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Once Upon a Time S03E02: "Lost Girl"

Oh, Oncers. Monday through Saturday we’re so cool: we’re taking in relevant cultural events, developing necessary projects, dressing like supermodels but shorter. Then Sunday rolls around and we, or at least I, am screaming at my TV like Abbey from Dance Moms yells at a five-year-old, and all I care about in the world is a troop of saucy fairy-tale characters cutting their way through an imaginary jungle. At 8pm on Sundays I become 12 years old again, with all the powerful subliminal Disney messages embedded in my brain getting fully activated.

“Lost Girl” transported me back to a semblance of my pre-critical era, an openness to adventure and fantasy not felt since the time when Kevin Zorbo WAS Hercules and a few hay bales on a soundstage in New Zealand WAS a land that cried out for a hero. Its success is due in part to the fact that it didn’t really f-ck with macguffins (my tolerance for f-cktitude with macguffins is nil) or heavy-handed exposition. “Lost Girl” investigated Emma's emotional foundation, and thanks to Jennifer Morrison, it was grounded and compelling and worked. It’s not easy to inject realistic, relatable emotion into a scene that is just you talking to a magical map. Watch some Shelley Duval’s Faerie Tale Theatre; when fantasy goes wrong, it goes wrong. But JMo committed and infused real emotional weight into a situation that could easily have been ludicrous in another actor’s hands.

After watching Gold create himself a personal assistant by cutting his shadow off the soles of his buckled Pilgrim shoes...

...we caught up with a line of all our favorite people slashing through jungle brush while holding lanterns. There was a heavy tang of Indiana Jones with top notes of Romancing the Stone. Our little band was a lot of fun to live with from scene to scene, and their banter was a great thread throughout the episode. Regina pointed out that she could have “poofed” everybody up the hill instead of hiking, and whatever Hook said I missed because I was too busy cackling at his blush. Look, I love a man in makeup. Whether it’s a little rock n’ roll guy-liner or full-on gorgeous drag queen coverage, I’m all about it. But there is an amount of blush that is embarrassing on man or woman and Hook looked like somebody’s senile auntie this week.

David went in the opposite direction that Hook told him to go in, and then got angry at Hook when everybody ended up on a cliff, looking out at a night-filtered screengrab from Avatar.

Hook suggested they all take a power nap and Regina and Emma were all, “Whut?! Our son has been kidnapped. Time is of the essence!” (in so many words) but Mary Margaret came through with another kernel of what passes for wisdom amongst the Charmings: “If there’s one thing your father and I have learned it is never too late.” A cozy thought, but since you’re about 28 years too late to help your grizzled-ass daughter, maybe rethink the laissez-faire and pick up the Pace Picante. Half of everything Mary Margaret says sounds like a Babelfish translation of a Turkish Hallmark card, but whatever, in this case it was enough to talk Emma into her burlap sleeping bag.

Speaking of which, where did all the camping supplies come from? Did Regina magic them all up some blankets? No... she would have conjured purple sateen duvets. Hook must have made them all little camping kits on the Jolly Roger. He’s like a boy scout leader who’s really into vinyl leather Renaissance cosplay.

During the night, Emma was awakened by the moaning screams of a thousand ghosts, and ran into Peter Pan himself, who had been creepin’ on her while she was sleeping (as is his wont). Pan offered her a map to Henry that would only reveal itself when she accepted who she REALLY was. I have to admit that at first I was shocked and offended that Pan would try to drag her out of the closet like that. Let her come out to her parents in her own time and way, Pan, damn.

Things only got more awkward as Emma sat down, describing herself to the map as her parents sat across from her, grinning and bearing it as she spooled out her shady past. “I’m... the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. I was a bounty hunter in Boston. Prisoner 76657 at Boston Penitentiary. Went by street name Fool’s Gold when I was stealing cars in Chico. Assumed alias Bizzy Fingahz when I was heavy into shoplifting...”

Regina—after a long sigh and some spectacular side-eye—cut short the therapy session, grabbing the map out of Emma’s hands and GETTING SOME RESULTS (while saving Emma from further embarrassment). She made the map glow and rise up and fly away into the dark forest, where it moved like a homing beacon straight toward Pan, through the apparently never-ending Neverland night (obvs VFX/jungle sets look better in “night time” filter).

MEANWHILE. FTL flashback sequence. I haven’t even been keeping apace with this in the chronology of the show. Let’s just say, Snow was the Che Guevara of her day and she tried to rabble-rouse a handful of medieval teen girls to go fight an omnipotent queen with the hottest outfits in the land. 

Seriously, the costume department was earning their paychecks this week with not one but two couture gowns for Her Majesty. They didn’t look easy to fabricate. And big ups to Lana Parrilla for squeezing into those fabric sculptures!

Anyway, Regina told Snow she’d let her escape with her life to Charming’s farm if she’d give up her claim to the throne. Snow was actually totally down to retire to the countryside with her hubby and seven petite men, but Charming felt like she could totally steamroll her stepmom on the battlefield, so he set up an intricate mind game, like a loving boyfriend does.

Josh Dallas makes a lot of rather insane material sound sincere and spontaneous, and I want to make the distinction between actor and character before I say Prince Charming’s Excalibur Mind F-ck was tantamount to manslaughter. Planting a sword in a stone, telling your betrothed it makes her invincible, and then urging her to take a big swing at an omnipotent witch? Yikes. And Snow was super touched by his tapestry of lies: If every pot has a lid, apparently so does every coffin. 

I’m not even going to talk about a possible backdoor pilot for OUAT: Camelot because that’ll probably only happen after the numbers for OUAT: Wonderland premiere come in (This Thursday, October 10!). Round of applause for Ginnifer Goodwin for doing a bellyflop into gravel the first time she took a swing at Regina (sincerely hope that was a stunt person).

The second time, with her magic feather/faux-Excalibur, she drew blood from Regina’s cheek. The battle was on! Countless peasants would be marching into certain death under false pretexts thanks to Charming’s ham-fisted attempt at boosting Snow’s ego! WTF are they going to do with no powerful magic at their disposal to fight Regina? Obviously they won eventually, I guess the “how” is still a blank index card in a writer’s room somewhere (don’t even say the words Blue Fairy, because please).

Also Belle turned up in full fairy-tale garb, and updo, and bold red Wet’n’Wild lipstick and snatched Rumple’s poppet.

The man lost his shadow, his dagger, and now you try and take his cornhusk doll, minx? If Rumple magically butt-dialed up a vision of Belle, then how/why did she grab his toy and run off? And then he almost choked her out and she was like, smiling about it? What?!

I did not understand any of this, I do not understand why it's cool how much Rumple has hit/choked/abused Belle, but she's like "No he's quite alright, though." But I’m still sore they benched Belle at the end of Season 2 and I welcome any workaround to get her back into the action.

Rumple’s conflict in Neverland, as he described it to Belle, was horrifying: “Girl, should I consign two generations of direct descendants to the grave, or like, try to save Henry?” Belle prattled on about how she still sees the good in him despite every choice he has ever made (Belle would email and date inmates online IRL, we’ve established this, she has a thing for abusive psychopaths), but personally my ovaries would shrivel into raisins at the thought of trusting such a man with my future children.

Also we found out Rumple’s dad had abandoned him, which, OBVIOUSLY. Hello, this is OUAT, as in Once Upon a Time My Parents Dropped Me Like Skrillex Drops Bass. After pursuing Regina’s magicked map into the Dark Woods to find Pan (“He’s there in the dark, I can feel his smugness”) Mary Margs, David, Hook, and Regina stumbled upon the chilling sight of Pan dressed up in Henry’s clothes and signature scarf. You could read it on all their faces: Wait, so what is Henry wearing now?! Banana leaves? Is he tied to a tree in just his undershorts sporting the cherry belly to end all cherry bellies?

They didn’t get long to contemplate; pretty soon it was time for a fist fight with the medieval answer to West Side Story’s Jets. I loved Regina crimping her fingers into magicking position as the catalog models closed in. This whole sequence was like some live-action Dungeons and Dragons battle. Despite how pushy these tweens were, Emma found herself unable to put a knife blade through the jugular of a panicked 14-year-old, letting him flee into the night instead. 

Snow hounded her about why she’d stopped fighting that 14-year-old when they were once again alone (because she had a knife up to his throat and didn’t feel like killing him? Chill out with the bloodlust, Snow).

This triggered the emotional culmination of the episode—and a rather successful story point for the entire series. Emma described the sense of despair in the kid’s eyes and described herself as an orphan, which activated the map. This was devastating for Mary Margaret, but a sort of necessary breakthrough for both Emma and her parents. Of course, as Pan would point out to her, accepting her own sense of loss and resentment means understanding that Henry has every right to feel the same way about her, because she did the exact same thing to him, which is quite tragic.

Pan threatened Emma that Henry would ultimately choose to be a Lost Boy and come to hate her (which let’s face it, would have happened the second he hit puberty anyway), AND said that she’s going to lose her parents before she finds him. That last bit was especially prescient, as David is now sporting a rather nasty-looking, poisoned wound. Despite the fantastical setting and magical elements, this overall message was pretty relevant: You need to let go of your own resentment and victimhood and take responsibility for your part in an abusive cycle if you want it to end. True for Emma and Henry and her parents, true for Rumple and his dad, and so on. Hell, if you swap out drugs for magic, Rumple’s whole arc would parallel a lot of real-life relationships: He got really into magic, his wife left, his kid ran away, and now he keeps doing magic to avoid dealing with the consequences of the choices he made.

Would any of these real-world parallels have occurred to me if it hadn’t been for the way JMo handled her orphan speech? Probably not. Girl killed it. It was the grittiest, most heart-wrenching speech ever delivered by someone seated on a hollow log. "Lost Girl" was a good reminder of what this show at its best can be: fantasy with real-world resonance, imaginative adventure with actual substance. I hope we get more like it.


... Did you hear them throwing around the name Rufio?

... Is rum your solution to everything?

... Real talk: Cheaters often win, yeah?

... What’s up with Snow and Charming calling each other David and Mary Margaret? Mary Margaret is quite a mouthful.

... How did you think Emma was going to end up describing herself?

... Will you be watching the premiere of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland this week?

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