“Seems the Evil Queen was able to love someone, after all.”
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Colin O’Donoghue, Michael Raymond-James, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.
Part of the nature of Once Upon a Time‘s structure is that each episode splits its time between an expository flashback and the present storyline. Often, these flashbacks are used to introduce new characters. Sometimes, they are used for valid plot twists and character development. Almost always, they slow down the pace. However, this week’s flashback was enjoyable for two clear reasons: one, it was focussed upon a main character, who we care about. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it was purposeful and it answered a lingering question that the audience had. Often, flashbacks fall back on the typical “Regina v. Snow in the Enchanted Forest” flashback as the scene for our characters to explore the same moral in the present and the past simultaneously. Quite how these characters don’t tire of learning the same thing twice, I don’t know.
This episode’s flashback finally gave us some clarity on Regina and Henry’s connection. Regina has always shown such intense devotion for Henry throughout the series, which is markedly at odds with her Evil Queen persona. While we had hints in “Welcome to Storybrooke” that Regina’s victory meant nothing without a family and somebody to share it with, “Save Henry” went even further in filling in those gaps, revealing that after 10 years within Storybrooke, Regina had grown tired and bored with her solitary existence and sought to fill the hole in her life with a child, leading her to Henry. What the flashback did well was highlight Regina struggle with motherhood, letting old habits and fears get in the way, even resulting in Regina almost returning Henry to the adoption agency. Ultimately, however, Regina had come to care for Henry and, realising the moral that she would have to put the child before herself, she wiped her own memory of Henry’s birth parents to stop her from worrying and to focus upon what was best for her child.
Seeing Regina in this state definitely made her more of a sympathetic character, and it was a brilliant chance for Lana Parrilla to really show all sides to her repertoire. Within the course of one episode, we were treated to the Evil Queen, a struggling Regina and the more confident, badass Regina in the present. What was brilliant also is how Regina’s devotion to Henry is what saved the day and defeated Pan at the culmination of the episode. Her pure love for her son is what stopped the Tree of Regrets from killing her, Emma and Snow, and meant that she could grab back Henry’s heart for him. The focus upon Regina as adoptive mother was brilliant, and one that the show often ignores in favour of Emma and Henry’s connection. Ultimately, it was Regina who was in it for the long haul – even though she and Henry are not related by blood, Regina more than makes up for it with her maternal love and protection.
The episode wasn’t without its frustrating twists, however. The fact that we couldn’t have been granted a moment of grace by the writers and are instead thrown bodily into the next problem is more than a little irritating. It would have been nice to sit on the escape from Neverland before introducing a new villain, instead of a Freaky Friday situation with Pan and Henry. What’s more, it might have been more interesting had Pan elected to swap with a different member of the rescuing party, like Hook or Neal or Charming, for example. Maybe even Snow (God knows we could do with her being more interesting). It would have also made Henry a huge piece in Pan’s downfall, which would only be dramatically fitting. However, this just opens the program up to a lot of conversation about what has happened to Henry and how his experience in Neverland has changed him.
More of an introspective conclusion to the adventure in Neverland than previously thought, but one that finally returns our characters to Storybrooke and nicely pushes the story forward into the next chapter. Fingers crossed that they discover Pan’s trickery before too long.
- In Cursed Storybrooke, Regina goes to Gold for a baby who she adopts.
- She learns that Henry is the son of the Saviour, and makes a forgetting potion so that she can focus upon providing Henry with the best upbringing she can.
- In Neverland, Snow, Emma and Regina track Pan down, but he captures them at the Tree of Regret.
- Regina frees herself, takes Henry’s heart back and takes Pandora’s Box.
- The company sail back to Storybrooke on the Jolly Roger, but not before Pan attacks Henry, swaps bodies and then gets Henry trapped in Pandora’s Box.
- Quite how Snow didn’t realise that Pandora’s Box sitting on a tree trunk wasn’t a trap clearly demonstrates that being clever is not a requirement for being a hero.
- Regina’s epic moment when she shucked aside the vines and wrenched Henry’s heart from Pan’s chest was beautifully achieved.
- Neal calling Gold “Papa” when he was released from Pandora’s Box was incredibly sweet.
- A lovely moment between Charming and Emma on the ship. I often feel like Charming and Emma’s relationship is sidelined in favour of Snow and Emma, but I find it much more sweet and sincere. Him acknowledging her role as a leader harks back to my thoughts on the first episode. It takes a special kind of person to lead heroes and villains, and Emma truly did champion the Save Henry party when they first got to Neverland.
- I love the line “look what motherhood’s done to you”. Gold uses it in the past to deride Regina as becoming unhinged by her connection to Henry, but really when you consider Regina’s character, motherhood has been the saving grace of her. For a person who previously viewed love as a weakness truly demonstrated here that love can be a formidable strength, as the vengeful matriarch stormed across Neverland to wrestle her son’s life back (slightly begging the question why they didn’t let Regina do this in the first place).
- I do wish that we could have had a moment of grace before being plunged into yet another problem, as I’m sure every viewer knows how it’s going to go down. Pan’s going to have some sort of nefarious plan while in Henry’s body and nobody will suspect it because, let’s face it, it’s insane, and by the time they realise it’ll be too late and then it’ll be the midseason finale where they’ll finally wrap things up in a neat little bow.
- I liked the hints of magic that Tinker Bell still possesses, though I must confess that I haven’t really invested that much in her as a character to root for her all that much.
- Why did anybody think that just leaving Henry on the deck below while Pan was still out and about a good plan? Somebody should have been on watch in that room the entire time! Have they all learned nothing? Honestly!
- Snow continues to be just about the worst. Not only did she not realise the painfully obvious trap that lay before her, but she also complained as soon as news reached her that Gold had been trapped that David wouldn’t be able to go back to Storybrooke. Self centred much? You’re meant to be a good guy!
A wonderful showcase of Regina’s character and her love and devotion for Henry, as well as a satisfying conclusion but a needlessly frustrating cliffhanger that propels us into next week.
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.