Manhattan Review | Once Upon a Time Season 2, Episode 14

Gold finally reunites with Baelfire.

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 2
Episode 14: Manhattan

After a few disappointing instalments, Once delivers a more emotive and character-focused episode as Gold is finally reunited with his son after years of determined searching and plotting. Even though the twist of Baelfire’s current identity is not entirely surprising or shocking, the emotional ramifications and the storylines it then throws up are highly compelling, and brilliantly acted by all involved.

The fairytale flashback this week was perfectly relevant and a brilliant exploration of Rumple’s devotion to Bae from birth. Our understanding of Rumple’s backstory so far has been that he was regarded as a coward in his community for abandoning the front line of the Ogre War, leading to Milah leaving him for Hook and Rumple’s decline to become the Dark One. However, this episode sheds a bit more light. Indeed, it reveals that it was Rumple himself who wanted to fight in the War, so that he could free himself of the shadow of his father, who had abandoned him. Milah is less certain, but encourages Rumple nonetheless. While on the front line, however, he is tasked with guarding a Seer, who reveals to him that Milah is pregnant but that Rumple’s actions the next day will leave the child fatherless. Rumple interprets this as an indication that he will die and leave his child without a father, so intentionally maims himself so that he is sent home. Milah abhors his actions, branding him a coward, and saying that the recently-born Baelfire would be better with no father than having him as one.

In the present-day storyline, Gold, Henry and Emma arrive at a New York City apartment building. They ring Bae’s buzzer (Emma having deduced that it is the unmarked one), and Emma gives chase to the fleeing man. When she tackles him, however, she discovers that he is none other than Neal. The two argue, Neal condemning her for bring Rumple to him after years of trying to escape magic, while Emma is hurt at Neal having abandoned her all those years before, as well as wondering whether what they had was even real in the first place. Emma cannot believe that their meeting wasn’t planned, but Neal contends that it is fate, as well as noting that she still wears the necklace that he gave her. Emma pulls it off, citing it as a reminder not to trust people. Ultimately, Emma succeeds in bringing Neal back to Gold, though in the process hurts Henry’s feelings for having lied to him about the identity of his father.

Gold, meanwhile, tries to seduce Neal back to Storybrooke by promising to turn him back into a teenager again and to raise him the way that he should have done. Neal rejects the suggestion immediately, telling him that magic cannot fix the problem and that Gold cannot seek to undo the trauma and hurt that he caused when he let him go to the Land Without Magic alone.

Elsewhere, however, Regina, Cora and Hook set their sights on The Dark One’s dagger so that they can use Gold to their advantage when he returns to Storybrooke. Using the contents of Belle’s purse, the trio find a map hidden in a book in the library, which Hook deciphers. Cora and Regina then take that map and prepare to find the dagger, so that they can command Gold to kill Snow, Charming and Emma, without Regina being held accountable. Unfortunately, Greg has succeeded in finding proof of magic, and sends a video of Regina levitating the contents of Belle’s purse to “Her” on his phone.

As a final twist, Rumple in the past sought the Seer once more for a prophecy on how he will find his son. The Seer reveals that, to meet his son, a Dark Curse will be cast and broken, by people other than himself. She passes onto him her gifts of prophecy, confusing him with the sheer volume of what he can see, unable to differentiate between all the different possibilities. As the Seer dies, she reveals that Rumple will be led to his son by a boy who will be his downfall, and Rumple vows to kill him.

In Short

  • Rumple inflicted his limp upon himself, so that he would not leave his child without a father.
  • Emma finds Baelfire in New York, who turns out to be Neal.
  • Henry discovers that Emma lied to him about the identity of his father, and is hurt.
  • Rumple was warned that “the child will be his undoing”, and believes this child to be Henry.

Other thoughts

  • Regina’s plans with Cora are flimsy at best, let’s be honest. How can she possibly think that she could command Rumple with the dagger to kill all of the Charmings and Henry won’t think she’s even vaguely responsible? Regina had such brilliant development in the first part of the season, but now she’s just sort of parading around in the background of Storybrooke being slightly dastardly but entirely annoying.
  • I feel like this chapter of Rumple’s backstory was one that was definitely tacked on and not thought through beforehand. I can’t help but feel that this new information doesn’t quite line up with what we know about Rumple’s pre-Curse life up until now. Before, our only glimpses of him implied that he was actually a coward. I cannot quite reconcile the demeanour of his past self with what he became. A man who voluntarily hobbles himself does not then bow to every single person who comes by. But then again, perhaps I don’t understand how psychologically debilitating being hobbled might be. Still, I was outraged at Milah’s about turn when it came to Rumple coming back to support her and Bae, and it definitely helped contextualise Rumple’s desperation to reconnect with Neal and start over.
  • The Seer’s prophecy is more than a little unsettling, and I can’t help but fear for what this might mean for Henry, especially in the wake of Neal’s rejection of Gold.
  • Colin O’Donoghue has been officially added to the regular cast this week, which is a brilliant decision. His character has been brilliantly written and nuanced, and his performance continues to be a captivating part of the show. Hopefully he’s been introduced to the main cast and the writers have a clear idea of what they want to do with him moving forwards. I could easily see him being a romantic interest of Emma’s, though with Neal back on the scene as well, that might complicate matters somewhat.
  • I really think that Henry comparing Emma lying about the identity of his father (who got her put in jail, by the way) to Regina’s actions is out of line. Henry does not understand Emma’s trauma. She has not committed any huge grievances, and did not want to relive that horrible experience that she had. Sure, it wasn’t very nice of her to tell him, but it was clearly something that she did not want to retread and reopen the barely closed wounds. Regina, meanwhile, has made her entire life around manipulating and hurting other people’s happy endings. Completely different things, Henry. Henry also needs to stop getting attached to every single parent figure who comes his way. First he was all over Emma when she arrived because he viewed Regina as “the Evil Queen” and now he’s obsessed with Neal, who he has just met, compared to Emma, who has made brilliant steps to be close to him.
  • What is Cora’s plan really?
  • Gold’s magical globe, which shows the entire world, somehow managed to locate the specific apartment building that Neal was staying in. Just enough information, and yet not enough information to tell him the apartment number or indeed the name he is currently going by. Or his phone number or any other such useful detail. Very selectively convenient.
  • It’s nice to see a resolution to what August showed Neal in the suitcase, though the eventual reveal was anticlimactic. Why didn’t August just tell Neal that he knew he was Bae? Why bother with the suitcase? You’re so dramatic August. Also, sidebar, how did August know that he was Bae?
  • It is quite telling that Rumple would definitely be able to heal his limp if he chose to, and indeed he doesn’t have a limp when he is the Dark One in the Enchanted Forest, but he hasn’t got rid of it in Storybrooke. That’s an interesting one to unpack.


A brilliant, character-based episode that helps us understand our characters’ emotions a little better, though does little to advance the plot otherwise.

You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.

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