Saturday, October 12, 2013

Once Upon a Time...Alone in the Wilderness

Once Upon a Time Season 3 Episode 2: "Lost Girl"

Rather than the four-way split between Emma and company, Henry, Neal, and Rumpel that we had in the opener, this week the narrative is split between Emm and Rumpel in the present, along with a fairyback involving Snow.

In the fairyback, Charming awakens Snow with true love's kiss, and the lovers soon after try to rally a group of villagers against Regina, but to no avail.  Regina offers Snow's group a chance to live happily in exile, confessing that she's been unable to kill Snow.  Snow wants to accept the offer, but Charming tries to persuade her not to.  Charming goes to Rumpel for a solution and is told of a magic sword that can be wielded only by a kingdom's true ruler.  Charming returns to Snow and convinces her to search for said sword with him.

The two find the mythical sword in the stone, and while Charming is unable to remove it, Snow is able to do so, proving that she is the rightful ruler of her kingdom.  The group return to the village, where Regina awaits her answer.  When Snow refuses the offer, Regina uses a spell to choke Grumpy; Snow, with newly discovered courage, uses the sword to free him, scratching Regina's cheek.  A stunned Regina promises that this means war.

Snow searches for Rumpel, wanting to pay whatever price Charming had agreed to in return for the sword.  Rumpel reveals that the sword cannot be Excalibur, which is still in Camelot, and leaves only the hilt in Snow's hand.  He then takes her mother's necklace as payment for wasting his time.  Snow returns to Charming, upset that he lied to her, but after he explains that it was the only way to convince her to stand up for her people, she forgives him.

In Neverland, the group travels through an overgrown jungle as they begin their search for Henry.  As the group reluctantly sets camp for the night, Emma wanders away, following the sound of rustling.  She meets Peter Pan, who gives her a map that he claims will show her the path to Henry.  However, the map is blank, which Emma points out to Pan.  He then explains that it will reveal itself to Emma only when she accepts her true identity and warns that no one else it to tamper with the map.  Emma returns to the group with the map, but after relating her history aloud to the map, nothing happens.  Regina then casts a tracking spell on the map, despite the others' protests.

As the group follows the map into the heart of the jungle (against Hook's better judgment), they are ambushed by Pan, who chides Emma for breaking the rules, and his Lost Boys.  During the battle, Charming is stabbed with poison, and Emma noticeably holds back from killing one of the boys.  Afterwards, Snow asks Emma why she didn't follow through, and she confesses that she saw herself in the boy.  She then relates how abandoned she felt as a child, always wondering why she had been placed in an orphanage.  Only when she admits to being an orphan does the map reveal Henry's location.  Pan reappears to congratulate Emma, but also to warn her that she truly will be an orphan before he is done with her.

Rumpel, meanwhile, cuts away his shadow and orders it to hide the Dark One's dagger where even he can't find it.  Afterward, he's surprised to discover Belle in the jungle.  Convinced that she's an illusion conjured up by Pan to spy on him, he begins to strangle her, while she pleads with him to stop, explaining that he conjured her himself.  He realizes that she is telling the truth, as she often fulfilled the role of his conscience, and he is struggling with whether to kill Henry and change his fate, or to save him and die.  Belle assures him he'll do the right thing, but only if he lets go of the past that's haunted him since childhood.  Rumpel was himself abandoned by his father and continued the circle of neglect by abandoning Bae.  Belle disappears, and Rumpel throws a straw doll made by his father over a cliff into the sea.  As he continues through the jungle, the doll hurtles back toward him; he burns the doll.  Again it finds its way back to him.  Realizing that he can't simply destroy his past, he pockets the doll.

This episode was a mixed bag for me.  The Neverland events were dramatic, but the fairyback seemed to be completely unnecessary.  Traditionally, the fairyback has involved events paralleling those the same character is facing in the present day.  Having a fairyback involving Snow coming to terms with being a ruler, while Emma comes to terms with being an orphan, was a bit of a stretch.  The events leading up to the battle between Snow and Regina have mostly been explored; I don't feel there's new territory left here.  And the current story arc belongs to Emma and to Rumpel.  Snow is a supporting member of this story, as far as I'm concerned.  Unless the fairyback serves to develop her character somehow, it's totally superfluous.  We would have been better served by a flashback of Emma's orphaned childhood, or even more of Neal's life in Neverland than the bit of Snow's history that we were given.

What this episode did correctly was demonstrate to the audience how both Emma's and Rumpel's childhoods have affected them, especially given their current location on Neverland.  Rumpel may not have said it aloud, but he's as much of an orphan and lost boy as Emma, if not more so, given how his past has haunted him and led him to make debatable life choices.

I especially enjoyed the symbolism behind the straw doll.  Despite Rumpel's best efforts to destroy the doll, he fails repeatedly, ultimately deciding to stuff it in his jacket pocket.  One's past, of course, cannot simply be destroyed or buried because it adversely affected one.  Rather, the past remains connected to an individual's every action, whether he's conscious of it or not.  The pocketing of the doll, then, is Rumpel's realization that he cannot escape his past, but instead must own it.

I hope that in future episodes the writers realize that fairybacks are only useful when adding depth to the characters.  Honestly, if they focused only on current events in Neverland, Storybrooke, and the Enchanted Forest, there would be more than enough story for one season.  Shifting the narrative to the past only serves to weaken the plot, or at least it did in this particular episode.  Neverland, being a place where unwanted children find themselves, provides a great opportunity to explore the damaged psyches of Emma and Rumpel.  Don't miss this opportunity, writers!

No comments:

Post a Comment