Once Upon a Time Season 6 Episode 4 Review: Strange Case

Once Upon a Time Season 6 magically turns into a bubbling cauldron of moral ambiguity.

This Once Upon a Time review contains some spoilers.

Once Upon a Time Season 6 Episode 4

If there’s anything Once Upon a Time season 6 (and the entire series) has taught us so far, it’s that Rumplestiltskin should be a professor of ethics. Questionable ethics. 

Just when it seems that Rumple is about to do something that quite possibly may not involve heartless scheming or black magic—usually both—he goes back to his grimy self even if he does have a new haircut. Is it even possible to imagine “Rumplestiltskin” and “protection spell” in the same sentence? Some sinister deal that may or may involve the Evil Queen has to lurk behind it. Not that he hasn’t had years of practice in flashing his psychotic grin at people in an effort to convince them that whatever possibly lethal thing he may be planning in the back of his deranged mind is their elusive happy ending. Even if he does do the unthinkable and conjure a protection spell with the wave of his hand, said spell always has the price of something macabre, whether it’s a skull smashed on the pavement or a bizarre dual suicide.

As Hyde’s chronically ominous voice tells the master of cheap tricks and supernatural scams, “You can change the outside, but the inside is still there.” The rotten, moldering inside of the man who was once Cinderella’s fairy godfather. For a price.

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Does the Dark One actually love Belle? The answer is nebulous at this point. Too many potential knights in shining armor throughout history have gotten down on one knew with a bunch of roses, wildflowers or dandelions and sworn they’d kill for the one they love. Rumplestiltskin actually follows through on that. He seems to love a good Victorian soap opera in which a desperate young scientist knocks back a couple shot glasses’ worth of transformation serum that is the chemical equation for disaster. Or a modern soap opera in which he tunes in from the boardwalk while people, including the one he oh-so-dramatically claims to love, are going at each other’s throats with things like a harpoon and a giant seashell.  His act is nothing but a pseudo-Shakesperean daytime drama if not a total farce. You don’t sadistically watch the love of your life dance with death. No Emmy for you, creep.

The duality of good and evil has suddenly gotten a lot more complicated than the chemical formula of Dr. Jekyll’s serum. When Regina was able to physically rip the evil queen from herself at the end of last season, any cynic (myself included) who suspected there was more to this magic than the amoebic splitting of a human being, even a magical human being, is now waving his or her wand saying “I told you so”. The soul of someone evil enough to cut the heart of a princess out doesn’t just vanish and leave behind a rainbow when that character’s reputation as a sociopath with no heart herself has been written into a fairy tale. There are dregs of that evil still lurking in her subconscious, just waiting to regenerate with even more ugly heads. Too bad Medusa isn’t in Storybrooke, because she would know a thing or two about handling that phenomenon.

Whether the doppelgängers of Jekyll and Regina are actually monsters is also an issue that has suddenly turned murky. They look human but act inhuman. They are flesh and blood, but seem more like wraiths that embody the most menacing shadows of whoever they tore themselves from. They are both mirror images and stark opposites. Where they come from has everything to do with who they are. How can these walking threats possibly be obliterated when even a choking spell would only keep strangling them forever? It’s not as simple as ctrl-alt-delete with magic. The slimy voice of Rumplestiltskin hissing that Hyde is not a man, but fragments of a man—the darker elements of Jekyll that he wished to keep buried in the dark recesses of himself—offers some unnerving insight into this weird science.   

So, in the midst of all this inner turbulence and paranormal chaos, are we ever going to take a magic carpet ride with Aladdin and Jasmine? And will the untold stories tell themselves? After a hint at Scheherezade and weeks of relentless teasers showing the jeweled story-scape of 1,001 Nights, a certain teacher’s aide may have something to say about that.