Once Upon a Time has always been about fairytale characters getting their happy endings, but one character in particular has an ending that's kind of hard to see as happy.
After spending a long and fulfilling life with Belle (Emilie de Ravin), Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) had to watch the love of his life die while he remained ageless and immortal thanks to his Dark One magic. Her death sent him on a quest to pass on the power to a chosen Guardian, so that he could die and reunite with Belle.
But can death really be a happy ending? Executive producer Eddy Kitsis definitely thinks so.
"For us, we always looked at it like the vampire that realized that immortality isn't all that it's cracked up to be," Kitsis says. "So it is morbid in one way. Another way to look at it is he has such love for Belle and such faith that he'll be reunited with her, and he realizes the lesson she tried to teach him, which is that life is about moments, and if it goes on forever nothing means anything. So that's kind of what we're saying, and I think for us, we don't know if he'll achieve that or not, but what we've always loved was 'Rumbelle.' This is a show for hopeless romantics."
When you consider the hundreds of years Rumple has been alive, it's easier to understand why he may be content to move on after all that time.
Unfortunately as we've seen before on Once Upon a Time, dying doesn't necessarily reunite you with your family. The Underworld showed us a pretty mean look at what can happen when you've been evil or have unfinished business. If Rumple wants to avoid that fate, he's going to have to play nice, which hasn't always been easy for him.
"We know that he has a very, very tough mission which is to resist his darker impulses so he can keep his heart clean to go back to Belle, and that is going to be challenged," Kitsis teases. "He's the Dark One, which wields the most powerful dark magic, and at some point someone's going to want to take that knife. So I would say that we're going to see a couple people go after him in this second half, and it is going to be very tough for him to not punch back."
Can death really be a happy ending? Fans will almost certainly have to decide that for themselves before the series finale.
Once Upon a Time returns Friday, March 2 at 8/7c on ABC.