Clearly “The New Neverland” is a place where saying ‘never’ means just until the third act. Poor Emma may never get a day off as savior, but it’s really Once Upon A Time that deserves our sympathy for this set-up episode.
- Director: Ron Underwood
- Writer: Andrew Chambliss
- Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Robbie Kay, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore
Episode Title: “The New Neverland”
The less said about the flashbacks in which Charming and Snow spend their Honeymoon hunting Medusa, the better. But in Storybrooke, it’s Emma’s anxiety and jealousy that tips her off that Henry’s different. He’s hanging out with Regina for goodness sake. The prospect of lunch with Neal isn’t enough to turn off her instincts. As Charming warns her to appreciate the life that happens in between adventures, we’re on to the next one. As Rumple lets Henry-in-Pan’s-body out of Pandora’s Box, he convinces his family of his identity. Meanwhile, Pan-in-Henry’s-body is swindling Regina and stealing the curse that made Storybrooke. He wants to cast it, this time without a savior clause. The result would be a new Neverland.
- Those Special Moments: This episode does have them. The beat between Emma and Charming was a particularly strong one. Now we wish we could cast a spell to create a land where Josh Dallas can always quip with a fencer’s precision, lifting everyone’s spirits.
- Save Jared Gilmore: Robbie Kay was properly twitchy as Henry once he was unboxed, but we’re not so sure we’d like the switch to be permanent. Gilmore’s expressions and timing, given the context that he’s scheming destruction, sold him as Pan. The lighting shadows on him helped, too. It looks like he might be able to anchor the mischief of the finale, which will hopefully be better because of all the time spent table-setting.
- Hook-ups: Hook was backed off for the hour, but he got some screen time. He comes off the better for his devilishly handsome bro-chat with Neal and a hallway brush with Tink. O’Donoghue and Morrison’s chemistry remains strong enough that it’s hard to put it aside. But if he’s willing to play the long game, we’ll make peace with that.
- Destination Honeymoon: The Greek Isles are probably popular, but the Greek myths just seem silly. The entire Medusa plotline is laboriously Herculean only in terms of how convoluted it is. Going back to the Regina/Snow/Charming antipathy when the three of them are mostly reconciled now feels wastefully redundant in the worst possible way. The Evil Queen’s remark about Prince Charming and stones was funny though.
- Promises Are a Wish the Plot Makes: The warm hugs and spiffy J. Crew fashions of the opening reunion were indeed fun. But if the flashbacks were convoluted, most of the plot in Storybrooke was contrived. Rumple and Regina both cave on their Tomb/Pandora’s Box promises with haste as soon as the plot requires them to.
This episode was a set-up, and shows do have them from time to time. However, they don’t all have Medusa. The clunky flashback didn’t alleviate the slow-moving and easily telegraphed beats of “The New Neverland.” Still, Belle and Ariel looked fabulous. Wendy was wearing a bathrobe and so all the Darlings are adorable hipsters! The little things in the episode are appreciated.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
How do you feel about a reset button on Storybrooke? Tell us in the comments.