*This article contains spoilers: Once Upon a Time season 6 episode 19*
This week, Once Upon a Time delved into the Black Fairy’s origin story with episode 6.19, aptly titled “The Black Fairy”. Though it bore Fiona’s name, this was a big hour for her son, Rumpelstiltskin, which may explain why I didn’t love it quite as much as the last couple episodes. I can respect what it accomplished, but Rumpel isn’t my favorite character, which makes it hard for me to fully invest in episodes centered around him.
But, even a non-Rumpel fan can appreciate the great twist revealed this week: infant Rumpel was destined to become a Savior, and Fiona gave herself to the darkness to stop it from happening. This twist worked for me mainly because it tied together a lot of Once’s mythology and themes. Appropriate, since The Black Fairy is the root of the evil that started this mess. It was her origin story, yes, but it functioned as the show’s origin story as well. There was the Savior tie-in, of course, which at least partially explained why Rumpel is so predisposed to cowardice, though Once is very good at not letting its characters use their pasts as an excuse for bad behavior.
With Fiona, they took on a more literal interpretation of the recurring “evil isn’t born, it’s made” idea, with evil being made instead of literally born in the same month as Rumpel. Even more interesting, it explored the way evil can be made out of love and a desire to protect someone, a particularly heartbreaking notion that they’ve played with a few times before. As Fiona said, motherhood makes you soft and sharp all at once, a great line that perfectly encompassed the show’s portrayal of it. The Shears of Destiny also played a role, with Fiona unable to give up her power, even for her son. Again, I don’t think the show will excuse Rumpel making the same choice with Baelfire, but it certainly gives more insight into why he did.
The present-day scenes, with Rumpel discovering this information about his past, were nicely done as well. Emma and Rumpel don’t team up all that often (mostly because of the latter’s ever changing allegiance), but I always enjoy when they do. After Rumpel saved Emma a couple episodes back, I felt like they were building to a nice moment for the two of them, and Emma encouraging Rumpel to let himself be vulnerable—something neither of them are very good at—was sweet without giving into any unearned closeness. The Dream World scenes also led to a wonderful exchange between Rumpel and Gideon and a nice reminder that Rumpel is indeed trying to do what’s best for his family.
Any issues I had with this episode stemmed from the other characters letting Rumpel fall into old habits to do so. I know they’re heroes who want to see the best in people, but Rumpel has burned them far too many times for how easily they trusted that he actually defeated the Black Fairy. Emma’s superpower is basically non-existent at this point, and she and the other heroes not only believed Rumpel, they believed him to the point of planning Emma and Hook’s wedding for the very next day. I’m not necessarily complaining, but it does feel like an obvious example of “We want a happy, calm before the storm episode. What needs to happen so we can get there?”
Even more frustrating for me is how quickly Belle was willing to 1) believe Rumpel and 2) use his Savior destiny as proof that there’s always been good inside of him. Like I mentioned, Once is quite good at not letting its characters off the hook despite their tragic pasts. Belle, however, is not. I also think there was a missed opportunity to hear her side of the story in this episode and, really, the Black Fairy arc in general. Rumpel said that he wouldn’t lose another son. Well, this is Belle’s only son. She missed Gideon’s whole life, and it would have been great to see her talking to Snow and Charming about how they got through that with Emma. How does she feel about Gideon knowing someone else as “Mother”? That could have been an opportunity to talk with Emma and Regina about how they dealt with those feelings back in season one. All in all, it felt like another instance of Belle’s relationship with Rumpel preventing her from reaching her full potential as a character.
Elsewhere, there was a nice follow through with Zelena losing her magic and Regina sticking around to help her deal with the repercussions of that. Oftentimes after a big Zelena-focused episode, they relegate her to the background for a while—they do a similar thing with Belle—but I’m glad that wasn’t the case here. Not only did it give us that lovely moment of Regina asking Zelena to take care of Henry, we also had Zelena barely learning how to drive but still managing to run over the Black Fairy. Zelena’s excitement over Henry was really sweet, especially because she has to know it’s only happening if Regina, Emma, the Charmings, and Hook all die. I also like that we got another New York mention there; that city represents so much to these characters: a refuge, a home, a place where loved ones can be found. It was a lovely tie-in, and I can’t help but feel like it will play a role in the finale.
Other thoughts on “The Black Fairy”:
With mention of a prophecy, a scar, and two babies born in the same winter, I wasn’t the only one thinking of Harry Potter, right?
I love when Regina goes all “This is my town!” on villains; it’s a great twist on her season one Madam Mayor days. Old habits die hard, but sometimes they change into something even better.
It was a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment, but I loved the shot of the crescent moon above Rumpel and Fiona in Storybrooke.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Hook asking Henry to be his best man. I was just thinking that they needed a scene similar to Hook asking Charming’s permission to marry Emma, and this was just perfect.
The Black Fairy singing felt like a teaser for the musical episode, and I was all about it.
What did you think of “The Black Fairy”? Let me know in the comments!
More Once Upon a Time articles: Once Upon a Time 6.18 review: Is Zelena finally a hero?