Once Upon A Time’s “Lacey” might be my favorite episode of the season. Written by the creators of the show, it contains the many layers and shout-outs that have made this series so fun to watch. It also focused on my favorite character, Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, played by the incredibly versatile, fearless and dazzling Robert Carlyle.
At the top of the episode, Mr. Gold awakes from a nightmare in which he turned his grandson into porcelain and smashed him in fear of the prophecy made a few episodes earlier, in which it is stated, “the boy will be your undoing”. Mr. Gold is struggling. He wants to be the good man Belle loved, but he fears his dark side will win the day.
He visits Regina to learn how to help Belle remember who she is, but Regina taunts him about his dark past, saying that perhaps he may love Belle, but she doesn’t return his feelings. Even though true love’s kiss can break any curse, Mr. Gold will have a difficult time winning her back, especially after Regina visits her in the hospital and restores her former curse memory, turning her into an alcohol-soaked pool hustler named Lacey.
In flashbacks, we see Rumplestiltskin’s evil ways curbed by the sweet gentleness of Belle, who prevents him from killing a thief when she sees that the man, called Robin Hood, stole a magic wand in order to heal his love, a pregnant Maid Marian. Belle stays Rumplestiltskin’s hand, saying, “You’re not the sort of man to leave a child fatherless,” recalling his abandonment of Baelfire for magic powers.
However, when Mr. Gold catches Lacey in the arms of the man we know as the Sheriff of Nottingham, he cannot keep himself in check and beats the man. Lacey appears and they have an eerily similar conversation to the one in the flashback, but Lacey has a different reaction to his dark side: she likes it. What does this mean for Mr. Gold? Can he be good without Belle’s influence? Or is all hope lost?
Meanwhile, we discover that Charming and Snow have grown a crop of magic beans with the help of the dwarves, to create a portal back to their fairytale world. Emma struggles with the decision to go with them or stay in our world. She slips up in a conversation with Regina, who becomes suspicious. She spies on Charming and discovers the crop of beans, spelling disaster for the entire Storybrooke community.
However, in the last scene of the episode, we see the return of a man who wants revenge on Regina: Captain Hook. He’s been captured by Neil’s fiancee and her lover, the man still searching for his father in Storybrooke, in the hopes that he will exact vengeance and spell the downfall of the mayor.
Despite there being so many serious dramatic moments in this episode, Edward Kitsis and Adama Horowitze know how to sprinkle a little humor into the story to keep it from going too dark. One of my favorite moments was when Mr. Gold succeeded in asking Belle out for a date and David/Prince Charming congratulates him, calling him “Don Juan.” “Duan Juan was nothing before he made a deal with me,” Mr. Gold asserts.
Once Upon A Time continues to deliver exceptional character development, intriguing storylines and dramatic twists and turns. I can’t wait to see the final episodes, the last two of which have the intriguing titles, “Second Star to the Right”, “And Straight On ‘Til Morning”. I think we’re finally going to meet one of my favorite literary characters, Peter Pan!