Title Quite a Common Fairy
Two-Sentence Summary In Neverland, the Charming Family (and Hook) try to form an alliance with Tinker Bell, who has a complicated history with Regina, which is shown in flashbacks to a time when Tinker Bell tried to help the lonely queen find a second chance at love. Second chances at love is the theme of the episode in the Enchanted Forest, too, as Neal uses Robin Hood’s son to get back to Neverland and Mulan decides to confess her own romantic feelings before discovering that the object of her affection is about to start a family with someone else.
Regina: Trust me, my staying out of her sight is probably best for Operation Henry.
Emma: Operation Henry?
Regina: That’s what I’ve been calling it in my head because…
Emma: …Because that’s what he’d call it.
Regina: He’d have a better name.
My Thoughts Another week, another excellent episode of Once Upon a Time. This season seems to have found a formula that works for moving the plot along (both in the flashbacks and in the present-day storylines) while still giving us a wealth of character-driven moments, especially between characters who have been long overdue for some meaningful interaction. Those moments allowed the show’s strongest actors to shine in this episode, and they brought out the best in actors who I felt hadn’t really been given shining moments until now. As soon as I saw that this was an episode penned by Jane Espenson, I knew it was going to be a great showcase for the actors, and I loved that I was proven right. It’s no secret that Espenson knows her craft like few others in the fantasy genre, and her gift for realistic dialogue, nuance, and layered characterizations and relationships was once again on full display in “Quite a Common Fairy.”
The big selling point of this episode was the introduction of Tinker Bell, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed at all. Rose McIver played the innocence, spunk, and darkness in this fairy perfectly. I also liked the twist on the idea of believing in fairies to keep them alive. Changing it to believing in the specific fairy in order for them to have magic makes it feel more realistic and fits in really well with the running theme of this season: believing in the people we care about. Part of the reason Tinker Bell lost her magic because Regina didn’t want to believe in the happiness she was offering, but she really lost her magic because the Blue Fairy didn’t believe in her abilities. Losing her magic made Tinker Bell lose her sense of self; it made her feel isolated and alone, and we’ve seen time and again on this show what the absence of love and support (aka belief) does to a person. Tinker Bell’s story fit in perfectly with the thematic narrative of Once Upon a Time.
One of my favorite parts of Tinker Bell’s story was the way it forced Regina to confront her own destructive sense of self-pity. For so much of Season Two, the only thing I liked about Regina’s story was Lana Parrilla’s acting. I hated being told I was supposed to feel bad for this woman who did so many terrible things all because she felt her life was ruined by the honest mistake of a little girl. In this episode, Regina finally had to admit that she had no one to blame but herself for refusing to choose the happiness Tinker Bell was offering her. There was no deflecting blame or “I was a victim” in that scene between Regina and Tinker Bell in the cave. There was only a broken woman finally coming to terms with the fact that she was afraid to be happy because she didn’t know who she would be without her grief and anger.
That scene was the first time in a long time that I felt genuine sympathy towards Regina. I liked that the episode began with Rumplestiltskin once again pulling the strings and planting the idea in Regina’s head that she needs her anger to be powerful. The way he manipulated Regina for so much of her life all for the sake of his own plan continues to horrify me even as it adds depth to their interactions and the show as a whole.
Regina’s fear of happiness and desperation to cling to her self-pity are such relatable emotions. I love when Once Upon a Time takes fairytale characters and puts them in real, human situations, and that’s what Regina’s story was all about. She was afraid to be happy, afraid that loving someone again would make her weak—and I understood those motivations, even as I was internally screaming at her to go through that door and take that chance to be happy again.
But I think we all know she’s going to take that chance someday—because now we’ve seen her true love. I’m so happy it’s Robin Hood because he’s the perfect mixture of idealism and realism (he wants to give to the poor but he’ll steal in order to do it). Also, he’s a loving father who lost his first love. I think he’s going to be a great match for Regina, and I can’t wait for them to finally meet. I know I shouldn’t be rooting so hard for the happiness of a woman who’s done some really terrible things, but the thing that’s so great about Regina is that we know she is still capable of goodness; we’ve seen it. We saw it in this episode when she and Emma were talking about Henry. To see those two mothers bonding over their shared love for their son was a moment I’ve been waiting such a long time so see. Regina’s love for Henry is such a defining part of her character; it’s what makes her so complex and human. Like Emma, Regina found a chance to learn to love again through Henry, and I think it’s about time these broken, all-too-human women shared a moment to gently connect over the boy they both miss with their whole hearts.
The boy they love is falling deeper and deeper into Peter Pan’s manipulations in this episode. I will continue to profess my love for Robbie Kay’s twisted Pan after every episode because he’s just that good. His psychological games are so dark, and it hurts me to see such a bright light like Henry get sucked into his world. I was so proud of Henry for trying to shoot Pan, but then I grew more and more afraid of Pan’s influence over Henry as the episode went on. I don’t think Emma’s true purpose as the “savior” was just to give birth to Henry; I think that’s just Pan trying to draw Henry away from his mother and towards embracing the role Pan wants him to believe he was born for. I’m really looking forward to more of Pan’s backstory, especially with Tinker Bell, Hook, and Neal.
Neal’s quest to get to Neverland moved along a lot more quickly than I was expecting. I liked that the belief of a child is the thing that opens a portal to Neverland, but I didn’t like Neal using Robin Hood’s son as bait (especially the way he blackmailed Robin Hood into going along with his plan). I know Neal was desperate to get back to his family, but to put another person’s family in any amount of jeopardy to get there is not something I think Emma (or Henry) would approve of. I may understand why he did it—and it may be very true to his character—but that doesn’t mean I liked it.
The best thing about Neal’s storyline in this episode was his acknowledgement that he still has a lot of work to do to prove that he’s worthy of a second chance from Emma. Neal is a man who’s made a lot of mistakes, but I love that he’s willing to admit them and try to learn from them now. He knows Emma’s love is not something guaranteed, and that was nice to hear—because it’s true.
Speaking of love that’s not guaranteed, I have to take a moment and say how much I adored Mulan’s story in this episode. For the first time ever, I cared about Mulan, and so much of that came from what I think was Jamie Chung’s best work on the show to date. I loved the little wink to the audience about Mulan not being a stranger to being the only woman in a group of men. But what I loved most was the completely naked vulnerability in her scene with Aurora. Both Chung and Sarah Bolger were so emotionally honest in that scene—I could feel Aurora’s joy just as strongly as I felt Mulan’s pain.
But who exactly was Mulan wishing was hers? I like that we don’t really know. The well-executed ambiguity in that scene was exactly how I knew Espenson was this episode’s scribe. No matter what the real answer is, it’s cool to think the show might have added another layer of diversity and complexity to its relationships. Mulan possibly falling in love with Sleeping Beauty? Only on this show could such a thing be possible and feel organic to the story.
Another interesting and unexpected relationship that continued to develop in this episode was the one between Captain Hook and Prince Charming. I was so happy that Hook was the first one to find out about Charming’s injury because it gave this relationship a chance to deepen. Hook’s sincerity continues to surprise and impress me, and so much of that sincerity comes from Colin O’Donoghue’s performance. You could see the genuine concern in Hook’s eyes as he looked at Charming’s wound, and I completely believed that Hook has come to care about this man independent of just trying to impress Emma’s dad. Hook and Charming are both men of action who are driven by love and loyalty, and I am looking forward to even more interactions between these two characters as the season progresses.
Charming’s injury is breaking my heart more than I thought possible because of the way Josh Dallas is subtly showing the way it’s affecting his interactions with his wife. I loved Snow and Charming flirting at the beginning of the episode (“Does it look like he let himself go?”), but it was their last scene that really got to me. Yes, Snow’s words about Charming being her home were both beautiful and heartbreaking, but what really got to me in that scene was Charming’s reaction. The way he made sure to say he loved her and kiss her, the way he looked at her with such sadness after she walked away—those little details spoke of a man who knows he’s his wife’s home and never wants to leave her without a home. And don’t even get me started on the way he was holding her by the fire at the end of the episode (like he wants to take every chance he can to hold his wife before he dies). It’s those little moments of realism (which I imagine are at least a little bit influenced by the real love story between Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin) that make this marriage something we as an audience can believe in.
Charming is Snow’s home, whether they’re in the Enchanted Forest, Storybrooke, or Neverland. And I loved that little callback to the time when Snow was living without a home, a family, and the stability those things bring. Hearing Snow tell Emma about her past as a bandit made me smile because Emma needs to know those things about her mother; she needs to know how alike they once were. That was a conversation I’d been waiting to hear since the curse was broken, and I hope it leads to Emma opening herself up a little more to the mother (and father) who want to help their daughter find the home they found in each other.
Neverald is proving to be full of surprises for Emma—from her mother’s past to Hook’s continued support and help. I don’t think we’re supposed to see it as a coincidence that Emma and Hook were the ones sitting by the fire with Snow and Charming at the end. There was a lot of talk about second chances at love in this episode, and that’s what I think Emma and Hook represent for one another. Their relationship is no longer just about innuendos and flirting; it’s about two people who can sit next to each other, sharing another drink in comfortable silence. Their body language was very interesting to me: Hook is completely open with Emma—from his posture to the smitten look in his eyes. But Emma still has her arms around her knees, closing herself off, until the moment when she takes the coconut. She relaxes for a second as she thanks him before resuming her closed-off posture once again. I love the way this relationship has been steadily but subtly developing, and that quiet scene at the end of the episode was the perfect way to show the growing trust and intimacy between these characters while still being true to who Emma is.
“Quite a Common Fairy” did a fantastic job of staying true to its characters while allowing so many different relationships to develop and change. It was smart, it was sincere, and it was simply another great effort from what’s turning out to be a great start to this season.