As a wool-spinner in a village, Rumplestiltskin discovers an enchanted dagger that can control the Dark One and contains his power. Rumplestiltskin finds this dagger and summons the Dark One, known as Zoso, before stabbing him. This causes Zoso's powers to absorb into Rumplestiltskin, turning him into the Dark One. Ever since then, Rumplestiltskin has made many deals with many people, becoming less human and more beast. He was the puppetmaster all along, creating the Dark Curse and then triggering a course of events so that the Dark Curse would be cast and he would travel to Earth to find his lost son, Baelfire. However, one day, he is tricked into signing a contract with magical ink by Cinderella and becomes trapped. He is incarcerated in a special cell designed for him, until the Dark Curse hits.
Snow White and Prince Charming visit Rumplestiltskin in his cell, and he makes a deal with Snow, he will tell them about the evil queen Regina's threat, in exchange for the name of Snow and Charming's baby. Snow agrees to this deal, and Rumplestiltskin uses his ability to read the future and informs them that Regina will cast the Dark Curse which will consume everyone, except Snow and Charming's child, who must avoid the curse and in 28 years she will return to save them. With this information, Snow and Charming begin to leave and Rumplestiltskin gets angry, demanding to know the baby's name. Honouring their agreement, Snow turns around and says, "Emma."
When sacrificing the heart of her childhood steed doesn't activate the Dark Curse, a confused Regina Mills visits Rumplestiltskin in his cell. They make a deal, that in Storybrooke he will live a comfortable wealthy life and that she must obey his every command as long as he says 'please'. Regina agrees, and Rumplestiltskin informs her that she needs the heart of the thing she loves most to activate the curse, which is her father.
Rumplestiltskin is consumed by the Dark Curse, which he created, and forgets his life as the Dark One. He reappears at Granny's Bed and Breakfast, where a woman named Emma Swan books a room to live in while she is staying at Storybrooke. Upon hearing Emma say her name, Gold's memories suddenly return to him, and he points out that Emma is a lovely name, before Granny gives him the rent. After he leaves, Granny and Ruby point out that he owns the town. He reappears, telling Regina that she should have gone to him if she wanted to get rid of Emma Swan, a new stranger in town. Regina points out that he is responsible for giving Henry to her, and states that it mustn't have been an accident. She interrogates him, but he manages to leave by adding the word "please" at the end of his sentence, proving that he is aware of his past life.
- S1, E1: "Pilot"
- S1, E2: "The Thing You Love Most"