TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.03

OUaT 303

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.

Favorite Lines
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.

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13 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.03

  1. I’m ridiculous but I totally teared up reading this. Everything about Regina and Snow/Charming & Hook/Emma. You were SO spot on. I am so beyond touched by the relationship of Hook & Emma and I’m so hopeful for their story. Thank you for reaffirming that I’m not crazy for seeing what I see. Excellent and BEAUTIFULLY written review.

  2. ”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 ” THIS! I just loved your review. You rocked! And…” the genuine concern in Hook’s eyes” i know right, Colin is such an amazing actor ❤ and ''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. '' omg, right? I ship CS and i'm really in love with this ship, so full of love and hope and everytime i see them my eyes just fill with tears! And congrats again! Loved your review!!!! 🙂

  3. Your reviews are always perfect. Snow and Charming, Hook and Emma, Mulan and Aurora, Regina and Robin Hood. You are always spot on with them and nobody could say it better than how you always do.

    • Thank you so much! I love all of those relationships (or in the case of Regina and Robin Hood, potential relationships), and they’re being handled so well right now—it’s really a pleasure to get to write about them.

  4. I always love your reviews, you touch on so many of the same things that I notice too. I think a lot of what Josh and Ginny do with Snow/Charming is overlooked (and underrated) because it’s so subtle and can get overshadowed by their fellow actors. It physically hurt looking at Charming’s face in that scene with him and Snow. I also can’t believe that in other places, they actually believe that Henry is more important than Emma. It’s Peter Pan saying this! He lies more than Regina does! I always look forward to reading your reviews!

    • Thank you for the sweet and thoughtful comment! I completely agree about Josh and Ginnifer’s work being underrated. The little touches of intimacy and realism they give to their characters’ relationship is part of the reason the whole show has been a success, in my opinion. Without a strong central couple to make us believe in the “true love” theme of the show, the whole premise of OUaT would weaken.

      And thank you for agreeing with me about Pan’s theory about Henry! I’ve seen a lot of fans and critics saying that they think he was telling the truth, but I can’t believe a show that prides itself on having such strong female characters anchoring it would take one of their strongest female characters and relegate her importance to simply a vessel to bring the real savior into the world.

  5. I honestly again want to say… that you hit the nail on what i see and understand with this show and each episode… i watch it, take it all in and understand and then you come and write it all down to what i have in my brain and flow of what happened and is happening, each character, each direction, each line etc esp concerning Emma-Hook because there is so much there and needs to be intrepreted, those little moments and scenes say alot.

    Hats off to Colin O’Donoghue for such a way he plays Hook, i love the sincereity he brings to Hook esp as we know deep down Hook is a caring man, he is real as it comes when he cares, and yay for more Charming and Hook bromance. Not only is it good to have this bromance for Emma-Hook element but also for two men to see how similar they are in qualties and common things they have, they are fighters and step up and as you say men of action.

    I for one am looking forward to this journey Regina will have to find her lion man…Robin, its all about the JOURNEY now. Same with how i like with Emma-Hook, its about build up and journey.

    Great use of camera work as well, which has been in the 3 episodes… camera panning to certain things, shots of ppl in one shot… mostly Snowing and Captain Swan 😉

    I had a feeling from ages ago that Henry was made for a reason, Bae and Emma had to meet to have Henry thats it, its all about dark and light magic made. It freaky to see Henry destined when Bae was a kid himself… all this was just one big play, no choice at all in this.

    • Thank you very much for all of your nice words and good insights! I especially liked what you said about enjoying the journeys these characters are going on. I like the fact that the setup for this season really allows for a more stable pace than last season, which means we get to see so much more of these characters developing as individuals and as parts of various relationships. This show has always been at its best when it focuses on the relationships between all of these fascinating characters, so I really like where this season seems to be heading.

  6. Lots of good texture in your review, which is not only what I expect, but what I love about reading them after I watch the episode. I am late to OUAT party this week, but really loved how you teased out Regina and Tinkerbell’s scene which for me was one of the better moments Lana Parilla has had in the series. That whole arc lacked what Regina is known for – manipulation. It was honest, self-realized instead of self-serving and it gave a dimension to Regina that was sorely lacking last season. Like you, her indecisive victim with mommy issues last season rang hollow for me as a character. I suppose because in season 1 of all the actions Regina took, her love for Henry was genuine and nothing I ever questioned. You wrote: “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.” It’s so true, happiness is a verb. It’s a decision. You chose to be happy. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Anne of Green Gables, “It’s not what life holds for you, but what you bring to it”. That is how happiness works. For me, her choice in flashback reflects not only fear, but a resolute decision to not be vulnerable. When you love, especially for the first time in earnest and deeply, it requires a willingness to be unguarded and unprotected. When that love is ripped away, distrust and cynicism take hold and you go to great lengths to prevent that opening again. That for me was the power of pulling out her heart to Tinkerbell and giving her the power to turn it to dust. Power and control were how Regina survived Daniel’s death. It’s a great defense mechanism. That her love for Henry is true and that it is the common bond she shares with Emma has always been interesting to me because they are women who reflect sides of the same coin. Detachment by necessity. Both are capable of loving and being vulnerable to Henry because he is a child and our children always see the best version of us, even when we don’t live up to it. They are steadfast in the belief of who they see not in the tally of our actions. It made for me the best of what OUAT has to offer. It is why I am continually drawn and intrigued by the women of OUAT. They are flawed within the fairy tale.

    I could wax on about my hopes and anticipation for Hook and Charming. I find the idea of their relationship endlessly interesting and I love the level of substance this cruel twist has given Josh Dallas this season. It and the unfolding of Hook, Tinkerbell and Neal’s time in Neverland have me very exited about the remainder of this story arc.

    • I found myself actually nodding in agreement as I read through so much of this comment. Everything you said about choosing happiness, fearing vulnerability, and the defense mechanisms we construct after losing love rang so true—not just for Regina in this episode but I think for humanity in general. Like you, I am constantly drawn to the complex stories and motivations of the women of OUaT. They are given such a variety of flaws and strengths, and I love that we actually get to see and relate to where those character traits come from. Although they all have roots in an enchanted world, the female characters on this show are so beautifully and often tragically human and real. For as much as I love Charming, Hook, and Rumplestilitskin, the women are the true heart of this show and always have been.

      Speaking of Charming, I also agree with your praise for his storyline’s substance so far this season. Josh Dallas is a very underrated member of this cast, and I hope this storyline helps more people see just how talented he is.

  7. Pingback: TV Time: Once Upon a Time 3.15 | Nerdy Girl Notes

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