After nearly 4 very very long months, Once Upon a Time has returned. And I could not be more thrilled. I have loved this show since the beginning, while there has been a couple of ups and downs in these past two seasons, never once have I stopped.
In my ever so humble opinion, season 3 has opened strong. I love that heroes and villains of the story have teamed up to rescue Henry from his captors, each with their own reasons for doing so, but ultimately all boiling down to family, except for Hook. His motivation is more out of a sense of personal honor to save the son of Baelfire/Neil, a person who was of great importance to him and whose memory he wishes to honor. The majority of this episode focused on the characters actual journey to Neverland, which served to show that the characters, while willing to work together for their common goal, are still at odds with one an another. This culminated in the the storm summoned by the captured mermaid. I believe this scene to be one of the best parts of the episode simply because the fight between Regina and Snow. A full on brawl between these two has been building from the start, and a high stress time like the loss of a family member and their possible death in the storm, that ever burning hatred between them was bound to explode. Though why Regina didn’t just lob a fireball down Snow’s throat eludes me, lord knows she loves tossing the fireballs around. The fight between Charming and Hook wasn’t as great. While there is no love lost between these two, there isn’t that same hatred that Snow and Regina have that made their scuffle so great. Emma being the one to figure out the fighting was causing the storm made sense. Rumpelstiltskin commented to her earlier that she was a person that can only accept whats in front of her, so it would make sense that she would be the one to notice that the anger was causing the storm, and be the one to put a stop to it, which was also wonderfully done.
Her diving off the boat showed just how her relationships with the others had progressed. Of course Snow and Charming would rush to her aid, they are her parents after all. But that’s different with Hook and Regina. We can see here that Regina actually does seem to care about Emma’s well being, even if it is only because of Henry, and I hope that is something that will be developed between them as the season progresses. I would love to see them actually become friends of some sort. With Hook, even after everything that has happened, he genuinely likes Emma, even has some respect for her. I can see a future love triangle building up between those two and Neil. Which trust me, I will hate. Stupid love triangles.
The final scene with them did a good job of trying together the team feeling and was a major step forward for Emma. Until this time she hasn’t done much to embrace, or even really accept, her role as the Savior. I feel her stepping up and taking on the role of leadership may be her first step towards truly becoming the Savior she was prophesied to be, Regina even calling her by the title helps to enforce that.
Lets say we jump from the adventure to get to the island to the adventure on the island. Henry once again shows that he was by far one of the best characters on the show. Seriously, he is an eleven year old that has been ripped away from his family and thrown into this new world full of evil and dangers, and not only does he keep it together, she shows defiance to his captors, escapes, and never once loses faith that his family will come. He even tries to install that strength in his new ally, later revealed to be Peter Pan (totally called that), and with that faith and strength he is able to fly. Sadly this ultimately leads to proving to Pan that Henry is the one he is after for whatever nefarious purposes he has, it is still a fantastic moment for his character. I can not wait to see what else Henry will be capable of when separated from his family.
The bits with Rumpelstiltskin on the Island didn’t add much, apart from showing just how big of a threat Pan really is. Admittedly I am intrigued as to his history with Pan, these scenes didn’t do much more than show off Rumpelstiltskin’s darker side, his killing of Tamara, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to save his family, even sacrificing his own life in the process. The bit with the doll was an interesting twist, reducing the, arguably, most evil character in the show to tears.
I don’t think the scenes in the Enchanted Forest did much to add to the episode. They were far from bad, but apart from showing Neil survived his injury and bringing back Mulan, Aurora, and Phillip (who I long ago lovingly named Prince Wraithbait) was nice, as I did love those characters and it was nice to see Aurora make use of her ability to travel the dream world, but I feel for them, more would have been better. Admittedly Neil telling Mulan about the movie was funny to watch. Their talk about Neil’s relationship with Emma on the way to Rumpelstiltskin’s castle wasn’t bad and served to help the two bond a bit over their mutual bad luck in love, it does raise the question, does Mulan like Wraithbait, or Aurora more? That may be fun to play out. The inclusion of Robin Hood at the end was unexpected, and not overly great, there was some good dialogue about the importance of family, a recurring theme in the show, but raises the question, where is Marion?
Finally, gotta say this, the lack of flashbacks in this episode was great. While I freely admit its always nice to learn more about the fairy tale characters before the curse hit (I do love the Red/Ruby flashbacks, but that me because I am mildly in love with her) at times I feel they are overused. I find myself caring less about what the characters did in the past and more about what they are going to do now. The single, brief, one of Emma giving birth to Henry and proclaiming that she can’t be mom was great to show her growth, and played well against her final line of being his mother. A great example of less is more.
Overall, a solid way to start the new season. There was great setup for what is to come and several questions I am just dying to have answered.