Opening back in the fairy tale past where we have Rapunzel driving a cart with her sick husband and two young daughters. Desperate she resorts to stealing some food from a garden to try and feed them
And is confronted by Mother Gothel - which is a close parallel to the original fairy tale. She offers Rapunzel a deal: her family with have lots of wealth and happiness and what will Rapunzel give for that. She says “anything”
Which is so monumentally stupid. Honestly she should be happy she was dealing with Mother Gothel and not Rumpelstiltskin because he’d take her to the cleaners
Rapunzel ends up locked in a tower for funsies, crying out for her family until she finally manages to escape using her hair to climb down. It’s been 6 years before she finally returns to her daughters: Anastasia and Drizilla and her husband Marcus. Who has married again in her absence: married Cecilia and is raising his new step-daughter Ella
Marcus thanks her dearly for all the many sacrifices she’s made for their family and, yes, he still loves her. But he loves Cecila too. Soo polyamory?
Apparently not. More Awkward.
They try to bring their family together but Drizilla was so young when Rapunzel left she’s clearly bonded with Cecila more: while Anastasia still loves her mother Rapunzel, Drizillia is just drifting away. And Once Upon a Time can only bring together blended families after a few seasons of crawling over broken glass. It’s a thing.
Mother Gothel returns to offer a new deal - have a magical Wonderland poison mushroom to use on Cecila to make everything better! Rapunzel refuses - that’s appalling and evil and Cecilia is an innocent. Gothel comments that she thinks if Rapunzel keeps this up she will find happiness which is part of Once Upon a Time’s message that being good means you earn a Happily Ever After
Can we have an aside to say this is not a good message. Being good is not always or even usually rewarded (and a poor motive for being good besides): nor is being evil always punished. Someone without a “happily ever after” has not earned that through their deeds.
And then Drizilla calls Cecilia mother at her birthday party after being thoroughly disinterested in Rapunzel’s present (also is Rapunzel being a waitress at this party? Marcus did you turn your ex-wife who sacrificed everything for your prosperity into the help?) at which point Rapunzel snaps and uses the mushroom on Cecilia’s drink
We’re going to break to the modern world now and first we have to say
VICTORIA BELLFREY IS RAPUNZEL?!
Ok, I admit it, I did not see that coming. Not at all. This also means since she is AWAKE I’m going to call her Rapunzel from now on along with Rumple, Regina and Drizilla
She’s in prison at the moment and Drizilla visits so they can both practice venemous barbs - Drizilla wants Anastasia but Victoria won’t say where she is. She has another plan to get out of prison: Rumplestiltskin. She lays it out quickly to Rumple that she knows the truth and after much poking and invoking Belle he finally admits it: Because he has information on the Guardian, this unknown person who will be able to take the power of the Dark One, not go evil and therefore allow Rumple to reunite with Belle in a whole convoluted fashion. Rumple agrees to get her out of prison for this.
Killian is not amused.
Rapunzel’s plan now is to get everything together to wake Anastasia, the first of which is to go to Jacinda to give her full custody over Lucy. Jacinda is obviously thrilled while Tiana is suspicious
Rapunzel claims that it was all a test: she presented the custody papers to Jacinda expecting her to tear them up and hand them back. Jacinda didn’t, failing the test - but now she’s getting with Nick, hiring a lawyer and fighting for Lucy’s return then she has passed and plainly is willing to fight for Lucy
Oh does anyone believe this? Why isn’t Tiana giving her serious dubious eyes?
Jacinda is super happy about this and shares her celebration with Nick who kisses her. And Jacinda pulls back because whoa reading the signals wrong. Yes she wants Nick around and to be involved with his daughter’s life but she’s not looking to rekindle their relationship. Instead she now holds Henry’s mix tape (and, again, what person born after the mid-80s even knows what a mix tape is? Shouldn’t this be a spotify playlist?). Clearly she now sees everything wide open for her and Henry to get together
Rapunzel goes on to collect more shinies with Rumple playing chauffeur, followed by Drizilla and Gothel being very very unsubtle. Rumple tries to call Rapunzel out on this because he finds it highly dubious she’s jumping through so many hoops for one daughter and completely ignoring the other one. And he knows what it’s like to have a son who hates him but he still fought for reconciliation and to be reunited.
Rapunzel announces that Rumple totally doesn’t understand her pain but Rumple stomps on that - his motivation for the first 3 seasons was “missing son who hates me”. He embodies this pain. So she insists he must understand why she can’t stop. Which we can kind of see - I mean, look at what Rumple engineered to get back to his son
Time to catch up on what happened to make Anastasia comatose in the first place: to the fairytale land. With Cecila magically poisoned and made to flee, Rapunzel gets back with Marcus (sorry but I’m increasingly becoming suspicious of Marcus and think he may be a colossal fuckboy) and even accepts Ella and everything is happy. Sort of. Until Ella and Anastasia fall through a frozen lake - Marcus jumps to save them and saves Ella, only having chance to save one. Rapunzel is most not amused that he didn’t save their daughter (so, so much for the whole Ella acceptance).
She turns to Mother Gothel who agrees to freeze the last breath in Anastasia’s chest so she doesn’t die and drops some exposition on us all. Gothel is also trying to find the Guardian, a person utterly incorruptible by evil (hence why they can take the Dark One Dagger from Rumple and not go dark side). She thought she had it in Rapunzel, willing to sacrifice all for her family, but then she went and poisoned Cecilia. She’s now hoping Anastasia may be the one because bloodlines (morality is genetic now?) but Rapunzel turns the tables and springs the trap which gets Gothel trapped in the tower
And leaves me wondering if Gothel is trying to find the goodest of goodie two shoes then, perhaps, she has an underlying positive motive? Or are we looking at needs the super good for nefarious means.
In the present, Gothel and Rumple exchange barbs - with Gothel revealing Rapunzel is after his great-grandaughter - Lucy. Which, honestly, I’d completely forgotten. Everyone on this show is related.
Rumple goes looking for Lucy but instead finds Killian who has just broken into Rumple’s storage locker which has lots of ominous artefacts, like Killian’s own hook - and files on everyone. Shame Rumple’s not doing anything with them. But following up on his old cases he finds that Rumple is asking people to touch his Dark One Dagger (behave) to see if they feel anything. I mean, really? Rumplestiltskin, the Dark One, who plotted for several seasons in ever more convoluted ways is reduced to handing people his dagger and asking if they feel woo-woo?
Killian confronts Rumple and he says it’s all so he can reunite with his wife. This makes absolutely zero sense but Killian decides to believe it for REASONS
Lucy is actually with Rapunzel in the hospital where Anastasia’s comatose body is laying (no-one thought to check here?). She needs one more thing to wake her up - to crush the beliefs of the truest believer. She pulls out a Once Upon a Time fairytale book, the same book that Henry had. In it she can see the stories of all her relatives and everything she believed is proven true, including that her mother is Cinderella! Lucy is overjoyed - except Rapunzel then tells her story
The story that she did everything a hero should do (except for that pesky poisoning) and still didn’t get a happily ever after. That while fairy tales are real, that doesn’t mean happy ever afters are (I actually want this - to counter the aforementioned implication that someone with a bad ending deserved it. Except, Rapunzel? Not a good guy. Really. Poisoning bad. This is not complicated)
To drive that home she also has a video of Jacinda kissing Nick - telling Lucy that Jacinda and Henry will never get together, her happy ever after is doomed. Lucy, unsurprisingly cries and runs out - Rapunzel catches her tears
And with this tear she can wake up Anastasia - and Drizilla watches with tears in her eyes. But in doing, Lucy collapses. Belief was important it seems
Ok, I have a lot of kudos for Once Upon a Time completely surprising me with the Rapunzel revelation. And I say again, I actually think they manages to reboot this series. They have taken the core elements, introduced a new cast and not allowed the old cast to dominate or drag it down. I didn’t think they’d manage it but they have - the story is original, not copying what has gone before and is still managing to keep the same theme and feel. Well done
I also quite like this complicated depiction of love being a danger - ultimately this is Rapunzel. Rapunzel’s love - her utter obsession - with her daughter has driven her to evil. Love conquers all but that’s not always a good thing - some things shouldn’t be conquered
But I do frown at Rumple because… what happened? This master, powerful, brilliant manipulator just seems to have no plan at all. No plotting, no thinking, no cunning - he has this big storage container full of files and artefacts but he’s doing nothing with them and Rapunzel is just manipulating him so easily. Rumple was never this simple or this easy