This week opens with Nealfire and Felix trekking through the Neverland jungle. Felix is taunting Nealfire to get a rise out of his former comrade, and reminds him that Pan is not one to trifle with. The former Lost Boy knows how long Peter Pan has been searching for the heart of the truest believer.
During the time that Felix berates him, Nealfire wiggles his way out of the ropes binding his hands together. He knocks Felix out and states he sure as hell isn’t a lost kid anymore.
In the Enchanted Forest that once was, a teenage Nealfire tosses a knife given to him as a gift from the Dark One to the ground. Rumpelstiltskin questions what would make his son happy. Nealfire snaps at his father that he’s tired of being held up in the house all the time. Rumpel says he’ll build him a castle if he wants, but all young Nealfire desires are friends. It’s hard being a teenager, and Rumpelstiltskin’s worried about his son’s safety because you know, he’s the Dark One, so he has A LOT of enemies. If he ever lost his son as a result, he wouldn’t know what to do.
Back in Neverland, Rumpel is putting a mushed up paint concocution on his face, and shadow Belle arrives inquiring why he’s putting on a mask. Rumpel says he’s a monster, but Belle doesn’t agree. He has changed, she says. Rumpel sadly says he has nothing to live for. The real Belle is back in Storybrooke waiting for him because she loves him but he doesn’t want her to. He’s still convinced that Belle will abandon him because in time, she’ll see him for the monster he believes himself to be.
Tinkerbell and the Dysfunctional Five (Charming, Emma, Hook, Regina, and Snow) are formalizing their plan to rescue Henry. The cautious fairy is quick to remind them that they have to watch out for the Lost Boys because their weapons are all laced with dream shade. Hook seems to be distraught as he watches the Prince get up and brush off the warning. Charming’s refusing to admit what happened to him, leaving Snow and Emma in the dark.
Tinkerbell is eager to carry out the plan, but first she wants to go over the exit strategy. Oops, there isn’t one.
The temperamental fairy pulls out Tamara’s watch revealing that Greg and Tamara are dead. The camera pans to Regina who is beaming to learn of Greg and Tamara’s fate.
The fairy makes it known that there’s no way she’s putting her head on a chopping block for Pan without a way to leave Neverland. Tink isn’t having any this drama today; she leaves. Emma agrees that Tinkerbell is right – you don’t go into a place without knowing a way out. Nealfire taught her that. Then you see Hook-
Poor Hook. His gaze has been on Emma the entire time, but at the mention of Nealfire, his expression becomes heavy. Charming breaks the pirate’s focus on Emma by asking how he left Neverland. Turns out the Captain made a deal with Pan and he’s positive the boy won’t be amenable to repeat it. That’s when Hook drops the bit of information that only one person had ever left the island without Pan’s approval.
Surprise! It’s Nealfire!
When Hook says it, he’s watching Emma, but he isn’t simply looking at her. Something is eating away at the Captain. It’s quick, but you can see it in his eyes. He is hurting.
It’s crystal clear to the viewers how Hook feels about Emma. All those long gazes when she isn’t watching, the kind gestures – hell, he even told her that he fancies her and wants to know her. Charming is dying, and Hook is the only one who knows. It’s an unfortunate burden on his shoulders that the father of the woman he cares about is dying, and he’s been urged to keep it a secret. On top of that, he learned the kid he loved and wanted to be a father-figure to just died.
Hook’s visibly struggling with his emotions this week. The two times that Nealfire have been discussed this episode by the Dysfunctional Five, Hook looks upset because the pirate cared about Nealfire. He and Emma grieved him contemporaneously on his ship, and he recognizes that Emma loved Nealfire, too.
Rumpel takes out down two Lost Boys with a sleeping spell and grabs this long spear off their unconscious bodies. As he’s looking over the boys, out of the forest runs none other than his son. Rumpel is in pain because he doesn’t believe this is real. The pain quickly turns to anger because he believes his son is an illusion like Belle.
Rumpel has Nealfire against a tree with the spear aimed at his neck. He doesn’t accept any of this to be real since his son is dead, but Nealfire pleads with him. At first, it falls flat, but when he whispers papa, Rumpelstiltskin believes this is his son and is overjoyed.
Back in the past, the Dark One arrives home to discover his son is missing. The townspeople have assembled and are discussing forming a search party. Several children had gone missing the previous night, and they swear up and down to the Dark One that unholy music from a piper lured away all the children. Rumpel’s solution: kill this piper.
In Neverland, Rumpelstiltskin learns that Nealfire landed in the Enchanted Forest after being shot, and that Robin Hood’s debt is now paid.
Nealfire and his father have a shaky past, and yes, there are many problems and issues with trust, but his reaction to his father being overjoyed that he was alive was stoic. He was stiff like a statue, and then when Rumpel asked how he persevered Nealfire is vague. He’s just as vague as he’s been with EVERY CHARACTER he’s communicated with since his reemergence in Manhattan. Nealfire leaves out details of his life to everyone – Emma, his father, he ex-fiancé – everyone.
Nealfire wants to know where Emma is. His father tells him he left her on Hook’s ship because they can’t handle what has to be done to save Henry.
Oh, if looks could kill. Nealfire’s face contorts at the mention of Hook. It’s as if he’s asking himself why the hell Hook would bring Emma to Neverland.
He asks his father if he killed the Lost Boys. Rumpel assures him they’re only sleeping.
“Pan is too powerful. You can only beat him if you’re willing to die, which I am,” he says.
Nealfire looks unimpressed. “What if I told you there’s another way?”
They venture to the seashore where Nealfire picks up a shell and blows into it. He wants the ocean to hear them. As he blows, a large squid emerges. Nealfire takes the spear Rumpel procured from the Lost Boys, and harpooned it into the squid’s head. It’s laced with dream shade, so the squid dies. Nealfire asks his father to extract the squid-ink. (Sidenote: squid-ink’s what landed Rumpel in the dungeon back in season one.)
Hook leads the Dysfunctional Five to a boulder covered in jungle foliage and vines. He asks Emma to help him pull a vine to which a concerned daddy Charming runs in front of her saying he’ll do it. I think daddy Charming sees the spark in Hook’s eyes when it comes to his daughter. Wonder how long it will take Snow. We know last week Regina noted it. Moving on…
Charming helps Hook pull the vine which opens a concealed door. Emma, Regina, and Snow head in first while Hook pulls the Prince aside to ask why he won’t tell his family he’s dying. He doesn’t want to inconvenience his family with trying to save him too when they need to focus on getting Henry back. Charming believes there is no hope but Hook says that he’s learned from these hero-types that there is always hope.
BROTP progress alert: Charming sincerely asks Hook if there is something he’s withheld about dream shade; he even calls Hook mate, and it’s not sarcastic. Hook should have no real reason to care – as the Prince notes – except he does. It’s Emma.
“Alas, hope and reality are most often worlds apart. I told you the truth you’re never making it off this island alive,” Hook says.
Charming begs him again to keep this between them before proceeding into the cave. The camera focuses on Hook as his walls completely break. He looks to be on the edge of tears, but he blinks it away and his face looks fine. With his walls back up everything seems fine.
Except it’s not.
Emma’s calling for Hook and asking why they’re there. The pirate tries to light a torch with his hook, but an impatient Charming beats him to it.
Hook has taken them to Nealfire’s home when he was marooned in Neverland. Emma is startled. The cave is covered with drawings.
In the past, the piper is playing music and teenage boys are climbing out windows. Rumpelstiltskin can hear the music and follows the children.
In the forest, a dozen or so boys are dancing around a bonfire. A cloaked figure is playing his pipe, and Rumpel snaps it in half demanding that he give him his son.
The cloaked piper is none other than Peter Pan.
“Been a long time, laddie. Look who’s all grown up and become the Dark One! Good for you!”
Rumpelstiltskin looks utterly terrified to see Peter Pan. It’s here we learn that the only children who can visit Pan in Neverland are the ones who visit him in their dreams and they can’t stay. Sounds like he’s lonely. The only children who can hear the melody Pan has played from his pipe are boys who feel unloved. Rumpel can hear it, which means he is a Lost Boy too.
Pan is the most manipulative character we’ve seen so far on Once Upon A Time. He plays at Rumpel’s fears of abandonment by stating Rumpel’s father left him, his wife Milah left him, and now his son Nealfire will leave him too. Pan offers Rumpel a deal: if he wants his son back, all he has to do is ask him to come home. Of course, he proposes the deal after planting the seed of doubt in Rumpel’s mind that nobody will ever adequately love him enough to stay with him.
In Neverland, Pan is throwing another celebration around a bonfire. What are they celebrating? Henry! Pan is attempting to manipulate the kid who has the heart of the truest believer. It isn’t working. Pan plays his pipe, but Henry can hear it.
“This pipe’s enchanted Henry, it can only be heard by certain children.”
He plants the seed in Henry’s mind that if he can hear the music that means he’s special. As he’s talking to Henry, a grumpy Felix arrives. He wants to move Henry to a safer location because Nealfire and the Dark One are on their way. Pan’s not troubled with this information.
In the cave, Hook asks Emma if she recognizes anything significant. She doesn’t and she shares with Hook that she didn’t even know that Nealfire enjoyed drawing. A wide-eyed Hook says that he got it from his mother. Emma looks surprised he’d share something so personal with her.
Hook and Emma are both struggling real hard tonight with feelings. Emma is in a cave that the man she loved lived in for who knows how long and with every minute she spends in it she realizes how much about Nealfire she didn’t know. Emma quickly changes the subject and asks for a coconut candle they found earlier. Her father lights it and hands it to her. She then inspects the drawings in the cave.
There are drawings of the Darling family, port and starboard, and there is even a drawing of two hands on a circle which I can only assume is the portal he fell through when separated from his father. Emma turns to Hook saying that he must have known Nealfire well.
“We spent some time together.”
Hook looks similar to the way he did when Emma and him shared a drink in the premiere. His eyes show it all. He misses Nealfire. He’s still grieving his death. Emma looks the same way. What’s interesting about this episode is how Emma and Hook are coming to terms with a death of a mutual loved one. While they are both struggling with the loss of Nealfire, they handle their emotions in different ways. While Hook mourns Nealfire, his attention is mostly focused on Emma and how she’s handling it. He cares for her, and it’s blatantly clear in moments like this. Hook and Emma who both have walls are grappling to keep them up around one another. Here, we have two heartbroken people. Instead of wanting to deal with this loss alone Hook has reached out to Emma as if to say, “I understand and I will be here for you if you let me.”
Hook asks her if she’s alright. “I’m fine,” she lies.
Emma moves away from Hook, and who can blame her. The conversation was getting really personal and true to Emma’s character that’s when she runs. She asks Snow, Regina, and Charming if they’ve had any luck and all they’ve found so far is custom made bowls and cups. One of said bowls is the other half to the coconut candle, and it’s filled with holes. Snow says something ridiculous about the coconut being a colander. Sassy Regina makes the comment that preteen Baelfire loved to make pasta. (Sidenote: I wish there was more Regina in this episode. She’s been a gem this season.)
Emma grabs the other half of the coconut and asks Hook to snuff out the torch. He obliges. They look up.
“It’s a map,” Hook informs.
“To where?” Charming asks.
“Home,” Emma says.
Back at the camp, every Lost Boy and Henry are unconscious after Rumpelstiltskin casts a sleeping spell. Pan is amused and guesses the Dark One has come to save Henry. He used the word laddie again, more than likely to get under his skin, and then asks Baelfire to come out. Nealfire wants to be called Neal, not Baelfire. He shoots Pan with an arrow, but he of course catches it. Nealfire coated the arrow with the squid-ink which immobilizes Pan.
Instead of being angry, Peter Pan continues to look amused. Just like in the past, Pan plants the seed of doubt in Nealfire’s mind about his father. He lets him know that Rumpel isn’t here to rescue Henry that he’s here to murder him.
Nealfire has spent the majority of his life running from his father and magic. Unluckily for Nealfire he doesn’t realize that he’s slowly walking down the same path his father did in the Enchanted Forest over 300 years ago. What happens next only solidifies this.
Nealfire and Rumpel are bickering. Rumpelstiltskin has taken them to the other side of the jungle. They can’t wake Henry because waking him from the spell could be dangerous. Nealfire lays onto Rumpel about why Pan thinks he’s going to kill Henry. When Rumpel tries to calm his son down, Nealfire screams at him to call him Neal. Nealfire no longer thinks of himself as Baelfire. Is Neal his mask to hide who he really is?
Rumpel explains the prophecy about the boy being his undoing. He puts out the whole truth, not half-truths like he’s perpetually done in the past. He says his plan was to kill Henry, but that was before he learned he was his grandson. He didn’t come to Neverland to kill Henry, he came to save him. Nealfire doesn’t believe him. All Rumpelstiltskin wants is for his son to trust him. He begs him but Nealfire refuses.
In the Enchanted Forest that once was, Rumpel doesn’t recognize his own son dancing and enjoying himself around the fire. He grabs Nealfire who says he’s fine. He doesn’t look happy to see his father. Rumpel tells him he’s here to prove that he cares about him, and then transports him back home. Pan warns him he’ll regret this right before Rumpelstiltskin disappears.
Nealfire reasons that Pan is another person that Rumpel has abused with his power as the Dark One. Rumpel is honest with his son telling him how he knew Pan as a child, and how Pan can’t be trusted. Peter Pan, according to Rumpel, is darker and more disgusting than anyone he’s ever encountered. His son doesn’t think so. He knows about the deal Pan offered him. He now doesn’t believe his father trusts in him because he couldn’t even muster up the courage to ask him to come home. Nealfire yells he would have chosen him and would have wanted to come home, but now he no longer believes in his papa.
Rumpelstiltskin wants to earn Nealfire’s trust back in Neverland, so he asks what he can do to gain it. Nealfire wants his dagger. He doesn’t believe his father when he says his shadow hid the dagger from Pan. Nealfire doesn’t believe his father will save Henry. At this moment, Nealfire doesn’t trust anything that comes out of his father’s lips. What happens when they get back to Storybrooke, and Rumpel’s reunited with Belle? Nealfire points out that Henry standing in the way of his happy ending doesn’t sound so good.
“You’re my happy ending,” Rumpel says to his son in tears.
All he ever wanted was his son back. All he ever wanted was to find him and redeem himself for making the awful choice of letting him fall through that portal alone. Nealfire dreamed of his papa rescuing him while in Neverland, and then he’d wake up remembering that his father left him behind. He deceives Rumpel and uses squid-ink to immobilize him. He then grabs Henry and walks off alone into the jungle. He’s going to leave Rumpel in Neverland apparently. Nealfire says he’s safer without him, and that he has no choice.
No. No. No. No.No. No. HE HAS A CHOICE.
One of the most common themes on this show is that you always have a choice. Right now he’s taking the easy choice which is to keep running from his father. Yes, trusting his father is hard, but he has the choice to do it. He is in a land that runs off belief, and he can’t even believe in his family. He’s chooses not to.
In the cave, Hook proudly tells the motley crew that as a boy, Nealfire was on his ship, and he taught him to navigate with the stars. The map they’re all looking at is the fruit of his labors. He then tells them he can’t read it because he also taught Nealfire the key to piracy which is secrecy. The only person who can read this map is Nealfire, and well, they think he’s dead. This is when Emma breaks. She runs out the cave on the brink of crying. Her parents follow.
Snow tries to comfort her daughter because she’s sad, but Emma declares that is not the case.
“I’m not sad. I’m pissed. Yes, Neal just died, but I lost him years ago. All that time thinking he didn’t love me only to find out that he did and that it was too late. I can’t even tell him how angry that makes me or how much it hurt when he left or how terrified I was when he came back because I knew the moment I saw him that I never-I never stopped loving him.”
Emma runs off crying and Snow has a breakdown. She has no idea how to comfort her own daughter. She doesn’t understand her daughter, so how could she comfort her? She then for some reason compares Emma’s situation of Nealfire dying to herself. If Charming died she couldn’t move on from it. Charming looks like his hearts been smashed into a thousand tiny pieces because he wants Snow to move on if he dies. She reassures him nothing will ever happen to him with her by his side.
Can we take a moment to look at the parallel between Rumpel and Charming this season? Both of Henry’s grandfather’s have told their significant other this episode that they would want them to move on from them.
Nealfire makes his way to the Dysfunctional Five’s camp. Pan and the Lost Boys ambush him. They take Henry, and then Pan rubs it in that Rumpelstiltskin could have protected him. Pan then drops the bomb that he is the evil mastermind of everything. Nealfire never escaped Neverland. No, Pan let him go, and now he’s back because that’s where he wanted him. He has made it so that everyone is right where he wants them. The Lost Boys drag Nealfire off so that Pan can reset his board and change course of whatever game he’s playing.
The squid-ink wears off Rumpelstiltskin. Shadow Belle comes to console him because Nealfire should have trusted him. Rumpel has lost all hope. He believes he deserves this. Belle believes in him with all her heart. He has something to live for now that he knows Nealfire’s alive. Shadow Belle questions why he looks so upset. Rumpel is struggling now with the prophecy. Seems like the nail in his coffin is Nealfire not trusting him after he laid everything out. He sends Belle away.
Henry wakes up asking what happened. Pan says he fell asleep. The Lost Boys are still partying. Henry remembers his dad calling for him while he was asleep, but his dad is dead.
“I’m sorry Henry. It makes sense for us to dream about the things we’ve lost and the things we hope for,” Pan tells him.
He reassures Henry that everything will be okay. The master manipulator offers him a chance for the Lost Boys to be his family-after saying his family isn’t coming for him-and Henry decides to join the festivities. This time when Peter Pan plays the pipe Henry can hear the music. That must mean Henry feels lost, abandoned, and unloved like grand-daddy Rumpel did all those years ago.
Till next time.
Written by: Jessica Lee