Monday, September 30, 2013

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (3x1)

Welcome to Neverland! I'm a total ONCE fangirl. I mean the scary kind--the ones who try to incorporate it into their daily lives. I spend a slightly insane amount of time talking, thinking, and writing about ONCE (I'm the forum moderator over at OncePodcast, feel free to come say hello). I've been counting down the days until ONCE came back and finally, at long last, it arrived. This is the start of the third season for ABC's fairytale show and when we last left off Henry, the son of Savior Emma Swan and adopted son of the Evil Queen Regina, had been kidnapped and taken to Neverland. Emma, Regina, Snow White and Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin and Captain Hook set sail on the Jolly Roger to track him down; meanwhile, Belle was left in Storybrooke to protect it from outsiders and Neal, Rumple's son, is presumed dead by all but really found his way back to the Enchanted Forest.

This is our first real look at Neverland and Peter Pan and it begs the question: do you believe in magic?

"The Heart of the Truest Believer" sets up many of the conflicts for the first half of the season--Neverland, Peter Pan, the Lost Ones, Rumple's vendetta, Neal trapped in the Enchanted Forest, and the tension that surrounds our characters as they try to work together. Overall it was an incredible, fast paced, action packed episode with which I only have a few nitpicky items. Let's do a couple breakdowns.

The Mother Load

Poor Emma Swan. My heart broke for her in the opening scene. Major props to Jennifer Morrison who played Emma's devastation perfectly. "I can't be a mother" she says; since season 1, Emma has been trying her hardest to figure out how to be a mother to Henry. At first she's openly hesitant about wanting any kind of relationship with the boy she gave up for adoption. When he shows up at her door in Boston all she can think about is taking him back to Storybrooke, Maine and Regina, his adopted mother. Season two found Emma trying on motherhood for real and still being really unsure about how she was supposed to take care of a boy she's barely knows. This season Emma's whole arc will be about believing that she can be a mother. Rumple, in his slightly devious way, challengers her to believe that. Rumple doesn't give out hugs and lollipops but instead informs her that Emma can't save Henry because she has no belief in magic, in her parents or in herself. Emma is the kind of person who must see something in order to believe it and even then it's only after much poking and prodding. She couldn't see August's wooden leg until after she believed in the Curse, and she couldn't believe in the Curse until Henry lay dying in front of her. When confronted with a dragon, Emma relies on a gun instead of her father's sword until the last possible second. Emma continuously doubts herself as being the Savior, True Love Incarnate, and possibly the most magical being in existence because it frightens her.  In order to find Henry she is going to need to get over those fears, face them and beat them. By the end of this episode it looks like she has at least taken the first step: she declares herself leader and mother, though you can tell Regina is only going along with it for the moment.

Ain't Nothing But A Family Thing

You think your family dynamic is bad? Try being a part of this one. Despite being united in a common goal--finding Henry--we knew it couldn't be long until the incredible amount of history between these characters came to a head. How could it not? The (hysterical) cat fight between Snow and Regina was a long time coming. These two will always have a different way of seeing the world: Snow's heart may have turned a little dark last season, but she's still the purest and most noble hearted of them all. She's still Snow White when all is said and done and she could never justify turning as evil as Regina. Charming is the consummate White Knight--he couldn't be devious or evil or cunning if he tried. He lives by the Knights code and believes above all else that good wins. Snow and Regina blame the other for their miserable lives; Regina will never forgive Snow for Daniel's death and all Snow sees when she looks at Regina is the woman who has tried to kill her time and time again and then cost her 28 years with her child. Not that things are necessairly happy with Snow and Charming's child at the moment.
I applauded Emma's rant to her parents. Snow and Charming have felt that they could just step right in and be the parents Emma's needs but they forget that Emma is the same age as them, and that for 28 years she was on her own. Snow and Charming have no wisdom or life experiences that Emma will find valuable because her own wisdom and life experiences are radically different. The fight between Emma and her parents felt wholly real. That was also a long time coming. Snow and Charming need to figure out how to be parents to who Emma really is--closed off and suspicious and a little hostile--not the Emma they want her to be--believer in hope and magic and being true to yourself. I suspect Mama Snow and Papa Charming will be at odds over Emma's plan of attack against Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons doesn't sit well with them, but Emma is determined to succeed, not worry about moral quandaries. 

One is the Loneliest Number 

Rumple is not exactly a team player. I don't think this comes as a surprise to anyone, really. Heartbroken over the death of Neal/Baelfire, Rumple sets out on his own to deal with Peter Pan and those responsible for killing his son. I gotta say, I loved his wardrobe change (give me Rumple in his leather anytime). He is going to be the Dark One in Neverland because the Dark One can do what he likes without having to worry about right and wrong. I expect Rumple to become darker with each passing episode as he continues his suicide mission. When someone decides that they are going to die, everything becomes clear. Rumple's objective is straight forward--save Henry from Peter Pan, even though it means his undoing. The prophecy of Rumple's undoing is still quite unclear. Does undoing mean death? Not likely, but what matters is what Rumple thinks it means. He "knows" he is going off to die and if he can take some Lost Boys with him, then so be it. However there is obviously some deep pain in Rumple when it comes to Neverland and Peter--he's been here before. And more to the point, Peter Pan scares the living daylights out of Rumple. Why? What is their history and what is the doll?
My own theory stems from a part of the traditional Peter Pan stories that is often forgotten or overlooked: Peter Pan has a younger brother. Could this sibling be Rumple? Rumple is welcome on the island so long as he doesn't interfere with Peter's plans for Henry. Peter has no issue with Rumple except in his mission. I suspect that Rumple has been to Neverland at least twice before: once as a young boy with his older brother Peter and once years later after he became the Dark One in order to get squid ink to write out the Dark Curse. As far the doll goes, I think it's Rumple's happy thought. When he went to Neverland originally he took the doll, something his mother made for him. But Neverland was not what he thought it would be and his brother Peter became cruel and evil. The doll no longer held any happy thoughts but instead represented the way his family changed over time. Peter let Rumple go, unable to hurt his own brother, but Rumple left he doll behind, unable to look at anymore.

Not Sure This is What Disney Had In Mind

Raise your hand if you're really freaked out by Peter Pan. Talk about one creepy demented twisted little kid. I've known for awhile that Robbie Kay was playing Peter Pan, but I was super worried about the idea of a 18 yr old going toe to toe against someone like Robert Carlyle. Turns out I didn't need to be. The casting for Peter was spot on. He even looks like Peter! So why does Peter Pan want Henry? It's not even Henry per se, but rather his heart. Henry has the heart of the truest believer. This should come as a surprise to NO ONE. Our entire introduction to Henry was as the only person in Stroybrooke who believed in the Curse and that Emma was the Savior. Through everything Henry has had incredible faith in magic and goodness. Henry ate a poisoned apple turn over just to get Emma to believe! In Neverland, his meeting with Peter was quite entertaining to watch--from two bandits on the run, to flying (seriously cool) to the revelation that the new friend Henry thought he made is actually the boy who wants to take his heart. Why does Peter want Henry's heart? My own theory is that because Neverland run on belief, it needs a fuel source. Magic in Neverland is running out, the belief is trickling away and only the heart of the truest believer can put a stop gap on it. And so Peter Pan plans to carve out Henry's heart and use it to save his own people. Evil..isn't born, it's made.

Speaking of things that aren't normally evil: hello mermaids! Also, wow you're kinda terrifying. This is just a small taste of the Ariel storyline to come but these mermaids act nothing like the Little Mermaid we all know and love. They seem to relish trouble and stirring up strife. How quickly did everyone turn against each other when the Mermaid began making suggestions? But the question is: are they dark or are the just a product of what is happening in Neverland? If Peter is defeated, do the merfolk return to being happy creatures? And how does Ariel fit in? WHERE is Ariel might be a better question.

Oh Ship

Welcome to the great CaptainSwanFire debate. If you're a fan of Once Upon A Time, chances are you've come down on one side of this. Who should Emma be with: Neal or Captain Hook? Before anyone asks: SwanFire!

Neal spent this episode trying to find a way back to Emma, with the help of our old friends Mulan, Aurora and Prince Philip. And then Robin Hood who is apparently living all comfy and cozy in Rumple's old castle. Neal needs to let Emma know he's alive. And the sooner the better. I really enjoyed the conversation between Mulan and Nealfire; much of the vitriol aimed at Neal has to do with the "Tallahassee incident" in
which Neal was forced into letting Emma go to jail in order for her to fulfill her destiny someday. But then, being human and therefore somewhat cowardly like his father, when the time came to go and find Emma he took the easy way out and got involved with someone else. It was the greatest regret of his life. I really hope the intense hatred for Neal stops soon and I think moments like this show that Neal has never stopped loving Emma and is going to be fighting like hell to get back to her: even if it means going to Neverland, the last place he'd ever want to go.
Meanwhile, Captain Hook does the decent thing and allows Emma a moment to grieve for Neal and even presents her with Bae's old sword. I am dying to know how long Bae was on that ship with Hook, because Hook made it seem like it was more than a few days which is what many people assume. There is a lot of undeniable chemistry between Captain Hook and Emma and I have no doubt that the triangle that is CaptainSwanFire is only getting started. But I'm not worried. Lots of things last night confirmed to me that Neal and Emma are true love.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Heart of the Truest Believer 

--So many funny one liners from this episode! My favorites:
"Filet the bitch"
"That's an excellent use of our time. A wardrobe change."
"I will not be capsized by fish!"
"I'm all out of fish food!"
"Are you going to make it better with rainbow kisses and unicorn stickers?'
(Regina had a lot of great ones)

--"Let's Play" Peter Pan is seriously creepy.

--Anyone who makes my Rumple cry deserves what they get!

--The fact that Rumple used his cane to mark Bae's growth gave me all kind of feelings. 

--Magical family: Bae was taken out of London at 8:15 at night; Henry was born at 8:15; Emma arrived in Storybrooke and set the clock moving forward to 8:15; magic came to Storybrooke at the end of season 1 at 8:15. When something magical has happened, sometimes involving true love, for the Emma-Henry-Bae clan, it's been 8:15.

--No Belle this episode but I've been assured that some really great Rumbelle moments are coming up next week!

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