‘Once Upon A Time’ Season 5 Episode 14 Review: Compelling ‘Devil’s Due’ Reveals Secret Pregnancy
Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 5 Episode 14 – Devil’s Due:
Once Upon A Time frequently asks viewers to sympathize with villains, predicated on the notion that every villain has some good in there somewhere. “Devil’s Due” keeps with this tried and true formula, by showing us a dyed-in-the-wool villain who finds himself completely screwed over by a desperate act of love from his past. It results in an episode that is unmistakably compelling, even though we’ve been down the same road with this character about a thousand times now.
The character in question is Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle), who’s turned from good to bad (and back again) so many times that it’s hard to keep track of who’s side he’s really on at any given moment. I suppose that’s part of the reason why the character is so compelling, aside from Carlyle’s terrifically nuanced portrayal. There’s absolutely no reason that yet ANOTHER “Is Gold Going To Betray Everyone?” storyline should work, and yet here we are, with one of the better episodes of the season centering on Gold’s moral ambiguity. The flashback story provides us a window into Gold’s first murderous act, in order to provide context for the cruel twist of his future. While in the Underworld, Gold solicits the help of ex-wife Milah (Rachel Shelley), who is Baelfire’s mother and the former lover of Hook (Colin O’Donoghue). She doesn’t trust him as far as she can throw him, but she’s their best hope of crossing through to where Hook is. She provides an interesting dynamic for the episode, as her back-and-forth with Gold illuminates the nature of her unfinished business. Here, she guards a passageway for the children of the Underworld, as penance for having abandoned Baelfire in his youth. Although she’s comforted by the knowledge that Baelfire has moved on to a better place, she’s still plagued by her own failings as a mother — similar to Gold, actually (I guess being Baelfire’s parent is a ticket to emotional turmoil). The flashback story elaborates on the nature of Milah’s inner struggle, as she attempts to shape Rumple into being a more ruthless man, the kind who actually gets things done for his family. To this end, she orders him to kill a local healer who’s refusing to help the poisoned, snake-bitten Baelfire. It’s a troubling moment for Rumple, since it’s clear he doesn’t want anything to do with murder. And so he does the thing that, as Mr. Gold in Storybrooke, he will learn to do best. He makes a deal with the healer in exchange for the antidote: in exchange for the cure, the healer can have Rumple’s second-born child. In Rumple’s mind, it’s a hell of a deal since he isn’t planning on having a second child with Milah anyway. However, Milah is positively mortified to learn about the deal, stating that Rumple has essentially sold away their future. It isn’t so much that she necessarily wanted a second child that very minute, it’s simply that the option is now permanently off-the-table. At that point, why wouldn’t she run off with Hook? I mean, if you’re going to be with a man who’ll play fast-and-loose with your future, it might as well be a pirate. And yet, she doesn’t seem to appreciate the reasons for making such a sacrifice. In theory, the deal allowed Rumple to both save Baelfire and keep his own soul intact. But that’s the operative phrase, “in theory.” In theory, it should have worked, but in practice, this deal doesn’t prevent Rumple from ultimately failing Baelfire as a father, or becoming the Dark One. In fact, this deal leads directly to Rumple’s first murder, as he returns to crush the healer’s heart after he becomes the Dark One. It’s a decision that will have dire consequences, as the narrative shifts to focus on the extent to which even a villain’s well-intentioned actions have consequences.
In order to help her former lover secure freedom, Milah helps Gold and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) reach Hook, although she waits with Gold at the boat to make sure he doesn’t try anything funny. It almost seems like too obvious a setup for anything to actually happen with Gold. And yet, Hades (Greg Germann) appears and coaxes Gold into a deal: destroy the boat and damn his friends to the Underworld for all eternity, or he’ll never see Belle (Emilie De Ravin) again. So Gold does that other thing he’s gotten really good at ever since he was the Dark One: he takes yet another life, killing Milah by throwing her into the River of Lost Souls. He also destroys the boat home to prevent anyone from leaving, and then blames the horrible deed on Hades when Emma arrives with a battered, wounded Hook. But there’s yet another twist that Gold didn’t see coming. As it turns out, Belle is pregnant with Gold’s child — his second child. Hades has taken ownership of the contract between Gold and the healer, since the deal remains despite Gold having killed the healer. Hades will keep his word and send Gold home, but he retains the right to take that baby whenever the hell he wants. It’s a brilliantly cruel twist, which makes it substantially more effective. Gold’s two tragic acts were motivated by a desire to both protect and reunite with the people he loves. While this doesn’t exactly excuse anything he’s done, it at least makes his villainy understandable. There’s a ragged desperation to Gold’s character, and that defines him far more than his waxing and waning between heroism and villainy. For all his attempts to change, he can’t ever seem to get it right. Even if he’d refused to do Hades’ bidding, it wouldn’t change the nature of the second child deal. Belle’s baby would still belong to Hades, all because Gold — out of desperation to save his son, and avoid committing murder — chose to make a lousy deal with a lousy man. Granted, it’d be far more tragic if this happened to a character we hadn’t grown so accustomed to seeing betray the group, but I think there’s still a lot of emotional resonance in Gold’s predicament. And I think that’s more than enough to consider this storyline a success tonight.
In other news, Hook is finally free! Well, sort of. After refusing to choose three friends to stay behind in the Underworld, Hook is suspended over the River of Lost Souls, with Emma racing against the clock to free him. She manages to get there just before Hook is lost forever, but there’s a catch: since Hook wouldn’t name three people to condemn to eternal damnation, Hades decided to pick three names himself. And so he chooses Emma, Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin). It’s yet another cruel twist of the knife in an episode that already had one big reveal with Belle’s pregnancy and the Second-Born Child deal. But it’s the kind of storytelling Once Upon A Time pulls off remarkably well, offering the kind of bittersweet turn you might see in a Grimm’s fairy tale or a Hans Christian Andersen story, subverting fairy tale tropes in surprising fashion. Interestingly, this reveal is situated within the context of our learning the mechanics of the Underworld as a whole. For instance, Cruella (Victoria Smurfit) explains that the headstones in the Underworld cemetery have particular meaning based on the condition of the stone: if the stone is unblemished, they’re still down here in the Underworld somewhere; if it’s tipped over, the subject has moved on to a better place; but if it’s cracked, that person has gone on to a place far worse than death itself. This explanation is likely setting up a bigger reveal down the line, but for now, it allows Regina to have a fairly touching moment in which she recalls her first love, Daniel. This really has been a good season for Lana Parrilla so far, and I like that the show is giving her more and more opportunities to demonstrate her range, particularly now that the character is fully committed to being a hero. Hopefully, now that she’s one of the accursed three, those opportunities won’t be so few and far between.
Regardless, I’m interested to see how Emma, Regina and Snow find a way out of this one, and what the repercussions will be for Gold’s treachery this time. Once again, Once Upon A Time has me excited for the follow-up. “Devil’s Due” is another addition in what’s been a major hot streak for Once Upon A Time.
But what did you think of Once Upon A Time Season 5 Episode 14, “Devil’s Due”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Once Upon A Time, check out our review of last week’s episode, which may have just been my favorite of the entire season so far!