ONCE UPON A TIME: “Save Henry”


It’s been a Once mystery for almost as long as the show has been on the air: what are the details surrounding Henry’s adoption? How did he come to Storybrooke in the first place, given that he was born to Emma in “the real world”? We finally got the answer in “Save Henry,” an episode that helped the show continue on its streak of a decently strong third season.

As Henry lay seemingly dead at the hands of Pan after giving up his heart, the episode chronicled the backstory of his adoption eleven years ago – taking us back to the day that Regina unleashed the now infamous curse. She pays a visit to Rumple in the dungeon in order to more or less gloat about her accomplishments, and Rumple calls her bluff after asking her how it felt to kill her father. In doing so, he points out what we as the audience have all come to learn about Regina throughout the past three seasons – the “Evil Queen” may be all talk, but underneath her brash and unregretful personality, she wants and needs to fill a hole in her heart, one empty and devoid of the love she never had.

The conversation was an interesting one given that we know for all his naivety, Rumple’s powers made him more or less immune to the memory lapse that the curse otherwise created for other members of Storybrooke. Sure enough, years later, when Regina has it out in Gold’s shop after finding out from Sidney that Emma is Henry’s mother, he slyly references their conversation from Fairytale Land. We know that Rumple was, in a sense, “always watching” when it came to the years spent under the curse, especially before Regina was truly aware of his memories. But its moments like this that remind me how layered a character Rumple can be when he’s Mr. Gold, who we haven’t really seen in awhile.

I have to admit, it was quite fun to see the unfolding of events that brought Henry to Storybrooke. We knew Regina had probably gone to Gold to more or less “request” a child, but we didn’t know that she also came close to giving him up forever, going so far as to travel back to Boston before having a change of heart. We also didn’t know that Regina was, at some point, aware of Emma’s survival as well as Henry’s true parentage – though both of those things would eventually be forgotten thanks to a potion that would allow her to forget “the evil” that kept her from having the happy life she so desperately wanted. (Ah, wouldn’t it be so simple if we could all just make a potion to help us forget the things that keep us from living worry-free? Seriously. Once has some pretty good ideas, they should get on marketing them to the real world.)

The story that followed Regina’s road to adoption – and ultimately, acceptance – of Henry was one that was sweet, unexpected, and made all the more compelling by the amazing Lana Parrilla, who, unsurprisingly, really shone in this episode. Regina having a heart is not a new concept – we’ve seen her character deconstructed over and over again through the death of her lover, her parents, and the numerous betrayals of people she’s come to trust. Yet watching the Mayor of Storybrooke hold a small, crying baby while learning to love him with all the care and sincerity she could possibly muster (and thus learning to love herself in the process) was like seeing a new layer develop all over again. The hour continued to remind me what a powerhouse of acting Parrilla is when given all the right materials, and then some.

Back in Neverland, Regina manages to cast a preservation spell on Henry’s heart, which gives the group a bit of time to figure out how to save him. Reuniting back at Pan’s camp, Emma attempts to appeal to the Lost Boys via her orphan lineage, convincing them that if they help her, they’ll get to return to Storybrooke and have a chance at finding a real home. The appeal works for mostly everyone, save stubborn Lost Boy Felix, who remains steadfastly loyal to Pan. Nonetheless, Regina, Mary Margaret and Emma eventually find “The Thinking Tree,” which Pan uses to trap them by way of the trees vines. This essentially allows our favorite messed up psycho kid to torment the three mothers – the tree feeds off regret, which means that both Emma and Mary Margaret can’t break free since they harbor so much guilt about their own pasts. Regina, however is a different story – the Queen may have a heart, but if there’s anything that’s true about her, it’s that she has no regrets about what she’s done…especially if it’s brought her something that’s changed her life for the better. The confession allows Regina to break free, surprising Pan enough to catch him off guard, and she’s able to steal back Henry’s heart before returning it to its rightful owner.

I’m a little surprised that the show (and Pan) dropped the “Rumple is my son” bomb to everyone so quickly, though it ended up making sense with the way the episode progressed – I just wish we had been afforded a little more double take from the girls, and a little extra Regina snark at the revelation. But if there’s anything that the show has proven this season, it’s that there’s no holding back secrets, no matter how big or how devastating. It’s part of the storytelling that has helped Once keep up a good pace of action, and I have to say, for the most part, it’s been a successful choice.

On board the Jolly Roger and finally on their way home (Charming can leave on the basis that Rumple will be able to concoct an antidote to the poison in the time it will take them to get home), all is well and good – Henry even absolving Regina of her motherly fears by genuinely calling her “mom,” which I’m pretty sure is all she’s ever wanted to hear from him. But happiness is fleeting, as Pan sneaks his way on board right before the ship’s departure. Rumple, released from his box just moments earlier, uses it to trap Pan inside, or so he thinks – we learn that once again, the wrong person has been caught, as Pan has used the last of his magic to swap his soul into Henry. The real Henry is now in Rumple’s box, which means Pan is on his way to Storybrooke to wreak more havoc (and hey, conveniently enough, with all his Lost Boys, including his number one sidekick, in tow!)

For the second week in a row, I was rather impressed by the twist that Once was able to pull out of its bag – and I didn’t even see it coming. I can only hope that as the show prepares to wrap up the first half of its run in the next two weeks, we’ll be faced with some more interesting twists and new conflicts, as the group prepares to deal with the nemesis that is Peter Pan back in their own world.

Final Thoughts:

  • I wish everything were as simple as walking into a pawnshop and declaring, “I need a child.” I mean, seriously – forget marriage, that would solve so many things in my life right now.
  • Among the many interesting twists in the episode: Michael and John Darling being the potential “successors” to Henry after Regina refused to give him up for adoption, showing that Pan had indeed been attempting to court Henry from the beginning – and that he was very much aware of his presence.
  • It was nice to see some of the seemingly forgotten members of Storybrooke, such as Granny and Dr. Whale, and I’m hopeful that we continue to see more of them when we finally return to town next week.
  • I really enjoyed the slightly ironic touch of having Regina hand off baby Henry to Mary Margaret without knowing that in doing so, she was unknowingly allowing her to hold her grandson – it’s small moments like these that remind me why I love the show the way I do.
  • A lot of really nice moments this week between characters with volatile history that, even if small, translated well on screen: Rumple and Bae, Tink and Wendy, Tink and Regina, and even Archie and Regina in Fairytale Land.

What did you think of the episode?

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