At the end of season 2, two people from the real world, Greg Mendell (Ethan Embry) and Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green) infiltrate Storybrooke with a mission to destroy the town and magic. They gain control of Regina’s (Lana Parilla) magical failsafe and initiate the self destruct sequence to destroy the Storybrooke and its inhabitants. However, Regina and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) are able to combine their magical powers to stop the device. Nevertheless, Greg and Tamara realize that Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) is the boy their home office has been looking for a long time. As such, they kidnap him and take him to the world of their home office, Neverland. Of course, a rescue mission is launched which includes Regina, Emma, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle), and Captain Hook (Jared S. Gilmore). Neverland is the setting of the beginning of Season 3. The series continues to be brilliant and the season is off to a great start. It has done a great job with its unique portrayal of Peter Pan (Robbie Kay) as a villain. Moreover, one of the themes of this season is that some of the main characters have a shared experience of the pain in being orphans. The use of this theme has been great in developing some of the characters we love and fits in perfect with the idea of Neverland and Pan’s Lost Boys, who are a group of orphans. Of course, the show continues to be excellent with flashbacks and showing us more of the characters’ pasts.
In every other version of Peter Pan, he has been portrayed as a hero. On the other hand, Once Upon a Time’s decision to make him the main antagonist sets its version of Pan apart from the rest. Before the season started, I was very interested in how the show could make Pan a villain. It has been done very well so far. Pan is a magical person and very powerful. Even the Dark One, Rumplestiltskin, fears and respects the powers of Pan. Pan has also shown he can be completely ruthless. For example, he tricked Greg and Tamara into bringing Henry to Neverland to destroy magic. Of course, Pan never had intentions of destroying magic as he himself is magical. Nevertheless, he lied to Greg and Tamara as he believes that hate is a great motivator. By the time they realize they have been duped, it is way too late. They have delivered Henry to Neverland already and have no leverage. Although they just want to go home, Pan and his Lost Boys show no mercy. When Greg tries to keep Henry away from the Lost Boys, the Shadow comes down and rips Greg’s shadow from him which instantly kills him. The Lost Boys also shoot Tamara with arrows which mortally wound her. Although Pan is dark and ruthless, he is still just a boy that likes to have fun. Accordingly, he likes to toy with the main characters and make them solve riddles and puzzles. Robbie Kay has done a great job portraying the character. Although he is currently a villain, I have a feeling there is a twist and he is a much more complex character. Similar to other villains in the series, he will definitely have redeeming qualities and understandable reasons for his actions. It would not surprise me if he actually turns into a hero at some point like the traditional Peter Pan story.
As the setting of this season is in Neverland, I like how the show is utilizing the orphan theme. Three main characters that have been orphans are Emma, Henry, and Neal/ Baelfire (Michael Raymond-James). As Emma and Neal are Henry’s parents, I really like how it is a shared experience that binds them together. Of course, Emma’s story has been a main story arc since the beginning of the show. As she was prophesized as the savior who will break Regina’s curse, Prince Charming and Snow White are reluctant but forced to send their newborn daughter alone to another world to save her from the curse. During the second episode, Pan gives Emma a blank yet magical map for her to find Henry. He tells her that it will only work once she accepts who she is. While she originally believes she must accept that she is the savior, Pan actually wants her to accept that she is an orphan. The map works once she relives the pain of growing up alone and without her parents. Pan wants her to remember that terrible experience because she made Henry go through the same pain when she gave him up for adoption. He promises her that he will exploit that fact to convince Henry to hate her and never leave Neverland. In addition, Pan tells Emma that he will truly make her an orphan which implies he is going to attempt to kill her parents, Prince Charming and Snow White. Due to these threats, Pan definitely comes off as a sadistic villain.
While Snow and Charming are loving parents and only sent Emma off on her own in hopes of a better fate than a curse, Neal is abandoned by Rumplestiltskin as his father’s love for his son was unable to overcome his lust to keep his power and magic. As Baelfire, he only wanted the good man that was his father before he acquired the power of the Dark One. For this reason, he begged his father to come with him to the real world where there is no magic so they can start over. While Baelfire jumps through the portal, Rumplestiltskin is addicted to his magic and fears losing his power. As such, he does not follow his son through the portal to our world but regrets it immediately. Consequently, Neal grows up in our world without a father. Accordingly, he does not want Henry to grow up without his father. At the end of last season, Tamara shot Neal. He fell through a portal and was believed dead. However, the portal transported him back to the Enchanted Forest. Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Princess Aurora find a wounded Neal and nurse him back to health. Eventually, he finds a way back to Neverland to help save his son. Moreover, he has been to Neverland before as the young Baelfire. It will be interesting to see flashbacks to that experience later in the season.
Of course, Rumplestiltskin still feels guilt for abandoning his son. When his son is believed to be dead, Rumplestiltskin sets out to save his grandchild, Henry, to honor the memory of his son. As his son is the reason for him living, he also no longer cares about the prophecy that suggests Henry will be his undoing. When Neal arrives in Neverland, he runs into his father and they successfully immobilize Pan with squid ink so they can rescue Henry. Nevertheless, Pan is able to create distrust between father and son as he tells Neal about the prophecy and that Rumplestiltskin’s true intention in coming to Neverland is to kill Henry. As Neal experienced his father picking magic over him already, Neal naturally does not believe that Rumplestiltskin will choose the life of Henry over self preservation if the situation presents itself. Of course, Rumplestiltskin is a great character in the show as he is very complex. He was a good man and wants to be again. However, he is still trying to fight his demons and get rid of “Nasty Habits” as the title of the fourth episode suggests. It will be interesting to watch the development of this character and the decisions he makes the rest of the season.
Once Upon a Time also continues to do a great job with flashbacks so we can learn more about the characters. The second episode is excellent as it shows more of the loving and supportive relationship between Prince Charming and Snow White. As the Evil Queen in the Enchanted Forest, Regina tormented Snow. There was a point that Snow wanted to give up and accept an offer from the Queen to go into exile with Charming. Nevertheless, Charming does not want Snow to give up her rightful claim to her kingdom and he knows Snow will be a great Queen for her people. As such, Charming tries to think of a way to make Snow realize the greatness in her and regain her confidence to fight the Evil Queen for her betterment of her people. Charming even goes so far as to ask Rumplestiltskin for a deal to help Snow come to that realization. Eventually, he comes up with the idea to bring her to a stone with Excalibur. As it is not the real Excalibur, Charming feigns that he cannot pull the sword out of the stone. When Snow is able to pull out the sword, she renews the faith in herself and regains the strength to fight Regina. Eventually, she realizes that Charming tricked her. Although she is furious at first, she eventually understands that Charming truly loves her and believes in her. The two are a great pair on screen and show again why they are the signature story of true love in the series. Although the show did a good job utilizing the concept of Excalibur, I hope they revisit the story of King Arthur and Excalibur at some point as I would love to see its unique vision of the story.
Another new character this season is Tinkerbell. As Pan is a dark version of the original story, it only makes sense that Tinkerbell is dark as well. However, she was originally the Green Fairy in the Enchanted Forest. She was a caring fairy and wanted to use her powers for good. As she saw Regina as a tragic character, Tinkerbell wanted to use Pixie Dust to help Regina find her true love. However, the Blue Fairy warned Tinkerbell not to help Regina as she is an evil person with ties to her wicked mother Cora and the Dark One Rumplestiltskin. Consequently, the Blue Fairy assesses that Regina is beyond saving and forbids Tinkerbell from taking Pixie Dust. Nevertheless, Tinkerbell is naive and believes in the good in Regina. She disobeys the Blue Fairy and steals Pixie Dust. The dust leads Tinkerbell and Regina to a tavern where her true love is. Tinkerbell points out that her true love has a lion tattoo on his arm and leaves Regina so she can enter the bar to meet him. However, Regina does not have the strength to enter the tavern. Afterwards, Regina lies and lashes out at Tinkerbell noting that the man was horrible and that Tinkerbell is a terrible fairy. To make matters worse, the Blue Fairy discovers that Tinkerbell stole Pixie Dust to help Regina. As it disobeys the Blue Fairy’s explicit orders, she strips Tinkerbell of her wings and powers. As Tinkerbell believes that Regina never went into the tavern, she has a lot of resentment for Regina. It makes it a very difficult situation when the group needs Tinkerbell’s help in Neverland. Nevertheless, Emma, Snow, and Charming are able to bring out Tinkerbell’s good nature and convinces her to help. I really enjoy the show’s different interpretation of Tinkerbell. Moreover, Regina’s true love turns out to be Robin Hood. It should be interesting to see where the series goes with this thread.
Of course, the season is centered on Henry. Although we are still waiting for more information to be revealed, Henry is the ultimate true believer. Moreover, he is the product of pure good and pure evil. Emma is his mother. She is the savior and the daughter of true love as Prince Charming and Snow White are her parents. On the other hand, his father is Neal so his grandfather is pure evil as the Dark One. I like that the season uses this concept to explain the uniqueness of Henry. As magic is dying in Neverland, Pan believes in a prophecy that Henry is the key to saving magic. I cannot wait to see where this story arc goes this season. Moreover, Pan is beginning to seduce Henry to join his Lost Boys. As such, it will be difficult for Emma, Regina, and Neal to remind Henry who he truly is and of his love for his friends and family. It should be very entertaining to watch. Once Upon a Time is a great show and this season continues the brilliance of the first two seasons. I highly recommend the show and the season.