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‘Once Upon a Time,’ ‘Dark Hollow’ Recap: Pirates and Mermaids Have All The Fun

ABC

For an episode that was touted as a “return to Storybrooke,” this week’s installment of ‘Once Upon A Time’ sure spent a ton of time following the characters who are stuck in the shadowy prison of Neverland, which only made me miss sunny Storybrooke even more. “Dark Hollow” had its moments, but it mostly delivered more of the same stuff we’ve been sitting through all season — the major characters wandering around Neverland’s jungle and bickering.

So let’s start with the good stuff first… Like a good little mermaid, Ariel does like she was told and swims to Storybrooke to contact Belle and find the magical device that will help Rumpelstiltskin and Regina defeat Peter Pan (If only they could feed Pan to Ruby the She-Wolf and be done with him already!). Ariel and Belle become fast friends with a lot of fun chemistry, which had me hoping we’d get to see more of them working together in Storybrooke. But while their part of the story seemed rushed, it was still great to watch their personalities clash and ultimately compliment each other. Belle was the slumping cynic who was struggling to believe in herself, but Ariel’s guileless optimism and unrestrained perkiness helped Belle get over her self doubt and succeed in her mission to protect Storybrooke and find Rumple’s magic item.

The magic item turns out to be Pandora’s Box, which is said to contain the world’s darkest evil. Belle seems a little stunned that Rumple would own such a horrible thing, but hey, if it can get Rumple back to Storybrooke in one piece and save Henry, she’s cool with it! But before Ariel can get the Box back to Rumple, she and Belle have to deal with two mysterious Storybrooke invaders sent by Pan, who steal the Box and set out to destroy it. Unlike Pan’s previous agents who were working in Storybrooke, these two guys seem more desperate to get the job done, and they actually know who they’re working for. Oh, and they have really big guns, which doesn’t impress Ariel at all because she has no idea what a gun is (Silly mermaids, they’re so blissfully ignorant! At least they’re cute). Belle and Ariel manage to get the Box back from Pan’s agents by working together, and they realize that the agents are John and Michael Darling, Wendy’s brothers from the legend of Peter Pan. They learn that Pan has kidnapped Wendy and has been making John and Michael do his bidding for years. The Darling brothers aren’t bad guys, they’re just stuck in Pan’s grip and have no choice but to do whatever he asks, or else he’ll kill Wendy (Hate that guy.).

Ariel returns to Neverland and gives the Box to Rumple, who promises to save Wendy, defeat Pan and get back to his old lady in Storybrooke ASAP. And let’s hope he can do all that very, very soon, because Pan is using Wendy to manipulate Henry into doing his bidding, and Henry is falling for the trap (Not too bright, that kid). Pan tricks Henry into believing that he must enter Neverland’s dangerous Skull Rock to “save magic,” and save Wendy from a sickness that’s overtaking Neverland. Henry agrees to venture into Skull Rock, but his mission remains a mystery.

It seems Neverland is loaded with dark and dangerous caves and crevices. Neil and Hook guide Emma to the “Dark Hollow,” a nasty place where the victims of Pan’s shadow are trapped. Their plan is to kidnap Pan’s shadow, which will help them get home. Complicating things is the love triangle between Emma, Neil and Hook, which is now in full bloom and has turned into an amusing glaring contest between the two bad boys. Hook and Neil exchange a ton of dirty looks and insults as they venture to the Hollow, and Hook outright tells Emma that she has to choose between them. While it’s clear that Emma is starting to find Hook irresistible (It’s probably that cool hook hand), she also has feelings for Neil, the father of her child. But, even though the boys keep fighting for her affections, she ultimately decides to put love on hold until Henry is safe. Hook, like a true scalawag, says Henry will be safe soon, and then the real fun will begin! Hook seems to enjoy having to earn Emma’s hand and upstaging Neil, which is entertaining to watch.

The love triangle is a lot more amusing than what’s going on with Snow and Charming. She’s still upset about him not telling her he was hit by the poison arrow and now has to live in Neverland forever. Snow gives Charming the silent treatment all throughout the episode until she finally admits what’s really bothering her: He didn’t believe in their love enough to trust her. They embrace after Snow promises to stay by his side no matter what, but it’s clear that there’s still trouble in Paradise.

While all of this drama is going down in Neverland, it’s funny to learn that the folks in Storybrooke are kinda bored without Snow and Charming around. The dwarves don’t miss the danger and craziness that seems to follow the power couple around, but Grumpy misses them and hopes they return soon.

When Snow, Charming, Emma and the rest of the group do eventually return, Storybrooke is going to be a much stranger place. Rumple and Regina will probably return as allies, which should frighten anyone who has crossed them in the past; Hook and Neil will pick up their fight for Emma, which will no doubt cause some sort of mystical trouble in the town (or at least a few beer-smashing bar fights); and Emma will return as a budding sorceress. She used magic in this episode to save Neil and Hook, and she seems to be getting better at controlling the dark arts every day. Something tells me that Emma dabbling in magic can only lead to trouble. As ‘OUAT’ has reminded us time and time again, magic always comes with a price.

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