Maybe my biggest current fear about Once Upon A Time is related to the fact that the show is created and occasionally written by two men who worked on Lost, which expertly dragged out island drama for years. When OUAT started a few seasons ago, and the fairytale characters didn’t know they were characters, and the flashback stories offered some insight behind familiar figures like Jiminy Cricket and Rumplestiltskin, every episode seemed part of a larger overall saga. This season on Neverland, the saga has been seemingly boiled down to two words (even one of the show’s current chosen hashtags): Save Henry. What’s worse, after seven weeks, this seemingly simple mission is not even close to being achieved, and instead bogged down by innocuous plans like capturing shadows and Pandora’s boxes.
While for we viewers it would seem that our band of misfits has been on Neverland for an absolute eternity, we find out it has only been five days since the Jolly Roger followed Henry through the Neverland porthole. This week we have not one but two ridiculous missions with elaborate backstories: To get Tinkerbell’s help, Emma et al. must find an escape route off the island, and now with Neal in their midst, he explains that he got to Neverland via Pan’s shadow (not sure how the shadow will be able to carry all of them off, however). So they must venture into the genuinely spooky “Dark Hollow” to capture the shadow, wherein Hook and Neal get into a fight over a lighter, i.e., Emma. I had higher hopes for this triangle, especially considering Neal’s time on Hook’s ship when he was a boy, but it has descended into an extremely trite storyline not even soap-worthy. Although Colin O'Donoghue is really making the most of the frothy lines he’s given: “So when I win your heart Emma, and I will win it, it won't be because of any trickery. It'll be because you want me.” Sorry, Neal, at this point it’s not much of a contest.
A much better relationship pairing is Belle and Ariel, Nancy Drewing around Storybrooke. Joanna Garcia Swisher continues her delightful portrayal as the slightly clueless Ariel, and the adventure-minded Belle (Emilie de Ravin) proves herself to be a good choice as Rumplestiltskin’s girlfriend: Just this week she has to perform a cloaking spell, find Pandora’s box, and get held up by fugitives from the Darling family. It’s nice to see Storybrooke again (we get to see some daylight!), even though our neighbors are now limited to Jiminy Cricket, the Blue Fairy, Grandma, and the dwarves. But just when we thought we were safe from never hearing the words “Home Office” again, we find that our village interlopers are John and Michael Darling, who for some reason have aged a bit more than their sister, who is the other person in the cage (for about a hundred years). The John and Michael reveal is a welcome surprise, especially since it leads to a reappearance of Freya Tingley as Wendy, who was so entrancing in her scenes with the young Bae last season.
Pan continues to play Henry like an absolute fiddle: He uses Wendy to lure Henry into saving magic, as he knows that all Henry ever really wants to be is a hero. Why does Henry falls for Pan’s ploy yet again after he’s been lied to any number of times? Well, he’s Henry, and apparently having the heart of the truest believer means that you believe a lot of dumb things. And is now headed to Skull Rock, apparently. But by now I’m almost feeling as dragged along as Henry is. OUAT is past the point of needing to bring the Save Henry saga to a close. Let’s hope next week leads to a showdown of sorts: More action, less traipsing trough the neverending island greenery.
- When you’re a Lost Boy, there’s a lot of whittling.
- Even Happy’s happier without Snow and Charming hanging around.
- Cloaking spells don’t reach underwater.
- If you and your brother were sneaking into a magical fairytale village with no outsiders, would you do it in a snappy red convertible?
- It was a definite mistake to stick two of OUAT’s most intriguing characters (Rumple and Regina) waiting on a beach for a full episode.
- Emma upon learning that they will be entering Dark Hollow: “Really? Why couldn’t it be called Sunshine Valley or Rainbow Cove?”
- Really enjoyed Ariel being entranced by various objects in Rumple’s shop, like a corkscrew.
- Looking forward to the inevitable Bae/Wendy reunion.
- “I’m not afraid of you or your gun, and not just because I don’t know what it is.”