We have to be honest with ourselves: the entire premise of the show is a bit crazy. And the writing isn’t the strongest that’s out there. What makes this show is the acting. And this week, JMo hit it out of the park. But we’ll get to that shortly.
Surprisingly, the weakest parts of the episode for me, were Rumple’s scenes. We knew the corn doll would relate back to his parents and abandonment issues (because if there’s one constant in OUaT, it’s parental abandonment), and it’s definitely starting to throw Rumple off his game. When the doll kept coming back I felt like I was reading the “Night of the Living Dummy” Goosebumps books. We know that he is struggling with whether or not to sacrifice Henry to save himself. With him thinking that Neal is dead, Belle is really his only guiding post to ensure that he does the “right” thing, so it made sense that he would somehow conjure a vision of her. His scenes just seemed a bit out of place, and I hope that doesn’t continue as he stays off on his own. I did enjoy him cutting off his shadow. That was pretty cool. Although I wouldn't hide my dagger in enemy territory, but that's just me.
The rest of the episode was very enjoyable for me. Pan is planning on converting Henry to a Lost Boy but there are still a ton of the puzzle pieces missing. What exactly is Pan’s end game? Regardless, that boy is super creepy. I am enjoying the idea of an evil Pan more and more as we go along though. I just hope that his end plan lives up to all the hype.
His scheme this week was to “test” Emma by giving her a map that would lead her to Henry. Of course, the map was hidden by magic and to reveal the map, Emma would have to admit who she was. This really could have gone a lot of ways. Emma has spent a significant amount of time denying who she was or struggling to come to terms with it. Even now, I feel like she can say the words but she doesn’t believe or accept most of them. It took Regina cheating the system and a confrontation with Pan and his boys to force her to accept the truth: even though she has found her parents, she feels like an orphan.
The above revelation could have been so many things. It could have been cheesy, it could have been oversold, or it could have been downright terrible. But it wasn’t. Jennifer Morrison and Ginnifer Goodwin hit this scene out of the park. All Snow has wanted since the curse broke is to have that relationship with her daughter and be her mother. Her visible heartbreak at finally realizing it might be too late made my heart break. But, being Snow, she is still going to do everything she can to try and make it all work out. Emma’s reveal at the despair she felt as a child, only wanting to have her parents, was very poignant. She has spent almost 30 years feeling alone and abandoned. Those aren’t feelings that can just go away and, even if they can all work through their issues, it still may very well be too late to have that kind of relationship that they’d all like to have.
I know we’re going to start seeing Storybrooke again and we’ll definitely see more of the Enchanted Forest over these next few episodes, but I’m really enjoying the amount of time we’ve spent in Neverland. It really lets us focus more on these core six, and I hope we’ll see a lot more of these issues come to the front. This group of actors can make anything work, so keep giving them these type of episodes. OUaT may be a show about magic, but, at its heart, it’s a story about family (no matter how convoluted).
Some final notes:
--- Was I the only one that felt awkward watching Emma try and get the map to reveal itself with everyone staring at her?
--- Charming is again being stupid. You really think lying is the best course of action here? I feel like Storybrooke David is more in charge of the situation then FTL David.
--- I know I said that what happened between Snow waking up and the war was stuff I wanted to see in flashbacks but this was just contrived to be convenient for the plot of the episode. Give me some meatier stuff, writers.