If there is a single most influential character on Once Upon a Time, it is almost certainly Rumpelstilskin. Rumple (or Mr. Gold if you want to be formal) has his finger in every metaphorical pie on Once Upon a Time. The reason Rumple is so popular is almost entirely because of the magnetic performance by Robert Carlyle. Unfortunately, in season 6 Once Upon a Time hasn’t exactly supported Carlyle’s acting with the best writing. Rumple is stuck in a rut and it is past time for Once Upon a Time to get him out of it.

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The Heart Belle of the Matter

The big thrust of Rumple’s story on Once Upon a Time for the last few seasons, or really the entire series, has been his relationship with Belle. Belle, as Rumple’s sometimes wife, sometimes ex-wife, sometimes completely cursed stranger and sometimes captive, has been Rumple’s primary focus since his son Neal died. While Rumple certainly has scenes with other characters, especially in flashbacks as the scaly Dark One, his main storylines always come back to Belle. 

Initially this Belle tunnel-vision made sense. Rumple and Belle have one of the more complicated relationships on Once Upon a Time. It is really the only romance on the fairy tale show where the participants are actively at odds with one another. Emma might have commitment issues but she is a bit of an outlier. For the most part, the things threatening the show’s couples and their happily ever afters are outside forces. It is not something internal. This conflict made Rumbelle, as fans call them, unique at first but now it is exhausting.

Once Upon a Time has thoroughly covered every possible angle for Belle and Rumple.  The complicated relationship always flirted with a dangerous line of making Rumple seem abusive towards Belle. In season 6 things bubbled over to truly horrifying levels. Rumple might have told Belle in a season 6 episode he would never hurt her, obviously referring to physical damage, but he has hurt her. Rumple has hurt Belle in every other possible way — emotionally, mentally and magically. He may have never put his hands on her but Rumple has been threatening and abusive in plenty of other ways to Belle. 

There is nowhere else for their relationship to go. Even if they reconcile — and Belle absolutely shouldn’t take Rumple back under any circumstances — it is not going to break new ground. It will be no different than the four other times they have gotten back together and Rumple almost immediately fell back into old patterns. 

Like Father, Unlike Son

The problem Once Upon a Time has with Rumple is that they enjoy him being a villain so they never want to redeem him. Rumple continually keeps crossing the line on the show, only to hurry back to the other side because the show can’t afford for him to be overtly villainous. Otherwise he would be a threat so big he would need to be defeated once and for all by the Charming family.  

The easy fix to the character’s repetitive cycle would be to just make Rumple an outright villain. Once Upon a Time could just have the ultimate good vs. evil storyline in one big showdown. This would mean losing Robert Carylye as an actor because Rumple would obviously have to die, as most villains do on the show. This is big obstacle. Rumple dying is a storyline Once Upon a Time should never attempt until they are ready to end the show. Carlyle is too good an actor to lose before things wrap up entirely. 


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Luckily, Once Upon a Time has already introduced something to pull Rumple and his story around. Rumple’s son being Emma Swan’s supposed killer should do wonders for his character. Rumple was at his best when he was struggling to reconnect with Neal. For the rest of season 6 Rumple should find himself in a similar situation but a with a few key changes. 

Rumple will still likely be trying to connect with his long-lost son but since Morpheus is evil in a way Neal clearly wasn’t, the roles will be reversed. Rumple had to convince Neal he was a good person to a form a relationship. Now Rumple will have to make Morpheus a good person to forge a connection.


Mommy Dearest 

The most exciting part of Rumple’s apparent journey is the brand new element — his mother. Presumably since she is the reason that Morpheus became this way, Once Upon a Time will bring Rumple’s mother, the Black Fairy, back in a big way. While whatever relationship Rumple and Morpheus have on season 6 will have echoes of the past, Rumple’s interactions with his mom will be brand new. 

Yes, we’ve seen Rumple interact with an evil parent before in the form of Peter Pan, but Pan was a coward who was too shy to interact directly with his son. There was always that pre-existing relationship to deal with as well that made Rumple and Pan’s interactions tragic. The Black Fairy, on the other hand, seems bone-chillingly cold to her son. There is no cloud of sympathy over her. She is as mysterious as she is unrepentantly evil. Even his darkest days as the Dark One, Rumple seemed scared of her. If Rumple is scared of someone, everyone should fear them. It is brand new territory for the character which is exactly what Rumple needs. Introducing something fresh is the best way to break Rumple out of his repetitive cycle.

So what do you think? Do you think Rumple has been in a rut? Will the rest of season 6 manage to get him out of that rut? Who are you more excited to see Rumple interact with — Morpheus or the Black Fairy? 


Once Upon a Time season 6 will return in March on ABC. Want more news? Like our Once Upon a Time Facebook page!

(Images courtesy of ABC)