There’s Been A Change In Them
The Marriage of The Beauty and the Beast
By Teresa Martin (@Teresa__Martin)
Fans of Belle and Rumplestiltskin were thrown into an understandable state of “feels” after the Winter Finale. It began with a happy Belle packing for a proper honeymoon in New York City, and ended with her using the Dark One’s Dagger to banish her husband from Storybrooke. This was no small development. Once’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” arguably produced the most stunning episode of the entire series: “Skin Deep.” For me, its airing in February 2012 was the moment I became a fan of the show and started to truly care for the characters. A large part of this was due to the Tour de Force performance by Robert Carlyle. He went through the gamut of emotions, and we saw that Rumplestiltskin could not only hate with great passion, but love as well. Overlooked sometimes is Emilie de Ravin’s magnificent portrayal of Belle. She was Belle incarnate, and for the first time we saw someone stand up to Rumplestiltskin, call him out on his weaknesses, and live to tell about it. Moreover, even though Rumple sent her away, it was really Belle who left, with her head held high, an action she repeated in the Winter Finale. Rumbelle was born in “Skin Deep” and I am not using this word as a “ship.”
Concerning this, I believe Robert Carlyle was dead-on in an October interview:
Belle and him are two entirely separate things. It's wrong. You cannot
combine these two characters together and think they're the same thing.
There’s load of stuff out there talking about “Rumbelle.” It doesn't exist.
He is absolutely a character in his own right, as is she.*
Rumbelle in the context quoted indeed does not exist. I have always seen “Rumbelle” as the fairy tale and template in which these characters live. Rumbelle is “Beauty and the Beast,” a masterful telling of the ”Tale as Old as Time” in a more adult manner than ever seen before. It is marriage, but it is also hate, misery, sacrifice, and pain.
In short, it is True Love.
Rumbelle faltered a great deal after their reunion in Season One. Belle and Rumplestiltskin were misunderstanding each other and confused in their new situation. Belle naively clung onto the idea that Rumple had changed. His snarky, “What, in the hour you’ve known me?” spoke volumes. Though he apologized immediately, what came out of his mouth was complete truth. Belle did not know Rumplestiltskin, and he did not know her. He tried to send her away, an action he will repeat, telling her honestly that “Despite what you hope, I’m still a monster.” Her decision to stay put Belle into a slump, one could argue her “childish” phase. At the first conflict in “The Crocodile,” she left, climbing out her bedroom window like a teenager sneaking out on her parents, even pulling the “I never want to see you again. Ever!” line. Is it a coincidence that she said it to her father too?
Belle needed to grow up.
Rumplestiltskin, knowing that he could only bring her down and is ultimately bad for her, responded by giving her exactly what she needed: independence. He set her up with an apartment and means to earn a living in a job he knew she would love: running the library. Then he tells her goodbye. But she couldn’t let him go. And when she offered, he couldn’t say no. For they do love each other.
The next Rumbelle episode is “The Outsider.” Here it was revealed that they had returned to their romantic relationship and were presented on equal footing. When he ordered her to hole herself into the library, she was back in his face and they bickered, fiercely, as equals. Belle only gave in when he said he would not force her, but asked her to do as he wished because of the danger she was in. Her consequent near murder by Hook on the Jolly Roger, and then brutally being shot in the back by him, showed that Rumple was not exaggerating her peril. Later, when she awakened from Lacey, Rumple admitted he was being selfish, but that he needed her. Once again, he is explicit with Belle in who he is. When he went to Neverland, Belle felt somewhat lost, but found her own footing in an adventure with Ariel. When Rumple returned, he told her what ultimately defines them: his future is the one in which they are together. It has to be. For that is what is in the story.
Rumple then had a radical change, and not just coming back from the dead. During his captivity by Zelena, he was for the first time in centuries completely out of control. This brought to the surface what he had been suppressing: his fear. Originally, the impetus for becoming the Dark One in the first place was predicated on that, and psychologically fear is behind the desire to control events and others. Zelena re-awakened this in him and magnified it to the nth degree. Hence, when Rumple was reunited with his Beauty once more that would not go away. It had to be dealt with. Instead of facing this though, he reverted to what was comfortable–but certainly not right--and gave into his anxiety in a way we’ve never seen before.
Yet his marriage proposal, as confirmed by the writers and the actor, was sincere. He loves Belle and was not going to wait anymore. He married his Beauty. Yet their status was immediately illustrated in the Season Four premiere by a beautiful dance that was magical, romantic, but a warning that their story is not over. Perhaps it was even just beginning. The “Tale as Old as Time,” lest the audience forget, is “Beauty and the Beast.” The story, Rumbelle, was still that tale and for it to be told there has to be a Beast.
What anchors them, even after the Winter Finale, is their marriage. While it appeared the marriage ended, I would argue quite the contrary. The hope for Rumbelle is in their Season Three wedding:
Belle: “This thing we have it’s never been easy. I’ve lost you so many times. I’ve lost you to
darkness, weakness, and finally, to death. But now I realize I have not spent my life losing you, I’ve spent my life finding you.”
Rumple: “When we met, I wasn’t just unloved and unloving. I was enemy of love. Love had only
brought me pain. My walls were up, but you brought them down. You brought me
home. You brought light into my life. You chased away all the darkness. And I vow to
you I will never forget the distance between what I was and what I am. I owe more to
you than I can ever say. How you can see the man behind the monster, I will never know.”
These are the marriage vows of The Beauty and the Beast. The characters just didn’t know how high a price they would pay in using such words to seal each other together.
Time in Once is present, past, and future, within the very formula of the show in which flashbacks are utilized to shed light on the plot. The wedding scene functions in this manner. Belle’s coda, “But that monster’s gone” was unfortunate for her since Rumple never promised that it was, and served to show where she was in her development, not he. To return to their wedding dance, the tune was “Beauty and the Beast” not “Beauty and the Former Beast.” Hence 4a was bringing them back full circle to where they stood in “Skin Deep.” A reset. The tragedy is that Belle did not see this until the last minute.
And yet it is not too late. Audience members were getting a little frustrated with Belle, but the finale showed that is nothing compared to how frustrated she must be with herself. She opened her eyes, not so much to Rumplestiltskin, who never kept who he was a secret, but to what she had allowed herself to become: a woman who deceived herself into thinking she could make a man change. And she stood up to it. Belle not so much banished Rumple as she did the part of herself that had to grow up.
Even after this heartbreak, her assertion during the wedding, “The man beneath him may be flawed, but we all are, and I love you for it. Sometimes the best book has the dustiest jacket. And sometimes the best tea-cup is chipped,” has never been more true. Or hopeful.
For they are both flawed. The scene at the Town Line merely completed what was begun on that night by the well. Perhaps one could even say their marriage was truly consummated there.
This pivotal scene, worth examining in detail, begins with Belle saying they “need to be alone for what comes next.”
Rumple asks what she is doing and Belle replies “facing the truth” and that it’s her time to talk. “I thought I saw something in you, something good . . . . I finally realized that all the signs I’d been seeing were correct. You’d never give up power for me Rumple, you never have. You never will . . . . Your true love is your power . . . .”
He replies that “There’s nothing wrong with power. I . . .I mean, we, could have it all”
Belle then says, “I just wanted you. I wanted to be chosen. I tried to be everything for you, Rumple. But I wasn’t and I lost my way trying to help you find yourself, but not anymore.”
When he insists he can change again, she shakes her head, “You’ve never changed. . . . It’s too late. Once I saw the man behind the Beast. Now there’s only a Beast.” She commands him to leave.
He pleads that he doesn’t want to lose her, to which she answers, “You already have.”
Then finally Rumple completely opens up to her: “I’m afraid.”
With those words he reveals that he is as much a child as she. But it is too late. He is banished.
His leg collapses.
Rumplestiltskin is back to where he was before.
Significantly, Belle turns away as he crosses the line. Turns away from what was darkest not only in Rumple, but in herself. She is no longer the naïve Beauty. She sees the Beast and herself perhaps for the first time in her life.
“Beauty and the Beast” is back and back on steroids.
Moreover, these words between them in parting were just as honest, raw and emotional as their wedding vows. A fitting sequel to what they swore before Once’s Conscience, Archie. Belle told Rumplestiltskin at the Town Line what many in the audience had been thinking: she had lost herself.
As he has lost her.
But what is lost can always be found again.
As the rocks of Once, Charming and Snow, say, “I will always find you.”
This is not mere fangirl wish-thinking. If the intention was to end “Beauty and the Beast,” the marriage would never have happened in the first place. A break-up arc would have been served if the couple had stayed engaged or even were merely “together.” Having them get married was not an accident. In fairy tales, weddings signal the Happily Ever After. And so it is. The redemption of Rumple and Belle has been set forth by that wedding. Belle banishing him did not erase that, but will likely be a catalyst towards their Happy Ending since it will ultimately lead Rumple to finally "kick the habit" and face his real addiction: fear. And one could say Belle now has to kick her addiction too: blind belief that he had changed and a tendency to ignore what is right before her eyes. Her immaturity must die, as must Rumple’s.
But before all curl into a fetal position and cry, I would like to visit what Robert Carlyle said in the aforementioned interview:
He definitely loves her. There's no doubt about that and he wants to be with her. This
other thing, [other] part of his life, is probably bigger. Because this has existed long
before she came along and will probably exist long after she's gone. This hat and this
kind of quest for magic and power is so massive for him. This kind of addiction he has to
it is huge. That's what drives Rumplestiltskin more than love. . . . I don't think the creators
would ever let that relationship entirely go. But I think that this season it's going to
stretch it to its limit.*
Stretched it is, but not over. If it was, Rumple would no longer be wearing his ring on the left hand. And while I am certainly not intending to put words into Mr. Carlyle’s mouth-- I submit to him as the definitive interpreter of both the character he plays and his words in the interview-- I believe that when he said the other part of Rumple’s life before will exist after Belle is gone, he was not dismissing Belle’s importance to Rumple, but rather saying that he, as any addict, may go into recovery, but never cease having the addiction. Hence what Rumplestiltskin is will be with him whether Belle is present or not. Rumplestiltskin is a unique character.
It is also not an accident that the title of this episode is “Heroes and Villains.” Belle became a Hero by facing truthfully her flaws within: her near co-dependency to Rumple. In clinging to that she had been, in a manner of speaking, a Villain to herself. A lot of the unhappiness Belle has experienced on Once since her escape from the asylum has been self-inflicted. She needed to change.
And she did. She is now firmly primed to be fully transformed. Whether Rumple’s time will come to follow her on this path is yet to be seen.
But for these developments to stick, in Belle’s case, or occur, in Rumple’s, they have to be apart. Change only comes from the voice of one’s own conscience. So Belle had to drive her spouse away, not just from Storybrooke, but from her life. For now.
She can now say, as Belle sings in Disney’s musical version of the movie:
There's been a change in me,
A kind of moving on,
Though what I used to be
I still depend on.
For now I realize
That good can come from bad.
That may not make me wise
But oh it makes me glad.
And I-- I never thought I'd leave behind
My childhood dreams
But I don't mind
For now I love the world I see
No change of heart a change in me.
For in my dark despair,
I slowly understood
My perfect world out there
Had disappeared for good.
But in its place I feel
A truer life begin
And it's so good and real
It must come from within!
And I-- I never thought I'd leave behind
My childhood dreams
but I don't mind.
I'm where and who I want to be.
No change of heart
A change in me.
This is Belle. But it can apply to Rumple too, eventually. I like, Mr. Carlyle, believe that their relationship will not be let go by the writers, despite the estrangement. Marriage is not unicorn stickers and rainbow kisses. There have to be thorns in the roses. It is after all, til death do part--and Rumple’s ultimate journey might well be that—but the marriage is very much alive, as is their love for each other. “Beauty and the Beast” continues.
Separately for now, and both firmly characters in their own right.
Yet how fantastically exciting the resulting story will be!
And so Rumbelle, as many have perceived it, is dead.
But Long Live Rumplestiltskin!
And Long Live Belle!