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TV Review: ‘Once Upon a Time’ – ‘Dark Hollow’

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After seven episodes, we are finally back in Storybrooke for Once Upon a Time. Sent to across realms to obtain a way to defeat Pan (Robbie Kay), Ariel (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) connects with Belle (Emilie de Ravin) in hopes of finding something — the one thing — in Rumple’s (Robert Carlyle) shop that may stop the vicious brat once and for all. EMILIE DE RAVIN

The best Once Upon a Time episodes involve the entire main cast in the action, and this week, with the story in Neverland connecting so closely with the story in Storybrooke, “Dark Hollow” ranks up there as one of the season’s best in an already-excellent season. Ariel returns, finding Belle only five days after the crew took off for Neverland pining for the loss of her beloved Rumple. But Belle is also frustrated, believing that Rumple left her in Storybrooke because he doesn’t need her. The message Ariel brings from Rumple is quite the opposite. To defeat Peter Pan — and live — Rumple very much needs Belle, and relying on their bond of true love, he entrusts her with the task of unearthing the one thing that really can get to Pan.

But there is a problem. The cloaking spell Rumple had given Belle at the end of season two is not put down in time and into Storybrooke sneak two of Pan’s hench-boys — namely the Darling boys. They must get object (Pandora’s infamous box) and bring it to Pan. For you see, Pan is holding hostage their sister Wendy. After several weeks, we finally learn who is in the second cage in Pan’s camp, and it is Wendy. That is quite a subversion of the Peter Pan story, making Wendy a prisoner. Hmm.

In the meantime, Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) finally have their blowout. Like Emma, I understand why Charming kept secret his condition; it would have been an unnecessary distraction in the quest to wrest Henry from Pan’s clutches, after all.

Then there is the awkward triangle: Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), and Neal (Michael Raymond-James). Hook is a bit insistent, pushing his and Emma’s shared kiss — and making sure that Neal knows about it. But Emma puts them both in their places after a stupid metaphorical fight over a lighter flame nearly gets them all killed and (at the very least) failing in their mission to capture Pan’s sinister shadow. Thank goodness for Emma finally realizing that she has it in her capacity to use magic for good and even gives a nod to Regina (Lana Parrilla) for teaching her.

Given a choice right now, Emma chooses Henry. Full Stop. Of course that won’t stop Neal and Hook from what is likely to become a very openly fought rivalry. I think, however, between “Swanfire” and “CaptainSwan,” I will place myself in the Swanfire camp. Hook, whatever his good intentions, is still a bit smarmy for my taste and I do not trust him at all. He’s pushing way, way too hard. And although I respect and admire his efforts at reformation, I think he has some way to go.

I really enjoyed this week’s episode. We have returned home to catch up and see the town rally behind Belle. It was wonderful to see Grumpy (Lee Arenberg) and the rest of the dwarves, Archie (Raphael Sbarge), Granny, and everyone else as they try to protect the town. Even Mother Superior Blue Fairy seems convinced of Rumple’s intentions when she defers to Belle in casting the cloaking spell. “He intended for you to do it,” she explains, knowing that Rumple has put his trust in Belle and she is the one who must do it.

It was somewhat predictable that the two henchmen slipping into Storybrooke would be the Darlings, but a surprise that Wendy is the one being held in the cage. They are nothing but a couple of boys frightened for their sister, and only hope to rescue her from Neverland.

I loved that Regina enhanced her end of the bargain with Ariel by allowing her to slip back and forth between her human and mermaid forms, and that Rumple promised to do what he could to rescue Wendy along with Henry.

Of course we are building up to next week’s highly anticipated “Think Lovely Thoughts,” which will draw us ever closer to Henry’s rescue and some very important reveals about Rumple and perhaps some other characters as well.

Be sure to join us tomorrow night on Let’s Talk TV Live for our weekly discussion of Once Upon a Time as well as other genre series. Tomorrow night at 9ET on Blogtalk Radio.

Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights on ABC.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Connie Standish

    I loved this episode for many reasons. I loved seeing Belle being Belle again (her old puzzle solving, perceptive self). Seeing Belle question Rumple’s actions in leaving her in Storybrooke and her past actions (looking for adventure and trying to help only to get in trouble) gave me the impression that Belle has matured quite a bit since last season, and I’m glad that she has because it gives her more depth to her personality and, after everything that has happened to her, it would make sense that she would have doubts. Pairing Belle with Ariel was also brilliant, because in a way Ariel is like Belle pre season 2 (they are both adventurous and optimistic). Ariel hasn’t faced any real dangers that we know of since Regina took her voice, whereas Belle has been subjected to many abuses at the hands of the Regina, Hook, Rumple (when he rejected her love in Skin Deep), and even her father. As a result Belle comes off as more realistic, particularly when the Darling brothers come in to steal Pandora’s box at gun point. Eventually, Belle takes control of the situation using her wits to catch up with the Darling brothers and talk some sense into them. I also love that Emma told off Hook and Neal; I was a bit worried that this love triangle was going to be a distraction from the main story, but so far Emma has really handled herself in this situation, more so than Hook and Neal. I loved this episode and I can’t wait for next week :)

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      I really liked Belle in this too. She’s wanted to be needed and had thought she’d been left behind. She has her chance to be the hero and she does is magnificently.

      I loved that Emma told off both of “the boys” (and by that I mean Neal and Hook). There are more important things at stake right now.

  • Lydian DeVere Yard

    I don’t understand, Barbara. From a storytelling standpoint, the Hook/Emma relationship is much more romantic and epic. He’s going back to the man of honor he used to be. He gave up his revenge for her, he allowed his mortal enemy on his ship and went back to a realm he never wanted to set foot in again. All for her and her happiness. He’s put her happiness first throughout this venture. What has Neal ever done for Emma? Hardly anything. He followed August’s plan, not for Emma’s benefit, but for his own. Telling August to shove it and helping her believe in the curse and break it meant he’d have to see his father again. So he chose his fear and ran, abandoning her and breaking her. Then he moved on, and took every opportunity to shove it in Emma’s face. You don’t go back to the guy who set you up to go to prison where you had to bear your baby alone and give him up because you had no one and nothing. Hook believes in her, Neal never did. You seem turned off by his innuendos but he is a man capable of great love and devotion. He would have told August to shove it. Hook’s done some terrible things, but he’s willing to change because he loves her. I mean, what do you think about all that?

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      I guess I’m thinking that Hook’s love for Emma happened so quickly as to seem either like an infatuation or Hook’s desire to have Emma. I guess I’m just skeptical :)

      I don’t see the epic in it, and personally I think she can do better than either one of them :)

      I am put off by Hook, and I cannot forget the way he demeaned and humiliated Rumple in front of Baelfire and on his ship. I guess I have a hard time getting past that. But I’ll go along for the ride and see how he changes. Deal?

      • Lydian DeVere Yard

        Okay, deal. Yeah, he was an ass. Very much so. I think he started having feelings for Emma when they first met, though. I think it’s been a slow build, and there’s been clear signs that Emma has feelings for him. When he talked to her while Neal cut through the jungle, did you see her backing away? He’s so capable of being a good man. As is Neal. But that relationship left so much pain, and Emma doesn’t want to go back there. You even said last week that you think Emma is “for Neal”, but I don’t see why they would do that. (When did Hook demean Rumple in front of Bae?)

        • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

          She’s definitely interested. And he is quite hot (though not really my type.

          I see quite a bumpy road ahead. Both men are flawed, but in different ways. I see they’re trying to redeem Hook, but I guess we shall see.

          Perhaps I misspoke and Bae was not in the pub where Hook joined Milah in humiliating Rumple in front of the entire pub. Even if he were not there, it was a horrible, despicable thing to do that suggests a real steak of cruelty in him (repeated on the ship).

          • Lydian DeVere Yard

            Oh yeah it’s definitely going to be a bumpy road. It wouldn’t be an interesting story otherwise. They’re trying to redeem Hook just like they’re trying to redeem Rumple and Regina, whose sins number in the thousands and are as bad as actually trying to impale his grandson on a sharp boulder all because of a prophecy. People cheer on the redemption of those two, but fuss about Hook. He began his rebellion and life of piracy in defiance of a corrupt king. We don’t know what he’s done over his long lifetime, but if Regina and Rumple get second chances at love, I think Hook gets one too.

          • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

            We shall agree to disagree :) vive la difference! It’s great that the show has so many interesting relationships going at once. Makes for good drama.

  • WML

    I liked the way Bae looked at Tink. Or as Neal says to Tink (with a look that almost screamed “whoa, the fairy sure looks different now that I’m a grown up”), “most people know me as Neal.” So, why can’t we have a Tink/Neal and Hook/Emma pairing? Or vice versa. I assume that they will all be returning to Storybrooke (including Wendy, who judging by the age of her brothers will be close to Emma’s age). This story can go all over the place. Maybe, ABC gets rid of Revenge and puts all the intrigue in OUAT?

    I like adding Wendy and the Darling boys into the story. I like Ariel much better this week as well. Can’t have enough Disney heroines in this show. Belle has grown quite a bit, as noted. It makes the Rumple/Belle coupling much more endearing, since it is now sort of “battle tested.”

    I think I’d really like everyone to return to Storybrooke and stay there. Fairy Tale Land? Nah (at least for me).

    Henry is the most gullible guy on this planet. He is either the truest believer or the biggest dolt. Hard to believe that resourceful people like Emma and Neal would have him a their progeny. You’d think with that family background and being raised by Regina he’d have more guile. But hey…

    Robbie Kay continues to impress. Can we add him to the cast permanently? Even Robotron (the monotonic henchman) was okay this week. Actually, why do I get the feeling he’s not as loyal as Pan thinks?

    It was interesting to see the interplay between Lana Parilla and RC (in the scene where Rumple asks Regina if she’s jealous of Belle and what she represents – love). It’s apparent that Rumple has already undergone a profound change, but we don’t know to what extent yet. RC plays him in a most mysterious manner. You never quite know who he is, but deep down you want him to be the hero, the man who finally finds true love. This trek will be his undoing, after all. I am glad they’ve stopped hammering that theme down so explicitly. Carlyle and Parilla steal all the scenes they are in. They are OUAT’s best assets.

    I really liked this episode. I wonder if the conjectures are true, that Pan is Rumple’s brother. I guess we will soon find out.