The Great Once Upon a Time Rewatch | Episode 8: Desperate Souls

Emma becomes locked in a tense battle to become the Sheriff of Storybrooke, while we learn the events that moulded Rumpelstiltskin.

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Raphael Sbarge and Robert Carlyle

Season 1
Episode 8: Desperate Souls

The Enchanted Forest

We meet Rumpelstiltskin in a completely new situation to when we have ever seen him before. Without his scaly skin, it is obvious that this is a different Rumple to the one that we have known in the Enchanted Forest before. We learn that he is existing during the ogre wars, where children are conscripted into the military aged 14. The soldiers are gathered by soldiers with the help of “The Dark One”, who wields enormous magical power. Rumple’s son, Baelfire, is due to turn 14 in three days and they want to keep him from being conscripted. To this end, they flee the village but are caught by the Duke’s men, who mock Rumple for running away when it was his own time to serve, and reveal that his wife left him as a result of his cowardice. He begs the men to spare his son’s life, even kissing the boot of the soldier, but they continue to laugh at him. Rumple, who is crippled, struggles to get to his feet and the pair are helped by an old beggar. The beggar tells Rumple that the Duke possesses a dagger that allows him to command The Dark One. Were Rumple to steal the dagger, he would control the Dark One instead. If he were to kill the Dark One with it, then he would possess the Dark One’s magic. Rumple sets fire to the Duke’s castle, and steals the dagger, which bears the Dark One’s name, “Zoso”.

Baelfire is wary about this plan, but Rumple ignores him and sends him home. Rumple summons Zoso and informs him that he is the Dark One’s master, before then killing them. It turns out that Zoso is, in fact, the beggar man they met on the road, who tells Rumple that “all magic comes with a price”. Rumple’s name becomes inscribed on the dagger, and he returns home to save his son from the Duke’s men. However, Baelfire is terrified by this new man, who he does not recognise as his father.


Two weeks following the death of Sheriff Graham, Mr. Gold suggests to Emma that she should be the new sheriff, but Regina has already appointed Sidney to the position. Henry is devastated by Graham’s death, firmly believing that Regina was responsible, and that ultimately good is unable to win because it has to play by the rules. Gold shows Emma the town charter which reveals that the mayor does not have the power to appoint a mayor unilaterally, but can rather choose a candidate. Henry is anxious about Emma being in league with Gold, considering that she already owes Gold one favour. Meanwhile, Regina is livid that Gold is moving against her in this way.

While Emma is at Regina’s office, a fire starts tearing through the building, and Emma saves Regina’s life getting her out. This makes Emma the town favourite going into the race, but she discovers that Gold was the one to set the fire. At the debate for who will becoming sheriff, Emma reveals that Gold set the fire, which ingratiates her to the public as being honest, and the public are impressed with her for standing up to Gold, the most powerful person in the village. While Emma thinks that she has no shot, Regina, Archie, Mary Margaret and Sidney arrive to inform her that she has been elected, and hand her the badge.

Gold later meets with Emma and reveals this was part of his plan all along: he knew that Emma would do the right thing and reveal his misdemeanours, thus winning her the election. By saving Regina and by standing up to Gold, it made her the perfect candidate for sheriff. Enigmatically, Gold expects that Emma pay him back for his favours.


  • Robert Carlyle is amazing in the part of Rumpelstiltskin. We have seen so many facets to this character at this point. We have seen:
    • Cowardly Rumpelstiltskin
    • Relieved Rumpelstiltskin (as he starts to make decisions for himself)
    • Powerful Rumpelstiltskin, who faces off against the Duke’s men, somewhat ruthlessly.
    • Cunning Rumpelstiltskin, who makes treacherous deals, such as that with Ella.
    • Crazy, unhinged Rumpelstiltskin, who is trapped in Snow and Charming’s dungeon.
    • Confident and crafty Mr Gold, who outplays and misdirects those around him with ease.
  • The fact that Rumpelstiltskin is using his spinning wheel is a nice nod to the fairytale, though he is clearly not spinning it into gold here.
  • This is the first indication that we have had about Rumple’s son existing. He is nowhere to be found in Storybrooke’s timeline, so did something terrible happen to him? Might something have happened that causes Rumple’s scaly decline – he didn’t look quite as reptilian when he turned full Dark One at the end of the episode.
  • The source of Rumple’s power has finally been revealed, and that he is the Dark One, who is controlled by a dagger. This point is especially important. Where is Rumple’s dagger now, in Storybrooke? Regina clearly doesn’t have it, else she would have used it by now. Perhaps it resides in Gold’s shop.
  • Emma taking the permanent position of sheriff is significant. She started the series as a flighty woman unable to commit and settle. Here she is, living with a friend and taking a permanent job in the same town as her son.
  • It’s interesting that Rumple in the past has the same limp that Gold suffers from. Might this suggest that he no longer has his Dark One powers in Storybrooke? It hasn’t explicitly been mentioned yet, but I don’t believe that magic exists within Storybrooke; Regina clearly cannot use it, else I’m confident she would have used it to save Henry when he was trapped down the mine.

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