Crocodiles seem to be passive enough if you happen to be strolling by one, but hang around too long and you’ll discover how deadly they are. The same could be said of Mr.Gold/ Rumplestilskin (Robert Carlyle) in this newest offering from Once Upon A Time. He seems mild enough, but his true intentions and character only shine through when it’s far too late to change your mind and run away.
Grumpy (Lee Arenberg) learns this as he comes barging into Rumple’s shop demanding his axe, and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) watches horrified as Rumple promptly deals with the situation swiftly and violently. Good thing it was only a dream. Unfortunately what happens next is real. Belle walks outside to clear her head, spies Rumple through the basement window dabbling in magic, and, upon his return to the house, demands honesty from him. Will love win the day or is it really a crocodile waiting to pounce and reveal its violent intent later?
Before we can understand what’s going on in the present, however, we must head back to the past in the Enchanted Forest, where Rumple is seen looking for his wife Milah (Rachel Shelley). Rumple begs her to come home, but she despises him for not being “man enough” to fight in the Ogre Wars. Later, at home, Milah attempts to persuade him to leave the village and start a new life where he can escape his reputation as a coward, but he wants to stay and she reluctantly agrees.
He should’ve left, because next thing you know she’s been kidnapped and Rumple must confront the pirates who took her. The Captain (Colin O’Donoghue) laughs at Rumple’s feeble pleas, stating that if Rumple truly loves Milah and wants her back, he’ll fight for her. Instead, Rumple meekly backs off and returns home with the hard duty of telling his son that his mother has been killed.
Flash forward a few years to the same bar his wife used to frequent and we find Rumple (now one with The Dark One) and a chunky, sniveling man trying to barter information about a magic bean. The mystery man wants eternal life, Rumple wants the bean to travel between worlds to look for his lost son. Rumple goes Darth Vader on the man, using a force-like choke-hold on his throat and the two make a fast deal.
A funny thing happens on the way to the seaport and what starts as a quest to find his missing son quickly turns into a cold dish of revenge served to the man responsible for taking Rumple’s wife. The balance of power has shifted since their last meeting and Rumple handily beats the Captain and is about to rip out his heart when Milah shows up, offering the magic bean in return for their lives.
The next day, back on the pirate ship, Rumple learns of his wife’s betrayal. She admits she never cared for him and and abandoned their son. Perhaps not the wisest of confessions as Rumple reacts violently by literally ripping out her heart. His next victim, the Captain, loses a hand; a hand Rumple believes is clutching the magic bean. In the end, Rumple loses out the bean and his wife, while the Captain gains a soon-to-be-infamous hook, along with a mate named Smee (Christopher Gauthier) and he uses the bean to sail through a portal into Neverland.
Back in Storybrooke, Belle finally gets the picture that Rumple, like a croc, simply cannot be trusted to be honest with her. She leaves him and over breakfast at Granny’s, she is befriended by Ruby (Meghan Ory). Being locked up for so long by Regina has put Belle behind the curve so it’s time for her to find her place in this new world. Red tells her of the town library that is no longer in use, but which might interest her. Belle lights up at the thought of working in a place filled with books.
Belle’s father and Smee, however, have other plans. Together they send her hurtling underground in a mine car towards the town line in hopes that she’ll cross the line and forget everything about the town, including Rumple, whom she still has romantic feelings towards. Fortunately, Ruby, David (Josh Dallas), and Rumple track down her location using Ruby’s super sniffer abilities and rescue Belle from memory loss just in the nick of time. Belle scolds both her father and Rumple and dumps them both.
The next morning over breakfast at Granny’s, Belle receives a box with the keys to the library. Rumple has pulled strings to get the library reopened for her. A gift. Rumple admits to his cowardice and that magic is a crutch for him. Also, he wants nothing more than to find his long lost son and to do that he must search for a magic that will break the new curse. Is the croc lying in wait or is he truly a changed man? Hook may have something to say about that as he is planning to cross over to our world, thanks to the aid of Regina’s mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey) who is planning a surprise family reunion with her daughter.
Never rule out who has the upper hand in this series. The balance of power shifts not only from episode to episode, but sometimes from scene to scene. ‘The Crocodile’ introduces a game changer in Captain Hook. He seems hardened by the years and hellbent on revenge. But as we all know, crocodiles lay in wait and strike when the time is right…tick tock, tick tock.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC. Check out a preview of the next episode, “The Doctor,” below: