Hope for 2016: Why I’m Not Giving Up on Rumple’s Redemption
by Marie Contrarie (@MarieContrarie)
Once Upon A Time audience members were stunned and are still reeling from what appeared to be an abrupt turnabout and self-sabotage of character development for Rumplestiltskin in the Winter Finale. But all is not lost! The fact is, we don’t know what kind of Dark One Rumple will be. Now that Rumple holds the power of all Dark Ones he may not have those evil, suggestive voices in his head. Now that he has proven himself a hero, he may be a very different Dark One–he may be the person of legend that Merlin spoke of who can harness the Darkness and channel it towards good.
I’ve seen several discussions about where Rumple and Rumbelle’s storylines are going. Some are feeling like the show is falling back on the same old tropes and that this is a repeat of 4A, some have given up on Rumbelle, some are growing slowly apathetic, and some, like me, still have hope. I’m not here to tell anyone how to feel, but I would like to see this fandom heading into 2016 with a hopeful spirit. With that in mind, here are several reasons that I’m not giving up on Rumplestiltskin’s redemption.
1. The character developments of 5A were not for nothing.
For the first time in hundreds of years, Rumple was reminded of how it felt to be totally human. He knew true weakness, total humility, and faced a lot of truths about himself—both alone and with Belle. He gave Belle more verbal and emotional honesty than we have EVER seen on screen. Episode 5x06, "The Bear and the Bow", was extremely powerful and moving. In my opinion it was second only to "Skin Deep". Even though Rumple had no magic and power, he still defeated Merida and saved Belle. He still pulled Excaliber from the stone. He still reasoned with people who were making bad choices (Emma) and gave profoundly good advice from his own experiences. And just because he’s now the Dark One again, that doesn’t negate what he’s already accomplished. Those experiences will stay with him and his ability to make right decisions will hopefully inform his future choices.
2. Rumple’s decision to take on the Darkness was different this time.
For once, Rumple made a deal he did understand. He knew exactly what he was doing. And I think he took the mantle of the Dark One on to save Emma from suicide. He had absolutely NO IDEA that Hook would do such a radical 180—there was zero indication that Hook’s self-sacrifice was even a remote possibility. The man who gave Emma that grave, level look right in front of Regina and humbly said, “You’re a brave woman, Miss Swan”? That is the real Rumplestiltskin. Those last few minutes of the Winter Finale with Emma where he revealed himself as the most powerful Dark One ever were a little too smooth, a little too conveniently staged. Saying he hoped to keep his Dark One status a secret? Yeah, sure. Rumple is many things, but stupid ain’t one of them. He knew darn well Emma would show up demanding answers. He knew eventually someone would threaten to tell Belle everything. So Rumple gave Emma exactly what she expected. If he told her the truth about his decision and why he did it, she would never believe that he did it to help her anyway.
3. Rumple took on the Darkness out of desperation.
In those terrible moments when faced with a lifetime without his wife or his son, who could blame him? Rumple is smart enough to know that a life empty of love is no life at all. Bae is dead; his relationship with Henry is on shaky ground; Belle, he believed, was gone for good. He never expected to see her again because he sent her away to keep her safe, so he could protect her life and follow her dream. Belle had just told him she needed time to figure out their relationship on her own and of course he doesn’t really question that because “Who could ever love me?” He doesn’t fight for what he wants because he still considers himself unworthy. He certainly didn’t seem happy about becoming the Dark One again if staying up all night drinking in the shop or grumpily barking “Go away, we’re closed” is any indication. But Rumple and Belle are both learning to trust in their love and its ability to conquer anything; I have confidence that the next time “What has Rumple done NOW?!” comes up, Belle may not be so hasty. Yes, Belle is right to be skittish where Rumple’s choices are concerned, but she also needs to listen with her own ears and not allow other heroes’ interpretations or the grapevine inform her choices. I want to hear Belle say, “I don’t know what the heck is in your head, Rumple, but I love you so I will hear you out.”
4. Rumple being the Dark One again is a good thing.
Yes, I’m serious. Not only is Rumple utterly fabulous when wielding his power, I wasn’t at all happy with the way the choice was taken from him in Operation Mongoose. When the Apprentice took the darkness out of Rumple at the end of 4B, that was a magical cop out. Yes, he had the evil removed from him; yes, that ultimately saved his life. But he didn’t CHOOSE it. Rumple needs to be the one to throw off the darkness of his own accord or it doesn’t count. He needs to want it. Sometimes in life choices are taken away from us, but rarely if ever is that true for life’s greatest lessons. A man like Rumple doesn’t become a hero by default; he becomes one because he chooses to be. I want to see the struggle play out on screen. I want to see him make the choice. I want to see the evolved character growth that I know is happening beneath the surface of his psyche.
We’ve also been informed by Merlin that there is someone in existence somewhere in time who can harness that dark power and use it for good. I believe Rumple is that person. Rumple’s dagger looks different now, and per Adam and Eddy “we’re seeing the effects of the merged, re-formed Excalibur reverting back into a dagger.” When asked if Rumple will act any different with his dark powers now that he has become a hero, Adam and Eddy said “Yeah, Rumple is an evolving character, so yes, he’s going to be continuing to grow and change based on all the experiences we’ve seen him go through over the course of the show.” *
5. Love over power is Rumple’s great lesson.
Just as Regina is learning to have faith in herself and Emma is learning that she’s not nothing regardless of who walks in and out of her life, Rumple’s great lesson is that love is ultimately more important than power. To degrees, Rumple is getting better at making right, unselfish choices as the show progresses. Even in 4A when he was at his worst, we saw so many glimmers of regret, hesitation, struggle, and promise. That man who sacrificed himself at the end of 3A and went to Hell for Belle, Bae, and the town is still there. That man who has unselfishly let Belle go time and again is still there. That man who in his heart wants nothing more than to be a good husband and father? Still there. And we were reminded of Rumple’s great sacrifice in the Winter Finale when he gave the rest of the Heroes the grim reality of the Underworld. The old Rumple would have hoarded all that knowledge and information for himself or withheld pieces of truth to set the chess board to his advantage. He said it was a fight they could not win, but he found a way to win it by taking back the Darkness. You could argue that in some ways it was an unselfish decision. You could argue that he unwittingly teamed up with Hook to save everyone.
Rumple is growing and changing slowly. It’s an evolution and there are going to be setbacks, particularly for such a complex, multidimensional character who doesn’t fit any particular mold or pattern. My point is that everything Rumple did in 5A, he did with honor and with good reason. That development didn’t just collapse on itself. As is always the case with Rumple, something more is going on.
6. Love always wins.
I remind myself of this ultimate truth on a daily basis. Remember that Belle and Bae never begrudged Rumple power—they only despised the power when it became more important than his love for them. The man Belle fell in love with was extremely powerful and dark. She didn’t fall in love with Prince Charming; that’s not who Rumple is and that’s not who we or Belle want him to be. Rumple, I believe, can learn to balance his power with his love for others. He can be something more. He doesn’t need to be defined by the Dark One, he doesn’t need to be defined by his life as a Spinner; he doesn’t need to be defined by abandonment; he has an opportunity to forge a new destiny. If he hasn’t already, he can turn around now and tell Belle the truth about the decision he made and why he did it. It’s never too late.
I have every hope for Rumplestiltskin’s continued character development and redemption. I’m not giving up—not now, not ever. So many of us self-identify with Rumple, and you know what? No matter where you are in your journey or how you’re feeling about decisions and choices that you have made, it’s not too late for you, either. Let’s head into 2016 together with hope for this character and for the future. It’s going to be a beautiful year!
Special thanks to Marie Contrarie for giving OUAF permission to re-publish this from her tumblr account: mariequitecontrarie.tumblr.com/post/136079335162/hope-for-2016-why-im-not-giving-up-on-rumples