Once Upon A Time still can’t get its stakes in order for every storyline, but “Ariel” excels at what counts: Turning a myth on its tail. The Little Mermaid has a whale of an origin story. It’s one that’s familiar enough to be fun, but also surprising and flounder free.
- Director: Ciaran Donnelly
- Writers: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
- Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Robbie Kay, Colin O’Donoghue, Joanna Garcia Swisher
Episode Title: “Ariel”
After revealing that Neal’s still alive – good on ya, Hook – Team Charming heads to the Echo Cave, where they must confess their worst secrets in order to get to Baelfire. Hook’s “I kissed Emma,” was kind of adorable. Although he’s lost love, he’s opened his heart to a new one. Apparently this thing continues to be complicated. Regina and Rumple plot to cross realms in order to do something worse than killing Pan. Enter the top bill (gills?) of the hour, Ariel (Joanna Garcia Swisher). In flashback we learn about her history with Snow, Prince Eric, Ursula and balancing the voice and legs combination. There are some fantastic twists in the mermaid’s tale. Regina puts on tentacles to use Ariel to get Snow, but Ariel looses her voice after thwarting her plot. In present day, Regina offers Ariel the full package, including her Prince in Storybrooke, if she helps them get off Neverland.
- Pun-der The Sea: We were so onboard with the number of Little Mermaid references stuffed into the episode. Keep them, and Joanna Garcia Swisher’s spunky performance as Ariel coming please!
- The Bermuda Triangle of Love Triangles: It can, as ancient lore suggested, be avoided with honesty and some mature macking/sulking in the bushes. Emma, Neal and Hook remain interesting as a dynamic and individually.
- Bridge to Terrible-thia: Those were some chewy confessions, well structured by Kitsis and Horowitz and well acted by the cast. Snow’s wish for another child is a particularly refreshing place for her character to go, especially after dealing with salad tridents all evening. The bridge design wasn’t bad either. Sort of a blue-filtered Moria.
- What’s in The Box?!: New character? Old friend? Real Belle? Shadow Pan was a nice reveal, if only because it fits that he would be encouraging Rumple for the lolz, as they say. Knowing this show, it’s probably Rumple’s father, who is also Pan’s, because they are totally related. The emotional baggage abides.
- Team Darkness: The pleasure of a Regina-Rumple realignment was cut short when they were relegated to table-setting for another intricate plan – a fate worse than death for Pan. It will inch forward slowly for another three episodes before changing tack again. You can both make fireballs and aren’t hamstrung as characters (cough, cough, Snow, cough) by your moralities. Light it up!
- Put Eric Back in The Box: All the princes we’ve seen so far have been Ken Dolls, it’s true. But man, Eric looked super generic. His introduction wasn’t timed well either. Look around, Ariel. Hook would never wear that musty embroidery.
The little beats of “Ariel” were stronger than its convoluted sum. But we’ll happily take the reunion with Neal and a pleasing character introduction.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Do you think we’ll find some narrative progress in Storybrooke? Sound off in the comments.