[This is a review of Once Upon a Time Season 3, Episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
Those of you out there wishing on the first star you saw tonight for the Neverland story arc to be wrapped up might have mixed emotions after the latest episode of Once Upon a Time. On the one hand, 'Save Henry' does tie up several pesky loose ends and puts everyone basically on the same page. It also takes all of the tension and issues and bad guys from the last 9 weeks and merely changes the scenery for everyone, with only two episode left until the mid-season finale.
That being said, this is a very solid, enjoyable episode. We get a teeny, tiny window into the Enchanted Forest's past and that wonderful cell where Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) exchanged many a good barb back in season 1. Then there's the parade of fan favorites like Archie (Raphael Sbarge), Granny (Beverley Elliot), Dr. Whale (David Anders), and a voice cameo from the excellent Sydney Glass (Giancario Esposito). Plus, flying pirate ships are cool.
The best of the storylines this time out is getting to watch Regina become a mother. No, the Evil Queen is not the best of souls, but both Parrilla and the writers do a good job of building empathy for the character right off the bat. Watching her struggle to bond with him just like any other adoptive mother lends credibility and authenticity to the scene between she and Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) in the captain's cabin. Say what you will about what she's done, but the woman loves her son, no doubt about it.
Meanwhile, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is tapping into her maternal side as well. Yes, Pan's (Robbie Kay) little stunt with the vines proves she's still hauling around baggage from her past through the jungle, but she's learning, too. Where Regina's go-to will always be violence and the Charmings' will air on the side of naive grace and indefatigable hope, Emma walks a tightrope between the two. Here, that means she reaches out and appeals to the Lost Boys as a mother, and because of her actions, the littlest ones rat on Pan.
As for Pan himself, he keeps busy whether in the past through his minions - who get close to nabbing Henry as a baby - or in the present fending off would-be attackers. Regina proves that being bad can be good when it foils his plot to keep her son from her, but Pan still gets the last laugh in the end. If the glowing eyes didn't give it away, Pan's secret villain monologue to Felix (Parker Croft) did, thus spelling trouble for everyone when they finally return home next week.
So what did you think? Are you looking forward to the trouble Pan can wreak in Henry's good name? Do you think the young actors will rise to their respective new roles? Will Neverland or Storybrooke prove to be the better backdrop this season? And what will the reunion between Wendy (Freya Tingley) look like?
Once Upon a Time returns next Sunday with 'The New Neverland' @8pm on ABC.