After a bit of a hiatus, Once Upon A Time opens on a warm, family scene celebrating Henry's (Jared S. Gilmore) birthday at Rumplestiltskin's (Robert Carlyle) shop. The newly minted grandfather offers the boy his choice of anything in the shop and. after quick deliberation, his eye settles on a shiny, magic wand.
This, however, is no Harry Potter scene, and Rumple, still haunted by the seer's prophecy about a boy who would be his undoing, uses the wand to turn Henry into glass and shatter his skull into a thousand pieces.
Of course, this is just a dream and Rumple awakes in his own room and Henry is still alive and well, but the danger is still on Rumple's mind and this is not the only time the wand makes an appearance. Random scenes like this, and Emma's (Jennifer Morrison) conversation with Neal (Michael Raymond-James) about unraveling the impending danger to Storybrooke, seem scattered throughout tonight's episode, 'Lacey,' and no doubt are meant to point to the coming season finale.
That, however, is still a few weeks away, and right now, while Rumple might be dreaming of how to dispose of Henry, his waking thoughts are consumed with Belle (Emilie de Ravin).
The plot switches back and forth between how he first began to fall in love with her in the Enchanted Forest and what he's willing to do to reclaim his love with her amnesiac self in the present. The irony is that back in the past, he isn't interested in her at all and woos her without trying, whereas in the present, he does all he can think of to win her back and fails miserably.
This failure is due to a magical memory prod from Regina (Lana Parrilla) who, after getting the memo a bit late that Gold is Henry's grandpa, enacts her own revenge by giving Belle new memories as a pool-hussling bar gal named Lacey.
Regina tells Rumple that Belle/Lacey has defaulted back to her cursed memories, obviously overlooking the gaping plot hole in which Belle was brought over to Storybrooke as Regina's prisoner and held captive in the hospital's psych ward until Rumple rescued her. Still, the show must go on and the audience is shown a darker side of Belle that is rather alluring.
Also, as a result of Regina's meddling, Rumple now owes David (Josh Dallas) a favor, as the younger man gave him pointers as to how to help Belle fall in love with him despite embracing her new life as Lacey. It's painful watching him attempt to connect with her, and for the first time, the difference in their ages is more noticeable. Lacey is young and vivacious and far more daring than her counterpart Belle ever was, where Gold comes off as a stodgy old man who's trying far too hard for something he's never going to achieve.
It's a relief when he comes to grips with the fact that he's failed miserably and that his date ran off to make out with a much younger (and much hotter) guy. And this is where things get interesting. Back in the Enchanted Forest, we watch Belle plead for Robin Hood's (Tom Ellis) life. He only stole the wand, she argues, in order to heal the woman he loves; a woman who is pregnant. Rumple concedes and Belle swoons.
In Storybrooke, Gold tires of doing the right thing only to have it backfire on him and proceeds to beat the living daylights out of the man he caught kissing Lacey. She happens upon them and far from being terrified or turned off, this new, darker, Lacey is enthralled and sits back for a front row seat as Gold finishes the job.
Where Belle brought out the light in Gold, Lacey encourages the dark, bringing a new twist to an already explosive dynamic amongst the town's bad guys. It would appear Gold's dark side has returned just in time, as his arch-nemisis Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) is back in town and Regina has stumbled over the patch of magic beans that could send them all back to the Enchanted Forest. With so many factors at play, who knows what the final three episodes have in store?
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays @8pm on ABC.