Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Once Upon A Time: “Save Henry”

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Our Evil Queen hasn’t had much to do in Neverland, but fortunately this week’s episode brings her to the forefront. While Once Upon A Time does have fun occasionally bringing in characters we’re familiar with and offering them a big backstory (like Tinkerbell or Ariel this season), this methodology usually takes up a whole episode and then we’re just left with another random character detracting from our main plotlines. This week OUAT thankfully circled back to Regina again, although she’s had many a flashback tale. But the Once Upon A Time flashbacks are most successful when they answer a question in which we’re actually interested (note: this does not include what Emma was doing in Tampa). The road that led the Evil Queen to adopt Henry in the first place fills a gaping hole in the show’s history: Why in the world would Regina adopt a baby?

I am just assuming that adoptees, or adoptive parents, or people who have ever heard of adoption, have to be horrified by OUAT’s seeming stance on the subject. Regina adopts baby Henry, but has a hard time bonding with him (of course the baby immediately takes to his maternal grandmother, Miss Blanchard). Once Regina finds out who Henry’s birth parents are, she tries to give the baby back, in a scene that I can’t imagine actually happening in the real world. The kindly adoption agency director says something like how every child isn’t the best fit for every parent, as if Regina’s returning a hostile kitten or even a used Subaru, for God’s sake. It’s a baby. You’re not supposed to return them. And good thing Regina changes her mind and keeps the baby, as Henry was about to get adopted by the Hipster Darlings to take him straight to Pan. That is one messed-up adoption agency.

Regina has a hole in her heart and is now using Henry to fill it. Another constant refrain this episode (this show does dearly love its catch phrases. Pan never fails!) is that parents must put their children first. Is that what Snow and Charming did, by chucking Emma through the magical wardrobe?: Were they trying to save her, or trying to save their kingdom? Or did Emma put Henry first by putting him up for adoption when she was a teenager? It certainly seems that way. But in Regina’s strenuous parenting efforts, she puts the baby first and herself second for probably the first time since she became evil, creating her own memory loss spell so that she can concentrate on raising baby Henry (such a good actor that baby was!) without worrying about his birth parents coming to get him. Loved Lana Parrilla’s work this episode: her feeble attempts to bond with the baby were really quite sweet, as was her eventual absolute devotion to him. A plot hole remains though: How did the devoted mother we saw tonight change into the bitchy, rather heartless one we saw in the first OUAT episode? When Emma, with her special truth-seeking power, asks Regina if see loves Henry, we assume from Emma’s reaction that the truth is that Regina does not. But all we’ve seen since then is how Regina’s devotion to Henry is the most, possibly only, decent thing about her (since she is someone who has massacred entire villages in the past).

Fortunately, her maternal ferocity leads to some extremely overdue Regina awesomeness this episode: When the maternal trifecta of Regina, Emma, and Snow go off to find Pan, they idiotically walk right into the most obvious trap ever created and then are captured by—I believe I’m saying this right—the Tree of Regrets, which kills you through your regrets. Conscienceless Regina, however, has no regrets, so in a few swift motions she breaks from the tree, grabs Henry’s heart and the Rumplestiltskin-in-the-box, and goes off to save her son. (My family actually spontaneously applauded, we were all so dumbfounded by so much plot progression in such a short period of time.)

OUAT then happily boards everyone onto the Jolly Roger to get them out of Neverland, even all the Lost Boys, even Tinkerbell, even us. Being on board leads to lots of one-on-one chats (now that they’re no longer in Neverland, everyone can just hang out and catch up) between Emma and Charming, Regina and Tinkerbell (who might have some magic left), and my favorite pairing, Bae and Rumple. In another easy rescue (honestly, your head could spin), Rumple can be released from spending eternity in Pandora’s Box just by someone pushing the red button on top of the box. Fortunately! But I have to admit to being genuinely moved by Neal/Bae finally calling Rumple “Papa” again. Aw.

And thank God Rumple’s out of the box, because he is the only person on this boat of nitwits who realizes that the person they’ve just spent nine episodes saving is below in captain’s quarters, alone, by a window, on the run from a villain who can fly. Couldn’t they have had anyone guarding him? Fortunately, Regina has preemptively saved the day by putting a spell on Henry’s heart so he can’t be stupid enough to give it away again. So when Pan shows up, he starts going for Henry’s shadow instead. Rumple figures out Pan’s on the ship and traps him in Pandora’s box, but not before there’s a strange eye flicker from both Pan and Henry before Pan succumbs. Oh God, they Freaky Fridayed us. You might wonder why Felix the Lost Boy is on the ship when he has no desire to be there? So that Henry-Pan can have an ally. Seems like kind of an impossible part for Jared Gilmore, as Robbie Kay has been killing it as Pan, so playing this character-within-a-character may not turn out well for him. But it’s still an artful plot twist, which raises the stakes as OUAT finally, finally leaves Neverland.


Stray observations

  • Pongo: 101 Dalmatians shoutout!
  • “I don’t tolerate that sort of bluntness. I’m the Qu . . . I’m the Mayor.”
  • “I’m sure you’ll make a . . . well, a mother of some sort.”
  • I am counting Hook’s frequent “As you wish”es to Emma as nods to The Princess Bride.
  • The transferring of the shadow from the coconut into a sail that will take the ship to Storybrooke went about as weirdly as I expected.