Column: Dark Matter: Review: Once Upon A Time 2.11: The Outsider

By Heather S. Vina

[spoilers ahoy]

Written by: Andrew Chambliss & Ian Goldberg

Recap: Fairytale Land That Was: Belle is sitting in a tavern, post having left Rumpelstilskin, listening to some men try to gather a posse to hunt down a Yaoguai (a fire-maned, large dog-like creature) that has been terrorizing the town. She longs to join them, but doesn’t quite have the courage. Dreamy (AKA Grumpy, before he was Grumpy) sits down next to her and thanks her for encouraging him to go to his love, Nova (1.14, “Dreamy”). He happily tells her that they are going to run away together. He encourages her to go join the posse, giving her some fairy dust for extra measure, and she does.

On the wagon to track down the Yaoguai, Belle is mocked by one of the hunters for reading a book, until she explains to them that it will help her find the Yaoguai. He asks her if the book tells her where it is. She tells him that it says it will be by the lake. The man kicks her off the wagon and thanks her, laughing, as she lies in the dirt. They drive away. Once they are gone, Belle stands up and smiles, having told them the wrong place to find the Yaoguai.

Belle goes off to hunt the Yaoguai herself, but almost gets killed when it comes after her. However, she is saved by a masked hunter, who is revealed to be Mulan! Mulan has been hunting the Yaoguai for weeks and is upset that Belle ruined her hunt. Belle offers to team up with Mulan, pointing out that she found the Yaoguai in a day while it took Mulan weeks, but Mulan will have none of it and goes off on her own.

Back at the town, Belle is being attacked by the hunters, who are angry that she sent them in the wrong direction, when Mulan comes and saves her. Turns out Mulan has recognized Belle’s worth in tracking down the Yaoguai and asks her to join her. The two women track the Yaoguai down, but Belle sees that Mulan has been hurt and won’t be able to fight the Yaoguai. Belle goes off alone. She manages to find the Yaoguai and douse its fire mane with some water, knocking it down. Just as she is about to kill it, it starts scratching out some words on the ground: “Save me.” Belle takes out her fairy dust and sprinkles it on the creature, turning it from beast to man.

The man gets up and introduces himself to Belle as Prince Phillip. He explains to her that the witch Maleficent turned him into the Yaoguai to keep him away from his true love, Aurora. He offers his services to Belle, but all she asks is that he help Mulan, who needs to see a doctor. She introduces the Prince to Mulan. As the two go off back to town, Belle heads off in the other direction, determined to go back to find Rump and save him. However, before she can get very far, the Queen and her men capture her. As Belle is screaming that she can save Rump, the Queen mocks her, telling her it’s far too late to save the Dark One.

Storybrooke: The town buries Archie, Henry especially devastated by the loss of his counselor and friend. He brightens up a little when Pongo, now ownerless, is released into his care. However, the arrival of a dog makes Snow realize that their place is a little small for all of them. She wants to find a new place to live and starts looking at houses. Charming isn’t so eager, feeling homesick and wanting to get back to their kingdom. Snow wants to stay in Storybrooke. The newly reunited couple realize that they may have a problem.

Charming isn’t the only one who wants to return home. The Dwarves also want to return to the Enchanted Forest, homesick for the woods and their mines, and still griefstricken over Archie’s death. They worry that outsiders might invade their town and see something that they shouldn’t see. Red worries that they might see her change into a wolf. Now that the curse has been broken, the townspeople aren’t as isolated as they once were.

Gold takes Smee to the barrier between the outside world and the town, and uses him as his guinea pig, pointing out to a protesting Smee that he had no problem pushing Belle over the edge to lose her memory, so why should he? He places some potion on Smee’s red hat – a gift from his grandmother – and explains to Smee that this potion can only work on the bearer’s most precious item. When he pushes Smee over the edge, the potion kicks in, allowing Smee to keep his memories. Gold finally has his way to cross the barrier and find Baelfire, his son.

Back at his shop, Gold explains to Belle his plan, showing her the last thing of Bae that he has: a shawl. When she expresses the desire to come with him, he regretfully explains to her that he only has enough potion for one person. He tells her that he has to do this on his own. She understands and wishes him well.

Back at Hook’s ship, Hook interrogates Archie, demanding to know where Rump’s dagger is, but Archie genuinely doesn’t know. However, he does know what Gold’s weakness is. Alas, he tells Hook about Belle.

Hook goes after Belle, attacking her at her library, but she is able to get away and call Gold. When Gold finds her, she explains to him who came after her and Gold takes her back to his shop. But Hook has already been there, having ransacked the shop and stolen Baelfire’s shawl. Now Gold won’t be able to cross the barrier and find his son.

Gold orders Belle back to the library, asking her to trust him and stay out of it. Then he goes after Smee to interrogate him about his old boss. Smee admits that Hook has the shawl. Gold turns him into a rat.

Despite Gold’s wishes, Belle decides to try to find Hook on her own and figures out that Hook came in on a ship. She heads down to the docks. By observing the seagulls, she discovers Hook’s invisible ship.

Belle sneaks onto Hook’s ship and starts searching for the shawl, but ends up finding a tied-up Archie, instead! She frees Archie, telling him to go to town and warn everyone what is happening, while she continues to search for the shawl. She is soon interrupted by Hook, who taunts her about Rump/Gold. He tells her that Gold was responsible for the death of his wife, Malia, the woman that Hook loved, and that he wants revenge. Belle tells him that she still believes there is good in Rump, despite Malia’s death. Belle tries to run away with the shawl and almost makes it, before Hook captures her again. Gold arrives and beats Hook, threatening to kill him. Hook taunts him, trying to get him to rip out his heart in front of Belle, but Belle manages to convince Gold that Hook wants to destroy the good in him, and not to let him. Gold lets go of Hook. Gold tells him to leave town and never come back.

Archie makes his way to Emma and Snow’s place, and is happily reunited with Henry and Pongo. Archie explains that Cora was the one who kidnapped him and Emma realizes that Regina is innocent. Henry is delighted that his friend is back and his stepmother is innocent. Emma promises to call Regina and let her know.

That night, Belle and Gold go to the barrier to test his potion. He pours it on the shawl and walks over the barrier. Luckily, the spell works and Gold keeps his memory. Belle encourages him to go out and find Baelfire, that she will be waiting for him when he returns. As they kiss, a shot rings out and Belle collapses in Gold’s arms, falling across the barrier. Hook laughs, telling Gold that Belle will live, but she won’t remember him. And, alas, she doesn’t, as she asks who he is. Gold turns on Hook, about ready to destroy him with a fireball, when a car from outside of town comes screeching down the road towards them. Gold rolls himself and Belle out of the way, but Hook is mowed down and sent flying, the car crashing into the road.

Review: So, Hook has been smashed by a car driven by an “Outsider.” Is he dead? One can only hope, but, considering the actor has been made a regular for this season, alas, that hope is probably not to be fulfilled!

So, we got some more focus on Belle and Gold’s relationship, some more backstory on Belle, Archie rescued, and some tension brewing in the Charming/White family.

I liked the backstory of Belle, and I like these stories where we see how characters met and interacted. Seeing Mulan and Prince Phillip back was great, and I actually liked the friendship that developed between Mulan and Belle. It was sweet. I do think that one of the things this show does well is friendships between female characters. It’s really so nice to see women bonding and becoming real friends. I give the writers a lot of props for that, because, so often, television shows have women so focused on men – getting one, having one, keeping one – that that is what these characters become about. They aren’t women; they are man-seeking characters. But Once manages to make women their own characters, rather than what they are to men.

Sure, Regina is evil and still mourning the loss of her true love, but her character isn’t defined by that or by trying to have a man. Sure, Snow White is deeply in love with her Prince Charming, but her character is more than a helpless princess, trying to get a man. And all of the female friendships are based on women really bonding with each other, rather than catfighting over a man. Even the one female friendship that potentially had a man between them – Mulan and Aurora – developed into something more and real between the characters. It’s very refreshing to see.

So, tonight, we got backstory on Belle and her heroic adventure, post leaving Rumpelstiltskin and pre getting captured by the Evil Queen. I liked it. It fit with her character wanting to go off and do more. And I really liked how she used her intelligence and her love of books to track down the Yaoguai and save Phillip. It was interesting that her ability to handle this adventure, and to save the day on her own, inspired her to go back and try again with Rump. Of course, she wasn’t able to do that, since that was when Regina got her hands on her. But still, I like that it gave her confidence a needed boost.

Alas, in the modern day – despite Belle successfully saving Archie, helping Gold, and supporting him in his quest to find his son – Belle ended up paying the price of Hook’s revenge by losing her memory. I hated that, frankly. That is the one thing that I hate about this show: For every one step the good guys take or battle they win, they end up losing a bigger one. I’m really hoping that Belle’s memory returns relatively soon. The show surprised me by having the Archie reveal happen so quickly, so maybe they will surprise me again, with Belle getting her memory back. I just hate that now, just as she is settling in and finding everything she wants, she loses it all over again.

Speaking of Archie, Regina owes Belle a debt. Because of Belle’s actions, Regina’s false murder charge is a lot shorter than Mary Margaret’s was. I really will be curious how they have Regina handle this. Will she want revenge on the town? Or will she show that she really wants to change by seeing this as maybe some karmic justice for one of her many crimes against someone who was also innocent, and gain some empathy for someone she has wronged? It will be interesting to see.

I’m glad for Henry and Pongo’s sake that Archie was freed so quickly. It was sad seeing dog and boy so sad!

I’m curious about the problems developing between Charming and Snow. For once, it’s something internal, instead of external. I can’t blame Snow. She finally has some peace. She has her daughter back, her husband back, her grandson. All she wants are some peace and quiet and safety to enjoy her family. I also can’t blame Charming. He fought so hard for his life back home, for his kingdom, that he wants to return back there, where he feels he belongs. It will be interesting to see if they can come to terms with this. I’m sure they can. This is a new problem, but it’s kind of nice that the problems besetting them now are real ones, internal ones, rather than being torn apart by some external force.

It will be interesting to see how the characters handle an outsider in their midst, and the debate between going home and staying in the new world.

I still don’t see any sexual chemistry between Gold and Belle, but I do enjoy their emotional connection. It makes Belle’s loss of memory even more tragic because these two were just finding some equilibrium in their relationship together. Belle was the one person other than Baelfire who could hold Gold back and keep him on an even keel – or as much of one as the former Dark One can have.

I’ve never been a fan of Hook’s character, but he’s gotten even worse by becoming so whiny. I can’t quite pinpoint why his hatred of Rump makes him come across as whiny while Regina doesn’t in her hatred of Snow (evil, vindictive and psychotic, yes. Whiny, no), but it does. Maybe it’s just the bully characteristics in his character. He doesn’t come across as evil so much as a big bully who got pushed around by a bigger bully and doesn’t like the taste of his own medicine. Going after Belle, going after Rump when he was just a poor farmer trying to save his wife, going after Aurora. Hook’s not so much a great villain as he is a bully who goes after people weaker than he is. It’s actually getting a little pathetic and a lot annoying.

So, who is the stranger? No idea, but it will be interesting to find out.

Next episode: More backstory on Dr. Whale, AKA Frankenstein!

You can watch “The Outsider” on Amazon Instant Video here.

About Heather S. Vina

Heather's been a fan of science fiction since she was five years old and developed a crush on Captain Kirk, while watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series. A huge Anglophile, she loves reading and watching (and mocking!) TV, but hasn't figured out a way to make a living doing either, yet. But she lives in hope!

Heather S. VinaColumn: Dark Matter: Review: Once Upon A Time 2.11: The Outsider