'Peter Pan' gets a sinister rewrite as we barrel toward next week's finale

By Hillary Busis
April 30, 2015 at 08:45 PM EDT
Jack Rowand/ABC
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Is the world ready for a darker, grittier reworking of Peter Pan that casts Neverland as an island prison populated by terrified orphans and morphs Peter’s mischievous shadow into a sinister kidnapper with scary, glowing robot eyes?

Initially, your answer might be “no” — but if you really think about J.M. Barrie’s supposedly whimsical creation, you’ll realize that it’s actually pretty dark to begin with. Peter is a selfish, arrogant jerk whose eternal youth necessarily makes him incapable of emotional growth. On top of that, he’s so terrified of both maturity and intimacy that he refuses to let Mrs. Darling adopt him at the end of the story, choosing instead to stay stuck in a state of arrested development forever — something that seems totally cool when you’re a kid, but terribly sad once you’ve gotten a little older.

And then there’s the unhappy story of the kids who inspired Pan, most of whom died under tragic circumstances. (The biggest bummer of all: Peter Llewelyn Davies, a.k.a. Pan’s namesake, killed himself after descending into alcoholism and learning that his children, as well as his wife, had all inherited Huntington’s Disease. Sorry to harsh your Once buzz, everyone.)

So, long story short: I dig how Kitsis and Horowitz are twisting this particular story, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to play out in the finale (and season 3) — especially since we haven’t even met Peter himself yet.

Those who guessed long ago that Baelfire would turn out to be the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up should feel free to award themselves partial credit. Bae isn’t Pan — but he does begin life in our world in Kensington Gardens, and he’s also got a special connection with the Darling family.

Six months after falling through that fateful portal, landing in London, and transforming into a Dickensian street urchin, a hungry Bae sneaks into a random schmancy house and finds three unsliced loaves of bread inexplicably sitting on a table. He starts devouring the stuff, only to be discovered first by a large, fluffy dog — Nana! — and then by Wendy herself, an outgoing girl just around Bae’s age. The two become fast friends, and Wendy manages to shelter her new street rat pal for weeks before her parents catch on. Even after the secret’s out, though, the Darlings still let Bae stay in their house and sleep in the same room as their pubescent daughter. Man, parents were laid back in Edwardian England.

NEXT: Peter Pan has nothing on Home Alone

Unfortunately, Bae’s permanent slumber party is threatened by the appearance of a mystical being: The Shadow, a mute, wraith-like entity that stalks the Darling children by night and somehow does not totally creep Wendy out. (Maybe that’s because this sound doesn’t play when The Shadow arrives.) Bae, though, senses that the thing is bad news. He makes Wendy promise never to open her window for it, and Wendy reluctantly agrees… then immediately goes back on her word, merrily flying off to Neverland with the shadow the next time it stops by. Flakiness, thy name is teenage girldom.

When Wendy reappears the next morning, though, she’s changed her tune. She mournfully tells Bae that The Shadow’s home is kind of awful — and that it’s called Neverland because he never lets any of the children he’s taken there leave. The Shadow did, however, bring Wendy home… but only because he’s decided he’d rather have one of her brothers instead. Hey, maybe she’ll pull a Mulan and step in in Michael or John’s place!

Or maybe not. Bae promises Wendy that he won’t let The Shadow tear her family apart. Instead, they’ll fight the thing by lighting a bunch of candles, grabbing croquet mallets and other sundries to use as makeshift weapons, and spreading jacks along the windowsill (?). Thought oughtta do it.

Unfortunately, these kids are no Kevin McCallisters. The Shadow easily gets past their brilliantly devised impediments, forcing Bae to sacrifice himself so that the Darlings won’t be torn asunder. (Well, unless The Shadow simply returns to the Darling house after depositing Bae in Neverland. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants?)

In no time at all, Rumpelstiltskin’s son is traveling with The Shadow over London’s roofs, past Big Ben, and into the ocean that surrounds Neverland. There, he manages to escape the thing’s misty grasp. (Uh oh; Melisandre will not be pleased.) And who happens to be sailing nearby when Bae hits the water? That’s right: None other than Captain Killian “Hook” Jones, the man who seduced Bae’s mother and has devoted his life to trying to kill Bae’s father. That’s gonna be one awkward boat ride.

Phew! I got so wrapped up in the fairyback that I almost forgot everything else that happened tonight. To start: Growen and Tamara have taken Regina to Storybrooke’s cannery, where they’re torturing her with a Milgram electroshock machine that actually works. We learn that these two are apparently soldiers of some greater anti-magic conspiracy; Tamara is intent on passing data along to “the home office,” but Growen is preoccupied with trying to find out where his father is. The whole thing is too unseemly even for Hook, who excuses himself as soon as the electrodes emerge.

Regina is taking the torture like a champ, even pausing every now and then to snark at Growen and Tamara — but even she won’t be able to hold out forever. Luckily, Emma and the Charmings have realized the queen is missing and are working to track her down. (Finding the magic beans she stole may also be serving as motivation.)

Snow and David head off to Rumpel in search of a location spell to find Regina. Emma, who’s still suspicious of Tamara, tries once more to find some evidence that might incriminate Bae’s fiancee. All she ends up with is a handful of sand and a heaping pile of embarrassment, the final haul from history’s saddest Christmas. But hey, at least in the process she learns that Bae only left her because August talked him into it. Nothing like transferring your rage onto a helpless 7-year-old puppet boy.

NEXT: Emma Swan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Portal

Charming and Snow are slightly more successful. Using Rumpel’s patented Two-Tear Potion, they’re able to determine that Regina is tied up somewhere that smells like sardines. Is she stuck in Storybrooke Grocery’s cat food aisle? Could she be trapped unda the sea? Nope — Emma realizes this means the queen must be in the cannery, mostly because she happens to be walking by the cannery when Charming and Snow are telling her what they’ve found.

So the sheriff, her parents, and her baby daddy all head to the site of Regina’s captivity, where the sh– officially hits the fan. Growen sees that the Fantastic Four are closing in on him and starts torturing Regina even harder, finally getting her to admit that she killed his father way back in 1983. His response is to shock her shock her shock her, until the queen is on the brink of death — which is when Charming and Snow burst in, just in the nick of time. Rather than capturing Growen and then taking Regina to get some magical healing, they let her torturer run free. Something tells me they’re going to regret that choice come next Sunday.

The Charmings relay what’s happened to Emma, who’s simultaneously relieved and disappointed to learn that Growen was actually the bad guy all along. And then her Spidey Senses are proven right when Tamara shows up and smacks Emma on the head with a blunt object. Even though he also hates magic, Bae is horrified to learn that his fiancee is a zealot with a fierce anti-magic agenda — oh, and that she’s been playing him this whole time. Tamara, cold as ice, shoots him in the chest and then moves in to finish the job…

… which is when Emma awakens and kicks the gun out of her rival’s hands. Hooray, the good guys are going to win after all! Except, wait: Tamara has one more trick up her evil sleeve of lies. She pulls out a magic bean, tosses it on the ground, and scampers away as the resulting vortex begins to suck in both Emma and a gravely wounded Bae. Emma can’t draw him out of the undertow — and Bae tells her to stop trying, since Henry doesn’t deserve to lose both of his biological parents in one day. They barely have time to tearfully admit that they still love each other before Bae has once again disappeared through a hole to another world. Anyone else feel like they’ve got a bit of fairy dust in their eyes?

Perhaps the worst thing about all of this? Emma and co. barely have time to grieve for their possibly fallen comrade… because as a healing Regina has just informed them, Growen and Tamara hold the key to destroying Storybrooke for good. And in order to achieve “the next phase” of their big evil plan, that’s exactly what the baddies intend to do. Man your battle stations, everyone: Another storm’s a’brewing. And this time, our heroes will need more than true love’s kiss to stop it.

NEXT: So much for science!

Breadcrumbs

– Did you know that Peter Llewelyn Davies met Alice Liddell — a.k.a. the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland — when he was in his 30s and she was 80? Their encounter inspired a pretty awesome-sounding play that’s currently running in London.

– Young Bae’s noticeably deepened voice: More or less jarring than Bran Stark’s noticeably deepened voice?

– As his son is disappearing and possibly dying, Rumpelstiltskin’s having a grand old time forcing Frankenstein to kiss his shoe and conjuring plastic jewelry out of thin air for his trashy girlfriend. Maybe losing Bae for a second time will knock some sense into him.

– Rumpel’s also letting Lacey encourage him to kill his own grandson. Is Lacey by chance a Once Upon a Time viewer?

– Oh hey, Rumpel just happens to have a vial filled with one of Regina’s tears! How did he get it? (Maybe he told her that tiny hats are stupid?)

– It’s a hard-knock life for Bae —  he gets to live with the Darlings, but he has to sleep on the floor.

– Anyone else think it’s funny that Snow wants to find and save Regina — but only because she thinks doing so might help repair her own blackening heart? I feel like heroic acts done in the name of selfishness shouldn’t count.

– Should we believe that Growen’s father is really dead? I wouldn’t put it past Regina to direct the guy to dig up some other skeleton.

– We don’t know much about the organization/group/cabal/Initiative Growen and Tamara apparently work for. But given the way Tamara characterizes magic — “Magic does not belong in this world. It’s unholy. We’re here to cleanse this land of it” — it seems like it might have a religious element. Maybe the whole thing is run by Judge Frollo?

– Also, a little nitpick, but: How did Tamara know precisely when to get to the beach, ensuring that she’d run into Bae and Emma?

– There are mermaids in Neverland! If Ariel appears next week, I may die of happiness.

– Remember that anti-magic cuff Regina was tricked into putting on, the indestructible one made of “the toughest metals and machinery known to man”? Well, the Blue Fairy apparently removed it. So much for science!

Will Storybrooke live to see season 3? What about Bae? What could Growen and Tamara’s “home office” be? And where the heck is Peter Pan? Discuss below — and don’t forget to speculate about who, exactly, will end up in Neverland before the finale’s through.

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Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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