Thursday, August 20, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (Save Henry & The New Neverland)

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  This really is a double episode analysis.  I know I haven't posted one of those since June, but the analysis of 'Save Henry' was so short, I figured it was necessary this time.

Save Henry
Gosh, I loved the flashback plotline in this episode.  We see exactly what led Regina to adopt Henry in the first place, and how she chose to go to Gold in order to bypass the adoption waitlist.  She was in the same state of mind that we saw her in at the end of the ‘Welcome to Storybrooke’ flashback, growing increasingly jaded and dissatisfied with how life in Storybrooke was for her.  However, she is still reluctant to admit to herself that the warnings she’d received from Dark One Rumpelstiltskin and Maleficent were proving to by spot on- her quest to get her way had left a hole in her life that couldn’t easily be filled.  Remembering how the brief presence of Owen helped brighten things up for her, she makes the choice to adopt a baby boy.  What surprised me the most is that Henry was nearly adopted by a family in Boston until the adoption hit a snag.  Meaning Henry nearly wound up living in the same city where Emma had been living in the pilot episode.  Seriously, what is it about Boston that keeps drawing in the children/descendants of the Enchanted Forest?  Come to think of it, how did Regina make it to Boston to talk to the adoption agency people and pick up Henry?  I thought the curse prevented people from leaving Storybrooke?  Did Regina just get a special pass because she was the one who cast the curse?   Because I guess that would make sense, but it would be nice if they actually explained that.  Of course, Regina quickly finds that being a mother to Baby Henry wasn’t quite as easy as she expected, particularly since he never stops crying, except when he’s being held by Mary Margret. (Who else grinned like a loon that Baby Henry seemed to sense that was his biological grandmother?)  Regina, understandably confused as to why Baby Henry cannot seem to warm up to her, turns to Sidney Glass to bend a few laws in order to find out about his birth parents and learns how the birth mother was found as a baby just outside the borders of Storybrooke, on the very day the town came into existence.  This leads to a fiendishly delightful moment when Regina confronts Gold, accusing him of knowing exactly who Baby Henry's birth mother was and arranging for Regina to adopt him for that very reason.  Because you KNOW that's exactly what Gold was doing, and that he knows what Regina’s getting at.  But he of course feigns ignorance just to mess with her head.  Gold you are such a deranged, twisted weasel.

The main chunk of the episode involves Emma and Regina setting out to try and get Henry’s heart back from Pan, with the aid of Snow, who wants to spend as much time with her daughter as possible, now that Gold/Rumpelstiltskin is gone and won’t be able to make a permanent cure for Charming.  Their venture results in them getting caught up by magical vines that feed on regret.  The more regret someone has, the tighter the vines hold that person.  And it was in this scene that Regina was just on fire.  She really showed a surprising level of maturity, especially after how off-kilter she was throughout the second half of season 2.  She acknowledged that she has caused a lot of people pain, but cannot bring herself to regret what she’s done- because in the end, it was her taking the path she took that resulted in her gaining Henry in her life.  It was by this act of seeing the silver lining that Regina really earned my respect.  And I can also now appreciate why she was so adamant about trying to keep Henry all to herself.  He really was the only positive thing in Regina’s life up until this point, so I suppose I can’t really hold her tendency to keep such an iron grip on him against her.  Not that it made her actions in trying to keep Henry all to herself permissible, of course.  There's a reason why the saying 'if you love something, set it free' exists, after all.

All things considered, this episode was really Regina’s moment in the limelight, with everyone else being forced into the background.  The only exception was when Emma reached out to the Lost Boys to encourage them to inform them where Pan was hiding by latching on to their need for a mother in their lives.  Her words do the trick, as the majority of the Lost Boys agree to help them, as long as they’d be allowed to go with them back to Storybrooke.  The only one who refuses to accept their offer of a new home is Felix.  Which begs the question of why they even brought him along when they left Neverland.  He clearly isn’t going to be won over, so why not just leave him behind?  I’m serious. What is the logic of bringing him back with them?  Story wise, I suppose it makes sense, as having Felix on the Jolly Roger was the best way to inform the audience that Pan pulled a whole body-swap thing with Henry at the last minute, meaning it’s Henry who is now trapped in Pandora’s Box.  But still, I fail to see the logic behind the characters’ choice of taking him with them.

There wasn’t much else that happened in this episode that I haven’t touched upon yet.  There was a small moment with Regina and Tinkerbell, in which Tink briefly got a vial of pixie dust to glow, but she could only keep it going for a few seconds, as the glow diminished the instant she became aware of it.  And it was nice to see Gold/Rumpelstiltskin once again make amends with Nealfirebagelperson.  I really wish there was more emphasis on the dynamic between Gold/Rumple and his son.  Nealfire was always WAY more interesting when he's interacting with his father.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all there was in this episode, so on to the next one.

The New Neverland
After a long mission in Neverland, everyone returns to Storybrooke, where they are met with a warm welcome.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the brief moment Snow had with Ariel (considering this is the first time they’ve seen each other since the flashback in ‘Ariel’) and seeing Wendy reuniting with John and Michael.  Although, I can see this being rather awkward for them in the future.  Then again, considering how the people they all knew back in Victorian London are long-since dead by now, that should decrease the chances of them running into questions they might not want to explain the answers to.  (Speaking of questions, Belle doesn’t seem the least bit surprised to see Nealfirebagelperson again.  Unless I’m mistaken, the last thing she knew was that he was reported dead, and I don’t think anyone informed her otherwise.  Can we call this a minor plot hole?)  The scene ends with Snow loudly thanking Regina for the role she played during the Neverland mission.  That was very much called for, particularly after what went down in the last episode.  See Regina?  They CAN accept you, as long as you continue to show you deserve it.  On the other hand, it does kinda stink how they’re not shown commending Hook/Killian for his assistance.  After all, Neverland was something of his own personal Hell, but he endured the horrible memories he had of that place to help get Henry back, and even helped save Charming’s life from the Dreamshade.   At the same time, I suppose it does make sense that they wouldn’t call out his praises.  Plot-wise, the denizens of Storybrooke only learned of his existence at the end of Season 2, when they were gathered at Granny’s Diner after he and Charming managed to get a solitary magic bean back from Greg and Tamara.  Up until this moment, that was the only time they’ve seen this man, and they never bothered to make any introductions back then.  So, if someone had tried to get everyone to thank Hook/Killian for the part he played during the Neverland Mission, people would most likely be all ‘Huh?  Who’s this guy?’  But everyone in town already knows who Regina is, so having them hear Snow thanking Regina would undoubtedly resonate.

Afterwards however, things started going downhill.  Once again, I’m so disappointed in Snow and Charming.  First of all, remember how quick they were to dismiss Emma’s concerns about Tamara towards the end of Season 2, even though Emma was proven right in the end?  Here, we’re getting a rehash of that.  After returning to Storybrooke, Emma starts to sense that something’s not quite right with Henry (who we know is really Pan in Henry’s body).  But when she tries to voice her concerns to her father, he more or less tells her that it’s all in her head.  (We see the same behavior from Regina, but I’m less angry at her, because she was just being typical Regina at the time.)  It’s such a shame that Hook/Killian was trying to be Captain Nobility and keeping his distance.  I’m sure if Emma had gotten the opportunity to voice her concerns to him, he would have taken her seriously.  (Just two episodes later, he’ll be the one telling her to trust her instincts.)  But apart from the whole issue of Emma’s concerns being completely ignored again, Snow and Charming are still pushing her into getting reacquainted with Neal.  Seeing this kinda bugged me, as they’re automatically assuming that Emma’s hesitations are due to her inability to focus on the good moments or some crap like that.  They never even consider the possibility that Neal might not be Emma’s True Love.  Even if they did try and pick up where they left off, I have a hard time believing that it would be a harmonious union.  Neal had already severely broken Emma’s trust once, as Hook/Killian points out to him during the episode.  I do suppose Snow and Charming (who probably don't even know the full story of what Neal did to their daughter) might think that Neal’s reasons for leaving her were on the same level as what they did, and that they both gave up Emma to make sure she’d break Regina’s curse.  However, I think that’s utter horse bunk.  When Snow and Charming sent Baby Emma through the magical wardrobe, they believed they were saving her life, and in a way, they were.  If Charming hadn’t sent Emma away when he did, Evil Queen Regina’s soldiers would have most likely killed her without batting an eye, and if they didn’t, I’m fairly certain Evil Queen Regina would have done so herself.  And if Snow and Charming had an inkling of what kind of life their daughter would be subjected to within the foster system, I’d wager they would have had second thoughts about sending her off.  On the other hand, Neal had spent enough time in the Land Without Magic to know exactly what he was subjecting Emma to when he had her sent to jail.  But he did it anyway, and I don’t believe for a second he did what he did to make sure Emma fulfilled her destiny.  I’m convinced he only left her because he didn’t want to risk running into his estranged father again.  This guy chose fear over love.  In addition, there’s Neal’s behavior in this episode.  Mere hours after everyone’s back in Storybrooke, he decides that now is a perfect time to ask Emma out on a date, completely ignoring her obvious reluctance.  He then proceeds to say that she’s welcome to join him for lunch the following day, but if she doesn’t show up, he’ll no longer bug her.  Okay, first of all, Neal, what happened to what you said in Neverland after Echo Cave?  You said you’d never stop fighting for her.  Now you’re all ‘if you don’t want to go out with me tomorrow, I won’t ask you again.’  Is this really the full extent of your fighting spirit?  Because if so, that’s pathetic.  Also, the fact that you’re just up and asking her out again when she’s barely had a chance to breathe after returning from Neverland indicates you're either blind to what she really needs or simply don't care.  If this is what True Love looks like, then I don’t see how anyone would want it.  So how can Snow and Charming not see that?  You’d think the two people who are supposed to be the very epitome of True Love and all that fun stuff would have a radar for it.  Why are they complete rubbish at spotting the presence (or absence, in this case) of True Love in their daughter’s life?  Besides, if what Emma and Neal shared really was True Love, then that would make Henry another Product of True Love.  Which would have meant Pan wouldn't have been able to take his heart.  Remember how Cora had been unable to physically remove Emma's Heart back in 'Queen of Hearts?'  It's basically been concluded that the reason why Cora couldn't take Emma's heart was because Emma is the Product of True Love.  The fact that Henry's heart could be taken out and that Regina had to actually place a magical barrier around him to keep it from happening again suggests that the same isn't true for Henry.

On the other side of the coin, we have Hook/Killian, who once again is showing his ability to put Emma’s feelings first.  He’s clearly remembering how important Henry is to Emma, and how she said straight out that she’d always choose Henry first.  Taking that into consideration, and possibly remembering what happened the last time he’d pursued a romance with a woman who already had a son with another man, he decides to back off a bit in order to give Neal a fair shot.  He even explains that he’s doing so for the sake of Henry.  Like Emma, he’s putting Henry first.  However, he also states that he’s not giving up; only that he’s not going to push Emma into something she might not be ready for.  Speaking as a woman, that is a very wise move.  And it’s particularly wise when it comes to a woman like Emma.  It shows that Hook/Killian is letting her decide, and that he’s respecting her agency.  More importantly, he’s saying he’s going to continue to be there for her.  Think about how many times Emma has had people leave her, whether by their own devices or not.  But Hook/Killian is saying he’s not going to continue the cycle, something that I’m sure Emma is bound to notice if he makes good on his promise.  

On a different level, Hook/Killian has already shown that he has absolute faith in Emma.  Remember how confident he was that she’d succeed in getting Henry back from Pan?  That wasn’t the first time we saw him display complete faith in her, either.  In fact, he’s shown much more faith in her than Neal or Emma’s own parents have.  Let’s use Emma’s lie-detecting superpower for instance.  At the end of season 2, when Emma tried to tell her parents and Neal that she was suspicious of Tamara’s motives because of her superpower going off, they just brushed her off, as if her superpower was faulty/completely made up.  In that moment, we saw that Emma’s parents and even her supposed ‘soulmate’ didn’t believe in her, or her superpower, which we’ve established as being practically the only thing Emma valued about herself before Henry reentered her life in the pilot episode.  But when it comes to Hook/Killian?  Remember what he said to her atop the beanstalk, when Emma was leaving him behind?  ‘Emma, look at me. Have I told you a lie?’  Hook/Killian had only just met Emma the day before, and in this moment, he showed he completely believed that Emma’s superpower was a real thing, as he tried to get her to use it on him to prove his sincerity.  And this wouldn’t be the last time he asked her to use her superpower on him.  The point stands that Hook/Killian keeps proving he believes in Emma, far more than Neal or even her own parents do.  Disagree with me if you will, but, based on the evidence, I think it’s more than obvious who Emma’s real True Love might be.

Of course, that does bring us to the possibly questionable moment in this episode, when he appears to make a pass at Tinkerbell.  Let’s analyze this scene, piece by piece.  In nearly every scene we’ve seen him in before this moment, he’s had a drink in his hand (including a very quick but enjoyable scene of him holding his hook under Mr. Clark/Sneezy’s nose.  That little moment was so awesome; it was as if he’d always been a part of this community).  From where I’m standing, he does look like a man trying to drown away his sorrows.  He’s already made his choice to give Neal a chance at getting back together with Emma.  As far as he knows, Neal might succeed.  If he does, Hook/Killian has lost the first chance he’s gotten at finding real happiness in 300 years.  This knowledge is probably made even worse at his tendency to be self-loathing, which is always buried beneath the surface of his swagger.  On a deeper level, let’s look at what he says to Tinkerbell in this scene.  ‘Storybrooke can be a disorienting place if you're not used to it.’  I might be reading something into nothing, but it almost sounds like he’s projecting here.  As I said earlier, no one in this town knows him, apart from the members of the Charming-Mills-Rumple extended family.  For all we know, he might be wondering ‘what am I even doing here?  Unlike everyone else, I don’t have any real connection to anyone in this town.  Do I even belong among these people?’  I imagine those kind of feelings can leave you feeling quite lonely.  The fact that Emma doesn’t seem to be seeking him out is probably not helping matters much.  (If only he knew that at that very moment, Emma was off at the Storybrooke bay, within seeing distance of the pier where the Jolly Roger is no doubt docked, possibly hoping to get a glimpse of a certain leather-clad figure.)  When he bumps into Tinkerbell at Granny’s Diner, he probably sees an opportunity to further distract himself from the pain and loneliness he’s feeling.  But even as he’s pouring out the charm, we can see his smile never quite reaches his eyes.   I once came across a post on Tumblr which pointed out an interesting parallel to this scene.  Looking back on Season 1, there was a point in time when David told Mary Margret he intended to leave Kathryn for her, but when David’s cursed memories kicked in, he elected to remain with Kathryn.  This decision left Mary Margret feeling so dejected, she attempted to escape her heartbreak by seeking comfort with Dr. Whale.  In a way, that’s essentially what Hook/Killian is doing here.  However, the moment he and Tinkerbell hear the sound of a woman screaming, Hook/Killian immediately takes off running towards the scream, no doubt thinking that might have been Emma’s scream.  If that doesn’t prove where this man’s heart lies, then I don’t know what does.

Anyway, after Pan’s shadow escapes from the Jolly Roger’s sail and kills the Blue Fairy (no doubt resulting in resounding cheers from the viewers), Emma convinces Gold/Rumpelstiltskin to bring out Pandora’s Box again and open it at the town line, which would enable Pan to be powerless.  In the confrontation that follows, everyone finally sees Emma’s suspicions were well-founded (again) when Henry proves that he is really Henry trapped in Pan’s body.  However, the discovery comes too late, as Pan the Henry Impostor had already managed to trick Regina into taking him to her vault beneath the Mills Mausoleum and stole the scroll Regina’s curse had been written on.  With the scroll in his possession, Pan plans to cast the curse again, which would ultimately turn Storybrooke into a new Neverland, with Pan and Felix in charge.

The flashback in this episode, which involved Snow and Charming attempting to obtain the head of Medusa in order to turn Evil Queen Regina to stone was an entertaining one.  I particularly loved the part when Snow tries to sneak out to go find Medusa on her own, only to run right into Charming, who cut her off at the pass.  He knows her WAY too well.  But I really didn’t see the connection to the main episode.  I guess they were trying to draw parallels from the statement that it was important to take time for the positive moments in life, but I didn’t see the point of that message in the main storyline.  Particularly since the ‘good moments’ Snow and Charming were trying to get Emma to enjoy in this episode were ones Emma was reluctant to participate in for very good reasons.  And Emma’s ‘problem’ in this episode wasn’t really an inability to live her life between the dangerous happenings.  It was the fact that she knew that something was not quite right with her son, but no one else was picking up on it and were therefore dismissing her concerns.

Teeny little nitpick.  How was Ariel managing to walk in those heels so easily when she was on her way to reuniting with Eric in Storybrooke?  We ARE talking about a mermaid here.  Do they really expect us to believe she can learn to walk in high heels that quickly, particularly since this is most likely only the third time she had actual legs?  Because believe me, walking in heels is not something you get the hang of right away.  This would have been more believable if they’d had her walking like a duck, or at least looking a little wobbly.  (I suppose she might have been wearing heels at Prince Eric’s ball a few episodes ago, but that’s beside the point.)

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