We haven’t seen much of the devious dealmaker in awhile, and although he’s had his hands in nearly every plot on the show so far, his amount of screen-time seems to be getting smaller and smaller. That’s one of the problems with an ensemble this big. Sometimes your favourites get pushed aside. For the past three episodes, Rumpel has been lurking in the background, but Episode 4 brings his arc to the forefront. And what an arc it will be. Once Upon a Time has done the one thing I never thought they would do. That’s right. They brought in the mouse … sort of.
With a title like “The Apprentice,” it’s not surprising that last night’s episode featured OUAT’s take on the iconic Fantasia short. We caught a glimpse of Mickey’s hat in the premiere and now we get to see what power lies within it. The episode opens with the Apprentice sweeping—a nice nod to the source material. In fact, it would have been a perfect homage if they had left it at that. This is Once Upon a Time, however, so we get to see that broom a few more times before the night is through. You could make a drinking game of it. I’m contemplating creating an OUAT bingo card for next week.
The Apprentice hears an intruder and draws his sword as the Dark One makes himself known. This isn’t Rumpel Dark One. Instead, we get a nice little cameo by Brad Dourif, reprising his role as the previous Dark One, Zoso. Zoso (who I’d like to believe was once a guitarist named Jimmy) knocks down the Apprentice and gets a hold of the box, but an enchantment has been placed upon it. No one who has succumbed to the darkness in his heart can open the box and Zoso fails. Cut to Rumpel in his shop, staring at the very same box. He waves his knife over it and the hat appears. This can’t be good.
Our throughline for the episode is date night with Emma and Hook. Emma awkwardly asks him out and Hook insists on planning the night. His first stop is Rumpel’s shop to get his hand back. Hook initiates a cycle of blackmail and tells Rumpel that if he doesn’t reattach his hand, he’ll tell Belle that she doesn’t have the real Dark One Dagger. Rumpel plays the reformed villain card and tells Hook that the hand might be a bad influence and tries to change Hook back into the cad of a pirate he used to be. Hook calls his bluff and does it anyway.
Emma dresses for her date while her parents and Elsa make cutesy small talk. Hook arrives at the door with both hands, and for the first time ever, in non-pirate clothing. Mind you, he was still wearing more leather than necessary, but I’m not complaining. Charming plays the dad card yet again (we almost have BINGO already!) and the two head off to a nice Italian restaurant. A couple does the Lady and the Tramp bit, but it’s not Emma and Hook, so I’m counting that as win in my book. I might have quit right then and there.
The Knave of Hearts/Will Scarlet shows up and spills wine on Emma, but instead of chasing him, she forces herself to relax and have a good time. Un-hooked Hook grabs the Knave and yells at him before letting him go. Emma thinks the reaction is a little much, but is having fun and ignores it. Hook begins to wonder if Rumpel was telling the truth after all. For the rest of the date, they drive home the idea that Hook has a case of idle hands with close up after close up of his hand (thanks for the subtlety, OUAT). Hook takes Emma home and they kiss in the hallway. I wasn’t a huge supporter of this relationship in the beginning. but it’s growing on me. I can only image it will end happily. Hook finds the Knave trying to break into the library and gives him a swift punch to the face before heading back to Rumpel to get back his hook.
In flashback, Anna finds Rumpel and asks him to tell her what her parents were doing in the Enchanted Forest. They make a deal. If Anna wants the information, she will have to go to the Apprentice’s cottage and put a vile of liquid into his tea. Rumpel assures her he eats children, but when Anna arrives, she realizes that the man (who still has his broom) isn’t bad at all. She empties the vile into the fireplace and lies to Rumpel. Rumpel doesn’t believe her but in truth, the deal was just a test. The vile didn’t contain poison as Anna expected. It was really the antidote to a poison Rumpel had given him the day before. Anna wants to go back, but the poison has already done its work. This is where the series jumps the shark. The Apprentice turns into a mouse. From now on, I’m calling the Apprentice “Mickey.”
Later, Anna escapes back to Mickey’s cottage. With Mickey a mouse, Rumpel now only needs to break the enchantment. To open the box, one must have faced and turned away from their dark ways. Anna says she never once thought about killing the old man, so Rumpel goads her into wanting to kill him. Anna holds a sword to his chest (remember, she is a trained fighter for some reason), but won’t kill him. Her tear unlocks the box. The hat inside is able to absorb magic and rid The Dark One of his dagger. Anna asks Rumpel the truth about her parents. He says they were trying to find a way to cure Elsa and were afraid of her. Anna doesn’t want to believe it and while Rumpel monologues, Mickey jumps from the rafters and bites his hand, and Anna picks up The Dark One’s Dagger. She figures out the powers of the “wavy knife” and uses it to get the box. She commands him to send her home with the box, not hurt her or her sister, and turn Mickey back into a man. Rumpel is not pleased.
Back in Storybrooke, Hook wants a new deal. The hand is evil and he wants it gone. The two of them spend the rest of the episode trying to out blackmail each other. Hook is forced to make a deal without knowing the terms and meets Rumpel at the docks. They follow the damn broom to Mickey’s cabin and Rumpel opens the box and releases the hat inside. Hat portals continue to be a thing (I miss Sebastian Stan) and Rumpel sucks up Mickey and claims his magic. The blackmailing gets more intense. Hook knows the dagger is real. Rumpel has Hook on tape killing Mickey. Hook threatens Belle. Rumpel admits there was nothing wrong with the hand and it was just Hook using it as an excuse to go back to his old ways (surprise!). Both threaten loved ones, bring up their past rivalry and threaten to erase all character development from the previous seasons. Henry and Regina decide the best way to change her happy ending is to get information from Rumpel so Henry becomes his grandfather’s apprentice. He then sweeps the floor … with that broom.
It’s now getting repetitive to say that this show is repetitive. When it’s not repetitive, it’s either boring (the Charmings actually spent the episode going through curse census logs … because those are things that exit) or shoehorning in Disney references. I miss when this show was completely ridiculous. I want more clever nonsense. But at least it was a Rumpel episode, right?