"Once Upon a Time" traveled to Neverland in Sunday, Sept. 29's season 3 premiere, "Heart of the Truest Believer," to save Henry, but danger lurked—in the waters, on the island, and with the group made up of heroes, villains, and a pirate.
Eleven years ago… "Once Upon a Time" began its third season by showing us the day Henry was born (at 8:15). Lights flickered as Emma gave birth, but she refused to even look at him. "I can't be a mother," she insisted.
About that Home Office… Greg and Tamara arrived in Neverland, scoffing at Henry's insistence that he'd be rescued. "My mom's coming to get me. Both of them," he told him before they revealed where they were. But there was a problem: their communicator was a toy. "It's a good thing you guys don't ask any questions," Henry commented. But they didn't have to wait too long before the Home Office—the Lost Boys—arrived. Greg and Tamara had been tricked; they didn't want to destroy magic and those two were never going home. They just wanted Henry. Greg's shadow was taken, Tamara was taken down with an arrow, and Henry ran.
Welcome to Neverland, Rumplestiltskin Mr. Gold took the time to change into his Rumplestiltskin clothes before announcing that he and he alone would go get Henry. "Neverland is a place where imagination runs wild, and sadly, yours doesn't," he explained to Emma. She didn't believe in anything—her parents, her magic, or herself—had never taken a real leap of faith, and that wouldn't work in Neverland. Once on the island, he got the information he needed from Tamara before taking her heart and crushing it to dust. Bye, Tamara. It was (never) nice knowing you. Then he received his own welcome from a Lost Boy, as Felix warned him that he would be Pan's enemy if he was there for Henry. "If you go against him, you won't survive." "The real question is how many of you I take with me," Rumple countered. Before leaving, Felix had a "gift" from Pan: a doll. "Isn't it funny the things we haven't thought about in years still have the ability to make us cry?"
Relying on that which he tried to forget Neal awoke in the Enchanted Forest with Mulan, Aurora, and Phillip after being shot with the "45 caliber arrow," as he described it, and when Mulan recognized his clothing as similar to Emma and Snow's, a new team was formed, with Aurora trying to reach out to the others in the dream world (but failing), and Mulan accompanying Neal to his father's castle. (And no, he can't explain what a movie is to her.) "Your belief in love wasn't strong enough to overcome your fear of rejection," she realized as he told her about Emma. They ran into Robin Hood at the castle, and he was willing to let him collect on the debt by looking around. "You don't want to see ID?" Neal asked when he took him at his word. "Who would claim to be that who wasn't?" Robin Hood pointed out. Neal found his father's walking stick, markings on it as Neal grew, and it lifted the cloaking spell hiding a cabinet. After spending his entire life running from magic, it was all that could help him find Emma, and thinking about her while he looked into a crystal ball revealed where she was: Neverland.
Their anger and hatred could be their downfall To save Henry, Emma, Mary Margaret, David, Regina, and Hook had to work together, easier said than done with all the history, hate, and hurt in that group. Emma was still hurting from growing up without her parents, and she didn't want to see the same thing happen to Henry, but this wasn't the time or place for her parents' optimism. Meanwhile, thinking Neal/Bae to be dead, Emma and Hook bonded over their loss below deck, but then all hell broke loose as mermaids began attacking the Jolly Roger. "They're quite unpleasant," Hook told the others as David loaded the cannon, Emma and Mary Margaret got a net to go fishing, and Regina began hurling fireballs into the water. "Let me go or die," the mermaid they caught demanded. "You brought this death upon yourselves," she later added as the group argued about what to do with her, with the best line going to Regina: "Filet the bitch."
A storm raged as everyone disagreed. "That feel-good nonsense might play in the Enchanted Forest, but this? This is Neverland," Regina told Mary Margaret when she refused to kill the mermaid. The Evil Queen finally just turned the mermaid to wood, but the storm only got worse—and Hook couldn't outrun the "bloody damnation." Mary Margaret wanted Regina to turn her back, and Regina continued to win for "best lines said in the middle of a damning storm": "And what? You'll win her over with your rainbow kisses and unicorn stickers?" As the fighting got worse, so did the storm, something only Emma noticed. "It's us," she realized. "If we don't stop fighting, we're all going to die? Don't you see we're causing this storm?" Everyone was too busy yelling and swinging punches to listen to her, so she did what any sane person would do when in Neverland and an emotion-driven storm is tearing at your ship: she dove into the water and was knocked out by a falling pulley. She accomplished what she set out to do, however, as the others banded together to rescue her, and the storm stopped.
Upon reaching Neverland, Emma finally accepted her role as leader. "It's time for all of us to believe, not in magic, but in each other," she told them. "We just need to succeed, and the way we do that is just being who we are—a hero, a villain, a pirate. …We're going to need all those skills." And what about Emma? "I'm a mother, and now I'm also your leader, so help me get my son back or get out of my way," she warned Regina.
Believing is everything As Henry ran from the Lost Boys, a boy snatched him out of the path an into the bushes, claiming he was once a Lost Boy, but they were after him ever since he escaped. But he was totally Peter Pan, right? He even looked like we expected Pan to look! But Henry believed him, and together they kept running from the Lost Boys. "If he sent for you, he wants you," the boy warned Henry. "And if Pan wants you, he will get you." Why did Pan want this boy? He had stolen pixie dust, thinking he could use it to fly home, but it didn't work. Henry told him he could come with him and his family when they rescued him. "We always find each other," Henry explained.
When they reached the end of the road (aka a cliff), Henry took a chance with the pixie dust. "See? If you believe, anything is possible," he explained once they landed from their flight. "You couldn't be more right, Henry," he said, finally revealing himself as Pan (though Henry wasn't as quick to realize who had been with him the entire time as we hoped). "For quite some time, I've sort something extremely important, something more elusive than the greatest of all mysteries," Pan explained. "The heart of the truest believer," and Henry proved himself to be just that when he took the pixie dust. "Now you—and it—are mine," Pan told him, calling out the Lost Boys. Henry was surrounded. "Let's play!"
Will Neverland be the best thing to ever happen to "Once Upon a Time"? Maybe. As we already see in this one episode, Neverland, Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys are bringing a darker element than we've seen thus far to the show, and they're exploring more about the characters we already know on this new mission to save Henry, a mission that forces enemies to put their differences aside, family to address the pain from their pasts. "Heart of the Truest Believer" may arguably be the show's strongest season premiere to date, and hopefully the rest of the season lives up to that.
"Once Upon a Time" season 3 airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC. What did you think of "Heart of the Truest Believer" and our introduction to Neverland?