Once Upon a Time “Strange Case” Review (Season 6 Episode 4)

There are two ways to look at an episode like “Strange Case.” On one hand, it’s another strong entry in Once Upon a Time’s “back-to-basics” approach for this season, giving us a classic literary character’s backstory and introducing a nice twist into the mix. On the other, this an episode hampered by its ending and, more problematically, its focus character.

The focus in question is Mr. Gold, a character I’m as fed up with as Belle is. There’s no denying that Robert Carlyle is one of the show’s best performers, and that he always gives it his all as both Gold and Rumplestiltskin. However, the character has been one of the show’s weakest elements for at least a year now, mainly because the show has failed to come up with anything interesting to do with him. Whereas Regina has proven it’s possible to overcome the darkness inside and become a hero, Gold has shown no interest in doing so.

Beyond the fact that he is decidedly a villainous, self-serving character, what’s even worse is his ongoing obsession with Belle. Though their love story worked early in the show’s run, any hope for redemption or reconciliation went out the window in last season, when he willingly – and gleefully – took back the power of the Dark One. And it would be one thing if he was willing to let Belle go as result, but he selfishly expects her to continue loving him. He loves her, but he has absolutely no respect for her as a person, and it’s torturous having to watch her continuously deal with her abusive ex.

All of which is to say that an episode focused on Gold in the “hero” role isn’t exactly a compelling prospect. He actively avoids working with any of the others – Emma, Henry, and David barely appear this week – and when he gets blackmailed by Hyde and the Evil Queen, were not worried about him, we’re dreading seeing how Belle will get punished for it. Speaking of, his trapping Belle on Hook’s boat is just another example of how terrible he is. And this episode again ends with Belle rightly telling Gold off, only for him to once again threateningly insist he’ll love her again soon.

As frustrating as all of that is, the episode finds success in finally giving us the backstory of the show’s version of Jekyll and Hyde. There’s honestly not a whole lot to say about the story itself, just that it’s well-told and enjoyable, but that’s more than can be said about the present-day story. In fact, I like how innocent and kind Hyde seems throughout most of the episode, building up to the nice – if not entirely surprising – reveal that it’s actually Jekyll himself who’s the monster in this version.

All the more a shame it is, then, that the show kills off both characters in the final few minutes. There certainly wasn’t a lot of depth to Hyde – his motivation basically boiled down to vengeance against Gold – but he was an intriguing presence that it would’ve been nice to see more of. As is, it seems that the Evil Queen will soon be joined by Jafar as a main villain, with Jasmine being introduced as Snow’s new teaching assistant this week. As a huge Aladdin fan, I’m hopeful to see what the show does with the material.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!