Who is Peter Pan? According to Once Upon A Time, he’s certainly not the happy-go-lucky, carefree, spunky child that we all grew up to know and love from Disney’s 1953 animated classic. But that’s no surprise. We knew from the beginning of our introduction to season three’s “big bad” that Pan most likely had a damaged past, one that – much like our other heroes – probably contributed to his currently evil ways. Perhaps he had a bad parental experience, or a bad brush with magic that turned him to the dark side, like Rumple and Regina.
Well, in a sense, that all turned out to be kind of true. In fact, what we ended up with at the end of the hour was not at all what I had expected when I started, both in terms of story and plot, so I’d say that Once did a pretty good job with “Think Lovely Thoughts” – and definitely gave the audience enough chew on as we head into a small hiatus. I’d wager to say that this was potentially the strongest episode of the season, even though I think with a few exceptions, we’ve seen an incredible increase in storytelling and development throughout season three – as if the show is finally hitting the stride it meant to hit last year.
While previews made it seem like we would be treated to more of Pan’s backstory, the show cleverly showed us a mix of both Rumple and Pan’s history instead. Since the beginning of our time in Neverland, we’ve been teased with the fact that Rumple has a history with Pan, though we haven’t been able to figure out the exact details. This episode cleared that up and also gave us insight into their history – along with a surprising twist, one that might be the best reveal that the show has ever done. Bravo to the writers for making Pan Rumple’s father – it was a shock I did not see coming, and a bold move to pull off in general, but one that really, really worked.
We know from seeing backstory of Bae and Rumple that Rumple himself had the requisite daddy issues that stemmed from his own childhood, though we didn’t quite know the extent of it. Turns out that it was worse than we (probably) imagined. Not only was Rumple’s father, Malcolm (Stephen Lord) not entirely fit to be a dad, he was a also cheater, a gambler, and he didn’t really care about his son – at least, not in the same way he cared about having magic and prestige. He left Rumple in the care of two old women who taught him to spin (a nice callback, as Rumple has been seen at his wheel spinning straw into gold) with the intent of going off to a find a job. His son soon learned that intention was a lie, but poor trusting Rumple still believed in the greater good – that is, he still believed that his father loved him and he cared about being part of a family. It’s what compelled him to give his father the magic bean gifted to him by the old ladies, and after promising his son that he won’t use it for money, Rumple’s father suggests that they start over in a magical place that he used to visit in his dreams, when he had to escape his own life as a boy: Neverland.
Once tends to do very well in the casting department, and this episode was no different – casting Lord as Rumple’s father was a nice move. Both believable as a man who loved his son but who also craved the selfishness of a life he never had, Lord was able to impart a lot of Carlyle’s specific movements and tells into his performance. The results were subtle, but they really helped to carry his performance. Add Carlyle’s always on-the-ball acting to the mix in present day, and you’re left realizing that, as is often the case when we get an episode featuring Regina or Rumple, there are so many talented people that make up the Once universe who consistently bring their best to the table – perhaps this practiced talent is what sets the show apart from its sister show, Wonderland, which just hasn’t been able to sustain the same power on a lot of levels since its debut.
Once arriving in Neverland, Malcolm’s happiness quickly dissolves when he realizes that he can’t fly or do any of the things he used to do as a child. On a quest to find the pixie dust that he thinks will give him the powers he so desperately craves, he finds himself in conflict with the Shadow (voiced by Marilyn Manson) – who tells him that, indeed, as long as he’s an adult, he’ll have no power in this world. What’s a father to do? If you’re Malcolm, apparently you abandon your son, give him up to the Shadow to you’re your own greed, and in obtaining youth, become the boy we know as Peter Pan. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rumple, seeing past the evil and the misdeeds, and this episode drove home the fact of how much there is a truly emotional and caring man underneath all of his anger and bad decisions. I also like that the episode played up a lot of moments with Bae – their reunion was short in the grand scheme of things where the episode’s plot was concerned, but there was enough interaction to show how much Rumple was attempting to make amends with his son based on his own past. Although Rumple is right and there is a noticeable difference between himself and his father – he may have abandoned Bae, but he loved him enough to never stop looking for him – I liked how when father and son finally did meet face to face, Pan brought up the parallel as a way to play on his son’s fears and weaknesses.
With Regina and Rumple having secured Pandora’s Box – which will successfully trap Pan’s shadow – the duo returns to meet up with the rest of the group. The happy reunion, however, is short lived, as Neal’s displeasure at seeing his father immediately takes over and he outs the prophecy details to everyone. (Apparently Neverland isn’t really the best place for secrets, but hey, at least we’re getting all of this stuff out in the open…and clearing up plotlines in the process so we can move forward with different ones.) The group storms Pan’s hideout, but unfortunately, Pan and Henry are long gone. They do have a nice interaction with Wendy, though (and for Bae, a reunion) where she tells him what Pan is up to. The moment also allows Regina to drop the bit of plot information that we learned last week – that John and Michael are in Storybrooke and are, for the moment, safe.
Bae remains distrusting of his father’s true motives, refusing to believe Rumple’s intentions of wanting to save Henry until the episode’s final moments, when he realizes that only Rumple can pass Pan’s shadowless protection spell. To that end, it’s not really Rumple’s fault that he ended up getting the short end of the stick, becoming trapped in the box instead of Pan when Rumple didn’t realize it had been swapped out for a fake, but I’m really curious as to how this is all going to play out. I can’t see Pan letting anyone know that Rumple is alive, although our group is certainly going to get suspicious of his disappearance – but it’ll be interesting to see if they believe in the fact that he did have good intentions for his grandson, after all is said and done.
We also got information on the motive behind Pan’s obsession with Henry. While we’ve heard Pan say over and over again that he wants to “save magic,” the thing that Pan really wants to save is himself. Neverland isn’t made for living, and although he’s skirted the rules for years, he’s now on the verge of dying. With Henry’s heart, however (the heart of the “truest believer”) he can achieve the immortality he’s craved since coming to Neverland all those years ago.
Of course, this isn’t some magical trade off where Henry does a good deed and Pan lets him live. All magic comes with a price, and if Henry gives in, he dies himself – something that Pan (like Malcolm) couldn’t care less about as long as he gets what he wants. I have to take a moment to talk about how fantastic Robbie Kay is, and I know I’ve mentioned my surprise at the fact that the young actor can hold his own among seasoned individuals like Parrilla and Carlyle. But his scenes in this episode – especially after learning about his true identity – continued to show just how brilliant he tackles this role. Few actors, young or not, could hold my attention as well as Kay has been able to, and I confess I’m going to be extremely sad if/when Pan dies and we no longer get to see Kay’s evil glare on a weekly basis.
In another surprising twist, Henry defies his parents’ wishes – even as they stand in front of him, having shown him that they do care and haven’t given up – and lets Pan have his heart, effectively letting himself die. It’s easy to argue that Henry’s gone a little soft and possibly a little stupid – after all, this is the boy who believed in his family so much he refused to let Pan break him down. But lest we forget, Henry has always been susceptible to doing good. And his belief in Pan’s words, combined with the fact that he really thinks he’s helping Wendy, is enough to sway him into making the decision he does. Although I know the show won’t truly let Henry die for real, it’s still a bold move and one that allows the situation to play interestingly into Rumple’s ongoing moral dilemma of whether or not killing Henry is the right thing to do. Whenever Rumple does emerge from the box, I’m curious to see how he’s going to take the news of Henry being dead (albeit temporarily.) I’m thinking perhaps this will continue to bring Bae and Rumple together – especially in the wake of Rumple’s newfound feelings after facing his father again after all these years. To that end, I can’t wait until we get to see Regina, Emma and Neal’s reaction to Henry’s (supposed) death – and what will Charming and Snow think when they find out? I’m guessing that when all is said and done after this adventure, the family dynamics of this group will be a lot more complicated, but also a little less hostile.
- We finally have our answer to how the Charmings will (potentially) leave Neverland with David’s dreamshade wound which otherwise prohibits him from doing so without dying – Rumple overhears Hook and Emma talking, and mentions that when he was poisoned last season, he learned enough about the dreamshade to possibly make an antidote. I still think this is a development that will play out long after we leave Neverland, but I’m interested to see what Rumple comes up with.
- Need I say again how much I loved seeing Regina and Emma do magic together? The progression of Emma from skeptic to believer to “magic-doer” has been really great for a majority of this season, and I’m really hoping that this connection between the two mothers continues after we leave Neverland. Or maybe I can just pay for a one shot show where Regina teaches Emma magic on her own time.
- To ponder: Neverland isn’t supposed to be where people can live, though we know Pan changed the rules when he arrived. Is this the way Neverland has evolved? Does that mean that all children who currently stay here are in danger of dying at some point? (And of course, Pan wouldn’t think to tell them about this.) Or has Pan changed the rules so much that this is no longer a concern? I haven’t seen any indication that the children Pan is keeping in Neverland are in danger, but of course, that means nothing…
- The reveals and clues in this episode were extremely sharp, and I really loved that we finally found out the nature of the doll that Rumple has been fixated on since coming to Neverland – we now know that it was a gift from his father (who gave it to him to satiate his son’s sadness of him leaving), that he lost it on the island when the Shadow took him, and that he named it Peter Pan – the name his father in turn gave to himself when he came to Neverland.
What did you think of the episode? Were you surprised by Pan’s reveal?