OUAT-season 3 ep 4-Neal-Awesome Fire Crossbow

Status quo on Once Upon A Time means yet another fairy flashback to abandonment issues. But if “Nasty Habits,” is mostly a filler episode, the fact that it’s all about Rumple’s bad parenting and an older-then-we-realized relationship with Pan makes it icing rather than stuffing.

The Players:

  • Director: David Boyd
  • Writers: David H. Goodman and Robert Hull
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Robbie Kay, Jared S. Gilmore, Colin O’Donoghue, Rose McIver, Emilie De Ravin

Episode Title: “Nasty Habits”

Even with the addition of Tink, Emma & Co. do little beyond find the cave Baelfire lived in on the island and fret. The hour belongs to Rumple, who begins by putting on warpaint and cementing his resolve with a little help from Belle. His assault on Pan’s encampment has more motivation than even this undoing prophecy gumbo. Pan got the Lost Boys started under the identity of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, which is where Baelfire was stashed away. Young Bae’s a sensitive artist just trying to draw. But at a call from Pan’s magic panpipe, he goes full-on Lord of the Flies, leaping around a fire in youthful abandon. Bae totally would’ve gone back with his dad; but overly anxious, Rumple doesn’t quite have faith in him and magics him back. This destroys whatever fragile trust remained between them. In the present, Neal easily gives Felix the slip, finds Rumple, and the two recapture an unconscious Henry. But they foolishly choose Ambush Clearing to have it out about that pesky prophecy. Here it’s Neal who can’t bring himself to trust his father, immobilizing him with the same squid ink they used on Pan. Father and son are immediately recaptured. When Henry wakes up, he takes his first step into Lost Boy-dom, joining the fire dance. So, things are now almost exactly the same.

The Good:

  • The Magic Flute: Pan the Pied Piper? Good myth, guys. Good myth. Always nice to see young Bae as well. That whole flashback was well executed, and the standoff between Pan and Rumple around the fire crackled with an energy the rest of the hour lacked.
  • One Clean Shot: Also filed under not news, but very welcome onscreen: Neal is awesome. Michael Raymond-James took a bite out of the very chewy material he got to play with.Untying knots, knocking out Lost Boys, slaying squids, and shooting Pan in exactly the way that would immobilize him, Neal and Rumple’s adventures were exciting to watch. Their fraught confrontation over the prophecy also managed to handle parenting issues better than Emma and Snow these last few weeks.
  • Sparkle Motion: Maybe the solution to Jared Gilmore is just to blur him. The episode’s button of Henry joining the fire dance and so ‘beginning to dream of other things,’ like maybe returning magic to all worlds was surprisingly effective. It would’ve been more so if Emma had broken down about her son and not Neal. But the tidbits Pan dropped about Neverland – the loss of magic on the isle is what prompted him to make Lost Boys – were worth it.

The So-So:

  • Release The Kraken!: Hey, so there is a huge squishy tentacle beast out there after all. Lovely to see you, giant squid. The logic of calling this ocean creature only to spear it and drag it, still writhing in its death throws is murky at best. But Neal was so adept with its magic-stopping ink, we’ll happily allow a conch or two in the mix.

The Bad:

  • Don’t Get Lost: We are fully aware that continuing to compare OUAT’s narrative development to the unfavorable aspects of Lost is an annoyingly repetitive device. However, the show continues to tell stories in flashback that offer more details without additional insights. They always circle back to the same set of abandonment issues that every character has.Without any present momentum, thematic redundancy is more noticeable. It takes more than just making Robert Carlyle’s eyes water. Please, actually change the board the way that Pan was hinting at.
  • I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good. Again: So now there’s a secret star map Team Charming has to decode? This would be progress, however sluglike, if only Pan hadn’t hinted Baelfire didn’t escape without his say-so after all.
  • My Heart Will Go On: Ours will, writers, only if the overtones between Charming and Snow about him dying get less painfully on-the-nose. Thank goodness Hook is around to call B.S. on this subplot.

Overall:

Thanks for teeing this one up, Once Upon A Time, because you’ve got a nasty habit of your own. It’s called treading water. Of course, the nice thing about habits is they’re familiar. The dynamic between Rumple and Baelfire, and Carlyle’s acting in general, more than saves the hour from stale redundancy. If things actually change up, we’re excited to see what havoc an emotionally crushed Rumple shall wreak.

Rating: 6/10

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

What did you think of last night’s episode?