The Tale as Old as Time Gets a Fresh Twist in "Skin Deep"
Warning: Contains Spoilers
February 12 saw the original airing of Once Upon a Time's Valentine's Day episode "Skin Deep", which promised us an original take on the classic story of Beauty and the Beast. It was certainly original, all right--in this version, Belle is the daughter of a nobleman whose realm is threatened by the Ogre Wars, and the Beast is none other than the nefarious Rumplestiltskin, who promises to save their village if Sir Maurice gives him Belle. Naturally, Maurice and Gaston, Belle's fiance, refuse Rumplestiltskin's offer, but Belle herself agrees to go with the one-man fairyland mafia as long as he promises to save her village. Once the deal is completed, a gleeful Rumplestiltskin takes Belle back to his castle where she is at first a prisoner, then a housekeeper, and finally a potential lifesaver.
Like many people, I was skeptical when I first learned that Rumplestiltskin would be the Beast in Once Upon a Time's version of Beauty and the Beast. Although I like some of the spins the writers put on traditional fairy tales, I think that sometimes they get a bit too carried away with interweaving all the characters' stories (case in point: Rumplestiltskin's aiding Cinderella in "The Price of Gold"). However, "Skin Deep" eradicated any fears I held. In my opinion, Robert Carlyle gave his best performance to date as Rumplestiltskin, and Emilie de Ravin was a near-perfect Belle who didn't back down from Rumplestiltskin and told him what he needed to hear--even if he didn't particularly want to hear it.
Interested in Once Upon a Time? You can download and watch the latest episodes here, including "Skin Deep".
What made this episode particularly exciting for me was the quality of the writing as it pertained to the story of Belle and Rumplestiltskin. Once Upon a Time has had its good days and its bad days when it comes to telling stories, but this instance had an almost--dare I say it?--magical quality about it. A couple reviewers for this episode have remarked that they would have liked to see more background as to how Belle and Rumplestiltskin began to fall in love, but I think it was paced just about right for the episode--if the writers had provided more background, there would barely have been any time for the Storybrooke scenes (not that I would have cared much with this storyline). I was especially pleased to see how Rumplestiltskin was revealed to have more complexity and layers than when we first encountered him the pilot. We learned in "Desperate Souls" that he had at one point had a wife and a son, but this episode went a long way towards humanizing him--not just in showing how he could find love again, either. He pushed Belle away because he was afraid that she didn't really love him, that she couldn't love him because he was a monster. This self-doubt is not uncommon; many people have traits about them that they feel make them unlovable, and the fact that Rumplestiltskin felt these conflicting emotions concerning Belle showed that he was not as far gone as he thought he was. It is a shame that he did not realize this in time to save Belle from her fate--but now that we know that Regina lied, that Belle is still alive, there could still be a happy ending for them. So I say--at the risk of rousing wrath--"Who cares about Snow White and Prince Charming? I want to see what happens with Belle and Rumplestiltskin!"
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