With an episode title like “Lost Girl,” Once made a clever play on itself with more than just a reference to the well known “lost boys.” As I mentioned in my review of the premiere, it seems that acceptance is going to be the overarching theme of this season, a hunch that was quickly established throughout the course of the hour, which focused largely on Emma facing, accepting, and owning her “lost girl” past.
We picked up where we left off, with our unlikely band of heroes in Neverland on their quest to rescue Henry, still very much in conflict with each other (my favorite thing to come out of this entire situation is Regina’s emerging snark and “I can do magic to fix everything” bender. I know it’s only the second episode of the season, but Lana Parrilla is just knocking everything out of the park so far and I love every moment of her screen time.) To be fair, it’s not just Regina who’s out of her element in Neverland – it’s new ground for all our characters except Hook and, it seems, Rumple. In our comic con chat, Kitsis and Horowitz spoke about the differences and how Neverland is more than just another world – like a country, it’s a world with powers, customs, and magic that are different than any of our heroes are used to.
Last week, we were afforded a glimpse into Rumple’s storyline of the season (or at least the first part of the season), which involved a doll that apparently causes him pain and a continued struggle with his past. We also learned that Pan more or less threatened Rumple when it came to his intentions in Neverland – as he asks himself, does he make a selfish choice so that Henry doesn’t have to be his undoing? While it was interesting to see a bit more of Rumple’s history with Neverland and with the lost boys, the real fun of the episode was an appearance by Belle – and yes, she was real, or as real as Rumple could make her by conjuring up a vision. Regardless, this wasn’t a cop out of a dream or some other-worldly entity that Neverland put in place to screw with Rumple’s head; it was the Belle we’ve come to know and love, reconnecting with her soulmate even though she wasn’t physically able to be in Neverland. As a plot device, it was a clever way to keep the story flowing and answer some questions about what’s going on in our other world (with Rumple asking Belle how everyone is in Storybrooke) and in terms of character development, it was a wonderful way to give Rumple some sense of humanity in a world that might otherwise lead him to choose wrongly. Belle has always been his grounding – his reason for doing “right” by others – and Carlyle exhibits some excellent acting in these scenes, especially when he’s clearly still unconvinced that he’s as good a person as Belle believes him to be.
I hadn’t expected Pan to introduce himself to Emma so early on, though I suppose I should have suspected as much seeing as to how he’s the main antagonist this season (I must say I’m truly enjoying Robbie Kay’s take on the character – he’s cunning in a way that’s almost chilling, a Norman Bates type of creepy where you aren’t exactly scared of him but you can tell something’s a little bit off.) Pan is surprisingly open about his feelings regarding the group’s search for Henry, offering Emma a map that will tell her how to find him…if she can accept who she is and figure out a way to read it. We should know after last week that Pan’s intentions are not to be trusted, and when Emma finally does figure out the map, it leads them straight into a trap of lost boys – and a battle that leaves Charming wounded after being hit with an arrow laced with “dreamshade,” a harmful form of Neverland magic.
Emma’s frustration over not being able to read the map eventually lends itself to a heated conversation with Mary Margaret about believing in ourselves – not just in order to produce magic, but to accept that you have an imperfect past and future. In their initial meeting, Pan tells Emma, “if you can’t read that map, you stop denying who you really are.” So what is Emma, exactly? An orphan? A savior? A mother? All three? It’s an interesting question and one that maybe goes deeper than the answer that Emma comes up with (an orphan, or, more accurately, a “lost girl.”) Either way, it’s wonderfully refreshing to watch Jennifer Morrison take on some new struggles where Emma is concerned. I’m quite enjoying her slow unravel as she fights with trying to understand who she truly is (so much so that I actually wrote, “Emma, get it together!” in my notes the first time I watched this.)
To bridge the gap between Emma accepting her fate and Mary Margaret offering understanding of being a lost girl herself at one time, we got to delve into more of Snow and Charming’s backstory, showing a continued friction with Regina after Snow was awoken by Charming. What I continue to love about Once are the layers that keep getting peeled back on characters and relationships, even if we think we know all or most of the story at hand. No doubt we’ve had our fair share of Charming/Snow flashbacks over the course of two seasons, but its easy to assume that we’ve learned all that there is to learn about their past, and I commend Kitsis and Horowitz for figuring out ways to add moments that continue to offer insight into the characters. Plus, I always enjoy flashbacks that focus on Goodwin and Parrilla’s relationship in the Enchanted Forest, and allow them to interact in a more volatile way.
Regina, after traveling to the village Snow and Charming are living in, plays on her knowledge of Snow’s weakness of others and offers her the chance to surrender lest she be the cause of everyone’s death at her own selfish hand. True to form, Snow immediately chooses to go into exile rather than fight for her kingdom, a choice that Charming vehemently disagrees with – much like the way Mary Margaret has acted with Emma, Charming is a firm believer that Snow doesn’t have to feel weak about her past, that it’s just a matter of allowing herself to find her confidence. It’s this feeling that drives Charming to visit Rumple, asking for magical help, which in turns leads to a nice tie-in of Excalibur (the sword in the stone) as a plot device for Snow learning how to believe in herself.
Being a “lost girl” doesn’t necessarily extend to Emma, the orphan, or Mary Margaret, the mother who feels lost raising a child, or even Regina, the woman who feels like she’ll never be accepted if she can’t be seen as a villain. It also extends to Rumple as he struggles with his Dark One moniker, to Charming as he figures out what kind of person he wants to be (as we saw last week, his penchant to act with vengeance in some cases is still very much a flaw he’s struggling with), to Hook as he reconciles with coming back to a land he never wanted to see again. And, perhaps, to Henry as well, as Pan calls Emma out on the fact that she hasn’t completely forgiven her parents for abandoning her – and that despite his love for his mother, Henry hasn’t forgive Emma for abandoning him in the same way. It seems that Pan is going to take this “lost boy” theme to a new level, preying on both Emma and Henry’s vulnerabilities as orphans to turn them into true lost souls. And if that’s the route we’re taking this season, I can’t wait to see what else is in store.
- So sue me, I am definitely back on the Emma and Hook train, especially after their conversation in tonight’s episode.
- We still don’t have much information about the doll, only that Rumple continually tries to destroy it – going so far as to burn it and throw it over a cliff – and it seems to be indestructible. Whether that’s Neverland magic, dark magic, or something Pan has designed to more or less torture Rumple remains to be seen, but I’m very intrigued by how this might be the driving force of Rumple’s storyline.
- I’m really enjoying how Neverland has upped the game of all the characters in terms of relationships and character development – season three is definitely off to a strong start.
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