Tinker Bell joins the show -- though that's not what'll have everyone talking
Once Upon A Time
Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC

I have to level with you guys: Until about 8:55 p.m., I wasn’t really feeling this episode.

Though the hour featured four separate storylines — the Magical Breakfast Club’s journey to find Tinker Bell, Tink’s “complicated” history with Regina, Henry’s life among the Lost Boys, and Bae’s plan to get from the Enchanted Forest to Neverland — none of those plots felt particularly vital. What’s more, a fairyback centered on actual fairies meant even more — and worse — CGI than usual, as well as a ton of cheesetastic dialogue delivered with painful earnestness (“I will be the judge of what is fairy-like!”). The third season’s first few episodes each had their moments, but by the time 9 o’clock was nigh, I had begun to think “Quite a Common Fairy” might be this year’s first dud.

And that’s when we learned that Mulan was in love with Princess Aurora.

Whoa! Time out! In Onceworld,everyone has his or her own One Twue Wuv. But while those pairs don’t always hail from the same background or even the same species — we’ve seen dwarf/fairy, genie/human, even immortal giggling imp/bibliophile — they have always included one female being and one male being.

This makes Mulan’s attraction to Aurora a pretty huge milestone. Given both characters’ ultra-heteronormative histories — and a general lack of LGBT characters in Disney properties — this twist is an even bigger deal. Remember, too, that Aurora isn’t the first recipient of Mulan’s unrequited love; back in the beginning of season 2, the warrior maiden had a thing for Aurora’s own Twue Wuv, Prince Phillip. That means Mulan isn’t simply a lesbian — she’s bisexual, not to mention one of the few bisexual characters on TV whose orientation isn’t a ready-made punchline. (Looking at you, Glee.)

TL;DR: Mulan’s big moment was pretty awesome, and we should all be impressed with Jane Espenson for somehow managing to queer up a figure included in the Disney Princess lineup… without even making her sexuality into some giant, character-defining thing.

Anyway. Other stuff happened tonight too! Stuff like the aforementioned introduction of Tinker Bell, a wannabe bigshot fairy (much like Nova) who breaks fairy law due to a chance encounter with a ground-walker (much like Nova). The difference: Though Nova didn’t end up running away with her dwarf paramour and thus got to keep her wings, Tink was stripped of her own wings after deliberately disobeying the Blue Fairy and stealing some of her precious pixie dust. (How is pixie dust different from fairy dust? “It’s stronger,” David explains. “Like nuclear fairy dust.” Except he pronounces it “nuke-ular,” which makes him a lot less charming.)

NEXT: And this time, clapping’s not enough to save her {C} The biggest bummer of all: Tink stole for a good reason. She was just trying to help a despondent, newly married Regina, who hadn’t yet made the full transition into evil queendom. The two met when Tink saved Regina from certain death; they bonded at a boozy brunch, where talk naturally turned to boys. (At this point in the timeline, Tink is a Carrie and Regina is a sad Charlotte.) Tink promised to help Regina find her second soulmate, with the help of that contraband dust. Regina went along with the plan, but chickened out at the last moment, walking away from her New Wuv and leaving Tink to feel the Blue Fairy’s wrath.

At some point in the 40-odd years that have passed since that point — including 28 curse years — Tinker Bell ended up in Neverland, where she apparently befriended Pan. Or at least, Pan has reason to trust her; it’s tough to say whether that little creep is capable of actual friendship.

Tink has also crossed paths with Hook. In the present day, he wants to ask the fairy to help the MBC infiltrate Pan’s ever-moving camp. (Question: Is a fairy even still a fairy if she’s lost her wings?) The gang sets off in search of Tink, though Regina protests that the ex-pixie is never going to help them. Little do they know, but Tink herself — looking much less bright-eyed and bushy-skirted than in the fairyback — is actually tracking their every move. Man, what is it about mysterious island jungles that transforms friendly blond ladies from Down Under into feral nutbars?

Eventually, Tink shows herself, drugs Regina (with poppies… poppies!), and drags the queen off to a secluded clearing, where she threatens to make Regina pay for ruining her. Regina, badass that she is, totally calls the fairy’s bluff. She tears out her own heart (!) and hands it over to Tink, urging her to crush it if she really wants vengeance. But if Tink goes through with murder, Regina warns, she’ll be no better than Regina herself — and her own heart will soon grow cold and black and coated in cheap plastic, just like Regina’s.

The queen’s cautionary tale, plus her obvious love for her adopted son, is enough to convince Tink not to take her revenge after all. But while she doesn’t plan to kill Regina anymore, she doesn’t plan to help her either. Or at least, Tink doesn’t plan to help until the rest of the MBC shows up and offers to take her with them when they leave Neverland with Henry in tow. Perhaps suddenly feeling four decades’ worth of vitamin D deficiency, Tink agrees. Time to kick Operation [Rescue] Henry into high gear.

NEXT: There’s just one problem… …which is that, as Pan said, Henry may not exactly be an unwilling captive by the time the Rescuers arrive.

Despite the kid’s (somewhat irritating) innate goodness, Stockholm syndrome seems to be settling in, at least a tiny bit. Sure, the Lost Boys are scary and callous and marked by a halitosis that strikes only after centuries of neglected oral hygiene — but they’re also kinda fun, if poisoned arrow play and knife fights are your thing.

More importantly, Pan has told Henry what the boy has perhaps always wanted to hear: that he’s not just the son of a savior, but a savior himself as well. (A religious allegory just in time for the Christmas season!) See, according to Pan, the world’s magic is dwindling. What’s more, the only person who can stop the inevitable drought is Henry — the spawn of both light (Charming/Snow’s line) and dark (Rumpel’s line). Henry doesn’t believe Pan’s story, maybe because it feels too good to be true… until he sees the drawing of him Pan’s been saving and realizes that Peter really has been searching for Henry for decades.

Know who else remembers that prophetic drawing? Baelfire, who surmises that if Emma’s in Neverland, she must be trying to rescue Henry from Pan’s grasp. He digs through his father’s closet of wonders, searching for a way to make a portal… then comes up with a plan B when some Merry Men, including Hagrid Little John, enter the room with Robin Hood’s son Roland.

Apparently, any boy can summon Pan’s menacing shadow just by standing in front of a window and saying, “I believe.” Be careful while singing The Darkness to your own reflection, kids! Little Hood is therefore the perfect bait; he calls the shadow to him, Mulan saves the boy from the shade’s wretched grasp, and Bae latches onto it just as it’s heading back to Neverland. Well, that was easy! The Enchanted Forest crew gets more accomplished in 10 minutes than the MBC has in three whole episodes.

Before you can say “father and child reunion,” Bae has landed on Neverland’s not-so-sunny shores, where Felix greets him with a creepy grin. This new development may put a damper on Henry’s savior complex — not to mention Emma and Hook’s blossoming whatever. Good thing the pirate brought plenty of rum with him.

NEXT: Wait, Regina’s other Twue Wuv is who? Breadcrumbs

– If Hook er, hooks up with Emma, he’ll have gotten with Bae’s Twue Wuv AND the guy’s mother. Eww.

– I’m a little proud that I predicted Mulan/Aurora way back at the very beginning of season 2 — though I never, ever thought the show would actually go in that direction

– Also, Aurora’s pregnant. Wait, are she and Phillip even married? Homoeroticism and unwed parenthood in one episode?! When did ABC turn into ABC Family?

– When visiting Regina in a fairyback, Rumpel notes the delicacies laid out on her dining table: “Roast swan! That’s amusing,” he giggles. “You’ll get that later.”

– I really wish someone would remind us what dreamshade is, or what it does!!

– Regina’s Simmering Rage is the name of my new riot grrrl cover band. The Queen of Nothing is our opener.

– Henry is given a poisoned arrow and told to point it at Felix, but at the last second, he aims for Pan (who easily catches and discards the projectile). Think he’s read Mockingjay?

– More silly fairy talk, though this line was at least (I think) supposed to be funny: “You’ve already broken every rule in the book — curfew, dust discipline. You got big for no reason!”

– Oh yeah — Regina’s other soulmate? None other than Robin Hood, tattooed hottie of Sherwood Forest. Evidently, she almost met Robin years before convincing the genie to kill her husband and going full Evil Queen.

– More fun with timelines: Robin broke into Rumpel’s castle for the first time when Belle was living with the Dark One; his now-late wife (Maid Marian) gave birth and died soon after. Since Roland is 4 years old, that means Belle came to Rump at least three years before the curse. The kid must have been 3 when it hit, then began aging again when Emma came to Storybrooke and the Enchanted Forest became unfrozen.

– Poor Tink; when the Blue Fairy says she doesn’t believe in Ms. Bell and her wings get stripped away, she goes from appropriately attired fairy to grown-ass woman in a goofy leotard.

– Hey, did you hear that Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas are engaged IRL? Talk about your happy endings!

– Did you check out OUAT in Wonderland, and if so, what did you think? Judging from the amount and tenor of comments on the show’s inaugural recap, I’m not sensing an enthusiastic reception.

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Once Upon a Time

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

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