Back into action. Yes, I think ONCE UPON A TIME is slowly finding back to its own dynamic, and I hope they manage to keep that now. That is not to say that I’m yet completely happy with the show (again), but it looks good for getting there.
One thing before I get started: The title card animation with the mermaid was gruesome. Sorry, but this looked more like taken from a horror movie than anything else.

* I jump right in and start with the really important matter at hand: CaptainSwan. Usually I’d save the best for last, but this just… made me so happy and broke my heart at the same time that I can’t resist. Because oh my God, he said it. Hook basically confessed his love to Emma and it was so beautiful and so sad at the same time – as he did it as means to helping/freeing Neal.
Actually, there is not that much to analyze here. As I wrote last week, after the kiss it had become very clear that Hook was anything but unaffected, and that thus he is very much in love with Emma. Now he admits to it, in a beautiful confession. Interesting about it was that Hook obviously indeed never had found another woman to love after Milah. She was his true love – and that consequently means that there is TL for Hook, that he is capable of, plus that he is, as I’ve said before numerous times, anything but your classic pirate/swashbuckler. I’d even go as far as to say that since Milah he might have flirted and kept a bit of a facade, but he never had even an affair.
Now he’s ready to admit that he has fallen in love again, truly in love obviously, and this is what makes it all the more true, but also heartbreaking.
Of course now we have to wonder where they’ll go from there. When Snow and Charming start with their confessions, we see how Emma takes a step towards Hook, and how he opens his mouth to say something. On both sides (!) there is the intention to talk about it, even then, right in this situation where there are a lot other problems they have to face and something like this, rationally speaking, shouldn’t be of importance for the moment.
Now, if I’m realistic, I assume that Emma would have told Hook that she is not (yet) ready for anything, especially in the face of Neal, their history and all the pain that comes/came with it. Still, I would have wanted to hear that (and I hope we will in one of the upcoming eps), and also what Hook had to say then; if he had tried to convince her, told her it’s okay, or whatever.
* Moving on to something that deserves an extra mention: the Echo Caves. This is an idea I loved, absolutely loved. I just wish there was a chance to see more of the Echo Caves, that they were suitable for a longer story, but of course they’re only means to a bigger plot, and nothing else. But the premise that they force one to “reveal their deepest darkest secrets” that then are meant to destroy same person revealing them is fantastic and very creative. So there is not much more to say about that, but I had to have that in an own note.
* The revelations in the Echo Caves of course give a bit more reason to talk about. I start with The Charmings – Snow’s confession is interesting, though not very surprising, we’ve seen before how she mourns the missed opportunity of seeing a child grow up, and there was this rumor of a pregnancy going around, which I always associated with Snow, since it would make the most sense.
Of course there is this little problem of Charming not being able to leave the island (yes, of course they’re going to find a solution for that, but only we know that, not them). This makes for David’s truth, and while everyone else is quite fine with what is said and what they had to say, we see Snow being really upset with David’s words. Um, yeah. Another thing to add to the by now huge pile of reasons why I dislike her. With every new episode, she becomes more stupid and behaves more like an overgrown brat – unreasonable, insensible, and blind to the bigger picture.
I mean, what does she expect? Of life in general? An actual fairytale? Welcome to the real world then, dearie. There’s no such thing as fairytales, but we can make life as good as possible if we accept the bad as a part of it. Snow seems to be incapable of doing so, and it makes for a highly annoying character trait, because after everything she’s been through, she, of all people, should know better. Instead she drowns in self-pity, and it is disgusting. I just want to take and slap her, or shake her, or anything, so she’ll finally get a grip and accept things as they are, instead of whine and complain all the time because life’s so nasty to her.
* And then there is Emma, and also Neal. Emma admits that, while she never stopped loving Neal, she was also hoping that he was indeed dead so she could move on and doesn’t have to fear getting her heart broken again, like all those years back. Even facing him, she says that she wishes he was dead; that he hadn’t come back. She is terrified because she couldn’t stand losing him again, so she rather gives him up for good.
Neal, on the other hand, doesn’t quite seem to get it, telling Emma that he’ll never stop fighting for her. He’s adamant in his believe that he and Emma can be together again. I know there is a kid behind all that, and that it is entirely possible that Ed&Adam will try to portray family as something sacred that comes before everything else, but can Emma and Neal really still be together? For now, I don’t see it. Too much has happened, and Emma kind of deserves a new chance, a new start. Hook has so much love to give, and now that he has made clear that he has truly fallen for her, I can see their relationship work, even if there is still some distance to walk first. Those two do have a special understanding for each other.
In addition to that, Neal , in general, is shown to be quite insensitive compared to Hook. He is almost aggressively pursuing his happy ending with Emma because he seems to think this is how it should be, and maybe he needs it also, after everything that has happened in his life and with father. But the one to be really there for Emma has been Hook, and that for some while. I won’t get tired of emphasizing that he is the only one without a direct personal interest on this quest. Henry is not his concern, nor would have been saving Neal. Still, he does all of that, and risks his life, and only a man who is really in love does that; not someone who simply hopes to get laid. Hook’s and Neal’s objections are the same – but Hook is, in my opinion, willing to do a lot more for it than Neal.
* As said, in this episode Hook once more shows that he really, actually cares about Emma, and that he’d do anything for her. He’s not the lying, or keeping things to himself; he is conscious of how he has to be completely truthful if he actually wants to have any kind of chance with Emma. Of course all this is leading up to his hesitant love confession (he wouldn’t have said it hadn’t they been in the Echo Caves!), which is the ultimate proof that this is as real as anything will ever be.
Namely this is about the fact that Hook tells the Charmings of what Pan revealed to him – that Neal is alive. He knows that telling Emma isn’t the best idea, for various reasons – it would distract her from her quest, it would make for additional emotional baggage because she was just trying to come to terms with Neal’s death, and now he is supposedly alive, and surely there’s also part of him thinking of what it means for him, for them, as a couple, even if they aren’t one, but that’s not the point; let’s just say he’s afraid to lose the little bit he has of her.
Hook and David know and agree that it would be a mistake to tell Emma; apart from the fact that it would be a distraction, there could also be other reasons as to why Pan wants them/her to know about it. As we later learn, there sure is, since the Echo Caves are anything but helpful.
Hook’s and David’s bromance grows more on me with every new episode. I think they are great together, and I enjoy seeing them bonding slowly. It’s done in a very believable way, with them helping each other mostly out of necessity, or for ulterior motives (like Hook saving David, where he even admits that he didn’t do it for David, which is okay in my book – at least he’s honest about it), but you can still feel how they are actually starting to accept each other. I won’t go as far as say like, but they definitely have the potential to get along without any necessities behind it one day.
* With Snow, not so much. She is annoying, and nothing else. First she tells Emma about Neal despite the earlier agreement between her and the two men to keep it to themselves because it’s better. Hook’s and David’s faces are manifestations of epic facepalms even without them using their hands then. It is also extremely inconsiderate of her, and we’re back to the bigger picture she apparently completely ignorant to.
Then there is Emma confessing that she kissed Hook to Snow – and all Snow thinks of is Neal. Not once does she ask, hey, what about you, how do you feel? Do you maybe have feelings for Hook? Have you fallen in love with him? Could you? How do feel about it in regards to Neal, especially now that we know he is alive?
Nothing of it she asks about – she basically ignores Hook’s existence, and that her daughter has feelings for him, of what nature they may ever be. Fact is, you don’t kiss someone just like that; especially not on a show like OUAT. And Snow knows what kisses mean – at least there has to be attraction. But instead of acknowledging it, she dismisses Hook entirely.
* While we’re at it, let’s have a look at this week’s FTL past happenings. As the title says, we get to know Ariel, the Little Mermaid, who saves Snow from drowning after she jumps off a cliff when chased by Regina’s guards.
Now, to sum it all up, it is of course about Ariel having rescued Eric after his ship sunk, and falling in love with him. Now she has to meet him and introduce herself and hope he’ll fall in love with her so they can be together and have their happily ever after. So far, so good, but this is OUAT, so there’s a twist. Actually, there are a lot of those.
First of all, Ariel doesn’t need to sell her soul, uh, voice to the see witch, a fact that is of course very convenient; as is the fact that the ball to which she wants to go is in exactly the night when she is also allowed to get legs by Ursula’s intervention, who apparently grants mermaids and -men to walk on land for 12 hours during high tides. Classic coincidences in favor of the story, but that’s okay; it’s, in hindsight, quite a good idea. For one, we don’t need to vilify Ursula, and we also don’t need to shift focus to Ariel; this still is Snow’s story (arguably whether this is good, but anyways). We won’t talk about how those two got into the castle and to the ball, and also not where they got the dresses, since Snow’s living in the woods and Ariel, well…
The whole ballroom scene with Ariel and Eric is borderline kitschy. That was so saccharine that I was afraid of my teeth. Not their best decision, plot- and romance-wise; there’ve been better ones. It’s just as overly sappy as Snow/Charming, though the latter is a bit more grounded thanks to Charming; I’ll never be a fan of him, but as said above, his association with Hook I’m really enjoying and thus David himself becomes also more sympathetic, plus he’s not the spoiled prince, but a farmer’s son.
Anyways, Ariel is invited to travel the world with Eric, who is oblivious to the fact who and what she really is because she doesn’t want to tell him and doesn’t think he would understand. Gah. So Ariel has to seek help – and asks Ursula, who is known as the “sea goddess”, but also hasn’t been seen for hundreds of years.
Cue Regina assuming Ursula’s role, believing that the goddess doesn’t actually exist (anymore) – this is the best way for her to get back at Snow, by utilizing Ariel. So basically, it comes down to all this being about Snow (and Regina) again, and Ariel is simply means to an end for now. When Regina uses her tricks to trap Snow I first believed Ariel would go and ask Eric for help – when in fact she fought Regina herself and rescued Snow once more (granted, it had been her fault to start with, but never mind). I think this was the moment we were shown that Ariel is quite badass and this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her – for a longer while I mean, not just the next one or two eps. They could make something of her, after all.
Regina isn’t easily defeated or encouraged though – so when Ariel returns to meet her prince and tell him the truth about herself, Regina takes her voice. Canon at last, lol. It is hinted though that Eric is part of the Curse and possibly in SB when later, in Neverland and the here and now, Regina calls Ariel because she needs her help (and pays her with the means to get legs again). So this is where we continue next episode – with the information that mermaids can travel between realms as well.
And this was one of the two truly more interesting points:
Mermaids can travel between realms. So next to the sky above the clouds, the underwater world seems to connect realms as well. So could the group just dive an return to SB? Yeah, not that easy, I know, but question is, how deep would they have to go. And how do these passages look? That water is a powerful portal we’ve learned before already, last season, when the lake and well were used, alas the passage was aided by the beans. Everything that happens now, and everything we know, will give us sooner or later the answer how they will manage to leave Neverland, because they’re going to do that.
The other thing is at the end of FTL past – when in Regina’s mirror at the castle the real Ursula appears – more like a shadow herself – and threatens/attacks Regina. So what does it mean for now, for NL and the help Regina asks of Ariel? Will it work this way, or will Ursula interfere? There would have been no reason to show her if she wasn’t to come back and play some role in what is yet to come. Question – how will that be done? And will she be good or bad? She seems to be more on the good side, protecting the merpeople and even giving them the opportunity to walk on land for a short while. So maybe she could be an ally in the end?
*Then we have this little moment of Regina trying to teach Emma how to use her magic. Which was interesting, as at first Emma couldn’t do it – until Regina angered her enough so she “exploded”. In more than once sense, because suddenly, her magic did work. Effectively this means that Emma’s magic could be connected to negativity. This says a lot about her character, since she’s had a hard life so far and her most prominent emotion probably is anger and resentment, and that’s what her magic will attach itself to…
*Rumple and Regina are reunited. Well, I don’t mind, it sure promises fun, snarks and a much more grown-up approach to things.
After the others decide to look for Neal first, instead continuing their search for Henry, Regina leaves the group. Was to be expected; she is there to find her son, and actually the others looking for Neal first is a bit surprising. Anyways, Regina soon finds Rumple, who is just in talks with Belle again. Or Fake!Belle, for that matter. Now we finally learn who this really is, and as I had predicted before, this is of course not the good soul we know, not even close. Only that Rumple is obviously so (love) blind that he can’t see – while Regina can. Or can she? In any way does she strangle Belle with her magic, and it turns out that this is just Pan’s shadow. Has been the whole time. So “Belle’s” talking about what Rumple should do, and the subtle coaxing to give up in one way or another has indeed been a plan to stop Rumple. And a very effective one as well, it seems.
Because, as already mentioned, contrary to Regina Rumple wasn’t able to see the truth. And shouldn’t he have been? He’s so powerful and all, but he can’t spot such a rather obvious scheme? I had my doubts from the very beginning because it seemed to good, and even more when we got to know Pan – and Rumple, knowing it all, having even lived on NL and being very familiar with Pan, fell for it? That worries me, because either TPTB have made a terrible mistake in Rumple’s characterization, or something’s very wrong with Rumple.
Was it maybe his despair over Neal’s death? His fear of his own death, in combination with his need to save his grandson and the only remainder of his son? In addition to that we have his love for Belle that clearly is still there, and voila… wait, we have an oblivious Rumple? Oh dear.
Also to mention is the fact the Rumple does nothing to stop Regina when she kills Belle. There could be two reasons: Either he knew all along she was a fake, but reveled in her presence because he is alone and he needs her; we know he does. Or killing her, even if it’s not the real her, but an illusion he still somehow thought to be connected to the real person, is, in some twisted way, convenient to him, as now all ties are cut to his old life, and especially to everything he loves.
We’ve seen before how Rumple is basically giving up, not caring anymore whether he survives. He has accepted his fate and doesn’t even be half inclined to fight to try and have both – his life and Henry. He doesn’t care of Pan defeats him, which is shocking. Just as it is surprising that Regina wants to join forces and prevent Rumple from being killed, because that was basically what she announced when she told him of her plan/idea with Ariel. She told him that he doesn’t have to die to save Henry – and I assume she also doesn’t want him to, because in the end, due to their family bond, Regina may just hope to have another ally. They’ve been before, after all was Rumple once Regina’s mentor – so why not go back to this? Of course, for everyone else this might not be the best thing; on the other hand it could be that Regina realizes that there are much worse things to come, things they’ll need to work together to stop.
A few words on what happens before Regina appears. As said, Rumple is talking to Fake!Belle – and now, for the first time we see her aggressively try to convince Rumple to give up. And she not only does it by telling him so, whereas before she used ways of discouraging him by encouraging him, no, she now also tells him that they can have a new family, and a baby. And to top that, when Pan appeared before that, he shows that he not only knows of Belle (though I still wonder how) – he also refers to the baby topic, and it becomes obvious that this is nothing Rumple hasn’t thought of (which makes it all the easier for Fake!Belle to hit home with the topic).
There is a repeating theme in this episode, and it’s Rumple, Belle and a baby. I know that Ed&Adam and even Bobby have said there’ll be no baby; not for now, and maybe never, because it would be too much for a character like Rumple. Still is talking about it a good start. Plus, I’ve said it last season – Belle is a character who might just wish for a baby sooner or later, for her own little family, and happiness with the man she loves.
Anyways, another thing on Pan – he also says that Neal will never forgive Rumple, just like Rumple has never forgiven his own father. Which effectively shows Rumple his situation very clearly. He knows how he feels about his own father, which obviously includes a lot of disappointment and resentment, and he also knows that he’s made the same mistakes his father has, so he knows how Neal must feel – and if Rumple can’t forgive his father, or doesn’t believe he could, he consequently also doesn’t believe that Neal will ever forgive him. Another hope taken from him once and for all. Another reason to give up. And once more I say: Damn Pan, but he knows what he is doing…
Side Note/Fun moments:
I quite liked this little game of “how many Disney’s Little Mermaid quotes and references can we get into the episode.” Very much amused by what Regina said when she impersonated Ursula, because I was almost able to say it with her since there were so many quotes from the movie/musical.
And then we have this one:

“I’ve been camping with the Charmings for a week.”

That completely cracked me up. Once again, Regina lands the best line in an episode 😀
And side note on something Rumple related: He says he can’t see in the future in a place where time stands still. Wonder what that means for everyone else. They don’t age, apparently, or only very slowly, so biologically speaking they don’t lose any time. But they do develop, mentally, psychologically; that also goes for Henry. It will be interesting to how that correlates to FTL (Mulan, Aurora etc.) and SB; how much time has passed there.

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Tags: Ariel/Little Mermaid, Belle, Emma Swan, Emma/Hook (CaptainSwan), Hook/Killian Jones, Neal Cassidy/Baelfire, Neverland, Once Upon A Time, OUAT, Peter Pan, Regina/Evil Queen