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ONCE UPON A TIME There Was a Rescue Mission



Episode 301 “Heart of the Truest Believer”

OK. Now we’re back on track. I think.

The complaints I had about last season left me uneasily anticipating the return of Once Upon a Time for a new batch of episodes. Mainly, the fact that Gold and Regina weren’t our main villains anymore — combined with an unbalanced mix of filler and back-story shows — really left me feeling like the show had lost its way. And as the season ended with Greg and Tamara kidnapping Henry, I was worried we’d be in for more of the same.

Fortunately — so far, anyway — that hasn’t proven to be the case. With Greg and Tamara quickly dispatched, that’s one concern gone. They were just weak villains to start with, even though they were only lackeys doing the bidding of the Pan. Yes, Peter Pan is the villain in this first round of episodes, and he’s taken a particular interest in Henry because the boy has a “true believer” heart.

The flip side of that — Gold and Regina not being true to themselves — also seems to be tossed this season, as they revert back to their first season nastiness pretty quickly. Regina, despite her efforts at “being good” last year, just can’t seem to shake the Evil Queen persona. And with Henry’s kidnapping, she’s allowing it to come full force as our intrepid crew — all five of them on that big ship — journey to Neverland on a rescue mission.

Neal, in the meantime, has washed up on the shores of the Enchanted Forest, where we pick up the Mulan-Aurora-Phillip thread. For those Mulan-Aurora shippers in the crowd, prepare to be disappointed. I’m calling it now — Mulan and Robin Hood. Maybe.

And the whole bit about the Mulan movie? I see what you did there, Disney.

RELATED: AJ’s interview with Raphael Sbarge is here.

With a new Robin Hood in place, Neal and Mulan crash Dad’s old pad to find the Globe That Shows What You Love, which tells Neal that Emma’s in Neverland. Only she’s not aware that Neal’s alive, and there are faint glimmers of sparks — at least a grudging respect, at this point — between Emma and Hook.

Emma gets to be the Leader in this season, it seems. And she gives voice to a thought that resonates with me as a viewer — the characters need to be true to themselves for a success. Yes. This. Going back to the way last season limped along, a lot of that was because these characters got twisted and warped away from who they were in the first season. I get that some of that is character development. If they don’t grow, the show goes nowhere. But it’s nice to see that coming out of the gate, everyone is going to be allowed to be themselves.

The bit with the mermaids attacking the ship was a clever bit of editing that covered some not-so-great CGI mermaids. The one they captured was done pretty well, but the ones in the water looked rushed, unfinished. And it was a nice touch that Emma figures out the on-board in-fighting was causing the storm that threatened the Jolly Roger, but it felt like something I’d seen before. Check me on this, dear reader. Did this happen in a Pirates of the Caribbean flick?

Nice bit between Regina and Hook discussing the value of living their lives as villains. When Regina wonders if, as a villain, she’s destined to never be happy, Hook responds with “I hope not. Or we’ve wasted our lives.” A very profound moment that almost gets lost in the action immediately thereafter.

_______________

Everyone gets some scenery-chewing in this one. And a few good lines to be had all around.

Emma calling out her parents: “How can you two be so infuriatingly optimistic?”

Regina: May I resume killing her now?”

Robin Hood, upon learning Neal’s identity: “I’d bow but this quiver’s rather tight.”

All in all, a good start for the season. Here’s hoping we get more of this level of writing.

[Official Show Site at ABC]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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