This Sunday on Once Upon a Time (ABC, 8/7c), though Mr. Gold and Emma’s jaunt to New York City is at the fore, flashbacks to Rumplestiltskin in the fairytale land that was will leave viewers of the series with a most unwelcome souvenir.
But first, there’s the matter of finding Rumple’s son Baelfire, who apparently wound up in the Big Apple after being sent to our realm — without his father — in Season 1’s “The Return.”
“When I first read this script, it sort of felt like a season finale,” raves Jennifer Morrison, whose onetime bail bondswoman helps suss out Bae. “So much that has been building up for so long happens all at once in this episode. It’s definitely a payoff to a lot of questions.”
Of course, forever-speculating Once fans have their theories on Bae. But as Rumplestiltskin (played by Robert Carlyle) learns this week in flashback, just because you think you know what’s going to happen, that doesn’t mean you know what’s going to happen. “That is really true,” Morrison affirms. “[Series creators] Eddy [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] did an incredible job of setting up the circumstances for everything to come out in a very particular way. I didn’t see it all coming this way at all.”
Because, for example, if Rumplestiltskin reunites with his boy, it won’t necessarily be “happy to see me.” Instead, a rather complicated father/son talk may be on tap. Morrison, for one, is a huge fan of delving into such dysfunction. “What drew me to this show in the first place, and what I always loved the most about it, is when we go deeper into the relationships of the people that we got to know initially,” she says.
Giving the storyline added gravitas is the fact that it plays out away from Storybrooke in New York City, an environment without magic (sparkly Times Square billboards notwithstanding). So when words need to be had and as problems demand to be hashed out, Once transforms into (almost) your typical TV drama.
“That is a big difference about this particular episode,” Morrison notes. “On this show there is a lot of heightened, sort of fantastical elements, so it is an interesting relief to ‘take a breath’ in the real world, where there is no magical solution to something. It’s just real people with real problems, and they’re going to have to deal with it.”
All told, Morrison says that when father and son do come face to face, “It’s incredibly emotional” — for Rumple, at least. For Bae, however, “It’s everything he’s worked so hard to avoid for his entire life. So, there’s conflict and love going on at the same time in that moment.”
Speaking of conflict: As alluded to above, the episode’s flashbacks pack as much of a punch as the New York City story, when Rumplestiltskin’s stint in the Ogre Wars is rerouted by a run-in with a blind seer. That storyline plays out in a way that not only explains how things went sour between the spinner and his wife Milah (and reveals where he got his limp), but also drops in viewers’ laps a bombshell they never saw coming nor thought to expect.
“It definitely puts the audience in a very tumultuous situation, in terms of being in on that piece of information and constantly sort of waiting for this thing to jump out around the corner,” Morrison teases. “It’s an incredible element of suspense that’s been built into upcoming episodes.”