Review: Once Upon a Time 1.08: Desperate Souls

By Heather S. Vina

Written by: Jane Espenson

[spoilers ahead]

Recap: Fairytale World

A normal-looking Rumpelstiltskin is in a hut when his son, Baelfire (Dylan Schmid), comes running in. Baelfire tells him that “they” have come for a girl in the village. Turns out that this girl just turned 14 and the nearby Duke’s soldiers are impressing all of the children into the army to fight against the Ogres. When the distraught parents try to stop the lead soldier from taking their daughter (with the implication also being that he plans to rape her), a dark figure on a horse uses magic to stop them in their tracks and strangle them. The soldiers take off with the girl and Rump’s son worriedly reminds his father that he will be turning 13, soon. They will come for him next. Rump assures his son that they will find a way out of this.


Gold is working in his shop when Emma comes looking for him. She’s a little turned off by the smell of the lanolin that he’s using to waterproof something. He remarks that she’s still wearing the deputy’s badge and tells her that she’s due to wear the Sheriff’s badge – since it’s been two weeks since Graham’s death and she is automatically the Sheriff, now. She tells him she’s reluctant to put it on, since Graham just died. Speaking of Graham, Gold owns the apartment he was renting and is disposing of his things. He tries to get Emma to take a keepsake of Graham’s, but she is reluctant. He finally convinces her to take Graham’s walkie talkies by telling her that she can use them to keep in touch with Henry. He then tells her to make sure that she enjoys her time with Henry, because children grow up fast and, before you know it, they’re gone. Seems he’s speaking from personal experience. He seems very sincere to me.

Emma goes to see Henry in his playground palace. He’s depressed about Graham’s death and worried that Emma might be next. He believes Evil will always win because Good has to follow the rules. He tells her he wants to quit it with the Operation Cobra stuff. He hands Emma back her walkie talkie, and runs off.

At the Sheriff’s office, Emma is about to put on the badge when Regina walks in and stops her. When Emma tries to tell her that she is now Sheriff, since it’s been two weeks, Regina tells her that she is only Sheriff if the Mayor hasn’t appointed someone in two weeks and, since she’s going to appoint Sidney of the Daily Mirror, Emma’s services are no longer required. Emma counters that she knows Regina is just burned that Graham picked her and “freed this office from” Regina’s leash, and Emma won’t let her get it back. Regina counters that she did and tells her she’s fired.

At Mary’s apartment (or should it be Emma and Mary’s apartment? Has Emma officially moved in there, now, or is she still just a guest?), Emma is taking out her anger on a poor toaster when Mary walks in and asks her what’s wrong. Emma admits to Mary that, now that she’s lost it, she has realised how much she really did want to be Sheriff. Mary asks her why she wants it, but before Emma can try to figure it out, a knock at the door interrupts the heart-to-heart. It’s Gold. He is there to tell Emma that there’s something in the town’s charter that proves that Regina’s power is not as far-reaching as she thinks.

Fairytale World

Normal Rump is waking his son up in the middle of the night. His plan is to escape with Baelfire into the night, so that the soldiers won’t get the boy. On the road, he gives some bread to a beggar. When Baelfire expresses doubt over them running away, Rump tells him that he doesn’t know what war is like, what it can do to you. He doesn’t want that to happen to Bai.

Unfortunately, the duo are found by the soldiers. The leader of the soldiers realises who Rump is when his son says his name. Seems he has a great disgust for Rump because, when Rump was a soldier, he ran away from the fight and the rest of the soldiers were killed. He starts going on about how Rump is a coward and how, when he came home, his wife ran off because she couldn’t bear to be married to a coward. Rump quietly begs him not to talk to his son like that, but the soldier (the same one who hinted that he was going to rape a 14-year-old girl), is a brute. He tells them he will leave them alone if Rump kisses his boot. A terrified Rump does and receives a kick in the face. The soldiers take off laughing, leaving the son to hold his father as he lies on the ground.

Yeah, I think I’m rooting for the ogres in this war.

The beggar to whom Rump gave some food comes by to help them. When Rump tells the beggar that he has no coins to give him, the beggar tells him that it’s okay. He can leave whatever he can afford and the beggar will try to find some way to be his “benefactor”.

Yeah, that’s not suspicious or anything! Especially since said beggar is being played by Brad Dourif!


Regina is holding a press conference, in her typical smug fashion, to announce that she is appointing Sidney as Sheriff. But Emma soon puts a stop to that by interrupting and announcing that Regina doesn’t have the power to appoint a new sheriff; she only has the power to appoint a candidate for Sheriff. The whole thing requires an election and Emma is putting herself into the running. Regina says fine, but Sidney is her candidate and she fully supports him.

Fairytale Land

The beggar is trying to comfort Rump and tells him that he needs to find another way, since running away isn’t going to work. But Rump doesn’t know what to do. He breaks down to the beggar and tells him that his son is the only thing that he has left. If he loses him, he will “truly become dust.” It’s a pretty heartbreaking scene of a desperate father. But the beggar tells him that he won’t be helpless if he has power. He explains that the Dark One, who is working for the Duke, is enslaved by said Duke because the Duke has the Dark One’s dagger, which has his name inscribed on it. If Rump can steal the Dark One’s dagger from the Duke, he can control the Dark One and save his son. Rump tells him he would be too afraid to try to control the Dark One. So, the Beggar suggests that he take the Dark One’s power, instead.


At Gold’s store, Regina comes in. She calls him out on being the one who gave Emma the info about the Town Charter and rules for appointing a sheriff. Gold doesn’t deny it. Regina threatens him about going up against her, but Gold isn’t afraid of her. He remarks that they’re both interested in the common good; they have just picked different sides. Regina smirks that she has never known him to back a losing horse before, but Gold counters that Emma hasn’t lost, yet. He never discounts someone who is fighting for their child. When Regina snipes back that Henry isn’t Emma’s child, at least legally, Gold smoothly tells her that now, she’s grasping at technicalities.

This is the first scene that we have had where Regina is going up against someone every bit as determined and as knowledgeable as she is. It’s awesome seeing her put back, even just a little bit!

At Granny’s café, Emma finds Henry reading the newspaper, which has a mug shot of Emma on it with the headline “Ex-Jailbird, Emma Swan, Birthed Babe Behind Bars.” Emma is appalled, not only because she was a juvenile at the time and her records should be sealed, but mostly because of her concern that Henry will be scarred by it. Henry tells her that he’s not, not by this, but this proves his point that Evil will win out over Good every time because Evil is so sleazy. Emma tells him that she has an ally in Gold, but that just worries Henry more because he thinks Gold is worse than Regina is. He tells her not to do this and takes off.

Emma confronts Regina over the smear article and demands to know how she got the information. Emma is more concerned with how this affects Henry than how it affects her, but Regina doesn’t care about her son’s wellbeing, as long as she wins. Yeah, that is showing your love of your son, Regina!

Regina tells Emma that she will have a chance to set the story straight at the debates with Sidney, which Emma knew nothing about. The women are heading out when there’s an explosion and Regina is hurt. Emma pushes something off her and tells Regina that they have to get out, but Regina tells her that she can’t move. Emma will have to help her out.

Fairytale Land

Rump and his son are spinning wool into torches, while Rump explains to Bai about his plan to break into the palace and stealing the Dark One’s dagger. Then he will take the Dark One’s powers. Bai is nervous about that plan, but Rump is excited, as he believes that, not only can he save his son but everyone else’s child, as well. Bai says that he can fight, but Rump says that this isn’t a good war. The blood-red sky is the blood of their people dying in battle. Bai realises that what the soldier said is true, that his dad did run off in battle, and Rump admits it. But when Bai asks if his mom is really dead, Rump says that she is. Bai finally joins his father in the plan and asks what he can do to help.


Back in the fire, Emma is about ready to rush into the room that’s on fire, when Regina grabs her arm and asks her if she’s going to leave her. Emma pulls away and runs into the room, but is back out fairly quickly with a fire extinguisher, which she uses to put the fire out near them. She grabs Regina and helps her through the door. It’s not only smart but pretty bad ass!

Outside, the women are greeted by a photographer taking pictures. Regina protests at the way Emma is saving her and Emma gets ticked off. At first, she tells her that, next time, she will leave her there, but then says that she won’t, because a good person wouldn’t do that and she is a good person.

Henry is all psyched when the firemen confirm that Emma rescued Regina. Ruby, Granny, Archie, and Mary are all impressed with Emma’s heroics. They start talking about using a photo of Emma saving Regina on a campaign poster. Emma tells Henry that this is the way that Good will win and Henry is starting to believe. However, once he walks off, Emma realises that there’s a rope that she recognises, with a smell on it that’s familiar to her.

Meanwhile, Regina is ticked off that Sidney is trying to interview her about her rescue, worried that this will make Emma’s bid for Sheriff all the easier.

Emma runs off to confront Gold over the fact that he set the fire, but Gold denies it. He then hints that, if he had done it, it would be because Emma couldn’t win unless she had some help, like saving someone from a fire. She wonders how he even knew she would be there, and he tells her that Regina isn’t the only one who has eyes and ears everywhere. When Emma asks how he could even know that she would really save Regina, he tells her that she’s not the type to leave someone like that. Emma tells him that she can’t go along with this, but Gold tells her that, before she exposes him, she should think about whom she would be walking away from, and whom she might be disappointing.

Fairytale Land

Rump and Bai set fire to the palace. Rump breaks in, finds the dagger and steals it. When he takes it, he sees the name “Zozo” written on it.


Mary is putting up campaign posters for Emma for Sheriff when she runs into David, who is putting up posters for Sidney as Sheriff. There’s a rather awkward conversation between them and Mary quickly runs off when he mentions Kathryn will soon be there to meet him.

Inside the town hall, where the debate is about to take place, Archie is rehearsing his moderator speech when Emma admits to Mary that she’s not going to win. Mary finally gets Emma to admit that she wants to win the election to prove to Henry that a hero can win, Good can win over Evil. If she’s not the saviour in his life, to prove to him that these things can happen, then what role does she have?

Fairytale Land

Rump makes his way back to his son, who was worried sick about him. Rump assures Bai that he’s okay, but sends him back home, as he doesn’t want him there when he confronts the Dark One. Once his son is safely away, Rump calls up the Dark One. When he shows up, Rump demands that he submit to him, as he now controls him with the dagger. The Dark One taunts Rump that the soldiers are on his way to take his son. He continues his taunts by wondering aloud if Bai is really his son, at all, since Rump was a coward and Bai is willing to fight. He continues taunting Rump until Rump takes the dagger and stabs the Dark One with it, fatally wounding him.

The Dark One’s golden, strange face changes into the face of the Old Beggar. Rump is astonished to realise that he was tricked. The Beggar tells him that magic always comes with a price. Now Rump will be the one to take that burden on for him, as he is finally free. Rump asks him why him. The Beggar tells him that he has come to recognise a desperate soul. He dies, as Rump is begging him to stay and tell him what to do. As soon as he is gone, Rump’s hand starts to turn golden and he pulls out the dagger to see his name written across it, where once it had been the Beggar’s name.


Archie moderates the panel. He introduces Sidney and Emma as the candidates for Sheriff. Sidney gives his speech first. It’s short and lame and obviously coached by Regina, who mouths the words along with him. Emma is next, and she tries to go on, but ends up telling everyone that the fire was a set-up by Gold. She admits that she didn’t know that Gold was going to set the fire and she doesn’t have definitive evidence by it, but she knows he did. She admits that she let everyone think that it was a real fire when she found out, but she can’t win by those methods. She apologises, as Gold leaves the auditorium. Regina openly smirks to herself as Henry watches.

Emma is having a drink at Granny’s when Henry walks in with the walkie talkies. He’s proud of her for standing up to Gold and exposing him, like a real hero would. He whispers to her that he shouldn’t have given up on Operation Cobra.

Regina and Sidney walk in, and announce to a shocked Emma and Henry that Emma won the Sheriff vote. Seems that people were impressed that she stood up to Gold. As Emma’s supporters come into the café, Regina whispers that she didn’t pick a great friend in Gold, but he does make a great enemy. She smirks to Emma. I think that’s Regina’s default look: a smug smirk.

Fairytale Land

The soldiers are at the village to collect Bai when one of them is attacked by a hooded man. It’s Rump, now looking golden and deformed, as we have known him since the beginning. The lead soldier kneels in front of him, but is shocked when he realises that this new “Dark One” isn’t the one he’s always known, but Rump, instead. Bai is shocked, as well. Rump taunts the soldier, announcing himself as the new Dark One, and demands the man kiss his boot, right before he kills him. He ends up killing all of the soldiers in front of his horrified son. When Bai asks him what has happened to him, Rump tells him that he is safe. Bai admits to his dad that he’s scared, but Rump tells him that he’s protecting what belongs to him and he’s not scared, anymore.


Emma is at the Sheriff’s office when Gold comes to see her. He tells her that the whole thing was his plan. Saving Regina from the fire wasn’t going to be enough, but the townspeople seeing her standing up to him would win them all over. Everyone is afraid of Regina, but they’re more afraid of him. Emma realises that he knew that she would agree and he tells her that he’s learned to recognise a desperate soul. When Emma asks him why he did all of this, he reminds her that she still owes him a favour. He knows it can be a bad feeling, to owe someone a favour, but now that she’s in office, he’s sure that they can find some way for her to repay him. With a last congratulations, Gold leaves her in the office.

Review: This is the first backstory – aside from Charming and Snow’s – that I have truly enjoyed. I thought this was a well-written and sympathetic episode, which was fairly surprising, considering it was for one of the villains of the show! But pre-Dark-One Rump was a sympathetic character to me. A desperate parent, willing to do whatever they can to save their child from death, will always get to me. Unlike Regina, Rump’s love for his son was undeniable. I’m not a parent, but that is something that I can sympathise with and it gives Rump a richer background for me, making him someone who started on the path of darkness with good intentions. It wasn’t about wanting to go to a ball, or trying to get away from overbearing parents, or even about his own selfish need to be happy. It was about saving his son from what he knew was a hellish experience and almost-certain death.

Gold is one of those characters that I enjoy. Not really one that I can root for, but I do find him fascinating and this has only deepened him for me. Is he really bad? At the end of this episode, I had cause to wonder. We see him at his beginning and he’s a decent, hard-working man who truly loves his son. Yes, he ran away from war, but I can’t say that I can blame him, especially considering how truly hateful they made the soldiers out to be. What he ends up doing, he does for love of his son. So, how does that jive with the vision that we have been presented with of Rumpelstiltskin as a crazy, terrible, powerful person who lures ignorant people into bad deals? I think the Beggar and previous Dark One said it all when he told Rump that the magic would come with a price. Rump is like his victims, in that he made a bad deal, and his price was turning into a crazy, evil character, consumed with his power and twisted, both physically and mentally.

But with the physical deformations gone – for whatever reason – could the evil Rumpelstilskin be gone, leaving behind the true man in Gold as an older and more-damaged version of what he was before he took possession of that dagger?

I kind of think that he is. As I look back on it, I see that Gold hasn’t really made any deals with anyone in Storybrooke. Any of the deals that he has had going on (with Regina, with Ashley) were started in Fairytale Land when he was crazy Rumpelstiltskin. Since then, the only new deal he has made has been with Emma, where he released his hold on Ashley’s baby in exchange for a favour from Emma. I wonder if – along with losing the physical and mental effects of the power he once wielded – Gold lost the power, as well. I get the feeling a lot of his current power is not so much grounded in magic, as in the reputation he still has and the knowledge of Regina’s misdeeds.

Do I think that Gold is a rootable character? I’m not sure; that’s still to be decided. He’s definitely not a truly good character and I think he has his own agenda. But he is a much-more-grey and three-dimensional character than the completely evil Regina is. There’s nothing but selfishness and hatefulness to this character, as evidenced by her once again being willing to sacrifice her son’s wellbeing to serve her own needs. Whereas, Rump was willing to sacrifice himself to save his son, and Emma is desperate to stick around and protect her son, Regina isn’t willing to put Henry’s needs first in any way. In fact, she is quite happy to sacrifice him to serve her own good.

There is much that is ambiguous about Gold, but I do think that he was sincere in his first scene with Emma, where he gave her the walkie talkies for Henry and urged her to spend time with him. He was most definitely speaking from the heart, and the loss of his son, when he told her those things. It was a nice moment.

As to Regina, I really need her to lose, sometime soon, and for it to be rubbed in her face! Her losses are much too subtle for her to really feel them, and even though we know that Gold isn’t going to go after Emma, because this was his plan from the beginning, Regina doesn’t know that. So, even though she lost the Sheriff’s race, she still thinks that she ultimately won because Gold will go after Emma. And I’m really tired of her thinking she won. Between her hypocrisy over mourning the man she raped and murdered, Graham, and condemning others like Gold and Emma, who didn’t rape and murder him, for things that they’ve said about Graham, to her continued belittling of Henry’s wellbeing, I just can’t stand her. I really need her to lose, because her winning is getting on my nerves.

Next Week: Emma does her best to save the Storybrooke version of Hansel and Gretel from being split up, while, in Fairytale Land, we find out what the Evil Queen had to do with the children almost being eaten in the first place.

This week’s Fairy Tale Characters Who Make Appearances In Both Worlds Are:

Rumpelstilskin, AKA Mr. Gold

The Magic Mirror, AKA Sidney Glass

Snow White, AKA Mary Margaret (only appeared in real world)

Prince Charming, AKA David (only appeared in the real world)

Evil Queen, AKA the Mayor Regina (only appeared in real world)

Red Riding Hood, AKA Ruby (only appeared in the real world)

Granny, AKA Granny (only appeared in real world)

Still Missing In Storybrooke World:

Bai, Rumpelstiltskin’s son

You can watch episodes of Once Upon a Time on its official site and own it in HD on

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. VinaReview: Once Upon a Time 1.08: Desperate Souls