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Recap / Once Upon A Time S 1 E 8 Desperate Souls

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Season 1, Episode 8:

Desperate Souls

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Rumplestiltskin: I'm lame, friendless… The only thing I’ve got is my boy and they’re going to take him away from me. If they take him away, I will truly—truly become dust.
Zoso: Not if you have power.

Mr. Gold: You enjoy these with your boy. Your time together is precious, you know. That's the thing about children. Before you know it... you lose them.
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As the citizens of Storybrooke continue mourning Sheriff Graham's death, Emma Swan makes her decision to run for Sheriff against Daily Mirror chief editor Sidney Glass and Regina engages in dirty politics with Mr. Gold. Meanwhile in the fairy tale land that was, Rumpelstiltskin's backstory is revealed along with his attempt to track down the ultimate power source in order to help his young son, Baelfire, avert the horrors of the meaningless Ogre Wars.

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  • Arc Words: "All magic comes with a price," which turns out to have come from the previous Dark One.
  • Batman Gambit: Mr. Gold knows for Emma to win against Sidney, she would need to do more than just stand up to Regina. She needs to stand up to him. So, he talks with her, leaving in view a rope which would later be found at the scene of the fire, coated with the same smelly lanolin he'd been using to waterproof books when she came to visit. Circumstantial evidence, but during the debate, Emma states this evidence and Mr. Gold walks out. She won and Mr. Gold explained it all to her after the fact.
    • It's actually closer to a Xanatos Gambit, even though it does depend on people (namely Emma) acting in predictable ways—because if Emma had allowed the heroic fire story to stand, she probably still would have won (as it outweighed her checkered past), and no matter how she gets there, her being sheriff allows her to fulfill the favor she owes Gold. The only way it could have failed is if she had dropped out of the race altogether without exposing Gold, and she would never have done that since she wanted to beat Regina and protect Henry, not to mention refusing to allow Gold to get away with what he did.
  • Broken Pedestal: In the present, Emma's willingness to work with Gold (at first) and the kinds of things she'd have to do to beat Regina and Sidney act as this for Henry (not her time in jail, as both Regina and Emma had believed/feared). In the past, it's not as pronounced as it would be in later episodes, but learning the truth about Rumple's cowardice and Milah having left him does affect Baelfire; the fact Rumple became the Dark One to save him is actually a more definitive start to this mindset.
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  • The Bully: Hordor forces Rumple to kiss his boot for no good reason.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The beggar who helps Rumple and Baelfire, and tells Rumple about the Dark One and the dagger, turns out to be Zoso, the Dark One himself, plotting to achieve his death so he can escape his fate. Though this may be somewhat subverted by him having been played by Brad Dourif.
  • Child Soldier: This is what Hordor and his conscriptors intend to force Morraine to become, and they plan to do the same to Baelfire as well.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Regina, after Emma saves her from the fire. Especially when Sidney runs up to take a photo of Emma helping Regina.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Branded a coward for running away from battle, Rumple will do most anything to save his son from the same fate as so many other conscripted children.
    • The first hints of this for Emma are revealed in her having been in jail, and giving birth to Henry there. Invoked by name by Emma herself during the debate.
  • Deal with the Devil: In a roundabout way, killing the Dark One, since you thereby become the next one. As Zoso says, "You just made a deal you didn't fully understand. Bet you won't do that again."
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Hordor humiliates Rumple by making him kiss his boot, Rumple steals the power of the Dark One and threatens Hordor to kiss his boots for a chance at mercy. Hordor does it, but Rumplestiltskin rips him apart anyway.
  • Face–Heel Turn: This was Rumpelstiltskin's, going from a kind-hearted but cowardly spinner to the manifestation of Ultimate Evil he eventually becomes, all by choosing to steal the Dark One's dagger and then, instead of using it to control him, killing him with it so he could have the power to save his son himself. Probably best encapsulated in the moment when he proclaims he is no longer scared of anything (and gives a very wicked, unhinged grin), and when after slaughtering Hordor and his men he tries to claim he's still the same man, but asking his son "Do you feel safe now?" just causes Bae to back away, pale and silently shaking his head before denying it.
  • Flaw Exploitation: It’s not a flaw, but Mr. Gold does appeal to Emma’s desire to show Henry that she’s an Ideal Hero to stand up to him in order to win the election.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: invoked When Gold gives Emma Graham's things, one of the items in the box is an award that reveals his Storybrooke surname to have been Humbert. This was also the official name of the Huntsman in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: By becoming the Dark One, Rumple became a Physical God of power and darkness. Few could stand up to him in a fight now.
  • Good Is Impotent: Implied by both Regina and Emma being certain she can't win against Sidney, and also by Henry since he says Emma can't win without fighting like Regina which by definition makes her no longer good. Subverted in the end by Gold, since he uses Emma's own dedication to heroism and being a good role model for Henry to spur her into standing up to him—which proves she is not, in fact, impotent and can accomplish great good.
  • Hero Ball: Emma carries this, which Regina counts on...but so does Gold, since doing so actually means she can be counted on to be what the town needs against him as well as Regina.
    Emma: You're complaining about how I rescued you? You know what, next time I'll just...no. Next time I'd do the exact same thing. Because that's what a decent human being does.
  • Ironic Echo: Many, many times, but notably...
    • "Spindleshanks? Hobblefoot?"
    • "Kiss my boot."
    • Knowing how to recognize a desperate soul.
  • Kick the Dog: Hordor forces Rumple to kiss his boot for no other reason than to humiliate him, on the threat of drafting Rumple's teenage son to war.
  • Loophole Abuse: Well it isn't actually abuse, since it's following the law, but from Regina's POV, this is what Gold (of course) does when he consults the town charter for Emma and "discovers" that while the mayor can appoint a new sheriff, this is only if no one else wants the position; if they do, she can only appoint a candidate and there has to be an election.
  • Papa Wolf: Just look what Rumpelstiltskin does to protect Baelfire.
  • Pet the Dog: Not only does Gold insist on giving Emma Graham's things (culminating in his jacket, which she does keep), but he makes a point of giving her the walkie-talkies for her and Henry and insists she spends time with him before it's too late and he's grown up and lost to her. Very much Foreshadowing of what ends up happening between him and Baelfire, and his lifelong regrets for it. Also, Gold seems genuinely sincere in his statement that Graham was a good man and he is sorry for Emma's loss.
  • Save the Villain: Emma saves Regina from a fire.
  • Start of Darkness: For Rump, exploring how he became the heartless, cruel, deal-making, baby-stealing monster he was at the start of the show, both by revealing the nature of his powers (the Dark One, the dagger) and what drove him to claim them.
  • Stealth Pun: When he makes his opening statement in the debate, Sidney makes one of these to his Enchanted Forest identity, saying he will "reflect" the values needed to keep Storybrooke safe and secure. Also, when Archie makes a joke about Emma and Sidney's names and no one laughs, he awkwardly mutters about crickets before moving on.
  • Time Skip: There's a jump of two weeks between the previous episode and this one. This is not only a meta-reflection of the mid-season break, and a chance for the wham from last episode to sink in so people in-story can recover from it, it's plot-significant: after two weeks of acting as sheriff, Emma will become sheriff for real. Unless Regina intervenes, and/or there's an election.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Graham's jacket, which Gold gives to Emma so she will have something to remember him by. She doesn't accept it at first, but does by the end of the episode.
  • Ungrateful Bitch: Regina is ungrateful to Emma after she saves her.
  • Villain Ball: Hordor had Zoso under his control, yet it does not occur to him that he could just send him to end the Ogres War. Instead he uses Zoso to bully helpless villagers into letting them draft children into the war. If Rumpelstiltskin could end the war single-handedly post-corruption, it really says something about Hordor, huh?
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