It’s time to let me go.Belle
Starring Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West, Dania Ramirez, Gabrielle Anwar, Alison Fernandez, and Robert Carlyle
Episode 4: Beauty
For the fourth episode of its softly rebooted season, Once Upon a Time brings back Emilie de Ravin as Belle to help explore the journey that Rumple will be embarking upon. In a hugely moving and deeply resonant ending to one of the central couples of the show’s first six seasons, the episode also makes good use of its new characters Tilly (Rose Reynolds) and Ivy (Adelaide Kane), both of whom demonstrated promise in the premiere but here fully get the chance to showcase what they can offer to the series.
Principally, this episode – much like “A Pirate’s Life” revolves around contextualising Rumple’s presence, as a veteran member of the cast, without Belle. I’m sure that this could have gone without explaining, as Belle rarely had very much to do anyway, but it was a satisfying, though heartbreaking, explanation nonetheless.
Interpolating their tale with that of Up, “Beauty” sees Belle and Rumple live their existence together, building their house in a location where it is permanently day. Rumple is obsessed with cleaving himself from the dagger, so that he can live a mortal life with Belle, and grow old with her, but it eventually proves impossible. It ultimately transpires that it must take Belle’s death for Rumple to be eventually freed from the mantle of Dark One and be able to join her in the afterlife. And so, we see as Belle ages, and eventually dies, in Rumple’s arms.
It’s a brave and final move, and it’s certainly one that does a massive amount to garner sympathy for Rumple. Considering his more chequered past, it’s also a nice way to adapt his character in the rebooted storyline. Principally now concerned with stopping being the Dark One so that he can die, it’s sure to have a massive ramification on his personality.
The story of Belle and Rumple here is hugely moving. Not least because Belle is a character that the audience have come to care for throughout the past seasons of the show, and are understandably upset at her passing, but also because it’s a massively relatable and truthful moment. It’s an inevitability of life that all couples must eventually go through, and it’s almost impossible to watch those scenes without a small lump in the throat. The possibility of a love that transcends even death is the least that any of us could hope for, in the end. The heartbreak of that finality, especially considering all of the highs and lows that the couple have been through, is impressively performed by Robert Carlyle here.
Elsewhere, in Hyperion Heights, Tilly is desperately trying to remind Weaver of his cursed identity. The audience is aware that Tilly is also Alice in the New Enchanted Forest, having seen her in the season premiere, so her story here becomes somewhat tragic. With Victoria aware that Tilly is becoming aware of her true identity, she manipulates Weaver into medicating Tilly, forcing her to forget once more. She does, however, manage to give Weaver enough of a jolt (by shooting him) for him to remember his own real identity as Rumplestiltskin, as well as what he is striving for.
Tilly’s plotline here is undeniably tragic, and she definitely gains the audience’s sympathy. Not least because she doesn’t exactly seem to be having fun as she tries to reconcile her cursed and Enchanted Forest personas. Additionally, the idea of her being unwillingly sedated against her will, and the fact that everybody around her thinks that she’s crazy when she’s actually telling the truth is massively shitty.
To top it all off, Tilly is a bundle of energy, and Rose Reynolds is simply a magnetic force to watch on screen. Regardless of whether she is having a manic moment, or is in torment, she’s continually an engaging presence, which helps you root for her character. It helps that she’s literally being gaslighted by Victoria, which makes us want to punch her even more, but I can’t wait to see more from both Alice and Tilly in the episodes to come.
Another character who gets significantly more attention in this episode is Ivy. In her appearance in the season premiere, she very much looked like just a stooge to the real villain, Victoria/Lady Tremaine, but this instalment helps her feel more like a regular person and gives her a bit more development. The fact that she feels alone and only wants approval from her mother is a concept that should be relatable to the audience, especially as they know that Victoria is laser-focussed upon reviving her other daughter, Anastasia. Even though Ivy doesn’t know this, it probably doesn’t exactly help their dynamic, and it appears that living up to Victoria’s expectations is as stifling and damaging as her actively trying to destroy your life. Well, perhaps. That’s debatable.
Either way, she and Henry have massive amounts of chemistry in the scenes that they share together in this episode. Awkward amounts, in fact, considering the show is evidently pushing for Jacinda and Henry to be together, considering they have Lucy together. It would be nice for the show to be so bold as for Ivy and Henry to actually end up together, because the pair certainly seem more compatible than Henry and Jacinda to, but Ivy’s definitely a compelling and engaging character moving forwards, and her one liners are witty.
Continuing on from my comments in the last episode, Regina/Roni does seem to be relegated to a background presence. Her only real moment in this episode is where she appears to boost Henry’s spirits with (yet another) inspirational speech. I’m fairly certain that she’s averaging one every week at this point. This one is particularly poignant, however, as she encourages Henry to find the strength to move on from the loss of his wife and daughter and to forge new connections with Jacinda and Lucy. It’s nice to see that Robin Hood’s loss is still felt for Regina, even though she is now existing as Roni. It’d be interesting to see how that experience is felt in this new identity, and whether it forms a part of her backstory.
It’s also massively relatable and a nice touch that Henry doesn’t move on simply because of what Roni says to him. People don’t just change at the flip of a coin, especially not something as big as losing one’s family, so it’s understandable that he would have qualms, especially since befriending Jacinda and Lucy must seem so incredibly similar to what he has lost that it could be conceived as a massive betrayal. While it’s obviously just a way for the show to prevent Henry and Jacinda from being together too soon and to stretch it out over a longer period, this will hopefully make their union feel more earned and make more contextual sense, as well as hopefully giving us much more time with Ivy and Henry who, in my view, make much more sense as a pair.
“Beauty” is terrifically emotional at parts, and the main criticism of it would be the fact that the Enchanted Forest elements don’t take up more of the episode. The Halloween sections in Seattle are far less compelling, especially when presented with a character who the audience have fallen in love with over the past few years. It is nice to see some of the new faces, however, in particular Tilly and Ivy demonstrate more aspects of their personality for the audience, to give us something meaningful to root for as the battle against Victoria continues. Rumple’s awakening also couldn’t come at a better point to give that plot more forward traction.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. Seasons 1 – 4 are now available on Disney+ in the UK. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.