[This is a review of Once Upon a Time season 3, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
The penultimate fall episode of Once Upon a Time has landed and deposits all of the Storybrooke crew - heroes and villains alike - back home. Finally. Unfortunately, Pan (Robbie Kay) has hitched a ride by swapping bodies with Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), and his ultimate plan this time is revealed in the episode's title: 'The New Neverland.'
But before this latest twist is unveiled, there are quite a few reunions to be made. Ariel (Joanna Garcia) finds Eric (Gil McKinney) at the Storybrooke docks and their lips immediately become reacquainted. Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) is greeted heartily by all of the dwarves, along with Granny (Beverley Elliott) and some of the other town regulars. And Wendy (Freya Tingley) is reunited with her brothers.
One of the biggest reunions, of course, is between Rumple (Robert Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie DeRavin). They get some lip action too, along with lots of tender caresses and a promise to put the past behind and move forward together. And for a bit, at least, Rumple does seem a changed man, offering David (Josh Dallas) a cure with no strings attached and passing his cane along to Neal (Michael Raymond-James). The writers have done a good job making this a couple you want to root for, but not overdoing their lovey-dovey feelings in the dialogue.
Pan receives a hero's welcome along with the rest, cleverly hidden in Henry's body. It's interesting to see a different side of Gilmore's acting abilities. Criticized heavily in the past for his wooden delivery or trying to be overly endearing, Gilmore here proves he makes a decent mini-villain. His eyes are especially expressive and he does his brooding bits well. On the flip side it's equally interesting to watch Robbie Kay play the real Henry in Pan's body. His lines don't seem quite as saccharine coming from Kay, though it's somewhat jarring to watch him hug those he's been hunting down for the past ten weeks.
Aside from getting everyone home, tidying up small loose ends, and watching Pan and fellow Lost Boy Felix (Parker Croft) play Pinky and the Brain, there's also a small detour to the Enchanted Forest's past. Our main takeaways here are twofold.
One, remembering all of the cool things that we loved in Season 1, including the transitions back to the present via Henry's storybook and how wicked Regina (Lana Parrilla) once was. And Snow's lesson in enjoying moments of happiness, a lesson that will be passed along to their daughter one day. Too bad Emma (Jennifer Morrison) has decided that even a happy moment or two isn't in the "Savior" job description.
So the question that remains is: Will the series - which has already hit the reset button twice on this relatively young show - hit the cursed reset button once again? Is it needed? Wanted? Also, why the seemingly random death of the Blue Fairy (Keegan Connor Tracy)? And will Tinker Bell (Rose McIver) believe in herself enough to regain her magic and her wings?
These questions and more will be addressed in the midseason finale next week.
Once Upon a Time returns next Sunday with 'Going Home' @8pm on ABC.