Regina/The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) and her despicable mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey), have a complicated enough relationship without throwing Rumplestiltskin's (Robert Carlyle) machinations into the mix. But this is Once Upon a Time — is there anything Rumple doesn't have his hands in?
As we learned in Season 2, Episode 2: “We Are Both,” Rumple is very connected to both Regina and her mother. But how? And what questions are left to be answered? We've rounded up what we know, and what we're still wondering about.
Cora's backstory: In Season 1, Episode 18: "The Stable Boy" we learn that Cora was a miller's daughter who mysteriously rose to wealth. In an interview with TV Guide, show creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis hint that this backstory was an intentional reference to the original Rumplestiltskin fairy tale.
For those who need a brushup, in the classic version of the Rumplestiltskin story a miller lies to the king, claiming his daughter can spin straw into gold; the king locks her up and demands she turn a room of straw into gold, threatening to kill her if she fails. Rumple comes to the girl's aid (since he can perform the feat) — in exchange for her firstborn child. The girl gives in, though she later escapes the deal by striking a second: Rumple agrees to give up his claim to the child if the miller's daughter can guess his name, which she does by spying on him.
We imagine that the OUAT version of this story will have a twist, as most of its re-tellings do. But we highly suspect that whatever the specifics, Rumple did have a deal with Cora involving her child.
As we learned in "We Are Both," Rumple is definitely the one who taught Cora magic, and gave her the book of spells. He also told Regina that he had once held her when she was "more portable" — presumably meaning when she was a baby.
Is it possible Cora was supposed to give Regina to Rumple (either in exchange for turning straw to gold, or just for teaching her magic)? We're thinking yes. If so, we wonder how Cora escaped that deal, since Rumple's name — outside of the way it's linked with the Dark One knife — doesn't seem to have quite the same power in OUAT-verse.
Regina and Rumple: Meanwhile, as we learned in "We Are Both," Rumple had a big hand in seducing Regina to the dark side. The question is: Why did he do this? In the episode, he mentioned that Regina had a lot of power, but that alone doesn't explain his interest in her.
During the episode he also says that her family has a lot of history with him — both past and future. And he tells her that one day, she'll do something for him, which is why he's willing to teach her.
Was he speaking in a general manner, setting Regina up as a powerful figure because he figured he could cash in on her in one way or another in the future? Or, more intriguingly, was he playing a long con, intentionally setting Regina down an evil path specifically so that she would one day cast the curse? We're thinking that may be the answer.
We're also intrigued to know more about what happened between Rumple and Regina, and when they went from tentative allies to disdainful enemies, as they are today.
Share your theories about how this all connects together in the comments below!
Catch the next new episode of Once Upon a Time on Sunday, October 14 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.