“Once Upon a Time” – Second Star to The Right episode review 0

Neal (Michael Raymond James) and his past take center stage in this weeks episode.

Neal (Michael Raymond James) and his past take center stage in this weeks episode.

★★★½☆

The term “the second star to the right” is a reference to Neverland, the island in Peter Pan where Peter, a boy who will never grow old, brings Wendy and her brothers. In the original story, Peter says that the location of the island is “second to the right, and straight on till morning.” The difference is that originally the story penned by J.M. Barrie was typically used as a metaphor for eternal childhood, immortality and escapism. In this version, it’s more of an exposition excuse but used in a different way that doesn’t manage to defeat the purpose of the original tale.

This is the penultimate episode of season two which has been a mixed bag of average to bad. But, for the show it serves and the storylines it has running, it was a decently made episode.

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This is the episode where we’re finally learning more of Neal’s origins, or more specifically, Baelfire. It’s how he first arrived in London, England after being transported through the magical portal to a place where magic and darkness couldn’t touch them.

We see him land and directly after the credits have rolled it’s six years later. Dylan Schmid is one of the better younger actors on the show—a particularly low bar—so it’s not a bad character to focus on after the over saturation of the rest of the often times tiresome cast.

He wanders into a house and meets Wendy Darling, played by a charming young actress, who gives him food when she finds out he’s starving and alone.

Back with Neal as an adult we see him with Tamara but is soon interrupted by his father’s voice, Rumple, who’s terrorizing Doctor Whale because he looked at Belle the wrong way. Neal interrupts the fight, angry with Rumple for resorting to his old ways and having not changed after dragging him back into his life. He tells Rumple he’s only here for Henry and to keep him safe, which includes protecting him for his own father.

The Charming family has infiltrated Regina’s house, guns loaded, and realize that something’s gone amiss when they find that the magic beans are gone and that it appears someone has broken into her house. They rule Rumple out for his reawakened flame with bad girl Belle and Emma thinks it Tamara due to her old hunch and goes back to Tamara’s room to find more information.

Tamara meanwhile has found Regina’s magic beans. They talk about home offices and data and it’s difficult to imagine just how much this show has planned.

Regina has been strapped up by the normal gang and Hook and is hooked up to a machine in order to torture information out of her by means of electro shocks. It’s how they apparently deal with their kind: the magical folk. It’s unpleasant she’s told but it doesn’t have to be if she tells her where his father is.

It’s a surprisingly dark plotline to explore, especially for an 8pm show that’s main prerogative is fairy tale creatures.

Back in London we find Wendy who’s hiding Baelfire but is soon caught by her father and mother. She tries to explain what’s happened but Baelfire says that his mother and father are dead and Wendy’s mother opens her arms to him and accepts him into her home.

Emma (…Wendy perhaps?) goes to Neal’s apartment and tells him that she needs to search his apartment for real this time. She’s trying to convince him that Tamara has a lying streak.

Flashback Neal is beckoned by Wendy and her brothers to a window where she tells him they’re watching for a shadow that’s appeared there before. She says it’s magic and the shadow can do anything it wants. Baelfire tries to warn them of it saying magic is dangerous and to not believe in it. He tells her that magic ruined his family and asks her to promise not to go anywhere near it to keep her safe.

Charming and Snow go to Rumple, interrupting his Bad Belle time to ask him for a favor in finding Regina. Snow’s guilty conscious is what’s provoking her need to find her. He tells them he can use Regina’s tear, as well as one of Snow’s, for a spell to locate her. She then must drop the two mixed tears into her eye so that she can see where Regina is by a connection, feel what she feels.

Belle overhears and discovers that Rumple can do magic. P.S..Bad Belle is just as frustratingly dull. Dressing a character up in fishnets, high hair and raccoon eyes doesn’t instantly create an interesting and dark character.

Snow drops the tears in despite Charming’s hesitations and while she initially doesn’t feel anything she soon feels the pain Regina is feeling from the shocks and begins to convulse.

The shadow appears in Neal’s flashback and Peter Pan has appeared as a shadow to take Wendy away with him to Neverland.

Emma has taken Neal in Storybrooke to find Tamara and Emma admits to being hurt that Neal never came looking for her after abandoning her to be locked up but before they can finish Tamara runs by and Emma is crushed that her theories are debunked once again. She continues to run and Neal continues the conversation. Neal tells her that he regrets leaving her, every day, but he could never forgive himself for allowing August to convince him to leave her locked up, even if it was for her own safety.

I give the show some credit for not having them hug; kiss, reconcile, what have you, because it would have been and easy and lazy narrative beat for them to fall victim to.

Regina is still hooked up as Tamara runs in and she tries to goad them, telling them that they’ll never succeed in “cleansing” the world of magic will never work. However they tell her that it isn’t just the two of them and they’re here to stop magic, anything that isn’t “pure” and clean. And there are a lot of people in the world who would like to rid their homes of magic and the havoc they can inflict.

Snow cannot make up too much about where Regina is except for the faint smell of fish and the sea which is enough for Emma who’s found herself conveniently on the docks and sees a building which would match the description Snow’s given.

Wendy returns and tells Baelfire that time is so much different in Neverland. She tells him that Neverland is an island where people never grow old, where there are mermaid and faeries. But she returned because when night fell it’s when all the children began to cry for their parents. She tells him that when you set foot on that soil you’re never allowed to return but she was allowed to leave because the shadow didn’t want her but a boy: one of her brothers.

It’s an interesting take on the tale of a boy who is an embodiment of mischief, youth and optimism about magic. Instead this is a version of a boy, or a shadow of a boy, who will take children away from their parents to not give them freedom, but take greater control.

Oh and there’s a subplot about Belle and Rumple plotting to stay together forever, no matter what it means, but there’s better stuff going on.

Emma and Neal creep into Tamara’s evil lair and Emma worries that Neal won’t have her back. They meet up with the Charming’s and continue to look but Tamara can see them over a surveillance camera. Greg tells Tamara he won’t leave until he finds out where his father is. But Regina decides to mess with him instead and tells him his father is dead, that she killed him the moment he ran away.

Baelfire in flashback land is arming the room as a means of protecting the boys from the shadow that continues to haunt their window still but it does little to actually bar the threat. Michael is about to be taken when Baelfire steps out and tells the shadow to take him and to never bother Wendy’s family again and he’s taken in a much more ominous style than what we’ve come to recognize as our version of Peter Pan. There is no whimsy, there’s no light, it’s a boy who has accepted his fate.

It’s a plot that could have been explored more with even greater effect. It’s surprisingly touching with the little nods to the original: there’s the Darlings, the clock tower, even Nana!

Charming bursts into the torture room and finds Regina but Greg disappears.

Emma is knocked out and Neal realizes Tamara has been lying to him and it’s a great chance for Michael Raymond-James to prove that he’s again one of the best additions to the show as well as one of the better actors.

He’s shot trying to stop her but before she goes any further Emma the badass returns and kicks her butt and it’s awesome. A magic bean is thrown, Tamara escapes, and Emma dangle precariously over the portal. Neal slips in but Emma won’t let him go –parallels to Rumple! Neal tells her to let go so that Henry doesn’t live without parents like they did, they pass on their I love yous and he falls in a surprising move on the shows part.

I love it when Jennifer Morrison is allowed to act.

Greg finds his father’s bones as Regina is healed by Mother Superior (the Blue Faerie). And Emma walks in, frazzled, to tell them that Tamara killed Neal.

Baelfire meanwhile in flashback is rescued by Captain Hook. Hello twist, especially since I thought he would end up being one of the Lost Boys.

The episode ends with a legitimate father and daughter moment, oddly and sweetly enough, between Emma and Charming as Emma wonders how she is going to tell Henry. Regina realizes that Snow and Charming saved her but allowed Tamara and Greg to get away and with a very important possession-her ring, a trigger that will destroy Storybrooke. A trigger, a failsafe, that she no longer controls.

Overall it’s a much better episode than last week if still not as high in quality as I’d like but it was fun and entertaining and actually did manage to surprise me which was more than I’d expected.

The season finale of Once Upon a Time airs next Sunday.