An incredible thing happened in “Dark Hollow” on this week’s Once Upon a Time. There was actual progress toward the goal of finding Henry. Things literally happened instead of just more stagnant set up. The plan to get off the island after rescuing Henry is set, Emma makes a choice between her suitors, Ariel proves surprisingly useful and much more fun than in her titular episode, and we learn who Pan is keeping locked up in a wooden cage. Also, Belle and Storybrooke remain awesome and far more interesting than the Neverland lot. So let’s swoop in to “Dark Hollow…”
Just five days ago in the Once universe, Belle said goodbye to her true love. This scene it’s just as touching as the first time. I miss this pairing so much. While she tearfully watches the Jolly Roger disappear, the rest of the town runs up to celebrate having been saved. Belle shuts them up by saying Greg and Tamara took Henry and producing the cloaking spell for the Blue Fairy to examine.
On the road to Storybrooke, a red convertible carrying some Hipsters approaches. (Seriously, that’s not the beginning of a joke.)
The Storybrooke crew reminds us all why we love them by being both sweetly naïve (Archie) and git er’ done (Grumpy). To wit, as they head into the mines to get some fairy dust for the spell, Grumpy says to his brothers, “No time for whistling boys. Let’s get swinging.” With some dust freed up, Belle pours the vial Rumple gave her and a magical dome begins covering the town. The convertible speeds up to beat the closing barrier and they do, leaving their bumper behind.
In Neverland, Rumple draws a map to Storybrooke and enchants a sand dollar for Ariel to give to Belle. This way he doesn’t have to say their plan out loud and risk Pan hearing them. Finally, we’re using our clever brain, Mr. Gold! The mermaid just wants Eric but Regina is teaching her the value of patience and bargaining so she’ll have to wait.
Pan’s camp. The little stinker can feel that someone is leaving the island. Felix is all concerned about it but Pan just tells him to contact their men in Storybrooke. Also acting super laidback for no reason is Neal. In the Camp of the Twisted Family Tree, he says his big mysterious way to leave the island is hitching a ride with Pan’s shadow and Neal knows just where to catch the evil spirit.
At the Storybrooke beach, the dwarves speak for all of us when they agree that though the love Snow and Charming, “it’s kind of nice not having them around.” They’re of course referring to the lack of killings, wars or beasties since the couple has been gone. I’m referring to the aggravating lovey-dovey idiocy of the duo. Anyway, Grumpy doesn’t like the dissenting talk amongst his comrades, saying everything will be “normal” when the Prince and Snow come back. Grumpy’s brand of normal suddenly appears out in the water as Ariel puts on her magical bracelet and walks onto the beach. She’s looking for Belle but someone else is looking for her. Yes, the Evil (British) Hipsters are spying on her and they’ve received word from the home office to make sure she never leaves Storybrooke. Commercial.
In Granny’s diner, Belle stares despondently at her cheeseburger. She misses her Rumple. Archie tries to cheer her up by telling her that she’s the town’s hero, having cast the cloaking spell but Belle shrugs off the accomplishment. Just as she’s feeling pretty useless, Ariel comes in with Grumpy. She gives Belle the sand dollar but Belle is flummoxed as to its meaning. Back in Mr. Gold’s shop, she unlocks the Rumple holograph in the sand dollar. Rumple is all “Help me Belle-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope,” and I tend to agree. Belle is going to save the town, Henry, and this show.
Neverland. Snow is still giving her hubby the cold shoulder but has plenty of Mom advice her Emma about the two guys who are making eyes at her. Emma denies any such love triangle. She too busy trying to, you know, find her son…who right now is resisting Pan’s urging to come on a fantastic voyage. Henry’s resolved has clearly been strengthened since he magically Skyped with his moms and grandma.
In Neal’s cave, Hook spills the beans about he and Emma’s kiss much to Neal’s surprise. Seems Emma hasn’t told her baby daddy yet about the hot kiss she and the pirate shared. The girl in question comes back in, unaware of the added tension to her love life, holding the coconut star map. The trio makes for the Dark Hollow to capture the Shadow.
Still in the Mr. Gold’s shop, Belle searches for what Rumple needs and Ariel wastes time hilariously looking at thingamabobs. Belle deduces that Holograph Rumple’s line about the “strength of our love” must refer to their teacup. She puts it back in the cabinet and a spell unlocks a hidden floorboard safe. She finds a super cool looking box inside: Pandora’s Box. Just as she’s explaining the myth behind the box to Ariel, the Hipsters come in with their guns drawn. Hey, how you feel about that cloaking spell now Belle?
Back from commercial, the ladies are tied up so the Hipsters can take the box. They, unlike Greg and Tamara, know that they work for Pan and they’re pretty, er, happy about it. Their boss is currently sending out Felix to take care of business. Henry trails after him.
On the way to meet up with Tinkerbelle, Charming confronts Snow about his lying but she’s still playing the silent game. The Love Triangle starts hacking through the brush toward the Dark Hollow but Hook and Neal take some time to grumble at each other. Or rather Neal is snippy and Hook is exasperated. The pirate stays behind to talk huskily with Emma and how she doesn’t just melt in his arms I don’t know. But she stays strong and focuses only on saving Henry. Neal reappears, having found the Dark Hollow, which contains the victims of Pan’s shadow. So that’s comforting. Commercial.
In the shop, Ariel remains optimistic while Belle is feeling pitiful. Where is that strong warrior princess who took down the Yagoui? She apparently needed a minute to get her mind right. Once she does, she takes off Ariel’s bracelet so her fins reappear, enabling them to get out of their bonds. They head toward the mines to stop the Hipsters because clearly the only way to destroy Pandora’s Box is with a pickax.
Still on the way to find Tink, Charming again tries to talk with Snow. She finally whips around and yells at him about not telling her about the poison, even after he was cured. He cowers under her anger before finally admitting that he was scared. He didn’t want her to worry about him and thought she might actually leave him behind, alone on the island. She tells him he’s an idiot (duh) because she would’ve stayed with him on the island dodging poison arrows and Lost Boys, happily living in a tree house with him. This is officially the first mushy moment between these two that I’ve found believable (and bearable) in like a season and a half.
In the Dark Hollow, Neal is trying to light the candle but is too busy trying to one-up Hook to be successful. After a catfight between the two sends the lighter flying across the room, a whole host of shadows attack the threesome. Commercial.
We come back and Hook and Neal are both having their shadows ripped off them. Before Emma has too choose who to save, she uses her sporadic magic powers to light the candle and trap Pan’s Shadow. How is it staying trapped in the coconut star map thing that has holes on the top? Unclear.
In the mines, Belle stops the Hipsters by sending a mine cart at them before they can destroy Pandora’s Box. The Hipsters are distraught because if they don’t do Pan’s bidding their sister, who’s been trapped with Pan for over a century, will die. They’re John and Michael Darling! Hooray! Belle convinces them that letting Ariel have the box will enable them to defeat Pan and save Wendy. The brothers agree.
In Neverland, Pan opens up the other cage and welcomes Wendy to play a game.
Back in Storybrooke, Ariel dives back in to return to Neverland with the box and a message from Belle in tow.
Henry finally succeeds at falling into Pan’s trap by finding Wendy in a makeshift tree house. She’s being kept separate from the others because the island’s power is fading and it’s making her sick, she says. Wendy also randomly tells Henry that she knows Neal. If this kid had any logical ability left he’d figure out this is a trick but no. Instead he leaves at Wendy’s urging and promises to return for her. Once Henry’s gone, Pan emerges from behind the curtain to congratulate Wendy on her acting and for encouraging Henry to be a believer.
While waiting for Ariel to return Regina and Rumple have another epic chat. She is doubtful that his True Love can figure out his clue. Rumple doesn’t take the bait, instead correctly guessing that Regina is jealous that he has someone and she doesn’t. The Queen looks both pissed and saddened at this truth. But no time for more exposition about Regina’s lack of love, Ariel appears with the box and also to tell them that Wendy is trapped on the island. Regina doesn’t care about some stupid girl but Rumple softens when Ariel tells him Belle wants him to save the girl. Once Ariel’s gotten her magical bracelet set to permanently give her legs whenever she wants for however long she wants, Rumple asks her to “tell Belle that I love her and that she was right. I will see her again.” Rumbelle feels for the win!
With the captured Shadow in tow, Emma and her would-be lovers go to meet her parents. Thankfully as fed up with the squabbling as we are, Emma tells the guy she’s made a decision about who she wants to be with: Henry. Hook and Neal look rightfully sheepish. The three come upon Charming, Snow and Tink and it’s looks like they’re finally ready to rescue that pesky son/grandson/almost-step-grandson.
But Henry is making plans of his own. Having been expertly (though easily) manipulated by Pan into thinking he can save Wendy, Henry agrees to restart the island’s magic. Pan takes him to Skull Rock and the kid says he’s ready to do what it takes to save Neverland’s magic.
Within three minutes of this episode, I didn’t miss Neverland at all. Storybrooke all the way!
While casting the cloaking spell, Belle is told by the Blue Fairy to believe in herself. When the spell initially fizzles, Grumpy helpfully whispers, “You might want to believe a little harder.”
Anyone else notice the little teddy bear hanging John and Michael’s rearview mirror? Little callbacks to the Disney films are why I love this show.
Hook to Emma: “When I win your heart, Emma — and I will win it, it will not be because of any trickery. It will be because you want me.” Swoon!!
What is Wendy’s motivation for helping Pan? All he does is put her back in her cage as a reward.
I’m glad that it was Wendy in the cage because it’s an interesting development and I love grown-up Michael and John but I’m supremely disappointed it wasn’t Tiger Lily. Maybe we’ll get her next week in Skull Rock?
Speaking of the Darlings, why are the boys dapper young men and Wendy is still a little girl?
Regina tells Ariel her bracelet can now give her legs all the time “or a fin. Whatever Eric’s into these days.” Heh.
I absolutely loved Ariel in this episode. She was sweet and funny but also surprisingly resourceful. A vast improvement from last week.
I know he needs to be gullible for this storyline to even begin to work but Henry used to be the smartest person on this show. What happened to our little believer? Being tricked by a pretty girl with a fake cough? Come on, Henry!