By Sherry Lipp
Watching the premiere of the third season of Once Upon a Time, I thought back to the things I liked about the show while watching season one. My reflection on the earlier episodes was not because I was reminded of them, but because of how far away from that it has gone. For better or worse, Once Upon a Time is a different show than it was at the beginning. Back then the show was about a group of quirky small town folk who didn’t know they were the alter-egos of fairy tale characters. It was an unusual concept, but one that worked quite effectively. They blew that up at the end of the first season. Since then, the show has been struggling to find its central meaning.
I have heard rumblings that Once Upon a Time is going to centralize its rambling story for the third season, but the premiere didn’t give me much indication of that. While the season opener had some interesting elements, it didn’t give any indication of where this new season is headed. I won’t speculate at this point, but I do hope we will get some of the old Once Upon a Time back this season.
Directly following the events of season two, the primaries find themselves in Neverland looking for Henry and hunting down Peter Pan. In this world, Peter Pan and his Lost Boys are menacing bullies purely out for their own interests. Peter, who is known simply as Pan, can rip people’s shadows right out of their bodies, killing them instantly. This was one of the best elements of the new season. I have always viewed Peter Pan from the Disney animated film as unlikable. He is selfish and arrogant and only cares about himself. I’m glad this show reflected that aspect of him (and then some) rather than going the cute route.
So Pan (Robbie Kay) and Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) are mortal enemies and Rumple has taken it upon himself to battle Pan over Henry (Jared S. Gilmore). I was glad he split from the group because we got more of classic Rumplestiltskin. He was uncompromisingly menacing, ripping out Tamara’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) heart and crushing it without a moment’s hesitation. Like last season, Rumplestiltskin is the most interesting character on the show. I always wish there was more of him. He didn’t have a lot of screen time in this episode, but he did leave an impact. I like that they are continuing with some ambiguity to his character. As I said he was uncompromising, but that doesn’t mean he’s all bad. He seems prepared to sacrifice himself to save Henry if he needs to. Of course, that’s probably because he believes his son is dead.
It might have been nice if we also thought Neal (Michael Raymond-James) was dead for a couple of episodes, but we find out right away he’s fine. He winds up back in Fairytale Land with Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Aurora (Sarah Bolger). At the very least we have something to root for. We still want Rumple and his son to be reunited. What I’m finding harder to root for is anyone else. The show revolves around Henry and his belief that everything is going to work out if everyone believes in good triumphing over evil. The thing is, Henry is the weakest character on the show. He’s just not all that interesting. He is always optimistic and he takes everything in stride. It’s a little boring.
As far as everyone else, they weren’t given a whole lot to do. Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin), Charming (Josh Dallas), Regina (Lana Parrilla) , and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) spend most of the episode on the Jolly Roger. They bicker amongst themselves until they realize that fighting isn’t going to get them anywhere. It wasn’t exactly the most original message in the world.
Overall, the best things about this episode were anything to do with an evil Peter Pan and Rumplestiltskin. The rest of the stories were time fillers. What I’m wondering the most is where this season is going to go. Storybrooke was not in this episode at all. Flashbacks to the characters’ pre-curse lives were also missing. The only flashback at all was Emma reflecting on the birth of Henry. It makes me wonder if they are going to continue with the crisscrossing of the past and present. I hope they do, because that was one of the things I liked best about the show. Season three got off to a mixed start, but I am curious to see where they are going with it.