I’ll admit that “Once Upon A Time” has grown on me, as the show has put some wildly creative spins on creaky old fairy tales. One character I was looking forward to being rebooted was Belle, who kicked things off in Storybrooke locked away in an insane asylum. Evil queen Regina didn’t even bother to give her a Storybrooke personality, as it didn’t matter — she was tucked out of sight, and any of her rantings would just be chalked up to mental illness. It was a dark but promising twist.
But last night’s episode of the show put beauty and the beast (Rumplestiltskin, aka Mr. Gold) in the center of the action, and while it was dark, it wasn’t particularly twisty. Thanks to a visit from Regina, Belle finally got her Storybrooke personality — Lacey, a Van Halen-loving barfly with a drinking problem. For Gold, who loves Belle, the challenge ahead is a tricky one: to get Belle back, he has to share true love’s kiss with Lacey.
It’s an intriguing conundrum, and one that promises some in-depth character exploration. Gold has to give in to his baser impulses to win over Lacey, a woman with whom he has almost nothing in common (except a dark side), to get back Belle, the woman who makes him want to be a better man.
There is the possibility for us to see more of Gold’s struggle, I guess, but this episode wasn’t too promising. We hopped back and forth between the present and the fairy tale past, in which Belle is, well, Belle. She sees the good in everyone, even a thief later revealed to be Robin Hood (who just happens to be stealing a wand to save a pregnant Maid Marian). The problem is that Snow White and Prince Charming had original spins in the fairy tale world, with Snow being a warrior princess and Charming having an acrimonious relationship with her adopted father. In this episode, Belle is just that familiar Disney goody-goody who likes to read books and has great hair.
Lacey isn’t much more, it seems, than the flip side of that very thin coin. She drinks too much, she plays pool in skeevy bars, she makes out with slimy guys who may or may not be the drunken Sheriff of Nottingham in fairytale land. The evening she has with Mr. Gold at Granny’s is like any standard bad date in a Match.com commercial. He tries too hard, spills his iced tea, and generally acts like a doofus. Meanwhile, she wishes she were out with a bad boy.
It’s hard to believe Gold, who’s shown more and more facets to his personality with every passing episode, would suddenly be reduced to a cliched guy-with-a-crush character straight out of a bad teen TV movie. Not that I minded seeing him be vulnerable — as much as Robert Carlyle seems to enjoy dancing around and cackling as a sometimes twee Rumplestiltskin, when he has to show the character’s softer, more human side (either as Rumplestiltskin or Gold) is when he brings him vividly to life.
That Gold finally wins Lacey over by beating the snot out of a guy she was making out with is perfectly logical — and perfectly predictable. Of course, the wooing isn’t over yet. I’m hoping that in the few episodes remaining before the show goes on summer hiatus this relationship takes some unexpected turns. I’d bet even Belle could appreciate that sometimes a surprising ending is even more important than a happy one.
What do you think of Lacey and Mr. Gold?