Episode 1.6 “The Shepherd” recap, review, etc.

(Last edited 12/10/11)

Once Upon a Time The Shepherd

Mary Margaret, at the bridge, when David tells her he's going back to Kathryn


In fairy tale land, Rumpelstiltskin is once again pulling everybody’s strings, even those of the king (played by Alan Dale, who was Charles Widmore on LOST). The king’s son, who is not really his son, but was given to him as part of a deal years ago with good old Rumpel, dies flamboyantly. Prince Charming, not yet a prince, but a dewy-faced impoverished shepherd trying to save his mother’s farm, finds out (from Rumpel, natch) that he is the twin brother of the dead-by-barbecue-spit prince, and he is called in to pinch-hit as a dragon slayer.

He succeeds, to everyone’s surprise, but then he’s stuck marrying King Midas’ daughter, who we met in an earlier episode when she was sulking in the carriage. The fairy tale segment ends where we came in before, with Snow White about to ambush the carriage and save the Prince from his bitchy fiancee.

In Storybrooke, things don’t go as well for our fated-to-be-together (but probably not before the end of Season 1) couple. John Doe, who we now know as David Nolan, leaves his wife Kathryn. That’s a green light for Mary Margaret, who goes out to meet him at the bridge.

Before he gets there, though, he has a moment when he “remembers everything.” The show fakes us out here, leading us to think he is remembering his life with Snow White. Instead, he “remembers” his fake memories of his life with Kathryn and decides to go back to her – breaking Mary Margaret’s heart and leaving her to find an unlikely confidante in Dr. Whale.

Meanwhile, Emma catches the Sheriff climbing out of Regina’s window, in an almost slapstick moment.

This week’s theme: Do the right thing

The episode is about doing the right thing or making the right choices. Prince Charming in the fairytale world and David and Mary Margaret in Storybrooke struggle with figuring out what is the right thing to do, and how they should balance duty and desire.

A secondary theme, perhaps, is “Be careful what you wish for.” Prince Charming wanted to save his mother’s farm – and he did, but then he could never see his mother again. David Nolan wanted to remember his past – and he did, but he remembered the wrong one.


In the scene in the pawnshop, Mr. Gold/Rumpel seemed to want David/Prince Charming to remember his fairy tale life. It seems like Rumpel has a stake in undoing the Evil Queen’s curse. But if so, why? He was the one who gave the curse to her in the first place. What is he really up to?

In the scene, which I think may be the pivotal scene of the episode, David is drawn to the glass unicorn mobile …

David glass mobile pawn shop scene in The Shepherd

… which we had seen before, in the Pilot episode …

Pilot episode Once Upon a Time glass mobile nursery

Mr. Gold then speaks for the first time, saying: Charming.

David: I’m sorry?

Gold: The mobile. Isn’t it charming? … Exquisitely designed, masterfully crafted .. I could get it down, if you like.

Pawn shop Mr. Gold

"I could get it down, if you like."

But David is drawn instead to the windmill.

Pawn shop episode 6

Gold: See something you like?

David: Where did you get that?

Gold: That old thing? That’s been gathering dust for … forever.

David: I think … this belonged to me.

Gold: Really? Are you sure?

Pawn shop scene OUAT Episode 6

"Are you sure?"

David: Yes. I remember.

Gold knows everything. I’m convinced of that. But what is he up to?

Best moment

Rumpelstiltskin laughing. (video clip no longer available, alas)

Possible LOST reference that’s probably not a real reference

“Shepherd” could be a reference to Jack & Christian Shephard in LOST — though that’s probably a stretch.

Story origins

Prince Charming

“Prince Charming” is apparently a generic name, not a specific character from a traditional tale. Wikipedia credits Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) with the first use of the exact term “Prince Charming” (as opposed  to “King Charming,” or a prince who happened to be charmed, or a fairytale non-royal named “Charming,” all of which occurred earlier).  In Dorian Gray, “Prince Charming” is used ironically — which is also how Snow White used it on first meeting the prince.

Dragon slaying

 Dragon-slaying stories go back a long time, at least as far back as the ancient Egyptians, whose artwork shows royal heroes spearing serpents or crocodiles with “burning mouths.” The most famous dragon-slaying story, that of Saint George, is from the 12th or 13th century.

15th-century painting of Saint George slaying the dragon

19 responses to “Episode 1.6 “The Shepherd” recap, review, etc.

  1. “This is the first week I wasn’t sure what the theme was – usually it’s telegraphed, underlined, and repeated. Perhaps it was “Be careful what you wish for.” ”

    The theme? The following words were mentioned in the episode, in this order:


  2. A LOST reference?
    The whiskey that Emma poured. It even had the “60” on the bottle:

  3. I don’t think Rumpel wants to undo the curse as much as he feels that he can’t stop the curse being undone or however that plays out. As he said, every curse has a loophole and there is nothing he can do about it. I suspect he gave the queen the curse so that he could get out of the dungeon and now that the showdown is coming he is positioning himself to be a major player and extract the maximum concessions from the winning side.

  4. I think the theme is “making the right choice”, because this episode is all about the choices made by the poor shepherd boy that we have come to know as Prince Charming. First, he chooses to step in and pretend to be the prince – a “right” choice, since it leads down a direct path to Snow White, and therefore Emma (I say this because it is my personal theory that Rumpel INTENDED ALL ALONG for this curse to be broken. What his motivation is, I have no idea, but he is the one pulling all the strings to make sure everything happens as he wishes it…). Then, our faux-prince chooses to try to save the knights that the dragon was killing, another “right” choice. He then faces the choice of, “get these men to safety” or “take up a sword and slay this dragon or die trying”, where he, again, chooses “right.” After all this, Charming is faced with a new decision: to marry or not to marry. Here is where our prince chooses “wrong.” He knows that this is a marriage of convenience, not love, which he has already proven to be against, but (understandably, given the situation) bows to the pressure the king is putting on him. Still a “wrong” choice, whatever his reasoning. Of course, he then makes another “right” choice by opting for the scenic route, where Snow White is lying in wait for her next target.

    On the Storybrooke side, he spends most of his time trying to decide between the love he knows he feels for Mary Margaret and the love he assumes he once felt, but no longer feels, for Kathryn. He makes a “right” choice by leaving her and convincing Mary Margaret to meet him, but then makes a very “wrong” choice in Mr. Gold’s pawn shop. Instead of letting Mr. Gold take down the glass unicorn mobile for him, which would presumably have triggered his fairy tale memories, he simply gets his directions and turns to face the consequences of his “wrong” choice: the windmill. The windmill triggers in him all of the false memories that the curse gave him, so now is conflicted, remembering Kathryn and how he used to feel about her, but still knowing that he has feelings for Mary Margaret.

    So it is not just about having a choice, or making one, but making the right choice.

    • That’s very interesting! Thanks.

      I like your theory that Rumpel intended all along to break the curse. I think that’s probably it — that he made the deal with the EQ in order to get out of the dungeon (as dingax said, above), but that even then, even as he was making the deal, he knew that he would eventually subvert it and get out of Storybrooke as well.

      He definitely seems to be behind everything significant that happened in fairy tale land. To what ultimate end, I guess we don’t know yet.

      I agree also (with one exception) with what you said about Prince Charming and his right and wrong choices.

      Very interesting idea that Mr. Gold was giving him a choice in the pawn shop of turning to the glass mobile or turning to the windmill. Mr. Gold/Rumpel always wants to give his victims (if that’s what they are) a choice — he’s big on free will. And even something that may not seem like a choice — where David’s gaze happened to fall in the shop — is, in fact, a choice, though maybe not a conscious one.

      The one exception, perhaps, is when he agreed to marry King Midas’ daughter. It seems like he hardly had a choice. If he hadn’t agreed, both he – -and worse, his mother — would have been killed. Even a dragon-slaying hero probably couldn’t have taken down King Midas. And to the extent it was a choice (and I guess it was, because he could have chosen to sacrifice his mother’s life and his own), I think it was the right one. He chose to save his mother’s life over his own desire for freedom to marry for love — which seems like the honorable, Princely thing to do.

      Mary Margaret was also faced with choices this episode — whether to follow her heart or to stay away from a married man (without being able to know, of course, that he wasn’t really married). Did she make the right choices? I’m not sure.

  5. Really nice discussion. I didn’t think of Rumpel purposely trying to get out of Storybrooke using the loophole in the curse. I can see him wanting to get out of Storybrooke since he can’t fully practice his magic here. And setting it into motion by telling Snow and Charming to get Emma out of fairytale land. I would like to know exactly how Emma can break the curse.
    My only disagreement was about lifting the unicorn mobile triggering his memories of fairytale land. He didn’t have to touch the windmill. They are still under the curse. And so while he was fascinated by the mobile, only the windmill could trigger memories.

    • That would be mind-blowing if Rumpel was manipulating Snow and Charming in fairytale land in order to change events in what he already knew was going to be his future in Storybrooke.

      Emma is breaking, or at least loosening, the curse by her mere presence. However she’s doing it, I hope her powers don’t stem from her having a weird electro-magnetic energy. That would be one LOST shout-out too many. 😉

      By the way, does anyone have any ideas where the windmill was from originally? I mean before it was in front of Kathryn’s house — have we ever seen it in fairytale land, or was the pawn-shop scene the first time it appeared on the show?

      • Lol about the magnetic field. The good thing about magic – you do not have to explain it that much.

        I feel like the pawn shop scene is the first time it appeared. Maybe it will appear in the fake wife’s fairytale. Like she turns out to be the princess in the princess and the pea or something and it plays a part in her story.

  6. What fairytale had twin boys seperated at birth?? Everyone else can be tied back to a fairytale………I know of one but the boys lives were much different, neither one became Prince Charming

    • That’s a good question. It’s similar, though not identical, to the story of the Prince and the Pauper (I got that idea from here). I’m familiar with Mark Twain’s book, but I don’t know if there are any older, classic fairy tales with the same kind of twin story. You’d think there would be, right? It seems like such a natural subject for a fairy tale. I can’t find anything specific, though.

  7. There is a Grimm tale Two brothers about twins that are abandoned by their father and raised by a Huntsman. They are not separated at birth but end up going their separate ways as adults to find their fortune. One twin does slay a dragon to save a princess and ends up marrying her. He later turns into stone and then the other twin takes his place and ends up rescuing him. They have added Midas and Prince and the Pauper elements to it but I feel like this is the fairytale connection for the story,

    • That fits well. I also agree with you (above) that the fake wife could be the princess in the princess and the pea — she’s certainly hypersensitive enough. And I think you’re right that this is the first time we’ve seen the windmill.

      The way that Rump says “That old thing? It’s been gathering dust forever” strongly suggests that it’s from fairytale time. It’s so odd, though, that it triggered David’s false memories, not his fairytale ones.

      • A quick thought as to why the windmill might have triggered his Storybrooke memories: the first thing I think of when I think of windmills is the iconic scene in Don Quixote where Quixote attacks a group of windmills, believing them to be giant. (This dovetails nicely with the allusions to King David as well, even though Prince Charming beheaded a dragon instead of a giant.) Quixote is a parody of the old romance knight tales, and has become a cultural symbol for a person in the modern world who still believes in the lofty, medieval, fairy-tale version of heroism. Given that fact, it would make sense (at least as far as the allusion goes, not so much for the plot) that the windmill would trigger his Storybrooke memories, while the unicorn would potentially trigger his fairy-tale world memories.

        • ^That should say “believe them to be giants” haha. As in, mythical, abnormally large, humanoid creatures.

        • Don Quixote was the first thing I thought of also. It turns out, though, there’s an obscure (at least I don’t remember having heard of it before) fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen called The Windmill. It’s a rather odd story, told from the windmill’s point of view.

          My hunch is that that the windmill will be an actual place that has some significance to David/Prince Charming and Kathryn/Pea Princess.

          I hope there’s a good explanation, plot-wise, for why David recovered his false memories, rather than his real ones. After LOST, I don’t necessarily expect that every question that seems like it should have an answer, will have an answer. I just hope this one does. 😉

          BTW, I was just thinking that Henry and Don Quixote have some things in common. They both see extraordinary things in ordinary objects or people that no one else can see. The difference, of course, is that what Henry sees is real.

          • Huh, that’s quite interesting. I had never of that fairy tale before either. I suppose either reference earns the writers of OUAT some cool points in my book. Thanks for sharing that with us. : )

    • Thank you for all your thought-provoking comments. :-)

  8. In addition to the stories of Prince Charming and dragon-slaying, this episode is rife with allusion to King David of Israel. David was originally a shepherd, and during a battle with Israel’s enemy, the Philistines, David was told to stay back, and was only recruited to bring food to his brothers. When Goliath, a sort of “champion” of the Philistines, challenged the Israelites to send a champion of their own to fight him, David ran out to battle, knocked out Goliath with a rock and sling, and then proceeded to behead him and took his head to the King. (Btw, I looked up the name Nolan and it means “champion.”) This victory over the Philistines was largely how David became a leader among the Israelites as a military general, which eventually lead to his crowning as King.

    Also, it was King David who united the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel.

    Also, a huge “hint-hint, wink-wink” came in this episode when one of the men sarcastically called Charming “our savior.” As we know, the promised Messiah of Israel was prophesied to come through the descendants of David. Today, Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the one these prophecies pointed to, which is why the writers of two of the Gospels go to great lengths to try to demonstrate that Jesus’s earthly father, Joseph, was indeed a descendant of King David.

    I suppose all these references are simply the way the writers have chosen to lead us to the idea–already evident from the beginning–that David, Mary-Margaret, and Emma (her name means “universal”) will be the ones to “unite the two kingdoms,” so-to-speak, of Storybrooke and the fairy-tale world, just as David united Israel and Judah, and just as Christ, the son of Mary and Joseph, united the Kingdoms of Heaven and Earth.

    I’m not sure if Henry fits into this allusion, but obviously he has a huge role to play, perhaps the biggest role of all of them. His name means “ruler of the home,” so perhaps he will rule as King once they all accomplish the end game.

  9. Interesting stuff about the names. I can definitely see Henry as the fairytale king at the end (assuming they all have gotten older, one way or another).

    Am I remember correctly that Emma was also called “the savior”? By Henry?

What do you think?