Subtitle: Layers and layers of Emotional Manipulation
This week’s Once Upon a Time is all about Emotional Manipulation. Back in Fairytaleland of yesteryear the Queen used emotional manipulation to convince Snow to run off with her Prince and live happily ever after. The Prince countered with some emotional manipulation of his own. And props! Props that gave Snow the confidence to emotionally manipulate the entire kingdom! Hurray!
Meanwhile in Neverland of the present, Pan, Hook, Charming, and Snow take turns attempting to emotionally manipulate Emma while Regina makes snarky commentary because emotional manipulation is so last season for her. And on the other side of the island a Dark and Mysterious Presence is playing emotionally manipulative mind games with Rumplestiltskin. With props! And Belle! No, wait, Belle is Rumple’s prop, not Rumple’s Dad’s – er, I mean the Dark and Mysterious Presence’s prop.
Anyway, Belle is basically emotional manipulation in human form. Conjured by Rumple to see the good in him despite his Evil Leathers (literally the first thing she notices are his Evil Leathers…which is a really weird and somewhat twisted commentary on what Rumple thinks Belle thinks of Rumple).
ANYWAY. I can’t tell if we are supposed to feel emotionally manipulated too? Like in some overarching meta way which then allows us to relate better to the characters because we all share Having Been Emotionally Manipulated by Regina George – er I mean Regina Mills – er, no, not her either. By Peter Pan? Rumplestiltskin? Rumplestiltskin’s Dad Who Might Be Peter Pan Except How Could That Work? Wow, this got really confusing really quickly. There are layers is what I’m saying. Layers and emotional manipulation.
So what happened.
The Enchanted Forest. Flashing back to the beginnings of Snow’s revolt (and the beginning of this series) Snow woke up and the Queen took barely enough time to have a costume change before poufing into her face to play let’s make a deal: your happy ever after for my kingdom. If Snowing and the dwarves retire to David’s farm Regina will leave them alone. If they stay and fight, Regina will crush them all. She Force-chokes a peasant to make her point and when Snow and crew are barely able to save this one girl, Snow decides to concede defeat. The dwarves are loyal to Snow no matter what she chooses and refuse to join Charming in his quest to make Snow decisions for her so he goes to the master of making women’s decisions for them: Rumplestiltskin.
Rumple tells him the story of the Sword in the Stone and Snowing head up the mountain to get it. Charming tries to get the sword to prove that only the rightful leader of the land can do it. He fails, Snow succeeds. Hurray! Of course it was all a set up to convince Snow she could fly, I mean fight, but isn’t that romantic?
Now, we’ve had the Lady of the Lake and Lancelot and the Round Table, and Snow has always been the leader and Queen. And it’s really cool that Snow White is King Arthur. And maybe I should just be happy with that since the “magic sword” does give Snow back her mojo and she goes on to start a war with the Queen (Hurray?). But Charming’s interference takes away from it being Snow’s journey. He literally decides she’s wrong, goes to Rumple to get a magic spell that will show her how wrong she is (like… really?? That is really his first instinct: go get more magic from the magic imp in Evil Leathers who always requires a sacrifice of some kind. REALLY?!), and failing that makes up a story about a magic sword that he then tromps her up to and emotionally manipulates her into retrieving. So she can start a war.
And hey, Snow’s war is as just as a war can be, and of course I don’t want her to run away. But knowing what we know this whole set up came off as Rumple and Charming manipulating Regina and Snow. And since Charming went to Rumple first, he’s being manipulated too. They were pawns, and to drive the point home Regina was wearing her most Chess Queen outfit yet.
Neverland. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, says Hook, we must be cautious. Okay maybe not that exactly. Regina is bored with being cautious and suggests magic for everything. But they defer to Hook.
Hook: Neverland, ugh.
Regina: Magic! Magic! My son! Magic!
Snow: Call me Mom?
Emma: Only when we’re all going to die.
Snow: I can work with that.
Charming: Against my better judgement, I agree with the pirate.
Snow: About what?
Charming: About whatever. He’s the only other man here and DudeBro Code says I have to stick with him.
Snow: That’s stupid.
Charming: Bros before Snows.
Hook: I agree with the prince.
Peter invades camp but only Emma wakes because only Emma can hear the crying of the little lost boys (a clue! a clue!). Pan gives her a map that will lead her to Henry, but it won’t appear until she accepts who she really is.
Emma: (to the map) I’m Emma Swan.
Hook: Try harder, love.
Regina: You can use your own magic!*
Emma: Only when we’re all going to die.
Regina: I can work with that!
Emma: I used to live in Boston and I was a bail bondsman and now I am sheriff of Storybrooke.
Regina, literally: That election was a sham!
Snowing: Try harder, love!!!
Emma: And these two idiots are my parents.
Snowing: Say the magic word!!!
Hook: What are they on about?
Regina, literally: The S word.
Hook: Superman? (a clue! a clue!)
*Note that no one actually brings up Emma’s magic unless her telling the map “I guess I’m a product of True Love or something” counts.
Regina is done with this S and magics the map and they all follow the glowing flying map (I wish it was a glowing flying singing map like in Dora the Explorer, but that’s Nikelodeon) into the jungle. It leads them to a seemingly empty camp and a seemingly Henry but of course it is an ambush. Peter admonishes that they cheated and cheaters never win!
Pause. Okay look, Peter Pan is the biggest cheat in the history of cheating. He NEVER GROWS UP. The entire story of Peter Pan is about cheating the system. I know that Once’s Peter Pan is not Disney’s or Barrie’s or Spielberg’s Peter Pan but cheaters never win? What even!
Anyway, the Lost Boys attack. It’s just like old times for Hook and Regina but Snowing stumble over each other and Charming ends up nicked and poisoned (oops). Emma Hulk smashes a kid, realizes she’s just Hulk smashed a kid, and freezes up which signals Pan to lead them all away because he’s made his point (a clue! a clue!).
So we’re back to Emma talking to a piece of paper.
Emma: I admitted to being the stupid savior, what do I have to get a savior suit?
Snow: How about we sit down in our thinking chair and think, think, think?
Emma: That’s Nikelodeon, too.
Snow: Still, what do the lost boys, Superman, and you all have in common?
Emma: My secret identity isn’t Savior, it’s Orphan? That sucks.
Snow: And yet obvious.
The map appears. Hurray!
Also on Neverland is Rumplestiltskin. First he detaches his shadow, gives it the Dark One’s dagger and tells the Shadow to hide it where no one, not even he, can find it. Uh, okay. Then he wanders aimlessly through the woods until he finds a vision of Belle.
Rumple: Pan offered to let me go if I give up Henry. Which means Henry wouldn’t be my undoing and I would live.
FauxBelle: You’re kind of a horrible person you know that?
Rumple: You are supposed to be talking me out of it.
FauxBelle: Oh, sorry. Don’t be a horrible person. You lost your son and then spent hundreds of years making everyone’s lives miserable in order to get him back and then he died so now you want to do the exact same thing to your grandson? And you think admitting you are a coward like your father excuses it all?
Rumple: I need a pep talk!
FauxBelle: Oh, sorry! I see the good in you. Please don’t Force-choke me.
Rumple: So all I have to do is throw away this voodoo doll my Evil Dad gave me?
FauxBelle: Sure, why not.
Rumple throws the doll into the ocean. Belle disappears. The doll reappears. Rumple fireballs the doll. The doll reappears. Rumple is scared.
Next week: MORE tromping! And
Regina’s ex-lover TINKER BELL! Am I the only one who would rather have Storybrooke stories than more fairytaleland flashbacks?