Last Winter, OUAF conducted a poll of what were fans' favorite episodes. "Skin Deep" was voted number one. The staff wrote a round-table about "Skin Deep" and their personal favorites.
1. Skin Deep consistently ranks among fans as a favorite episode. Why do you think it resonated so much with the audience? If it is your favorite, what to you makes it so special?
Gareth: For me, “Skin Deep” represents the moment that Once Upon A Time went from a good show to a truly great show. It had everything; action, romance, great writing and the actors were all on top form. I think “Skin Deep” marks the darkest place Once Upon A Time has been in the last four years. Nothing since has really come close to that remarkable scene between Gold and Moe French, juxtaposed by the flashbacks to Rumple destroying the castle. It was sinister, it was tragic and it made you stand up and re-evaluate what the whole show was about.
Ashley: I think this is the episode where everything just clicked. We obviously get the introduction to the Belle and Rumpelstilskin romance, as well as a dash of mystery on the Storybrooke side of things with the break-in at Mr. Gold’s. We finally find out for sure that Rumple has his memories in Storybrooke, which ups the stakes significantly. And of course that twist at the end with Belle being alive in the hospital. This episode has a slice of something for everyone; it’s the perfect blend of all the elements that the fans love about Once Upon a Time. From mystery, to a love story, to just seeing your favorite fairy tale characters hanging out at the bar. This episode has it all.
Joanne: “Skin Deep” has definitely touched a chord with so many different people. Personally, I think that people can relate to Belle and Rumple’s relationship much more than they can to Snow and Charming’s. Snowing is the perfect ideal romance. Rumbelle is anything but perfect. Belle is an optimist and sees the best in everyone. Rumpelstiltskin is an imperfect man who has been broken by life. Like most women, Belle loves Rumple for his potential. She knows that he can be a better man if he chooses to do so, but he is always making the wrong choices. Few of us have a perfect relationship like Snowing. Most of us have been in a relationship like Rumbelle. We can relate to them more.
Lori: I think it resonated so much with the audience because it caused a high point in the emotions that were evolving as we watched the progression of Rumplestiltskin's character. We saw him at his worst in the first few episodes of Season One (“You know what you love, now go kill it!”), and then we began to understand and empathize with him through "Desperate Souls”. So when "Skin Deep" aired, I think it was the possibility that even the Dark One could be loved and love in return that completely captured our hearts. It was the possibility not only for love, but for redemption and a return to goodness. It was hope, and basically everything that the show stands for.
Teresa: “Skin Deep” holds number one in my heart because it brought to life “Beauty and the Beast.” And it wasn’t just Rumplestiltskin and Belle. The Beauties featured included Mary Margaret, Emma, Henry, Ruby, Ella and Thomas. Beasts also reared their ugly heads: Regina at her most violently manipulative, the Nurse in the asylum, and David with his pathetic two Valentines. All had key, subtle moments showing the forces at war: the darkness and light within. This theme has recurred on Once between family, friends, and enemies. All characters are both beautiful and beastly to themselves and each other at different points in the story. Everyone on the show is a chipped cup. And yet they marry each other. Great love--true, honest love—on Once is to me found in Rumplestiltskin and Belle’s relationship. I saw it expressed explicitly in Season Three when the Rumbelle wedding vows rang out as a montage of all characters played.
That is why I believe “Skin Deep” resonates with so many fans. It put into one episode what Once is all about.
Sam: I think “Skin Deep” holds up as a fan favorite because it is a beautiful written and acted tragic, love story. For me, it was the episode that pushed me over the edge from casual Once Upon a Time fan to total fanatic and it's all because of Robert Carlyle. This forty-something woman fell head-over-heels into a school girl crush for Rumplestiltskin after seeing “Skin Deep”. I'm pretty sure I was not the only one. I see Rumple as the ultimate “tortured artist” that a girl just wants to stand beside and help through his pain on his road to glory.
Not only are the performances by Carlyle and Emilie De Ravin so perfect, but everything from the writing, sets, costumes and music were perfect. There were just enough call-outs to the Disney animated feature and just enough parts of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story.
I could tell you why I love every scene, but I'm going to limit myself to just three. First, I love the subtlety of the scene when Belle is telling Rumple her definition of love. I love watching Rumple listen to her and realize that he is falling for her. This is a great example of the depth of Carlyle's skills. You can read so much on his face in this quiet moment. For drama and tension, there is the dungeon confrontation where Rumple sends Belle away. Again, Carlyle says so much even when he's not speaking any lines. And how prophetic! Even in the beginning of their relationship Belle and Rumple were at odds over his conflict between love and power. Finally, a scene that's very important because it's relevant to the whole Season One arc is the Storybrooke jail cell part near the end of “Skin Deep”. It starts out light-hearted with Emma teasing Gold. But it finishes so strongly when Regina confronts Gold and gets him to admit he knows who he really is forcing him to say that his name is Rumplestiltskin. Finally we have confirmation that Gold is aware of the Curse.
Even though I love “Skin Deep”, I do not rank it as my number one episode. For me, it is what we call a “Monster of the Week” episode on “The X-Files” as opposed to a “Mythology” episode which contributed to the ongoing mythos of the show. Aside from Gold admitting he remembers his true Enchanted Forest identity, I don't think that “Skin Deep” did that much in moving the overall story ahead. That is the reason why I put it a few places down on my personal list.
Amy: This was such a big episode for me. It went darker than we had really seen yet. It really showed what the show could be at its finest. Such great writing, and really great screen time for each character. I know the showcase was on Rumple and Belle, but the Regina scenes were fabulous too. It was just an emotional ride and when Regina told Rumple to “get a new girl”. My villain-loving heart jumped for joy.
Zach: I think "Skin Deep" resonates with people for a number of reasons, starting with the powerhouse performances by Emilie de Ravin and Robert Carlyle. They have a sweet and endearing chemistry which makes people root for them. Additionally this is the first time we see Rumple with any kind of romantic possibility and it changes the perception of the character: he's not just the Dark One or an imp, but a man relatable for the audience. The scene where Rumple destroys his display case is brilliant because it is juxtaposed with Gold's beating of Moe French, and we know his anger at Moe is really a release of pent-up anguish over the loss of Belle, and Mark Isham's beautiful score adds a level of emotion which seals the deal.