Overall Rating: 7.3
An episode that raises more questions than it answers and gives the show many options going forward (both good things) but which whiffs a bit on the big theme of the week.
Wikipedia to the rescue!
What is it with Rumplestiltskin and first born children anyway? What does he plan to do with them? Do the first born kids just taste better in soup or is there something in particular about that first child that, in magical terms, makes possessing one for evil purposes more potent? It would have been interesting to know what he wanted with a child, but I doubt we're ever going to find that out unless Emma gets pregnant and he calls in that favor (though I suspect he has something different in mind for her). His lust for power and a "fair" bargain seem to have propelled him all the way to forcing his way into a much bigger conspiracy with the Evil Queen, since he needed to get involved there in order to have another crack at Cinderella. That willingness to go to incredible lengths to keep people to their ill-informed bargains is a rather interesting form of evil though. As was Emma's solution to her real-world encounter with Mr. Gold. Me personally? I'd have called state police and had Mr. Gold arrested because I'm pretty sure selling children is illegal, even in Storybrook. But getting yourself entwined in evil in a misguided attempt to get someone else out of it is...one way to handle the situation. And you could say that her offer to owe Mr. Gold a favor to protect Ella was noble, though I think dealing with the devil to do a good deed generally doesn't work out well.
I did appreciate Emma's emphasis to Ella that if she wanted to change her life, she couldn't do it by running away from her problems and would need to stay and stand up for herself and her child, and you have to like a show that will stand for personal responsibility when it comes to unplanned pregnancy even among the young - not to mention a show that argues that magic always comes with a price (in the real world, this is the same thing is saying that nothing good comes for free and there is no easy way through life). All good things, though I would like to see them fleshed out more with further episodes. All in all, this one feels like it's building the universe nicely, but lacks stand-alone brilliance. Nothing wrong with good world-building work...it has to get done sooner or later.
Credit for solid world-building and imaginative characterizations, but the dialogue was a little less toothy than previous episodes. The Mayor, in particular, has seemed a little better-equipped verbally in the past.
Average-solid performances by most of the cast, with a bit of a bonus going to our hero Carlyle.
As I said, I like the general thematic direction of the show, but think that Emma shouldn't have emphasized personal responsibility and then made a deal with the devil to get a girl off the hook for her evil deal. It seems a bit contradictory.