Note: Dylan Schmid (the young Baelfire) will appear live on Let’s Talk TV Live on Monday, November 4.
Deep dark secrets have a cost, but sometimes they they have their value. They keep us apart from those we love, and although they may protect our loved ones from being hurt, sometimes that’s simply an illusion. For when the secret is finally in the open, the hurt can be deeper than that of the hidden truth.
This week’s Once Upon a Time retells the story of The Little Mermaid, introducing Ariel (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) from the Disney animated feature as a new character in the growing cast of the hit ABC series. In this telling, the ever-curious and pining-to-be-human Ariel saves Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) from drowning and helping her escape Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) guards in hot pursuit. The two women become fast friends and Snow helps Ariel, temporarily given legs by the mythical sea monster Ursula, find the love of her life, Prince Eric.
But Ariel has a secret, and one she wishes not to share with her handsome prince. What might he think of her if he knew she was a mermaid and not a real live girl? She longs to tell him, but she is afraid of the consequences. Visited by Ursula (really Regina in disguise), Ariel is promised permanent legs if only she will give a bracelet to Snow, who can, if she wears it, escape the queen once and for all. But she is unaware of the hidden agenda behind the bracelet and that “Ursula” isn’t Ursula, but the Evil Queen. Once the secret is revealed, Ariel undoes the damage, but with the cost of returning to her life as a mermaid. Snow counsels her to confess the truth to Eric, but when she does, she finds she has lost her voice; Regina has stolen it from her and with it the chance to be with Eric.
Back in Neverland, hidden truths are also uncovered as they become the only way to free Neal — and to reveal to Rumplestiltskin that he is being played by Pan (Robbie Kay). The big reveal by Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) that Neal still lives and is in Neverland shocks Emma — and disturbs her.
Hook, Emma and the Charmings find Neal in a cave of echoes where he is being held in the middle of a deep canyon atop a pinnacle too distant to reach. But, Hook informs the gang, if deep, dark secrets are revealed — secrets of the heart — a bridge grows (I suppose sort of like the opposite of Pinnochio’s nose growing with each new lie), connecting the lonely pinnacle with the mainland.
In turn, Hook, Snow, Charming and Emma each reveal their truths: Hook is ready to move on from Milah (with Emma); Snow is angry that she and Charming have missed out on the usual “firsts” that new parents get to experience and wants to have another go at it. But Charming’s tragic reveal is that it can never be, since in order for him to survive, he can never leave Neverland or he will die from his Dreamshade wound. Emma reveals that as much as she loves Neal, she is terrified of what that means. All that truth! But it works and Neal is freed. And so starts the inevitable triangle between Emma, Neal, and Hook. Will Hook do the honorable thing? Hmm. That’s a tough one, since he is, after all, a pirate!
While all this transpires, Rumple (Robert Carlyle) has a disturbing encounter with Pan, who admonishes him to leave while he can; go back to the woman he loves and start afresh with her. But Rumple is reluctant. He is on a mission to redeem himself, and even with Baelfire still living, he is determined to save Henry and win back his son’s love. Pan taunts him that it will never happen, not after “all the terrible things you’ve done!”
Rumple gets another visit from his vision-Belle. But this time she seems different. Rather than trying to bolster his courage and help him stay true to himself and his quest to save his grandson, this Belle wants Rumple to come away with her back to Storybrooke. Rumple argues that he must complete his task, and however much he doubts himself, he must try. But Belle is Rumple’s achilles heel as well as his strength, and when she takes his hand (in a scene that reminds me of Nimue and Merlin in Camelot), Rumple is sore tempted.
But just in time, Regina arrives and proves to Rumple that his muse is none other than Pan’s shadow. He has been played. Regina is tired of hanging with the Charming family and suggests that she and Rumple join forces as the two most powerful magic wielders on Neverland — to take care of that teenage brat Pan once and for all. Rumple reveals that the only way for Pan to die is for Rumple to die too. We do not know why that is the case, but I’m getting curiouser and curiouser with each passing episode. How are they tied together so intrinsically? Just what is their connection?
Instead of planning Pan’s demise, Regina and Rumple plan to deal Pan a fate “worse than death,” and Rumple has just the thing. But it’s back in Storybrooke. They need someone who can move easily between realms. Tada! Why not call in Ariel? And Regina has perfect deal for acquiring her help.
And next week, we’re back in Storybrooke with a very big week for the real Belle (hashtag: #BelleIsBack). Still, there are many, many questions to be answered, not the least of which is “What’s Pan’s game?” I’m guessing that he knew that Hook and Company would get to (and free) Neal, and that it’s all part of the game plan. So. Next move?
Tune in next Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC. And remember to tune in Monday night to Let’s Talk TV live with special guest Dylan Schmid.