Wheel of Morality, turn, turn, turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn. (I love Animaniacs. It’s a great show.)
Joking aside, this episode was all about learning to accept who you were. When everyone else is sleeping at their campsite, Emma is woken up by the sound of children crying- sounds her parents and Regina don’t seem to hear. It’s implied that only someone who’d experienced the feeling of being abandoned could hear the crying, which begs the question- could Hook hear the crying, too? It’s hard to say, as we can’t really see him that well in the scene when Emma wakes up- just a vague glimpse of him lying on his makeshift bed. Was he just so accustomed to the crying voices after spending centuries of living in Neverland that he’d learned to tune them out? If that’s the case, I’ve just been hit square in the feels. When Emma steps away from camp to find the source of the crying, Pan approaches her and gives her an invisible map he claims will lead her to where he’s keeping Henry- a map that will only become visible once she accepts who she is. Unfortunately, Emma struggles to figure out Pan’s riddle, and Regina, growing increasingly impatient, finally decides to throw caution to the wind and places a tracking spell on the invisible map so they’ll be able to locate where Pan is hiding. Of course, this results in the group being ambushed by the Lost Boys. (Who else grinned at the obvious reference when Hook mentions a Lost Boy named Rufio during his one-on-one fight with Felix, Pan’s second-in-command?) During the fight, Emma manages to corner one of the Lost Boys, but backs down almost instantly. She later confides to Mary Margret/Snow that the reason she backed down was because she saw a bit of herself in the Lost Boy’s face and recognized the look of being abandoned. Of being an orphan. The moment Emma confesses she still feels the same loneliness deep down, the map becomes visible.
It sort of makes sense that Snow is the one to have the heart-to-heart with Emma, as the episode’s flashback shows us she also once struggled with finding her true self. After being woken up from the Sleeping Curse, Snow attempted to rally the villagers to help aid her, Charming and the Dwarfs take the kingdom back from Evil Queen Regina. But she lost her confidence when Evil Queen Regina threatened the lives of the villagers, vowing to kill them all if Snow didn’t agree to impose exile upon herself. Charming, not wanting to see Snow give up without a fight, led her on a quest to locate a magic sword that legend said only a true ruler could wield. (Yes, Excalibur reference for the win- that’s the second time we got confirmation that King Arthur exists in this reality. Which is awesome, considering that the plan is to actually go there in season 5; I do hope we'll get to see Archimedes. Owls are the best.) Of course, after Snow manages to claim Excalibur and regains her confidence to stand firm and fight Regina for what’s rightfully hers, she finds out through Rumpelstiltskin that the sword is on par with Dumbo’s magic feather. It turns out Charming set the whole thing up to help Snow become aware of the strength that was already inside her. Considering the obvious parallels, I don’t fault them for having Mary Margret/Snow being the one who helps Emma get to the right answer.
That said, I have heard the heart-to-heart scene was originally meant for Emma and Hook during the script’s early drafts. While I don’t know how credible the source was, I would have liked to see that because the whole point of Pan’s test was to get Emma to admit she still felt like an orphan- something Hook picked up on within moments of meeting her, because he’d been abandoned himself when his father ran off during Killian/Hook’s boyhood. (Not sure what became of his mother; to my knowledge, they have yet to even mention her, let alone what happened to her. I’m guessing she died before her time, but that’s yet to be confirmed.) At least we do get a small moment between the two at the end, when Hook complements her on finally cracking the puzzle. You can’t help but wonder if Hook had known all along what Emma needed to admit to get the map to work. In fact, I’m sure he did know, particularly since he’s familiar with Pan’s M.O., but purposely held back because he knew Emma had to reach the answer on her own. That leads us to this small exchange between the two:
Hook: So just how did you unlock the map?
Emma: I did what Pan asked.
Hook: And just who are you, Swan?
Emma: Wouldn't you like to know?
Hook: Perhaps I would.
This moment is even more touching by the fact that Hook already knows what Emma had to admit about herself, which means his ‘perhaps I would’ alludes to even more-that he wants to know everything about her. Of course, Emma clearly picks up on the true meaning of that declaration and the sincerity behind it, as she immediately withdrawals, her internal walls being thrown back up again. The fact that she finds Hook’s words too much to handle makes even more sense when you remember what Neal, the guy who people virtually kept telling her she belonged with, said back in ‘Manhattan.’
Emma: Did you know who I was when we met?
Neal: If I had, I wouldn’t have gone near you.
Do I even have to comment on the obvious difference between these two exchanges? Didn’t think so.
We also did get one adorable little moment when Hook good-naturedly grills Emma about how he’s represented in the Land Without Magic, basically being all ‘please tell me I’m pretty, Swan!’ Even though Emma gives a rather elusive answer that I don’t think he fully understood, we’re left wondering how he’d react if he ever did see how our world portrays him. All I can say is, don’t feel too bad about it, Captain Jones. Just take a look at what the Disney Company did to your archrival, Blackbeard, back in the 60s.
Charming really started getting on my nerves this episode. Did someone spit in his gruel off-screen? Hook was being nothing but helpful during their trek inland, and even warned him against trying to cut through the vines of a toxin-filled plant called Dreamshade (which is ironic, as Charming is later nicked by an arrow laced with Dreamshade when he pushes Snow out of the way during the Lost Boys’ ambush and ends up getting poisoned himself). But Charming kept on being Mr. Obstinate who deliberately ignored anything Hook said.
Hook: I suggest we go this way. (He gestures towards the right fork)
David: We'll go this way. (Heads down the left fork)
Me: Yeah, that’s it. Let’s ignore the man who’s actually BEEN HERE BEFORE. Moron.
Then, a short time later, when they reach the top of the mountain and Hook is having trouble recognizing their surroundings, Charming’s all ‘Hook may have led us astray…’ Charming, are you for real? Has the jungle heat gotten to your brain? YOU were the one who insisted in going left back at the Dreamshade fork-in-the-road. Don’t go blaming Hook for that. Although, I do wonder how the Dark Jungle was supposed to have grown, since time is supposed to be non-existent in Neverland. But I guess that’s neither here nor there.
I do have to commend Emma in this episode. Unlike her father, she never loses sight of the fact that Hook is a veteran of Neverland and knows that their best chance of surviving is by trusting his advice. As a result, she sticks up for his plan to walk to the center of the island by foot, and takes his warning against venturing into the Dark Jungle to heart. But we do see hints that she trusts Hook as more than just a seasoned Neverland guide. Throughout the whole episode, Emma never lets anyone else touch the map she got from Pan- the map that might be their only chance at finding Henry. But the moment she finally unveils the map, she doesn’t hesitate to allow Hook to handle it, and even allows him to fold it up. If that’s not an indication that Emma is starting to see Hook as someone she can trust, I don’t know what is.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin’s off doing his own thing after breaking off from the group rather early in the last episode. In this episode, he spits off his shadow and instructs it to hide his dagger in an undisclosed location (this moment does give some nice subtle foreshadowing to the actual connection between Rumple and Pan.) He ends up being visited by a hallucination of Belle, who he opens up to about his internal dilemma. Because of the seer’s prophesy eons ago, he knows Henry will ultimately lead to his undoing. This presents him with a choice- does he do what he can to protect his grandson, regardless of what it’ll mean for him or does he simply allow Pan to keep the boy in order to ensure he won’t have to die? At the same time, the island starts to mess with his head by torturing him with this old cornhusk doll Rumple’s father gave to him when he was young. No matter what Rumple does to get rid of the doll, it keeps coming back like a boomerang.