[This is a review of Once Upon a Time season 3, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week, Once Upon a Time built an entire episode on lies, so it's only fair that they swing to the opposite end of the moral spectrum and focus on the truth in this week's episode, "Ariel." The test of whether these truths hold any value to the audience, however, is whether or not the reveals are surprising, and whether or not they hold any emotional weight in the grand scheme of things.
Let's take a look at the titular character first. Ariel (Joanna Garcia Swisher) learns the hard way about putting her trust in the wrong person when she falls for Regina's (Lana Parrilla) hoax. Unlike some of the other Disney characters the show has introduced this season, her story takes the well-known twists and turns, though it stops short of giving her a 'happily ever after' just yet.
As a result, she can't speak the truth of her love to her prince and turns her into a dark and moody mermaid off the shores of Neverland. One useful tidbit of information the audience does get is that mermaids can travel from realm to realm, making contact with Storybrooke possible.
While Ariel learns about the importance of not sharing the truth back in the past, the present Storybrooke crew must face their own uncomfortable truths. There is an almost audible sigh of relief when Regina parts ways with the Storybrooke crew. She's been chafing under their insistence on following the rules no matter what since the beginning, so it's about time she did something about it.
Her reunion with Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is equally pleasant. Not only is the show at it's best when these two baddies are up to no good, but she also exposes Rumple's visions of his one true love as a fraud. The pleading, sappy Belle (Emilie de Ravin) is replaced by the creepy Ringwraith-esque shadow, Rumple is brought back to his true bad guy roots and all is right in the world once again.
Unfortunately, the same kind of satisfaction cannot be found with the four remaining folks from Storybrooke.
Forced into revealing what are supposed to be their deepest, darkest secrets, the audience gains nothing but a long reiteration of what we've already learned up to this point. Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) having a thing for Emma (Jennifer Morrison)? Duh. The fact that Snow isn't okay with losing Emma's childhood and wants another baby? Could've guessed that too. And while Charming's (Josh Dallas) news might have been a shocker to his family, we heard it all last week.
That leaves us with Neal (Michael Raymond-James) and Emma. Her speech beside Neal's cage is supposed to be moving, but sounds weak and dips into the same cheesiness employed so often by her mother. Perhaps this ties back into Regina's no second choices policy, but it seems like this should have been the moment Emma gives love a shot instead of hiding behind her fears. At least Neal is up for the challenge of winning back her heart. At this rate, though, it might be an uphill battle and it's anyone's guess if it'll be enough to keep people interested (especially considering that Hook's still out there for the taking).
Hopefully, next week's hop back over to Storybrooke and those who were left behind can infuse some new life and energy back into the plot.
Once Upon a Time returns next Sunday with, "Dark Hollow" @8pm on ABC.