This week’s Valentine’s Day-themed episode of "Once Upon a Time" revolves around a Beauty and her Beast. The role of Beast in this particular tale, though, will be played by Rumplestiltskin.
To save her city from the ogres, the beautiful Belle (an awkwardly brunette Emilie de Ravin) agrees to accompany Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) to take care of his castle.
She takes a liking to him, seeing in him bits and pieces of the good person he used to be. When the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) suggests to Belle that the kiss of true love could break the spell of evil on him, Belle gives it a try.
Her attempt to turn him back into an ordinary man infuriates Rumplestiltskin. He turns beastly on Belle and goes on a rampage. Accusing her of turning against him, he throws her in the dungeon and then banishes her from his home.
Before leaving as he demands, Belle accuses Rumplestiltskin of being afraid to believe that someone could possibly love him. She insists that he will regret this forever. Later, the Evil Queen stops by to torment Rumplestiltskin, telling him that Belle has died and that her father was to blame.
In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold repossesses the florist van of Mr. French (Eric Keenleyside). When Mr. French steals something from Mr. Gold in turn, Mr. Gold kidnaps him to the woods.
Mr. Gold ends up beating Mr. French while ranting about ‘her’ and how Mr. French is to blame for her being gone forever. Emma shows up in time to stop him.
Meanwhile, Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas) are still secretly involved, in what must be this small town’s worst-kept secret. She decides to join Ruby (Meghan Ory) and Ashley (Jessy Schram) for a night on the town instead of spending Valentine’s Day alone.
But when Sean (Tim Phillipps) shows up on his break from work to propose to Ashley, Mary Margaret just winds up realizing how unsatisfied she is being in love with someone she can’t really be with.
Sitting in jail, Mr. Gold gets a visit from Mayor Mills. She demands to know his real name in exchange for the item she had stolen from him, Belle’s chipped teacup. He reveals that his real name is Rumplestiltskin. Then Regina visits Belle, whom she has secreted away in a hidden dungeon below town.
There are some clever call-backs to Disney’s animated 'Beauty and the Beast', particularly in the costume palette and a bit involving a chipped teacup. It’s nice to have a nearly Henry-free episode, and to see the return of Ashley and Sean. And we finally get an answer to how much Mr. Gold really knows.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
Most of the Disney references are a little forced and verge on distraction. As do some questionable digital backdrops in Rumplestiltskin’s castle. Why he seeks out Belle in the first place is never adequately explained, nor is how the Queen knows about it. And why did they choose Australians for what is generally a French fairytale?
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
'Skin Deep' was written by Jane Espenson and directed by Milan Cheylov. "Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
About the Author