It’s not a mini-trident. It’s a plot point.

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers about episode 3.06, “Ariel”, of ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

Forgive me, handful of people who read our blog. I will address the hot mess that was “Ariel” in a moment, but first I need to come clean about two things.

The first is I’m the reason Kerry, Becca and I are here at WWFTP, blogging. It started with emails, sometimes full of Feels, sometimes full of snark, to Becca recapping each week’s episode of Once Upon a Time, as she normally works Sunday evenings and often missed part or all of the show. Over time, I started emailing the same recaps to Kerry because she, too, wasn’t always home or otherwise able to watch. These emails would turn into discussion threads of seven or more emails between the three of us picking apart the gaping plot holes, and then we started talking about other shows. I suggested we take our plot discussions to the next level and start this blog, which is why we’re all here.

My second confession is this: There was a time I knew every word of every song in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I watched it often enough that, more than 20 years later, my older sister still can’t watch the movie and won’t, not even to appease her three year old. When I was in first grade, my mom broke down and bought me the official Little Mermaid costume from the Disney store. I still know where the bright red wig is, and I fondly remember showing up in costume at school, where I wandered around hand-in-hand with my best friend, who dressed as Belle in her gold ball gown. Although Ariel is the character I relate to the least, especially as she’s portrayed in the Disney movie, hers is still a story I normally can’t help but sit and watch, transfixed and rapt.

What’s inspired this bout of full disclosure? Rest assured, it’s not a desire to share everything about myself. It’s complete and utter frustration with how badly Once, and in particular this story, are being handled by the show runners this season. As much as I commend them for focusing on a single narrative arc in the first half of this season – namely, the rescue of Henry from Neverland – I can’t say as I approve how that arc has been executed. The storytelling from week to week has been uneven and studded with plot anvils, those visual or verbal cliffs notes writers drop along the way because they don’t trust their audience to follow along and think for themselves. And “Ariel” was no different.

This week’s episode had three distinct plots: Emma, Prince Charming, Snow White and Capt. Hook hunt for Neal to determine whether or not he’s dead; Regina and Rumplestiltskin find each other and agree to work together to rescue Henry and defeat Peter Pan; and, in our flashback of the week, Snow White and Ariel met and became friends.

The Emma-centric plot consisted of a lot of jungle wandering and a poorly lit cave scene with some truly maudlin truth-telling. Arguably, Jennifer Morrison’s emotional reunion with Michael Raymond-James’ Neal was the sole redeeming element of this week’s Henry related story. Morrison’s tears never feel forced; rather, she manages to capture the authenticity of a woman who has spent decades training herself not to show emotion rediscovering her capacity to feel.

Someone in the writer’s room clearly decided to capitalize on the appeal of Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle by choosing to (finally) pair Regina and Rumplestiltskin together. As delightfully campy as each can be on their own (and no one else on the show chews scenery the way these two do), their rapport is magnetic: They can convey years of enmity and cautious trust in a few words or a gesture. With any luck, this alliance will continue for at least a few more episodes, and we’ll be treated to a little of their old master-and-apprentice relationship.

However, not even JoAnna Garcia Swisher’s charming turn as Ariel, the mermaid in love with a human prince, couldn’t save how badly Hans Christian Anderson’s story of star-crossed love was flubbed.

God Aneurin

Just look at that adorable, apple-cheeked, temporary ginger!

As much as I don’t mind changes contributing to making a story more interesting (i.e. changing Ursula from sea witch to mother goddess); or those alleviating any hand-wavium (i.e. a practical, mermaid physiology cause for Ariel gaining legs), I can’t forgive the dearth of nods to the 1989 film or the completely nonsensical choice to make Regina masquerade as Ursula. The former doesn’t make much sense, considering how eagerly the show has embraced nods to other Disney properties. The latter was insulting, between the half-assed direction to Parrilla to either vaguely mimic a Caribbean accent or a speech pattern like Divine, and the decision to double up with Regina as Ursula.

I Love TT

Why? Was this really necessary?

While the choice could be excused considering the later reveal that Ursula is both real and still alive was a clever little twist, how much more interesting could the episode have been if Regina had allied herself with Ursula, only to double cross the goddess at the end? (And, in that case, the show could have broken up its largely white-washed cast by using the same actress who gave the real Ursula a voice, which would have pleased her many fans.)

But, more to the point, what I find inexcusable was the show’s decision to turn Ariel into a plot point. Her introduction through a Snow White-related flashback barely mirrored either of the present-day Neverland plots, and she played second-fiddle to Snow White as a pawn in the struggle between the erstwhile princess and Regina.

Amy the Glorious Pond

Snow White; Making it about herself since day one.

Furthermore, when she reappeared at the episode’s close, it was only at the behest of Regina and to act as a messenger for the evil duo. Ariel’s lack of importance to the overall progression of the plot is illustrated by the way she only has a voice at the whim of Regina. Although the original story does include Ariel losing her voice, which was her signature feature, in both the original and the Disney cartoon, she at least had some measure of free will. Here, Once has reduced Ariel to a bit player in her own story who can’t even choose to escape her curse.

It’s frustrating to be irrationally angry with a show that has previously brought my friends and I so much entertainment, and it’s insulting for a character, originally imagined as a parable about love and sacrifice, to be reduced to little more than a footnote in someone else’s story. Badly done, show. Badly. done.


A long time ago, they used to be friends. Sort of.

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, “Quite a Common Fairy.”

With a show like ABC’s Once Upon a Time, it can be difficult to say what it does best as the execution of the story telling can vary so wildly between one episode and the next. Last week’s outing, “Lost Girl,” chased (and missed) every beat it had, and the character development was uneven at best, and perplexing at worst. But then an episode like “Quite a Common Fairy” comes along that, while not spectacular, had several solid moments of character development and plot points that push the Neverland arc forward.

The episode managed to juggle five interlocking storylines without too much confusion. (Although I would prefer an episode which doesn’t require me to switch locations every other sentence when I’m emailing Kerry and Becca about the story’s action.) The A Plot(s) this week was the story of Regina’s history with Tinker Bell and how their past affects the current search for Henry in Neverland. The B Plot concerned Neal’s attempts to travel from the Enchanted Forest to Neverland, while the C Plot revolved around Mulan’s unresolved feelings for Aurora and the D Plot (Yes, a D Plot.) involved the beginning of Henry’s indoctrination by Peter Pan in Lost Boy philosophy.

The A Plot, or Plots as is more apt, both concerned the relationship between Regina and Tinker Bell. As much as the current events were intercut with flashbacks to their initial meeting and interactions, both their past and their present were given nearly equal time. In sum, Regina and Tinker Bell met when the latter saved the former’s life and offered to help Regina find a Happy Ending grounded in True Love, rather than revenge on Snow White.

Regina’s insecurity and unwillingness to let go her anger had three unintended consequences: She continued toward self destruction; she set in motion Tinker Bell’s “defrocking” as a fairy; and she may have ruined the life of her new True Love. These consequences eventually result in a confrontation with a now powerless Tinker Bell in Neverland.

Regina’s storyline in this episode managed to accomplish what much of Season 1 and 2 tried to achieve: It took a fan favorite character and gave her depth in showing a plausible cause for sympathy. Her insecurities have long been hinted at, stemming mainly from her combative and manipulative relationship with her mother, but Regina’s failure to embrace love and happiness crystalizes how she internalized her mother’s message that she was merely a pawn and not worthy of a meaningful inner life.

As much as Tinker Bell’s motivations are not shown to be purely selfless, she is perhaps the most selfless of those trying to ‘help’ Regina. Where Regina’s mother was trying to fulfill her own thwarted ambition by securing for her daughter the successful future she had been denied; and Rumpelstiltskin played a long game to finagle a way to find his missing son, Tinker Bell is shown as wanting to both build her own reputation and help Regina start fresh.

That Regina is given Tinker Bell’s help after she admits to frustration with a loveless marriage and a stepdaughter she blames for her unhappiness and who she finds insipid is interesting because it casts her later failure to cross a threshold between her current life and her past in a new light. Regina has categorically refused in previous seasons to place blame for her first True Love’s death at her mother’s feet, where it belongs, because she spent the better part of her life believing that if she simply did what was asked of her, she’d be worthy of her mother’s love.

Compounded by her mother’s habitual emotional and physical abuse, it was easier for Regina to blame Snow White for her sweetheart’s death. Likewise, her perception of a healthy relationship is skewed, given her father’s devotion to his indifferent wife and the secret and furtive nature of her first love.

In short, she is frustrated in her marriage because it lacks genuine passion or unwavering devotion that, to her, are the hallmarks of love, while she is unwilling to commit to learning mastery of magic or leaving her husband, despite being safe from her mother, because she can’t recognize that she now possesses the agency she was previously denied.

And when she is offered the opportunity to put that agency to good use by Tinker Bell, she hesitates before fleeing because she is equally afraid of finding happiness as of learning she is inherently unlovable or unworthy of joy and stability. She is a woman caught in her present because she cannot let go of her past or embrace the uncertainty of her future.


However, perhaps the most authentic moment for Regina as a character in this week’s episode was when she reached into her own chest and offered her heart to Tinker Bell to destroy when they find each other again in Neverland.

Arguably, she does so to prove to the former fairy that revenge will not satisfy the gaping hole the loss of magic left in Tinker Bell’s life. Tinker Bell, who is shown grungy, tattered and living a subsistence lifestyle in disgrace, is tempted but reconsiders when Regina explains that it was not the loss of magic that sent Tinker Bell on a downward spiral but her loss of confidence. It’s a statement rich in irony, given the nature of their initial meeting: Then, it was Regina who felt not only powerless but helpless, while Tinker Bell chose to believe in her. Now, it is Regina who must convince Tinker Bell she is not as black-hearted as herself and can still claim a worthwhile future.

Still, Lana Parilla’s performance in this scene gave Regina an edge of desperation she’s lacked in previous life-or-death situations. In this instance, where Regina feels she might manage some good by saving someone else – and after she has effectively taken herself out of the search for Henry and given Emma an implicit order to find the boy at all costs – it’s possible to believe Regina is ready to embrace death as her future, regardless of whether she’ll be happy.

And Rose McIver, as Tinker Bell, deftly walks the line between power mad and powerless, even when she holds her enemy’s life in her hand.

The B Plot, in which Neal convinces Robin Hood to let him use Hood’s son as bait for Peter Pan’s Shadow, in hopes of hitching a ride back to Neverland, finally gave Michael Raymond-Jones more to do than sputter, yell or look abashed.

He channeled a little of Robert Carlyle’s performance as Rumpelstiltskin as he persuaded Hood, adding an interesting layer to the idea that Rumpel, as the Dark One, wasn’t so much changed by near limitless power as he was corrupted by it, in that it stripped him of his inhibitions and made him infinitely more shrewd. Perhaps, if we’re very lucky, Rumpel will learn of Neal’s plan or will otherwise see something of himself in his son, which is certain to be entertaining given Neal’s insistence on being nothing like his father.

But, frankly, the importance of the B Plot is how it contributed to the C Plot, wherein fans of the Mulan/Aurora pairing were given vindication – and then their hopes immediately squashed. Upon hearing Neal explain his concern about missing his chance with Emma, Mulan politely turns down an offer from Hood to join his Merry Men, explaining she can’t accept his offer without knowing if she has left anything unfinished with those she loves. She returns to Aurora’s castle, presumably having been gone several days, and immediately seeks out the ginger princess.

Jamie Chung nails every emotional beat of her scene with Sean Maguire’s Robin Hood, displaying pleasure at Hood’s praise of Mulan’s tactical skills without seeming like she’s flirting or fawning, while she conveys utter heartbreak when Sarah Bolger’s Aurora drops the baby bombshell.

It’s unlikely this is the last we’ll see of Chung and Bolger together, but it’s a powerful moment for the show to potentially imply, especially given its “family friendly” nature.

However, Chung and Maguire have an easy rapport that should make Mulan’s addition to Hood’s Merry Men a welcome change when the show revisits the Enchanted Forest.

Next week appears to be the first climax of the Neverland arc, which presumably will include some sort of denouement of the Henry and Peter Pan D Plot introduced this week. Pan’s attempts to indoctrinate Henry fell flat this week, though the former’s reasoning that Henry is the real savior, not Emma, was an interesting, if not wholly effective, tactic. Coupled with Neal’s return to Neverland and the potential for Emma and him to present Henry with a united front should make for an hour of TV that isn’t a complete hot mess. Assuming, of course, KitsoWitz didn’t stick their fingers into the plot and swirl things around too much.

Remember what the doormouse said*

Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen episode 1.01, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” of ABC’s Once Upon a Time In Wonderland, the following post may contain spoilers.

*Like I was really going to pass up the chance to quote Jefferson Airplane? Plus, it actually fits the episode, but let’s start at the beginning.

If you did as bid by the onslaught of commercials that aired the last two days and tuned into ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, you may have had a moment of deja vu. We open with the familiar ‘Once upon a time…’ title card, then cut to a child’s tea party set in a wooded glen, silent but for birds. An explosion occurs behind the tea party, throwing dirt everywhere, and a young blonde girl emerges from the ground, hauling herself out thanks to abundant ground cover. She’s dressed in the familiar blue dress and pinafore and seems relieved to have returned.

She runs home, greeting a father who tells her she was missing and presumed dead. Next, her father is behind closed doors, relating her story to a stern-looking man, who calls her a liar and says he can cure her. Alice, watching through a keyhole, says she’s not lying and can prove it.

Next, we join our familiar Storybrooke on the eve of change, as a young man approaches Granny’s Diner, narrowly escaping a hit and run with a yellow VW bug. Outside the diner, he meets Leroy (Dreamy/Grumpy the Dwarf) and Ashley Boyd (Cinderella), who has locked up for the night. They both advise the as-yet faceless young man to take shelter, as there’s an approaching storm. (Hurricane Emma, I believe.) He agrees and turns to watch Leroy and Ashley leave, revealing he’s pick-pocketed the latter’s keys to the diner.  He takes shelter in the diner, only to face a non-atmospheric disturbance: The White Rabbit appears, demanding the young man accompany him to help Alice, for whom help may be too late. The young man, named as the Knave of Hearts, reluctantly follows the Rabbit down a swirling blue tunnel.


They land in London, somewhere during the Victorian or Edwardian* period, where the Alice in question has been brought from her private room cell at Bethlem Asylum to a well-appointed sitting room, where she is interrogated by a panel of three doctors, one of whom is the mystery man from her childhood. In short order, thanks to the magic of flashbacks, we learn Alice’s stint in Bedlam is the latest in her father’s attempts to “fix” her following her wild stories about visiting Wonderland.

Again, the scenes not heavily grounded in green screen were overwhelmingly better.

We also learn Alice traveled to Wonderland several times, staying for periods long enough that her family noticed her absence.

*I’m of a mind that any TV series can be vastly improved by the presence of Maggie Smith, especially if she’s appearing as Lady Violet.

During one of these trips, she shrinks herself down and stumbles into the lamp of a genii named Cyrus. Alice explains she’s returned to Wonderland to obtain evidence (the White Rabbit) of its reality to prove to her father she’s not insane. Cyrus proceeds to be That Guy, roundaboutly asking if she’s seeing anyone, then grants her three wishes when he finds out she’s single. We see snippets of their adventures before Cyrus takes Alice to The Boiling Sea, where he proposes – sort of. But, alas, there’ll be no walk down the aisle for Alice, as the Red Queen appears with her henchmen and seemingly throws Cyrus to his death.

Subsequently, Alice agrees to a lobotomy as a definitive “cure”, but is then freed from the asylum by the Knave of Hearts and the Rabbit, who take her back to Wonderland. The Rabbit explains that the Doormouse said, during tea, that Cyrus was still alive. Alice is skeptical, but insists on following up on the lead for the sake of closure. She and the Knave head off through the Tulgey Woods to find the Mad Hatter’s abandoned house, while the Rabbit is quickly picked up by the Red Queen’s henchmen and brought to her castle. After interrogating him, the Red Queen confers with Jafar, the vizier from Aladdin, who reveals that Cyrus is indeed alive and that both he and Alice play some greater part in Jafar’s grand scheme.


Alice and the Knave eventually find the Mad Hatter’s home, after a run in with a particularly violent Cheshire Cat, and discover Cyrus’ betrothal token for Alice.

She’s convinced the find means Cyrus lives, while the Knave believes all it means was the token’s magical properties kept it from melting in the Boiling Sea. They agree to disagree and set off into Wonderland proper, presumably on an inadvertent course to Cyrus’ prison.

Still with me? Good on you. It sounds much more complicated than it seemed while watching. But lets get down to brass tacks.

What Worked

  • The acting: The success of any show depends on its lead(s), and Sophie Lowe shows great promise as Alice. There were a few moments that felt disingenuous, but I’m willing to put that down to the writing, which, arguably, has never been KitsoWitz’s strong point. With any luck, future episodes will give Lowe room to develop Alice as a flesh-and-blood young woman, and not simply a collection of romantic stereotypes.

    Meanwhile, Naveen Andrews appears to be the Robert Carlyle of this spin-off, as he manages to imbue Jafar with a sense of purpose, despite spending most of his screen time mugging evilly.

  • The cast: Lowe and Andrews aside, it was a nice nod to regular Once fans to include Lee Arenberg and Jessy Schram in the opening Storybrooke scene. It established that all these characters ostensibly live in the same universe. John Lithgow’s voice work for the White Rabbit managed to convey urgency, menace and sorrow, which will be useful as the actual animation for the Rabbit is a little rough. Likewise, Michael Socha put his epic eyebrows to good use in giving the Knave of Hearts* some emotion, especially as his lines did little to reveal anything about his character.

    *I think Alice called him ‘Will‘ at one point, but it was so quick, I’m not sure if I heard it. Until then, I will call the Knave of Hearts ‘Tom‘ because it is both shorter and because I am more used to it.

  • The story logic: It’s unclear precisely why Jafar needs both a genii and an English woman, much less how the Red Queen or the Knave of Hearts fit into the plan. But the reveal of how Cyrus was saved was logical, and, unlike plots on original flavor Once, I didn’t notice any massive loopholes or dropped threads. On the other hand, it’s easy to have cohesive story logic in a single episode; whether it can last for an entire season is another matter entirely.

What did not work

  • The Mad Hatter’s house: I didn’t expect a surprise cameo from Sebastian Stan as the Mad Hatter. I’d expect that on the regular Once before I’d expect that here. But we saw the Hatter’s workroom at the end of Season 1’s “Hat Trick,” and it looked nothing like the derelict cottage Alice and the Knave stumbled on in the last third of the pilot.

  • The costuming: I know Becca mentioned Andrews’ wig, so I won’t spend much time on it, other than to say it looks like a leftover from an Eddie Murphy character in Coming to America. Instead, lets discuss the Red Queen and Alice. Where Regina, Maleficent and the Queen of Hearts all have wardrobes that reflected their character, the only thing the Red Queen’s ensembles told me was she’d been digging through the clearance bin at Filene’s Basement.

    It felt like a wasted opportunity to make a statement about the character, unless the point is she’s simply a puppet and there’s another power behind the throne. Meanwhile, adult Alice is shown in one of three costumes: A pink, more adult version of her dress and pinafore; a belted blouse and leggings; and a getup that looks like her undergarments. The progression shows her transition from childhood to independent adulthood to depression and apathy, but I hope that subsequent episodes involve finding her an outfit better suited to a quest. (Perhaps, she can somehow find one of Emma Swan’s leather jackets? Goodness knows Emma has more than enough to go around.)

  • The romance: It’s not as though I find Alice and the Knave to have better chemistry, but for a pairing that the show itself is holding up as an OTP, I expected more from the Alice and Cyrus interactions.                                                              Perhaps, if more of their adventures are shown in flashback, I’ll buy into Alice’s imperative to discover the truth of Cyrus’ fate. But as it is, I’m not invested in that aspect of her mission; I’m more interested in learning about Alice’s previous trips to Wonderland and what led to the bad blood between herself and the Red Queen.
  • The green screen: It was as eye-searingly bad as it was in the first season of its parent show, and I can only hope they adjust it more quickly than they did with Once.

I can’t say this was an hour wasted (unlike the ridiculousness that was this week’s Once Upon a Time), but I will say I was disappointed in how light on plot the pilot was. I buy Wonderland’s existence as a tangible location, thanks to the heavy use of special effects, but I will need to know more about it in a day-to-day sense if I’m going to care about what happens to the people who live there.

We Can’t Stop Here: This is Lost Boy Country

Warning: If you haven’t seen episode 3.01 of Once Upon a Time, “The Heart of the Truest Believer,” this post may contain spoilers.

Sunday night’s third-season premiere of ABC’s family drama fantasy, Once Upon a Time, posed an interesting question, though I’m not entirely sure it’s the one the showrunners had in mind. (Although, it’s not exactly like they’re known for playing the long game.) But, in sending the vast majority of the first string to Neverland – and dropping a single player back into the Enchanted Forest – the start of the new season invited both die-hard Oncers and casual fans alike to consider the following: Can you sustain yourself on nostalgia alone?

If you’d tuned in at 7 p.m., you’d have been treated to an hour-long recap of season 2, condensing the entirety of the show’s (now incredibly) complicated mythology and highlighting the major plot points of last season. For me, the recap’s high point was its narration by Alfred Molina. But, in the interest giving the nebbishes steering this unwieldy ship some credit, the major talking points of the recap – and, frankly, of the series itself – are:

  • The corrupting influence of power;

  • the price of magic;

  • the search for “home”;

  • the damage parents unwittingly inflict on their children;

  • and the power of belief.

But I would argue the focus of Sunday’s premiere was actually the power of nostalgia; How that sense that things not only could or might have been better in another time, but were better, can corrupt our appreciation of the present. Consider, for a moment, a few of the major arcs of season 2. Regina’s mother, Cora, was shown as a power-hungry social climber who eventually used her only child to achieve the goals she’d never come near in her own youth. Rumpelstiltskin, when finally reunited with his son after centuries of self-inflicted separation, offers to rewind the clock and make his son a dependent teen again in a misguided attempt to make up for lost time. And even Snow and Charming, representing the shiny happy delegation of the Enchanted Forest, argue over the wisdom of returning to their former home and lives versus remaining in the world to which they were exiled.

The season opener, “The Heart of the Truest Believer,” picked up right where the second season finale left off: Rumpelstiltskin’s son, Neal/Baelfire, is missing, presumed dead. Emma’s son, Henry, is spirited off to Neverland by a couple of magic-hating interlopers who’d previously sought to destroy Storybrooke, which is sustained by an elaborate magical infrastructure. The town’s assorted white and black hats have agreed to a tentative armstice, in light of saving both the town and their own vested interests. And Emma; her parents, Snow White and Prince Charming; her step-grandmother, Queen Regina; and her son’s grandfather, Rumpelstiltskin, and psuedo-step-grandfather, Captain Hook, have all followed the proverbial rabbit down its hole in a no-holds-barred rescue of Henry. (Still with me?)

Officially, the tagline for the first half of Once’s third season is about Emma being forced to face her past when she finds herself in a place where no one has a future. And in so many ways, that is what Neverland represents: A place where children never grow up and learn to handle self-doubt, death, uncertainty and responsibility. Neverland is the home of the Lost Boys, children whose intense desire not to grow up, led them to a world governed by imagination and fun – but as rife with danger and uncertainty as our own. After all, J.M. Barrie’s novel pits Peter Pan against the manipulative adult figure of Captain Hook and his mindless crew of pirates, but there are other dangers in Neverland. It’s only Wendy Darling’s blind refusal to acknowledge that no world is safe, least of all that of childhood make-believe, that coats Peter Pan and Neverland in a sparkly top coat.

Once’s Neverland is dangerous from the word ‘go,’ with blood-thirsty Lost Boys, led by a particularly sadistic teen I’ve nicknamed “Blondie McScarface,” for want of an actual name.

The Storybrooke contingent is assaulted by violent mermaids who are seemingly part siren, part sea monster. And Henry unknowingly puts his own life in the hands of the very person who poses his greatest threat.

Meanwhile, Neal awakens from his brush with death in the Enchanted Forest, where he explains to a stranger why he took a bullet for a woman who wouldn’t normally acknowledge him. (Spoiler: It’s a healthy dose of guilt for breaking her heart, and an as-yet-undetermined amount for Emma.) Later, he realizes he must return to his father’s castle and, more troubling still, must use the very magic he blames for destroying his family in the first place.


The key to discovering how to reunite with Emma and their son and return to their world is his father’s walking stick. It’s one of the few times Neal shows any sentimentality regarding Rumpelstiltskin, and it’s telling that he gets a little verklempt over an object that reminds him of a time before his father had magic, when they were poor and powerless but happy together.


The high points were Neal’s interaction with Mulan, who, absent any romantic interest or prior knowledge of his past, treats him as an equal for Emma’s sake. Their friendship had a note of authenticity that is occasionally lacking in the other characters’ interactions, and we here at WWFTP are eager for Neal and Mulan to have further adventures, with or without the other remaining citizens of the Enchanted Forest. We found Kilian Jones less smarmy as Hook, and he arguably had the best line of the episode.

And we appreciated how different the show’s take on Neverland is from either the source material or the more obvious, Disney-fied take; while we have plenty of questions, we also found the Lost Boys and Peter Pan menacing enough to suspend disbelief on some of the vaguer points of the plot leading from Storybrooke to Neverland.

However, we were frustrated by Snow’s abrupt and unpredictable turn toward violence, which seemed entirely out of character, unless the showrunners have thought ahead for once and will reveal some aspect of Neverland’s magic that inhibits maturity.

We were also insulted that it’s taken the show two seasons to finally give Henry a motivation for his actions – the big reveal of the episode was Peter Pan’s desire for Henry being based in Henry’s role as “the truest believer” – but without giving his character more dimension than he had in the first season, when he was believed Storybrooke was a lie. Any opinion on the young actor who portrays Henry aside, we’re ready for the character to stop being treated as a plot device for the advancement of his mothers’ storylines.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention Robert Carlyle and Lana Parilla’s performances. Becca requested I mention how flattering Carlyle’s Rumpelstiltskin looked in his open-collared shirt. I would add that his boredom with Blondie McScarface’s threats was one of the character’s most amusing moment in three seasons.

Likewise, Lana Parilla outdid herself, swinging between a nearly sweet moment with Hook as they discussed the possibility of a happy ending for villains like themselves to her brusqueness when Emma named herself the leader of their misfit band to the second and third best lines of the episode.

The showrunners may think their characters are focused on the struggle between hearth and ultimate cosmic power, but whether it’s Emma’s refusal to accept her parents’ rose-tinted vision of their past or Hook’s gift to her of Neal’s old sword, the real question of the first major arc this season is whether the characters will continue to rely power of their nostalgia, or whether they will finally face the consequences of their actions. Even Kitsis and Horowitz are trading on the audience’s nostalgia, stating that their Peter Pan is not the one of our childhood – or of the peanut butter.

And, in the end, the Neverland of Wendy Darling’s childhood is not the same after her return to London. She eventually realized vowing never to grow up wouldn’t keep her safe; only actively trying to change what was expected of her would give her the security she felt she needed.

“I am old, Peter. I am ever so much more than twenty. I grew up long ago.” – Chapter 17: When Wendy Grew Up

I only hope Emma takes a page from Wendy’s book, and follows a similar path, or considering the knot of abandoned storylines from last season, stays on any kind of identifiable path.