ONCE UPON A TIME: “Dark Hollow”


Oh hey, Storybrooke! I remember you! I think…

“Dark Hollow” marked the first time we’ve really been back in the town since last season’s finale, and I have to admit, as much as I enjoy the Neverland arc (though I seem to be in the minority here), I was very glad to have an hour rooted in people (and a place) we haven’t seen a lot of. While we still traveled back to Neverland to move along the island story, it was a nice change of pace for the show and one that I wish had been done sooner.

We flash back to the season two finale, where Rumple leaves Belle with the caveat of going off to find Henry and, essentially, his death. When the townspeople (well, the dwarves, Archie and the Blue Fairy) finally catch up to them, they learn that Rumple has provided Belle with a cloaking spell – apparently, he was privy to the fact people were looking for Storybrooke, and knew that the town needed to be protected. Belle and the dwarves get the spell up rather quickly, but not with enough time to keep out the two visitors, who we learn are working for Pan and want to destroy the weapon Rumple is trying to bring back to Neverland. Later, after Belle has attempted to stop them from destroying it in the dwarves mines by knocking them out with a cart (trust me, it’s more awesome than it sounds), we find out that the two boys are actually John and Michael Darling – they’re in Storybrooke trying to stop Belle so that Pan doesn’t kill their sister Wendy who has been trapped on the island for some years now. In a nice twist, we then find out that it was Wendy who was enslaved in one of the two cages that Pan used when he captured Neal.

Aware that Henry is gaining hope again, Pan uses Wendy to dupe him into thinking that she’s sick and dying from the island’s magic – telling Henry he’s the only one that can bring the magic back and save her. It’s a move that dangerously puts Henry back on the path towards Pan’s clutches, with Pan pointing him in the direction of Skull Rock – the location of where our next adventure presumably lies.

Last week, we saw Regina and Rumple send Ariel (JoAnna Garcia-Swisher) on a mission to Storybrooke to retrieve a magical weapon in Gold’s shop that will aid in being able to destroy Pan (lest we forget, mermaids can travel between worlds.) The job allowed her to meet up with – as well as befriend – Belle, who since Rumple’s departure has been feeling a little down. At first, I thought it was because of the classic “my boyfriend left me” plot, but it was soon revealed that in addition to her loneliness, she felt helpless – knowing that Rumple had left her to go die didn’t exactly sit well with the fact that she still loved him, and she felt like she needed to do something other than whittle away the hours in Granny’s diner.

Ariel brings Belle an enchanted sea dollar with an encoded message from her lost love, leading her to the teacup that, when placed in its special spot in the cupboard, shows a path that leads them to where Rumple has hidden a box. And not just any box: Pandora’s box. It was an interesting choice to bring that piece of mythology into the Once world, and I’m not sure where we’re going to go with it – if we’re going to stick with the known legend, or in the tune of Once, turn that on its head entirely. Nonetheless, it apparently is the means to defeat Pan, and we’re not in Neverland a whole lot longer, so I’m curious to see where we’re headed with this plot point.

Lady friendships have always been one of my favorite tropes, and to say I enjoyed Ariel and Belle’s bonding – however short – would be an understatement. It was entirely fun to watch Ariel continue to learn about the human world through Gold’s shop, and I liked that Belle was the one who figured out not only how to save them, but how to convince Michael and John that they could work together to stop Pan and save their sister. While Regina seems less on board with the idea of saving people who aren’t Henry, Gold seems to have renewed determination, telling Ariel when she returns that he’ll do what Belle asks (and Regina totally does keep her promise of letting Ariel have her legs whenever she wants. Go find Prince Eric, Ariel! After you play messenger to Belle, of course.)

In Neverland, the group split left Snow and Charming to find Tinkerbell’s camp, while Hook, Neal and Emma went to try to capture Pan’s shadow. Obviously, this meant time for each group to talk about the recent secrets that were exposed back in the cave, which I actually enjoyed – I’d rather have the show deal with some of its plot points straight out as opposed to having them dragged out tirelessly over a number of episodes. Charming spent most of the hour attempting to connect with Snow, who basically refused to talk (I did like that only by using her fairytale name did she finally acknowledge him.) The two angrily hashed out their feelings – Charming’s fear and concern for protecting her, how he didn’t want to condemn her to a life in Neverland, and Snow’s steadfast loyalty of doing whatever it would have taken to stay with him, because of her undying love. Eventually, the two made up in a teary embrace, and it seems like we’re back on track with our Charmings – which is more than we can say for the newest love triangle. That storyline came to a head when Hook (completely unintentionally) told Neal about his kiss with Emma. Naturally, this didn’t sit well with Neal, who became increasingly annoyed with the situation, an emotional response that eventually led to all three of them almost getting killed (if this was LOST, Neal would totally be the stubborn Jack Shephard, and not just because everything about Killian Jones screams the second coming of Sawyer.)

Emma, Neal and Hook find the Dark Hollow, also known as the cave that houses Pan’s shadow, and it’s here that Neal and Hook end up in a fight over a lighter that makes them unprepared for an attack. The one good thing that comes out of this is that Emma manages to use the magic Regina taught her to light the coconut lamp-candle and save them both, and I did enjoy how despite the fact that show seemed like it was setting itself up for a “choose one or the other” scenario, it came down to Emma saving the day so she didn’t have to make a choice about either of them – she then went on to tell her “suitors” that the only man in her life that she cared about was Henry. Well done, Emma. (I also really loved that we had that small moment of Emma acknowledging Regina’s magical teachings, so here’s to hopefully more of that in the future.)

Final Thoughts:

  • It’s really only been five days since the group left Storybrooke? I’m well aware of the time lapses in these kind of shows, but I thought it had been more than five days.
  • I truly, truly hope that my gut feeling is wrong and we’re not heading towards some sacrifice where Hook is killed.
  • Loved the small but subtle details that were thrown in to identify John and Michael – John’s glasses, and the teddy bear in the car.
  • I laughed when Happy was talking about how peaceful the town was without Snow and Charming wreaking havoc on it, going on to name a few of the recent disasters we’ve been through in three seasons (and hey, it’s a bit horrible to admit, but it’s true.)
  • I do hope we see more of Wendy Darling – and I believe we will. That being said, I’m looking forward to what’s in store in the next few episodes.

What did you think of the episode?

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