So what can we learn from these photos, especially when we combine them with the spoilers we know about the episode? Let’s break it down.
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Rumple is the Dark One: The first thing we noticed is that these photos feature Rumplestiltskin in all his imp-ish, post-curse glory. That's interesting, because the only thing the press release for the episode says about the flashbacks is that they involve Rumple attempting "to save his wife, Milah, from being kidnapped by a band of cutthroat pirates." But, as you'll remember from Season 1, Episode 8: "Desperate Souls," Rumple's wife left him years before he ever became the Dark One and, as far as we know, she never came back.
What gives? When we first read the press release, we assumed the entire flashback portion of the episode would take place pre-Dark One, but it appears that isn't the case. (At least this explains the shot of Dark One Rumple on a boat we noticed in the season promo.)
Question: Is Hook the one who tried to kidnap Milah? If so, we'd assume Dark One Rumple finds him again to either take vengeance, save Milah years later — if the pirates did succeeded in taking her (or, as some speculate, if she left with them willingly because it was, in her mind, better than being married to Rumple)— or both. (It's worth noting that there were set photos taken of a woman on Hook's ship. While that woman looks to be in Cora's [Barbara Hershey] clothing, it's possible it's Milah instead.)
On the other hand, maybe Dark One Rumple, no longer a coward, goes to Hook for help tracking down different pirates who did kidnap his wife.
It looks like they're making a deal: Because here's the thing: These photos don't make it look like Rumple is straight out attacking Hook. In the one above, he seems to be introducing himself quite politely, and in the one to the left they seem to be consulting. Of course, this being Rumple, it's very possible that his mode of "attack" is subtle; he could quite easily be convincing Hook to make a deal that will end up screwing the pirate over. (Heck, even if he's not seeking vengeance, he'll probably screw Hook over, 'cause that's what he does.)
Hook is missing something important: As you can see in the photo to the right, Hook has both his hands. No hook in sight. Now, these are behind-the-scenes photos, so it's possible that this is a rehearsal, and Colin just isn't wearing the hook. But given that everyone seems to be in full costume, there are cameras around in some of the photos, and there are shots of Colin gesturing with both hands, we don't think that's the case.
So, it seems like we're meeting Hook before he lost his hand and replaced it with his titular object of terror. That might explain why Colin's character is referred to as "Killian Jones" in the press release. He wouldn't be called "Captain Hook" before he had the hook!
As you probably remember from the book or movie, in the classic Peter Pan story Hook's hand was eaten by a crocodile, who liked the taste and followed him around everywhere, wanting more. And this episode, coincidentally enough, is called "The Crocodile." We bet we'll learn how he lost his hand this episode, and we're starting to wonder if, in OUAT-verse, Rumple has something to do with it. That would line up with the theory that he's seeking vengeance on Hook, and his outfit in these photos is even notably scaley, like a crocodile. Hmmm...
Whatever the case, we know Rumplestiltskin and Hook have a lot of backstory, and Hook is set to become a major character with Colin O'Donoghue's promotion to series regular for the latter part of the season, so we can't wait to dive into their story.
Share your theories in the comments below!
Catch the next new episode of Once Upon a Time on Sunday, October 14 at 8 p.m. ET/PT onABC.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter@BeccaMartin47.