Oh, so we do get to see what’s going on back in Storybrooke. That’s cool. Before they left for Neverland, Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, knowing that there might be another Greg and Tamara coming out of the woodwork, tasked Belle with placing a protective barrier over the town that would prevent anyone from finding the town. Unfortunately, the cloaking spell isn’t put up fast enough, as two young men make it into town with seconds to spare, as their car’s rear bumper is ripped off as they cross the town line. While this does reveal that no one can physically enter the town now, it still begs the question of what would happen if someone just happened to be driving down that road, not because they’re actually looking for Storybrooke, but because they just want to see where the road would lead. It’s not like the road leading to the Storybrooke town line is a dirt road, after all. I know I’ve sometimes had the urge to go down roads I’ve never driven on before just to see where they lead, and I doubt I’m the only one who has occasionally felt the need for a mini-adventure. What if someone just wanted to do a little impromptu sightseeing and wound up driving down that road on a whim? I’m just visualizing a whole mess of car wrecks when the cars of these unlucky individuals hit the invisible barrier. How would something like cars crashing into an invisible wall not attract widespread media attention? Am I just being too geeky about this?
Questionable implications aside, Ariel arrives in Storybrooke and teams up with Belle to locate the mystery item in Gold’s shop, which is revealed to be Pandora’s Box. But once they find it, the two men who infiltrated Storybrooke step in with guns drawn. Unlike Greg and Tamara, these two know that they’re working for Pan. When Belle and Ariel confront them as they’re about to destroy Pandora’s Box with one of the dwarves’ pickaxes, the truth comes out- these two young men are the full-grown John and Michael Darling, who have been kept alive all these years by Pan, who is also holding their sister, Wendy, hostage. As long as John and Michael do whatever Pan tells them, he will continue to spare Wendy’s life. However, Belle manages to convince the two brothers to help them instead, promising that they will defeat Pan and save Wendy. Her words seem to do the trick, as they return Pandora’s Box to them, enabling Ariel to travel back to Neverland to get the box to Gold/Rumpelstiltskin.
I think it was in this episode that I finally figured out who Felix, Pan’s lapdog flunky, reminded me of. It’s Malachi, the creepy red-haired kid from Children of the Corn. Please don’t ask me why I think that way. I just do. Except in this case, it’s highly doubtful Felix would ever get fed up and turn on Pan the way Malachi did with Isaac.
Henry FINALLY starts to show his intelligence and becomes less inclined to trust Pan after getting the message from Emma, Regina and Snow. But sadly, Pan manages to take advantage of Henry’s noble nature and makes Henry believe Wendy is gravely ill and the only way she will live is if Henry helps save the magic in Neverland. So, it’s once again one step forward but two steps back with him.
Snow is quite miffed at Charming for the whole keeping-the-Dreamshade-poisoning thing to himself, and for good reason. Even if Charming’s heart was in the right place in wanting to keep everyone focused on saving Henry, he should have at least told his wife and soulmate. She had a right to know that her husband was dying. Their quarrel doesn’t really reach a resolution in this episode, but it does end with Snow’s anger slightly diminished.
Well, I’ve put it off, but I suppose I can’t prolong it anymore. I have to discuss the love triangle shenanigans that occur when Emma, Hook/Killian and Nealfirebagelperson go off to try and trap Pan’s shadow, as capturing it would help them escape Neverland. I don’t know; is there anyone out there who actually enjoys love triangles? Because that’s probably the main reason why I gave up on The Vampire Diaries. I got sick and tired of the female protagonist, Elena, bouncing back and forth between Stephan and Damon. The straw that broke my back was when she announced she was choosing Stephan once and for all, but then apparently changed her mind a few episodes later. And I’m not even mentioning the love lives of the supporting characters. Thankfully, this is the only episode when the love triangle element in OUAT is potentially migraine-inducing, so I suppose I should be grateful for that. Maybe it’s just my general dislike for Neal influencing my take on things, but he was kinda a jerk in this episode. For his part, Hook/Killian seemed to be willing to accept that Emma had lingering feelings for her baby daddy, and he was still reasonably nice to Neal. But Neal turns into a big fat baby after he finds out about Emma and Hook/Killian’s kiss. First with his snippy ‘she’s got me now’ when he sees Hook/Killian had given Emma his boyhood cutlass (dude, it’s not their fault they thought you were dead). And then, when they reach Dark Hollow, all Hook/Killian does is ask how they’re going to light the candle in Neal’s shadow-trap when their lanterns went out, which was a very good question, IMO. Was it just me, or was Neal’s delivery of ‘welcome to the 21st century’ while pulling out the lighter rather snooty? Of course, things escalate rather quickly at that point with them nearly getting into a whole slap-fight over which one of them would light the candle. While they both acted a bit childish here, I do tend to think Neal started it by accusing Hook/Killian of just trying to impress Emma. I really didn’t get that impression when he first offered to help Neal get the candle lit. He just seemed to genuinely want to help. However, his motives may have shifted that way when he also struggled with getting the lighter to work. Remember that small scene in ‘Nasty Habits’ when Hook/Killian was struggling to light the torch in Neal’s cave, and the look he got on his face when Charming stepped forward and lit it without any effort? Guy was probably feeling particularly disgruntled that he was once again failing at being useful in lighting a torch/candle. As a direct result of their pointless pissing contest, both men are put in the position when they have to be saved by Emma, and once the crisis has passed, she gives them both a well-deserved tongue lashing by bluntly reminding them that their priority is getting Henry back.
The stupidity of love triangles aside, while Hook/Killian does tell Emma that she’s going to have to choose between him and Neal at some point while delivering one of the flowery speeches he’s quickly becoming known for, this episode does seem to have some subtle hints that Emma may have already subconsciously chosen. During the attack of Pan’s Shadow in Dark Hollow, notice that when Hook/Killian is grabbed, Emma immediately cries out to him, much like the way she did in ‘Tallahassee,’ when he was getting buried under the falling rocks. But when Neal is also grabbed and calls out to her, Emma doesn’t make a peep, and barely glances back at him until after she manages to light the candle by tapping into her magical potential. Now the fact that she magically lit the candle here deserves discussion. While Emma claims she learned how to generate fire from Regina, which was true, remember that Regina had instructed Emma to utilize anger when creating fire. I might be wrong, but I don’t think Emma was really feeling anger at that exact moment, which means she managed to conjure the fire through a different method than what Regina advised. So, if it wasn’t through anger, how’d she manage to succeed? Well, the answer, I think, lies in what Gold/Rumpelstiltskin told Emma back in ‘The Miller’s Daughter,’ when he was instructing her to put up the protection spell. ‘Conjuring magic is not intellectual endeavor. It’s emotion. You must ask yourself, ‘why am I doing this? Who am I protecting?’’ I wonder if this means that she managed to light the candle as a result of wanting to protect someone. At the moment when Emma needed to light the candle, Neal and Hook/Killian were both getting their shadows forcibly ripped out, which I gather would have resulted in their deaths. They clearly were in serious need of protection then. And out of the two of them, which one was positioned directly in Emma’s field of vision?
There was also that moment earlier, when Emma and Hook/Killian were having the following exchange.
Emma: The only thing I have to choose is the best way to get my son back.
Hook/Killian: And you will.
Emma: You think so?
Hook/Killian: I have yet to see you fail.
In comparison, let’s look at the conversation Emma had with her parents at the start of the season:
Emma: I should never have broken the curse. I should've just taken Henry and…
Mary Margaret: You're right. Th…Then you'd be together. We missed you growing up Emma, and it haunts us every day.
David: And that's why we're here now. We don't want you to have to go through the same thing, too, and you won't. We are gonna get our family back.
Emma: How can you two be so infuriatingly optimistic!?
When her parents tried to encourage her, Emma nearly bit their heads off. However, when Hook/Killian is the one telling her that she’ll succeed in getting Henry back, Emma is far more receptive to his encouragement. As if him believing in her is all she needs. That’s gotta count for something.
There’s also the glaring contrast in the private conversations Emma has with the two contenders. Let’s start with what Neal said at the end of the episode:
‘I just wanna say that... you're right. About Henry. He is all that matters. And if he's the only thing that came from us being together? I'd say we did all right.’
Does this sound like he’s acknowledging the fact that he knows Emma won’t be inclined to give them another chance at being together? Because that’s the undertone I’m getting. And this is apparently mere hours after him stating he’d never stop fighting for her. Unless I’m misinterpreting that bit of dialogue, which is entirely possible. However, there is no possible way to misinterpret what Hook/Killian told Emma in their private conversation
‘I also believe in good form. So when I win your heart, Emma... and I will win it... it will not be because of any trickery. It will be because you want me.’
While you can’t help but admire his pure confidence that he’d eventually succeed in wooing her, in this moment, here he’s also letting Emma know that he’s not going to force or trick her into falling in love with him. He’s only going to step back and leave the final choice up to her. Think of what this could mean for Emma. From the moment she was born, no one has really given her a choice, and it all started from the moment her own parents decided to send her through a magical wardrobe so she’d one day break Regina’s curse. While Snow and Charming certainly were doing what they thought was best, they were making a decision for Emma before she could even gain enough awareness to voice her opinion on the matter. We saw the same sort of thing with Nealfire and August, when they decided to force Emma to face life alone in prison out of some warped idea that doing so was the best way to make sure she’d find her way to Storybrooke and fulfil her destiny. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that other people were also making all the decisions of who she’d live with when she was still stuck in the foster system, among other things. Not once has anyone actually stopped and asked Emma to make a life-decision on her own, but that’s what Hook/Killian is doing right now. And it’s because he knows that the only Emma that’s worth having is the one that chooses to be with him without anything forcing her hand.