Season 3 of Once Upon A Time is set primarily in Neverland, and since that island is home to one of the most iconic Disney characters, it only makes sense for Tinker Bell (Rose McIver) to make her grand entrance in, “Quite a Common Fairy.” After all, we met Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) last season, then Pan (Robbie Kay) and a few of the Lost Boys in the season premiere, so it’s only fair Tink gets her turn in the spotlight.
The storytelling in this episode is a nice return to the format that worked so well back in season 1, where the story set in the Enchanted Forest’s past heavily informs what’s going in whatever present mess the Storybrooke crew finds itself. And when the Fab Five find themselves following a rigged map and Hook suggests that they look Tink up only to have Regina (Lana Parrilla) nix the idea right away, you know this history isn’t going to be pretty.
When we first meet her, Tink is bubbling with that annoying perkiness that seems to inhabit all of the OUAT heroes at some point, and she attempts to do what others have tried – and failed – before her: redeem Regina. This is a young Regina, not too long after her marriage to the king, so redemption is within the realm of possibility, but still unlikely. With Regina’s track record, however, the major plot twist is not that she lies to Tink about the man with the lion tattoo and ruins her life; the twist, rather, is the dark, embittered ex-fairy who meets up with the present-day Regina in the Neverland jungle.
Just as Hook is a quasi good guy and Pan is more than slightly demented, this Tink looks nothing like her Disney counterpart. Her brilliant greens have been traded for black, her chipper outlook turned sour, and she’s been stripped both of her wings and fairy dust. At least they kept the cool treehouse.
This twist makes it a bit more difficult to tell what she’s going to do when she literally has Regina’s heart in her hands, and lends a bit more weight to Regina’s pleas to choose hope over anger. It will take Snow’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) offer of a home to persuade Tinker Bell to give them what little help she has left. And while she can only promise them one shot at sneaking into Pan’s lair, it’s one shot more than they started with.
The “one shot” theme runs rampant throughout Neal’s (Michael Raymond-James) part of the story as well. Robin Hood’s (Sean Maguire) one shot to save his little boy years ago was the Dark One, and Neal is all too happy to cash in on his dad’s favor for his one shot to get to Neverland. Meanwhile, all of the heavy foreshadowing that’s been closing in on Mulan (Jamie Chung) pays off when she finally musters the courage to go home and tell Philip (Julian Morris) he’s her one shot at true love. Too bad Aurora (Sarah Bolger) interrupts her to announce gleefully that Philip is her baby daddy.
A final twist comes right at the end when Mulan joins Robin’s Merry Men and the camera zooms in on the hooded archer’s wrist. A wrist with a lion tattoo. The same one Tinker Bell pointed out to Regina way back in the day.
Could Robin Hood really be Regina’s one remaining shot at true love? How might they cross paths again since she’s in Neverland and he in the Enchanted Forest? Will Emma and Neal cross paths soon now that he’s made it to Neverland? And what does that bit of parchment with a certain boy’s portrait mean for Operation: Henry?
Once Upon A Time returns next Sunday with “Nasty Habits” @8pm on ABC.