Monday , March 4 2024
Such a packed hour, complete with emotional sucker punch. Several actually. And reveals and surprises. "Think Lovely Thoughts" was as close to a perfect Once Upon a Time episode as I can imagine.

TV Review: ‘Once Upon a Time’ – ‘Think Lovely Thoughts’

Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve said that about a Once Upon a Time* episode, so it bears repeating. Wow! Such a packed hour, complete with emotional sucker punch. Several actually. And reveals and surprises. “Think Lovely Thoughts” was as close to a perfect Once Upon a Time episode as I can imagine. (Note: I missed the first act of the episode due to storm coverage on our local ABC station, so forgive any omissions! I will revise if necessary after watching the episode in its entirety tomorrow.)ROBERT CARLYLE, MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMES

While our intrepid heroes battle the real villain in the evil Peter Pan, they continue to battle their own internal battles, whether to overcome traumas present since a long-past childhood or to possess a self-belief needed to prevail. Or to persuade others to believe in them. And it is all beautifully done. Kudos to David H. Goodman (who will be on my radio show tomorrow night) and Robert Hull for a wonderfully rendered script, deeply layered and giving all our main characters their moments.

It is fitting that Neal, Henry’s two moms, and Mr. Gold/Rumple are the ones traveling this final distance to save Henry’s life. Naturally, Henry’s parents would be on this journey, but Rumple has a very old score to settle, whatever the price, and if he prevails, he will be free finally of a centuries-old burden and perhaps can find some happiness.

But what a shocker! Peter Pan is Rumple’s father. I did not see that coming at all. I now understand why killing Pan would mean killing himself. How much of his soul would it take to kill his own father? But with Henry’s life in the balance, Rumple is more than willing to do it. Finally rid the world of the sniveling, horrible man who’d traumatized him. This is the root of his fear in losing Bae during the Ogre war, and his lifelong, nearly operatic search for his son since he followed in his own father’s footsteps in letting go Bae’s hand.

Pan believes the son has become the father, thus perpetuating the cycle: Malcom abandons Rumple; Rumple abandons Bae; Bae abandons Henry. But they are not the same. Far from it. As Rumple points out, they are nothing alike. Malcolm (Stephen Lord) is a selfish man-child whose only interest is in being a self-indulgent teenager, everyone else be damned. Rumple has regretted letting go Bae’s hand from the moment he’d done it, and had never stopped his tireless search for him in all the intervening years.

That he is ready to confront Pan despite his fear — and despite the seer’s prophecy that Henry will be his “undoing,” shows how much Rumple has grown over the past two seasons. Perhaps the undoing is the undoing of The Dark One as so many (including myself) have speculated, and not Rumple’s undoing. But just as likely is the undoing of Rumple’s fear — fear that has been with him since he’d been abandoned by a reckless, feckless father who all-too-easily gave him up to a dark and sinister shadow. How terrible. And how scarred that even must have left him, informing everything that would come afterwards.

I loved that Rumple gets to (at least try to) be the hero, confronting Pan alone, no matter what may come of it. How shocking that his Pandora’s box isn’t the real deal. This is his destiny to finally confront his father, now holding his own great-grandson hostage. Rumple will do whatever it takes to bring down Pan. But Pan is an evil child and with the tables turned, disappears Rumple into the box, and leaving it to the rest of the Scooby Gang to save the day.

Enter magical duo Regina and Emma. Doing away with the moon, they get rid of their shadows and are able, along with Neal, to cross through Pan’s protection spell and into the cave to find Henry. But Henry, the naive, gullible true believer he is, believes he is the only one who can save magic, and thus given this impossible quest, goes along with Peter Pan’s lies. It costs him. But will it cost him his life? We won’t find out for two weeks; the next Once doesn’t air until December 2.

I loved the way Regina and Emma are now working together, and how Gold has now proved himself to Bae (but is it too late?). But of course the biggest reveals involve Rumple’s back story and his connection to Peter Pan. It is a great testament to the writers of tonight’s episode that as important as Rumple’s story is, it did not overshadow the ultimate quest to save Henry’s life.

I have to say something about the performances in the episode. Stephen Lord was excellent as Rumple’s dad and young Wyatt Oleff did a nice job playing Rumple. Robbie Kay really knocked it out of the park playing Pan as Rumple’s father, remorseful in word, but perhaps not in deed. Or is he? Robbie was able to go toe-to-to with the formidable Robert Carlyle and their scenes sizzled with emotion.

One bit of casting trivia: One of Rumple’s aunts was played by Glynis Davies who had a recurring role on Carlyle’s last series Stargate Universe (which was actually shot on the same set as Once). Carlyle directed Davies in one episode of the series (“Pathogen” in season two).

Once Upon a Time resumes with new episodes in two weeks as the first half of season three begins to draw to a close with the questions: Will Henry survive? Will Rumple survive (right now he’s reduced to pink smoke inside Pandora’s Box)? Will they all make it out of Neverland? And what will happen to the newly immortal Peter Pan? Tune in December 2 to find out what happens next.

Reminder: David H. Goodman will be my guest on this week’s Let’s Talk TV Live. He’ll be taking calls from fans after I interview him. The show airs 9:00 p.m. ET on BlogTalk Radio.




About Barbara Barnett

A Jewish mother and (young 🙃) grandmother, Barbara Barnett is an author and professional Hazzan (Cantor). A member of the Conservative Movement's Cantors Assembly and the Jewish Renewal movement's clergy association OHALAH, the clergy association of the Jewish Renewal movement. In her other life, she is a critically acclaimed fantasy/science fiction author as well as the author of a non-fiction exploration of the TV series House, M.D. and contributor to the book Spiritual Pregnancy. She Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (

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One comment

  1. Last week was fantasy TV’s finest hour (or close to it). The best episode (to date) of Sleepy Hallow aired on Monday. I thought that was wow. And then the mini episode of Doctor Who, with Paul McGann was released. That was definitely a WOW! He was great! And then this episode of Once Upon a Time. A truly, truly great episode. This was a well written, extremely well acted artwork. The story was surprising in that they actually went through and made Rumple’s dad be Peter Pan. Deep down, I had been thinking this and so the revelation was not a surprise. And yet it was! The hallmark of great story telling is to make what is expected (and hoped for) seem totally unexpected and fresh. This episode is that and more.

    First, I have to say that Bae is the new Casanova. From Wendy, who goes to Neverland because she wanted to save Bae. To Tinker Bell, who seems to have a story to tell as well. And then Emma. To watch the two try to save their son. It is parenthood at its best, a polar opposite to what Rumple’s dad did to Rumple. Well done, Neil and Emma. It shows you that character can triumph over upbringing – it’s not the circumstances that define you, but what you make out of the circumstances that ultimately make you as a person.

    Regina was fantastic. The Evil Queen is capable of love, after all. And great love at that – for his son. Even though she knows that Henry will ultimately not be completely hers, she finds courage to confront Pan. Her quick thinking allows her, Emma and Neal to confront Pan. Regina’s redemptive path may not be complete, but it is certainly one that holds much promise.

    Robbie Kay! Wow, what a fantastic young actor. This guy deserves to be a series regular. As much as Hook has grown as a villain/hero hybrid, Kay has been and now seems destined to be THE Peter Pan. Well, the evil version of it anyway. Before Kay, when you said Peter Pan, images of Mary Martin or Sandy Duncan came to my mind (musical theater is great). Now, it is Robbie Kay. A definitive performance. His facial expressions, his body language, his intonation, his emoting. He has it all. He would be the finest asset except…

    OUAT really is best when it’s greatest actor, Robert Carlyle takes center stage. Carlyle gives a terrific, nuanced performance. You could see the desire to do what is right (rescuing Henry). You could see the disappointment that people did not trust him. You could see the temptation to waver and yet he let his love for his son and grandson take over him. And thus, perhaps his path to salvation becomes firmly set. This is not the same Rumple filled with fear and loathing. He was not afraid of being scorned. Everything he did, he did out of love. Very touching, really, and if loved saved the world once, it can save a man’s life once again. Despair, longing, remembrance, regret, anger, hope, fear, courage and love. Convincingly, almost invisibly, but palpably displayed in a GREAT performance by Carlyle. WOW!

    And then the confrontation with his father. It was an acting master class. Two fantastic actors going toe to toe. WOW! If the Emmy Committee ignores these RC and RK next year, it will be a crime. That was as chilling, as energy filled, as sad, as angry and yes, loving a scene that you can find on any medium. Incredibly well written (did I say that before)? Superbly acted. WOW! Two wows in a paragraph. I could make every word a WOW and it would be an apt description of that scene.

    Henry is the progeny of Pan, Rumple and Neal? You’re kidding, right? Well, he must be truly magical, but guile is not in his heart. It’s innocence and trust. I see, kind of, where they’re going there.

    The choice of Stephen Lord to play Rumple’s father was inspired. A great job by him. The young Rumple did a fine job as well.

    This was a Rumple story. Or a Rumple family story. And in the realm of OUAT, this episode may be ready to take Skin Deep’s place as my favorite OUAT episode. Robert Carlyle rules!

    Oh, the potential for great fantasy TV only grows this week, as the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special airs this coming Saturday. Wow!

    Thank you, Great Britain, for giving us Tom Mison (who has redefined Ichabod Crane), Matt Smith, the fantastic Robbie Kay, the stupendous Benedict Cumberbatch, the great David Tennant and the truly sublime actor, Robert Carlyle. (And those are just the younger guys).