On this week’s Once Upon a Time, Pan provides Emma with a magical map to find Henry in “Lost Girl.” It is, of course, a trap. Yet the fun of it, is the psychological nature of Pan’s snares. Meanwhile, Rumple gets a vision of Belle to go with his bad horror movie prop, and we flashback to when Snow found Excaliber. Can anybody say Season 4: Camelot?
Director: Ron Underwood
Writers: Andrew Chambliss and Kalinda Vazquez
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Robbie Kay, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue
Episode Title: “Lost Girl”
Once Upon A Time shifts into neutral for most of the hour, although Pan’s still grinning in overdrive. He gives Emma a map to show her the way to Henry, but it only works if she accepts who she really is. That’s something Rumple is struggling with too. Although he gets encouragement from a vision of Belle, he ends up keeping his doll, a reminder that he’s just a lost boy at heart. In a flashback, Snow’s realization about her destiny as a ruler isn’t as organic or interesting, even though it involves cutting Regina with a famous sword. After some bickering with the Evil Queen and a confrontation with the Lost Boys, Emma does what Pan asks. She accepts that she still feels like an orphan at heart. Considering she admits this in front of her mother, both women take it surprisingly well.
- All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues: It’s no surprise that Robert Carlyle knocks his storyline out of the park. The despair in his eyes as he pockets the sign of his father’s betrayal and the sigil of his own cowardice does more for the atmosphere of Neverland than all the lighting shadows. There’s also the pulpy moment when he cuts off his own. Once Upon A Time continues to channel Lost in interesting ways. It’s arresting visuals and cycles of bad parenting and abandonment. More, please.
- Why Is The Rum Awesome?: Hook shores up the hour with some refreshing snark and good sense. We think his coping mechanism is particularly attractive, and Emma seems to agree. Although, this pretty much guarantees that Baelfire’s going to bust in at a super awkward moment of Pirate/Savior romance. But it would be great if Hook offered him the flask afterwards.
- I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good: Robbie Kay continues to blend the perfect notes of evil and impishness in his Peter Pan. He sidles in and out of frame like the smug ass who just took your queen in the citywide U-12 chess tournament. It’s wicked to watch, and actually sells us on his Map of +18 Self-Actualization, +44 Contrivance.
- Go On: Bless Mary Margaret, and her therapist’s touch in helping Emma reveal the workings of the map. On one hand, she’s saddled with some very tired dialog. On the other, it’s all in service of getting to a great acting moment between Ginifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison. Snow’s restraint and utter devastation will, we hope, become a driving force as the season moves forward. We’re at a very interesting place for the character.
- Once and Future Plotlines: The fairytale technically ties into the episode’s overall theme of accepting one’s self. However, the fact that Snow must accept that she’s a righteous leader isn’t tonally consistent. It doesn’t match the more depressing emotional wounds Emma and Rumple are dealing with. It might’ve been more interesting to explore Charming’s motivations and shepherd hang-ups than to have him, with the excitement of a puppy, drag Snow to Excaliber. Even the welcome return of the Evil Queen can’t disguise how much of what happens in the Enchanted Forest is moot. That said, Rumple’s delivery of “Everyone knows Excaliber’s in Camelot!” is a beautiful reward for what was largely a waste of our time.
- The Other Way, Idiot: This isn’t Charming’s finest hour in many respects. Hook’s being far too reasonable and helpful to justify the belligerency of the moment Charming chooses the wrong trail. Hiding the poisonous wound you just got from everyone with either knowledge of the island flora or magic powers is also really dumb.
- “If this is some sort of trap…”: Oh, Emma. That’s a question Charming’s daughter would ask the evil child-demon who’s already kidnapped her son and head-gamed her away from the rest of the group. We know you’re smarter than that Swan.
- The Fairest Wig Of Them All: Snow’s fairytale wig is still the worst. Also, hey producers, we love that aerial shot of Charming riding down the beach too, but please stop reusing old footage. The effect diminishes each time.
“Lost Girl” buckles under the other 22 hours of storytelling ahead of us. Much like Pan’s game, it nudges the pieces without really changing the board. The cast is, as always, very game. But this was a middling hour of the series, in what looks like a four-episode arc of jungle hikes and retreading. It’s a shame Once Upon A Time can’t seem to sustain its momentum more regularly.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
What did you think of this week’s episode?