Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 3 of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," titled "Quite A Common Fairy."
After this week's episode of "Once Upon a Time" (and the tantalizing promo for the next installment) it's safe to say that the writers aren't holding much back in Season 3.
We're only three weeks in and not only has Emma has already confronted Pan and Charming been dealt a fatal wound, Neal has now found his way to Neverland, we've met Regina's true love, and Mulan has apparently discovered "a girl worth fighting for."
Let's revisit the highlights from "Quite A Common Fairy."
If You Believe, Clap Your Hands
We met two very different versions of Tinker Bell this week: a wide-eyed optimist determined to help people regardless of who they were or what they'd done in the past, and a hardened, cynical loner who had lost both her wings and her faith in others. Naturally, Regina was to blame for the transformation, having effectively gotten Tink fired from being a fairy all because she was too afraid to risk opening her heart and seeing it broken yet again.
Cora brainwashed her daughter well -- Regina was taught early on that love is a weakness and that power is all that matters, but despite Rumple telling her that her rage is all she has, Regina finally seems to be embracing the idea that love and forgiveness are far more potent than hatred and anger. It's hard to break the habits of a lifetime, but it's still reassuring to see Regina acknowledging her mistakes, even if she hasn't yet started to atone for them.
How different would her story have been if she'd had the courage to go into the inn and meet the dashing Robin Hood (who has also aged very well, considering he's supposedly not magical) when Tink tried to facilitate a blind date? While it seemed fairly obvious that Tink's pixie dust was leading to Robin all along, I'm still looking forward to seeing how circumstances conspire to bring him back into Regina's orbit, and whether our Evil Queen might finally be allowed to evolve from her villainous, self-sabotaging form into someone a little more even-keeled and less murderous.
There's still a lot to discover about Tink, too; if she's truly a reliable ally for our heroes, I want to know why Pan still trusts her. The flashbacks to their first meeting will be enlightening, I'm sure, but I mostly want to know whether she can earn back her wings -- is it a matter of making others believe in her again, or will she have to learn how to believe in herself first?
The Boy Who Never Grew Up
Peter Pan certainly talks a good game, and this week's episode once again saw his manipulative charm in full effect as he tried to convince Henry that all he really wants is for the boy to save magic in every world, not just his own. It's a quest that will undoubtedly appeal to Henry, who has always wanted to be a hero, but there's no way that someone as sadistic as Pan has such pure intentions. I can certainly believe that as a product of the union between darkness and light, Henry has some kind of special ability or significance, but Pan seems more like the "world domination" type than the "happily ever after for everyone" type. There's a string attached to his pitch -- but what could it be?
I certainly wasn't expecting Neal to make it to Neverland so quickly, but I applaud the producers for avoiding the pitfalls that plagued the early half of last season, when Snow and Emma were stuck on a seemingly endless journey to reunite with their loved ones. I doubt Neal will encounter Emma immediately even now that they're in the same realm, but even bringing him back into contact with Pan and shedding a little more light on their history will be a welcome diversion.
It was fun to meet Robin's Merry Men (including his adorable son -- who could theoretically further strengthen Regina's maternal side) this week, and I liked Neal's reveal that ruby slippers can create portals -- the first of two "Wizard of Oz" nods in the episode, before Tink knocked Regina out with a concoction created with poppies.
Hitching a ride on a malevolent shadow certainly wouldn't be my preferred mode of transportation, but it was a fairly ingenious way to get Neal to Neverland without the use of magic beans or fancy footwear, and it's good to see that Neal's inherited his father's sharp wits -- let's hope that's all he picked up from Rumple.
Slings And Arrows
Charming continues to be terribly stoic and brave (read: stubborn and foolish) in keeping the severity of his condition from Snow -- but at least Hook is aware of his impending doom. It's satisfying to see the two actually beginning to form some trust, but even if Charming believes he's protecting Snow by hiding his wound from her, the truth always comes out, and with no pixie dust to use as a potential cure, it seems like it might be sooner rather than later. Respect your wife and quit being a martyr, you handsome prince, you!
Once Upon A Dream Pairing
While there were a number of surprises in this week's episode, perhaps the biggest curveball came courtesy of Mulan, who initially turned down an offer to join Robin's band of Merry Men in order to talk to "a loved one" before it was too late. But after Mulan gathered her courage to say something to Aurora, our formerly sleeping beauty dropped the bombshell that she and Phillip are expecting a child, nixing the heartfelt confession that Mulan was apparently preparing to make.
So did "Once Upon a Time" just officially canonize Mulan's romantic feelings for Aurora? It certainly looks that way. Viewers have been noticing the chemistry between the pair since their introduction in Season 2, although last year the show initially seemed to be implying that Mulan was carrying a torch for Phillip. Appearances can be deceiving, especially on "Once."
The scene was certainly given emotional weight by Jamie Chung and Sarah Bolger's raw performances, and the two actresses were teasing the reveal earlier in the day on Twitter ...
But where does the show go from here, with Aurora involved with Phillip and a child on the way? Creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis addressed the possibility of an LGBT character on the show back in June, noting that if and when such a character was introduced, they wanted to treat the plot respectfully.
Kitsis: We are absolutely open to that, and for us, it's a matter of the right time and the right story. It's something we discuss and we're open to, it's just not something we've done yet.
Horowitz: And it's the same as with any love story -- we'd have to do it right and give it its due.
Whether or not we see Mulan and Aurora live happily ever after (perhaps unlikely, given how iconic Sleeping Beauty's romance with Phillip is), or whether Mulan eventually finds an unattached partner to call her own, I hope the creators do Mulan's story justice, instead of simply teasing fans with the prospect of a fully-formed lesbian relationship without following through. Given Kitsis and Horowitz's promise to give the story its due, and the fact that this episode was written by Jane Espenson -- cocreator of the fantastic "Husbands" and one of two writers who introduced the concept of a gay male slayer to the Buffyverse -- I have high hopes that the show will use its considerable platform to fully explore the importance of love in its all its forms and give LGBT viewers a couple as iconic and dedicated as Snow and Charming to root for. Don't let us down, writers!
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
What did you think of the many surprises in "Quite A Common Fairy"? Are you rooting for Mulan and Aurora? Weigh in below!