Oh, this episode. Where do I even begin? With the help of some magic wrist cuffs Hook obtained from Cora, he and Emma are able to climb up the beanstalk to get the magic compass. It’s surprisingly easy for the viewer to warm up to Hook in this episode. For someone who’s supposed to be a treacherous, fearsome pirate captain, he really comes across as someone you’d like to bring along on a road trip, just for the sake of keeping you entertained during the drive. I mean, really, why does our intrepid team of heroes seem to hate him in this episode? He’s a hoot! (His response to Mulan’s ‘a hook?’ was just perfect line delivery.) The dynamic that he and Emma display is really fun to watch as well. And not just because Hook seems to be able to figure out what makes her tick without any real effort, even though they’d only just met a few hours earlier- an ability that Emma seems to mirror as well, as she manages to figure out Hook’s real motivation in going after Rumpelstiltskin by just seeing the tattoo on his arm and seeing how he shuts down when she asks about it. (Close-ups of this tattoo dedicated to Milah really get you in the feels, as you can see the dagger going through the heart is actually the Dark One’s dagger.) There were a few moments, during my initial viewing of this episode, when I had some real ‘wait, did he really just say that? Lemmie hear that line again!’ moments. Like this exchange, for example:
Emma: Don’t think I’m taking my eyes off you for a second.
Hook: I would despair if you did.
There was also Hook’s earlier line of ‘I was hoping it’d be you’ when Emma volunteered to climb the beanstalk with him. Oh really, Hook? You were hoping it would be the woman who saw through your ‘poor little blacksmith’ ruse, held a knife to your throat, had you tied to a tree and threatened to hand you over to the ogres? Dude, you’ve got it bad. Don’t even try to deny it. And oh, good gravy, the sexual tension between these two is just launched into the stratosphere. Just look at the scene when Hook is bandaging Emma’s hand. First of all, it really indicates how hyper-aware he already is of her, as he immediately spots her injury before even Emma can. And don’t get me started with how he tightens the bandage with his teeth. This moment is made even more awesome when you realize it wasn’t scripted. I’ve recently heard that actor Colin O'Donoghue adlibbed that little moment and actress Jennifer Morrison had no idea he was going to do that ahead of time. (Although, I have to wonder why Emma even had to ask what Hook was pouring onto the wound. What else would a pirate captain keep in his flask?)
Throughout this whole escapade atop the beanstalk, you can just see how these two are cut from the same cloth and how well they work together on multiple levels. Unfortunately, Emma figuratively slams on the brakes as she’s reminded a bit too strongly of a moment in her past which occurred 11 years ago, when she encountered a man called Neal during her attempt to steal a yellow bug (the same one she still drives) and realizes that, thanks to Neal, it was already stolen. What follows is the pair developing a whole Bonnie and Clyde relationship until the inevitable betrayal, when Neal sets Emma up and leaves her to take the fall for a crime he’d committed before they’d met, which resulted in her being thrown into jail, where she discovers she was pregnant with Henry. The memory of this betrayal, which had left permanent emotional and mental scars on her psyche, leads to Emma turning against Hook and abandoning him at the top of the beanstalk. This scene is just so upsetting, because you understand why Emma is acting the way she is. At the same time, Hook has been nothing but completely open from the second he admitted who he really was, and hasn’t given any indication that he planned to double-cross them in favor of Cora. He even tells Emma to use her superpower on him to prove his sincerity. In fact, in the next episode, we learn that he’d taken Cora’s magic bands without her knowledge. Which means he had been planning to betray Cora even before he officially met Emma and the others. I tend to think that when he saw what Cora did to everyone in the Safe Haven village, that was the point when he was all ‘No way. I don’t want anything to do with this woman, anymore.’ After all, you can hear a tone of anger in his voice in the last episode, when he stated that Cora was the one who killed all those people. It really makes you wonder how things would have played out if Emma hadn’t allowed her fears and insecurities take over at that crucial moment. But, as Aslan said in the Disney/Walden Media version of Prince Caspian, ‘we can never know what would have happened.’
While I’m on the subject? Hi, August! I nearly forgot about you! Although, what are you doing following around Emma in secret? Aren’t you supposed to be gallivanting around in Thailand at this point? That’s what your spiel back in ‘The Stranger’ suggested. So, what made you come back just in time to talk Neal into leaving Emma? And why did you leave again after this incident? We also get confirmation that Neal was the guy who got the postcard in the first episode of this season, and that it was August/Pinocchio that sent it. That aside…. okay, I’m going to hold off my thoughts on the whole Neal issue for the time being. Because that’s best left until a future episode analysis.
Snow and Aurora also have a little bonding moment, springing from the fact that they were both victims of the Sleeping Curse. We learn that Snow suffered from bad nightmares for a period of time after she was woken up, and that Aurora is also having nightmares, too. And, in the final moments, we see Henry is, too. And all three people have the same exact dream, which suggests that this might be more than just a bad dream. Nice buildup for what’s to come there.
I do find it pleasantly interesting that the giant they encounter in this episode, whose name is Anton, wasn’t the vicious monster everyone was expecting. He’s just like a typical person, except for the obviously significant difference in size. I found that particularly nice since, during my initial viewing of ‘The Shepherd,’ I was expecting them to use that kind of twist with the dragon that was supposed to be terrorizing King George’s kingdom, and that when Charming went out to face the dragon in his late twin brother’s place, he would find out that the dragon was simply trying to defend itself, or had a nest of eggs to protect. Something along those lines. Of course, my initial prediction with the dragon didn’t happen, so I am glad they utilized that plot point in this episode.