I know a place where dreams are born
And time is never planned
It’s not on any chart
You must find it with your heart
Never Never Land
Er… actually, not so much. As tonight’s season premiere confirmed, Once Upon a Time‘s version of J. M. Barrie’s fantasy island isn’t exactly dreamy. Instead, it’s a nightmarescape overrun with creepy manchildren, murdeous merfolk, and merciless shadow-stealing shadows — and ruled by an imperious leader who’s cruel in the way that only an overly powerful child could be. See also: godlike 6-year-old Anthony in The Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” and King Joffrey from Game of Thrones.
Speaking of GoT: It’s a shame Storybrooke doesn’t get HBO. If Henry had paid attention to Theon’s story in the season 3 episode “And Now His Watch is Ended” (or read George R. R. Martin’s books, for that matter), he might have been a bit more reluctant to trust the kid who conveniently showed up right after the Lost Boys took out Greg and Tamara — a kid who, to nobody’s surprise but Henry’s, turns out to be Peter Pan himself. That’s what you get for having the Heart of the Truest Believer, kid!
Of course, Henry isn’t the only person in peril. As tonight’s episode opens, the Jolly Roger’s not-so-jolly crew members are already facing their greatest challenge: Not killing each other before they even reach Neverland’s spooky shores. Snow hates Regina; Charming hates Hook; Emma is mad at both her parents; Rumpelstiltskin isn’t angry at Emma, exactly, but he does think she’s doomed to failure because after two seasons, she still hasn’t learned to just believe in magic. Sorry, Em, but he’s got a point.
After a few last sneers and a costume change, Rumpel disappears — taking the Neverland Six’s number down to five, but hardly relieving the tension on the boat. At least everybody isn’t angry at everybody else; Emma and Hook even approach something like friendship when he tries to comfort her about Baelfire’s supposed death. Hook hands over a sword that once belonged to Rumpel’s son and even offers the Savior a much-needed drink. (Yo ho ho and a shot of rum?)
The moment is ruined, though, when the ship starts a-rockin’. Are they being attacked by sharks? Whales? A Kraken? The monstrous sea creature Scylla? Ursula?! Nope: It’s a school of angry, squealing mermaids. And instead of wanting to be where the people are, these aquatic adversaries want to drown the people. What, did Hook steal all their dinglehoppers?
NEXT: A brain… a criminal… a basket case…