Once Upon a Time's challenge every episode is twisting a Disney fairly tale/story so it is something new, not simply a live-action beat-by-beat remake of its beloved animated source. OUAT's fairy tale reinventions are hit or miss (more miss than hit, to be honest). The writers do back flips to change up the details here and there. Adam Horowitz promotes episodes as 'the truths' of the fairy tale stories. So, "The Crocodile" is the true story of what happened to Captain Hook, which is completely stupid, but I've used stupid clichés in attempts to get people to read what I wrote or watch what I filmed; so whatever. "The Crocodile" is a fine reinvention of the Captain Hook story. Since it's OUAT, there are plenty of lines or beats that made me want to forget this show ever existed; however, the central story of the episode was well-done. So there's that rare instance of positivity from me about the show.
The central story returns to Rumple's cowardice which was introduced in one of his episode's last season. Power didn't cure Rumple's cowardice. The Dark One used power to hide and terrify, to hurt the people who hurt him. Mr. Gold continues to be cowardly, choosing to restore magic rather than leave Storybrooke to find his son Baelfire. Belle has nightmares about her man regressing into the monster he was when they met. She catches him spinning golden thread in the basement and soon flees, unwilling to be with a man who's too cowardly to be honest with her. Gold won't be honest with her because he's afraid to be. Belle wanders around town trying to find an identity, while Gold searches for his beloved because she helps to anchor his soul and remember the man he used to be before his wife humiliated him by leaving him alone to tell his son why his mother won't be back.
I prefer the Rumple of Storybrooke to the cartoonish character of the fairybacks, where Robert Carlyle's bouncing off the walls. Rumple explains to Belle how he ended up in Storybrooke and why he's afraid to leave; it's basically about regret and atonement in a way, though he continues to fall for drugs the way an addict would. He just can't quite kick it. The Dark One Rumple is full of cackles, random inflections, and glitter on the skin. Perhaps he's bombastic and erratic because of his broken little heart which stems from his wife's betrayal and his identity as a cuckold. He's off the walls because he's off the walls. The singular moment of self-reflection might've come years later when he remembered killing his wife on the boat by ripping out her heart and turning it to dust.
Captain Hook's and Rumple's role reversal is predictable from the moment they first meet. Hook's the villain then the sympathetic figure while Rumple's the sympathetic figure then the villain. On the boat, during the deal to spare their lives, Rumple betrays Mila and Hook on the grounds they should feel how he felt since the day they set sail. Rumple is not well-adjusted. The deal's about a magic bean that'll allow the user to transport to any world by creating a portal. Rumple fails to betray them and gain possession of the bean. Hook fools him, evidently switching the bean from his left hand to right hand, as Rumple's severed hand of Hook is without the bean. Hook uses the bean to open a portal to Neverland where he and his crew will sail and cause a lot of shit for Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle. Of course, Hook will use the time to strategize a way to take revenge on The Dark One, too. Hook reappears along the shoreline of The Enchanted Forest. Cora shows him a bottle containing violet stuff, the last remnants of the magical wardrobe, and Hook blah blah blahs about revenge on the crocodile.
Belle and Rumple eventually find a common ground. Rumple's search-and-find mission with Charming taught him valuable lessons about relationships, particularly the importance of honesty and hard-work; Rumple even learns the value of compromise. Rumple explains his reliance on magic and difficulty with honesty. Belle listens and eventually forgives him when he gives her the key to the Storybrooke library. Belle senses a change in him and invites him for a future burger at Grams where they might reconnect and replant the seeds for a love destined to bloom. Whether or not Rumple changes is a matter for the writers and the devoted fans. I, personally, do not care.
"The Crocodile" continues Once Upon A Time's transition into a truer ensemble piece where main characters are completely absent. LOST used this structure the deeper the story became, and Once is following that path. Emma, Snow and Regina are absent. Henry shows up for a scene in the mines. Charming helps Rumple out but barely is involved in it. The episode highlighted the multi-faceted world of OUAT. There are many stories to follow. Rumple's enemies will bring forth more carnage, perhaps, than he or the town ever imagined. I didn't miss the three women; however, I won't miss Rumple or Belle when they take an episode off.
The Captain Hook story was the most impressive story of the episode. Belle/Rumple was an instance of the writers not trusting the audience enough. Belle repeats her 'courage' line to ensure the audience knows what parallels to draw between the stories. Captain Hook's story, though, was impressive because the writers took familiar elements and twisted them enough to make it feel like a new story even if the hook scene was a ticking time-bomb, like the sound of the clock inside the croc that makes Hook go loony in the animated movie. Twisting elements around isn't anything new, but it didn't quite annoy me as much as last season. That's a start, right?
-Oh, Emilie. I think I fell a little into my old TV crush on Ms. de Ravin each time she showed up on screen in a new dress. If Emilie de Ravin shyly asked me to grab a burger with her some time, I would answer yes in a heartbeat. The sketch of her drawn by Belle's father, and Rumple, was terrible. The woman has bewitching blue eyes that threatens to ensnare your soul, while the sketch had her with green eyes. Come on, show.
-A part of me is curious about OUAT's vision of Neverland; however, I fear traveling through the portal to see their Neverland because I'm convinced their Tinkerbelle would be an unbearable, burdensome and intolerable bitch.
-There's a theory Michael Raymond-James will portray Baelfire. It makes sense with what we heard from Rumple about traveling from The Enchanted Forest before the curse. I am uninterested in who's who, by the way.
-David Solomon directed the episode. David H. Goodman and another lad whose name I cannot recall wrote the script together. Solomon's a favorite TV director of mine, from his Buffy days of course.
THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK