Tonight on Once Upon A Time: Tinker Bell gives up her future when she steals pixie dust to get Regina high. Yes, “high” in this case means distance off the ground, but it doesn’t make “Quite A Common Fairy” any less ridiculous. This show’s third season has completely ditched Storybrooke to become a straight-up adventure series in Neverland, but with each new episode, it becomes clear that the fairyback structure is preventing the series from reaching its potential. OUAT has always used Lost as a template, and now, it is becoming even more of a mimic with most of the plot unfolding in the jungle and increasingly pointless flashbacks.
Just like how Lost season three began with a lot of promising plot developments saddled to repetitive, uninteresting stories from the lead characters’ pasts, OUAT is using the first episodes of its third season to spotlight Snow White and Regina. You know, those two characters whose backstories are more exhausted than Jared S. Gilmore after an acting class. As Regina deals with her guilt over losing Henry to Pan, we learn about her first encounter with Tinker Bell (Rose McIver), a meeting that awakens intense feelings of guilt over her role in Daniel’s death. Regina is feeling guilty. Great. Did you also hear that Emma feels like an orphan? Is every season just going to go through the exact same story beats? Don’t these characters realize that falling into the same old patterns only distracts them from their goals? Don’t the writers realize that’s really boring to watch?
It might be wild to expect a Tinker Bell episode to provide some insight on the nature and history of Neverland, but the green fairy’s role in this episode is to continue the pity party Regina has been throwing herself since Emma showed up in Storybrooke. “Quite A Common Fairy” reveals that Regina’s self-loathing began way before Emma, and it’s the trait that leads Tinker Bell her way. After telling Rumpelstiltskin that she’s having second doubts about continuing her magical studies, Regina stands on a balcony that suddenly gives way, sending her falling to her death before the little green fairy saves her. Tinker Bell thinks that Regina tried to kill herself (and it’s very possible she did subconsciously) and decides that the queen is her ticket to the higher ranks of fairydom, devoting herself to finding Regina’s happiness by stealing the Blue Fairy’s pixie dust, which is rarer and more powerful than regular old fairy dust.
Exposure to pixie dust takes Regina and Tinker Bell on an aerial journey to find the man who will be responsible for Regina’s happy ending, landing outside a pub where a man with a lion tattoo will be the queen’s salvation. Rather than stick around to make sure Regina doesn’t make any stupid decisions, Tinker Bell flies off and leaves her charge to screw everything up with guilt and fear. Regina doesn’t think she deserves happiness because of what she did to Daniel, so she runs off from the man who can give her the love she’s always wanted, dooming herself, Tinker Bell, and the mystery man in one fell swoop. (Spoilers: It’s Robin Hood. I can’t wait for the entire episode dedicated to how Bai Ling gave him his lion tattoo.)
Tinker Bell holds Regina responsible for her downfall and threatens her with death in present-day Neverland, but ultimately, Regina is able to save herself by showing the fairy her own dark heart, the kind of dead organ you get when you follow the path of vengeance. All it takes is the promise of a new home in Storybrooke from Snow White, and Tinker Bell is on the side of the good guys, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s also an agent of Pan. After all, Tinker Bell in the cartoon is enamored with Peter and doesn’t like Wendy getting between her and her man, so it’s possible there’s more to her story than what we see here.
(A side note about this show’s special effects: I understand that a scene like miniature Tinker Bell conferring with the Blue Fairy inside a flower is going to be CGI heavy and may not look the sharpest, but when there are effects-heavy scenes like that, why waste the SFX budget on green screen backgrounds for scenes in less spectacular locales? It’s probably less expensive to use green screens than to build an ornate set or film on location at a particularly opulent location, but the cheapness shows and prevents the show from ever fully selling the fairy tale illusion.)
Over in the Enchanted Forest, Neal comes up with a plan to get to Neverland that involves putting Robin Hood’s son, Roland, in danger. They briefly argue about the risk, but eventually, Robin agrees and lets Neal use Roland as bait for Pan’s child-stealing shadow. All it takes is putting the little boy in front of a window and having him say, “I believe.” So much of this series relies on that vague notion of “belief,” an unquantifiable quality that is a major component of magic. Emma doesn’t have access to her power unless she believes, and Henry is supposed to the savior of all magic because he believes more than everyone else.
Remember all that stuff from the last two seasons about Emma being the savior? Just ignore that. She’s only the savior because she’s Henry’s mom. His parents are the offspring of pure light (Snow and Charming) and dark (Rumpelstiltskin), so he’s the person that is going to bring magic to all the realms across the universe. That means Henry is getting a lot more screen time, and that’s never a good thing on this show. Beyond the nearly perfect physical appearance of Robbie Kay as Peter Pan—the chipmunk cheeks, large front teeth, and protruding ears make him look like an overgrown little boy—Kay’s ability to realistically emote makes Gilmore even worse in the scenes they share together. Now that I think about it, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Peter Pan got his hands on Henry’s heart. Characters like Emma and Regina would have a wealth of new storytelling opportunities to explore, and Kay could join the cast to fill the young boy quota. It’s the kind of crazy move OUAT would never make, but as this show teaches us, anything is possible if you believe.
- I just realized this show is channeling Captain Jack Sparrow for Captain Hook, hence the guyliner.
- Regina wants to talk to Emma about the magic they created together. Using Buffy The Vampire Slayer logic where magic is a metaphor for lesbian sexual interaction, I’m going to make the bold prediction that Regina is going to start exploring her bicurious tendencies this season.
- In this episode’s most tacked-on subplot, the Mulan-Philip-Aurora love triangle is briefly revisited when Mulan is offered a spot in Robin Hood’s Merry Men. (The only man among the group…a role she’s familiar with.) When Mulan goes to tell Philip about her feelings, Aurora tells her that she’s pregnant with his child, so Mulan gives up on romance and joins the group of thieves. The end.
- Prince Charming is going above and beyond in the stupidity department this season, as evidenced by him keeping his poisoning a secret from his wife and daughter. I bet Regina and Emma’s combo-magic could totally heal that if he wasn’t too proud to tell them.
- “Snow White? That’s her name? Even I think that’s a bit precious, and my name’s Tinker Bell.”
- Gwen fell into a magical portal, so she wasn't able to cover tonight's episode. Luckily, the place she wanted to go to when she fell into the portal was her living room next Sunday night, so she'll be back next week.