Title Think Lovely Thoughts
Two-Sentence Summary Rumplestiltskin and Regina rejoin Operation Henry just in time for them to attempt to rescue the boy before Peter Pan takes his heart and uses it to become immortal, but Henry’s desire to be a hero proves to be his own undoing. In flashbacks to Rumplestiltskin’s childhood, we discover just how well he and Pan know one another.
Favorite Line “You said no magic; I agreed. But I’m not walking in there with nothing but my good looks.” (Rumplestiltskin)
My Thoughts That was definitely the most intense episode of Once Upon a Time so far this season, but I’m not sure it was the best episode. In fact, for as many cool twists and strong scenes as this episode featured, it also reminded me the most of some of the things I disliked about last season—too much plot and too little emotional investment and characters behaving more as plot devices than as people. This episode was probably a big hit with people who felt this Neverland arc was moving too slowly, but I thought this episode didn’t move slow enough. There were some truly great moments in “Think Lovely Thoughts,” but overall, for an episode that featured a huge twist and a shocking “death,” I found myself less emotionally invested than I’ve been all season.
My favorite part of this episode was the way the big reveal of Peter Pan’s identity began to dawn on me more and more as the episode went on. It built from the immaturity shown by Rumplestiltskin’s father to his dreams of Neverland and, finally, to that exquisite moment of perfect plotting when he told Rumplestiltskin that a child can’t have children. When he said that line, I was floored with the knowledge of what was about to happen, and I loved every second of it. For the longest time, I had guessed that Rumplestiltskin and Pan were going to turn out to be brothers, but this twist was even better. It made so much sense for the plot, but, more importantly, it made sense for the characters.
Can I just take a moment here to congratulate the casting department on doing an excellent job once again? Because the casting for young Rumplestiltskin was absolutely perfect. Wyatt Oleff looked like he could be a baby version of Robert Carlyle, and he had just the right line delivery and accent, too. Also, Stephen Lord was a great casting choice for Rumplestiltskin’s father and the man who would become Pan. His laugh was exactly the same as Rumplestiltskin’s, and something about his eyes and posture connected very strongly with Robbie Kay’s work so far this season as Pan.
For a show that I often praise for the way it handles its female characters—especially its mothers—I have to give credit to the Once Upon a Time writers for the incredibly painful, broken, and believable “sins of the father” narrative they’ve created with Pan, Rumplestiltskin, Neal, and Henry. This episode built upon everything we know about these men and their weaknesses in a way that gets even more interesting the more you think about it.
It seems that each generation improved from Pan’s grievous abandoning of Rumplestiltskin, but they all could only get so far in terms of breaking the cycle of abandonment. Before becoming Pan, Rumplestiltskin’s father didn’t want the responsibility of fatherhood, so it made sense for him to choose the power of eternal youth—the power of Neverland—over his son. But just because it made sense, it didn’t make his betrayal any less painful. Watching young Rumplestiltskin get taken by the Shadow (voiced with perfect creepiness by Marilyn Manson) absolutely broke my heart. And it both helped me understand why Rumplestiltskin was so afraid to use the portal with Bae and made me even angrier with him for not taking the chance for a fresh start that he was denied with his own father. As an adult, Rumplestiltskin has always appeared a tragic character, and never more so than now that we know he let go of Bae the same way he was let go of by his own father.
Rumplestiltskin did feel remorse and regret instantaneously; something that couldn’t be said for his own father. But he chose the power of magic over his son in the same way his father chose the power of youth and Neverland. Hundreds of years later, Bae also faced a choice between power and love. He found power in his distance from his father, in his new life as Neal. By leaving Emma (and unknowingly, his unborn son) and then choosing not to go back for her after the curse was broken, he chose to hold on to the power he had in being free of his father and his past instead of fighting for the person he loved. But unlike the men who came before him, once Neal knew he’d abandoned his son, he worked to do the right thing for the little boy he left behind without even knowing. Neal’s role as Henry’s father played a very prominent role in this episode, and I liked seeing him fight for his son in an episode that highlighted fathers who didn’t fight for their sons when they had the chance.
That idea of family members giving up on one another was reflected in a surprising way in the interactions between Charming, Snow, and Emma in “Think Lovely Thoughts.” I was genuinely bothered by Snow seeming to accept that she and Charming were going to leave Emma behind. Yes, she did say how much it hurt her to come to that decision, but we saw in the last episode that she made said decision very quickly. I wish we would have gotten a little more internal conflict from Snow about it. Instead, it just felt like another example of someone Emma loves leaving her under the guise of having no other choice. I know that’s being harsh towards Snow, but it broke my heart to watch Emma—the girl who never felt wanted or important enough for someone to choose her above all other things—listen to her mom choose to leave her behind.
It was fascinating to me to watch Emma reverse the “sins of the father” idea and instead reflect the best thing about her father—his belief in his family and fighting for it no matter the obstacles. Emma was the one who wasn’t losing hope, who believed there had to be another way than just giving up. Last week, Hook showed Emma that he believed in her. And I saw this moment with her parents as a way of showing how Hook’s belief in Emma reminded her to have faith in herself, which manifested itself in her belief that she would get her whole family back home. Hope is a contagious thing, and that’s always been a theme on Once Upon a Time.
Speaking of everyone’s favorite swashbuckler, he didn’t have much to do in this episode (and Tinker Bell had even less to do), which was actually fine with me. This was an episode about parents and their children, and it would have felt wrong for Hook to join the rescue party. That was a job for Henry’s parents. Also, I liked that both Hook and Neal stopped their antics after the lighter incident. This isn’t a time for love triangles, and I am proud of the writers for staying above the temptation to write said triangle into every episode. The drama that would have come from it would have felt out-of-character for all involved.
Sadly, the ending of this episode felt as out-of-character as anything involving the love triangle could have been in this episode. Before I start talking about what happened with Henry, let me say this: I love the character, and I love Jared Gilmore. I’m not one of those viewers who wishes he’d just die already. But I can’t say I was pleased with how he was written or how his storyline was handled in “Think Lovely Thoughts.”
Part of the problem with the end of the episode was it was supposed to be this big, emotional climax, but I thought the emotional highpoint of the whole episode was actually the previous scene between Rumplestiltskin and Pan. After watching Kay and Carlyle go toe-to-toe with incredibly powerful results, everything that happened after just felt like a bit of a letdown. I’m still not sure I like the Pandora’s Box plot device, but in the moment, all that mattered was watching these two actors play off each other. I will never stop praising Kay for his work this season, and his ability to steal the show away from Carlyle is proof he was born to play this role.
I didn’t understand the blocking or the logistics of the last scene—why couldn’t Henry’s parents at least try to reach him? Why couldn’t Regina use her magic to pull Henry (or at least his heart) to her? Why was the CGI in the cave so distractingly bad?
I wanted to cry as Henry’s parents were telling him how much they loved him and believed in him, but all I kept thinking was how wrong it was for Henry to even consider Pan’s plan a tempting offer. I wish we could have seen more of Pan’s manipulation of Henry; maybe Henry’s choice would have made more sense if we could have seen Pan playing more with Henry’s own past as an abandoned and lost boy. Instead, it didn’t feel like Pan’s claws were deep enough in Henry for him to make the choice he made. It felt unrealistic for this boy whose belief in his family always drove him to suddenly choose to believe Pan instead. It was like all of my problems with the “Henry hears the flute” scene came rushing back in one moment.
Henry’s chose to be a hero instead of choosing his family. There’s a kind of power in being a hero, and this episode was about all of the men on his dad’s side of the family abandoning the people they love for some kind of power or control over their own lives. It made sense for the story, but I’m still not sure it made sense for this character, who always seemed to take after his maternal side (especially Charming) more than his paternal one.
I wanted to cry for Henry. I wanted to feel fear for what was going to happen to him. But all I could feel was angry at him for not seeing how this was going to play out—for letting his desire to be a hero cloud his senses and hurt all the people who love him. I actually didn’t feel bad for Henry at all; he got what he deserved for trusting Pan (and I know that sounds horrible). I feel bad for his parents and his grandparents. I feel bad for Charming, who is stuck in Neverland because he got poisoned trying to save Henry. I feel bad for Rumplestiltskin, who is now trapped in Pandora’s Box because he chose his grandson. I feel bad for Neal who came back to a world that held nothing but pain for him only to watch his son give his heart to Pan. I feel bad for Regina, who had to watch the baby she raised take out his own heart. And most of all, I feel bad for Emma. Last episode, we watched Hook reassure her that she wouldn’t fail, only to have her worst fears come to life in front of her: She didn’t just fail to get her son back; he chose to give his own heart to Pan. Her love wasn’t enough to convince him to come back to her. He chose Pan, magic, and heroism instead of her. All magic comes with a price, and Emma always seems to be the one paying it.
The cliffhanger nature of the ending took away some of its emotional power. I was shocked more than I was moved, but the best episodes of Once Upon a Time allow me to be both. In truth, I was moved more by Emma and Snow hugging and Charming kissing her forehead (especially Charming kissing her forehead) than I was by anything in that final scene with Henry. I was moved more by Wendy and Neal’s reunion (especially the fact that he let her continue to call him Bae). Heck, I was moved more by Charming giving Hook his dagger and all that said about how far their relationship has come.
Simple moments get to me the most on this show, but this episode fit so much plot in that the emotional impact wasn’t quite as strong as it could have been. Some moments could have benefitted from more breathing room and development. But I’m hoping that the next episode deals with a lot of the emotional fallout from what just occurred because I think it could make for some very compelling television.