Neal is back! “Quiet Minds” filled in some big holes Once Upon A Time had left unplugged. But most importantly, how manly will the man-hug between Hook and Neal be? The manliest of them all.
- Director: Eagle Egilsson
- Writer: Kalinda Vazquez
- Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire
Episode Title: “Quiet Minds”
Everyone’s still on the hunt for the Wicked Witch; and she’s currently using orange juice poison to turn Snow White’s baby. But they take the revelation that Rumple’s back to Belle, hoping she’ll have answers or that Gold’s shop might have a clue. That gets a little easier when Neal staggers into the shop with a weird mark on his hand and promptly faints. It’s nice that he isn’t a flying monkey, but he can’t offer much in the way of answers, so it’s back to combing the woods for both the Witch and Rumple. Regina teams up with Robin Hood, and they hit it off so smashingly she bolts. Neal breaks out of the hospital with Hook’s blessing, and finds Emma in the woods.Charming has been helpfully distracted by a flying monkey, so they can have a heart to heart about their history and Henry. Just when you’re starting to suspect this is both too cute and comprehensive a conversation, Belle discovers what she and Neal were up to last year. A magic key would allow him to make a one-for-one trade to bring back Rumple. He did so, but the price was that Neal’s soul got folded into Rumple’s body. In the flashback, this is how the Witch was able to capture Rumple. In the present, Emma is able to separate them, curing Rumple but killing Neal. Both father and baby-mama are understandably upset. Rumple is able to tell Emma the Witch’s identity, and Emma and Charming leave their information source in the woods while they run to see if Snow’s OK. She is, but Zelena recaptures Rumple, and the game as they say, is on.
- Tale as Old as Time: Robin Hood may not be up to snuff against The Evil Queen, but Sean Maguire is more than able to bring the charm to Lana Parrilla. Their chemistry was lovely. The romantic plotline is great timing for this more open (if not gentler) Regina, and it’s really interesting to see her more vulnerable. The bit about whiskey was great, too. Here’s to seeing our favorite outlaw and queen share a bottle very soon.
- Into the Woods: Here’s to Michael Raymond-James, who’s tried to shoulder every convenience of plot the show’s thrown at him. He’s done a fantastic job, and his exit was no exception. Props to Jennifer Morrison, as well, and her single tear of devastation. Even if his exit was abrupt and the flashback to how we got to it left something to be desired, the actors sold it. Dead doesn’t necessarily mean dead on OUAT, so here’s hoping we get another flashback or two to how Neal got word to Hook to activate Emma. As much as we liked Neal, Emma did make the right choice between father and son; Neal’s tragedy is that he knows it.
- Bippity Boppity Bow: These cheerful/ominous visits between Snow and Zelena are never fun, because the imbalance of knowledge Snow has. It could fill the Indian Ocean. Thank goodness it looks like that’s done. Perhaps the pain was intentional, because the costuming choices for this last go were hilariously on-the-nose. We love Rebecca Mader’s evil green broach, bowler jacket, and smart chapeau. Snow’s sky-blue gown, on the other hand, just screamed ‘about to sing with birds whilst cleaning.’ The scales are very unequal.
- Be Our Guest: Belle and Baelfire’s adventures with Lumiere were sadly lackluster. We know the show doesn’t have a budget for this, but he’s a candlestick guys. He needs to talk out of the stem, not the fire. Baelfire’s never been great at understanding magic and this entire plan was painfully sketchy. This was before we were aware of the Witch’s trap, which we knew pretty early on. That means we were pretty invested in Neal not succeeding, and that’s a bummer for his last plotline.
If there’s something to fault about Neal’s exit, it’s how oddly perfunctory it felt. Neal was pushed out of the way to clarify a plot-point. While that does clear the way for more Robert Carlyle and an Emma/Hook romance, the execution was rushed. The show’s great at making a heart-wrenching goodbye. The actors certainly brought it. But having that death make sense or be particularly meaningful? OUAT‘s record’s spottier on that.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
What’s your favorite Neal moment? Let us know in the comments.