Once upon a time...Regina regretted nothing.
Even though this episode was the resolution of “Once Upon a Time”’s Neverland adventure, what the entire season arc has been building towards, it was the flashbacks featuring Regina that stole the show in “Save Henry.”
We start off with the first of several delightfully snarky exchanges between Regina and Rumplestiltskin, this one taking place just before the curse takes effect. She regally gloats regarding her victory, he hilariously taunts her in rhyme, and everything is right with the world. But eighteen years later, in Storybrooke, his words come back to haunt her as her encounter with little Owen Flynn (if only she knew how lame he’d grow up to be) has left her feeling like there’s a hole in her life only a child can fill.
So, as we already knew, Regina has Mr. Gold arrange an adoption for her (side note – they never really say, but was there a reason why Regina couldn’t have a biological child? Is it because time is frozen in Storybrooke?) and little Henry enters her life. But what we didn’t know was that Regina found out very early on that she shared a son with the Savior and she kept him anyway.
It’s a defining, albeit retconned, character moment for Regina. Before Henry, all she desired, needed, wanted was revenge. She killed her beloved father to have it. She rages at Rumplestiltskin (in another great back-and-forth where Regina dances around the truth about Storybrooke while we know Rumple is all too aware of what she’s talking about) that she won’t allow anyone to destroy it. But when she begs a crying Henry to give her a chance, he does. He has the heart of the truest believer and he believes in her. And she chooses that, him, even if it means her ruin down the road. The scene of her taking the potion to erase the continuity conflict…I mean, erase her memory of Henry’s parentage, was a lovely showcase of that.
Lana Parrilla’s performance playing the variety of emotions Regina experiences during this story, it goes without saying, was great. The glow of anticipation and happiness she had when she first gets the news that Rumplestiltskin has found her a baby. Her overwhelmed and defensive reactions to the advice she gets from the townsfolk (hi there, Dr. Whale and Granny!). The horror seeing Snow being able to comfort Henry and the heartbreak it causes when she convinces herself that she’s the problem. This was her episode to shine and she made the most of it.
Regina was also my favorite part of the Neverland-set scenes as our heroes raced to retrieve Henry’s heart because, for some reason that’s never explained, Peter Pan needs time to absorb its powers. Her retort that Emma actually doesn’t know how she feels because Emma has her parents and love interests was awesome, especially how she dismissively referred to Neal as “that…person.” And how badass was it when, after asserting her lack of regrets because everything she had done had led her to Henry, she freed herself from Pan’s trap and tore out the stolen heart? Very.
In fact, I liked the scenes at the Thinking Tree a lot. Running parallel to the legacy of fatherly failures, it was smart storytelling to show the strength of motherhood and how it’s united Emma, Regina, and Mary Margaret, which worked so well for me back in “Good Form.” And another week, another solid showing from Robbie Kay as Peter Pan taunted Emma and Snow with their failures.
Other plot turns were harder to swallow. After everything we’ve seen of them, that all of the Lost Boys except Felix (by the way, I don’t think I’ve mentioned, but Parker Croft has been very good in this role) would turn their backs on Peter Pan so quickly didn’t ring true. Maybe it would have been more believable if, instead of Emma, Wendy had given that little speech. I was also confused by how the show ended up using Pan’s shadow. Regina fashioned it into a sail, but that’s not how Neal was able to escape Neverland, right? And the star map in the cave meant nothing?
But worst of all was the anti-climactic reveal to the others that Peter Pan is Rumplestiltskin’s father. Pan casually mentions it to the women and they get a glimmer of a moment to react (although Jennifer Morrison’s “Whuh?” face was pretty good). And how does Neal find out this illuminating information about his dad? Off-screen. OFF-SCREEN! What a terrible choice by the writers. Neal calling Rumple Papa and embracing him still got to me, though.
And even though I had guessed it, I still groaned when Felix realized that Peter Pan had switched bodies with Henry. I hate body swap stories. I particularly hate body swap stories where a villain is hiding in plain sight and everyone keeps remarking on how odd said person is acting until they inadvertently expose themselves (Cordelia during season 4 of “Angel” comes to mind for me). Jared S. Gilmore is decent enough, but I don’t think he has the chops to play Pan, or even Pan pretending to be Henry. Can’t say I’m looking forward to this.
Finally, that neat little moment that saw John and Michael thwarted in their attempts to adopt Henry has me wondering what else the Home Office might have done on Peter Pan’s behalf in the real world. Any thoughts?