This week on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, Neal was discovered alive in Neverland by a familiar face, while Emma broke down over love lost and Henry was slowly lured into Peter Pan’s trap.
IN THE FAIRYTALE LAND THAT WAS…. | Young Bae is brooding, so his father The Dark One asks what’s wrong. Bae wants to be out and about, not holed up in their hovel — but Rumple fears what his enemies might do to his son. When Bae goes missing, Rumple is led to the town of Hamelin, where he hears tell of a “pied piper” who has been leading kids into the forest. Rumple finds and confronts the piper and discovers that it’s Peter Pan — and this is by no means the first time they’ve met. Pan taunts Rumple about his “lost boy” (and in turn gets an idea for naming his followers…), until Rumple finds Bae and whisks him back home. Rumple reveals that he and Pan grew up “incredibly close,” but now the lad’s “darker and more repulsive” than anyone Bae should be exposed to. Nonetheless, Pan had put it in Bae’s head that his father would have asked if he wanted to go home upon finding him, if he truly loved him, so… sulk.
IN NEVERLAND…. | Hook leads Emma and the others to a cave where Baelfire hid out as a Lost Boy. There, they find drawings, but no clue to how he got off Neverland — until Emma assembles a coconut shell candle that projects a map onto the ceiling. Alas, Hook can’t crack Neal’s code, a moment that sends Emma outside, breaking into tears over how she and Neal got it all wrong over the years, yet she knew the instant she saw him again in New York City, “I never stopped loving him.” (The scene also illustrates how Snow White feels inept at consoling a daughter, then clumsily segues into a talk of immortality, seeing as Charming is keeping his poisoning a secret.)
Speaking of Neal: Soon after landing in Neverland, he bests Felix (“At least I know how to tie an overhand knot”) and then bumps into Rumplestilskin. After confirming that Neal isn’t a vision of his failures meant to test him, Rumple questions whether his son has the stomach for what needs to be done to save Henry. Neal says they needn’t kill Lost Boys, then reveals his plan to use a captured squid’s ink to immobilize Pan, since no one can leave the island without his permission. They later KO the Lost Boys (and Henry) with a sleeping spell, as Neal fires an arrow at Pan — who catches it, scoffs, then discovers the squid ink was on the arrow shaft. Totally Mags Bennett’d/Stahma Tarr’d!
With Pan helpless, Neal and Rumple grab sleeping Henry and make tracks, ’til they pause to discuss what Pan said about a prophecy and Rumple wanting to kill Henry, not save him. The men reach an impasse, so Neal immobilizes his father and carries away (the still, conveniently sleeping) Henry, only to be captured just as he discovers Emma’s campsite. “Never break in somewhere unless you know the way out,” Pan reminds Neal (showing the origin of a lesson Emma related earlier, ha). Neal boasts of how he has escaped Neverland once before, but Pan counters, noting Bae’s return and then with a nod to Henry: “Everyone’s where I want them…. The game’s about to change.”
In the final moments, Henry (finally!) wakes and tells Pan he “dreamed” of hearing his “dead” father’s voice. Pan assures the boy, “Neverland is where new dreams are born. We can be your family.” And then, for the first time, Henry can hear the piper’s song, which is only audible to children who aren’t feeling loved.
Conversation topic: Could Pan be the “boy” who, per prophecy, “reunites” Rumplestiltskin and his son, seeing as it was the Neverland mission that ultimately brought them together again? Also: I thought this was a pretty strong episode, at least on the Neal/Rumple/Pan side. Good teases for backstories to come, some nice callbacks. Tinker Bell is a gas, but the cave stuff was a bit kooky.