Monday, October 7, 2013

Once Upon a the Eye of the Storm

Once Upon a Time Season 3 Episode 1: "The Heart of the Truest Believer"

At the end of season two, Henry had been whisked away to Neverland by Greg and Tamara; Neal had been shot and fell through a portal to the Enchanted Forest; and our gang of six was about to set sail on Hook's ship to rescue Henry.  In this first episode of season three, the narrative shifts between these three storylines, leaving the happenings in Storybrooke for future episodes.

The Lost Boys come to claim Henry very soon after the trio arrive in Neverland.  Tamara and Greg finally learn who they are working for and why, which results in feelings of betrayal on their part, and a battle with the Lost Boys that does not end well.  Henry flees into the jungle, where he meets a Lost Boy a bit older than him who claims to have escaped from Pan with some pixie dust, although he cannot get it to work.  The two spend the rest of the episode dodging the Lost Boys until Henry is forced to use the pixie dust when the two are trapped between a sea cliff and the pursuers.  With his belief in all things magical, Henry is able to fly away with the other boy, only to discover that the boy in question is Pan himself and this was all a set-up to test whether or not Henry was the "truest believer."

Neal wakes up on the shore of a beach in the Enchanted Forest, surrounded by Mulan, Aurora, and Philip.  At first they are distrustful of him, but when he reveals that he knows Emma and Snow, they relax.  Aurora offers to try to reach Snow through the dreamworld that linked the two worlds together, but cannot reach anyone.  Neal and Mulan then travel to Rumpel's castle, where Neal hopes to find something that may aid them in reaching Emma.  Once at Rumpel's castle, they meet Robin Hood, who has taken over the castle since the curse was first cast.  Much of the castle has been ransacked, but, using Rumpel's shepherd crook from his pre-magic days, Neal is able to unlock a secret passage through blood-magic.  Inside, he finds a crystal ball that reveals to him that the others have traveled to Neverland.

Meanwhile, Rumpel abandons the group to search for Henry on his own, stating that he won't be held back by the others' lack of belief.  Once on the island, he finds the site of the battle between the Lost Boys and Henry's kidnappers.  Despite a gravely injured Tamara's pleas for mercy, Rumpel removes her heart.  A Lost Boy delivers a message of welcome, though he warns Rumpel not to pursue Henry.  Rumpel replies that he knows he will die, but plans to kill as many Lost Boys as possible along the way.

Those remaining on the ship continually argue with each other, as mermaids attack the ship and call down a storm.  After capturing one of the mermaids, the group debates whether to kill her or let her go.  Regina turns the mermaid into a statue, resulting in yet more arguments among the group, as the storm worsens.  Emma dives overboard, realizing that only when the group puts aside their differences and works together will the storm let up.  The group works together to pull Emma back aboard and the ship is able to dock.  As the group sets foot upon Neverland, Emma cautions that they must all believe in each other if they are to succeed.

All in all, I felt this was a great premiere episode.  It didn't spend time recapping last season's events, instead hitting the ground running.  My only complaints are pretty minimal.  I feel that Greg and Tamara should either have been dealt with last season, or left to bemoan their present circumstances a bit longer.  Although both of their final scenes are pretty great.  I also feel the "big reveal" about Peter Pan should have been left for a later episode in order to build greater tension.  And it was annoying to see Regina shift to being the wicked witch yet again.  Why can't character development with her ever stick?
Speaking of waffling characters, I'm hopeful that Rumpel's decision to pursue Henry on his own stems from a desire to redeem himself, not preserve himself.  His conversation with the Lost Boy seems to indicate the former, as does Neal's line in the castle about family being important to Rumpel.  Of course, I hope his fate can somehow be changed, as a show without Rumpel would be quite different

While I didn't really care for Neal in previous seasons, I am really beginning to enjoy his character.  His banter with Mulan was quite amusing ("They even made a movie about you!"), and his concern for his family was far more relatable and more touching than any similar scene of David's (though I suspect this may be because the actor is more capable).  Of course, his scene in Rumpel's castle was my favorite of this episode, especially the bit about blood-magic.  I hope the writers continue to develop Neal into a likable character this season!

From what I've read about plans for this season, I am excited to see where the writers take everyone.  And if this episode is any indication, it will be a good season with plenty of real drama.

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