It's back to Neverland, and we seem close to wrapping up and heading back to Storybrooke. It can't be soon enough, if you ask me, as Neverland has been a dark and depressing place where story lines became clunky, Pan's motivations bent awkwardly in the service of forwarding Emma, Regina, Snow and Charming's stories and it all felt a little more claustrophobic than I imagined it would. But I'm not giving up hope yet, mind you. Anything is possible in Neverland, right?
This week's story is split into two stories; in one, Emma and the gang struggling to find a way to resurrect Henry, beat Pan, and get off the island (which will be tricky for Charming, though I doubt it's as impossible as we've been lead to believe). In the other, we flashback to Regina adopting Henry. The scenes between Regina and infant Henry are short but sweet, and I hope the sketchiness of this B plot real reap greater rewards later. Regina is more fun as the evil Queen, yes, but it was awfully nice to see her play the fiercely protective Mama Bear, too.
To kick things off, Regina had just cast the big ol' curse on Storybrooke, and Rumple, soon to lose his memory and become trapped in small town Maine, should have been upset. Not so much. Even though Regina wants to gloat, Rumple counters that she hasn't worked out all the flaws in her master plan. For starters, the Savior could break the curse (read: done) and if that's not enough, one day Regina will realize there's a hole in her heart -- and she's going to come to Rumple to ask for his help in filling it. "You underestimate the price of what you've done."
And, eleven years later, that hole rears its ugly head as a biological clock ticking loudly. Of course, Regina can't figure this out on her own, so Doctor Hopper is on deck to suggest she needs to LOVE someone. When did she last love someone? That little boy, Owen! And, right on cue, she goes knocking on Gold's door for assistance. When she can't make an adoption happen instantly, Gold assures her he can. "I'm sure you'll make… well, a mother of some sort," he smirks, in one of the better lines of the episode.
Thus, Regina gets Henry -- and he hates her. While she yells at Doctor Whale to run tests on her precious baby, she realizes that when Mary Margaret holds him he calms right down. It's a devastating realization that even sweet, innocent babies take an innocent dislike to her, but, again, easy fix -- she asks him to give her a chance, and he does. Before this, there's an awkward scene in which Granny advises Regina to tell Henry stories, which would make perfect sense if Henry was, say, six years old instead of an infant. But it does give her an opportunity to say, "It worked with Ruby… her issues started later." Good line, illogical scene. But wait! It gives Regina a reason to make up a fairy tale for Henry later, when she's concocting a potion. I'd argue we didn't need this little ruse -- Regina is so lonely and eager to connect with Henry, I totally buy the idea she'd yammer at him about anything, fairy tale or otherwise.
Still, the screaming period gives Regina just enough time to pressure Sidney into finding out that Henry's mom just happened to have been found as an infant right outside of Storybrooke. Regina rails at Gold, who clearly set things up tidily before he was sucked into Storybrooke. Regina shrieks, "I sacrificed everything to build this life! And nothing will tear me away from my revenge!" So, back to the adoption agency Henry goes.
Luckily, Regina can't pull the trigger, and I was hoping for a little more from this moment, which is quick and not as emotionally resonant as you'd expect. But we do get to see that the "couple" set to adopt Henry is actually Michael and John Darling. Zing!
Finally, this flashback wraps up with Regina concocting a spell of forgetting so that she'll finally stop worrying about the birth mother coming back to snatch Henry. Well, that didn't serve much of a purpose, did it? But we get the impression that made Regina a better mother, though, if we remember season one, Henry didn't like her very much anyway. So… Regina wanted to be a better mother, but Henry hated her from the jump, and none of this worked out very well.
In Neverland, loose ends are also tied up with suspicious ease, so the ending isn't too much of a shocker. First, Pan reveals to Emma and the gang that Rumple is in Pandora's Box, just to be mean (and, yes, let them know where to find him). He also reveals he's Rumple's dad, which sort of blows everyone's minds, but no time to focus on that, kids -- Pan floats off, and then it's time to find him. The Lost Boys (with the exception of Felix) tell the gang where to look, the Thinking Tree. Unfortunately, it grabs Emma, Regina and Snow and wraps them in vines that sense regret. Guess who has no regrets? Regina, because everything she did, she did for her son! Ah, so that unsatisfying B storyline pays off in establishing Regina's fierce motherly love! They break free, Regina takes Pan's heart (which is Henry's, really), and they're off.
It's a quick business of getting everyone on the ship, grabbing the Pandora's Box, popping Henry's heart back into his chest and setting sail -- but wait! Pan isn't dead yet! He comes back to get Henry -- and his heart. Just wondering -- does Pan still have his own heart? Did he just squeeze Henry's in? What is the biology of a Peter Pan, anyway? Just kidding. He's magic! Logic doesn't matter!
Also of note -- Prince Charming is free to leave the island! Why? Because... well, I think it's because Rumple didn't kill Henry, which meant he defied the prophecy? Or because Henry didn't die on the island, or something? The explanation is literally rattled off so quickly I have no idea if either of those options make sense, but either way, I'm most befuddled by the fact this is treated like a nonissue.
Of course, as luck would have it, the gang has freed Rumple and all is forgiven -- Neal tells him he's not like Pan, because he came back for him. Hugs! And Rumple being Rumple, he knows something is up with Henry. He walks in, sucks Pan (who is trying to rip off Henry's shadow) into Pandora's box, and all is well in the world. Kind of. Not all is as it seems, mwahahahaha!
Because it isn't the end of the season, we know Pan isn't out of the picture yet -- Henry visits Felix, and the final twist is delivered. Henry isn't Henry, but is, in fact, Pan. That means Pan (as Henry) is headed back to Storybrooke, and everyone's in for a really sucky reunion with the little boy they left town to find. I'm actually happy to see what Pan is like in Storybrooke, even if he's lost the green tunic and English accent.
In other news, Wendy gives Tinkerbell some fairy dust, and she along with Wendy (and the Lost Boys) are in for a mind bender with Storybrooke, which has fancy things like cell phones and televisions and all sorts of modern conveniences. This should be fun -- and at least we're headed back home!
What do you think of Pan's plot? Are you happy we're leaving Neverland? Who do you think will be the first to realize Pan and Henry have changed places?
Follow Liane Bonin Starr at @HitFixLiane on Twitter!