Column: Dark Matter: Review: Once Upon A Time 2.14: Manhattan


Written by: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz

[spoilers ahead]

Recap: Fairytale Land That Was: Pre-Curse and pre-Baelfire’s birth, a healthy and non-limping Rump comes home to excitedly tell his wife, Milah, that he has been called to the front for the Ogre war. She’s worried and doesn’t want to see him go, but he’s happy because he thinks this will be his chance to prove that he’s not like his father: a coward. And when he returns, they can finally start their family. Milah reluctantly supports his decision.

Rump is at the front when he is ordered to watch over a covered crate and guard it with his life, as it has the potential to “turn the tides” of the war in their favor. While on guard, Rump hears his name whispered. Suspicious, he pulls back the covering to find a female child in the crate. She’s a blind witch with scars slashed over her eyes. She tells him that she’s a seer and offers to tell his future for a sip of water. Rump gives it to her and she tells him that his wife Milah will have a son, but that Rump’s actions on the battlefield the next day will leave his son fatherless. Rump freaks out and accuses her of lying, but when she tells him that he will know the truth when he sees the cows, he covers her up and leaves.

The next day, Rump is watching the wounded soldiers leave when a fellow soldier tells him that they are the lucky ones: Because they are wounded, they are allowed to return home. When it’s announced that the Duke has commanded that the soldiers are to ride into battle due to a donation of horses, and for every man to grab a “cow saddle,” Rump freaks out, believing that the seer’s premonition is coming true. He rushes to interrogate the seer, but she has disappeared. Desperate not to leave his son fatherless, Rump takes a hammer to his own leg, wounding himself so that he can be sent home.

Rump makes his way home and returns to find Milah with their newborn son, whom she has named ‘Baelfire.’ Rather than be happy to see her husband return home safely, she is horrified, as the rumors of him wounding himself to get out of the war have already reached her ears. When she demands to know if they are true or not, Rump admits that they are, but that he did it for his son. He explains about the seer and her predictions, but Milah is having none of it. She labels him a coward, telling him that he should have fought and died in the war. She hands over Baelfire to him and then walks out.

Cradling his newborn son, Rump promises him that he will never leave him.

Years later, a now-“Dark One” Rump tracks down the adult seer. She knows why he is there – to find Baelfire. He threatens her and chokes her, demanding that she tell him how to find his son, without any coy answers this time. She uses her powers to do it and tells him that it will take many years, but he will find his son. It will take a great curse that he will neither cast nor break. Rump demands more coherent answers. She tells him she can’t give them to him, but he can see for himself if he takes this power from her. He does, but as he is doing so, he realizes that the information from the future is overwhelming and as unclear as she had told him. She tells him that eventually, he will learn how to separate the pieces of the puzzle from each other. He realizes that she wanted to give him the power so that she wouldn’t have it, anymore. As the Seer lies dying, she gives him one last piece of information: He will find Baelfire, but it will be in an unexpected way. It will come via a young boy, who will be more than he appears. But there will be a price: That boy will be Rump’s undoing.

The Seer dies and Rump says that he will just have to kill the boy.


Present Day, Manhattan: Emma, Henry and Gold have tracked Baelfire down to an apartment building. Gold is unsure how to find Bae, since he doesn’t know his name here, but Emma figures out that the lone apartment with no name on it is probably the person with the most to hide, AKA Baelfire. She rings the buzzer and pretends to be a delivery. However, instead of the trio being buzzed in, they hear someone upstairs starting to run.

The trio go outside and see a hooded man jumping down the fire escape, running off. Gold tells Emma that this is his payment for his favor and that this will clear all of their debts, if she brings his son back to him and gets him to talk to him. Emma tells Gold to watch Henry and she takes off.

Emma manages to chase the hooded man into an alley and tackles him, but she’s shocked when she sees who he is: her ex, Neal, Henry’s father. Neal is just as shocked to see her, but when Emma starts ranting about him and Gold having set this up, he realizes that she has brought his father to see him and starts to freak out, himself. He tells her that they can talk about this, but at a bar; he doesn’t want his father to see him.

Back with Henry and Gold, Henry tries to comfort Gold that Emma will bring his son back to him, but Gold is worried that his son has had years of experience running away from him. Gold thanks Henry. If it hadn’t been for him bringing Emma to town, he never would have found Baelfire. Henry tells him that he forgave Emma for giving him up; she was doing what she thought was best for him. He’s sure Gold’s son will eventually forgive him, but Gold’s not so sure. He points out that the circumstances of his abandoning Baelfire weren’t the same as Emma giving Henry up for adoption and worries that his son won’t understand.

At the bar, Emma demands to know if Neal knew who she was when they met and he assures her that he didn’t. If he had, he would have run as far away from her as he could have, since he had been trying to escape all of that in the first place. She accuses him of just using her as a fall guy for the watches he stole. He says he wasn’t. He had planned on doing exactly what he said, but, that night he was going to sell the watches, he ran into August. August convinced him of his story by showing him what was on the paper in his old typewriter: “I know you’re Baelfire.”

Emma is appalled that he let her go to prison because Pinocchio told him to. She refuses to believe Neal’s excuse that he was trying to help her by getting out of the way of her destiny and getting her back home. She asserts that this couldn’t have been all a coincidence, them meeting like this. He tells her Rump wanted her to break the curse and their meeting could have stopped that. Therefore, there is no way his father would have set them up. So, maybe their meeting each other was fate.

When Emma asks him if he really believes that, he tells her that most of what he remembers about his father was pretty horrible. But he used to tell him that there are no coincidences. Everything that happens, happens by design, and there’s not a lot that they can do to stop it. So, maybe they met for a reason and maybe something good came out of their being together. Instead of telling Neal about Henry, Emma tells him that nothing good came out of it; she just went to jail. But it doesn’t matter anymore because she’s over it and him. When he points out that she’s still wearing the keychain he gave her as a necklace, she pulls it off and hands it to him, telling him that she continued wearing it as a reminder to never trust anyone again.

Finished with their conversation, Emma demands that Neal come with her to see his father and fulfill her deal with him. Neal is shocked she made a deal and tells her she doesn’t have to fulfill it. Just tell him that she lost him and she will never have to see him again.

Emma calls her mom and tells her about meeting Neal, who is Baelfire, and how Neal is Henry’s father. Snow is shocked, but gently asks her daughter if her not telling Neal and Henry about each other is about protecting Henry, or herself.

Sitting in the lobby of the apartment building, Henry asks Gold why he’s so nervous. Gold explains that he has life experience that has proven to him that things don’t always happen the way that you want them to. When Henry says Gold has the power of seeing the future, Gold tells him that seeing the future is complicated. It’s not the gift you think it is. When Henry says you wouldn’t have to worry about things – you would just know – Gold explains that that’s the “great trap.” He tells the boy that the future is like a big puzzle with missing pieces: difficult to read and never what you think.

Emma arrives and tells them that she lost Baelfire. Gold refuses to give up. He breaks into Neal’s apartment to snoop around, despite Emma’s protests. Emma sees the dreamcatcher in the window and Gold catches that it means something to her. He calls her on lying to him. She sends Henry into the bathroom when Gold starts yelling at her.

Emma tells him that she isn’t lying to him, but he doesn’t believe her. He calls her on her having talked to his son, despite her protesting that she hadn’t. He starts shouting at her that they had a deal and no one breaks deals with him, when the door bursts open and Neal rushes in, demanding that Gold leave Emma alone.

Gold is shocked and happy that his son came back for him, but Neal quickly disabuses him of that notion by telling his father that he came to make sure that Gold didn’t hurt Emma. Gold wants to talk to his son, but Neal tells him to leave his apartment. When Emma tries to intervene, Neal calls her by her name. Gold quickly realizes that they know each other. He demands to know how they know each other. Before anyone can reply, Henry walks in, alerted by all of the yelling. He calls Emma “mom” and asks her what is going on. Neal is shocked when he hears that Henry is eleven years old. He asks Emma if Henry is his son. Henry says that his father was a fireman who died, but Emma admits that Neal is Henry’s father. Upset, Henry runs out onto the fire escape and Emma follows, leaving Gold and Neal alone. Neal again demands that his father leave, but Gold points out that Emma’s deal with him was for her to get Neal to talk to him. If Neal wants to help Emma fulfill her deal, he has to talk to him. Neal gives him three minutes.

Out on the fire escape, Henry is upset that Emma lied to him about his father. She tries to explain that Neal was a liar and a bad guy, but Henry asserts that he could have handled the truth. She tells him she knows, but Neal was a part of her life that she wanted to forget and that’s why she didn’t tell him. She was thinking of herself, not Henry. Henry tells her that he thought she was different, but she’s just like Regina, who always lied to him, too. Emma apologizes. Henry tells her that he wants to meet his dad.

Back in the apartment, Gold tries to explain to Neal that he wants to make up for his mistakes. He wants to make it up to him, but Neal demands to know how: He grew up alone, without a father. How can Gold make up for that? Gold wants him to return to Storybrooke, where there’s magic, where he can turn Neal back into his 14-year-old self and they can start again.

Neal is appalled by the suggestion of that, and of erasing his memories, taking away who he is. He tells him no and warns his father that he has one more minute. Gold begs him to give him one more chance, that Neal once loved him, but Neal says he was once a good man. Gold tells him that he can be a good man again. He came to the city without magic to find his son, but Neal points out that he’s still trying to use magic to make up for his mistakes, as if that can fix everything. Neal tells his father that he has no idea what he has lived with: Every night since that night, he sees before he sleeps the image of his father and himself over the edge of that pit, his father’s hand in his. And then Gold opens his hand, letting go of Neal, releasing him as he chooses all of the magic and power over his son. He tells his father that now it’s his turn to let go. He didn’t get closure, so his father doesn’t get it, either. Time’s up.

Back in the living room, Emma tells Neal that Henry wants to meet him. Neal points out that she wasn’t going to tell him about Henry and she agrees that she wasn’t. Neal says that Henry is his son, too. Neal starts to head out to talk to Henry, when Emma tells him not to break Henry’s heart. Neal assures her that he isn’t going to do to Henry what Gold did to him. Or what he did to her, Emma replies. Neal tells her that he gets it – they are all messed up – but he wants to try to avoid that happening to Henry. Emma agrees.

Neal goes out to the fire escape. Father and son introduce themselves to each other. Neal apologizes for taking so long to meet him, but Henry tells him it’s okay. Neal didn’t know. From inside the apartment, Emma and Gold watch the reunion with mixed emotions.


Storybrooke: After Snow’s conversation with her daughter, Snow and David talk about the complications in their family tree. David points out that Regina is both Henry’s step-grandmother and Henry’s adopted mother. He sardonically mentions that it’s a good idea that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving back in their world, because it would be a disastrous family dinner.

Cora consoles her daughter over Emma having taken Henry out of town without letting her know and promises her that they will get Henry back. Hook points out that if Gold is out of town, he is powerless and he can kill him. Cora tells him that if she and Regina leave town, they will lose their powers (though they will all retain their memories, as they aren’t under the curse). Cora tells him that she has a better idea: Find the dagger that controls Rump, instead.

Regina goes to the hospital to see Belle, who doesn’t remember her. Using a sleeping spell and her magic, she rifles through Belle’s purse and finds a slip of paper in it with a clue. However, she doesn’t see Greg watching her and videotaping her using magic with his phone. Later on, Greg sends the video file to the mysterious “her” and tells her that he is going to be sticking around for a little bit longer.

Belle’s paper leads Cora, Regina and Hook to Belle’s library. Tucked away inside some books, they find a piece of paper that has a drawing of a map on it. Hook tells them that as a pirate, he is used to go looking for buried treasure. So, he figures out where it is. However, when he realizes that Cora plans to betray him, he moves in to attack, but Cora uses her powers to knock him out.

Walking out with her daughter, Cora tells Regina that with the dagger, they can control the Dark One and force him to kill Snow, David and Emma. That way, Regina’s hands will be clean and she will be able to get Henry back. Regina seems to go along with her mother’s plan.


Review: So, we finally meet the infamous Baelfire, who is pretty much the reason all of this happened, and he ends up being Henry’s father! Color me shocked! LOL!

No, really, I am excited by this turn of events, if only because I always thought it would add a whole new dimension to things if it turned out that all of these lead characters and major players ended up related. Now we have, via Henry, the Evil Queen, Rumpelstiltskin, Prince Charming, and Snow White, all related. All these family lines are now tied up in a messy and complicated way and it brings a whole new dimension to the show. And to what these characters will now do.

We got a bit more back story on Rump, and how he ended up where he ended up, and darned if his life isn’t some Greek tragedy! He’s like Oedipus, without the patricide and incest. In the myth of Oedipus, his birth father, Laius, the King of Thebes was given a prophecy that his son would kill him. So, when his son was born, Laius ordered a servant to leave the baby on the mountains to die. However, the servant secretly gave Oedipus away and Oedipus ended up being raised by the King and Queen of Corinth.

Oedipus grew up and consulted the Oracle himself, whereby he was told that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Horrified and determined that this would not happen (and unaware that he was adopted), Oedipus left his home and went traveling. On the road, he ran into King Laius and the two got into an argument about who could cross the road first. In self-defense, Oedipus killed Laius, unknowingly fulfilling the first part of the prophecy that he would kill his father. Oedipus traveled on and ended up defeating a Sphinx that was terrorizing Thebes. In return, he was given the Kingship and the hand of the Queen Jocasta, the widow of King Laius and Oedipus’ birth mother, in marriage as a reward. Thus fulfilling the second part of the prophecy where Oedipus married his own mother.

The moral of the Oedipus story (in my mind) is that the more you fight against your destiny, the more you create it. If Laius had just kept his son and raised him, Oedipus never would have killed his father and married his mother. If Oedipus had just stayed in his adopted homeland instead of running away to stop the prophecy, he never would have killed his father and married his mother. By struggling so much against their prophecies, father and son actually made them come true. Thus is the same with Rump.


By Rump wounding himself and getting himself sent home from the front branded a coward, Rump actually ended up fulfilling the seer’s prophecy that his actions would cause the loss of his son and would end up leaving Baelfire to grow up fatherless. What Rump was so terrified of happening, ended up happening because he was so terrified of it happening.

Hopefully, Rump will remember all of this when it comes time for the Seer’s last prophecy that the “boy will be his undoing.” He needs to keep in mind that these prophecies are not nearly as clear-cut as people hear them to be. Perhaps what Henry will be is the Dark One’s undoing. Maybe from love of him, Rump will finally give up his power and the darkness that comes with them. “Undoing” doesn’t have to mean death or destruction, and the person she told that to was the Dark One, not a grandfather who just met his grandson. The Dark One is a seriously dark, deadly and dangerous character, and while Gold is free of the Dark One curse of insanity and instability, he still has that inside him.

However, he’s not under that curse at the moment. He also has the heart of a father who was desperate to save his son and loved him more than anything, inside of him. I can’t see Gold ever really hurting a child. If you add on to that the fact that Henry is his grandson, and hurting Henry would forever kill any chance that he has of winning back his own son, I can’t see Gold ever doing anything to hurt Henry.

Cora, on the other hand….

I’m glad that Neal told Emma about what August told him, though I don’t blame her for being upset about it, too. Neal grew up with magic and destinies and fates in a way that Emma didn’t. I can see August telling Neal that Emma had a destiny to fulfill and that he was in the way of it meaning more to him than it would to her. Especially when all it did was cause her the pain of prison and giving her baby away. And I can see why he was upset that she didn’t tell him about Henry, when he really wanted to think that there was something good that came from their meeting. But I hope that they can come to terms with each other, eventually. I like the possibilities of them, but they have a lot of obstacles to overcome right now. And considering her other romantic option is the evil Hook, I’d much rather see her and Neal overcome their obstacles!

We finally got to find out what August told Neal to make him believe him! I’m curious how August found out that Neal was Baelfire, though. It makes sense that that would have made Neal believe him, since really, no one should know who Neal is. Baelfire isn’t even in the Rumpelstiltskin stories.

I consider Henry one of my top favorite characters and I don’t blame him for being upset that Emma lied to him. However, his comparing Emma to Regina, based on this one lie, made me want to smack him. Emma explained to him how Neal had hurt her and broke her heart. I do agree with Henry that Emma shouldn’t have lied to him (These characters need to get that the lies are way worse than any truth, at some point!), but that was a deeply unfair comparison. I am rooting for him and Neal to get to know each other and have a relationship, but that doesn’t mean he gets to look down on his mom for making a mistake based on her own old heartbreak. There is no comparison between Regina and Emma.

The scene between Neal and Gold, where they confronted each other over their pasts, was really well-done by both actors. I felt so bad for Neal as he explained that the memory that torments him every night is of the moment that his father let go of him, and chose power and magic over him. There’s no way that doesn’t torment a child and damage them in some serious ways. I know Rump was scared and terrified of the unknown, but it’s true: When he let go of his son’s hand, he was choosing his magic over Baelfire. Even if he regretted it immediately after, it doesn’t change the fact that in that moment, Baelfire was his second choice. And no child should ever be their parent’s second choice.

Bae had already lost his mother (He doesn’t even know that his mom ran off and abandoned him for a pirate, thereby making him both of his parents’ second choice at some point in his life). Everyone was afraid of him because of his father’s actions. Here he has one desperate chance to get his father back and his father chooses magic over him. I do think that Gold desperately love his son, but he has to understand that magic and power don’t make up for a father’s love and devotion. Either way, there was a lot of pain and sorrow and anger in that scene, and I thought both actors handled their ends of it very well.

I get the feeling there is more to what happened to Baelfire than just his simply being sent to our world and I hope that they show us what happened to him after he went through the portal.

I loved Snow and David’s conversation about their messed-up family ties! Very cute. And accurate!

I don’t love the fact that Regina is throwing out all of her potential growth for more power, revenge and mommy issues. The fact that she’s so easily swayed by her mother shows that all of her claims of wanting to change were hollow. And the fact that she was using magic so carelessly in the hospital shows that her claims to intelligence are pretty false right now, too. That was seriously stupid and annoying. If it weren’t for the fact that her getting caught was going to hurt a townful of innocent people, I wouldn’t care. As it is, either the town is going to suffer or Greg is going to get killed. Either way, Hook and now Regina will be to blame.

I’m curious who this “her” is, though.

The makeup on the seer was really good. The scar across her face and the eyes in her palms totally creeped me out. I had a hard time watching the little girl version of her. That was the most disturbing thing I have seen on this show so far.

All in all, I liked this episode a lot. The flashbacks were enlightening, but I have to admit, even with Rump as the star character in this one, I am finding myself much more eager for the present-day story than the flashbacks, lately. Last season, it was the reverse. But this season, so much is going on in the present-day story that when we get flashbacks, I find myself impatient to get back to the real action.


Next episode: Hook goes after Gold in New York, while Cora and Regina continue their quest to get the Dark One’s dagger.

You can watch “Manhattan” 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 2.14: Manhattan