Title The New Neverland
Two-Sentence Summary In flashbacks, Snow nearly destroys her own happiness when a quest to find Medusa in order to destroy Regina turns her honeymoon with Charming into a potentially fatal mission. Snow’s appreciation for small moments of happiness in the past is contrasted by her daughter’s inability to appreciate or even have such moments in the present, as Emma gets thrown into the center of another crisis when she’s the first to realize that something is wrong with “Henry” upon returning to Storybrooke.
Emma: You sure you don’t have other reasons for pushing me towards Neal?
Charming: Like what?
Emma: I don’t know—keeping me away from Hook?
Charming: You think I’m interested in Hook? Emma, I’m a married man!
My Thoughts This episode still has my head spinning. It was an interesting setup to next week’s midseason finale because it asked way more questions than it answered, but that doesn’t always make for easy analyzing/reviewing. Therefore, I’m going to set this week’s episode up as a series of 20 questions I was left with following “The New Neverland.” Some are meant to spark debate and discussion; others are meant to get us speculating for next week’s big midseason finale.
So read on and then share your answers to some (or all!) of my queries. But just try to keep the spoilers out of the comments, if you would be so kind. I’m aware of most of the spoilers floating around now, but I know some people like to be surprised. If you want to talk spoilers, feel free to leave me a Tweet or an email, and I’ll be happy to indulge to your heart’s content!
1. Who else was impressed with Jared Gilmore in this episode?
Gilmore seemed to relish getting to play the villain for once, and he made the most of it. There were more than a few times where I was truly unsettled by his presence in a scene (especially when he was walking around Henry’s room), and I thought his physical performance was better than I could have hoped for.
2. Is Pan the most evil villain this show has ever had?
After all of this, I’m inclined to say yes. Cora was a close second, but she got that way by taking out her own heart because she still had a capability to love (which she saw—until her final moments—as an ultimate weakness). Pan, however, doesn’t need to have his heart removed to feel nothing but enjoyment at ruining (and ending) the lives of others for his own twisted power trips. The thing that stuck with me the most about Pan in this episode was the way he was still able to play his mind games away from his home turf and out of his own body. I’d been waiting to see him play on Regina’s MANY issues from the beginning of the Neverland arc, so it was sad but also perfectly executed to watch Pan prey on her desperation for love, especially love from her son. To be able to play the Evil Queen like a fiddle by using her emotions against her is about as evil as it gets. And to think of it as one parent preying on the love another parent has for their child makes the whole thing even more disturbing.
3. What is the thing Pan loves most?
In order for Pan to enact the Dark Curse, won’t he have to kill the thing he loves most? But what does he love, apart from himself and his youth? At first, I thought the final scene between Pan and Felix was going to end with Pan killing his most trusted Lost Boy to enact the curse. But does Pan love Felix? Does he love Rumplestiltskin? I think it would create an interesting conflict in the midseason finale with Pan trying to kill his son, but I don’t think he loves his son enough (or even at all) for it to work. Is it the Shadow? But how does one kill a Shadow?
4. Is the Blue Fairy really dead?
I’m inclined to think the answer is yes because there have already been too many fake-out deaths on this show, but if she is dead that kills a lot of storytelling possibilities, too. I thought she was going to play a larger role in the plot of the series as a whole, but it looks like I was mistaken. I would have liked a little more fallout from her death, though. It didn’t have much of an emotional impact at all, especially considering her role as the ultimate symbol of good magic.
5. Why did Pan single out the Blue Fairy to kill?
I’m also curious as to why Pan killed the Blue Fairy out of all the magical people in Storybrooke. Is she the only one powerful enough to stop him? Was she just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or is she the thing he loves most? I’m kidding about that last one…except it would fit with all of the weird relationships on this show.
6. What happened to the Lost Boys?
We know Wendy found her brothers again (in a beautiful reunion scene that also featured Neal looking the happiest I’ve ever seen him look—and Michael Raymond-James has a gorgeous, genuine smile), but where did the Lost Boys go once they got to Storybrooke? Felix went to jail, but are the rest of them just staying at Granny’s or with various townspeople? Or are they just staying on Hook’s ship for the time being?
7. When will we get to see flashbacks for all of the Neverland characters?
Neal, Hook, Pan, Wendy, and Tink—all of these characters surely have incredibly rich, complicated, and compelling relationships. But all we’ve been given are hints about them. I really hope that leaving Neverland in the present doesn’t mean we lose the potential for trips to Neverland in the past. There are too many gaps to fill in, too many stories to tell.
8. Can Hook and Neal someday be friends?
One of the things I most want to find out about Neverland in the past is to what extent Hook and Bae interacted after Hook gave Bae to the Lost Boys. Watching the two of them interact at the bar in “The New Neverland” reminded me of how much water they have under the bridge independent of Emma and how much they need to work through that, too. Their relationships with Emma aren’t the only important ones in that love triangle.
9. Why was Hook really backing off?
I thought it was perfectly in-character for Hook to give Emma her space to come to her own conclusions about her relationship with Neal independent of his influence. Hook only wants Emma if she truly wants him, too, and he knows that can’t happen until she fully deals with what has happened with Neal. Once again, Hook is giving Emma the power of choice. But Hook taking a step back is about more than just giving Emma her space (space he thinks she wants because she didn’t seek him out after getting home). It’s about Neal, too. Hook still feels guilty over what happened with Bae, and he doesn’t want to ruin Henry’s family if there’s even a chance Emma could be happy with Neal. Also, Neal isn’t just another suitor trying to win Emma’s heart; he’s a man Hook once loved as his own son. So Hook will step back and wait, but that doesn’t mean he loves Emma any less. He also knows Neal’s love wasn’t strong enough to keep him from walking out on Emma once. He may not know the specifics, but he knows enough. It was about time someone called Neal out for leaving Emma, and I’m happy it was Killian “in it for the long haul” Jones.
10. When will everyone find out what Neal did to Emma?
This needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon. I want Charming to be the first to hear it from Emma because I think he’s the one she’d be most willing to tell. But Henry still needs to know what happened, and so does Snow. Until the truth comes out, everyone pushing for Emma to find her happy ending with Neal just looks ridiculous—and Emma does by extension for not telling them why it’s not as simple as they all want it to be.
11. Why can’t Snow see how uncomfortable the idea of being with Neal makes Emma right now?
In this episode, we could see Charming beginning to come to the realization that pushing Emma to find “true love” with Neal isn’t the same as helping her open her heart to happiness. I just wish Snow would see it that way, too. It’s getting a little tedious to listen to her equate Neal with Emma’s only chance to be happy. Even without knowing the whole story, Snow has to know that things ended poorly enough for Emma to end up alone, in jail, pregnant at 17, and emotionally scarred enough that she wanted Henry to believe his dad was dead. That’s not a situation I’d be pushing my daughter to return to, but, once again, I have to remember that Snow has never experienced the idea that true love and first love don’t have to be synonymous. In the divide between “real world” and “Fairytale Land,” that may be the biggest difference of all.
12. What was Hook really looking for with Tinker Bell?
Hook seeking comfort and escape in his flask and his friend (maybe also his past fling?) can be seen as many things: a plot device to show Emma’s awakening feelings through her jealousy (which it showed wonderfully), a hint that something happened between Tink and Hook in their Neverland days (GIVE ME THE FLASHBACKS!), and a chance for Tink to be awesome (“I may have lost my wings, but I haven’t lost my dignity.” YOU GO GIRL). All of those can be true, but for me, this scene just broke my heart. It’s been noted that Hook put his flask away for good after confessing his feelings for Emma, so it’s worth noting again that when Hook thought he forfeited his chance with Emma, he got drunk. Emma helped him discover Killian Jones again, but, without her or the hope she represents, it was easier to slip back into being Captain Hook. However, this Captain Hook isn’t the charming, flask-toting pirate of Season Two. He’s kind of pathetic. He’s drunk enough for Tink to notice in the middle of the afternoon, and it’s clear that stepping back from Emma (and having her not seek him out) is hurting him beyond anything he’d expected. So he offered Tink rum from his flask, hoping that sharing it with another blonde would help him pretend he was with Emma instead. And when Tink insinuated that he wanted more than just a shared drink, he tried to turn on the charm but the light never reached his eyes. (Kudos to Colin O’Donoghue for playing that perfectly.) He was drunk and lonely and lost (his words to Tink reflect his own feelings about being alone in Storybrooke), and, more than anything, he was human. It may have felt a little out-of-character for Hook upon a first watch, but remember: Hook has a self-loathing and self-destructive streak to rival anyone’s on this show, so this sad little display of desperately wanting to lose himself was painfully in-character. And I’m not so sure he would have actually done anything with Tink anyway.
13. When will Emma get to have a day off?
If Hook’s bender and desperate seduction attempt were both in-character, then so was Emma’s sense of being overwhelmed by her responsibilities. Ever since she broke the curse, Emma hasn’t been able to take a moment to breathe. She can’t have lunch with Neal for reasons beyond her own concerns about that relationship. She can’t ask Hook when the “fun” he promised her is going to begin. She can’t even take a nap or have a glass of wine because some new crisis is going to explode that she has to help fix. Jennifer Morrison played Emma’s sense of being overwhelmed with the perfect mixture of panic and resignation. All I want is for Emma to be happy, so the fact that she thinks she’ll never be able to have another moment of happiness for herself broke my heart. I hope that this comes back in a future episode, and we get to see this woman—who has put herself through hell to save others—finally have a moment to relax, breathe, and simply be happy in whatever way she chooses.
14. Were the flashbacks supposed to reveal more about Emma’s relationship with Neal or Hook?
The flashbacks in this episode were fun, but at first glance they felt unnecessary. However, it became clear that Snow’s tendency to focus on the bad at the expense of her own happiness was meant to parallel her daughter doing the same thing. The question then becomes, what would make Emma happy? When Charming was talking to Emma, he talked about finding good moments in between the bad ones, and perhaps Emma meeting Neal at Granny’s could have been a good moment. (Neal trying to ask her out was very cute.) But the first thing I thought of was the way Emma told Snow back in Neverland that she kissed Hook because she felt good. In the middle of all the pain that island put her through, that kiss was one time—one of the only times on the show—where she seized a good moment and didn’t end up hurt for doing so. It was one time she did what her father was asking her to do—choose happiness. No matter what Emma decides romantically (or even if she decides to just choose herself and her son), it’s important that she follows in her mother’s footsteps and stops waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because when she does, she’ll find that there are a lot of people waiting to love her and to make good moments with her.
15. Why can’t we see Snow and Charming like this more often?
The flashbacks in this episode reminded me of my favorite Once Upon a Time episode, “Snow Falls.” It was so much fun to watch Snow and Charming go on an adventure together, act as a team, and playfully enjoy each other’s company along the way. There was a lightness to their interactions—a sense of humor and a spark—that was so captivating. Even if the flashbacks didn’t feel incredibly necessary plot-wise, they reminded me why Snow and Charming are the couple this whole universe is based around, and why they’re worthy of that distinction. They make me happy, and isn’t that what a great fairytale love story is supposed to do?
16. Was this Charming’s best episode ever?
If I were giving out the MVP award for this episode, it would undoubtedly go to Josh Dallas. Never before has Charming been so—for lack of a better word—charming. In the flashbacks, he was absolutely adorable as the besotted husband who only wants to get started on the honeymoon as soon as possible. (Seriously, the little stolen kiss he gives Snow was the cutest thing ever.) He was supportive but not a pushover, a partner in every sense of the word for his wife, and he was really funny on top of it all. But for as fun as it was to watch Charming’s quest to start making babies (both in the flashbacks and in the present), where Dallas really shone was in Charming’s big moment with Emma. The way he steadfastly supports Snow without being overbearing was reflected perfectly in the way he knew exactly what to say to show Emma he loves her and wants happiness for her without coming off as pushy. He made dumb jokes just to make his little girl smile, he told her that all he wants is her happiness, and he turned her little hint about the romantic potential between her and Hook into the best moment of the episode. He offered her an arm to lean on and to guide her, but he did it with enough gentle love that it didn’t scare skittish Emma away. If that’s not a “Father of the Year” moment, then I don’t know what is.
17. Why is there no “true love” clause in the curse Pan wants to enact?
I don’t understand the mechanics of this new/old curse. Are the stipulations Rumplestiltskin built into it only a one-time thing? Why would the curse not have Emma’s role as the savior built into it anymore? I know that for plot reasons it’s because that would make it too easy to break, but I just don’t understand how a curse can change without Rumplestiltskin changing it.
18. Will the curse transport those affected to another land again?
I was incredibly confused when Pan told Felix that Storybrooke would become the New Neverland because wasn’t one of the biggest things about the curse the fact that it transported all of them from their homes? So how would that be stopped from happening this time? And where would they all go? I feel like Pan doesn’t know all the logistics of the curse, but maybe that’s just me not understanding the rules of Once Upon a Time magic.
19. Who is going to be spared from the new curse?
Let’s be honest—we all know at least a couple of characters won’t be affected by the new curse. I sincerely hope something happens to keep the amnesia/new identity part of the curse from happening again because that would be way too much déjà vu (and circular storytelling in the worst possible way), but, no matter what, someone has to remain a pair of eyes for the audience to see the action through—and I hope it’s still Emma. My prediction: Those unaffected by the curse the first time (Neal, Emma, Hook, Henry, Tink, Felix, etc., and maybe Regina and Rumplestiltskin) will remain unaffected this time, too.
20. Since next week is the midseason finale, I have a few options for how to cover it over here at NGN. I could do a “Grading the Midseason Finales” post, a question post like this one, or one of my normal reviews. Which one would you prefer?