Subtitle: It’s hard to be an adult in Neverland
We start eleven years ago with Henry’s birth in prison and a clueless doctor trying to give Emma her son before a nurse in the know explains that she’s giving the boy up for adoption. Dr. Helpful probably doesn’t know that, although played by a 34 year old, Emma is eighteen (Jennifer Morrison is beautiful and – omg chin up scene – fit but she does not look eighteen) and completely all alone in the world. Plus she’s in jail. Which he probably does know, but regardless of what he does or does not know, Dr. Helpful helpfully explains that Emma can change her mind if she wants. Exhausted and heartbroken – and eighteen and all alone in the world and in jail and I’m gonna bet scared like you can’t imagine – she shakes her head and professes, “I can’t be a mother.” Remember that, it’s important.
Flash-back to the present and the Jolly Roger arrives in Neverland…and the crew of the Jolly Roger, such as it is, begins to bicker. Eddy and Adam described Team Neverland as “six people who think of themselves as leaders”: Hook, of course, has been here before and already has a plan. Snow and Charming inherently act like rulers no matter how tiny their kingdom has become. Emma is used to seizing control of whatever is going on however she can and dealing with the fall out later (Emma is so very Gryffindor I wouldn’t be surprised if she were secretly related to Godric. On her father’s side of course). Regina correctly thinks she’s surrounded by idiots and Rumplestiltskin agrees so he bounces like only Rumplestiltskin can – with a well considered speech full of insults and truth. And now dressed in Evil leathers.
Aside – two great scenes happened while Rumple was changing into his Evil leathers (the pointed use of costuming is something I really love in this series). First: Regina asked Hook if he believed that villains don’t get happy endings. “Hope not,” he tells her. “Then we’ve wasted our lives.” I love Captain Hook.
AND THEN: Mama Snow told Emma not to blame herself for the loss of Neal and Henry and Emma straight up told her she doesn’t, she blames them. She called the high and mighty Charmings on being high and mighty and I was So Happy. Four for you Emma Swan.
Meanwhile Greg and Tamara, with the captured Henry, make landfall in Neverland and continue to be the Worst Villains Ever by having faithfully followed a literal band of half-mad feral children blindly. Greg gets his shadow ripped out of him (I hope someone writes an essay about shadow ripping versus heart ripping), Tamara is downed by an arrow and Henry flees into the woods. I will not miss Greg or Tamara but I am somewhat disturbed by their sudden and complete doom. Both these characters were built up to be Something and both were so very Nothing.
In the woods Henry meets up with a former Lost Boy who stole pixie dust to escape Neverland but couldn’t get it to work. My eight year old child decided immediately that this was Peter Pan.
Back on the ship Emma is doing pull ups like all bad ass slightly crazy women do. Hook interrupts and refuses to leave until she gives him her full attention which is not as charming as he thinks it is (but is pretty Charming, so). But she lets down her arms if not her guard and he gifts her with Baelfire/Neal’s sword which is actually adorable. They raise a glass in Neal’s memory.
Which is premature because in the Enchanted Forest a magically healed Neal wakes up with Aurora, Phillip and Mulan. Mulan is skeptical, Aurora is eager to help him, and Phillip still has nothing to do on this show. Phillip was the first Disney Prince with a real personality (and name) but he is so bland here. Sadface. Anyway, Aurora goes to sleep to try and find Henry or Snow or Charming (they could practically have their next family reunion in the Burning Room) while Neal tells Mulan about her starring role in a Disney movie. Love!
Rumple finds Tamara dying in the woods which proves he did know where he was going. He heals her so she can tell him what happened to Henry. She apologizes for murdering his son. She got in over her head, she never wanted to kill him, she is really really sorry! Rumple is unmoved and I think bored and rips-and-crushes her heart so Tamara gets two deaths and is definitely dead.
Henry and the Lost Boy clomp through the woods and Henry explains that his family is better at finding each other than any other family – it’s their thing, okay? Written on the family arms! WILL ALWAYS FIND YOU. Not Peter Pan But Totally Peter Pan doesn’t believe because that is the whole point of their plotline: Henry believes in fairies! And family.
Neal and Mulan continue to be super cute as they head off to Rumple’s castle after Aurora fails to get through to anyone – because they are all too busy fighting for their lives to be sleeping, duh. Mulan asks what happened with Emma, Neal admits he was too afraid of rejection to risk going after his true love, Mulan looks sad, I imagine she is thinking about Aurora. (Seriously Neal and Mulan Brotp!)
When they get to the castle they find Robin Hood squatting there. I don’t know what happened to his family but I guess only Rumpbelle knew he had one. He accepts that Neal is who he says he is because no one would say that unless it was true and they go looking for Magic! They find it in a hidden cupboard and Neal is able to determine that Emma is in Neverland.
Back in Neverland, Rumple proves that he was holding back pertinent information as per usual when he comes across the head Lost Boy and they’ve had dealings in the past. They threaten each other a while and then HLB gives Rumple a doll which causes him to fall to his knees in tears. I’m so (not at all) excited we get explore Rumple’s daddy issues this season.
The Lost Boys catch up with Henry and Not Peter Pan But Totally Peter Pan at the edge of an ominous cliff. Not Peter wants to give up but Henry takes the pixie dust from around his neck and jumps off the cliff like the Truest Believer he is. They can fly! They can fly!
In the biggest scenes of the hour the Jolly Roger is beset by mermaids. Charming MacGyver’s some kind of cannon type weapon out of the ship’s cannons (I know, weird) while Emma and Snow catch one in a net and Hook tries to steer them away from the siege. Regina gets impatient with the whole thing and handily runs them all off with a few well placed fireballs. But there’s still the one is the net. Regina magics her on board and everyone starts arguing. Again. Hook wants it off his ship, Regina wants to torture it for info, the Charmings want to hold it for leverage, and Emma just wants everyone to STFU.
Instead, things escalate. After some absolutely lovely volleys of pure sass Regina and Snow and Hook and Charming are down and out brawling on the deck. Emma, almost certainly the one with the least experience steering a pirate ship, is left steering the pirate ship while her shipmates and the storm RAGE. Now, all these people are adults so I have an idea: Neverland doesn’t just force kids to never grow up, it has a similar adverse effect on adults. Rumple crying over a doll, Regina bringing up unicorn stickers, Snow throwing punches – they are all acting like children. Think about the traditional versions of Captain Hook. He is easily just as childish as Peter Pan. Or more so. It’s hard to be an adult in Neverland. It’s a choice, a choice I think they have to continuously make while they are there.
And here’s where Emma has an advantage. Emma didn’t have parents, she had to raise herself. Adult Emma is something of a brat. She whines, she sulks, she play-acts, she’s impulsive and impatient and stubborn. She punches first. She acts out because she can, she has family and friends and a community looking out for her. She didn’t have that before. Kid Emma was a brat because it was the only way to survive. Kid Emma had to take care of herself. Kid Emma knew Kid Emma wouldn’t be the kind of mother she wanted her baby to have. Kid Emma grew up too soon which resulted in Adult Emma acting like a kid a lot. But it also gave her the tools to understand Neverland’s choices.
Emma figures out that the storm is gaining its power from the fighting but no one hears her shouting to stop so she jumps overboard and effectively stops the fighting because everyone on board loves her more than they hate the rest of them. They work together to fish her out and the storm stops.
Team Neverland land, start to bicker AGAIN, and Emma tells them to shut up already because it turns out she actually IS the best at steering the ship. We don’t have to like each other but we do have to work together, she says, because we all have something to offer and we’re stronger together than apart. Her parents are convinced and Hook is smitten but Regina wants to know what it is that Emma brings to the table?
“I’m a mother,” roars Emma and not only have we come full circle, it’s the best argument she can give Regina, and maybe the only argument Regina will (begrudgingly) respect and accept. Emma is a purebred Charming but Regina considers them idiots. Emma has magic but Regina’s had it much longer. Emma is scrappy and street smart but Hook’s got her bested there. But Emma is Henry’s mother and so is Regina. Regina will do anything for her son and she has to believe Emma will too.
And so they all go off into the jungle while Neal watches through his magic snow globe and Henry lands with his Lost Boy friend. Not boyfriend, though I’m sure there are those shipping them even though they haven’t even told each other their names yet. Which is important because:
Lost Boy Friend Not Boyfriend: Good job Henry. You saved us.
Henry: Hey but wait I didn’t tell you my name.
Not Peter Pan But Totally Peter Pan: Is Totally Peter Pan.
(To be fair, Aeris and I watched Jake and the Neverland Pirates Neverland Rescue immediately prior and Peter Pan was in the same disguise there – and also Jake was the Truest Believer and I refuse to believe this all wasn’t on purpose – but that plot twist was super obvious. But also nonetheless exciting. So yay.)
Next week: more tromping through Neverland and Rumple gets some nookie…so we will see Storybrooke because otherwise how will Belle get there?