Last week, Once promised that “Manhattan” would contain the show’s “biggest… bombshelll… yet.” But unless that gravelly-voiced announcer was talking about how surprisingly easy it was for Cora, Hook, and Regina to track down the Dark One’s dagger, the truth about Baelfire’s identity wasn’t anywhere near as big of a bombshell as, say, Rumpelstiltskin bringing magic back to Storybrooke at the end of last season, or even the fact that Red and the Big Bad Wolf are actually one and the same in the world of Once.
Anyone who’s been paying attention to this series — and even those who haven’t — figured out long ago that scruffy, pseudonymous Neal Cassidy (also known as Emma’s baby daddy) is really Rumpel’s long-lost son. And to the show’s credit, it didn’t spend the entirety of “Manhattan” building up to this supposed revelation. By the end of our first commercial break, we knew who Neal really was; the rest of the hour was more concerned with character and emotion than plot, showing how Emma, Bae, Henry, and Rumpel respectively dealt with the fallout from that big reveal. “Manhattan” may not have been Once‘s most gripping episode, but it was one of it deeper installments — as is generally the case when Rump takes center stage.
Speaking of the man eventually known as the Dark One: Our Fairyback concerns a younger, limp-free Rump who’s eager to join the army in order to prove he isn’t a coward like his blasted father. (Take a sip every time someone says the word “dad” or “father” tonight, and you may not survive to see the scenes from next week.) His wife Milah — still a loving, supportive soul at this point — fully cosigns this plan, because she cares more about “honor” than, you know, still having a husband by the time the war is over. But when Private Rump gets to the front of the Ogre Wars, he meets a blind, captive, Pan’s Labyrinth refugee child seer who changes the course of the rest of his life. She tells him first that Milah is going to have a son — then reveals that the would-be dad’s “actions on the battlefield tomorrow” will leave that child fatherless.
At this point, Rumpelstiltskin’s all, “Yeah, and I’m the Blue Fairy.” But when another one of the seer’s predictions comes true — she told him that his army would ride into battle on “cows,” which turns out to mean the troops’ fine leather saddles — Rump finds himself reevaluating everything Creepy Ginny Weasley told him.
But I’m getting ahead of myself (and our heroes). Let’s backtrack to when Rumpel, Henry, and Emma arrive in New York City. The trio takes a trip to an apartment building, where Cora’s magical globe has decreed Baelfire will be waiting. Unfortunately, Bae has no intention of inviting them in for tea; when the group buzzes him, he high-tails it out of there faster than you can say “daddy issues.” On Rump’s orders, Emma follows the guy on foot, chasing him down through the kind of alleys that don’t actually exist in Manhattan. Eventually, she tackles her mark — only to discover that he’s none other than Neal, a man Emma hasn’t seem in over a decade.
NEXT: So that’s what was in Pinoch’s box