Daddy issues, ahoy! Tonight’s Once Upon A Time bought two of the show’s most volatile characters together in both the past and the present, using a Rumple and Bae flashback to explain Rumple’s first meetings with Pan, how the Lost Boys became a tribe, and the strained father/son relationship that, despite Rumple’s best intentions, remains very much an issue.
I enjoy that the show has found a way to work in Belle, despite the fact that she’s still actually in Storybrooke, and not just because it keeps the audience in check about the fact that Rumple and Belle’s relationship is still pertinent. Neal may be Rumple’s redemption, but Belle is his moral compass, and having her around – even just as a vision – to remind him of the fact that she believes in his goodness is a grounding for the character in world where he could (and might) easily fall apart.
We don’t hesitate in having Bae – who managed to escape Lost Boy Felix – run off and run directly into his father, who, at first, thinks he’s yet another vision. I really liked how Robert Carlyle and Michael Raymond-James played their short reunion – while it was at first surprising to see how happy Bae was to see his dad, it was more surprising to see just how happy Rumple was. Kudos to both actors for the fantastic chemistry they brought to the episode, helping the emotionally charged argument near the end of the hour to feel like a real payoff even after only a short time of being back together.
“Nasty Habits” afforded us some insight into a part of Rumple’s fairytale life that we haven’t had much of a chance to explore outside of his interaction with other characters – after his transformation into the Dark One, but before he lost Bae and when he still maintained enough humanity to genuinely care for his son. His fear of abandonment leads him to more or less confine Bae to house arrest, under the guise of his worry that being the Dark One means danger for his family (which, while that may be true, still doesn’t hide the fact that Rumple doesn’t trust his son won’t leave him the way his own dad did – especially since he’s not going to win a Father Of The Year award anytime soon.) When Bae does disappear (and again, kudos to Carlyle for his acting in tonight’s episode) Rumple follows his trail to a village where he finds children have been taken by a magical sort of piper that no one can see, who plays songs only those that have been unloved can hear in order to lure them out of bed. It’s by following these children that Rumple confronts Pan about Bae, though curiously, it seems that it’s not the first time these two have met. I would say I hope we get more back story on both Pan and Rumple’s past concerning their history together – especially since Rumple alludes to a shared connection before Pan came to Neverland – but I know that Kitsis and Horowitz have already promised us such a story, so I’ll just say I’m excited to see what’s in store.
Neal and Rumple manage to rescue a (conveniently) sleeping-spelled Henry by sneakily coating an arrow for Pan with squid ink, which acts as a paralysis. Pan eventually catches up to them, however, and much like he’s done with Emma and Henry, he knows just where to hit the former Dark One. In the past, he exploits Rumple’s feelings by taunting him with the fact that his own son doesn’t love him, as evidenced by the fact he could hear the lute melody. In the present, he exploits Rumple’s shady past by bringing up the prophecy in Neal’s presence, knowing that he probably didn’t tell him about it and that Neal would begin to distrust him once he found out. In one of Carlyle’s strongest scenes of the hour, Rumple pleaded, begged, and did his best to genuinely try to prove to Neal that he had no intention of killing Henry, but Neal wouldn’t have it. Call it stubborn and call it lingering hurt, but personally, I rolled my eyes a little when Neal took Henry and stormed away after rendering his father paralyzed by the squid ink. It’s not that I don’t think Rumple could be easily turned based on his past transgressions, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? And risking your life to get your son back while sharing that you’re ready to sacrifice yourself is a pretty good start. (You’ve grown up, Neal? Sometimes I wonder…)
Of course, the two don’t get very far before they’re captured again and Pan uses the situation to slyly convince Henry that no one is coming for him (his father is dead, after all.) Prior to this, Pan had spent his time continuing to persuade Henry that he belongs in Neverland, and that his “new family” was having a party to celebrate him. When he played the melody that he uses to lure children, Henry wasn’t able to hear it – suggesting that he still knew and felt that he was loved by those who were searching for him. But when he plays the music again, after Henry admits that he believes his family his dead, he can hear it. I need to give props to Robbie Kay, because not only am I enjoying him as Once’s main villain, I continue to be impressed with his talent. It would be easy to make the character of Pan a caricature or far-fetched due to poor acting, but Kay hones in on the exact amount of creepiness and anger needed to be believable – arguably one of the strongest supporting characters the show has cast so far, which is saying something.
We end with a shot of Henry “becoming one” with the Lost Boys, which means we now have an entirely new wrench thrown into our story – when Emma, Regina et al. eventually do make it to Pan’s hideout, Henry’s not going to be so easy to coerce home. And unlike Rumple, I doubt Regina is powerful enough to conjure up enough magic to bring them home. (Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that even if the group did find an easy way out via some magic spell, Henry would still spend his time upset that he left the Lost Boys and react the way Bae did.)
An episode almost entirely focused on Rumple meant we didn’t spend a lot of time with our other heroes, but there was still enough story to round out the hour as the group moved forward in their plan to attempt to break into Pan’s camp. Hook pushed Charming to tell Mary Margaret about the dreamshade, which he again chickened out of when she brought up how she couldn’t live without him. Mary Margaret, in turn, was distraught by the fact she had no idea how to comfort her own daughter, who is still in mourning for Neal (I can’t wait to see that reunion.) The group eventually found a cave where Bae hid out as a Lost Boy, as well a light that illuminated a map of the stars – essentially, a map back home (nice tie in to “second star to the right and straight on til morning” mantra.) The only problem? Hook taught Bae how to read and create the map, which means he’s the only one that can get them home, and with Emma believing Neal to be dead, that doesn’t leave the group much hope. I really like that the show is throwing in these small but significant plot twists, not only setting the stage for the rest of the season’s narrative, but also giving the story something to build on as it moves forward.
- I almost can’t be mad at the lack of Regina, because her sass in this episode was so wonderfully snarky (favorite line: “Yes, because preteen Baelfire probably made lots of pasta.”) If this new dynamic and setting change did anything, it allowed the characters to evolve more fully in both personality and relationships, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
- After this episode, it definitely seems more and more like we’re in Neverland for the long haul – or maybe just until the hiatus break. Regardless, even if we spend the next 2 months in Neverland and the rest in Storybrooke (or somewhere else), it’s been nice to see a focus on the major players we’ve come to know and love – something that the series should have taken more advantage of last season, when it seemed like there were too many new characters and backstories to go around.
- Speaking of small plot moments I enjoyed – the branding of “Lost Boys” being due to Pan’s conversation with Rumple when Bae was initially taken.
- I may be completely off on this, but I could’ve sworn there was a distinct, snide smile from Regina when Tinkerbell told the group that Greg was dead. If that was an intentional character moment, I’d be curious to consider what it meant to Regina – though maybe that’s something only Lana Parrilla would be able to answer.
I am personally far too excited for next week, which, with a title like “Ariel,” implies we’ll finally meet one of my favorite Disney characters. But for now, what did you think of the episode?