There are a few things about Rumple that confuse me.
We’ve seen that as the Dark One, Rumple can walk normally. His limp is gone. However, in SB he’s once again using his cane and limps. Now, I can understand this for as long as the Curse is not yet broken, since there’s no magic around and thus also not the Dark One’s powers that make Rumple more or less invincible. So far, so good.
After the Curse is broken, however, and Rumple brings Magic to SB, he’s still limping. He’s shown to be able to heal people – Henry’s burns after the nightmare, Belle’s gunshot wound after Hook shot her, and of course he reattached Dr. Whale’s arm (!). And yet he never healed himself. And obviously, as we’ve seen in 2×13 Tiny, he would have been able to do so, since he tried to heal himself at the airport after he’d beaten up the box in the men’s room. His attempt to heal himself came definitely from him knowing that he is usually able to do so, but also probably feeling that his powers are gone. It is clear that this was about testing a theory, not about seeing whether his Magic works on himself as well.
Now, why doesn’t he just heal his leg? If he can reattach arms, then this shouldn’t be too hard.
I see two possible reasons. One is that it is impossible to change something that was acquired/done before the whole Curse and Dark One and Magic time. The injury was part of him when he became the Dark One; and even if he can change and heal everything that happened afterwards, the condition in which he was when he became the Dark One may be some kind of a default one; one that can’t be changed. Even if the Dark One’s powers, when he has them, allow him to ignore the injury, it is possible that it is there nevertheless; and that he just doesn’t feel it because of the powers. We don’t know what they do to him, how they make him feel; what they make him feel.
The other reason/theory is that it is some kind of self-flagellation. The limp is supposed to always remind him of what he’s done. Question is now if he’ll change something about that once he’s (hopefully) reconciled with Bae and his life is in order again. I hope that will happen one day, that when he and Bae and the rest of his (sort of new-found) family, including Belle as his love, even wife maybe, are back together as a real family, he will also be able to let go of this reminder of his mistakes. Could be even that Bae and Belle make him to, just before he gives up on the Dark One’s powers. Yes, that is this fangirl here dreaming; though I don’t think that it is all that unlikely.
So this is his leg. But there is his outward appearance as well. When we meet the preceding Dark One, the beggar, he at first looks totally normal. We know that at that time he talks to Rumple he already is the Dark One. And yet he looks human, skin and all.
Rumple, however, never once looked normal, whenever we saw/see him as Dark One in FTL. The only time the Human side shines through is after his kiss with Belle, but this is also the moment when the Dark One curse is almost broken. For all we know, at least – still not sure about that since nothing happens in SB post-Curse when they kiss and Rumple clearly has to have his powers back (at the well in 2×01, after he’s brought Magic to SB). Every other time we see him he always looks like the crocodile Hook deems him to be.
Is he so comfortable with these powers that he doesn’t want to look normal again? Would showing this human attire include limping again, thus keeping him from changing back? Or is this another part and way of his earlier mentioned self-flagellation?
He knows that people fear him, and him looking like this, with the scaly, golden-green shining skin, the claws and the snake eyes, as well as the voice that seems to be part of his Dark One’s persona (listen to his voice when he almost changes back to human after Belle kissed him – it sounds totally different). Of course it makes people fear him; and consequently, it also leaves him alone, as no one dares to come close to him, and no one gets even the hint of an idea to like him. Being alone, having no one to love him, may be his way to punish himself for what he did wrong; for the lives he destroyed, or just the one life – that if his son. If his son has to be alone and without him, then Rumple himself thinks he doesn’t deserve any company, much less love, either.
Of course he never took into account that someone like Belle could come around and actually fall in love with him. This may be another part his fear – he knows that his human side is still inside him, and he knows that he can fall in love as well. And thus he can also be hurt, like he was by Milah. It is what happens with Belle, sort of, only that Belle never left him just like that, but because he sent her away. She even fought for him and their love, but in the end he was too good at driving her away – never believing that she could love a monster like him, because that was his intention all along by appearing as he does: Keep people from liking, from loving him.
Who knows, if he had accepted Belle’s love, accepted it to be honest and true (as even he must have known it was, despite his words), maybe he would have changed his appearance for her, at least as long as they are together and alone in his castle or something like that.
And then there is this detail of him being in SB, having his powers – but not looking like the Dark One. Which only seems to prove that he is indeed able to change it to his liking. Unless, of course, this is a detail for once even Ed&Adam missed.
This is where the whole circle of events and facts is also sort of closed – Rumple has his powers and yet looks human, but has his limp, and he doesn’t heal himself despite possessing his powers again. Now it will be interesting to see if Rumple indeed can’t heal his leg because of the whole default thing I wrote about above, or if it is only his way of still punishing himself, and it will all be solved as soon as the family finds its peace – together. I think it will need for someone, anyone, asking him about it, and I guess it will either has to Belle or Bae.
Plus, the next question would be if he would only be healed while still in SB… maybe he could help himself in an environment with magic, but as soon as he left it, all would be set back to how it was (and has to be). It may have worked on Henry, since his burns didn’t return, but then were Henry’s burns fresh when Rumple healed them, and they only happened in post-Curse SB with Magic. And of course isn’t Henry in any way as tightly connected to Magic as Rumple is.
So much for answering questions. Rumple is too complicated a character to not be subject to many, many open questions, and I really wonder if they will ever all be answered before the show ends some day…