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KingOfHearts

S02.E21: Second Star to the Right

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Emma, Mary Margaret and David go in search of Regina when they discover that she - along with some magic beans - have gone missing. But against Neal's protests, Emma still believes that Tamara had something to do with Regina's disappearance; and Mr. Gold contemplates telling Lacey the truth about his ability to conjure magic. Meanwhile, after Rumplestiltskin abandons his son and lets him travel alone through a portal, young Bae finds himself back in 19th century London and is taken in by the Darling family -- befriending their daughter Wendy.

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I really liked the flashbacks in this episode.  Young Baelfire was a cool character and easy to root for.  I felt so badly for him when he was warning Wendy about magic, and again when he was taken by the Shadow and was separated from the new family he had gained.  This was a nice twist to the Peter Pan tale, while keep enough of it so the core of it was still recognizable.  

Mary Margaret needing to feel the suffering of Regina as Greg tortured her was a disgusting message.  

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I liked the flashbacks too. Bae was so cool. It was really cool to see the Darlings and how they welcomed Bae. Bae giving up his new family to save them. 

I hated Mary Margaret having to feel the pain. Yes it is a horrible message and I felt zero sympathy for Regina. Oh, gee, being tortured by one of her victims who's life she destroyed. Boo hoo. I admit to rewinding a few times on that one. Thinking about Graham, the children she sent to their deaths, and a whole lot of her other crimes including her current plan to murder everyone and take Henry. Seriously, her victims should be fighting over who gets to torture her. 

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To get the requisite Regina-complaining out of the way: this is a show on which one of the main characters demonstrates consistent inability to empathize with other people, even during an episode in which she was forced to disguise herself as one of the peasants she oppresses and be treated in kind. So, of course, it is Snow who has to learn a very special lesson about feeling Regina’s pain by – no joke – using one of Regina’s tears to literally see the world through her eyes. I can’t think of a better metaphor for the show as a whole. But seriously, how on Earth does one write an episode where we’re supposed to root for team hero to save Regina moments after we see her laughing about murdering Greg’s father?

As I indicated in the last couple of episode threads, I think Neal has been coming off notably better as of late. Even though I’ll never buy his reasons for setting Emma up, as opposed to simply Ieaving her, I can accept that he feels bad about it, that it – and not seeking her out later -- was the result of cowardice and shame rather than malice or indifference. What I don’t buy is that he and Emma are still in love. Under the circumstances, I find it believable that Neal still loves Emma, but even then not in a romantic sense: on top of everything else, the two of them weren’t in a healthy or mature relationship for the brief time that they were together, and eleven years later, neither of them should be in love with the person the other was when they last met. In Neal’s case, I don’t think that means he should be judging Emma for who she was as a 16/17 year old homeless foster-kid who fell under his sway – he should be judging himself for seducing and encouraging her– but he also shouldn’t want to resume a sexual/romantic relationship with her. And of course Emma really has no good reason to still be in love with Neal. I actually could see a path for them to fall in love with the people they are now in the present, but not this soon, especially given that Neal has been engaged since their reunion. So the scene in the portal is somewhat affecting in its own terms, but is based on a faulty premise.

Also, I don’t see why everyone would take it as a given that Neal is dead; obviously, his chances of survival are realistically low, but it is hardly impossible that he’ll land somewhere where he’ll be discovered by decent people who manage to get him medical care. I mean, there were no guarantees that baby Emma was going to wind up somewhere where she would be found rather than left to die of exposure, either (and at the time, almost no one even knew that she at least had an older child with her, which raised her odds).

Love Bae in the flashbacks. He’s just such a noble, decent kid, and it is such a shame that we don’t get more insight into how he becomes Tallahassee-era Neal. The show’s deconstruction of the Peter Pan story is also interesting, where Wendy is essentially acting as if she lives in Disney’s Peter Pan, in which case this visitor is a magic source of wonder, whereas Bae knows that there’s a much darker reality behind it (which is truer to Barrie’s original story, though even he doesn’t get as  dark as Once does). At the same time, though it works here, it does expose one of the show’s problems, which is that it is really light on wonder as a rule. Your ostensible main character has discovered that she’s a literal fairy-tale princess with magical powers, and she’s almost never given the chance to simply have fun with it before being either launched into super-angst or sidelined.

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As I recall, this episode was part of me changing my mind about giving up on this show after the previous two episodes had me very close to being done, but on this watch, I'm not entirely sure why. I think it was the flashbacks. I was looking forward to seeing Bae's story, especially after that moment near the end when he arrives on the Jolly Roger.

Spoiler

Pity that there's nothing shown in Bae's chronology between him leaving the Jolly Roger in the next episode and him meeting Emma when he's an adult.

 

The present-day story is really a mess. They're going for all these emotional moments that I guess work while you're watching if you're not thinking about it but that don't really hold up.

It's so weird that the present-day plot is basically the good guys frantically trying to save the villain who tormented them for decades from the man whose father she gleefully murdered because he didn't want to relocate his family to her creepy town.

The Regina double standard gets pretty ridiculous.

Hook wants revenge on the man who murdered his lover and cut off his hand and who appears to be untouchable by any other form of justice = evil.
Gregowen wants answers about his father's fate and can't even get a straight and honest answer from the person who separated him from his father without resorting to torture = evil.
Snow has a bit of vengeance in her heart when she kills the woman who murdered her mother and nurse to stop her from becoming the Dark One = evil.
Regina commits mass murder and destroys a civilization in order to get revenge on a child who was manipulated into telling a secret (and then is furious when that same person kills the person who actually killed the man Regina loved) = misunderstood.
Regina plans to murder everyone in town and destroys their possibility for escape = totally understandable because they were going to leave her behind in the town she created as the place where she could be happy.

I remember being furious at the I Love Yous at the portal, and I remain annoyed because those were so unearned. It might have been different if their interactions had been different up to that point, but there had been no sign of connection or emotion between them other than other people telling them how into each other they were. I don't recall any moments laden with sexual or romantic tension where they were on the verge of falling back into their old relationship before realizing their current situation and awkwardly snapping out of it. It didn't help that they wrote Neal's behavior as though he was the wounded party, the dumpee, with all his "hey look, Emma, here's my fiancee. Did I mention I had a fiancee? Because I do. Your suspicions are unfounded because you're just jealous of my fiancee" routine. It would have been more apt for Emma to be making it clear to him that she'd moved on and didn't need him. When he was the one who ditched her, it makes him look like even more of a jerk. He was rudely dismissive of her suspicions about Tamara right up to the moment Tamara shot him. So for Emma to suddenly be telling him she loved him, it came out of the blue. And then he's telling her he loves her about 30 seconds after he was engaged to someone else and defending her to Emma, and it took being shot for him to realize Emma was right. I know people get over things at warp speed on this show, but that's got to be a world record to go from being in love with someone, planning to marry that person, and defending that person to confessing love for someone else.

Funny how they hung a lampshade on the fact that Rumple went through everything he did to get to his son and then totally ignored him to hang out with his girlfriend when he did find him.

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I never noticed before that Neal paraphrased what Hook told him about his mother. “Not a day went by that she didn’t regret leaving you” Neal says approximately the same thing to Emma about his abandonment of her.

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My favorite part of this episode is Emma and Tamara's knock-down, drag-out fight. I love that it's not a cat fight and those two are seriously going at each other. I wish that Emma had been able to fight more like she clearly knows how rather than constantly fighting people who use jazz hands in their fights. This show would have done better to have fewer all powerful, magical villains and instead had some non-magical ones that a character with the skills and street smarts Emma has could take on.

I'm sort of willing to go along with the I love yous if I squint and look at it as sort of a memory of childhood love. Neal & Emma are both looking at this as a goodbye, so they both want the other to feel better about all that water under the bridge. These two haven't seen each other in over a decade and their separation was due to a massive betrayal. Both (or at least Emma) are very different people now and they are not in love with who they are now. They don't know each other. It's possible that those ties could have reformed given time, but I'm pretty sure Neal slept with Tamara that morning (wasn't there some off color suggestion of exercising in bed?), so no.

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48 minutes ago, KAOS Agent said:

My favorite part of this episode is Emma and Tamara's knock-down, drag-out fight. I love that it's not a cat fight and those two are seriously going at each other. I wish that Emma had been able to fight more like she clearly knows how rather than constantly fighting people who use jazz hands in their fights. This show would have done better to have fewer all powerful, magical villains and instead had some non-magical ones that a character with the skills and street smarts Emma has could take on.

I'm sort of willing to go along with the I love yous if I squint and look at it as sort of a memory of childhood love. Neal & Emma are both looking at this as a goodbye, so they both want the other to feel better about all that water under the bridge. These two haven't seen each other in over a decade and their separation was due to a massive betrayal. Both (or at least Emma) are very different people now and they are not in love with who they are now. They don't know each other. It's possible that those ties could have reformed given time, but I'm pretty sure Neal slept with Tamara that morning (wasn't there some off color suggestion of exercising in bed?), so no.

I  really wish they had done that. That was what Emma brought with her. She has street smarts.  I always loved when they let her use it. Like back when she was helping Ashley and was pointing out to Rumple that is contact wouldn't hold up in court not to mention what could come out about him. It was perfect because of course she knows all about that. She grew up in foster care. She knows courts work really hard to keep a child with their mother. Or when she clocked Hook in their fight in EF she knew how to fight.  Or knowing Eva and Nicholas were lying and showed up where they were staying. That really should have been her superpower. She knew how the LWM world worked, cellphones and other technology, and other things that gave her an edge that was different then everyone else. 

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9 hours ago, KAOS Agent said:

I'm sort of willing to go along with the I love yous if I squint and look at it as sort of a memory of childhood love. Neal & Emma are both looking at this as a goodbye, so they both want the other to feel better about all that water under the bridge. These two haven't seen each other in over a decade and their separation was due to a massive betrayal. Both (or at least Emma) are very different people now and they are not in love with who they are now. They don't know each other. It's possible that those ties could have reformed given time, but I'm pretty sure Neal slept with Tamara that morning (wasn't there some off color suggestion of exercising in bed?), so no.

The I love you's don't really bother me because it looked like Neal was going to die. It was a very tense moment and people say crazy things in those types of situations. Granted, this show doesn't normally take human behavior into account when writing stuff like that, but I don't think it was impossible for them to say that under pressure. Now, whether they truly love each other or not is another issue entirely.

Spoiler

It helps that Emma backtracks a little bit in the Echo Cave later on when said she wished Neal had stayed dead.

8 hours ago, andromeda331 said:

I  really wish they had done that. That was what Emma brought with her. She has street smarts.  I always loved when they let her use it. Like back when she was helping Ashley and was pointing out to Rumple that is contact wouldn't hold up in court not to mention what could come out about him. It was perfect because of course she knows all about that. She grew up in foster care. She knows courts work really hard to keep a child with their mother. Or when she clocked Hook in their fight in EF she knew how to fight.  Or knowing Eva and Nicholas were lying and showed up where they were staying. That really should have been her superpower. She knew how the LWM world worked, cellphones and other technology, and other things that gave her an edge that was different then everyone else. 

I've realized during this rewatch that Emma's street smarts, even in S1, have been few and far between. Her characters should know how the legal system works and how to put up a fight in close combat, and supposedly she can detect when people are lying. But sadly, the amount of times she's held the idiot ball or when lie detector has been faulty have greatly outnumbered the times she's lived up to being a badass bailbondsperson. Her character is setup to be street smart, but that's often thrown out in favor of whatever will keep the plot going.

A&E don't give a flip about the real world stuff, so I don't know they chose modern day Maine.

Edited by KingOfHearts
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2 hours ago, KingOfHearts said:

The I love you's don't really bother me because it looked like Neal was going to die. It was a very tense moment and people say crazy things in those types of situations. Granted, this show doesn't normally take human behavior into account when writing stuff like that, but I don't think it was impossible for them to say that under pressure. Now, whether they truly love each other or not is another issue entirely.

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It helps that Emma backtracks a little bit in the Echo Cave later on when said she wished Neal had stayed dead.

I've realized during this rewatch that Emma's street smarts, even in S1, have been few and far between. Her characters should know how the legal system works and how to put up a fight in close combat, and supposedly she can detect when people are lying. But sadly, the amount of times she's held the idiot ball or when lie detector has been faulty have greatly outnumbered the times she's lived up to being a badass bailbondsperson. Her character is setup to be street smart, but that's often thrown out in favor of whatever will keep the plot going.

A&E don't give a flip about the real world stuff, so I don't know they chose modern day Maine.

I don't really know why they chose modern day Maine either. They don't really do anything with it. Which is crazy that's why people watch fairytale characters in the modern day. To see them in a place so different from the Enchanted Forest, their reactions to our world, and interacting with people from it. Seeing Emma interacting with fairytale characters and her reactions. That's the fun part of the setting they chose but A&E never really use it or seem interested in it. 

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I mean, isnt this whole show basically all about Regina's tears anyway?

Love the flashbacks in this one, the rest...not so much. I really like their take on Peter Pan, its creepy and dark, but still fits the source material really well (the book really is quite a bit more dark than the cartoon) and makes good use of the Victorian setting. The Darlings are such a sweet family, and the actors are really good in the little time they have. And Bae is such a sweet, noble kid, and I felt so bad for him here, getting to have a happy life and family for such a short time. I wonder if Bae sneaking into the Darlings house to take the food was foreshadowing him becoming Neal? Like, it started off with him as a desperate kid in Victorian London (not a great place for orphan kids, even if you get Oliver Twist hats) and, after much suffering, lead to his life of crime? I dont know, I always struggled with how Bae turned into Neal, they seem so different. 

The present stuff, on the other hand, is pure Regina porn. Its just insane watching everyone running around like "oh no, we have to save Regina!" after she helped murder people with her mom, like two days ago! And Snow literally having to feel Regina's pain as penance for "what she did to her" is just creepy. Because, you know, when Greg wants Regina to feel pain for the murder of his innocent father, he is obviously the villain. Like, when Greg and Tamara are torturing Regina, who am I supposed to be voting for? The psychopath who was planing to murder everyone in town because they understandably didnt want her running free in their kingdom (remember what happened last time they allowed that?!?!) and murdered an innocent man for no reason? Or the guys son? Who is now some kind of random wack job, hooked with with some smug idiot who also wants to murder a bunch of people? Everyone here is awful, and yet, with the torture,and the good guys running to Regina's rescue, and tending to her wounds, the show clearly wants Regina to be the one we root for. Bleh. 

There are a few things I like about the present stuff. I like Charming comforting Emma about Neal being portaled away, in a very fatherly way. I admit to getting a bit of a kick out of hard drinking bad girl Lacey and Rumple getting their evil on. And I liked the knock down, drag out fight between Tamara and Emma. I wish we had more chances to see her actually fight people like that, because you can tell she is pretty badass about it. They were seriously going at each other too!

I do find it interesting that Neal called Rumple out for ignoring him to hang out with Lacey, even after everything he did to find him again. Its almost like the writers realized they screwed things up with them not following up at all with Neal and Rumple, and were trying to deal with it before Neal got taken off the board again. As for the infamous I Love Yous, I tend to say it was just the drama of the moment. Despite people saying how Emma and Neal were clearly still into each other, I never bought that at all.  

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For someone who supposedly became all jaded and sneaky, Neal is actually really gullible and trust people way too easily.  In addition to August, he also trusted Tamara implicitly and was really loyal to her until the truth hit him in the head.  So I think he really did mean to spend his life with Emma before August showed up.  

19 minutes ago, tennisgurl said:

I do find it interesting that Neal called Rumple out for ignoring him to hang out with Lacey, even after everything he did to find him again. Its almost like the writers realized they screwed things up with them not following up at all with Neal and Rumple, and were trying to deal with it before Neal got taken off the board again. 

The Writers occasionally do stuff like this.  They have the characters say stuff that seems to imply they had some sort of realization, but then promptly continues making their mistakes and omissions worse.

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On 10/28/2018 at 6:34 PM, Camera One said:

I do find it interesting that Neal called Rumple out for ignoring him to hang out with Lacey, even after everything he did to find him again. Its almost like the writers realized they screwed things up with them not following up at all with Neal and Rumple, and were trying to deal with it before Neal got taken off the board again. 

1

I think it was too early in the game for that -- it's never even been entirely clear the showrunners had much say in whether Neal was going to stay or go. Seems like that was a choice made higher up the food chain during the S2-S3 hiatus, or even later. So I think at this point, they were still seeing him as a long-term member of the regular cast.

To me, the whole "Lacey" thing was meant to play like a dual enchantment of both Belle and Rumpel. Belle (at least at this point in the story) represents his better instincts and desires, and after Lacey rebuffs his attempts to be "good," he embraces his cursed nature and reverts to that persona. (RC plays the later parts of the Lacey cycle almost like Gold is punch-drunk, like he's barely able to contain going Full SparkleDark.)  WIth Neal, that manifests at playing out the same mistakes he made originally: selfishly pursuing his own wants over Bae's needs. Neal then "dies" again.

As with all Rumpel stories, it has less to do with Belle or Neal (or any feeling the writers might have about Belle or Neal as characters) than putting Rumpel in a position to chose one path over another.   

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In this particular episode, I suspect that Neal "died" because they needed to take Rumpel off the board. There is still a possibility for Neal/Rumpel stuff since Neal isn't confirmed dead, but they needed Rumpel to not care and sit there doing nothing to help. If Neal was there to push his father, this isn't something they could have done. Of course, it makes Rumpel's love for Belle completely selfish and conditional since he didn't bother to do anything to save Belle either. She was Lacey and didn't love him. Bae was dead. Why should he care? 

It's the continued pattern with Rumpel. When they need him to be evil or simply uncaring, they remove Belle/Neal from his orbit and let him get on with being his true asshole self. When they need him to help or fix something, Belle/Neal show up to pull him back in line.

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I think there were a few good reasons to separate Neal from the rest of the group. 

Spoiler

1. It gives room for Captain Swan to begin.

2. It provides an emotionally resonant reason both for Hook's return and Rumple's eventual decision to join the rescue mission.

3. This may be giving the writers too much credit, given how little they seemed to care about such things, but part of the justification for saving Regina disappears if Henry hasn't just lost his father, and I can't see Neal having been on-board with Snow's moronic diner speech.

4. They already had enough players and emotional dynamics in the mix with the core Nevengers group, and didn't want to add another (though this could also have been achieved by simply having Neal go off with Rumple). 

What was silly was making everyone assume Neal was definitely dead when there really wasn't any reason to do so. Facing long odds, sure, but "We need to find a magical way of locating and trying to save him on the outside chance that he's still alive, like when Emma and Snow wound up in the EF" long, and not "What are you wearing to the funeral?" long.

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Really, Neal's existence was a really big factor in the Nevengers going off to #savehenry, and all that followed it. Which makes it all really weird that 

Spoiler

he basically ends up being a human maguffin for the rest of his run on the show, and then dies. He hardly has anything to do except motivate the other characters, spending half of his time missing or in a cage, and then he dies before really getting any closure with anyone, and is only mentioned in the context of baby Neal and how Neal was so awesome whenever they need to talk someone up. Its just such an amazing waste for a character whos existence and backstory are basically the whole reason the plot happened in the first place. 

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