Once Upon a Time "Manhattan" Review: In the Name of the Father

By Lily Sparks

Feb 18, 2013

Once Upon a Time S02E14: "Manhattan"

Oh Once Upon a Time, what are you doing to me? Like a fickle, chain-smoking French girlfriend in a black and white movie, you drive me mad with love and frustration. This was obviously an important milestone episode, and it set up a clear-cut and nicely conflicted trajectory for all the major characters, and yet why do I feel we should have landed here, on this excellent episode, in the middle of Season 1? Should it really have taken us all a full two seasons to reveal that Henry’s dad was Mr. Gold’s son—something you commenters and myself have been discussing as a given since about four episodes after the series premiere.

As many strides forward as we made last night (Henry met his dad! Mr. Gold found his wee Bae! Cora got a blowout and a pantsuit!), you just KNOW we’re going to spend the next few weeks finding out, like, why Smee’s hat means so much to him or why Tinkerbell has allergies or whatever. Again, like a fickle French movie girlfriend OUAT gives you one magical night you’ll never forget interspaced with three weeks of sighing in a corner, writing slam poetry about her dad and ashing into a Mountain Dew bottle.

But I’m digressing. Let’s celebrate OUAT at its best and most ridiculous, because it was both last night, starting with the line, “My weaving days are behind us!” when Rumplestiltskin came barging into his own house with an exquisitely calligraphy'd draft notice. LOL, he was like, a weaver for realz before he became magical. Mila, learning that her beloved husband had been called to the front, immediately started worrying that he'd act like a coward on the battlefield. Because Rumple’s dad was a coward? Are cowards still a thing? Certainly in this day and time we’d interpret “coward” differently than someone who, say, didn’t want to bare-knuckle fight a herd of ogres, and our cultural model for masculinity has more to do with avoiding adult responsibilities than embracing them yeah, even unto death, but whatever. To follow Young Rumple’s thread (LOL he did not look a day younger in the flashbacks, they don’t do shit for age makeup for guys because no one calls guys out on aging the way they do with women, haha I am going to have a face full of plastic in another 15 years and it’s all society’s fault), he excitedly got dressed up in a chainmail gown and went to the front and then got spooked by a Seer.

I know one thing this Seer saw for sure, and that is Pan’s Labyrinth. Look at this blatantly ripped off character design! Good God, subtlety zero, you effing image plagiarists! ABC better hope and pray that Guillermo del Toro's lawyers don’t watch OUAT because as far as I know Esperanto films isn’t a Disney property.

Anyway, Rumple was so spooked at the idea of abandoning his wee baby that he pulverized his own leg with a sledgehammer and then rolled around screaming in pain as only Robert Carlyle can. Hey, Carlyle, we know you’re a for-real actor but this is basically a children’s show. Maybe tone it down a little? Yikes.

It got really long and awkward and raw, and then he limped home to find out that his child had been born, but Mila had heard about his cowardly ways and, much like Jane Fonda in Coming Home, it turned her way off. Instead of being glad her hubs was alive and well, she plopped the kiddo in his arms and headed out to find some new dick, which as we already knew would arrive aboard some tailored leather pants.

In Storybrooke, those same exact leather pants were making tracks around town as Hook refused to modernize his wardrobe. While Cora had picked up a copy of Glamour magazine and gotten herself on-trend, Hook was still rocking the guyliner, lacy cuffs, and slouchy boots of a true cosplay maniac. He, Regina, and Cora spent the episode basically twirling their mustaches and looking for Rumple’s dagger so they could use the Dark One to kill all the Charmings. Sure, that’s a fair-enough conflict, although by far the evil-est thing Regina did last night was go through Belle’s purse.

The crime would have been the punishment if she had tried that with my purse, such a whirlwind of lint and small change and yes, a smattering of boxcutter blades. I absolutely loved the reveal that sneaky, morally ambiguous Ethan Embry had caught a video of this on his phone, though of course with the special effects and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns popular today he’ll have a hell of a time convincing people it’s not just a viral video tampon commercial.

Anyway, now that we’re 700+ words in, it's time to get to the real meat of the story, namely that Emma found Mr. Gold’s son and learned he was also the car-stealing shower thief she'd had unprotected fun times with all those years ago. The element of surprise was not present, because this was something we’d all predicted and yes, even started to take for granted in our predictions for the season. But the show still gave the moment a huge music sting like it'd BLOWN OUR MINDS. No, no we knew this was coming from way back, but the meeting of Emma and Bae and the reveal to the characters was handled in a completely gratifying way, if only because of Jennifer Morrison’s performance.

Emma seemed legitimately shocked and horrified and happy to see her old flame, and the two actors across from each other in the bar made an implausible scene one of my favorite moments of this season to date. Seriously, all praise is due the actors in this case because some of the lines they had to say in a stricken tone of voice included “Your father Rumplestiltskin,” and “You left me because Pinocchio told you to?!” and no lie, that is not easy. Try saying either of those lines, right now, with a straight face.

Still, they really pulled it off and I loved how Bae called Emma out on still wearing his keychain, and she had the perfect response, that it reminds her not to trust people BURRRN. Less successful was the reveal of what August had in his plot-spackle box that convinced Bae to abandon the love of his life to jail.

Like, what? Writers, why are you so hideously lazy? That August couldn’t just have said this sentence aloud is the first thing wrong with this picture (anyone overhearing someone say “I know you’re Baelfire” in an alley would immediately think, “These tranny hookers and their stage names!” and roll over and go back to sleep). Secondly, to see that sentence and then have absolutely no follow-up questions, as you will remember from the episode, is mind-boggling. Also, what does August knowing he’s Baelfire have to do with August knowing what’s best for Emma? None of that makes a whit of sense. Plot coupon NOT redeemed. Plot coupon EXPIRED. Take that plot coupon and get out of my store.

It was touching that Bae had kept Emma’s dreamcatcher out of love for her all these years (cause he sure didn’t keep it because it looks cool), and I loved when she reacted to it after a little B & E with Gold, and that Gold immediately confronted her on knowing more than she was saying about Bae. And then of course the climactic scene of Bae coming in and Mr. Gold being all warm but sad at the same time and big feelings looming between Emma and Bae and suddenly Henry came in and Bae was all, tears in his eyes, "How old are you, kid?" and suddenly Henry started shrieking “ELEVEN!!! ELEVEN Y’ALL MOTHERF-CKERS AAAHHHHH I HATE Y'ALL SO MUCH!!!” Like, take two kid, take two, maybe try that with a touch less rage. What was the direction there? “In this scene, Henry, you’re just so confused and so riled up you just start screeching like a banshee. I want the people two sets down to hear you scream ‘Eleven’. Then you calmly walk over to the window and hop out.”

I’m going to skip over pointing out that Manhattan was green-screened behind them because it’s apparently more expensive to recreate than a legit enchanted forest and talk about how gray and heartbroken Emma looked when Henry said she was just like Regina, who had always lied to him. Emma take heart, Henry is a master emotional manipulator who punches holes in Regina’s ego as a hobby, so don’t take him too seriously. Also, I can kind of see Emma’s logic in concealing her past from Henry because OMG, is her backstory with Bae seedy. He framed her for stealing watches! Emma went to jail for stealing watches! Like, watches!? Something about that is just so embarrassingly smalltime. Couldn’t the booty at least have been like a nice painting? Something a little classier? No wonder she wanted Henry to believe he was the product of a pity-sex sesh with a firefighter.

While Emma patiently endured a tongue-lashing from an 11-year-old, Bae and Gold had a tete-a-tete in which Bae got really touchy about that one time Rumple let him fall through a portal into the modern world (and presumably a life of embarrassingly smalltime crime). How could he ever, ever forgive his dad for abandoning him?! Except, isn’t that exactly what he did to Emma? Totally abandoned her to jail and a broken heart for um, 11 years?

There was a lot of talk this episode about abandoning your child, which literally every character on this show has done (EXCEPT Cora and Regina, who are admirably ride-or-die for their kids), and of fate. I’d like (begin rant here) to point out that sometimes the feeling of “fate”—that you’re fated to love someone, or succumb to some kind of morally questionable path—isn’t so much the inexorable pull of destiny as being caught up in a destructive compulsive behavior cycle, of modeling the behaviors of your parents subconsciously, even if you consciously don’t approve of them. Sure, it feels big and bigger than you and written in the stars, but it's actually just written in your brain chemistry. That Emma was abandoned as a baby and was drawn overwhelmingly to a man who would abandon her and her baby isn’t fate, it's psychology. That Bae is angry at his own father for abandoning him but just found out he has a kid shows is really self-contradictory. Basically every good guy on this show needs to pull their nose out of their own ass and forget how hurt they are and worry about not passing their ill behavior to their own kids—which in everyone’s case is ultimately Henry. Snow made this point herself on the phone to Emma before suggesting to Charming that everyone being related might “mellow everyone out.” Optimistic! Didn't seem to work the last time you were all living in the same pointy house, tho. And who taught you the word mellow?

Suffice it to say, this was a waaay important—if not-at-all surprising—episode, and while there were plenty of ridiculous elements it was definitely one of the good ones. And if the show would just build off the momentum of this episode we could have a really stunning series to look forward to every week, but I feel like OUAT is fated to focus on filler.


1. Have you ever found yourself in a relationship with someone and realized they were almost exactly like your mom or your dad?

2. How long ago did you figure out that Bae was Henry’s dad?

3. Emma concealing the truth from Henry: unforgivable or the sensible thing to do?

4. Did August’s typewriter reveal make you furious?

5. Will Gold try to kill Henry?

6. WTF how did Charming not realize people have more than one grandpa? What do you think he would score on the SATs?

7. What is Ethan Embry up to?

8. How long until Hook finds a men's H & M or something?

  • Comments (163)
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  • _Fire_Ice Oct 14, 2013

    Ok I am finally getting around to watching this season and I am confused. How is Bae only like a few years older than Emma, he got sent to Earth centuries before she was even born. All the Mr. Gold as a dad and stuff and Bae leaving him was before he even went and killed Mila, than Hook went to Neverland for a while, and Gold taught Cora and Regina magic, that is a lot of time to go by, but Bae is some how almost the same age as Emma? Someone make that make sense please, things like this are why I stopped watching after the first season until now, they just didn't seem to know where they were going with things.

  • ErinSchmidtmann Mar 12, 2013

    Did anybody else think that Emma was going to do something with the dreamcatcher when she picked it up? That's how she read Pongo's mind and found out Regina killed Archie, right?

  • kells1976 Mar 09, 2013

    I really liked this episode - i thought all the acting was excellent - especially Jennifer Morrisons. I guessed Bae was also Henry's father after The Return in Season 1, so while the reveal wasn't a surprise, I think the actors pulled it off. I can't wait to see the rest of the season

  • cinniemint Mar 03, 2013

    I was amused the entire read. My favorite part of the episode was the seer!
    3. Sensible. Henry get over it.
    4. Beyond disappointing. Stupid really.
    5. Probably. The show almost killed off Henry once. Do it for real!
    6. He's charming. He doesn't need a brain!
    7. I can't help but wonder if Mr.Gold or someone with magic could just easily erase his memory and dump him outside of the town limits. Just saying.
    8. I'm just glad someone pointed that out. He looks ridiculous at this point in the show.

  • JoelBatuhan Mar 03, 2013

    Your always ranting Lily abt the series and I know it's for good intent as you have high expectations abt the series but sometimes it gets irritating. But I know this is is your job and too bad for me that I'm still reading ur article.

  • un0rmal Feb 26, 2013

    3. Haven't we all seen enough TV to know that lying about the babydaddy will never ever end well? I can forgive anyone from fairytaleland, they don't have TV's. But Emma grew up in our world! With our soaps! How could she have missed it?
    4. Yes, so stupid.
    5. Yes, of course. This is the crazy world of fucked up fairytales after all.

  • Jaenella Feb 23, 2013

    People are making rather a lot of how thick Charming must be not to realise that people have more than one grandfather, but that's not how I read his line. The way he said it, I took it as disbelief (and a bit of horror) that he shares the title of grandpa and the relation to Henry with Rumplestiltskin - with whom they all have such checkered pasts.

  • KateSullivan Feb 21, 2013

    I just had a weird thought...so, Rumple doesn't want to kill Henry because he is both is grandson and a chance to redo what he failed to do with Bae, but what if he sees that as a bigger issue and actually thinks he can control the prophesy by giving Henry the knife (this is all without the knowledge that it has already been found and that the other set of grandparents are already trying to protect it, spoiler pictures...) and so Rumple can control when he dies (though likely with a plan for Whale to revive him) and have Henry take over as a person who has been trained in magic by Rumple.

  • ShahhidaMiah Feb 21, 2013

    i knew since he popped up in the back of Emma's car that he was Henry's father and so ovbs Bae.
    You should never hide the truth--especailly who your father is and if they're even alive or what
    will he try to kill Henry? uh, nuh
    That line from charming made me laugh so hard and say "dumass"
    i want to see Hook in modern clothing and FEAST MY EYES UPON HIM

  • kanniballl Feb 21, 2013

    Dagger makes the least sense.

    Recall: in "present day" August confronted Gold and pretended to be Bae. He thought he successfully tricked Gold into revealing the location of the Dagger... so he could command "The Dark One" At which point Gold pointed out that Bae would never do that. And that the Dagger trick wouldn't work (either fake dagger or no magic... I forget which).

    So, how would August have the Dagger 12 years ago but not now?

  • KateSullivan Feb 21, 2013

    Maybe if he gambled it away :) I honestly forgot August's motivations with the pretending to be Bae thing last year. I had a whole conspiracy that August and Neal had found each other fairly quickly in the real world and grew up together and August was feeling out Rumple for Bae.

  • KateSullivan Feb 21, 2013

    Oh, the dagger would have made the most sense and actually might have given us a glimpse that Bae still cares about his father...that is a little too logical and deep...:)

  • kanniballl Feb 21, 2013

    I don't agree with "never hide the truth" Mostly because I hate the use of the word "Never"

    The kid was 11 AND she thought (at the time) that he was having mental and/or emotional problems and not grasping reality well. Since she wasn't a believer in the Fairy Tale Cursed City bit yet.

    So what do you tell your 11-year-old kid in various scenarios? The father was a rapist? You don't know who the father was because you were drunk at a party? The father specifically said he left because he didn't want a son? The mother killed herself due to post-partam depression after the kid's birth? Your father is in jail for being a psycho killer?

    Sure... maybe eventually tell your kid the various truths... but there's a time and place. Maybe telling a kid a shocking or sad truth while they're seeing a shrink due to their weak grasp of reality... is not a good idea.

    On the other hand, I know people that decided to keep a secret permanently... and only relented when the kid found out on his own in his 20's or something. It's really up to the parents to decide what they want to tell their kids.

  • kanniballl Feb 21, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • AnimeMadness Feb 21, 2013

    To be fair, those watches were expensive.

    This episode really made me dislike Mila more. She's such a terrible character. Really? You rather your husband die instead of living to be there for your son? WTH? A good wife would have been happy even if her husband was a coward. If I was Gold I would make Dr. Whale revive her just so I could rip out her heart again. What a b-tch...

    Also, Belle with amnesia is getting to be increasingly annoying...

    And poor Hook... Everyone just keeps beating him up.

    2. Since the episode where Rumple abandoned Bae.

    3. Eh... that's a touchy subject. To some people it may seem sensible but to others it may seem like she's overreacting. (To me it seemed like she was overreacting but then again Emma did not have the same knowledge on why Bae left her as the audience did.)

    4. That was a lot of buildup for nothing...

    5. Yes because this show just has to drive us crazy!

    6. Charming and Snow made the episode for me. He can be so charmingly dopey but that just makes him more adorable.

    7. This is a plot line I don't care to see. Hopefully Regina or Cora gets rid of him...

    8. No! He has to keep his sexy pirate clothes!!

  • KateSullivan Feb 21, 2013

    I totally agree about Milah...I actually think Rumple has kind of terrible taste in women, first Milah (and I wonder if we get any flashbacks with her and Hook that might make us like her at all - heck, just even planning to kidnap Bae from Rumple would be enough) and then Belle who, really, is just interested in changing him.

  • AnimeMadness Apr 23, 2013

    Yeah I agree with you. As much as I like Belle and Rumple together, she is trying to change him into someone he isn't. If she truly loved him, she would accept him for the dark lord that he is.

  • KateSullivan Apr 23, 2013

    I know, this past week's episode seemed to really drive that point home further, especially with Gold truly trying to not be himself. I found Regina's threat to him (especially that his son didn't know who he really was) silly because if anyone knows Gold at his worst, it is Bae. Perhaps someone who could figure out down the road that they can't recover Belle fully but they could kind of blend Belle and Lacey, that might be someone who accepts Rumple for who he really is but can be an anchor in the real world if he goes too far. Heck, before Gold left for New York, I thought there had been a change in Belle in terms of her acceptance of Gold's use of magic at least.

  • kanniballl Feb 21, 2013

    Yeh, it's not like he swiped a box of Timex and Casio watches. Those things were thousands of dollars a pop. Throw in a handful of them, and you're talking about the equivalent price of a high-end car or some expensive jewelry.

    I personally love watches and have a couple of expensive ones. Heck, mine aren't even the EXPENSIVE expensive ones... and just one of them was $3,000

    So if they were a bunch of Omega's or whatever... then yeh... major felony.

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