The second episode in Once Upon A Time’s new season demands that its characters accept and embrace who they really are. Rumplestiltskin is a coward. Peter Pan is a demon. Snow White is a ruler. Charming is a numbskull (okay, that last one is just my take).
Still stuck in mysterious Neverland and fighting amongst themselves, our fab five's leader, Emma, gets approached by Pan himself, who offers her a map that will lead her to Henry. She mutters, “If this is some sort of trap…,” which is ridiculous dialogue from a former bailbondsperson, because of course it is. Pan (Robbie Kay) hands Emma a blank piece of parchment, and says that the map will reveal itself only when she accepts who she really is.
To help her out with this quest is Mary Margaret, who chooses this journey, of all times, to suggest that Emma start calling her Mom. She’s also by Emma’s side every annoying, insufferable step of the way, as she tries to coax Emma’s feelings out of her so that she can release the map. She spouts lines like, “She’ll get there,” “Don’t hold anything back,” and even a therapist-like “Go on…” Emma thinks she’s denying her “savior” identity, but that still doesn’t make the map work. In the end, Emma reveals that she feels a special connection to the Lost Boys, because she actually feels not like a hero or a savior, but an orphan, which releases the map and devastates Mary Margaret.
The corresponding flashback takes us back to the time between Charming awakening Snow White with a kiss and their subsequent marriage. Charming wants Snow to reveal her true self as the leader of the kingdom, so that she can defeat Regina. Apparently Snow White isn’t the brightest of bulbs either, as Charming easily sets up a fake “sword in the stone” to convince Snow that she is the true heir to Excalibur and therefore, the real ruler. So now instead of fleeing from Regina, Snow will stay and fight for the kingdom. Since this new confidence results in an upcoming battle with Regina, Snow doesn’t even mind (much) when Rumplestiltskin explains how Charming deceived her. However, since the series started out with Regina’s eventual curse on the couple’s wedding day, this setup seems rather moot.
Actually, this whole episode is moot. It’s a steep drop from the momentum of last week, as we get no real progression or insight, except that Emma still feels like an orphan, and probably, on some level, still resents her parents for sentencing her to her horrible, foster care-filled childhood via her escape through the enchanted wardrobe. Rumplestiltskin, who is also on the island looking for Henry (because he works better alone), is visited by a magical vision of Belle. He is also plagued by the doll we saw last episode, which was not Baelfire’s but actually Rumple’s own, before his father abandoned him. Rumple still worries he will sell out Henry to save his own skin, just like his own father the coward, but Belle wants him to fulfill his good, heroic side by letting go of the past. So he tries to destroy the doll, but it keeps coming back to haunt him, and in the end, he just keeps it. It’s criminal that most of our valuable Robert Carlyle screen time this episode is wasted on a vision and a doll. Although the part where he cuts off his own shadow is pretty cool.
Pan’s final appearance to Emma this episode is the flip side of Belle’s plea to let go of the past. Pan now realizes that Emma does still resent her parents, as Henry still resents her for abandoning him. Their refusal to let the past be past apparently leaves them open for future dangers in Neverland, such as Henry becoming an actual Lost Boy, or Emma losing her parents for good. But a greater fear is that next week will offer a similar meandering Once Upon A Time episode with little development or progression.
- Charming really isn’t the sharpest of swords, Part 1: Hook: “Don’t go that way, the thorns have deadly poison that could kill you in a slow, agonizing death.” Charming: “I’m still going this way.” (He gets hit with this poison anyway during a pointless battle with the Lost Boys, although I suspect an antidote will eventually turn up.)
- CRITSOS, Part 2: “Look, handsome… we’re got our eyes on you.” “Are you dwarves with me or against me?” “I think Grumpy was pretty clear.”
- Brief high spot: Emma and Hook still show some sparks as they share a few swigs of rum.
- Also, this made me chuckle, as Rumple explains Charming’s fake sword ruse to her: “What can you expect from a shepherd? Lucky it wasn’t made out of wool.”
- Why is Snow White’s flashback wig the very worst wig in the whole wide world? She looks like that girl who crawls out of the TV in The Ring.
- God, I hope Ariel shows up soon.