Previously on Once Upon A Time: there’s a focus on beans – a bean theme, if you will. The Spy Kids – Greg and Tamara – kidnap Regina by putting a bag over her head and neutering her magic. That just shows how ridiculous they are. I mean, who would put a bag over Lana Parrilla’s head? Insanity.
Anyway, we’re reminded that Baby!Bae went to a world without magic – which turns out to be London. Please, show. Don’t even go there. Our Queen is a Bond girl. She’ll have your guts for garters if you try saying there’s no magic here. Or at the very least, throw you in the Tower.
But Baby!Bae rocks up in Kensington Gardens in ye olde Victorian times. After doing a fair impression of Barbra Streisand in Yentl, he asks “What is this place?”. Yep, Baby!Bae; you’re not the first person to ask that after nearly getting mowed down by Kensington traffic. And let’s not even talk about the house prices there. But we’re conveniently reminded of where he is by the sound of Big Ben striking in the distance (did you know that that’s actually the name of the bell and not the tower? Tourist factoid) and a title of “London, England”. You know, just in case we thought we were in London, Limpopo or London, Arkansas: both of which actually exist and would be a whole other fairytale ending, I’m willing to bet.
But no; we’re in London, England and the clock tower in the opening titles sticks at 8.15. Hey! Isn’t that the same time as…yeah. And hey! Didn’t Eddie and Adam used to write for…? Yes, they did. And yes, the LOST references aren’t getting old so much as prehistoric these days. Let it go, guys.
We follow Bae through the streets of Olde London Towne and see him starving. So he slips through an open window of a rather well-to-do house and meets Wendy Darling. Yep, that Wendy Darling. Now, it was no secret that the titles of the final two episodes of the season indicated that the show was going to explore (exploit?) the Peter Pan story, but I’m not sure I remember this bit of it. Wendy is a nice little girl, however, and not only offers Bae food, but a place to stay in the crawlspace of her bedroom. When her parents find out, her father is suitably indignant but Wendy’s mother tells Bae that he’s welcome to stay. I have to say, my own mother would have a similar response to finding a boy hidden in my bedroom, too, only she’d probably get out the bunting and throw a street party and try to have us married as soon as possible. Bless.
The following plotline is about how a “shadow” turned up at Wendy’s window around the same time that Bae did. It’s a strange perversion of the Peter Pan story, as this shadow is sinister and wraithlike; not at all the Lost Boy of the novel. I know this show likes to tell people that it “reworks” fairytales as we know them, but I can’t help feeling like J.M. Barrie is probably spinning in his grave. The shadow, relying on Wendy’s childlike eagerness to believe in magic, takes her away to Neverland but brings her back because “it wants a boy”. Um…okay. The girl gets rejected. Only the boys count. Oh, Once, your Freudian slip is showing.
Despite that, and despite Bae’s insistence that “all magic comes with a price”, the shadow returns and it’s Bae who sacrifices himself in the stead of Michael and is taken off to Neverland. Well…sort of. He escapes the grip of the shadow-wraith-Peter-thing and is scooped up out of the ocean by Captain Hook. I can’t help it, I laugh every time someone says “Jolly Roger”. I think it’s a British thing.
One thing the show tends to do pretty well is to link the flashback stories with the central plotline of what’s happening in Storybrooke. I know that’s what they were going for here, but I have to admit to a disconnect between the dual stories this week. Maybe it’s because I’m not really altogether fussed about Bae as a character (although Dylan Schmid is very watchable and I wanted to hug him numerous times) or perhaps it’s because Baby!Bae has a ton more nobility, decency and all-round character than grown-up Neal. I also think that the cracks in what made the show so strong in its first season are exemplified in episodes like this, where we’re given secondary characters and told that they’re important, then have 42 minutes of scenes that try to ram that point home. I get it, you know? Neal is Henry’s dad. Except he’s not. There’s a difference between having a father and being a father, and the biological imperative of this show has grated long enough. Neal’s been around for ten minutes and already he’s given more screentime and more gravity than other characters who’ve been in the show since the start. He’s Son of Rumple, and he’s also a “he”, and I’m starting to think that those two factors hold more importance for the creators of the show than the people who watch it. Because really, he’s a plot point. He’s there to move Emma’s story forwards and to introduce Tamara. So when it comes to being interested in him, I find that Baby!Bae’s story is far more compelling than Neal’s.
But, to Storybrooke we go where Tamara is going out jogging and Neal is waking up rather rumpled (see what I did there?) and drowsy, trying to get her to come back to bed. Well, she can’t, Neal. She has nefarious plans and they won’t wait for anyone. Evil schemes make their own timetable, Son of Rumple. Not that you’d know that, of course, because you’re good and pure and didn’t ditch your underage pregnant girlfriend so that she was forced to give birth in prison. I’m just saying. Even if nobody else on this show is bearing a grudge, I am, okay?
Nealfire interrupts Rumple trying to make Whale kiss his boot. As Lacey looks on in glee, I might add. Father and son have a heart to heart about something or other. I know Tamara was mentioned but honestly, I was far too distracted by Michael Raymond-James’ hand acting. The upshot appeared to be that Rumple thinks Neal still loves Emma and that – newsflash! – he’s still evil. There are no prizes for spotting that, dear readers. But you do get a badge of all-round smugness.
The Charmings and Henry go to Regina’s office but she’s not there. “When you find her, you’re not going to hurt her are you?” Henry asks. Right, now you’re concerned about Regina’s wellbeing? Seriously, this kid flip-flops back and forth on caring/not caring about Regina on a weekly basis. Make your mind up, Henry. You either love her or you don’t. And yes, maybe she’s difficult to love but she’s your MOTHER. I don’t care what the show is trying to tell me; someone who’s endured those Terrible Twos deserves a medal. Raising kids isn’t easy. Not that anyone in the room with Henry is likely to know that, are they?
Emma says that they’re not going to hurt Regina, but that they want the beans she stole from them. Hee. Beans. Regina took Emma’s bean and now Emma wants it back. Say the word “bean” again, Emma. Go on. But the beans are gone! And so is Regina! Charmings to the rescue! Jennifer Morrison sounds like she’s got a cold, but Emma’s still kind of swoonsome when she gets all determined, suspecting Tamara of foul play. She actually acts like a cop in this episode, using the sort of skills we were told she had back in Season 1. I like this Emma. What I don’t like, however, is that her suspicions are dismissed as jealousy. Because…come on. Really? There are things in this show that I’ll buy, however reluctantly, but Emma and Neal isn’t one of them.
Tracking Tamara to the beach, Neal and Emma have what is possibly one of the most awkward conversations ever. I hope that’s what they were going for because…eep. Awkward. There’s a whole bunch of guilt and resentment and after Tamara turns up (awkward x 1000) Neal has a feelings blurt that makes me want to go off and make a cup of tea until it’s all over. “I wanted to go to jail for you!” he tells Emma. “I don’t wanna hear it – “ Emma begins but you know, when men on this show have man!pain to share, they’re not going to stop a little thing like the woman’s unwillingness to listen stop them. Their man!pain must be heard! They are tragic beings! So misunderstood and hurty. Neal tells Emma that he wanted to love her but he was afraid that she’d never forgive him and he’s never forgiven himself. Awwww. That makes everything okay, Neal. There, there. Buy yourself a new scarf and feel better, okay?
Talking of feeling better, Snow and Charming go to see Gold in the hopes of getting a spell to help them find Regina. This scene is…odd. Gold and Lacey are in the shop and she’s drinking – again. I have the strangest feeling that it’s only through the liberal application of alcohol and violence towards others that she’s interested in Rumple at all. Whatever works for you, Lacey, dear. But he owes Charming a favor and comes up with some sort of linking spell between Snow and Regina, using tears. “Why do you have one of Regina’s tears?” Snow asks. “Because I do,” answers Gold. Oh. Okay…so that’s something that will be explained later? Or never? But it’s not like Regina’s tears are “hard-to-find” items in Storybrooke or anywhere else, considering that she’s done little else BUT cry since the start of the season. Who hasn’t got some of Regina’s tears stashed away? I think I’ve got some in the kitchen cupboard somewhere, gathered from the veritable tsunami of pain and suffering she’s been through since episode one.
But this spell works by combining Snow and Regina’s tears so that Snow will feel what Regina feels and, hopefully, find out where she’s being kept prisoner. Now, I know we’re supposed to interpret that Snow is doing this for the greater good, but as she tells Charming, she wants to try and let some of the light back into her darkened heart. Tell me, readers, is it a selfless act if the consequences lead to personal gain? I mean, Snow might be all “I want to be guided by love!” but this scene, to me, reads like Snow being guided by the besmirching of her reputation and the Very Bad Thing that she did. Also, whatever she’s prepared to do in order to find Regina, she’ll still have engendered Cora’s death and that will always be on her conscience. One good deed doesn’t necessarily overturn the badness in someone’s life – if it did then there’d be a whole heap of forgiveness meted out to other characters who’ve been similarly darkened by evildoing. And here’s where the morality of the show fails me a little, because Snow’s notion of “good” has always been skewed when it comes to Regina. In as much as I like the idea of them being linked in this way, it’s the reasoning behind it that bothers me. Snow’s not doing this for Regina. She’s doing it for HERSELF, so that she can feel better or less guilty or somehow less responsible for Cora’s death. I’m reminded of that conversation between Regina and Gold when she told him that “intent is everything”. What’s the intent here, then? To save Regina or to ultimately save Snow?
Mentioning the show’s morality scale, I often find that when they want to make a point, they tend to make it, paint a billboard, throw up some neon signs overhead and put a ruddy great spotlight on it. I like to figure things out for myself a lot of the time and nothing irks me more than being told what to think or feel by other people – especially a show that, I feel, underestimates my intelligence or my desire to work through things in my own way. Now, I understand that this is television and, often, viewers need to be pointed towards something in order to fully glean the underlying meaning. But the one thing that bothered me most about this entire episode was Regina’s storyline. You see, we all knew she was going to be tortured. We all knew it was going to be with Electric Shock Treatment, too. And considering that The Spy Kids are revealed to be working for The Home Office, there’s obviously some hints there at an organization that seeks to destroy magic from our world in any way it can.
But here’s the thing: ECT has a long and lurid history. The ramifications of that particular torture method are steeped in the sort of associations that cast a shadow over the treatment of mental health issues, homosexuality and traumatized soldiers. As a televisual tool, it’s visually compelling and elicits a strong reaction and I can partially understand why it was used as opposed to other ideas. But you know what? None of that sat well with me. And the fact that it was Regina who was being tortured just…blech. No. It’s hard when you care about a single character more than anyone else on the show and yes, she does need to pay for what she’s done, in the greater scheme of things and in the balance between “good” and “evil”. But this was harsh, even by the show’s standards and honestly, I’d be really happy not to watch anything like this again. It’s a family show, everyone!
It’s interesting, then, that Regina doesn’t break. Not once. This woman, seriously. She’s so badass and so strong and so proud that being vulnerable (as we saw last week) is anathema to her. It’s just something she’s trained herself not to be, not to do and never, ever show. So there she is, strapped to a gurney, utterly powerless and having electricity shot through her body and she taunts Greg. She’s sassy. She tells him nothing – not until she knows that Neal and Emma are on their way to rescue her. Someone on the internet made a great observation that Regina does this on purpose to buy time and keep Greg and Tamara occupied so that they can be discovered. But I think it speaks more to her sense of self-preservation that she can do this even when she’s being tortured in such a horrid way.
“You have no idea who you’re dealing with,” she tells Greg. His response reminds me of a child, where he simply repeats what she says, and I wish they’d had a whole conversation like this because honestly, the comic relief would have been more than welcome.
“You’re an idiot.” “No, YOU’RE an idiot.”
“I’m the Evil Queen.” “No, I’M the Evil Queen.”
Oh, Greg. Stop.
It wasn’t just the torture, however, that stuck in my craw. The language that went along with it and that was attached to what Greg was doing to Regina gave me pause for thought. Like I said, this show never makes a point once; it consistently repeats it until we all get it: I’ll always find you, magic comes with a price, evil isn’t born it’s made. And perhaps that’s part of the generic structure of television that appeals to the average populous wherein we have to cling to these soundbites in order to make sense of what we see.
Tamara has a bit of a “come to Jesus” speech and I’m guessing that this is the entire point of this scene. “Magic does not belong in this world,” she tells Regina. “It’s unholy. We’re here to cleanse this land of it.”
Alrighty then. So we can add “quasi-religious zealot” to your list of attributes, can we? Thankfully, Regina laughs in their faces so I don’t have to. But they tell her that they’re “everywhere” and Greg explains that he was found by “believers”. Kool Aid, anyone? I mean, this is a fairly interesting concept and all, but it just comes off as a bit clunky and if this is the show’s way of providing social commentary, then they’re really not telling us anything we don’t already know. But, you tried, show. You tried.
Before Regina becomes a deep-fried Evil Queen (tasty but hell on the arteries) The Charmings figure out where she’s being kept and storm Storybrooke Fish Cannery. And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, believe me. Before they do, Regina reveals that she’s killed Greg’s dad and buried him up near their old campsite. Oops. Well, what’s one more corpse considering that, last week, the Evil Queen had an entire village massacred, right?
Emma and Tamara have a knock-down fight; Neal is told that Tamara never loved him (more man!pain on the way!) and as she makes her escape, Tamara throws a magic bean to open up a portal. Okay, so I was kind of with the show up until this point, but what happened next only succeeded in me rolling my eyes. I know, I know; I do that a lot when watching episodes, don’t I? But come on, I can’t help it. What with Neal’s flailing hand acting and Emma almost being sucked into a portal (again) the show decided that this was their last ditch attempt to force a relationship on us that, honestly, is about as compelling and emotional as the smell of sardines that Snow kept going on about.
Here’s the thing: there’ve been times when I’ve told people I’ve loved them and I clearly haven’t (no judging). But sometimes, it just feels like the right thing to say – like the sort of thing they want or need to hear. And while I can totally get behind Neal having a thing for Emma, I’m not convinced it’s mutual AT ALL. Plus, the entire conversation between them centers around not letting Henry grow up like they did – without parents. Um…he didn’t? He hasn’t. Why does everyone conveniently forget that Henry DOES have a mother and that he was raised by her – and still would be if everyone minded their own damn business and let her get on with it? But no; the biological imperative comes into play and Emma tells Neal that she NEEDS him. Pfft. Right. Since when has Emma Swan needed ANYONE? Weren’t we told and shown in Season 1 that she’s independent and has learned not to need people? That’s her flaw; it’s what makes her tick and makes her who she is.
Eh. Emma tells Neal she needs him. Then she tells him she loves him. And he loves her too. And it’s all lovely genetics and teenage love and blah blah blah. Am I the only person who remembers that Emma was practically a CHILD when she first met Neal? Hell, she was little more than a child when she had her own baby. So for me to believe that she actually does love him is…well, more than I’m able to accept at this stage, I’m sorry. And when Neal disappears into the portal, my heart kind of sinks because at least we know where the finale is heading and that the entire thrust of this show is going to be the push to reunite Henry’s biological family. Le sigh.
And family is what Charming leans on when Regina comes to in Snow’s bed. There’s a lovely parallel of the scenes between them from last week’s episode, where Regina seems alarmed that Snow has saved her. “Despite our differences, we’re family,” Charming tells Regina. Uh, yeah. When you WANT to be, Charming. But I think my pressing concern is to whether Snow has changed the sheets on her bed because honestly, I still can’t think about tacos without flashbacks to them being naked in that very same bed. Poor Regina.
Regina explains about the failsafe (and yes, she says “beans” again so I’m kind of tittering now) and tells Snow and Charming that Greg and Tamara have the trigger. Cut to them, out in the woods, where Greg has found the skeleton of his dad, and Tamara says that the only option they have left is to “blow Storybrooke off the map”.
This season hasn’t been as cohesive as the first, and with only one episode left, I’m probably expecting far too much to be resolved than actually will be. But I swear, I’m in it for the long haul. Turns out I had no idea what I was capable of. In the meantime, while we’re waiting for the final episode of the season, why don’t you go and watch Lana Parrilla’s Disney commercial that aired during last night’s episode. “Stay angry, my friend.”