This week’s episode has us finally back in Storybrooke, back where it all began. While I generally enjoyed this episode, I felt the flashback scenes to be lacking this time around. I do like to see Snow White and Charming together, but the significance of this week’s flashbacks felt a little strained. The reunion scenes with Henry were lovely, until you remembered that he was actually Peter Pan, who is actually the boy’s great-grandfather and then it kind of gets weird. Though there is so much progress with each of the characters, I hope the impeding doom that is settling in at the end of this episode doesn’t serve as a massive reset button and undoes all of the wonderful relationships we’ve seen.
This week we begin at the Storybrooke harbor where Librarian Mayor Belle French is adding “matchmaker” to her list of credentials, reuniting Ariel with her long-lost Prince Eric. Despite his fish filleting tendencies, they are happy to be in each others’ arms. As Belle looks on with glee, she notices an other reunion is about to take place as the Jolly Roger soars through the barrier that is domed over Storybrooke, bringing our heroes home. As the gangplank is dropped and Team Henry stumbles out into the sunlight, it seems as if the whole town has gathered to welcome them back. Granny, the Blue Fairy, and all the dwarves take turns hugging Henry, Snow, Emma, and the rest. Rumple and Belle are reunited and Nealfire is soon brought into a group hug. Even the Hipster Darlings and Wendy have a moment. The only person not enthusiastically diving into this hug-fest is Regina, who surveys all this saccharine reuniting with not a look of disgust on her face, but nervousness, aloofness. She looks like a girl at a party waiting to be asked to dance. And it is Snow White who does the asking. Seeing Regina looking so uncomfortable, the princess announces loud and clear to everyone gathered that they could not have succeeded without the former queen’s help. Regina looks taken aback that she would be acknowledged in such a way. One has to remember that only about a week has passed since they set out for Neverland, a week that began with Regina retrieving the fail safe for the curse, with her still being an enemy to Snow White and Charming. Apparently a lot can happen in a week.
Flashback to the Mother of all Flashbacks, where Regina swears that she will destroy the Charmings’ happiness if it is the last thing she will do. I think we’ve seen this scene brought up more than once. Once Upon a Time fans have it memorized; it’s our mating call in the wild. What happens next though is new footage with Snow White raging as to what to do next regarding Regina. Even her hair-do is up in arms as Snow suggests several drastic measures of dealing with her enemy. Charming wants to take a more laid back approach, not wanting Regina’s threats to do what they were designed to do and destroy their happiness. In an effort to get his wife’s mind off the Evil Queen, Charming offers to take her anywhere she desires for their honeymoon. This grabs Snow White’s attention and she suggests they visit the summer palace, a place she hasn’t been to in years, one she always dreamed of going with her future husband. Well, that seals the deal in Charming’s mind and after stealing a quick smooch, he rushes off, cape aflutter to make travel preparations. And speaking of preparations, who should come out of the woodwork, but Grumpy, fresh from queen-proofing the castle. He couldn’t help but overhear Charming’s plan and doesn’t really approve of the couple going off or a little romantic R and R while the kingdom is at risk. Snow White couldn’t agree more and sneakily reveals that there is something at the summer palace that will help them defeat Regina once and for all.
Back in Storybrooke, Charming remarks on the dangers of leaving the Shadow flapping out in the breeze in the form of a sail. Rumpelstilskin assures him that just as the Shadow was thwarted and contained by a coconut, so can he be kept at bay by the enchantment in the sail. Only Peter Pan himself has the power to let the Shadow out. While everyone is mingling and rejoicing in each other’s company, Henry Pan, or Panry as the internet has dubbed him, slinks his way over to Felix, who looks disturbed to be in the sun after the perpetual twilight that is Neverland. Felix asks his pint-sized boss what the next step in the plan is, and with a perfect Robbie Kay inflection in this voice, Panry declares that Felix “needs to be punished”. Despite his henchman’s panic, this is how Pan plans on earning his “family’s” trust as he calls them over to incarcerate the surly blonde teen.
After sealing Pandora’s Box in the magical trap door and a quick wardrobe change, with help from his true love (insert eyebrow waggling here) Rumpelstilskin has time to contemplate his future. Belle reminds him that Henry was not his undoing so the imp is no longer burdened by his prophecy. Now, I have a slight problem with that statement since prophecies have proven to be finicky things, open to interpretation. I do believe that Peter Pan, not Henry, was the boy said to be Rumple’s undoing and that “undoing” is not synonymous with death. However, since we the audience are the only ones who know Pan is still free to wreak havoc in Storybrooke, it makes sense that Rumpelstilskin believes his troubles to be over. He declares that the only future he sees is one with Belle and they finally smooch, no hallucinations, no memory loss, just them. And a mighty cheer goes up with the fans.
At Granny’s the party already in session where everyone seems to be enjoying a pint of ale. Emma brings over The Book to Panry, who doesn’t react with the excitement he has in the past. This is this kid’s bible, a fact Peter Pan wouldn’t know. Emma picks up on the weird vibe Panry is sending out, but leaves the kid to his stories. Unfortunately she doesn’t know it, but Emma just armed a mortal enemy with deadly details of her and her loved ones’ lives.
Over at the bar, Nealfire and Hook trade a few verbal jabs before Hook comes clean and admits that he is backing off on his pursuit of Emma. Neal seems surprised and even thanks the pirate, who states he wants to give Henry’s parents a “fair shot”. But before Nealfire can get too elated, Hook reminds Neal that he abandoned Emma once, so good luck getting into her good graces again. Nealfire, taking the opportunity now that the pirate has stepped back, very awkwardly and roundabout-ly asks Emma out on a date. She turns him down, much to her parents’ disappointment, but Nealfire insists that should Emma change her mind, he’ll be waiting for her around lunchtime the next day. If Emma doesn’t show, Neal will leave her alone.
Aside from these two still treating this whole thing as a competition, much to my annoyance, I really enjoyed the imagery of Captain Hook having a beer at a bar. It’s scenes like this, or later on where Hook uses his hook to stop Sneezy from doing his thing and sneezing, that I really missed. I hope the second half of the season has more of these “slice of life” scenes instead of the gigantic sprawling adventures we’ve been on. Less quests, more slow character moments.
At the other side of Granny’s, the Blue Fairy is startled to have a reunion with Tinkerbell. Regina, standing up for her new sister-bro, demands that Blue give Tink back her wings. Unfortunately, since Tinkerbell can not make the pixie dust in her possession work consistently, the Blue Fairy declares that Tink doesn’t actually believe in herself, so how can Blue be expected to believe in her? While I can see the Blue Fairy acting almost as a disappointed parent to Tinkerbell, this scene comes off a touch cruel since even the Evil Queen believes in Tink at this point. We do also get the Evil Queen and Tinkerbell grabbing a drink at the bar, so that bit of mirth is a consolidation.
And before you know it, the hour has grown late and it’s past Henry’s bed time. Panry, who has spent the entire party reading The Book, no doubt trying to catch up on three seasons of familial drama, requests to spend the night at Regina’s place. Emma, a little stunned, allows it and is even comforted by Snow White that it’s ok to let the boy go off with Regina for the night. This is what we the audience wanted to happen in “The Cricket Game” and it shows again how far these characters have come in settling old grudges and feuds.
In a flashback to the Enchanted Forest, Charming very, well charmingly, carries Snow White across the threshold of the summer palace. She is wearing a large bulky cloak, one that Charming can not wait to get her out of (again, insert eyebrow waggling), but takes a step back and goes off to stable the horses since Snow promises what’s underneath the cloak is a surprise. As soon as her prince leaves, we find out that Snow’s surprise is her battle attire. I’ll behave myself with the commentary on that development. Show White arms herself from weapon’s storage and sneaks out of the palace. However, she doesn’t get far since it appears Prince Charming’s spidey sense was tingling, resulted in his headed her off on the path.
Snow admits that when she was young she heard tales of a monster in the nearby woods who had the power to turn men to stone with a simple look. That’s right, Snow White’s summer house is next door neighbors with Medusa. Charming is exasperated, demanding of his wife what good will this creature be in defeating Regina, what are they supposed to do, mail her its head? Well, that worked in Clash of the Titans… Anyway, Charming insists on joining Snow on this quest. He knows she won’t relax and if this is what it takes for her to get Regina off her mind, then they better get going. Now that is a supportive spouse, willing to go gorgon hunting on their honeymoon.
In Storybrooke, Panry is all ready for bed, doing a once over of his great grandson’s room and the items it holds (I see you Avengers comic). Regina stops by to tuck in her son and Panry asks whether his mother brought her vault over with the curse. Peter Pan is a quick study, gleaning quite a bit of information from The Book. Regina tells Panry that he already knows the answer to that question and seems incredibly suspicious as he continues to question her about what magic she has in Storybrooke, but obviously her joy at having her son back in her life has blinded her. Ignoring how creepy it is that the Evil Queen just tucked a technically 50-something year old man in bed, Panry waits until Regina has left the room before springing to his window. There, he summons The Shadow, releasing him from the sail to swoop down main street, ready to perform unknown amounts of mischief.
The next day, while Snow White and Charming are taking their lunch at Granny’s, Rumpelstilskin drops by with the elixir, as promised. He asks for no payment and only reminds Charming that maybe a favor might be needed since they are all family now. Officially healed, Charming shares a kiss with Snow, who peeks over her husband’s shoulder and sees Nealfire eating lunch alone with the saddest puppy dog face you’ve ever seen. Charming realizes that Emma is not giving her former lover a chance and goes off to fetch her.
Charming finds Emma at the seashore, trying to figure out why she is getting such an odd vibe off Henry. Maybe because he is in fact the boy’s conniving great-grandfather in a Henry suit. Even though Charming can explain away all her fears, Emma still can not shake the feeling something terrible is going to happen. I know Emma, I feel that way too whenever I walk into work. Charming insists that one can not live that way, fearing the future. The prince gives his daughter a great piece of wisdom, that life is a series of moments, some good, some bad. If you try to hide from the bad moments, you miss out on the good. Offering to give her a lift to Granny’s, Charming continues to lay corny “dad” jokes on his daughter. These familial moments are another thing that I missed so much in season two and am glad to see back.
Speaking of Granny’s, Hook runs into Tinkerbell in the hallway as Tink is heading to the restroom. You’d think that now these folks are staying in Storybrooke, they could do with a wardrobe change. Hook offers the fairy some rum and male companionship. I’m not even going to waggle my eyebrows, I’m all innuedo-ed out at this point. And where does this guy get all this rum? Is his other brother Captain Morgan? Oooh, shouldn’t have said that out loud, the writers might have heard. Anyway, Tinkerbell accuses the pirate of using her to forget about Emma and insists she has more dignity than being reduced to that, but before this delightful conversation can progress, shrieking can be heard coming from outside.
It turns out the Shadow is managing his mischief, dive-bombing the Blue Fairy, which is hilarious up into the point where the specter peels the fairy’s shadow from her body like you’d peel plastic wrap off your leftovers. At that point I’m shouting profanities at my screen. Look, as much as I ragged on the Blue Fairy and forever side-eyed her as a duplicitous, shady being, I still liked the character. I like the theories surrounding her, the mystery, and I am sad to see her go, especially since Tinkerbell still doesn’t have her wings back. Hopefully the Blue Fairy is not really most sincerely dead and we end up getting more of her in the future.
Realizing that the Shadow is to blame and that the only person who can control the Shadow is Peter Pan, the gathered heroes decide they need to protect Henry and put an end to Pan once and for all. Regina offers to take Panry somewhere safe, not before Emma warns her to keep a sharp eye on their boy. Regina takes this as an offense, thinking Emma is knocking her parenting skills, and leaves with Panry, taking him to the safest place she knows, her vault. Dammit, but Peter Pan the chess master strikes again. The rest of the gang decides they will take care of the imprisoned Peter Pan.
In a flashback, Snow White and Charming are at Medusa’s lair. Through the clever employment of the bait and switch, the married couple lure the monster down a pathway and would have succeeded in removing her head if the blade they used didn’t shatter the moment it touched her skin. Realizing they are better off cutting their loses instead of her head and running, Snow and Charming try to make their exit. Unfortunately, Charming is caught in Medusa’s gaze and turns to stone.
Snow White, still in hiding, is beside herself, when who should ring in for a gloat-fest, but the Evil Queen herself, using the reflective portion of a shield as a mirror with which to spy. I bet she even popped popcorn for the event. Regina, looking extra fabulous here, like yow, taunts the princess, telling her she took a load off of Regina’s evil plate by destroying her own happiness, defeating herself. Snow White, realizing that in order to defeat Medusa the monster would have to defeat herself as well, takes the mirrored shield Regina so smugly visited her in and uses it to show Medusa her face, turning the gorgon to stone, breaking her spell on her victim, namely Charming. Glad that they are both safe and sound, Snow White and Charming head back to the summer palace to “celebrate”.
In Storybrooke, Rumpelstilskin and Belle are just leaving his shop when they are ambushed by the family Charming and friends. Rumple insists that whatever drama they are running around dealing with now can wait. Seriously, every date he and Belle have been on has been interrupted by someone coming to them for something. However, the Dark One is whipped by his girlfriend, who practically elbows him in the ribs to be more cordial. Emma explains that they need to destroy Peter Pan, to end his life.
The group drives out to the town line, where Henry Pan will be released on the non-magical side. Here he will be rendered powerless, allowing Emma to use a more modern method of getting rid of him. As the faux Lost Boy is released, he wakes and is immediately confused as to why his mother is pointing a gun at his face. The boy in the box insists that he is Henry, throwing Emma in to doubt since she’s been having a bad feeling since they came back home. She tests Henry, saying if it’s really him, he would be able to tell her something no one else knows; the moment they connected. Henry recalls all the way back to season one, in his castle, that he knew why Emma gave him up, to give him his best chance. Well, this is all Emma needs to hear and she embraces her son in his enemy’s body. They both step back over the town line and there’s more hugging as Henry reunites with all his grandparents. However, Charming soon realizes that if Henry was in the box, where’s Pan?
Why, right where he wants to be, in Regina’s vault. As Regina goes in for a hug (another hug, yes) Panry reaches behind her back and pulls something nasty from one of the shelves, blowing it in her face and rendering her unconscious. As the rest of the family at large arrive at the vault, they find Regina’s security system to be more formidable than previously thought. While Rumple works at breaking the defenses, Emma steps aside to reflect that while she has these moments, both good and bad in her life, the price of her magic as a savior is that she can’t have a minute to relax and enjoy the good. No dearie, that’s your price to pay as a protagonist. Rumple finally cracks through the magical barriers and the entire family pours inside the vault.
Flashback to Snow White and Charming, during a more relaxed part of their honeymoon. Snow realizes that the reason she was so hell-bent to get rid of Regina was that she wanted to start a family, but she didn’t want to bring a child into the world with the threat of the Evil Queen hanging over their heads. Snow realizes that there will always be conflict in their lives, but they can’t let that define them. She stresses finding the good moments among all the bad. Ah, so this is where Charming got it from. Snow White reasons that what better way to make a good moment than to make a child. I understand where this lesson fits into the episode, but I wonder in the grander scheme of the series if it was necessary. I am a fan of Snow White and Charming, but because where this flashback fell in their timeline, I didn’t feel as if they were in danger. I felt like nothing was on the line, there was no twist for me, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy these flashbacks that much.
Back to Storybrooke, where Henry’s entire extended family discovers Regina unconscious on the floor. It should be noted that Snow White is the first to rush to the former queen’s aid. How far they have come. They revive Regina and quickly explain the switch between Henry and Pan. Charming wonders aloud why Pan would go through so much trouble to gain access to the vault; what did he want to get? Rumpelstilskin may have the answer, questioning Regina if she left “it” down there. Regina replies in the affirmative; of course where else would she keep it? “It” being the Dark Curse, the Uber Curse, the Grand High Curse, the one that started this whole series and brought everyone to Storybrooke in the first place.
On a hilltop, overlooking the town, Panry explains to the freshly jail-broken Felix that once the curse is cast the town will be theirs for the ruling, to turn into the new Neverland. Back at the vault, Rumpelstilskin cautions that once the curse is recast, everyone will lose their memory, time will stand still, and without Charming and Snow White’s True Love woven into the spell, not even the power of the savior can break it.
Well dear readers, what did you think of this week’s episode? I’ve got to hand it to Robbie Kay and Jared Gilmore as they really embodied each other’s characters, bringing in subtle touches such as vocal inflection and body language to each of their performances. So, what’s next for Storybrooke? Will Emma and the rest of Henry’s family succeed in gaining the curse back from Peter Pan? Is the Blue Fairy really dead? Will our heroes be able to lay this Lost Boy to rest once and for all? Most importantly, how will we survive three OuaT-less months during hiatus?!
Tune in next week, where hopefully our questions are answered in the ominously titled Winter Finale, “Going Home”