Once Upon a Time went back to the basics with “The Crocodile,” which puts Rumpelstiltskin at the center of another tale. This time, the series took on the story of Captain Hook. We’ll give you one guess as to how Rumple plays into this one.

The Players:

  • Director: David Solomon
  • Writer: David H. Goodman & Robert Hull
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Robert Carlyle

Episode Title: “The Crocodile”

After a couple episodes neglected his awesome evil, Rumple got the chance to shine. This week, he’s the glittery-skinned crocodile that took Captain Hook’s hand.

The Good:

  • Rumpelstiltskin: He’s a villain. He’s a lover. He’s a guilt-stricken father. This week, we added two new words to the list that describe the character: Cuckold and Coward. I was all about how cowardly the Dark One really is. We got a flashback to the moment that hurt him most: When he refused to fight for his wife, who had fallen for the dashing Captain Hook. Rumple became a single father because the missus fell for a pirate. Flash forward to after he’s become the glittery baddie and he gets his revenge. He slices off Hook’s hand and kills his wife (with the literal heart crushing).
  • Belle Gets Ballsy: Belle is still living with her beast, but when she catches him doing magic, she leaves him. You have to give her props for having a spine, but it’s short-lived (see The Bad).
  • New Hottie: For a place populated by princes of unnatural good looks, Storybrooke comes up short on truly attractive men. When the Huntsman was killed off, Charming was left to carry the flag in the hot man parade. But Captain Hook is a game changer. Can we please make him an unlikely love interest for Emma?
  • Costumes and Effects: Season one’s popularity seems to have helped Once in an important area: Budget. The special effects are twice as good this year (the portal Hook opens to Neverland might be the coolest visual effect so far) and the costumes are spectacular. Gone is the tinge of community theater. Now everything looks legit.

The Bad:

  • Belle Bested Again: The damsel in distress thing is getting old. Every time we think Belle is finally taking charge of her life, she gets kidnapped or put in mortal danger. Smee almost sends her on a mineshaft ride straight out of town. For most of Storybrooke’s residents, this means forgetting who they are and having to live out their lives as incredibly boring people. But let’s remember, Belle had been hanging out in an insane asylum for 28 years. Only remembering her Storybrooke life is much worse for her than it would be for most people. All it takes is basic human kindness from Rump to have her inviting him out for burgers. Come on, Belle. Just…come on.
  • No Snow and Emma: Last week we were complaining about the lack of Rumpelstiltskin. Then we get an entire episode dedicated to him, and now we want something else. The season two structure guarantees that on any given week one plot will be left dangling. This might be a little frustrating in the moment, but I’m certainly hooked for next week’s episode.

Overall:

Once Upon a Time knows exactly when to reward viewers after a drought and “The Crocodile” was a shining example. Rumple’s back story is easily the most complicated of the characters and the new elements work without glaring contradictions. Now, if only we knew what Snow and Emma were up to in Fairytale Land.

Rating: 8/10

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

What did you think of this week’s episode?