Entertainment Magazine

Review #3214: Once Upon a Time 1.8: “Desperate Souls”

Posted on the 12 January 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

“Once Upon A Time” has made its mark confounding audience expectations of its main characters. Their revisionist back-stories have recast familiar, tired tropes as conflicted, full-fledged characters. This fascinating process culminated in Regina’s devastating dismissal of Sheriff Graham, which started to pull back the curtain between the Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke, Maine.

Review #3214: Once Upon a Time 1.8: “Desperate Souls”

The only stumble in the opening episodes came when the focus shifted to the minor character (for this story, anyway) of Cinderella. The innovative gave way to a rather conventional and conservative take. With Cinderella not a driving force in the story, it detracted little from the overall effect. However, that episode also started to fill in Rumplestiltskin’s past. Perhaps that should have been a harbinger that this episode, “Desperate Souls”, which reveals his origin, would suffer from some of the same problems.

The desperate souls of this tale, and the common thread between the worlds, are the parents who will go to any lengths to protect their child. Rumplestiltskin began life as a timid peasant. (We all know the victors write the history, so I’ll take the assertion he’s a coward for abandoning his service to the Duke’s army with a grain of salt!) He is desperate to prevent his son’s conscription into said army on the child’s impending 14th birthday. The Duke’s power rests in his control of the Dark One, an evil wizard. While they tried to play coy with the identity of the wizard, once the name Brad Dourif came up in the credits, the Dark One’s cover was blown. When Mr. Dourif shows up as the helpful blind beggar, Rumplestiltskin’s arc is all but set in stone.

And that was the heart of my problem with this episode. After reinterpreting the other main characters, often brilliantly, Rumplestiltskin’s story was predictable in the extreme. We knew the Dark One would goad him into using the magic dagger, ridding the wizard of his burdensome power. We knew the power would go to Rumplestiltskin’s head and drive his son away, especially since we’ve already seen what he’s on the path to becoming.

That said, this criticism is, in no way, a re

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