Once Upon a Time recap: The Dark One Rises

Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold gets some long overdue backstory, and everything is set on fire
Ep. 08 | Aired Jan 8, 2012

OH HENRY! Admit it, the little guy is growing on you. No? Just me?

Jack Rowland/ABC

Hola, Once-lers! I'm Hillary Busis, certified fairy tale aficionado and your new recapper -- as well as EW's once and future OUAT live-blogger. It's a pleasure to write about tonight's installment, a well-paced and innovative episode that almost made up for the crushing loss of Sheriff Tight Pants Graham. (Blame Jane Espenson, the geek goddess who penned both "Desperate Souls" and many of Buffy's most memorable moments.)

After the first of several commercials hawking Beauty and the Beast 3D -- which, by the way, I'm totally seeing -- it's time to get down to business. We open on Rumpelstiltskin, a humble spinner who looks a lot less eeeeeevil than the grubby-toothed sprite we've seen previously causing mischief in Fairy Tale Land.

Human Rumpel's quaint village is picturesque but troubled: When its children turn 14, they're snatched from their parents and forced to fight against an army of ogres. (Dare I dream of a Once/Shrek crossover event?) This Hunger Games-esque conscription is enforced by a team of sneering knights who serve a wicked duke. They're backed up by a mysterious being known as the Dark One; he wears a nifty hooded cloak and has the power to create CGI force fields. Rumpel has not yet transformed into the world's premier child-snatcher -- but he does have a boy of his own, the awesomely-named Baelfire. Who happens to be 13 years and 362 days old. Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Emma pays a visit to Mr. Gold. The quietly scary dude is passing the time by brushing some stuff with lanolin, as you do. We learn that Mr. Gold owned Graham's apartment, which somehow means he's the one who ended up with all Graham's stuff. Maine's got some weird laws. Anyway, he wants to pass some of it along to Emma; otherwise, it'll just go to the trash, or worse, to Regina.

Though Emma somehow refuses to accept the ex-Sheriff's jacket -- I thought the girl never met leather outerwear she didn't like -- she ends up leaving with a pair of Graham's old walkie talkies. Mr. Gold bids her to take them and share them with Henry, saying she should enjoy the time she has left with him: "That's the thing about children. Before you know it, you lose them." And the cat's in the cradle, and the Ogre Wars...

But even a pair of neat police toys can't cheer up Henry, who's convinced that Graham is dead because of Operation Cobra. (Bummer that he's sorta right.) Henry's in such a bad place that he's apparently lost all faith in, well, everything: "Good always loses 'cause good has to play fair," he tells Emma when she tries to pull him out of his funk. "Evil doesn't." Am I wrong for liking Cynical Broken Henry more than Relentlessly Cheery Henry?

Emma has bigger things to worry about than Henry's shattered spirit. Though she's finally ready to assume Graham's old job, Regina has other plans: She's using her all-encompassing mayoral powers to appoint Sidney Glass, editor-in-chief of Storybrooke's Daily Mirror, to the Sheriff's seat. Wait, pause -- can we imagine a world in which Gus Fring serves as the sheriff of a small town in Maine? Can someone please make that series immediately?

Anyway -- meow meow, Emma and Regina have their first catfight of the year. Everybody take a sip. Their encounter ends with Regina firing Emma altogether and snatching away the shiny sheriff badge.

NEXT: Hodor? Oops, sorry, wrong show

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