After a few shaky episodes, Once Upon a Time has been on an upswing lately and we couldn’t be happier. The action in Neverland has finally picked up and we’re beginning to understand Pan’s plan a little more. Not only that, we got a chance to see Storybrooke and some of the characters we didn’t even realize how much we missed until they were on our screens again.
“Dark Hollow” flashed back five days (it’s only been five days!) to when the gang boarded Hook’s ship and went through the portal. Grumpy, The Blue Fairy and other townspeople found Belle at the water and she explained that Rumple wanted her to seal off the town because dangerous people were headed their way. They went underground to get some fairy dust for the spell, but Belle was having a hard time believing there was really a threat and felt like she’d been left behind for no reason.
But she still did as Rumple asked (with some gentle prodding from Grumpy to believe a little faster) and sealed off the town. Unfortunately, it was too late because two men drove in just as the seal (which looked a lot like the dome from Under the Dome) closed off the town to outsiders. Of course they weren’t the only ones who were able to get into Storybrooke.
Ariel arrives with Rumple’s instructions and Grumpy takes her to Belle. Can we just take a moment to talk about how perfect JoAnna Garcia is as Ariel? We loved her last week, but somehow, she was even more fun this week. She is exactly how we would imagine the animated character coming to life and having her on our screens is the best (Dear writers, please make it happen as often as possible). Ariel gives Belle the message from Rumple and they had to his shop to find the object.
Belle is able to decipher Rumple’s clues while Ariel looks around (and helps herself to a button that looks like one from Eric’s jacket. Watching Ariel put trinkets in her pouch is the best. Everything about Ariel is the best and yes, we’re going to keep repeating it). Belle finds Pandora’s Box, which is the world’s darkest evil and before she can hand it to Ariel to take back, the two guys from the car arrive, tie the ladies up at gunpoint (Ariel isn’t scared of a gun and not just because she doesn’t know what it is. BEST) and then flee with the box.
Thankfully, Belle is a quick thinker and takes off Ariel’s bracelet. Once her fin reappears, they’re able to get out of their bindings and head down to the mines where the two men are trying to destroy Pandora’s Box with a pickax. But it turns out that they’re not Greg and Tamara Part 2. Instead, they’re John and Michael Darling, and they’re only doing Pan’s bidding because he’s been keeping Wendy hostage all this time and they want to save her. Belle convinces them to trust her and let Ariel take the box to Rumple. She promises that they will defeat Pan.
Back in Neverland, Henry is going restless so Pan comes up with a new way to get his loyalty back. He temporarily frees Wendy from her cage and has her pretend to be dying because the magic on the island is fading and Henry has to save it. Naturally, Henry falls for it and then Pan sends Wendy back to her cage and brings Henry to another part of the island to explain what he needs next. If we understood this right, Pan needs Henry’s heart (the heart of the truest believer) to keep his power and immortality.
While all of this was happening, Hook, Emma and Neal set out for the Dark Hollow (go ahead and admit that you were all having Harry Potter flashbacks too between the name and the shadows, which look like Dementors). At first, things were going pretty well despite Snow’s warning that it wasn’t the best idea. Hook and Neal were getting along fine and then Hook mentioned the kiss he’d shared with Emma because he’d assumed Neal knew and was impressed with how well he was handling it.
That was pretty much the end of any goodwill. Emma picked up on the change and Hook explained what happened. He also made it clear to her that neither of them was going anywhere and eventually, she’d have to choose. Emma wasn’t ready for that, but she did tell Hook that she was impressed that he’d told them the truth about Neal (side note: Captain Swan fans everywhere are going to rejoice when Emma finally stops thinking of Hook as a pirate at every turn). Hook told Emma that when he wins her heart, it’s not going to be because of trickery (be right back, swooning forever).
They made it to Dark Hollow and Hook and Neal got into a fight over who knew how to use a lighter better (and shippers on both sides of the triangle hung their heads in shame). Emma was not impressed, especially when the shadows started attacking. Luckily, Emma has been paying attention in her training sessions with Regina and she was able to use her magic to light the candle and trap Pan’s shadow. Then she told her would-be suitors that the only choice she was making was to Save Henry.
A few more quick notes on the episode: Snow spent her scenes giving Charming the silent treatment and finally unleashed her anger and hurt. While she is justified, these scenes felt out of place in an episode that had so many more interesting things go on during it. Tink returned, technically the group returned to her, and she was happy to see Neal and surprised they’d captured the shadow, but they’re ready for the next phase of their plan. Ariel brought the box back to Rumple and Regina granted her the magic to use the bracelet whenever she wanted. Ariel passed along Belle’s message to rescue Wendy and Rumple promised they’d do what they could.
We really enjoyed this episode. The twist with the ‘bad’ guys being the Darling brothers was a great one and we could spend all day quoting Ariel or writing about just how perfect Garcia’s performance is or how we can’t wait to see more of her in Storybrooke when she returns to look for Eric. We’re also looking forward to next week’s episode when the Neverland groups will reunite and put their plan into action.
What did you guys think? Was it great to see Storybrooke again? Were you cringing as hard as we were during the lighter scene? Who should Emma choose? Hit the comments and share your thoughts with us!