After last week's Once Upon A Time anything would be better. They could have just filmed Pongo chasing his tail in a circle, and I would have been satisfied. Thankfully, we were treated to something even more thrilling. A return of a favorite character. Yes Neal is back and doing that thing where he pulls his head down, looks up and squints, and then I fall onto the floor. And somehow the beautiful lines of this man's forehead managed to slightly smooth the roller coaster what-the-fuckery that is this show. Was this the very best Once has to offer? Lord no, but, look, here's a crapload of images of Neal to make you feel better.
First question, has anyone who works on OUAT even been to Manhattan? A chunk of this episode was set in a place posing as New York City, but in reality what we saw was some sort of miniaturized CG hellhole with one yellow taxi cab. Normally I don't chastise this show too often for the terrible CG work, but this was a sin. CG the hell out of Captain Hook getting his eyeliner done by a mermaid — fine, it's fantasy. This was just weird, and terrible.
The real good was getting to see Neal again. You remember Neal — Emma's boyfriend who left her knocked up in a prison? Ok, well he didn't know she was pregnant. In a surprise twist neither surprising nor twisty Neal turns out to be Baelfire, Rumpelstiltskin's son. Reunited Emma and Neal attempt to hash it out but it goes quickly south for obvious reasons. The moment in the bar was nice, you gotta love how these two are always downplaying the drama of a moment. "Let's go to a bar you can keep yelling at me there." "You let me go to prison because Pinocchio told you to?!" Neal is still clearly hiding additional secrets. Did you catch his face when Emma revealed she had made a deal with his Dad? That was great, I really, truly wish we could have focused more on the actual problems and emotions going on inside these characters and less on their reactions. But maybe that will come down the road. I can be patient... for you Neal.
That being said, the big "what was in Pinocchio's box" reveal was GARBAGE. The only thing in that box was August's already seen typewriter with the worlds "I know you're Baelfire" typed onto a blank page. Seriously August? You couldn't just say that? You needed to be that dramatic? This moment was so epically disappointing it got me mad. It was trying so damn hard to be Lost but completely devoid of any purpose, measure or excitement. In the end, I felt stupid for caring about the box. Which probably wasn't the overall intention of said box. But seriously, fuck that box forever. And screw whoever thought that a piece of paper with a secret typed out that we had already learned was interesting.
Moving on, Neal and Rumps have a very small reunion, only three minutes of talking time where his abandoned son lobs a few good insults at his cowardly father. It's during this strange moment that Neal puts two and two together, and makes these faces:
And now Henry knows who his real father is, so that's that. But we all know that simply isn't that. Betcha all the pirate medallions that Neal ends up in Storybrooke someway somehow next week.
Meanwhile in fairy tale land we get the backstory to Rumpelstiltskin's cowardly ways. It was great, not Earth-shattering but entertaining. Bottom line, Robert Carlyle is a very good actor and can make cat lemon turds into lemonade. The moment where he busts his knee to get out of fighting the Ogre Wars was fantastic. The Seer creature itself was alright, I guess. Personally, I'd already put it together that Rumps made the black curse, I didn't need this additional backstory. But if Once is good at one thing it's repeating the same point in a different plot over and over and over again.
Overall I was happy to spend time standing around watching Neal, Henry, Emma and Rumps all yell at each other because it makes us all hopeful that somewhere in the future these characters will be exposed in a deeper manner. Will this happen? Probably not, but there are some fantastic abandonment issues here that could really be fleshed out into dirty dealing in the future. Plus I want to see Emma and Neal get back together and make out in front of August like two 18-year-olds on their Prom night.
And one last thing...
The whole Hook and Evil Queens sideplot was ignored as was the Outsider's camera phone moment because we've already seen this 1,000 times! This is old and boring! Not everyone needs equal camera time, couldn't they just show the witches picking up the knife in the next episode? And the Outside, ooof, enough. Stop saying you're going to do something and DO SOMETHING.
And this. "It's a good thing we don't have Thanksgiving dinner in our land because that dinner would suck." Oh Charming.