Friday, August 7, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (And Straight on ‘Til Morning)

The flashback for this episode takes place shortly after the last one left off.  Baelfire has entered Neverland, and in a twist of fate, winds up on the Jolly Roger.  If the dialogue during this subplot is any indication, Hook and his crew haven’t been in Neverland that long, meaning the events we saw back in ‘The Crocodile’ happened fairly recently.  My question is, exactly how much time had passed since the death of Milah and the start of Hook’s quest for revenge at this point?  Smee does seem to be well-informed about Pan and his band of Lost Boys, so clearly they haven’t just arrived there.  But they’re still uncertain if Pan would allow them to live, which is why having Baelfire on the Jolly Roger is such a big deal.  They say that if Pan found out that Hook was keeping Baelfire on the ship instead of handing him over, then Hook and his crew would pretty much receive a painful death sentence.  But Hook, upon realizing who Baelfire is, sees his chance to use the boy to get at Dark One Rumpelstiltskin and decides to keep him aboard in secret.   At least that’s his initial intent.  The more time he spends with Baelfire, the more he grows to warm up to him.  Before too long, Hook’s reaches the point when he seriously considers unofficially adopting the boy.  That alone should earn Hook some points in the eyes of the viewers- that he’d be willing to raise another man’s son, particularly the son of a man he loathes with the passion of a million white-hot suns.  But that possibility is dashed when Baelfire discovers Hook’s connection with his parents and angrily dismisses his offer of a home on the Jolly Roger.   While I was initially miffed at Baelfire for pushing Hook away, particularly since I think he was genuine in his desire to turn his life around and become a father figure to Baelfire, I kind of get it now, particularly after Hook claiming that he can change.  How many times do you think Baelfire heard his father say those exact words?  And that clearly didn’t end well.  Plus, he’s clearly angry and confused after finding out about Hook’s connection with his mother and father.   When Baelfire refuses to reconsider Hook’s offer of staying aboard the Jolly Roger, Hook instantly reverts back to his vengeance-first mindset.  That’s a very human reaction- why bother to try to change your ways when no one will give you a chance, or even believes you can?  As for him handing Baelfire over to the Lost Boys?  Let’s not forget that Pan could have had Hook and his entire crew killed if they hadn’t let them take Baelfire.  If Baelfire had changed his mind at the last minute and considered staying on the Jolly Roger, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Hook went charging in, sword blazing, to try and keep Baelfire, even if he had to take on every single Lost Boy at once.  But in the end, Baelfire made it quite clear that he had no desire to accept Hook as a surrogate father, so what motivation did Hook have to fight for him?

Regina does redeem herself in a sense this episode in her attempts to hold off the self-destruct by sacrificing her life.  I suppose the looming destruction of Storybrooke, and the possibility that Henry would be left completely alone as he’s the only one who hadn’t been born in the Enchanted Forest, has finally gotten her to gain some perspective, as she’s finally starting to take responsibility for her actions.  I really did like seeing her reach this point, as she really was grating on my nerves throughout the second half of this season with how she kept griping how no one believed that she could change.  It just irritated me when she got on that because the impression I was getting was that people were starting to consider giving her another chance until Cora entered the picture and framed Regina for Archie’s death.  For one brief shining moment, I thought we were getting something promising from Regina when she found out what her mother had done, and she seemed to understand that the others couldn’t really be blamed for believing Regina had killed Archie.  Her exact words were ‘you made an airtight case. Anyone would believe it.’  But then she had to go and allow herself to fall prey to Cora’s manipulation again and continued to go along with her nutjob mother’s plans, completely ignoring all the warning signs.  And then, when she was finally free of Cora’s influence again, she relapsed back into her ‘I hate Snow White’ and ‘I want Henry all to myself’ modes.  So, yeah, the only reason why everyone refused to believe Regina could change was because she went and relapsed when the going got tough.

I also really liked how this episode concluded the amnesiac Belle/Lacey subplot.  The Blue Fairy had managed to finalize a memory-restoring potion that the dwarfs planned on using on Sneezy, who has been stuck as his Mr. Clark persona throughout the majority of the season.  However, Leroy/Grumpy brings a vial of the potion to Mr. Gold so he could return Belle to her true self.  Seeing Leroy/Grumpy do that was a really nice moment, reminding us about his history with Belle which was covered in the ‘Dreamy’ and ‘The Outsider’ flashbacks.  However, Gold is reluctant to use it on Belle until that moment when ‘Lacey’ attempts to use Baelfire’s old shawl like it’s a worthless rag.  It wasn’t until that moment that he was reminded how much of a soothing balm Belle had been for him, and he gives her the potion.

This whole episode is once again an extremely good character development moment for Hook.  Remember how it wasn’t until Regina admitted to want to destroy the whole town that he chose to fully align himself with Greg and Tamara?  Here, you see him start to be all ‘wait, what?  This isn’t what I signed up for.’  First with them admitting they don’t actually know who their boss actually is and not even caring (I’m fairly certain most rational people would see that little detail as a red flag), and then announcing they plan to destroy Storybrooke after all.  You can hear and see in Hook’s tone and facial expression that he’s not pleased with that.  And that’s proven when he goes and approaches Emma and her family to help them find Greg and Tamara in order to get back the stolen magic beans so everyone can out of Storybrooke before it’s destroyed.  (We also get one more hint that Hook let Emma win their duel at Lake Nostros.  The instant Hook enters the loft apartment, Charming decks him one, and Hook is able to take the punch like a pro.  Unless they're suggesting Emma punches harder than her father, I think that further indicates that Hook was just pretending to be knocked out at Lake Nostros.)  While there is that one questionable moment when he tries to make off with the bean and leave Storybrooke to its fate, that might have been him thinking ‘if these people are willing to risk everything in the slim chance their cockamamie scheme will work instead of cutting their losses and escaping while they can, then they deserve what’s coming to them.’  The important thing is that in the end, he made the choice to do the right thing and came back.  As to what convinced him to come back, I think it was a multiple of factors.  As we saw in the flashbacks, Hook really did care about Baelfire and wanted to do well by him.  But Baelfire refused to give him the chance to prove it, insisting that Hook could never change.  While I might be wrong, I think that accusation really hurt him.  So much so that he decided to mask his pain and simply be what Baelfire was accusing him of being.  However, Emma’s impassioned speech presented him with an offer- an offer to prove he could change and care for someone else.  As I said earlier, if no one thinks you can change, you’re really not getting a motivation to even try.  But when someone actually gives you the chance, it can be a completely different ballgame.  As Hook said, he just needed someone to remind him that he could care about someone other than himself.  Plus, I think the fact that he found out Henry was Neal/Baelfire’s son clinched it- if Storybrooke was destroyed, Henry would be left completely alone.  He’d be abandoned, just like Baelfire had been abandoned by his parents years ago, and like Hook had been when he was a boy himself.

One thing that confused me.  It’s sorta implied at the end that Greg and Tamara have been working for Pan all along, as the episode ends with them abducting Henry and taking him to Neverland.   (Although how they managed to snatch him away when Emma, Regina, David/Charming and Mary Margret/Snow were standing a few feet away is beyond me.  Granted they were probably distracted by the fact Emma and Regina were attempting to shut down the self-destruct diamond with their magical powers, but Henry must have made some sort of noise when they grabbed him.)  And the episode ends with the reveal that Pan has been searching for Henry for who knows how long, and was even trying to locate him before he’d even been born.  My question involves Hook and Gold/Rumpelstiltskin.  Watching this episode, I just got the impression they knew who was behind this.  Just take a look at these two exchanges:

Hook: Are you sure whoever's in charge of you doesn't want you guys to die in a mine collapse?
Tamara: Just keep moving.
Hook: Who is telling you what to do?
Greg: You know what? That's not your concern. It's not ours, either.
Hook: Not your concern. So you're telling me you don't know who commands you?

David: So who are we up against? Who are Greg and Tamara?
Mr. Gold: They're merely pawns, manipulated by forces far greater than they can conceive. They have no idea who they're truly working for.
Emma: And who's that?
Mr. Gold: Someone we all should fear.

I might be reading too much into this, but these exchanges seem to indicate that both men know about Pan’s involvement in all of this.  My question is, how’d they figure it out?  The best guess I can come up with for Hook is the fact that Hook has dealt with Pan for centuries and has most likely gleaned enough from their dealings to immediately recognize Pan’s M.O.  But I’m kinda stumped at how Gold knew, unless it’s his whole seeing-the-future thing kicking in.  Or did he figure it out when they found out Greg and Tamara had taken Henry to Neverland?  After all, we’ll find out in later episodes Gold/Rumpelstiltskin has his own history with Peter Pan.

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