wants revenge on Xavier as one last deed before she runs away with Rumple. It almost sounds like this is her final act; she accepts that she will give up her whole plan of revenge now, at least the one concerning Eva. Too bad that the king is a bit too clever to let himself get killed just like that. The theory that Rumple and Xavier know each other and that the king is just another pawn in Rumple’s game is also supported by the fact that the king knows about Cora’s association with Rumple, or that Rumple is helping her. Actually, he even seems to know that they are lovers – and how should he if he either has some means to spy on them, or knows Rumple and his ways; how he works? The latter is way more plausible.

And again we have to wonder how far back Rumple’s scheming and planning goes. How does he know Xavier, and in what way is he involved with him? And is what he tells Cora only Rumple’s own advice after all? Xavier gives us one of the important sentences of the show; obviously “Love is weakness” it originated from him. However, it is possible that the events leading to these words came from Rumple, were caused by him.

The king now offers Cora a choice. She can either have love, but also be isolated at Rumple’s side. Or she can be powerful, have people bow to and kneel before her; be queen. The last one seems a bit odd, as Cora knew beforehand that she’ll most probably never be queen – fifth in line, as she told Rumple.

Cora’s choice is a very significant one. Not only for her, and for her love story with Rumple. First, it is the sole action of choosing power over love – something Rumple has done before (Bae) and does again afterwards (Belle). They are similar in that regard, however both for different reasons – Rumple out of cowardice, Cora out of hunger for power and the revenge it allows her to have. Second, while there can be seen to be different reasons with Bae, it is clear that Rumple’s choice against Belle’s love, his lack of faith in her feelings for him, comes from his experiences with Cora; the heartbreak she caused him, telling him that she loved him and then leaving him. In the wake of this he of course couldn’t trust Belle either; and it was only made worse by the time that had passed between the two women, a time in which he must have found people being afraid of him and his looks.

So ultimately one can say that even as the Dark One, Rumple still cares what people think and what they do to his heart; he doesn’t want to be hurt. But that also means that he can be hurt, another proof of his human side still being there.

Same goes for the Rumple who feels betrayed and lied to when he meets with Cora in the fields, only to hear that she won’t come with him; that she ends her relationship. What I thought was very interesting about that scene is that he didn’t take away the box. I actually expected him to. Don’t know why, but something in my waited for Rumple to just take the box with her heart as some kind of price; also so that she would have to reclaim it later.

Alas, he does none of it, but only stays back – heartbroken. And shocked at the same time that Cora took out her own heart so that she would have to love him anymore. That is something Rumple doesn’t seem to fully understand it; showing that he never did anything the like to himself, not even as a test of what would happen. As we see later on for many years he isn’t sure if in the end Cora didn’t just make a big scene and pretend so that he would help her.

Seeing how their last encounter went and how they were when they met in Storybrooke, it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens during their meeting after Regina is born. We know this scene still has to come, since we know Rumple held Regina as a baby. So unless he was in Regina’s nursery when no one else was (but for what reason?), Cora and Rumple had to meet again. Plus, from Regina’s and Rumple’s conversation during Rumbelle’s burger date we know that there was a big fallout, much bigger than “just” a broken-heart-moment we had now. It was something where Rumple “won in the end”. I think it even possible that he wanted to steal Cora’s child.

 

Let’s take a quick look at the original fairy tale and the differences between this episode and the tale with the help of “The Annotated Brother’s Grimm” my lovely Spooky gave me :)

In the OR (original Rumplestiltskin), the miller’s daughter’s father tells the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold – she has no idea at all what is happening to her when she is brought to the tower with all the straw. Contrary to Cora she is devastated and cries. Rumple appears, and agrees to do the work for her for the necklace she offers him. This happens a second time because the king is greedy (which is mostly the same in OUAT with Xavier), and the MD gives Rumple a ring this time. The third time, in an even bigger room with even more straw, comes with the promise of becoming the king’s wife when she turns this straw into gold as well.

Here we see the first difference – for one, Cora only had to spin for one night, and then demonstrate her skill in front of everyone. Also was the deal for the child made this first time already. And of course had Rumple to do it every time in the OR, while in ONCE Cora learned how to use that magic. The biggest difference goes without saying: Rumplestiltskin and the miller’s daughter falling in love. Certainly we don’t have that part in the OR.

When the MD’s child is born, Rumple reappears. Whereas Cora, not married to the king, but “only” a prince without much of a chance to become queen herself, was anything but happy, the MD seems to be quite content with her life. Now, the last deal they made was for the MD’s child, because in that last room she didn’t have anything to offer. Now she is desperate and frightened – and Rumple takes pity on her, telling her that she may keep the child if she can guess his name. She has three days to find out what he is called, or the child shall be his after all.

And this is the most interesting thing. While the elements of the story are different, the basic plot is the same in both the OR and in ONCE. Both Rumples change the deals they have with the MD – one out of love, the other out of pity. But the outcome is the same – neither will gain anything is something goes wrong. There is no failsafe to the plan. Both either get the/a child – or nothing at all. And this is just what happens, even if the way to this outcome is different.

the OR Rumple has the miller’s daughter find out his name – he may have fulfilled his end of the deal and could very well expect her to pay up (with the child), but still out of pity he makes a new deal, one that in the end could leave him with nothing. Actually, it leaves him with his own death, so he is the ultimate loser in this game – even though he did everything right. One could even say that due to her ways of finding out the name the queen cheated and thus the only person deserving sympathy here is Rumple.

Same goes for our OUAT Rumple. First, he wants Cora’s firstborn in exchange for helping her. Then he falls in love with her and changes the deal – but believing that they have a future and Cora will come with him, he never once thinks of including small print, or a failsafe, or however one wants to call it. Effectively he lets her out of the deal; even if everything would have went as planned – her coming with him, them having a family together – it wouldn’t have been a deal anymore because she would have done it anyways, and willingly. If he just had let the deal be as it was, and “forgotten” about it, everything would have been fine. They could have had their family, and no one would ever have talked again about the deal; it would have been more like a prenup in case they ever separated.

But, more importantly, in a case of what then indeed happened, that Cora didn’t go with him and didn’t have his child, he still would have been able to claim her firstborn. As it is, he has nothing. And so he shares OR Rumple’s tragic fate, even though our Rumple is still alive (luckily).

In the end it makes one wonder: is the goodness of the heart, in any way and even if love (any kind) isn’t involved, always a sign of weakness?

 

As for ONCE, one thing’s for sure – we will see Young Cora again, as Rose McGowan has confirmed her appearance in season three already, and we’ll the probably also see how it came that Rumple held Regina. Jane Espenson said via Twitter, that Rumple is not Regina’s father; but something makes me not quite willing to trust her words in that regard. I mean, the idea of this being an even more twisted family than it already is has some incredible appeal. Additionally, it would mean that Rumple hasn’t only killed his son’s mother, but also had a hand in the death of his daughter’s mother. And suddenly there would be a system to all of this…

 

In Storybrooke we have a big showdown ahead of us.

The Jolly Roger is finally back in town – without Hook, and I can’t wait to see how he gets back… – steered by father and son, Bae and Henry. It’s just a short glimpse at them, nothing that seems to be of much importance, but I loved it nevertheless, because those two are definitely a great duo we need to see more of. They already love each other, and I think it’s awesome that Bae never once had this flight impulse, but right from the beginning wanted to be a part of Henry’s life (well, beginning as in the moment he knew of him).

Even more touching, however, is Emma checking up on Mr. Gold, who’s down in a cabin, lying in a cot. Waiting for the Grim Reaper, more or less. Emma wants to know exactly what Cora and Regina can do now that they have the dagger, and Rumple tells her in all honesty.

In any way did it surprise me how open and trustful he was in the past and in this episode. Sure, he doesn’t have much of a choice, what with him being (fatally) wounded and his enemies being in possession of the one thing that make him do everything they want. As Emma told him last time, he has to start anyone, and what better place to start than with family? Ultimately though does all this knowledge also give Emma the opportunity to make plans of her own, if it was in her interest. Would she acquire the dagger, she could also control Rumple, and make sure that he is on their side in whatever fight may come.

Now, I doubt Emma would make it, but Rumple is suspicious enough that I would have expected him to be at least hesitant. That is, of course, if Rumple hasn’t some extremely strong faith in Emma – which he indeed seems to have, and not only because she is the Savior. I think when it comes down to it Emma may just be the only person he really trusts, or is willing to trust, in the whole of SB (aside from Belle; that goes without saying).

And added to that is Emma’s promise that she is going to safe him absolutely believable. Next to Belle Emma has to be the only one who may see the good in Rumple and believe that he can be good person again, the one he was before the Dark One took him over. Emma is the only one without prejudices here, at least without those all the others have due to their experiences in FTL. And if nothing else gives her reason, the fact that Rumple is Bae’s father and, more importantly, Henry’s grandfather, seems to be more than enough for her.

Little fun scenes follows when they arrive at SB’s port. David and Bae support Rumple and help him to the car – and this is also the first meeting of the Charmings with Henry’s father. And their daughter’s ex-boyfriend. The look on David’s face – and slight grin, a bit suspicion, but mostly curiosity – speaks volumes, and I hope we’ll soon see more of those two, or a general family meet-up, because this totally needs to happen.

For now, there are more important things thought – for example Snow’s revenge on Cora. Still she is talking about wanting to kill Cora, but aside from David no one seems to be interested in it – much less do they mind. But then they all know the danger they are facing – if Cora starts to use the dagger to control Rumple, it will be a battle they can’t win.

This is where I wonder – what were there plans, anyways? Obviously Cora had no idea that Hook would go and kill Rumple; or at least that he would make it to Rumple in New York. This has to be a factor they never had in their calculation – unless, of course, Cora knew all along what would happen, that Hook would follow Rumple (because he’s the only one who can since he has no magic to lose) and kill/poison him – which would then, what a pity, force Cora to become the Dark One herself.

It would make sense in the regard that Cora isn’t surprised when she sees Rumple’s name disappearing from the dagger – knowing exactly what it means. So this also answers what happens when Rumple dies and no one is there to claim his powers – they just vanish. They are lost. Something Cora of course wants to prevent.

When we see the Evil Duo in Regina’s office (where Cora slaps the speaker box from the desk because she doesn’t like what she’s hearing – apart from this scene being very funny it also reminds us that Cora has no idea at all about life in this, our, world), we – and Regina – finally hear her reveal what she has been planning all along: Become the Dark One. It was never about controlling him, it was always about getting the ultimate power herself. Even Regina is shocked when she realizes this – and understand that her mother is only interested in her own plans and goals after all. Now she knows that behind all this was never the intention of helping her winning back Henry; it was always only about her powers.

Cora, on the other hand, explains herself – and we know that all this comes from a promise she made to herself many years ago when she was made to kneel in front of Eva, even though she was the one that would have deserves an apology.

“If we lose this battle, we’ll spend the rest of our short lives on our knees in front of them. And that, my love is something I’ll never do.

Okay, so Cora wants to become the Dark One – but could she even? Contrary to Rumple and, as far we know, Zoso, Cora has no heart. Not inside her body anyways. What if the Dark One literally darkens the heart? I mean, this is still about fairytales and magic and all. And all evil there usually comes from the “heart” – not the brain. Being evil, being dark, is a condition of the heart. How would Cora host the Dark One when she can’t offer it some kind of source of life, as it would probably feed from a heart’s pureness and love and all the other positive emotions?

Yes, Rumple is capable of loving; no doubt there. But him repeatedly choosing power over love could be a sign that the Dark One is controlling its host’s heart and goodness. And no, Rumple didn’t start to choose power over love after Cora and because of her, even though what happened with Belle is most certainly a result from this. He also let go of Bae, and that was long before anyone.

This could also be the reason why Rumple never ripped his own heart out – because the Dark One is keeping him from doing so and/or he knows he would then lose the powers as well. That, or Rumple knows he needs his heart to remember that he has to find Bae; to keep his love for Bae. Without his love for Bae that certainly kept him going he may just have forgotten about his son and his quest to find him. Then all of this would never have happened (and don’t let me get started on Belle).

If we go further into this, we have a lose-lose situation. On the one hand, one is only “safe” of the Dark One and it darkening one’s heart when having none. On the other hand, without a heart one is also not human; can’t love, can’t feel the emotions one needs to survive; emotions that keep us going and remind us of the good things in life. It’s another way of showing that the only thing that isn’t safe is the heart.

Speaking of. The others have now arrived in Rumple’s shop. While David, Bae and Emma go to prepare for battle and secure the shop (with invisible chalk – sorry, had to laugh at this; it looked so incredibly silly when Emma held this… nothing ^^), Snow is held back by Rumple when he asks her to get him a warmer blanket from one of the cabinets.

Big surprise that there’s no blanket in there when Snow opens the door; instead she comes face to face with the candle. The one Cora as the Blue Fairy gave her in the last episode to save Eva. The one that can only save one life at the price of another. This time Rumple wants Snow to (actually) use it – to save him.

Snow: “Why do you have this?”
Rumple: “For a rainy day.”

Now why was I waiting for someone (Emma…) to say “It’s storming like a bitch”? Right, because we had this before… damn me for my textphile brain…

But it is, nonetheless. Rumple’s death won’t be of any use to them; even if they are the good ones and he technically from the other side of the battle line (although then there have to be three battle lines… um… never mind), he is still their best hope for, like, anything. The only other person around capable of using magic is Emma, but she needs to be taught first. Her, Rumple’s and Regina’s magic are the strongest; the Blue Fairy isn’t comparable to that. And if no one else, I think Emma knows this all too well.

Apart from that can it, as Rumple recognizes, only be in Snow’s best interest when Cora’s dies. And this is one way to do it. Only that she not just kills an enemy, but at the same time also saves someone they may just need later on. Funny how Snow now suddenly is hesitant, whereas before she was all “I have to kill Cora”. Now that she is offered a way, she seems to realize that killing means actual murder.

So when Rumple tells her that holding the candle over the heart, cursing the heart, will be enough, Snow has another idea – why not use Cora’s heart to control her? We all know that having someone’s heart is the means to control that person.

By the way, here’s another part of the theory that without a heart, one can’t become the Dark One. Usually the heart can be used to control someone. With the Dark One, it is the dagger. Sort of making the dagger symbolize the heart; the one thing that can control everyone.

The flaw in Snow’s plan is that she also wants to let Rumple die. “Takes care of two evils at once.” Too bad Snow doesn’t realize what Rumple then had to tell her – that it would also mean that she technically kills Henry’s grandfather. And since Henry long since has lost his fear of Rumple, instead even seems to like him… The other thing I already mentioned above is that of course Rumple’s death can only be to their disadvantage. As long as Regina lives – and Cora, when Snow only takes the heart, but doesn’t kill her – the danger for everyone is too big to be so stupid and let Rumple die where they should rather try and get them onto their side.

Anyways. Snow’s behavior in the past episodes has radically changed, and in my opinion it becomes clearer by the minute that this nasty persona she showed to be as a child is still inside her. I was never a big fan of Snow to start with, but I like her less with every episode, because in the end she is the big pretender; claiming to be all nice and sweet and kind, but every now and then showing her true face that is almost as evil as that of Regina and Cora and Rumple.

The conversation between Bae and Emma was really nice for change. “Missed a spot”, anyone? *g* This little scene was a breather in a breathless episode. Especially because Bae totally hit the nail on the head when he indirectly accused Emma of being grumpy because he didn’t tell her about Tamara. and of course would Emma be defiant and say she doesn’t care – after all, it’s been a decade since they’d been dating. Cue David and his awful timing to interrupt them before Bae can answer – there’s another conversation that totally needs to be continued.

Next big moment follows right after, as Emma enters the back room and asks whether Rumple now will cast a protection spell… only to have him tell her that she will do that for him. What makes me wonder if this was his plan all along. He is intrigued by her ability to use magic, that she has powers at all, and it’s obvious that he wants to use them. Well, that he wants her to use them. Now, I doubt that he will try and make her evil; he knows better than that. But even if she isn’t using dark magic, she can still be of use to him, and I think he’s counting on that. Sooner or later her magic, especially when he continues to train her (when she lets him), will come in handy; not just for him, but also for the others. Even if Emma not uses her powers to meet his demands she is still the kind of person who will recognize whom she learned from, who helped her. And that alone can be of great use to Rumple.

Fun moment that actually took me a while to get (because I was too distracted by the episode… and all that… madness…): “I can’t cast a spell. I can spell spell…” Well, Emma has learned something from Rumple, that much is clear… 😀

Meanwhile, the team is ready and the Evil Duo has arrived at the shop – with ease they break the protection spell. Now – is it because they are so strong together, or is it because Emma and her magic are not yet strong enough? Could a spell by Rumple resisted the attack longer? I’m pretty sure that magic, all magic, gets stronger with time, training and usage. Or does it? Cora only needed to find the right emotion to make the straw/gold thing work. But there may also be a difference between that and this protection spell that has to withstand strong magic like that of the Evil Duo.

What happens next does so quickly. After Snow has left the shop through the back door, no less. Bae, David and Emma face Cora and Regina, and in a short fight David is locked out of the shop (sorry, but – lol), and Cora loses the dagger when she foggs herself away when Bae attacks her. Cora reappearing distracts a Emma-gripping Regina enough to have Emma reverse the situation and catch Regina, threatening her with the knife to her neck.

And now it gets interesting – Bae even tells Cora to choose wisely, meaning either the dagger or her daughter. And Regina calls to her mother, sounding just a tad frightened. Nevertheless Cora chooses once again and symbolically power over lose, getting the dagger. Is it debatable whether she knew that Emma wouldn’t hurt and/or kill Regina, but still is her decision very telling. After all was the possibility that Emma would kill Regina there – and still didn’t Cora even need to think about what she has to do. Shocking, if you think about it.

So Emma and Bae had to retreat to the back room, using the chalk to protect the entryway. They are given time to do so when Cora realizes that someone is literally closing in on her heart – she sends Regina to the vault where it is stored. Surprisingly Regina never once even blinks because of what Cora just did; that she was willing to let Regina die (worst case scenario) only because she wants nothing more than this dagger. Regina is all concerned and immediately runs off to save her mother’s heart. How ironic.

Cora on her own doesn’t seem to be that powerful. Or is it because Snow has her heart? Can’t imagine that to be the reason. Still is she unable to break the protection on the entryway, at least for that moment. It is also unclear what happens at which moment. Because only after all that we see how Snow enters the vault and then searches and finds the heart. Then she uses the candle and curses the heart. Of course they couldn’t have done this by cutting back and forth between the scenes, but it is nevertheless a bit confusing.

While all this happens in the vault and outside the back room Cora is still trying to get through, two incredibly wonderful and touching scenes happen inside where Rumple, who is getting weaker with every second, Emma and Bae are.

The first is for all us Rumbelle shippers. Rumple, knowing that he doesn’t have much time left, is suddenly okay with dying. It would end all this, he says; it would free him. But he needs to do one last thing, and he asks Emma to let him call Belle – who Emma describes as “your dad’s girlfriend” when Bae asks. Love that little moment of recognition – Emma could have said everything, but she goes for the most logical and domestic description also. Then we have the fact that Rumple is not willing to rely on Snow to be successful – saying goodbye to Belle is too important for him to wait and hope that everything will turn out positive for him. He doesn’t want to go without talking to her one last time, no matter what happens afterwards – and if this doesn’t speak volumes in regards to Rumple’s feelings for Belle, I don’t know what does.

So he calls Belle – in presence of Emma and Bae, who hear it all – and tells Belle what a wonderful person she is:

“I know that you’re… you’re confused about who you are. So I’m gonna tell ya. You are a hero who helped your people. You’re a beautiful woman who loved an ugly man. Really, really loved me. You find goodness in others. And when it’s not there, you create it. You make me wanna go back, back… to the best version of me. And that never happened before. So when you look in the mirror and you don’t know who you are… that’s who you are. … Thank you… Belle.”

The last words are broken; he is in tears. And I know I’m repeating myself, but this breaks. Your. Heart. Also, hearing what he says – even though I’m still disappointed he didn’t tell her that he loved her… – tells so much about him. she is the one who, well, I won’t say created, but certainly brought out the goodness in him. She found it and nourished it. And she touched him so deeply that obviously would even be willing to give it all up, his powers, his magic, just to be with her. She is the one who changed him, and she is the one he needs to change. Will always need, for the rest of his life, to never forget who he really is, what a good man he really is, and that he needs to be good – for her, but also, in some way, for everyone else.

Best part of this, by the way, is how Emilie de Ravin wrote on Twitter that it was so hard not to cry (I think she used “bawl”) in this scene.

And just because we’re on it anyways, and Ed&Adam love to torture us, we continue with a father/son scene right after Rumple has hung up. Bae is, not having seen in father in many, many years, of course surprised by his words to Belle, by the love he showed. Rumple’s reply? – “Oh, I’m full of love.” And indeed he is – we’ve seen it with Cora, and we saw and see it with Belle. But, and that is what Rumple now also adds, we see it in everything Rumple does. Because all that, the Curse and everything surrounding it, Rumple initiated for the sole purpose to get a chance to find Bae.

“I spent a lifetime looking for you… for the chance to say ‘I love you’.”

And it’s true. Even Emma knows that (and sniffles, what I thought was adorable in that moment… family!love moment). For another few seconds, Bae tries really hard to acknowledge it – what his father did for him, and that he himself also loves his father. Because you never stop loving your parents (not in OUAT, anyways). And so he gives in – after a last helpless attempt to claim that he is “still angry” (adorable, take two), father and son finally reconcile. I am so happy about that – it opens so many possibilities, plus I think this makes it all the more likely that Bae will stay with Rumple, no matter what. Well, not that I ever really doubted it, but still. Bae now won’t leave SB and his family; too much time has been lost. But, in any way is this one of the most beautiful scenes of the whole series. Because if we think this through – it was also the whole purpose of the show, on Rumple’s part at least. Well, on big part of his purpose. We’ll now see where this is still heading.

For Snow, Regina and Cora it heads into a completely different direction. An extremely tragic one.

To make a long conversation short: Regina finds Snow in the vault, box with Cora’s heart in her hands. And Snow quickly thinks up a story – telling Regina that Cora never loves her because she doesn’t have a heart, thus being incapable of love. But if she had her heart back, she would also finally love her daughter. So Snow wanted to bring Regina the heart and give her the chance to get her mother’s love (back).

In that moment Snow not only lies – she also knowingly brings Regina to do something that will kill her mother. She makes Regina murder her own mother. If Regina doesn’t have a reason to be angry at Snow after that, I don’t know what can make her yet angry. Alas, she is angry. Or will be. And this is an understatement.

Snow knew exactly what Regina’s weak spot it, and hit it repeatedly. She knew that she wanted nothing more than to be loved by her mother – loved for what she is. All Regina ever wanted was pure, unadulterated motherly love. And if anyone knows this, it’s Snow. Now she indeed manages to convince Regina to do what she couldn’t have done – and by that she completes her plan.

While Regina is on her way back and Snow remains at the family crypt, guilt-ridden and devastated because of what she knows she has just set in motion (and where David then finds her like this, hugging herself like a little child), Cora finally breaks through the protection on the doorway. She foggs Bae and Emma, who stand ready to protect Rumple, away (and they really looked completely dumbfounded, which was way too funny for that whole ending) and has one last conversation with Rumple before she wants to kill him with the dagger – a dagger that shows that Rumple is as good as dead anyways, since his name is almost gone (wonder what happens when the host only has a short name like Zoso or Cora…).

Rumple is not surprised, or frightened, or anything. In fact, he mostly seems to be at peace with himself. He’s found and reconciled with his son, he has told Belle everything he needed to, he knows that he leaves a legacy. He has lived more than three hundred years and he’s probably tired of it; of the fighting, the struggle, all the madness that came with his life as the Dark One. Now he’s simply accepting it. He isn’t counting on being saved; he doesn’t seem to expect Snow to really come and save him in time, kill Cora with the candle. And this is, I think, a side to Rumple where he is the bravest he’s ever been. It’s the side we hopefully will see more of; that someone, most likely Belle (when she remembers) and Bae will have to help him to keep on the surface.

For now, and for death being so close, he only cares about closing this one last chapter, getting an answer to this one last thing that has probably on his mind for decades. He knew this day would come; that he’d be killed by Cora (oh?). He saw it in a vision. But the one thing he didn’t see was what Cora’s true feelings for him were.

“Why do you think I had to rip my own heart out? You were my weakness. You are the only man I ever truly loved.”

Hadn’t I believed her before – in that moment I would have known that she had really loved him back then. Because it’s true what she says – why should she have ripped out her own heart if it wasn’t to keep herself from feeling, from loving? There is n other explanation that makes sense; none I can think of anyways. Her love for Rumple was what kept her from pursue her plans; to get her revenge. In the end her desire for revenge was stronger, at least then. She was young and had probably never learned what it meant to love and be loved; how important it is. She could never have made the right choice here; her heart was too inexperienced. She may even have feared her love for Rumple. Had she known that love isn’t, as Xavier said, weakness, but strength, it all could have turned out differently.

Rumple seems to be content with this answer. When Cora rises to stab him, it almost looks as if he’s smiling. All his work done on Earth, the people he loves in his mind and heart, all questions answered, he welcomes death.

And the Regina appears and gives Cora his heart back. And for a few seconds there, we see who Cora could have been had she never ripped out her heart. Had she kept it and lived as a woman capable of love. We see her smiling at Regina, as if she is seeing her daughter for the first time; recognizing her with love. And this is the saddest scene of them all. Because you also know in the same moment that this moment of happiness and love won’t last long. And indeed seconds later Cora collapses.

Cora’s last words are… worse than just heartbreaking. The scene is so unbelievably sad because of the meaning behind her words, directed at her daughter:

“This would have been enough. You would have been enough.”

Cora never got to know her daughter while having her heart inside her. She never knew what it felt like really loving her child. Only in the moment of her death she realizes that this would have all she had ever needed. Nothing else. And this makes her story all the more tragic because in the end, without really knowing and/or understanding it, Cora took away her own chance for happiness. Not only with Rumple whom she could have had a family with, and maybe would even have been happy with (and I still believe that there was true love that could have become True Love sooner or later). But also, and maybe this is even more important, did she take away her own chance of that simply kind of happiness – with her daughter, with a family.

All she lived for was revenge – because her heart couldn’t stop her. Neither from her path to vengeance nor from destroying her own and Regina’s life. This moment when she is dying and says those words proves that Cora with her heart could and would have been a different person. I’m sure that after Regina’s birth she would have just given up on all that negativity and lived for her daughter. She would have loved her daughter, and she would never have destroyed Regina’s happiness with Daniel because she would have understood.

So in the end is Cora just as much an unpredictable factor as Belle later became for Rumple. I doubt that he ever planned for Cora to leave him; that he ever planned for her to take her own heart and love and destroy that of her daughter, making her the perfect tool for the Curse.

The encounter of Cora and Rumple is something that changed them both. Made them both harder and, even though each on their own way, more resistant to this weakness they call love. I think it made them both (more) evil even, just as it left them heartbroken. It was an important encounter, and, as we see in this last scene between them, also one that marked them for life. Despite everything that happened (and must have happened later on – the stories we haven’t seen yet), they still can have that moment of civilized conversation, which shows that there is mutual respect and maybe also still this kind of love that never leaves you, no matter what.

When Snow comes running in to stop Regina, it is already too late. But really, what choice did Snow have anyways? Had she come in time to stop Regina, Rumple would have died instead. It wouldn’t have made a difference, as still someone would have lost a parent, and even another a grandparent. There is just one difference – it wouldn’t have been Snow’s fault. And if this is all, if this is just about getting a clean conscience, well then…

Awesome Lana Parilla, who you only want to hug and comfort when she cried for her mother, shows us exactly what goes through Regina’s mind. After she accuses Rumple (who is healed and has also his dagger back) of this all being his doing and he denies it – which, technically, is right, but then also… isn’t (confusing, argh) – there goes a series of expressions over her face that ends in the realization who is responsible – the one who, right on time with Regina’s thoughts, enters the shop.

Her “You did this.” should have given everyone the creeps then. And we know that this is only just the beginning of a terrible continued and maybe even new blood feud. Because now Snow is responsible for the death of both Regina’s mother and True Love – whereas Regina never killed anyone close to Snow (correct me if I’m wrong), but only ever wanted personal revenge on Snow herself.

 

“The Miller’s Daughter” gives us ten (or twelve) of the most emotionally loaded minutes in TV history. This is my opinion, but really – we have the Rumbelle phone call, the Rumple/Bae reconcillation, with Cora and Rumple the last conversation between two people who never stopped loving each other, and finally the first and only moment of true parental/child love between Regina and Cora before Cora dies in her daughter’s arms. Which I still think is an incredibly loss for this show, because Barbara Hershey is such a fantastic actress.

 

One thing is for sure – we’re now heading towards a season finale that seems to become awful – not for us, but for the characters. And it will surely leave us (here comes the awful part of us, after all), with a terrible long period of wait, even if we don’t end on a “hard” cliffhanger (the S1 finale was a soft one, if we even want to call it cliffhanger).

Next week, we’ll learn how Storybrooke came to existence – and why do I get the feeling that they show this ep now, of all times, for a good reason?

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