Once Upon a Time Season 3 Review “Save Henry”

Once Upon a Time Season 3 Episode 9 "Save Henry" (4)

Continuing the theme of the season, Once Upon a Time mustered up a so-so episode that had some good parts and some really bad parts. After an eternity in Neverland, we’re finally heading back to Storybrooke. The big question is whether the change has been too long coming and viewers may not recover from Pan-fatigue. I’m optimistic that a rebound is possible (the same can’t be said for Once Wonderland), but I have serious concerns because of Henry.

We finally learn how Regina came to adopt Henry. Though the curse gives her everything she could possibly want, Regina discovers that she is still lonely so she asks Gold to procure her a child. Gold locates Henry and arranges for the adoption. Once the baby arrives, Regina is quickly frustrated by her inability to soothe his perpetual crying. Then she learns that the baby is the grandson of Charming and Snow White and decides to give him back. At the last minute, Regina learns the meaning of motherhood and changes her mind.

What I liked most about this story is that it shows Regina is not pure evil. It’s always bothered me how dismissive Henry was of Regina once Emma came to town. Regina is the only real mother he’s ever known and it appears as though she actually took pretty good care of him. It was also nice to have Emma acknowledge this by letting Regina make some of the decisions in Neverland in trying to get Henry back. Lana Parilla should be given a lot of credit for giving the show some emotional depth.

But, the problem with Henry is, well, Henry. I’ve never been a huge fan, but this season, he’s really shown himself to be the albatross around the show’s neck. I knew that there is no way that Peter Pan would actually kill Henry by stealing his heart. This is a family show and child murder would probably not be a popular decision. But as we’ve seen with other shows recently (e.g., Family Guy, Person of Interest), sometimes a big change can be just the thing to shake things up – for better or worse. So, maybe a letting Henry fall like lead into the sea and sleep with the fishes wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

This gang teams up to steal Henry’s heart back from Pan, which they manage to do thanks to Regina. Henry’s return to health is short lived as Pan tracks him down and tries to take his heart again. That plan doesn’t work because Regina casts a spell to protect him, so Plan B is to for Pan to steal Henry’s shadow. Maybe? This was honestly all a bit confusing. Rumplestiltskin stops the attack and imprisons Pan in Pandora’s Box. Well, not quite. We see at the end of the episode that Pan now inhabits Henry. This is where things head down the path that only goes south.

I don’t want to bash a kid, so let me try to put this delicately. Being a child actor is undoubtedly challenging and certain kids have a more innate talent for it than others. Playing a character who plays another character adds another layer of difficulty that can prove too difficult for some actors (think Eliza Dushku playing Buffy trapped in Faith’s body). I think Once Upon a Time is just asking way too much of Jared Gilmore. He struggles, mostly unsuccessfully, to portray Henry, so adding the extra layer of Pan as Henry is a recipe for disaster.

It will be an improvement to have the gang back in Storybrooke, but I worry about where this Peter Pan/Henry storyline is heading. The previews for the next episode look disappointing, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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