Monday, December 2, 2013

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (3x9)

Regina: I’m not in the business of making deals with you anymore.
Mr. Gold: To which deal are you referring?
Regina: You know what deal.
Mr. Gold: Oh, right. Yeah. The boy I procured for you. Henry. Did I ever tell you what a lovely name that was? However did you pick it?
Regina: Did you want her to come to town? You wanted all this to happen, didn’t you? Your finding Henry wasn’t an accident, was it?
(The Thing You Love Most, 102) 

Since the second episode of season one, the fans of Once Upon a Time have wondered just how Henry, three week old baby Henry, got to Storybrooke. I've seen dozens of theories: Blue Fairy, August, Jefferson, The Darling Brothers, Peter himself. And last night, after two and half years we finally got our answer. This weeks episode, "Save Henry," was all about parents and the choices they make for their children. It focused heavily on Regina and Henry's relationship and how much the Evil Queen loves her son. I'm going to be honest right up front: I was very disappointed in this episode. While it doesn't rank lower than "Good Form," it felt flat and rushed and the parts that were enjoyable were not the main drive of the episode. There were a lot of holes a lot of overly convenient plot devices. It was heavy on the emotions, but low on the substance. There is nothing wrong with a heavy emotional episode, but when the feelings take over and the actual mythos and plot fall short, it's a problem. So yes, we "saved" Henry this week (but not really) and we're (finally) leaving Neverland. 

I'll Take The Baby Behind Door Number Two

All magic comes with a price. When Regina enacted the Dark Curse, using the heart of her father, the consequences would someday come back to haunt her. The casting of the Curse left a hole in Regina's heart, a void that she can't fill with revenge alone. In the final moments before the Curse hits the Enchanted Forest and takes everyone to Storybrooke, Regina and Rumple meet one final time in his cell; Regina wants to gloat and Rumple knows there is one more thing he must impart to his student: someday you will come to me to fill that hole in your heart. Did Regina actually want kids at any point in her life? Well, after Daniel died at least? She's not the motherly type, at least not yet. The only thing that has ever filled that hole in her heart was when little Owen came to town and Regina wanted a new life with someone in it. So Regina's solution in Storybrooke 11 years ago? Get me a baby!

Regina is a bit impetuous. When she wants something, she wants it now. She doesn't want to wait around and go through the rigamarole of red tape and bureaucracy. Regina, sweetie, a child is not a pair of shoes and you can just up and return when you decide they don't fit. So Regina trots over to Gold's shop and tells him that she is unwilling to wait two years on an adoption list. Surely Gold knows how to work the system and get her a baby sooner. Oh, boy. Let's pause and discuss Mr. Gold for a moment. It was established long ago that Gold retained his Cursed memories for all 28 years of the Curse and only woke up when Emma came to town and he heard her say her name in the Pilot. It was only then that Rumple came back. Before then, he was Gold. And yet this episode, it didn't feel like it was Regina and Gold talking, but the Evil Queen and Rumple. Gold was a powerful man, to be sure, but he shouldn't be standing there waiting for Regina to come to him about the baby; he shouldn't be playing mind games with Regina about how "his memory isn't what it used to be." The one time we did meet Mr. Gold in "Welcome to Storybrooke" he was powerful but bent to Regina's will. He recognized that Regina was mayor but in this episode he is standing in his shop waiting for Regina to come to him. Like he knew it was finally time for this moment. Which...makes no sense. If the writers just retconned this series, I am going to be very upset. However, I did love seeing my man in his suits. Oh god, Bobby Carlyle knows how to rock those suits. And his hair was extra fluffy. What's that? I'm supposed to be reviewing, not drooling? Right.

So "Gold" finds a baby boy in Boston. This baby was with a family for a short amount of time but the adoption fell through (suspicious) and now he can be Regina's! This is the first time we've seen Regina leave Storybrooke. Remember, Regina wasn't cursed so she could leave the town without fear, though it is unclear if she retained her magic. Let's talk all the pitfalls of this adoption episode. First off, this is one of the most important stories in the mythos of the ONCEiverse. And...Regina signed a piece of paper and became a mother. That's it. There was no great plot, no other characters outside of whoever Gold actually is right now played any role. We waited two years and this story could have been told at any point. If they didn't throw in the tiny bit at the end with the Darling Brothers (which was clearly only there to tie the story back to the present arc) this flashback could have been in season one or two and not made any difference. All Regina had to do is show up in Boston with a list of references, make some small talk, sign a piece of paper and BOOM, she's Henry's mother. Fate plays a huge roll in this show, but this is going a bit far. There are no home visits, no judges, no inspections? The agent hasn't even heard of Storybrooke! That's not how adoption works! There is a reason why people wait for *years* to get a child and Regina just waltzes into this office and "here's your baby!" There has got to be more here. How did Gold cut through all that red tape? The town doesn't actually exist on any map or on the internet. But the agent is just taking on blind faith that Regina is a mayor of a town that doesn't exist and can't be found? Either I am supposed to suspend disbelief quite a bit or there is something much larger at play. My initial theory involved the Darling Brothers transporting Henry to SB on Pan's orders but it turns out that Pan was just using the Brothers to get Henry as a child; he had nothing to do with the actual adoption. The adoption story was a total and complete let down.

Regina has no idea what she's doing, that's for sure. But, this isn't a case of "I'm the Evil Queen and can't love my child," it's actually very human. She's a first time mom with no help and is struggling to figure out what to do. I'm glad it wasn't easy for her. And I did enjoy how many people tried to help out: Granny, Dr. Whale (with a very different hairstyle in a town where time is frozen and no one changes...), and even Mary Margaret. While it doesn't bother me that Mary Margaret was the one to soothe Henry because clearly the baby was picking up on Regina's own wild emotions, this isn't going to go over well with those portions of the fanbase who constantly accuse the show of being anti-adoption. The show and the writers are often slammed for the fact that they keep trying to make Emma Henry's "real" mother and take him away from this (now) legal mother. So having his biological grandmother able to soothe Henry just by holding him isn't helping this matter. In the end, Regina decides to investigate Henry's birth mother, convinced that something is medically wrong with her baby that he won't stop crying.

The information Regina gets is disquieting. The biological mother of her son is the Savior. Yes, Regina learned about Emma. Something she did not know in the first season. When Regina met Emma in the pilot as Henry's birth mother, she had no clue Emma was the Savior. Now this will all be explained but it was very plot device-y and convenient. Worried that Emma will someday come to get Henry, as Regina knows is suposed to happen, Regina decides to take Henry back to Boston and give him up. Because babies are shoes. And then once back in the agent's office, Regina changes her mind AGAIN. "No he's my son and I 'm keeping him." That's a lot of wasted gas money. So in order to be a good mother to Henry and not worry about Emma, Regina makes a magical "forget" potion that will cause her to forget all her worries about Emma, so she can focus on being a good mom. Holy plot device, Batman! Where did Regina even get this magical potion? And after she took it, how did she not question why she was in her vault in the first place? And honestly, what was even the point of Regina learning about Henry and Emma if she was just going to forget it all? Sloppy writing was what this was. They needed to flesh out Regina and Henry, so they gave us this whole sub plot. You know what would have been better? If we watched Henry grow up with Regina, from a baby to when Henry started questioning his existence. That would have been just as powerful emotionally and really helped answer some questions like why was Henry in therapy before he awoke from the Curse and what was Curse life like for Henry, but instead here's an entire flashback of something that, in the end, doesn't matter.

Freaky Sunday 

Meanwhile, back in Neverland...Henry is lying unconscious in Skull Rock and Peter is beginning to absorb the magic of Neverland. Regina, Emma and Neal have a limited amount of time to get Henry's heart back. I liked that Regina and Emma finally had a bit of a fight over "our son." Regina only has Henry and as time goes on, Emma keeps getting "more." She has her parents, "this person" (in reference to Neal) and "a pirate that pines for you." But all Regina has is her son, so she feels justified in using "my son" in conversation. The first step is to hunt down Pan and get the heart back but they have no idea where he is, not even Neal knows. Emma questions the Lost Boys who are finally fed up with Peter Pan and want to go home--all of them except Felix. Felix is loyal to the very end. If this was Harry Potter, Pan is Voldemort and Felix is Bellatrix. "Pan never fails," after all. The young Lost Boys, after eliciting a promise from Emma to take them all home, tell Emma that Pan is at his Thinking Tree. Cause Peter Pan is also Winnie the Pooh. Emma leaves Henry in Neal's care and she, Snow and Regina go after Pan at his tree....

...where the three women are instantly tied to the Thinking Tree and given a lecture about mothers and sons and daughters and how they all fail. Oh and Pan tells them that Rumple is his son. I'm glad everyone reacted to this with a "wut?" So how does this tree hold everyone? By using their regret. Ok. Sure. Whatever you say, Pan. But Regina regrets nothing. She enacted a curse that damaged an entire land, she's tortured and murdered but she's doesn't regret any of it because it got her Henry. Wow. Well, there goes Regina's whole redemption of this season. Does she even feel remorse for what she has done? Rumple at least feels remorse over some of his actions, which is the first landmark of Redemption Road, but with one fell swoop Regina's redemption arc is gone. Is it keeping in character for her? Yes. But it's not growth. Regina needs to start feeling remorse if she has any hope of ever being redeemed. So using her "no regrets!" power, Regina busts the three women out of the vines and takes back Henry's heart. Yes, it was that easy. Pan collapses and they run off to the Jolly Roger. Which has been miraculously fixed! WHAT?! No seriously, please tell me how this happened. The ship was wrecked at the end of "The Heart of the Truest Believer" and the three people capable of fixing it--Rumple, Regina, and Emma--were tied up (or boxed up) so HOW did the Jolly Roger get fixed? Did the Lost Boys "believe" it back together? *sigh* Frustrating episode is frustrating.

Once back aboard, Regina puts Henry's heart back into his chest and everything is fixed. Emotional reunion, yadda yadda yadda. Then came the best moment of whole episode, something that had nothing to do with Saving Henry. Neal freed his father from Pandora's Box and oh--the reunion. My heart. MY HEART. It was everything I wanted from my two favorite characters. Rumple admitting that he was a terrible father, that he left his son, that he and Pan are alike. And Neal tells him, no you're not. "You can back for me, Papa." And Emma watching the WHOLE thing. Gah. SwanFire feelings. Emma knows why this is a big moment for Neal because it reminds her of her own reunion with her own parents. And Neal and Rumple's SEVERAL hugs inspire Emma to hug her own parents and tell them how grateful she is for them. Best moment of the night, hands down.

Henry, safe and comfy in bed, is visited by a few people. First Regina puts a spell on his heart so it can never be taken. *sigh* Again, wut? Henry's heart could never be taken while it was in him. He had to give it willingly because he has the heart of the truest believer. And even if Regina didn't know this, why is she just NOW putting a spell on his heart? Why not years ago? Regina knows all about hearts being taken so doing this now after his heart was already taken once makes no sense. The second visitor is Peter Pan who can magic himself to anywhere in Neverland. Peter apologizes but still needs Henry's heart. But when he can't get it out, he starts to rip off Henry's shadow. Upstairs on the boat Rumple's spider sense tingles (because Henry is incapable of screaming for help) and he runs down to Henry and manages to trap Peter in the box! "Blood magic works both ways, Father." Burn! That's right. My Imp saved Henry. HA!

But it wouldn't be Once Upon A Time if there wasn't a some big twist. This week's twist is brought to you by "Freaky Friday." Yes, a body swap. Pan is Henry and Henry is Pan. I gotta hand it to Jared Gilmore for being able to be Pan inside Henry's body. He often gets criticized for his acting ability but he nailed the creepiness of Pan well. And so, with the Shadow absorbed into the Jolly Roger's sail (not kidding), Henry trapped in the box as Peter Pan, and Pan wearing a Henry suit, we leave Neverland behind and head back to Storybrooke where Pan and Felix will unleash hell. But whatever. We're going back to Storybrooke with light and Belle and the Rumbelle reunion will probably kill me.

Miscellaneous Notes on Save Henry

--Can we talk about the idiocy of this title? They really named an episode after their hashtag? Or did they name the hashtag after this title?

--"I want a baby and I need your help"
"Well I'm flattered but uninterested"

--Dark One Rumple singing a little song. God, I love that man.

--Of the 9 episodes aired thus far, this one is just above "Good Form," coming in at #8 for me.

--Random Tink and Wendy moment was random. So now we have a little bit of pixie dust and Tink believed in herself enough to make it glow. Will she become a fairy again?

--Hook's continued snark whenever Emma ignores him and asks Neal to do something instead is getting on my last nerves. But I loved that Emma totally ignored his "as you wish, my lady." She don't care about you, fool. Shut up and steer your ship.

--Next week: Rumbelle. That is all.

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