The question of Rumple choosing power over love jumps right out at me, and my first thought is, why wouldn’t he? We haven’t seen him with his wife yet, but from what his body language reveals when he mentions her, however briefly, to Belle, it’s clear he loved her. Most likely, she was the one who ended the marriage. So what did romantic love do for him? And fatherly love didn’t do much better for him. He gave up his humanness for Bae’s sake, and Bad reacted (understandably) with fear and revultion. So for the moment at least, power seems the smarter choice. It’s. brought him those things he asked EQ for, comfort, security, and at least superficially, respect–no one would ever order the master of magic to “kiss my boot.”
But as he keeps saying, love is the strongest magic (“love is the higher law” as U2 would say). It appears he believes that; he just doesn’t seem to think he can ever have that power. We know better, though.
I keep thinking what if Belle had just been more experienced in human relationships. If she had just paid more attention to his reactions to her questions about his family, if she had just put some thought into her words. When he asked why she came back, if only she had realized what he was really asking…or if only she had been open and direct with him…”because I want to be with you…because I care for you just as you are…because I want to find out whether we can love each other.” But, oh, my heart aches that she spoke so impulsively, and what he heard from her was “I want to change you. You’re not acceptable to me as you are.”