This was a strong one. I have a couple of qualms here and there, but overall I think any episode focusing on the deliciously complex dynamic between Rumple and Bae/Neal is going to be a good one. In a show with a lot of frankly average actors, Robert Carlyle and Michael Raymond-James are the standouts, and whenever they share the screen, things are great.
The plot: Neal is in Neverland, and he manages to escape Felix pretty quickly. Rumple is still bent on sacrificing his life to save Henry, but some hallucinations of Belle tell us that Rumple's worried he might be unable to kick that "nasty habit" of self preservation. Enter... Neal!
Obviously they're both really surprised to see each other, and Rumple thinks Neal is another hallucination at first. But then, they decide to work together to find Henry. Neal knows the island better than his father does, so he takes the lead. They obtain ink from a squid, then sneak into Pan's camp. Rumple uses magic to knock out everyone in the camp, including Henry, but Pan is immune to his magic. Neal then comes in and shoots an arrow at Pan. Instead of lacing the tip, he laced the staff with the squid ink, which means when Pan catches the arrow, it immobilizes him long enough for the two of them to get Henry and get out.
In a scene that broke my heart, Rumple begs Neal to trust him again, but Neal says he can't. He immobilizes his papa using more of the squid ink and takes Henry away. Unfortunately, Pan and the boys show up and take a still unconscious Henry away. Neal yells after him that he promises he'll come back.
Rumple and Hallucination!Belle have another chat, wherein Rumple is worried that now that he has something to live for (his son being alive), he won't be able to kick the self preservation habit after all.
In a series of flashbacks throughout the episode, we see that Rumple (the Dark One) is keeping Bae confined to home for his own safety. However, when a mysterious piper arrives and begins luring children away, Rumple returns home to find Bae missing. He tracks down said piper, and it's... Peter Pan! Okay, this twist wasn't exactly surprising, given the focus of the show lately, but I thought it was a really cool idea to blend this idea of an evil Pan with the Pied Piper. So, props for creativity on that one. Anyway, Pan says that Bae followed his music because he's lonely and feels disconnected from the people around him. That's the only way that children can hear his music. If they're contented in their lives, they won't hear anything. Rumple steals Bae and forces him to come back home, where Bae angrily declares that if Rumple had just asked, he would have returned home voluntarily.
We must briefly mention one other thing, too... at the start of the episode, Henry couldn't hear Pan's music. By the end, he could hear it and began dancing with the other boys.
(Brief tangent... why are there no Lost Girls? That's really been bothering me. Girls don't feel loneliness?)
But anyways... I'm really starting to warm up to this kid playing Pan. He was maybe a bit shaky at first, but he's turning into a properly menacing villain. As I mentioned before, Bae and Rumple's scenes were really strong. There's some serious acting chops going on between these two. I'm also very interested to learn more about Rumple and Pan's past... it appears they were friends as children, but Pan abandoned him and went to Neverland instead. Intriguing!
The other plot of the night involved the gang still searching for Henry. Tinker Bell is with them now, willing to help them in their hunt for Pan's camp. Not much happened plot wise here, except for that they found Bae/Neal's old hideout from when he lived on the island. Hook reveals that Neal is the only person to have gotten off of the island without Pan's blessing, and so hopefully they can figure out how he did it. Inside the cave, there are a lot of drawings and random object. The line of the evening goes to Miss Regina: when someone suggests that one of the objects they found might be a colander, she replies "Pre-teen Baelfire probably made lots of pasta." I laughed out loud at that one!
Mostly this section of the episode just gave Jennifer Morrison a chance to further stretch her acting chops. Emma misses Neal, and she's pissed that he died just when they started to realize that they still loved each other. The most annoying part of the episode for me, without a doubt, was the fact that David still hasn't told anyone that he's dying. On the one hand, I understand his motivations, because he wants the focus to be on finding Henry. But on the other hand, it's a little hard to believe that after everything they've all been through, he would keep such a big secret from his wife.
As we look forward to next week, I'm excited to see Colin O'Donoghue shine in a Hook-centric episode. Every little detail of his acting is really interesting. I can see the growing connection between Hook and Emma, and all of the complicated emotions associated with this. They both lost Bae/Neal, but in very different ways, and they are oddly bonding over this shared loss.
A great episode! I mentioned a few things that bothered me, especially with David keeping his secret. I also want to see some Lost Girls for some reason, and I could have used with a bit more plot advancement in the main cast's search for Henry. However, the Pan/Pied Piper flashbacks were excellent, and I'm really looking forward to what comes next!