Once Upon a Time Midseason Review: From Neverland to New York


by Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

The first half of the third season of the magical show about fairy tales and true love has come to a head and we’ve come a long way. MAJOR SPOILERS ahead so read at your own risk. Also note that while I love all of the characters, I am an unabashed fan of Captain Hook and Emma Swan, so keep that in mind.

When season three began our main characters (Emma, Snow, Charming, Regina, Rumplestilskin, and Captain Hook have boarded the Jolly Roger and sailed through a portal to Neverland in order to save a kidnapped Henry.  We soon discover that Henry’s captor is Peter Pan, and like all of the fairy tale counterparts on the show, is much different than the character we remember. In truth, Pan is a twisted and evil little manipulator who wants Henry because he has the heart of the truest believer. Once on Neverland our rescue team must put aside their animosity and differences as they face great peril and unexpected turns of events. Meanwhile, Storybrooke takes a back seat and is not properly seen until episode 7.

Like any fan of the show I have my personal favorite storylines and characters, but I think many will agree that the third season has truly recaptured the magic, helped not only by a clear cut objective and focus on our main characters, but also by having all 11 episodes run in a row (with the exception of only one week). Trust me this helps a great deal as far as continuity, flow and over all enjoyment of the storyline. I will also say that although I loved season 2, this year I felt a renewed sense of wonder and after each episode I could not wait for the next one.

Without a doubt my favorite aspect of this season has been the blossoming romance between the savior Emma Swan, and the charming pirate Captain Hook, real name Killian Jones. This has been steadily developing since Season 2 when they climbed a beanstalk together, and has progressed from attraction to deep affection, especially on our dear Captain’s end. I have thoroughly enjoyed his character development. As we see in his back story episode “Good Form” (my favorite episode of the season thus far), Hook was once a lieutenant in the royal navy, along with his older brother Liam. He was an earnest and innocent sailor who believed in honor, fighting fairly, and that drinking rum leads to bad form. When they are tasked to retrieve a poisonous plant from Neverland called dreamshade, they are unaware of its true nature and Killian’s brother dies in the process. His innocence is lost and the pirate is born. What I loved was seeing that more honorable side begin to shine through again. The bravado is still there but so too was sincerity. Emma takes note especially when Hook helps to save the life of her father, leading to a steamy first kiss and a Princess Bride reference of “As You Wish.” Kissing Emma exposed how deeply he was falling for her and he lets his intentions be known telling her that when he wins her heart, it will be because she truly wants him. Their swoon worth romance is shaping into a beautifully epic love story.

Coming in a close second, my next favorite development was that of Hook and Charming’s “relationship”- a bromance of sorts. As Charming reminded Hook of the brother he lost the two began to understand each other. What I like is that male friendships are rarely seen on the show. Did Charming have any male friends? Did Hook? Yes, I suppose if your count the dwarves and Hook’s crew, but that’s not really the same. Perhaps Charming will now be more accepting of Hook’s affection for his daughter.

A common theme this season has also been redemptive arcs for our villains. The least treacherous of the three, Hook has proved that he can be the unselfish and honorable man he once was, while our other two antagonists Regina and Rumplestilskin proved that they can do what’s right sacrificing their own happiness for the greater good. This is unsurprising to me as their motivations always stemmed from love and the loss of it. The unexpected plot twists were also a highlight thus far. Robin Hood is Regina’s soul mate! Peter Pan is Rumplestilskin’s father! Once they save Henry they need to save him again as he and Pan switch bodies! Poor Wendy Darling has been Pan’s captive for a century (that’s a long time to wear the same nightgown)! This show is no stranger to plot twists and these were no exception.


Newcomers to the cast were absolutely fantastic and their introductions added to the overall framework instead of detracting from it. Robbie Kay made a deliciously devious Peter Pan and Rose McIver was a wonderfully spunky Tinkerbell. And since a mermaid was first mentioned in Season 1, I have been waiting to meet Ariel and her Prince Eric. Joanna Garcia Swisher and Gil McKinney could not have been more perfect and scored a 10 on the adorable scale in their episode “Ariel.”

When we arrived at the midseason finale “Going Home” the arcs for all of the storylines had reached their climax, but little did I expect the emotional and game changing events. Rumple finally allows the prophecy to be fulfilled. The boy was his undoing, except it wasn’t Henry, it was Pan. Killing his own father, Rumple also died. Or did he? That is unclear as he simply disappeared leaving a devastated Belle and son Neal in the process. Even more emotional (at least for me) a new curse is looming over Storybrooke threatening to erase all of their memories again. Regina can stop it with a counter curse, but it comes with a price- her price. She has to say goodbye to the one she loves most- Henry. Everyone will go back to the Enchanted Forest, prevented from ever returning, except for Henry. And because she is the savoir and must take care of her son, Emma can once again escape the curse. Emma doesn’t want to leave her family, but that’s not an option. She has to go and the heartbreak of this revelation is felt by everyone.  Talk about reaching into our chests and pulling out our hearts. Since the beginning, the moments that always brought me to tears were quite similar: In “A Land Without Magic” when Emma breaks the curse by kissing her son, for true love can be between a mother and child, and in “Broken when family and friends had their memories restored and were happily reunited. In “Going Home” our characters meet at the town line to bid Emma and Henry farewell. Mothers and their children, and past and possible future romantic lovers, all these goodbyes were emotionally powerful. Significantly, saying goodbye to Hook last Emma barely held back tears and he manages to make her smile declaring that not a day will go by that he will not think of her, to which she replies simply “Good.” It was a small, but touching and hopeful moment where Emma is able to happily accept love, even if they may never see each other again.

As if saying goodbye was not sad enough, then comes the final blow. When the curse sends everyone back to the Enchanted Forest, Storybrooke will vanish, and so too will Emma’s and Henry’s memories of it. Our beloved fairy tale characters will just go back to being stories. But Regina can give them new memories where they will have always been together and they can live a happy future as a family. As Emma and Henry drive away the last ones you see engulfed by the curse are Hook, Snow, Charming and Regina. The town disappears, and in the rear view mirror Emma’s expression is serene as her new memories envelop her. The music swells (can Mark Isham win an Emmy please) playing a variation of “Emma’s Song” that is equally somber and hopeful, as the screen fades to black. If this scene does not make you cry, then I don’t know what will.

The tears were flowing heavily for me but the feeling turned quickly to shock as they pull a Lost-esque flash forward (these are the same writers) and jump to one year ahead. We are in New York City. Emma’s alarm goes off at 8:15. This time holds great significance. This is the time that Henry was born, Bae was taken to Neverland, Emma decides to stay in the Storybrooke, August begins to turn back into wood, and Emma breaks the curse. This morning, we see that she and Henry are living a blissfully ignorant life in a posh apartment. The song “Charley’s Girl” plays, a nice connection to the season 2 opener “Broken.” In both instances it is an indicator that life is about to change. As Emma and Henry sit down to breakfast, he says, “Mom, you forgot something.” Yeah, no kidding! He meant the cinnamon for his hot chocolate, but that is a great line. Then there is a knock on the door. Emma opens it to none other than our dashing Captain Hook, whose look of love is undeniable. When he said he was in this for the long haul he meant it. Clearly he had thought of his Swan every day, and now in true fairy tale, Snow White and Prince Charming fashion, he found her. Truly the amount of parallels on this show is remarkable. It just goes to show how masterfully crafted the show is. Go back and watch previous episodes and you will be amazed. But I digress. Hook is so happy to see Emma, but he has urgent news. Her family is in trouble and he needs her help. He knows she doesn’t remember him, but believe he can make her. Trying true love’s kiss, she kicks him away, as he says he knew that was a long shot but had to try. As he implores her to listen she slams the door in his face. Obviously Hook did not get the memo that true love’s kiss does not work on memory loss as both Charming and Rumple failed to bring back Snow and Belle’s memories with such. But the fact that he tried says so much. Not only of his love for her, but that he has what Once Upon a Time is truly about- finding hope even in the darkest of times.

The first half of season 3 did what any good story should: engage, enlighten, and move. Once Upon a Time is moving into new, exciting, and romantic directions that I am loving tremendously. What will happen next? What truly happened to Rumplestlskin? Will Regina find love with Robin Hood? Is Archie a cricket again? What danger is Emma’s family in? How did Hook return to the land without magic, how long has he been searching, and will he help Emma regain her memories? We will have to wait until March 9th to find out, but I am hopeful the second half of season 3 will be just as magical. I have hope that Belle and Neal will try to find Rumple still alive, that Snow and Charming will be saved from whatever danger they’re in and be reunited with their daughter, that love will prevail for Emma and her Captain, and that Hook may actually change his clothes. Happy endings are not always what we expect them to be, so the ways in which these fairy tales unfold will no doubt be surprising. I am just happy to be a part of the story.

Favorite Lines:

3×01“The Heart of the Truest Believer”

Neal: They made a movie about you. It’s actually pretty good.

Mulan: What’s a movie?

Snow: Undo the spell! Bring back the mermaid!

Regina: And what? You’ll win her over with your rainbow kisses and unicorn stickers!

3×02 “Lost Girl”

Hook: Just who are you Swan?

Emma: Wouldn’t you like to know?

Hook: Perhaps I would.

3×04“Nasty Habits”

Rumplestiltskin: (To Neal): You’re my happy ending.

3×05 “Good Form”

Charming: When you send that message to Henry add something to it for me. Tell him Grandpa loves him.

Charming: I had a brother too, you know. A twin. He died before I ever met him.

Hook: There were two of you? I can barely stomach one.

Charming: You would have liked him. He was a thief and a liar.

Hook: You would’ve liked my brother. He could be a stubborn ass.

Emma: Did you really save his life?

Hook: Does that surprise you?

Emma: Well you and David aren’t exactly, how would you say it, mates.

Hook: Doesn’t mean I’d leave your father to perish on this island.

Emma: Thank you.

Hook: Perhaps gratitude is in order now.

Emma: Yeah, that’s what the thank you is for.

Hook: Is that all your father’s life is worth to you?

Emma: Please, you couldn’t handle it.

Hook: Perhaps you’re the one who couldn’t handle it.


Hook: That was…

Emma: A one time thing. Don’t follow me. Wait five minutes, go get some firewood or something.

Hook: As you wish.

3×06 “Ariel”

Ariel: He’s just as I remembered. Less wet, but more handsome.

Snow: Do the hard thing. Be honest. No secrets. Open your heart to love. It is so worth the risk.

Hook: (To Emma) My secret is I never thought I’d be capable of letting go of my first love, my Milah. To believe that I could find someone else. That is until I met you.

3×07 “Dark Hollow”

Ariel: I’m not afraid of you or your gun, and not just because I don’t know what it is.

Emma: You chose your friend?

Hook: Does that surprise you?

Emma: You are a pirate.

Hook: Yeah that I am. But I also believe in good form. So when I win your heart Emma, and I will win it, it will not be because of any trickery. It will be because you want me.

3×10 “The New Neverland”

Emma: You’re sure you don’t have other reasons for pushing me towards Neal?

Charming: Like what?

Emma: Keeping me away from Hook.

Charming: You think I’m interested in Hook? Emma I’m a married man.

3×11 “Going Home”

Tinkerbell: (To Hook) For the record, I know why you risked your life back there, and it wasn’t for yourself or revenge. It was for Emma.

Snow: Emma you have to go.

Emma: I just found you.

Snow: And now it’s time for you to leave us again, for your best chance. For his.

Emma: No, no, I’m not done. I’m the savior right? I’m supposed to bring back all the happy endings, that’s what Henry always said.

Snow: Happy endings aren’t always what we think they will be. Look around you. You’ve touched the lives of everyone here.

Emma: But we’re a family.

Snow: Yes, and we always will be. You gave us that.

Regina: I’m the villain. You heard Mr. Gold. Villains don’t get happy endings.

Henry: You’re not a villain. You’re my Mom.

Hook: There’s not a day will go by I won’t think of you.

Emma: Good.

What do think of Season 3 so far? What have been your favorite moments or lines? Leave a comment.

Rating 5 out of 5 stars.


  1. HeatherDecember 23rd, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I love this review so much!! This season of OUAT has been amazing. I can’t wait for the second half and for more Emma & Killian growing closer and seeing Regina & Robin finally meet! All of my favorite lines were the ones you included. March 9th needs to get here soon!

  2. Len84December 23rd, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    This is a great review, picking out what the narrative is saying and the moments in the show and characters

    And like you i am rooting for Emma/Hook because i see it on the show, what they are building way back from the beanstalk days and Hook has the qualties that Emma deserves in a man, to read her and understand her and fight for by her side, support her and build her up and unconditionally love her etc… and its not even a word shipping to describe them or even Snowing and Rumbelle, what matters is the build up between these character developing and designed to see how well they connect and build up… so yes i root for them!
    And like you i can see narrative point of each arc and how it fits.

    Cannot wait for the 2nd half…

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