'Skin Deep' deceived me somewhat in that it seemed to contain no furthering of the story at all - only at the end did it begin to pay off (though it had been entertaining enough in a meandering sort of way up to that point).
We were in Beauty and the Beast territory this week - desperate to save her friends and family from the ogre wars, Belle (played by the lovely Emilie De Ravin) agrees in desperation to work as Rumpelstiltskin's general dogsbody. Inevitably, they begin to fall for each other (her cell of a bedroom notwithstanding.)
But Belle's desperate to get rid of Rumpelstiltskin's curse, so when the Evil Queen - keen for him to lose his power - reveals that true love's kiss can get rid of all curses, Belle eagerly locks lips with her master. Unfortunately, he's not happy about the idea of becoming powerless, and in a fury, locks Belle up again.
In one of the better scenes of the episode, Belle accuses Rumpelstiltskin of using all this talk of his power as an excuse - his real anger comes because he doesn't believe that Belle can really love him. It's a moving scene (and a reminder that even Rumpelstiltskin has his soft side), but Belle still leaves.
Later, the Evil Queen positively revels in telling Rumpelstiltskin that, shunned by her friends and family when she returned, Belle ended up killing herself - leaving Rumpelstiltskin with just a cup she chipped to remember her by. Really, it's no wonder he's pretty messed up.
Of course, all this fairytale stuff links to the real world - Mr Gold's pursuing a debt owed by the local florist Mr French (who just happens to be the alter ego of Belle's father). He confiscates his van, leading to a retaliation from French, who robs Gold's house.
Gold is horrified to discover something is missing, so he captures French and tortures him. It's actually a pretty horrific scene - he begins repeatedly whipping and beating him, yelling about how he shut someone out and she's gone forever and it's all his fault. Luckily, Emma arrives just in time, but it's easily the most disturbing scene of the episode.
Of course, Gold was upset about Belle - and it soon turns out that Regina arranged the break-in. While Gold sits in his jail cell, Regina pays him a little visit - she'll give him what he wants if he tells her his real name. Yes, we get absolute confirmation that Regina and Gold remember the fairytale world - though clearly not all of it, as Regina doesn't know Gold is Rumpelstiltskin until he tells her (in exchange for, you guessed it, his chipped cup).
This is the sort of thing I'd like to see more of in Once Upon A Time - the mythology and explanation of the two worlds. The end of the instalment was also intriguing; not only does Rumpelstiltskin vow that he will always have more power than Regina, but Regina also visits a hidden part of the hospital to peer through a cell window at... Belle!
I do enjoy Once Upon A Time, though perhaps I'm alone in preferring the real world. The fairytale storylines and various struggles faced by Storybrooke's residents are entertaining - but now that we're twelve episodes in, perhaps things should be speeding up a little.
I want to know more about Gold and Regina now - I want to know Regina's evil plans, and I want to know whether Henry and Emma are going to uncover any more information. We'll see what happens...
- Storybrooke has a florist called 'Game of Thorns'. GAME OF THORNS. This may have been the highlight of the episode for me.
- Rumpelstiltskin's evil laughs are getting more and more spectacular.
- We should mention the romantic side of the episode - I wasn't particularly interested in Ashley's relationship, though the proposal was sweet. What does interest me a bit is Mary and David's romance, and though the wrong Valentine card trick was predictable, Ginnifer Goodwin's fab acting kept the following moment suitably heartbreaking. Of course, I'm sure they'll be back together soon enough.
- I enjoyed Rumpelstiltskin turning Gaston into a rose, just because he was so abrupt about it.
- Also loved Rumpelstiltskin's faux-offended face when Belle's father described him as a "beast".
- Regina used Henry to distract Emma so she could speak to Gold. Could this woman get any lower? On the other hand, it was adorable to see Henry and Emma reunited.
- "Oh no, I would never suggest a young woman should kiss a man who held her captive. What kind of message is that?"
- The scene intertwining moments of Rumpelstiltskin smashing up his ornaments with Gold beating Belle's father was pretty effective.
- "You've made your choice and you're going to regret it forever. All you'll have is an empty heart and a chipped cup." Wow.
- We got a little reminder that Emma owes Gold a favour - I can't wait to see how he'll cash it in.
- "Every moment spent on this Earth that has been my name." "What about moments spent elsewhere?"