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‘Once Upon a Time’ Review: Mermaid to the Rescue

ABC/Jack Rowand

Once Upon a Time shook up the Neverland dynamics tonight with two reunions and a lot of confessions. “Ariel” also introduced viewers to the little mermaid and gave us an intriguing flashback that seamlessly tied into what was going on in the present. Is it just us or are we finally getting past the Neverland wariness?

As we expected, Hook did the honorable thing and revealed to Snow and Charming that Neal was alive and being held prisoner on the island. He didn’t want to tell Emma yet, but Snow could only hold in the lie for about a minute and a half before she confessed to Emma. The group wanted to go find him, but Regina preferred to stick with the original mission to find Henry and struck out on her own.

Thankfully, Regina wasn’t alone for long. She found Rumple in the jungle, having one of his heart to heart chats with imaginary Belle. This time, she’d managed to convince him that he should come back to Storybrooke and they could have a family of their own. Regina arrived just in time to show Rumple that Belle was really just one of Pan’s shadows in disguise. She ordered him to help her find Henry, but Rumple pointed out the only way to kill Pan was for him to die too.

But Regina (ironically enough) conceded that maybe there was another way; maybe there was a fate worse than death for Pan. Rumple was intrigued by that and mentioned there was something in his shop in Storybrooke that could help them. Regina was irritated that he hadn’t thought to bring it with him in the first place. Of course there was another way to get it (more on that later). These scenes were exactly what Rumple’s story has been missing – a worthy screen partner. Watching these two snark at each other, even as they worked together, is so much fun.

Meanwhile, the other islanders headed out to find Neal, who Pan had the Lost Boys move to the Echo Cave. Hook explained that many of his men had died in there and the only way to get to Neal was by revealing secrets. He told the group that was what Pan wanted; it was another one of his games and he wanted their secrets so he’d have more leverage over them. But they weren’t going to leave Neal in there alone so one by one, the group started sharing their secrets.

Hook went first and revealed that he’d kissed Emma (something she’d confessed to her mother earlier). But that wasn’t his secret. His secret was that he’d never believed that he could love again after what he’d had with Milah, but Emma made him think otherwise (OMG, our shipper hearts). Snow went next and admitted that she hated that they’d missed everything about Emma’s life and she wanted to have another baby when they got back to Storybrooke. That’s when David confessed that he couldn’t go back to Storybrooke because of the Dream Shade and the magical cure.

The bridge was long enough to reach Neal’s cage so Emma ran across it, but the only way to open the cage was for her to share a secret too. She confessed that she’d always loved Neal and she probably would always love him, but when she’d heard he was alive, there was a part of her that hoped it wasn’t true because she couldn’t stand the thought of being hurt again. The cage opened and they hugged. Neal was pretty understanding, considering, and he told Emma that his secret was that he’d never give up on her, which of course Hook overheard.

It’s no secret that we are big Captain Swan shippers here so it was pretty devastating to hear Emma confess her love to Neal after Hook’s declaration of what she meant to him. We’re not surprised; we knew Emma loved Neal, but it was still hard to watch Hook look so sad, especially when he’s tried so hard to do the right thing. We also don’t think Captain Swan is over by a long shot, but things are definitely more complicated now.

So let’s talk about the flashback and how awesome it was. While Snow was running from Regina’s guards, she jumped in the ocean to escape them and a mermaid saved her from drowning. Ariel was nothing like the other mermaids we’ve met on the show; she was very true to her movie self, right down to collecting human trinkets. She explained to Snow that she’d rescued Prince Eric and wanted to see him again on the one night that she could walk on land, thanks to Ursula.

Here’s where things got interesting. Most believed that Ursula was just a myth, a sea witch from way back when. Ariel went to the ball and danced with Eric (sorry, we’re still not loving the casting on this one) and then he invited her to travel the world with him. She really wanted to and that’s when Ursula appeared to her – except it was really Regina, who was using Ariel to trap Snow. Ariel gave Snow a bracelet that turned her into a mermaid to make it easier for Regina to kill her.

But Ariel wasn’t going to let her new friend down. She stabbed Regina with a fork, tore off Snow’s bracelet so her legs came back and then dove into the water, swimming to safety with Snow. Ariel attempted to go tell Eric the truth, but Regina stole her voice before she could, leaving her sad and alone. How awesome was the casting for Ariel? JoAnna Garcia was beyond perfect in the role. She captured Ariel’s spirit beautifully and she had an easy chemistry with all of her scene partners. Also, how cool was it when the real Ursula revealed herself to Regina?

Back to Neverland and Regina and Rumple – she took him to the water and picked up a shell. After some quips about a giant squid, Regina used the shell and Ariel appeared. Rumple pointed out that while mermaids can travel between realms (cool), they can’t be trusted. Regina insisted that this one could and then she gave Ariel another bracelet and asked her to go to Storybrooke. Ariel didn’t seem too thrilled until Regina pointed out that Eric was one of the people living there.

We have to admit that the thought of going back to Storybrooke and seeing the characters that have been neglected so far this season is pretty awesome. And getting more Ariel is also a bonus because we love her already (and not just because The Little Mermaid is the best Disney movie ever).

What did you guys think? Did you enjoy the episode? Are you happy Rumple and Regina are working together? How did you feel about all the secrets coming to light? Swan Fire shippers – go ahead and share your joy! You’re totally entitled after all the Captain Swan gushing lately. Hit the comments below and let us know your thoughts on the episode!

Mandy Treccia
Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that.

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