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.)
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.