Some long-needed daylight and a pair of clue-busting princesses brighten Once Upon A Time’s return to Storybrooke. But don’t worry, if you love tramping through jungle and the frustratingly proximate goals of Operation Henry, “Dark Hollow” has that too.
- Director: Guy Ferland
- Writers: Kalinda Vazquez and Andrew Chambliss
- Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Robbie Kay, Colin O’Donoghue, Joanna Garcia Swisher, Emilie De Ravin
Episode Title: “Dark Hollow”
When Ariel arrives, it marks five days since the Jolly Roger set sail. After acquiring some legs, she and Belle quickly head to Gold’s, where curiosities and Disney references abound. They uncover what Rumple needs – the actual Pandora’s box – just before two more of Pan’s minions burst in and take it at gunpoint. It appears John and Michael Darling have aged enough to wear hipster glasses. Belle and Ariel quickly discover why: Their own escape attempt went wrong. The Darling boys are being punished by serving Pan out in the world. Their sister Wendy, has been stuck in that other cage for 100 years. Pan scoops her out long enough to dupe Henry. Apparently, having The Heart of the Truest Believer means you’ll pretty much believe anything. He sets his eyes on Skull Rock and ‘saving magic.’ Meanwhile, the couple and love triangle bickering weighs down Operation Cobra Rescue and almost undoes how cool it is to see where Pan’s Shadow hangs out. But Emma captures the shade, no thanks to her two beaus. Possessed with a way off the island, the board is set for Swan and Co. to finally make their move.
- Look at This Stuff!: Joanna Garcia Swisher continues her brief but glorious reign as Ariel. Whether she’s pondering a corkscrew or not fearing guns, her delivery is perfect. Ariel and Belle also make a fantastic team. If the escape from the rope they were tied up with feels a little Nancy Drew, it’s because we’d love to see them in more sleuthing gal-pal adventures.
- Rainbow Cove: Oh, Emma, don’t ever change your tolerance level for B.S. fantasy names. The actual Dark Hollow was one of the better environments we’ve seen on Neverland, appropriately tangled and spooky. The purple lightning that came off the shades trying to strip Hook and Neal of their shadows was great, too. And Emma can now conjure up a flame? That’s outstanding.
- Proper Motivation: How lovely to see Wendy again, even in such a horrifying predicament. Her scene with Henry was easily the most interesting of this gullible storyline. Pan was particularly edgy in dealing with her, which did a great job of suggesting their fractured history.
- A Pair of English Gentlemen: Darling Boys, we loved you, your touching fear for your sister, and your slightly askew accents. But that shiny red convertible? It isn’t a great way to sneak into a small town. The teddy hanging from their rearview was a nice touch though. We’d like to see more of them than the reveal of whatever seaside cabin Eric’s hanging out in.
- Lighter Than Air: That lighter fight was so redonkulous, childish, and protracted. Surely Hook didn’t need to clarify that it wasn’t about a Zippo. We had high hopes for this love triangle being meatier than usual. But inevitably, with Hook, Neal, and Emma all in one place, certain sides appear sharper than others. “It’ll be because you want me,” > “I’ll never stop fighting for us.” Sorry, Baelfire. Hook has levels of cool way removed from the amount of leather he’s wearing. Although that doesn’t hurt.
- What’s in the Box?: Boxes both literal and metaphorical have consumed the first third of OUAT’s season. There’s Pandora’s, the magic-saving-thing that’s tucked inside of Skull Rock, Pan’s Shadow (in a coconut, whatever) and that storytelling block that kept Regina and Rumple waiting on a beach for an entire episode. Not to mention all the previous ones. The Neverland saga needs to find some excitement inside one of them. The show is starting to feel as predictable and empty as the tiff between Charming and Snow.
The Case of the Teacup Key and the reintroduction of the Darling Family more than redeemed the hour. Seeing Storybrooke again was a breath of bracing Maine air. Once Upon A Time has to continue moving forward in order to retain that freshness. It can’t keep retracing old emotional conflicts like a dog chasing its tale. We promise we will stop talking about Lost, Kitsis and Horowitz, when you prove you’ve learned its lessons. Feelings are fine, but so is whatever’s going to come out of Pandora’s box. Get to that part.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
How badly would you like to see Belle and Ariel fight crime? Let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments!