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Once Upon a Time S03E09: "Save Henry"

What an amazing episode. Seriously, after having the title grilled into our brains via hashtag, "Save Henry" was intended to be a season highlight, and by golly it sure as shit was.

I just have one complaint: why didn’t they show the wedding? Why did that happen offscreen? I am referring, of course, to the nuptials of Regina and Emma, because these two are so freaking married it’s not even funny. I mean, their whole first-act exchange where Henry was laying there not decomposing (thanks Regina) and Regina was like, “I’m freaking out, I lost my son! He’s all I had!” And Emma looked at her all hurt and was like, “Honey don’t you mean our son? Plus you still have me (blowing you tiny kisses)!” and Regina, her face a map of sorrow and rage, replied, “I know this is weird timing, but do you like Hook or Neal? Seriously your mom is spreading rumors. A pirate pines for you.” and Emma like kneeled down beside Regina and got nose-to-nose and was like, “You are in charge of everything (especially me), this whole thing is about us, just say what you need from me, I trust you with everything including the life of our son. Also that pirate is very emotional.” Neal actually walked 60 feet away to give the parents privacy during this crisis.

My second favorite exchange was when an adoption agent shamelessly plugged Sandals resorts. Regina said something about how he should vacation in Storybrooke and he was like “With all due respect, Sandals has an all-inclusive buffet.” Like, who is the secret alt-comedian who snuck in that line? Please have them write more dialogue. 

I mean, sure, #SaveHenry had tons of “WTF” moments and some audacious retconning (retroactive continuity if my Aunt Gladys is reading this- hi Aunt Gladys!) but there were tears in my eyes when Regina tucked Henry into bed and called him her little Prince. It was like someone at ABC actually read my angry letters and gave Regina some credit for the eleven years of single parenting she’d been doing. Guys, #SaveHenry was one of those more and more frequent episodes where they just gave Lana Parrilla the ball Acting Wise and she did a Harlem Globetrotters warm-up routine while the rest of the cast whistled and it was STUNNING.

The Henry backstory started with Rumple warning Regina that sacrificing her father to put the curse in action would leave a hole in her heart and she was like “Boo f-ckin’ hoo I win.” but sure enough, 17 years into the curse she was living a lie and desperate for love. Even Archie could see it. Within thirty seconds of their first consultation he suggested she start dating women and she was like “That's the ticket: I need a baby. I’ll call upon my black market contacts to procure one.”

Again, another surprisingly humorous moment: Regina told Rumple she needed a baby and he made a salty joke about her not being his type, which was hilarious because Lana Parilla is EVERYONE’s type including dolphins and hunky underwear models, and also weird and gross because he had had an intense sexual/spinning relationship with her mom. Anyhoo, he went about setting up an adoption with an incredibly lax adoption agency that featured same-day adoptions.Regina answered a few questions and a rando lady ran into the room and put a baby in her lap. 

Considering legit celebs have to wait about a year to own a child, this was nothing short of miraculous, but even more miraculous is the fact Regina allows her sasspot Storybrooke citizens to constantly sass her in her very own happy ending. I mean Dr. Whale violated every precept of bedside manner, telling her she could cure her baby with 10 cc’s of maternal love and then flippantly telling her because she’d agreed to a blind adoption her baby could be dying maybe, who knows, not him. I mean, we should praise Regina's restraint for not sending a bolt of green lightning through his head that very instant.

And of course, the SECOND Henry felt the loving arms of a biological relative he piped on down. Were you furious about this turn? I was kind of furious. I mean, this show has always had an ax to grind about adoptive parents being non-ideal, but luckily the rest of the show would make up for in spades. Henry eventually quieted down in Regina’s arms, moments before she learned his birth mom was almost certainly the Savior!

Meanwhile, in Neverland, Emma was writing a lot of emotional checks her ass couldn’t cash, promising homes to all the orphans of Neverland. Regina wanted to torture the little smudge-cheeked cherubs into telling her where Pan had gone with their son’s heart, Emma preferred to woo them with stories of how great Storybrooke was, over-selling those suckers like a blonde PT Barnum. 

They learned from the darling Neverland urchins (and an actual Darling) that Pan was up in his Thinking Tree, holding a giant purple umbrella and wishing on a star a la Michael Jackson. Regina and Emma were like “Day trip! Bye everybody don’t wait up.” but of course Mary Margaret had to wedge her fatuous storyline in there with a big self-pitying pat on her own back, making a little frowny face about how she was going to spend every second she could with Her Daughter before abandoning her AGAIN to spend all of eternity in Neverland with David and the New Babies. Ugh, your choice lady. Tangentially: I loved how David just casually dismissed spending an eternity on Neverland with the statement “I’ve made peace with that.” You’ve MADE PEACE with living in a jungle hell ruled by a teenage sociopath and lousy with poisoned thornbushes? For all eternity? You know Hook is not staying, right? Orphans: this should clue you in on what to expect from Storybrooke.

So what did Regina do when she found out the biological mother of her son was quite possibly the town’s Saviour? She went to Gold’s shop and cursed him up and down while he pretended to not know what she was talking about and gaslight her about being a crazy new mom. It was another kind of hilarious exchange (she called him an imp!!) and to cap it off Regina brought Henry back to the world’s most chill adoption agency, like he was a pair of slacks that didn’t fit right, and the adoption guy was like “Eh, I’m going to give you a minute.” Right! Give her a minute to think about keeping that baby. Who is running this place?!?! Hahahaha that’s real life. But before I could snark and cackle (snarkle) myself hoarse, Regina picked up Henry and he didn’t cry, he actually adorably gurgled and Regina was like screw it, he’s my little lumpkin I don't even care if that means I'm doomed. If your eyes didn’t tear at this I can’t blame you, it’s all crazy but I totally teared up. And Regina's choice to keep him saved him from being adopted by the Darlings, who were going to take him to Pan, in which case he never would have found Emma, who then would have never broken the curse. (Thanks Regina!)

So anyway, we then flashed back to Neverland where Mary Margs, Regina and Emma found the perfume bottle Rumple was in and Regina was like “Whatever you do don’t touch-“ but it was too late Mary Margaret was already ruining everything and all three women were suddenly bound to a giant tree, at which point Robbie Kay appeared and started commiserating with them about being a parent. I mean once again, to whatever ESL tourists from foreign lands were watching this in their hotel rooms: you were not high. There was no carbon dioxide leak. This actually happened. 

Are you relieved, or more perplexed? Pan told the Saviour and Mary Margs that the tree held onto people who had regrets, because obviously that’s a thing a plant would do in a Jungle Hell governed by dream logic, enjoy that David. And then Regina gave this amazing speech about how yes she’d done truly terrible things and cast a horrible curse but she didn’t regret ANY of it because it had brought her her son and her sexy Saviour wife. And then she burst free of the tree fronds and ripped Peter Pan’s motherf-cking heart out!!! (Thanks Regina!) It was perfect!!! Did you stand and cheer? It was perfect.

And then Regina put Henry’s heart back in his body (thanks Regina) and she and Henry and Emma all hugged and cartoon hearts actually started coming out of my tv screen like soap bubbles and floating around my living room, alarming my tiny terrier dog. It was the hug we didn't even realize we needed so badly. It was a hug that healed relationships and warmed souls. Between this and the backstory, Regina made this amazing transition from villain to like super hero, and all the characters were totally affirming it like “oh wait that’s right Regina has raised Henry for 11 years wow great job” and “whoa Regina is insanely powerful, almost all-powerful and her lipstick is perfect no matter WHAT” and I concur with all of that.

So P.S. Once she decided that Henry was her son, Regina started obsessing non-stop about this powerful 18-year-old blonde princess who she was linked to by fate, and Archie was like, “Sounds like you maybe want to date women?” but Regina’s solution was to lug Henry down to the family crypt to set up a pagan altar and make a potion so she would stop thinking about the 18-year-old Emma and forget about her until she magically turned up on her doorstep, aged to a more appropriate dating range of 28. Does this retcon make a ton of sense? No, no it does not, but it was done in a way that was so emotionally satisfying—telling a fairy tale from the villain’s perspective and all—and it was so enjoyable I really can’t complain. With OUAT there are bad plot holes and there are magically wonderful plot holes and this was a magically wonderful one and I fell into it as easily as you fall in love with a big dumb beautiful jock.

So back to the present day: Regina tucked Henry in and put a magical spell on his heart so it couldn’t be taken again (thanks Regina) and called him her little prince and I teared up like an unbalanced person. Lana Parrilla put so much undeniable, natural maternal affection into her scene with Jared Gilmore, just talking about video games and pizza, it was devastating. She was his mom. It was such a reversal from the weirdo Regina from Season 2 who kept creeping on Henry whenever the Charmings let him out of the house long enough to hang up a birdhouse, and the character of Regina made so much more sense as a smart, powerful, protective maternal figure and the other characters made so much more sense for embracing her and appreciating that about her (ESPECIALLY Henry). They are a damned family and that is a much stronger choice than making Regina some alienated, robo-mom weirdo (like she was for allll of Season 2). 

So all the Orphans and Deadbeat Dad and Hungry Eyes and Tinker Bell were loaded up on the boat and Snow went around doling out porridge and biscuits and they spritzed Rumple out of his perfume bottle and he and Neal embraced and reconciled and you know that was great, sure.

But wouldn’t you know it, Peter Pan was waiting in the wings and when he couldn’t rip out Henry’s heart he went for his soul but then Rumple sucked him into the Pandora’s box and then apparently at some point in that process Henry and Peter Pan TRADED BODIES Freaky Friday style which, LOL. First of all, congratulations Jared Gilmore, you finally have an interesting storyline and a chance to do some acting! Second of all, watch out Jared Gilmore they may just kill off Pan-in-Henry’s-body and recast Robbie Kay as the “new” Henry. Ha ha ha ha no, don’t worry, they wouldn’t do that...or would they? Welcome to Hollywood, m’boy!

So yes, Regina harnessed the power of the suddenly taciturn Marilyn-Manson voiced wraith, so powerful it could rule all of Neverland and create teen demon Peter Pan, and turned him into a giant sail because that’s just how she do, (thanks Regina) and got them all home. Yes that’s right, after Regina saved Storybrooke, the Charmings lost Henry, and Regina saved Henry AND got everyone home. David was all like “Well done Emma, you were the most important person- the one who delegated the work loads” but if we count up the (thanks Regina) in this recap alone it's pretty clear who the hero of the day was.

I did find myself wondering how David was even alive as they sailed into the sky.  I know Rumple had some cure for the Waters of Neverland  but I certainly didn’t see a cure or spell or whatever enacted. Unless the "cure" was watching Snow unsmilingly slop porridge into the bowls of her 27 new foster children? I have no idea. Please someone fill me in.

Regardless of this rather minor discrepancy and the fact they skipped over the whole wedding of two major characters, it was a genuinely touching episode. I actually teared up like a weirdo at many of Lana Parrilla’s scenes with Henry Fun Size and Henry Original Size and seriously, earnestly loved it. I’m so glad Robbie Kay is still with the show and is going to be  drawing on a whole other facet of his acting skills. I love the retcon on Regina even if it came the hell out of nowhere, and I adore how she and Emma are such partners in both a parent sense and every other sense you can think of. But more importantly what did you think of "#SaveHenry"? I’ve got questions...


... Are you sort of furious that Henry is still in peril, or excited about the acting switch? Also why didn’t Pan speak in an English accent when he revealed himself to his righthand man, old Cloaky? 

... Tinker Bell’s pixie dust: Is the Blue Fairy goin’ down hard ?

... Seriously did I blink and miss it? How did they cure David?

... Regina: totally and completely redeemed in your eyes, or not so much?

... Emma and Regina this episode: talking like a married couple?

... Do you feel like this show deepened or repaired OUAT’s hostile attitude toward adoptive parents?

... The Regina “Forgetting Potion” retcon: effective? brilliant? redonkulous?

... How’d you like them apples?

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