As the title of this episode states, Ariel from The Little Mermaid makes her debut in this episode. Although, I do have to ask how she’s as nice as she was in the movie while the mermaids we saw at the start of the season…well…weren’t. (Not that I'm complaining, mind you.) Was it simply a case of growing up in different environments? Are the oceans of Neverland the mermaid equivalent of South Central? Anyway, the flashback shows how Ariel and Snow became instant BFFs when Ariel saved Snow’s life when the latter was trying to escape from two of Evil Queen Regina’s soldiers. With Snow’s encouragement, Ariel attends a ball at the castle of Prince Eric, with whom she’d fallen in love after saving him from a shipwreck (I see their story didn’t deviate too far from the Disney version.) But Ariel is very hesitant to tell Eric about her being a mermaid, giving Evil Queen Regina an opening to step in. What follows is slightly convoluted. Regina convinces Ariel that Eric will never accept her as a mermaid and tricks her to turn Snow into a mermaid herself so Ariel can remain human 24/7. But then when the deception is revealed, Ariel is faced with the choice to save her friend or run off to find Eric, who is supposed to be leaving on an extended voyage that very day. In the end, Ariel chose to risk losing Eric forever to protect Snow from Evil Queen Regina. In retaliation for foiling her attempt at killing Snow, Evil Queen Regina renders Ariel mute, which prevents her from calling out to Eric before he leaves on his voyage.
We see the same level of self-sacrifice in Killian/Hook in this episode. Because of their heated kiss at the end of last episode, he’s realized he’s completely besotted with Emma. But then Pan informed him that Neal was still alive. While Pan’s intention was simply to test him on whether he could be honorable enough to step aside and allow Emma to reunite with her son’s father, Pan didn’t count on the fact that Killian/Hook had genuinely cared about Baelfire. So he wasn’t about to abandon him. Like Ariel, he chose to risk losing his opportunity at finding love to rescue a friend. But for him, his sacrifice was even deeper than that. The sad truth is that Killian/Hook has a self-loathing streak hidden beneath his smug bravado. And it’s no wonder, considering how often people talk down to him because of his status as a pirate. We got quite a lot of that in the last episode, from Charming calling him a pirate as if the word ‘pirate’ was the most derogatory curse in existence, to Pan’s ‘a one-handed pirate with a drinking problem.’ If you get negative, hateful comments directed at you enough times, you might start to actually believe them. After all, he didn’t have someone to give him the speech Emma gave Ashley/Ella back in ‘The Price of Gold.’ ‘People are going to tell you who you are your whole life. You just got to punch back and say, ‘no, this is who I am.’ You want people to look at you differently? Make them.’ The fact remains that Killian/Hook was quite possibly in a place where he didn’t believe Emma could actually see him as someone worthy of her love. In spite of that, he still chose to bear his very heart to her, just to give her the chance of getting back to her son’s father, and someone he believed Emma would prefer over him. And that is why I point to this episode to anyone who doubts Killian/Hook’s feelings for Emma. This man put his very heart on the line, risking his chance at happiness with the woman he was falling hard for, because he chose to put Emma’s feelings first. And even when he’s pouring out his heart, he almost seems apologetic about it, because he knows that all Emma wants right now is to get her son back. After all, that is the reason why they came to Neverland in the first place. He knows revealing his feelings are just going to give her another burden that might further distract her from saving Henry, and that’s the last thing he wants to do.
While Snow and Charming’s secrets were not as heart-melting as Hook/Killian’s, they also could serve as even more potential burdens for Emma to carry on her shoulders. Charming finally admits that he’d been poisoned by Dreamshade, and that the cure he took has made it impossible for him to leave the island and live to tell about it. While Charming’s confession seemed to be directed mainly at Snow, (and I admit I loved hearing the brewing rage beneath her delivery of ‘A cure for what?’) you can imagine how that knowledge might make Emma feel. She came to Neverland to rescue her son, and now she’s learning that, while she might get him back, she’ll have to lose her father in the process- the father she’s only barely found again. As for Snow’s secret about wanting to have another baby? If anyone is wondering how this information might not bode well in Emma’s mind, remember what she revealed in the pilot episode- how her first foster family returned her when they had a baby of their own. To Emma, hearing how her mother wants to have another baby might feel like Déjà Vu. Once again, she’s left with the potential of feeling that she’s not enough and can be replaced. Maybe Hook/Killian’s earlier warning about Echo Cave was truer than even he knew.
Hook/Killian: He [Pan] wants us to rescue him [Neal].
Hook/Killian: So that we reveal our secrets. He believes once we do, our secrets will destroy us.
Emma is continuing in her attempts to master her innate magical abilities in this episode. Today’s lesson is apparently producing fire, which Regina acting as her coach. This lesson will come in handy in the next episode, but Regina’s method of producing fire is tied to the emotions of rage and anger. While this method does make sense (there’s a reason why the phrase ‘to burn with anger’ exists) and does prove to be effective, as Emma manages to get the campfire going, I was strongly reminded of Avatar: The Last Airbender. More specifically, the episode ‘The Firebending Masters.’ For those who have never seen this particular show, I cannot urge you to do so enough, as it’s a really well-written story that transcends its target audience.
Dagnabit Snow! You can’t keep a secret to save your life, can you?! Shouldn’t you have learned your lesson after the whole Daniel Debacle? But no! When August asked you to not tell anyone you saw him in ‘Selfless Brave and True,’ the first thing you did was run off and tell Marco/Geppetto. And now your word vomit is back in full force. Even after Charming and Killian/Hook gave you a perfectly legitimate reason to keep the news about Neal to yourself for a bit, you just couldn’t keep your mouth shut. That said, this episode seemed to be a real epiphany moment for her, as she started to realize that her belief that First Love = True Love was not gospel truth. You can see her coming to realize this in her facial expressions as Killian/Hook confesses he’s falling in love with Emma. And I am really glad she’s started to realize this, as it was starting to get annoying with her constantly trying to get Emma to be happy about the possibility of Neal being alive. I mean, when Snow was telling Emma that she should open herself up to the possibility of Neal being alive, Emma responds with a single ‘why?’ Snow immediately goes off on her spiel about happy endings. Um, Snow? Maybe, instead of trying to instill your world outlook on your daughter, you could try asking her exactly why she’s so hesitant to let herself believe Neal’s alive. I don’t know, I just think maybe Snow should stop trying so hard to be Emma’s mother and channel a little more of Season 1 Mary Margret once in a while. But that’s just me.
I might be biased, due to my strong dislike for Neal, but I say Regina had the right idea this episode- saving Henry should have come first. Neal wasn’t in any immediate danger, and it wasn’t like he was going anywhere anytime soon. There was no reason why they had to drop everything to go after Nealfirebagelperson. Unless they felt that they’d have to cut and run the moment they got Henry back and Neal was the one who knew how to escape? I really don’t know.
Ugh. Neal. I’m telling you, I’m at a loss at coming up with a reason why I’m supposed to like him. And in this episode, he just takes the cake. Emma informs him that she was hoping he wasn’t alive after all, and that she would have been much happier if he hadn’t lived so she could put the pain he put her through behind her. That should be the proof that she was purely uninterested in giving him a second chance. But Neal, the moment they’re out of Echo Cave, tells her that he’s not going to give up in his pursuit of her. First of all, Neal, did you not hear her just say she literally wished you were dead? Can you not take a hint? More importantly, what’s this ‘I’m never gonna stop fighting for you’ crap? Never STOP? Dude, when did you even START?! Because it seemed to be incredibly easy for August/Pinocchio to convince you to ditch Emma all those years ago. Besides, even IF, and that’s a pretty big if, sending her to jail was the only way to make sure she’d fulfill her destiny and break Regina’s curse (because I still say there were plenty of other ways you could have left her without resorting to the jail thing), August sent you that postcard letting you know the curse was broken and there was nothing keeping you from getting back in touch with Emma again. But no, you chose to stay in New York and made no attempt to even contact Emma. You can claim that you didn’t think she’d forgive you for what you did (not that she’d be wrong not to) and that you had to make sure she fulfilled her destiny until you’re blue in the face. We all know the real reason you did what you did was because you didn’t want to risk running into Daddy Dearest again. It had nothing to do with helping her at all. And then there’s that whole thing with Tamara, the woman you almost married. When Emma tried to warn you about her, you didn’t even consider listening to Emma’s concerns, and instead got all condescending and belittling. But the very instant Tamara revealed her true colors, you immediately announced you loved Emma again? Forgive me, Neal , for not taking your declarations of undying love for this woman seriously, because this is just Romeo levels of fickleness. No, on second thought, you actually make Romeo look good in that regard. At least Romeo went through a mourning period over Rosaline not returning his feelings. Neal, on the other hand, was all ‘Oh, Tamara doesn’t really love me? Okay, then I’ll just go back to Emma.’ Again, UGH.
On a final note, apparently, Pan can only be killed if Gold/Rumpelstiltskin dies as well? Um…I’m sorry, what?! When did that become a thing? Did I have a blackout during which they went all Dragonheart on us? No seriously! I don’t remember anything that even suggested that before this episode. How did Gold/Rumple figure that detail out? Was it just his seer-senses kicking in again? But regardless of how they came to that conclusion, Gold and Regina figure out a way to stop Pan without killing him- by retrieving a specific item from Gold’s shop. To get this item, Regina summons Ariel and instructs her to go to Storybrooke in exchange for another chance at reuniting with Prince Eric, who is now among the denizens of Storybrooke.