Oh, so that’s where the wild things are.
Although tonight’s Once featured plenty of thumping music, rowdy dancing, and barbaric yawps, the episode’s plot wasn’t nearly as driving and insistent as the Lost Boys’ delirious bacchanals. Instead, “Nasty Habits” focused more on character than incident — namely, Rumpelstiltskin’s ongoing struggle to redeem himself, and his continually fraught relationship with his own lost-and-found son.
The latter forms the basis of tonight’s fairyback, a glimpse into Rumpel’s life after his Darkening and before he let Baelfire fall into the “land without magic.” (Unfortunately, actor Dylan Schmid looks and sounds a whole lot older here than he did in season 1’s “The Return,” when we first saw Bae go through that portal. Puberty, you scoundrel!)
The short version: Rumpel’s being all Mother Gothel, refusing to let Bae leave their increasingly claustrophobic cottage. The Dark One says it’s just for Bae’s own safety, but Bae knows the subtext — his papa’s really afraid that if his son steps foot outside Casa del Stiltskin, he’ll ditch his dad and never come back. And possibly join forces with a hot outlaw played by Zachary Levi.
Obviously, Bae eventually runs away. Less obviously, Rumpel tracks the kid to a little Germanic town called Hamelin, which has recently been beset by a mysterious kidnapper. Bae isn’t in Hamelin anymore; neither are the rest of the townspeople’s boys. Wait, does Once have the rights to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Nope — the child catcher here is, of course, none other than Peter Pan.
Wait, I totally buried the lede — Rump and Pan went to Pre-Evil Elementary together! Okay, not really. But they do know each other; according to Rumpel, they were close as kids before Pan showed his true, dark colors and flitted off to Never Land. But now he’s back and planning to lure the kids of Hamelin (plus Baelfire) to his evil island, where they’ll become his very first Lost Boys. As Pan smugly tells Rumpelstiltskin, all the adolescents who responded to Peter’s siren song have one thing in common: The sound made by his sinister panpipe is audible only to those who feel unloved.
NEXT: “Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?”