'Once Upon A Time' Season 5 Needs To Make Rumple A Hero, But Is He Really The Man For The Job?

As we move further into the Dark Swan storyline on Once Upon A Time Season 5, the more intense (and scary) things get. Emma erased everyone's memories after six weeks in Camelot and then shot them all back to Storybrooke, with her loved ones not-so-blissfully unaware of exactly what happened there and what they did to "fail" her/save her from giving into the darkness. But wait — things are actually even worse than that. As I'm sure you'll remember, there's the issue of Emma having stolen Excalibur and being hell-bent on pulling it from the stone so that she can reunite it with the dagger and snuff out the light for good. The problem is, she needs a hero to get Excalibur out, and she thinks that can be the newly redeemed (?) Rumple, who was only just awakened from a magical coma and basically forced to do the Dark One's bidding. Ironic, really — but seriously, is he really hero material?

Sure, he's no longer the Dark One, but he certainly didn't relinquish his power willingly. Instead, he was such a terrible guy that his heart turned nearly completely dark, and the Apprentice removed the Dark One from him in a last ditch effort to save his life. If he had his own way, it's likely that Gold would have kept things the same as they'd been for centuries, but his return to a blank slate doesn't admonish his responsibility for the terrible actions he carried out while he was the Dark One — which, again, was for hundreds of years. He may be able to live without the blackness of his heart smothering the life out of him, but he's not suddenly a hero because he no longer bears the Dark One title.

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Emma does obviously know this, and has enlisted Merida to make him "brave" (hyuck hyuck) so that Rumple can be the hero she needs to pull Excalibur from the stone. Rumple, for his part, has issued some feeble warnings to the former Savior about how the darkness will cost her everyone she loves, but that seems to be rooted more in fear than in any actual lessons learned. In any case, Emma's not listening, though what she feels Merida can teach Rumple that will make him suitable for her mission is beyond me, because frankly, it doesn't make much sense. We could boil that down to Emma being knew to the whole game of evil, but I've admittedly been scratching my head over what her motivations are in choosing Rumple. After all, isn't it Henry who has the heart of the truest believer and would be the most likely candidate? I guess this is something we'll have to wait to have explained down the line.

Don't get me wrong — I love Rumple and think Robert Carlyle is one of the finest actors on the show. Once wouldn't be Once without him, hence the reason I think (or at least I hope) that he'll eventually end up as the Dark One again. How that will happen, or whether it actually will, remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure: he's no hero, and that's how it should be. We don't need any more redemption arcs in Storybrooke — Emma's inevitable return to Savior Status is obviously in the cards by the end of Season 5B or the beginning of Season 6 at the latest — we need Rumple's reptilian skin and his "All magic comes at a price, dearie!" taunts like we need air.

Whatever happens, I doubt Rumple can ever be the hero Emma seeks, and why should he be? He became the Dark One out of a selfish desire to be less of a coward and while he has grown and changed in a number of ways, he's still a villain. Just because he's been defeated doesn't make him less of one, but maybe it's better that Emma doesn't realize that just yet.

Images: Jack Rowdan/ABC