“Why couldn’t it be called something like Sunshine Valley or Rainbow Cove?”Emma Swan
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Michael Raymond-James, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.
Heavens be praised! The momentum built up in the previous episode really carried through into this week, as Once told a story exclusively based in the current time period, as we follow events as they unfold in Storybrooke, as well as the heroes on Neverland. Full of tension both in Storybrooke, where Ariel and Belle had to overcome two of Pan’s accomplices, as well as Neal, Emma and Hook desperately trying to catch Pan’s shadow. Only the sections of the episode revolving around Pan and Henry, and Snow and Charming, weren’t pulse-racing, but only because they are setting the stage for the next level of the conflict.
Seeing Storybrooke again this week was a breath of fresh air. For one, actually being in a location where daylight and open space exists made the entire episode feel vastly less lethargic. Nothing more mind-numbing than staring at the same 4 square metres of jungle set for an hour. Storybrooke certainly had less of a presence without our main heroes here, though it did allow Belle to properly shine. All of her character virtues were amply displayed – as well as a rather risqué (though delightful) costume. (I’m not complaining, I thought it was fab. Also, if I looked like Emilie de Ravin, I would totally wear it too). Her spirit of adventure and independence is definitely in play here, as she sets about protecting Storybrooke from outsiders through the use of a cloaking spell, and then helping Ariel decode Gold’s cryptic message.
Ariel herself is also a wonderful addition to the cast, even if she doesn’t stick around especially long. Her wide-eyed innocence and excitement at viewing the contents of Gold’s shop was terribly endearing, and her lack of knowledge of what a gun was even greater. She was also the perfect companion to Belle, and the pair complemented each other perfectly as a team. The reveal that the two men who had breached Storybrooke’s boundaries were John and Michael Darling was unexpected, and a brilliant link to the last season finale, as well as a satisfying reveal to the ongoing mystery surrounding the identity of Pan’s second prisoner, who is their sister, Wendy (though she appears to have remained the same age as she last appeared, while John and Michael have progressed into adulthood).
Neverland wasn’t without its own tension, however, especially in regards to Emma, Neal and Hook. While their love triangle storyline is progressing as is typical, the Dark Hollow set looked genuinely threatening. It was quite simply achieved, with dead branches and twigs and foreboding red lighting, but it was brilliant to see this kind of environment for our characters that wasn’t over-reliant on CGI sets. Emma using magic to save all three of them was also unexpected, though I had hoped that Neal and Hook’s behaviour towards each other might have bucked the trend of a stereotypical love triangle, considering their history in Neverland. Ultimately, the conclusion (for now, no doubt) of the love triangle was Emma telling both suitors that she only had the time and energy for one person: Henry. Unfortunately, it also looks brazenly obvious that Hook and Emma will end up together. Sorry, Neal.
Elsewhere, we actively observe Pan scheming and tricking Henry into believing in him further, though we still do not quite understand what Pan really wants from him. One thing is for sure, however, his plan is going to be fully realised in the next episode, as he shows Henry Skull Rock and indicates that that is where he will save magic.
This episode brings us closer than ever to ending the quest in Neverland and finally rescuing Henry, as well as throwing in tense and threatening situations throughout. It is a far cry from the meandering and inconsequential earlier episodes of this season, and doesn’t feature any unnecessary flashbacks. Roll on next episode.
- Ariel arrives in Storybrooke, and she and Belle find Pandora’s Box.
- Two strangers try to take and destroy the box, as they are working for Pan.
- Belle and Ariel manage to retrieve the box and get the men onside, and Ariel takes the box to Gold.
- Emma, Hook and Neal go to Dark Hollow to capture Pan’s shadow so that it can take them home.
- It’s a shame in a way that Belle needs all of the other characters to have disappeared from around her to really shine herself, but I suppose standing toe to toe with a magical Queen will do that to a character, and since she isn’t part of the Charming clan who can violently brandish weapons, her solo outings are more than appreciated when they do occur.
- Ariel picking up all of the items in Gold’s shop, and presenting them as if they would be the answer was deliciously funny.
- The idea that Gold had at some point unknown to us had enchanted Belle’s cup as the key to locate Pandora’s Box seems horrendously convenient. When did he do this? Why has he never mentioned this item before? I mean, I am more than grateful that they finally have some sort of way to trap Pan and get this storyline over with, but it just seems a little out of the blue and convenient to say “oh by the way Gold had this item”. However, it did mean that we got to see Belle truly shine, so I mustn’t complain.
- I’d say that it’s strange that my favourite episodes are ones that don’t feature flashbacks, but ultimately it isn’t that strange. I don’t like the flashbacks. It often seems as if they’re like “right, what are our two stories this week?” And they can’t conceive of anything else to go with. Ultimately, it becomes hard to actually be too invested in the events of the past. These events have already happened, and a long time ago. They seem immutable, and it prevents us from feeling too sad about what happens there. In the present storyline, however, we actually get to see the meaningful growth and journey of our characters. The actions in the present storyline have more consequences than the exposition afforded to us in the flashbacks, especially if that exposition does little except show us yet another story where Regina tried to kill Snow, or introduce a new character who we will see for a couple of weeks until the writers realise they have nothing else to do with them.
- This sort of episode made me really notice Ruby’s absence. She literally just disappeared. I know she’s no longer part of the regular cast, but I honestly never understood what the problem was with her character. She never really found her place within the storyline, even though she could have carried a story in much the same way as Belle is doing here.
- More Emma magic! We stan.
- Hook and Emma are obviously #endgame. His disarming honesty to her about her feelings is really endearing.
- The dwarves talking at the beginning of the episode of how calm and peaceful it is without the Charmings is hilarious. At least the writers acknowledge how chaotically eventful their lives are.
- Also, when Ariel appeared, she must be able to project massively so that they were able to hear her from so far away.
- Very convenient that cloaking spells don’t work on the water, huh?
- If you broke into a town which had a cloaking spell, you’d think you’d use a slightly less flashy car to go unnoticed better, no?
An action-packed and tense instalment, propelling us bodily into next episode. More please!
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.