With more than a few loose ends to sort out and only two episodes left on the docket, the logical thing for Once Upon a Time to do in 'Second Star to the Right' is moving toward the end goal. And they do. To a point.
But in the same way 'The Evil Queen' showed how little Regina (Lana Parrilla) has changed over the years, 'Second Star' reveals the same thing about Neal (Michael Raymond-James).
The two time periods explored in this episode are Storybrooke's present and Neal's personal past as the runaway son of Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). From the sketchy past previously provided, viewers were led to presume that the young Baelfire - earnestly portrayed by Dylan Schmid - took the magic bean portal directly to 21st-century Earth.
Here, however, we learn that he took not one, but two detours before finding his way to modern-day Tallahassee and Emma (Jennifer Morrison).
As fate would have it, he lands smack dab in the middle of London and after six months of scavenging for food in the streets, makes his way to the house of one Wendy Darling (Freya Tingley), who welcomes him with food and shelter. Everything seems to be the same as the familiar tale, right down to the overprotective dog, Nana, who guards the children in the nursery. This, however, is an example of how strong the writing can be when they want to.
As was so common in the 1st season, the writers take the familiar world of Peter Pan and turn it on its ear. The shadow that visits the nursery in the night is malevolent; plucking children from there homes and flying them to Neverland, where - as the name implies - they can never return.
Fortunately for Wendy, the Shadow is looking for a boy, not a girl, and he brings her back. Rather than allow it to take John (William Ainscough) or Michael (Benjamin Cook), Bae offers himself to the Shadow. Liberating himself just before reaching Neverland's shores he finds himself aboard the Jolly Rodger and face-to-face with Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue).
In Storybrooke's present, Hook is keeping himself busy with his newfound friends, though he draws the line when it comes to torturing Regina for information on Greg's (Ethan Embry) father, preferring instead to bide his time and get his revenge on Gold. Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green) has no such reservations. As the episode unfolds, she reveals herself to be totally devoted to the cause of eliminating magic from the world altogether.
Fortunately, Tamara also decides to let her true colors show, sparing Emma and viewers the patronizing looks from Neal, David (Josh Dallas) and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin). It's all too little, too late for Emma and Neal as once again he finds himself being hurled into the green vortex. Too bad there's only one episode left in the season, meaning whatever world he ends up in won't get to be properly explored. And now that Emma's lost him for a second time, viewers will be stuck listening to saccharine sympathy speeches on top of everything else.
Then there's the small matter of Greg unearthing his dad's skull in the woods. And the bad influence Lacey/Belle (Emilie de Ravin) is having on Gold in dealing with the prophesy. Not to mention the enigmatic "home office" and whatever their ultimate plans are. All things considered, hitting that reset button on Storybrooke might not be such a bad thing after all.
The Once Upon a Time season 2 finale airs Sunday, May 12th, 2013 @8pm on ABC.
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