‘Once Upon a Time’ Recap: ‘Save Henry’ — Another Fairy Tale Twist
This episode of 'Once Upon a Time' managed to pull off two promising tricks that just might pull this middling season out of the gutter: It left the dull Neverland jungle behind (Thank you, show!) and it managed to raise the dramatic stakes in a satisfying way with a killer cliffhanger ending.
The Neverland storyline has been tedious at worse and tolerable at best, so it's great to see the show finally fly away from that dreary locale and start a new chapter in the season. "Save Henry" was one of the best episodes of Season 3, and a lot of that had to do with the emotional backstory that revealed how Regina adopted Henry.
"Save Henry" starts out in the past, like most good episodes of 'OUAT' do, to remind us that casting her life-altering curse over the Enchanted Forest may have gotten Regina the revenge she desired, but it didn't solve all of her problems. She feels empty and alone, and so she decides to adopt a baby. Rumpelstiltskin agrees to help her find a child, but it's clear that his involvement is all part of a bigger plan he's cooking up to undo the curse. Rumpel's the one who matches Regina up with baby Henry, so it's likely that he did so to engineer Emma's return to Storybrooke and put an end of the curse. But this episode didn't explore that aspect of Henry's adoption in great detail. Instead, we got several scenes of Regina being a terrible mother.
Henry is a crybaby, and his constant weeping makes Regina more tense and stressed than ever. The joy Regina felt when she first saw baby Henry is quashed after a few days of his fussiness, and she decides to return him to the adoption agency -- but not before Snow (Henry's biological grandmother) holds him for a minute and suspiciously makes him stop crying. But Regina is convinced that her worries about Henry's true origins, not to mention the regret she has over torturing Snow and the people of the Forest, are making her a bad mother. Still, even when she tries to return Henry, she changes her mind again and brings him back home, determined to become a good mother no matter what. Regina reaches for her standard cure-all, magic, in order to smooth out the situation. She drinks a potion that's designed to make her forget her worries, troubles and fears. And she promises baby Henry that she'll never let him go. The potion seems to work; Regina calms down, Henry stops crying, and all is good. It turns out she loves the little scamp after all, and maybe she can be a decent mother. It's almost sweet. But our story isn't over yet.
Back in the present day, Regina, Emma and Snow hunt down Pan with the hope of restoring Henry's heart, which Pan stole in the last episode. With a little inspiration from Emma, Regina is able to defeat Pan -- for the moment -- and recapture Henry's heart. Regina is a total badass in this scene, cutting through Pan's magic like a boss and reaching into his chest to yank out the heart. There's something about seeing Pan squirm that's of so delightful!
So, yes, Regina, Emma and Snow manage to save Henry and release Rumple from the Pandora's Box which means that everyone, including Charming, can return to Storybrooke. After defeating Pan, they all board Hook's ship to sail away from Neverland and sail back home, with Wendy, Tinkerbell, and a group of reformed Lost Boys in tow. It looks like we're gonna get a happy ending, until ...
Pan Strikes back! The evil manchild returns to take another stab at stealing Henry's heart. But he fails thanks to a protection spell Regina casts over Henry's heart only minutes before his reappearance. Pan decided to try and steal Henry's shadow instead, but his plan is thwarted when Emma appears and traps him in the Pandora's Box. So happy ending, right? Wrong! Pan somehow switched bodies with Henry. No one has any idea that Henry is trapped in Pan's body inside the Pandora's Box and Pan is hiding inside of Henry's body, except for one of Pan's henchboys, who will no doubt help him initiate a revenge plan in the weeks to come.
This episode ended with an exciting cliffhanger, and it offered some great Regina flashback scenes and a surprising and interesting twist on the Peter Pan story it's been telling so far. But one of my favorite scenes had to be the long-awaited reconciliation between Neil and Rumpel. It was great to see them embrace and to hear Neil tell his father that he was a better man than Pan. And if these two can make up, then anything's possible.