It’s easy to achieve the goal of “Save Henry,” once Regina wakes up and smells the magic. Once Upon A Time effortlessly wraps up the Neverland storyline, while offering a meaty flashback too. All hail the Queen!
- Director: Andy Goddard
- Writers: Christine Boylan and Daniel T. Thomsen
- Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Robbie Kay, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore
Episode Title: “Save Henry”
Picking up right where we left off, with a mostly-dead Henry and a super-charged Pan, Regina casts a preservation spell that gives Team Charming an hour to save their son. In flashback, Rumplestilskin predicts the Evil Queen will come to him to fix a hole in her heart. And indeed in Storybrooke, Mayor Mills asks Gold to arrange an adoption for her. He finds the sketchiest agency in all the land (it’s in Boston), but warns her she might not be ready to put her child first. The parenting trials which humble Regina and open up her heart to love inform her determination on the island. After Emma talks the Lost Boys into giving up Pan’s location, he has to wait 30 minutes after monologuing before he can become all-powerful again. Regina rips Henry’s heart right out of his chest and swipes Pandora’s box back as well. She does this because she regrets nothing in her life that led her to Henry. She even breaks out of a super obvious tree trap to prove it. The show shuffles everyone abroad the Jolly Roger, and uses Pan’s shadow to get the ship airborne. Peter tries one more time to take Henry’s heart, but after a quick struggle is locked in the box himself. Once at cruising altitude, Rumplestilskin can be released and touching conversations are had by all. The last beat, between Henry and former Lost-Boy-in-chief Felix, complicates this midseason wrap-up. The work of saving Henry is never done, especially since it looks like he switched bodies with Pan.
- A Mother of Some Sort: If nothing else, “Save Henry,” is a textbook example of how to execute a touching character-centric flashback. Lana Parrilla knocks all of her material out of the park: Restless Evil Queen, mother on the warpath, and new parent angst. Learning how Regina came to adopt is a legitimate use of an episode, and it slightly undoes the colder, more distant mayor we met in the pilot. All the parent-bonding trouble with baby Henry was aces.
- Pan Never Fails: Nor does OUAT, when it comes to complicating a happy ending. If the showdowns with Pan were a bit talkier and not as epic, it only reinforced how badass Regina was in the Neverland storyline. There was so much narrative efficiency, to put us in a state of surprise even before Pan’s final, Freaky Friday stratagem. We’re not sure how this character-within-a-character thing is gonna go for Jared Gilmore. But his dead gaze in the episode’s final moments was a promising start.
- Pongo: Whee, 101 Dalmatians shout-out! Aside from the joy of seeing Lana Parrilla rock New Englandy cable knits once more, it was also great to see Hopper, Granny, and much of the old gang. And of course Mary Margaret can quiet her grandson just by holding him. All the Storybrooke stuff reinforced how desperate we are to be off that damned island at last.
- Port Windows: The quickness with which Regina dispatches Pan was glorious. We’re happy to gloss over whatever plotty whomping willow trapped the mothers three. But seriously, did no one think to keep an eye on the prime objective of operation cobra rescue until the Jolly Roger was out the air, in which Pan can totally fly? The side conversations – Tink can still do magic, maybe! The families Charming and Stilskin are back together! – weren’t crucial enough to distract us from that lapse.
- Wind In Our Sails: So Marilyn Manson’s shade is trapped in the sailcloth? That was a bizarre, clearly jury-rigged solution to get off Neverland. But we can’t think about it too hard, especially now that Hook has started saying, “As you wish.” Colin O’Donoghue is one black headband away from Dread Pirate Roberts glory. Make it so OUAT, and become our twue wove fowevwer.
- Little Angels: Worst adoption agency ever? Yeah, it was. There’s no two week trial period, Regina. You cannot just take-backsies on children. That niggling logistical nightmare aside, Regina’s last-second conversion was rendered a bit on the nose by her ‘I’ll never let go.’ It would’ve been better saved for the story she tells baby Henry before casting the forgetfulness spell, which actually was one of the best beats of the hour.
- Big Red Button: Also filed under the season’s egregious quick-fixes is Pandora’s Box, which is apparently super easy to open without any consequences? We’re just going to pretend Neal had to use the power of love or something, since it was rather touching to hear him call Rumple ‘Papa.’ We wonder what wrench the writers are going to throw in this when it comes time to actually save Peter from the box, though.
If this has all been some complicated, convoluted plot to replace Jared Gilmore with Robbie Kay, please let it work. “Save Henry,” has wonderful narrative progress, capable table setting, and emotional deepening for its character of the night. Nota bene writers, we do not care what brought Emma to Phoenix to have her baby. In this, Once Upon A Time puts viewers first. May it do so more often.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
What will Pan do out in the real world? Share your theories in the comments.