"Once Upon A Time" has done a pretty great job of tweaking fairy tale convention and beloved children's lit. Some of these revisions -- Little Red Riding Hood as both the innocent little girl AND the wicked wolf is still on of my favorites -- have been truly inspired. Others, not so much (Prince Charming has an evil twin? What is this, "Sunset Beach"?). But this season, the show kicks off with one I think (and hope) will not only be great, naughty fun but will also help to aggregate storylines that started to feel scattered and rambling last season. Because, and this is a spoiler (actually, there are quite a few spoilers after this sentence, so don't read this before you watch)...
Peter Pan is going to rock your world.
Of course, we got a hint of what's to come in Baelfire's flashback episode from last season. But it's still a surprise when Henry's one ally in Neverland reveals himself to be the leader of the Lost Boys -- and that Henry, in helping them both get away from the nefarious Lost Boys, also reveals himself to be the truest of true believers (which ordinarily is charming, but in this case makes Peter Pan want to keep him like a prize piglet).
While all of this is promising, Pan's interactions with Emma seemed forced -- perfect for driving her character arc, but nonsensical for his. Here's a challenge, Emma, which will force you to realize you're more like a Lost Boy than the Savior! And it will lead you to Henry, though I'll just thwart you when you get here, unless you best me because I'm wasting time on silly challenges!
Hopefully Peter Pan will develop into a "real boy" in later episodes and become less of a device. Still, the Lost Boys and especially Felix (deliciously evil, as played by Parker Croft) should present interesting rivals for Emma, Snow, Charming, Hook and Regina. Although we saw the gang fight one another while at sea (in what I thought was a pretty hokey metaphor for why they have to play nice with one another, but whatever), having to beat up little kids won't be so easy. Yes, they're all probably hundreds of years old, but there's clearly some hesitation (at least for Snow, Charming and Emma) to punch kids in the face. It's an interesting idea, and one I hope gets explored further later.
While "Once Upon A Time" has always snuck in witty asides, I have to say this episode seemed a little funnier than usual. "Filet the bitch!" and cracks about rainbow kisses and unicorn stickers, plus Neal's conversation with Mulan about her movie were pointed and snappy -- and while Regina, as usual, always gets the best lines, I'm hoping they get spread around a little more in season three. If we're going to screw with fairy tale tradition, there's no reason to be entirely serious all the time after all.
Speaking of "Filet the bitch!", I was so excited to see mermaids -- and, more significantly, cranky mermaids. I thought they might be sirens, maybe; or peaceful, fishy creatures -- but angry enough to thump their tails against a boat? Nice! Though Kitsis and Horowitz say that when Ariel shows up (episode 6!) she won't necessarily be an irritable, scaly chick, Kitsis did point out that the mermaids in the original Peter Pan tale were only loyal to Peter Pan. While I hope Ariel doesn't fall into that category, this season promises to bring us enough fun characters and high-stakes drama to make us entirely forget about Storybrooke -- although, I suppose, in some limited way we'll get a taste of what's going on back there, too.
I guess we should take a moment to say farewell to Tamara and Greg, though I don't think Greg is gone for good by any stretch. Unlike Tamara, he just lost his shadow -- and who knows what that really means? But regardless of whether or not Greg comes back, it hardly matters. Sneaky, devious Pan is in control of the show -- and finally, Gold will have a villain who might just be impossible to beat. Though Regina was campy, colorful fun, she was defanged too early (though I still love her so). Pan, with his boyish face, might be darker and more troubled (if we're lucky), and Gold will have to go very, very dark to best him, that stupid prophecy be damned.
Do you like evil Peter Pan? Are you missing Storybrooke? Do you think Emma and Hook are going to have a fling?