Think Peter Pan…but…evil?
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.
While some episodes of Once Upon a Time are united by a theme, this instalment is slightly lacking in one, other than the revelation that poor Baelfire/Neal has a terrible history when it comes to interdimensional portals. It’s a delightful episode, that sets up tension beautifully for the season finale to come as Tamara and Greg escalate their plans concerning Storybrooke’s inhabitants.
We learn this week that contemporary Earth was not the first place that Bae ended up once he left Rumple’s side. It had been hinted at before, through Neal’s knowledge of Captain Hook and how to sail the Jolly Roger, but this episode gives us concrete proof as to what happened to him first. As it happens, Neal arrived in Victorian England, where he spent six months living on the streets and stealing for food. His desperation leads him to the Darling household, where he is discovered and subsequently hidden by Wendy. Her parents discover Bae soon enough, but they decide to adopt him so that he doesn’t have to work in the workhouses. Wendy then tells Bae of a shadow that comes to the window at night, who she wants to go play with, but Bae warns her against it, telling her that magic is dangerous.
Wendy does not heed Bae’s warning and travels off with the shadow regardless, but she is returned the next day. She explains that this is because the shadows wants a boy, so it brought her back. As for the other inhabitants of Neverland, it is a wondrous place, but at night they cry for their mothers but are forbidden to leave by the shadow. Wendy worries that the shadow will return for one of her brothers, so they attempt to protect themselves against it by locking the windows and putting in place other defences. However, the shadow manages to get into the room and tries to take Wendy’s youngest brother, Michael, prompting Bae to proffer himself to the shadow instead. As the shadow approaches Neverland, Bae distracts it with a match, causing him to fall into the water and be rescued by Hook on the Jolly Roger.
Meanwhile, in the present, Greg is torturing Regina so he can find out his father’s fate. Emma, Charming and Snow become concerned about Regina’s whereabouts, as her office is found deserted, with the remnants of the magic beans taken, and a security override used to access the building. Emma becomes convinced that something bad has happened to Regina, tied to the “she” August warned them about. Still convinced that said woman is Tamara, not least because of the timing between her arrival and August’s death, Emma heads to her and Neal’s hotel room, and points out that, if she is training for a marathon in the woods, why she has managed to track sand in. Neal and Emma head to the beach for some answers, but run into Tamara, seemingly dispelling the idea that she was involved in Regina’s disappearance.
Tamara and Greg reveal to Regina that they work on behalf of an organisation called “The Home Office” whose mission is to rid the world of magic because it is evil and unholy. With the beans and Regina’s black diamond fail-safe, they hope to achieve just that. Charming and Snow go to Mr. Gold to see if he can help them find Regina, and he gives them a suitable solution, revealing to the pair that Regina is being held in a place that smells like seafood, and that she’s being tortured.
Neal, Emma, Snow and Charming converge on the Seafood Cannery at the Storybrooke docks, leading Tamara to flee. Greg remains so that he can continue torturing Regina, who reveals that she killed his father and buried the body at their campsite. Charming and Snow take care of Regina, while Tamara attacks Emma and Neal. Just after revealing that she had played him all along so that she could destroy magic, Tamara shoots Neal in the shoulder. Emma fights Tamara, but Tamara throws a magic bean, causing enough of a distraction for her to escape. Though the pair initially seem safe, the floor soon gives way underneath Neal, and though Emma tries to hang on, he lets go of her hand after the pair have confessed their love for each other. Emma, crestfallen, returns home, and relays the information to Charming and Snow, while Regina recovers from her ordeal with the help of the Blue Fairy. With the cuff off, her magic is restored, but she gravely informs the Charmings that Greg and Tamara have their hands on the Storybrooke fail-safe. In the woods, Tamara tells Greg that the Home Office have given them instructions to activate the diamond and destroy the town.
This episode featured an interesting twist on the Peter Pan tale, making him appear as somebody altogether more sinister than his Disney counterpart. The ghostly and vaguely demonic shadow attacking the children is quite frightening, and quite what he wants with boys, and why he forbids them to leave suggests a far more evil plot in store. It’s remarkable how much tension there was during Regina’s torture, as I was convinced that it might go too far at one point. It’s also strange how much sympathy we can have for Regina considering she murdered an entire town in the previous episode. I was slightly disappointed to learn that Regina had killed Greg’s father, but I suppose it’s not entirely surprising a revelation at this point. There is still a delightful mystery to be solved: just who is the Home Office that Tamara and Greg work for? And what is the exact nature of the fail safe device on Storybrooke? We know that it will destroy the town, but what does that mean for its magical inhabitants? The stage is set for an epic season finale where hopefully these questions are answered.
- Bae goes through the portal and materialises in Victorian England.
- He meets the Darling family, and is kidnapped by Peter Pan’s shadow, who takes him to Neverland where he is saved by Hook.
- Charming and Snow free Regina from Tamara and Greg.
- Tamara shoots Neal and activates a portal, which transports him away.
- Tamara and Greg now have Storybrooke’s fail safe, and have received instructions to use it.
- I’m not entirely convinced on the direction that Gold’s character has taken. Threatening Dr Whale in the street and getting him to kiss his boot is an unwelcome change considering the (admittedly minimal) development that he has made. Lacey clearly brings out the worst in him, but Neal calling him out was sorely needed. After all, Gold has spent the past lifetime or more trying to get his way back to Bae so that they could be a proper family, then as soon as he does he demonstrates zero commitment to reforming and trying to forge a positive relationship. He has instead prioritised his relationship with Lacey, likely because this is far less effort for him than to actually try to change his behaviours.
- The fact that the Darlings put a hat on Nana when the shadow was preparing to attack was peak cuteness.
- The overall sinister nature of the shadow was reduced somewhat by the fact that ultimately Michael was just standing there in the middle of the nursery, when he should have moved far, far quicker.
- Are you willing to tell me that in the Darlings massive house they make all four children share the same bedroom? That’s child abuse.
- Also, shouldn’t the Darlings have tried closing the curtains? I mean, it doubtless wouldn’t have worked but there were heavy curtains in that bedroom. Or, you know, calling their parents for help? Parents are good with large shadows, so I hear. None of these things may have helped, but the fact that they didn’t try them is a touch bizarre.
- Are the Darlings real children? How did they end up in J.M. Barrie’s plays? Did he meet them? Will somebody ever address these things that I am asking?
- How long was Bae in Neverland? He must have been popped back out in the 80s when the curse was enacted, since he’s quite similar in age to Emma and August, so did he just hang out in Neverland for sixty years? Or will we find out in another flashback in another couple of years that he also visited literally every other magical realm so that the writers can introduce all manner of other, random beings?
- Can Snow just cry on command? People normally find that tricky, don’t they? Brava, Miss Snow, brava.
- The Charmings being offended at Regina having the fail safe instead of appreciating the actual crisis at hand was delightfully in character, as was Regina’s typically acerbic response.
A thrilling and tense episode, setting up the necessary pieces for a highly explosive and epic finale.
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.