Once Upon a Time "Nasty Habits" Review: Nasty Messages

By Lily Sparks

Oct 21, 2013

Once Upon a Time S03E04: "Nasty Habits"

Life is so short and yet paradoxically, a week can feel so long. Sundays particularly, waiting for another work cycle to begin, holding onto those last hours before you’re plunged into the grind of the work week, trying to treasure those last fleeting moments of leisure.

How dare they do this to our Sunday evening.

We knew eventually that OUAT's opening run of action-packed episodes would trickle off and we’d get some filler. It’s Season 3, we know how a 22-episode season operates, there’s a couple skippers mixed in. But this nugget of bland potato in our zesty OUAT burrito had a rotten spot in it that makes me want to throw the whole tortilla-wrapped meal into the street and under a car. I’m talking of course about the disgusting scene where Emma Swan, our strong, independent heroine, BROKE DOWN IN TEARS over Neal. She ran off, her face crumpling like a deflating balloon, because she realized she NEVER STOPPED LOVING Neal/Baelfire?!

Bitch please. BITCH PLEASE!!! Bitch… please… don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to the little girls. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS TO OUR LITTLE GIRLS! Deepbreathsdeepbreathsdeepbreaths. Let me get a hold of myself. Deep. Breaths. Okay.

Please raise your hand if you still love, or even LIKE, the guy you dated at 17. Maybe, if you’re around 28, you have nothing in common with that guy because you’ve grown into a completely different person with new priorities and interests and confidence. Make no mistake: Emma is 28, Henry is 11, and Bae knocked Emma up, dropped a dime on her, and never talked to her again when she was at the age where most people graduate high school. Then, when Neal found out the curse was broken after years of knowing he’d betrayed her in this unthinkable way, he still didn’t meet up to make amends. He got engaged to Tamara instead. But what, am I supposed to be impressed he made a nightlight?

For all the talk OUAT does about how it doesn’t do damsels in distress, how it doesn’t have weak heroines, Emma showed a real debilitating weakness in "Nasty Habits": a gaping hole in her self-esteem. That’s the kind of weakness that destroys most women, not a lack of sword-fighting prowess. Tying yourself emotionally to a guy who doesn’t respect you and who takes advantage of you, that’s the weakness most young girls are in danger of, not an inability to fight ogres. It’s disgusting and off-character to portray Emma as a woman who would secretly love the guy who betrayed her and abandoned her. Neal certainly has more self-respect, he clearly doesn’t trust his dad Rumple anymore. But Emma isn’t written with that mental fortitude. The writers took the Emma Swan that Jen Morrison spent Season 1 and Season 2 building, and changed her into someone pathetic and needy and weak, and that makes me furious.

Okay, now that I’m done ranting, other than that soul-crushing 30-second interlude with Emma, this episode was boring. We learned Pan is also the Pied Piper and we spent too damn long watching him breathily play a pan pipe while teen extras cavorted to music that obviously wasn’t playing on set during filming. Pan (in a flashy patchwork cloak?! Haha this show) lured Baelfire and every other preteen boy in town to the woods for a super corny dance session.

Excuse me, a MASKED super corny dance session. And Pan is still up to his vaguely teen-orgiastic tricks on Neverland, with his Lost Boys awkwardly high-stepping around a fire while shaking rain sticks to shrill piping. Like, kill me now.

The episode wasn’t helped by Rumple’s crazy, Commando-type camouflage streaks over one eye, or his increasing meanness to imaginary girlfriend Belle. Not only did he tell her he had nothing to live for (prompting her to giggle and be like, “Heehehehe except me, right?”) he asked her to straight-up go away. The thing about these two is that we are constantly told that Rumple loves Belle, and yet he is continually asking her to get lost, go home, stop looking at him, stop talking to him, hand him her phone so he can erase his number, call AOL and make his email stop etc. Belle stop being such a masochist, you’re almost as bad as Emma.

Rumple, coming across Neal in the woods, remembered that he'd been shot through the chest and dropped several million miles into another dimension—and so he reasonably assumed Neal was a vision and decided to start choking him out.

Because that’s what you do with an incorporeal phantasm, you cut off its windpipe? Whatever. Doesn't matter, because Neal whispered “Please, papa,” and that and the odor of stale Axe body spray convinced Rumple this was real-deal Neal.

Moments later, father and son were pulling a Kraken out of a lake, and then presumably they spent several hours milking it for ink. (You have to pressure the glands just right.)

We learned about this new magical item as we often do—within five minutes of that item becoming essential to the plot moving forward—but either way, the writers decided that squid ink makes magic people hold still for a while, EVEN PAN. So Rumple and Neal confronted Pan, got ink on him, and then ran off with Henry. Michael Raymond James impressively threw Henry over his shoulder; well done, hope MRJ wasn’t herniated as Neal and Henry are roughly the same size.

Things went quickly sour when Rumple spilled the beans about the prophecy/how he had briefly considered killing his own grandson. This related to the FTL flashback because there was this one time where Rumple came upon a corny bonfire party in the woods, and magicked Bae home without asking him first, and Bae totally would have gone home but didn’t think it was fair his dad would take him home without asking him first? Look, Bae, if you were going to go home with your dad anyway, there’s no argument, is there? Whatever. Neal immobilized Rumple again and then endangered every disc in his spine by dead-lifting Henry from the ground to his shoulder and marching off into the woods. He was grabbed up by the Lost Boys before he could run into Emma, though, so there’s still hope he might get swallowed by an angry mama Kraken.

The most interesting thing that happened during this episode was Hook confronting Charming about his wound, and his obligation to tell his family that he is, uh, dying? Charming: Regina is hella magic. It’s “never too late,” right? I’d be more concerned about Charming except we all know for a fact he won’t die.  His noble self-sacrifice does create a perfect foil for Rumple: While Rumple is torn over whether or not to kill Henry to sidestep a vague prophecy, Charming would rather legit waste away than pull focus from getting Regina and Emma their son back.

It’s crazy adorable that Hook is looking out for Charming, hopefully he tells Emma or Snow soon that Charming is doing the dad thing and refusing to let anyone check out his hidden ailment. A lot of dads do that, don’t they? They get so weird about going to see a doctor. DADS: Stop being like that. Go get your prostate looked at. We want you to be around for as long as possible.

I really loved that Tinker Bell was the only one with enough of a brain to suggest they not do a suicide mission into Pan’s compound, that instead they should actually consider how to escape with Henry. She also made the troubling admission that she spent the better part of a night cleaning the blood off a watch she stole off a dead body. HAHAHAHA Tinker Bell you are a creepy corpse scavenger?! Do you have a necklace made out of ears? I blame the Blue Fairy for this grim turn for Tink.

Also we learned that Bae apparently really loved Battlestar Galactica and totally stole the idea of using star maps. What a precocious scamp!

So to sum:

1.) In this show’s ham-fisted attempt to wrangle a love triangle, the strength many of us loved about Emma is being written out with lazy, broad strokes.

2.) Rumplestiltskin and Neal are still at odds, and Rumple still seems on-the-fence about whether or not to kill Henry. AREN’T WE ALL.

3.) Tinker Bell is a  grave robber.

What a bust. I’m starting to wonder if this show is aware of its own nasty habits. What did you think?


... At your current age, could you be with the person you dated/liked at 17?

... After three seasons, with all the FTL flashbacks OUAT has done, how has the show not built a general fairy village backlot to integrate with the CGI? They can’t lay half a block of cobblestones?

... Did you lose respect for Emma, or are you giving her a pass because she feels like a “Lost Girl” on this island?

... What is Belle getting out of her relationship with Rumple?

... How will Prince Charming be cured?

... Will we ever see Aurora and Mulan in the same shot again?

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  • shannonclements739 Nov 16, 2014

    I know I'm behind the curve here reading your reviews, but I just have to say that even from the pilot forward, it was always my assumption that the entire reason Emma "finds" people is because she was searching for Neal. He's good at hiding, she's good at finding people, but she never found him.

    I know how this all goes now, but even back to this episode, I didn't see her admitting that she still loved Neal was weak. I saw it as a release. Something she'd kept inside and finally let out and it was cathartic and needed. She loved the heck out of the guy and he left her to rot in prison. I never for a moment, even in season 2, expected Emma to reconcile to the point where she would end up with him again, but when you've been hurt like that its necessary to admit it and move on.

  • OncerRoyal Jan 04, 2014

    I'm just going to awkwardly comment that I'm still with the guy I was dating when I was 17 and it's been about 4 years... So I'm just going to say yes I can see myself doing that.
    As far as Emma, the pressure of being the savior has apparently taken a toll on her, she should have a pass on this mental breakdown.
    Belle and Rumple- I swear Belle just thinks she's doing the right thing by taking Rumple on as a personal project to transform him into a decent person.

  • InsanelyMe Oct 26, 2013

    So, um, *ahem*, who's ready for the kiss next week?

  • writertwin Oct 25, 2013

    Consistency point: If Neal taught Rumple how to snag a squid for its ink, how did Rumple get squid ink to use back in his cell when he wrote Emma's name over and over?

    I'll second your motion for OUAT to build a cobblestoned floor. And a yellow brick/circle path for Wonderland while they're at it.

    Is anyone else worried Charming won't make it, since they originally had him die in the pilot? It might make Snow's story more interesting if she has to find a new happy ending (like Regina needs to).

  • RaveIle Oct 25, 2013

    The show has been confusing sometimes but one thing still bugs me, when the curse broke, people got their fairyland memories back right? Was it suppose to overwrite their Storybrook memories or blend with it? What it looks like now is that Storybrook and Fairyland memories got mixed up, they refer to each other with Storybrook names instead of their real names. When the curse first broke, Charming called out to Snow and called her by her name, then after that it was Mary Margeret again.

    What was the point of breaking the curse? At this point there's no difference because the characters personality pretty much stayed the same.

  • writertwin Oct 25, 2013

    I keep waiting for Snow to claim her name -- and her hair, too! If Regina kept her hair short for the curse, isn't it time for Snow to want to look more like her fairy tale self and GROW OUT HER HAIR?

  • katelyn708 Oct 25, 2013

    No one can be strong and ass-kicking all the time. We all have weak moments where we cry or doubt ourselves or have low self-esteem. I'm tired of so many people, especially women, getting upset when they see a female character not being strong. I'd much rather watch a character who is REAL and complex and layered, than a character who is strong and nothing else.

    Emma has spent her whole life in self-chosen exile from human contact. She has serious abandonment issues--like anyone would if they grew up the way she did--and the one person she ever allowed herself to love, Neal, abandoned her too. For someone who has never experienced any kind of love in her life except for Neal, it's natural for her to still hold on to that emotion and the pain she experienced. No matter how people treat us, when we love someone it's hard to stop loving them. She put up a good fight to shut Neal out emotionally for the next 10 years and even when he came back, but in this episode she lost the strength to keep lying to herself that she was over it. I don't think that makes her weak or the writers disgusting for portraying her in this light. It just makes her human.

  • an0m1a Oct 27, 2013

    Thank you very much, my thoughts exactly.

  • Megan1818 Oct 24, 2013

    Ok, I am getting kind of sick of a bunch of adults (including the all powerful Dark One) being intimidated by a prepubescent male dance troupe.

  • Berzine Oct 24, 2013

    Charming is annoying. Emma, get a grip, Snow.... what can I say about Snow!! They are just anoying now.

  • Aeidail Oct 27, 2013

    I know! What happened to shooting arrows and robbing carriages Snow. She used to be amazing. Shoot an ogre in the eye with an arrow and beat up Mulan amazing. Now she just seems to stand there and throw out 5 word pep-talks. I want the real Snow back :(

  • RaveIle Oct 25, 2013

    What I feel is that the writers don't know what they want to do with the characters, they change personality on a whim, especially Regina and Gold. Regina is at the moment my favorite so far but I really wish they stick with one alightment, she doesn't need to become goody two shoes, redeeming Regina is great, just don't change her to evil again when she disagrees with people.

  • Berzine Oct 24, 2013

    I just want to say: "I want Regina back!!"

  • CanadianRaymond Oct 24, 2013

    My main takeaway from this episode was some laziness by the writers. After they established that only boys who feel unloved can hear Pan's pipe, they didn't earn the ending of the episode. Why, in the space of one (to him) uneventful nap, does Henry suddenly hear the pipe?

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