This week’s “Tallahassee” thankfully answered some questions fans have been pondering over for quite a while (Neal’s identity, how Emma landed in jail, what August did before following Emma to Storybrooke, etc.) It also raised same more inquiries, as ‘Once Upon A Time’ always does. But let’s focus on what we’ve learned first, shall we?
Emma’s Past, From Portland to Prison: “I love you.”
As promised, “Tallhassee” flashes back to eleven years ago, when an 18 year old Emma was getting herself into trouble in Oregon. She breaks into a yellow bug and starts driving off when Neal Cassady pops up in the back seat and gives her a fright. He is amused by her thieving skill-set. Naturally, they have instant chemistry. Neal doesn’t hesitate to ask her out and cautions her to watch the road. Next thing you know, Emma runs a stop sign and gets pulled over by a cop. A smooth Neal covers for her by telling the cop that he is trying to teach his girlfriend how to drive a stick-shift. The cop leaves her with a warning and Emma realizes that she stole a stolen car. Nonetheless, she can’t deny the fact that she is drawn to Neal and their partnership quickly blossoms.
‘Once’ teases us by cutting to a pregnant Emma helping Neal rob a mini-mart, but we soon realize that she isn’t really pregnant, she was only stuffing her hidden bag full of stolen goods. They narrowly escape getting caught and sneak into someone else’s motel room to freshen up before the maids enter for housekeeping. Neal tells Emma that he thinks it is time to retire their Bonnie and Clyde act. He wants to marry Emma and settle down somewhere. She teases him about where they could possibly go- Neverland? (Cute foreshadowing- don’t you think Oncers?) Neal has her blindly point to a map and her finger lands on Tallahassee, so the couple plans to start their new life there. Unfortunately, leaving town isn’t going to be easy.
Neal comes across wanted posters that have been up ever since he stole a bunch of watches from where he last worked. He was never caught and the cops never found his stash because he hid the watches in a locker at the train station. But if he tried to get them now, he’d surely get arrested. He tells Emma that he needs to hide out in Canada alone, but she offers to pick-up the watches for him. She loves him and wants to be with him, regardless of the danger. They plan on fencing the watches, so they can start over in Tallahassee.
Emma successfully gets the watches and takes them to Neal. He promises to meet up with her after he fences the watches and he gives her one to keep. Both of them are equally excited about their future, but we all know that things don’t go according to their plan.
When Neal takes off with the watches, he is suddenly chased down by a man who turns out to be August (aka Pinocchio.) August has a chat with Neal. He can tell that Neal truly loves Emma and asks him for a favor. He explains that they both need to protect Emma now. August messed up once before when he succumbed to temptation and left Emma alone at their foster home to lead his own life. He identifies himself as her guardian angel and has spent two years tracking her down because he needs to make sure she fulfills her destiny. August bluntly tells Neal that if he stays with Emma, he will keep her from achieving her fate. He asks Neal if he believes in magic and then does something super surprising. August reveals Emma’s destiny to Neal. He opens a case that is strapped to his motorcycle to expose a convincing piece of evidence to Neal (what it is we don’t know, so add it to the growing list of questions courtesy of ‘Once’). August tells Neal the story and he shockingly believes it. Sadly, the only way to protect Emma at this point was to get her arrested.
Two months later, August and Neal meet in Vancouver. Neal is still tortured by what he has done to Emma, but August tries to assure him that they did the right thing. Emma will serve 11 months in a minimum security prison in Phoenix, where they know she will be safe. Neal gives August a package to send to Emma; it contains money from the watches he fenced, the keys to their yellow bug and a keychain he stole from the mini-mart they robbed together on the day they planned to settle down in Tallahassee. Neal also makes August promise to let him know when the curse is broken so that he can finally be with Emma. August vows to send him a postcard, which we all recall from the season premier. As the flashback finishes, Emma receives the package in prison and the guard comments on how she will leave there with a car and a baby. So everyone’s instincts were right, Neal Cassady is Henry’s father!
Post-curse Fairytale Land: “Try something new…Trust.”
Emma’s present echoes her past as she remains skeptical of the new charming thief that has entered her life. Hook, Emma & Co. stand at the foot of the gigantic beanstalk and discuss their course of action. Emma is still a little confused by the fabled magic beans and the role these giants played in the stories, so Hook sets the record straight for her. The giants used the magic beans to plunder other lands and all the beans have been used up, so the compass is their only option at this point. He also says the giants enchanted he beanstalk to keep intruders out, but Cora cast a spell on a pair of cuffs to counter-act the beanstalk’s enchantment. So, who will go up there with Hook?
The ladies begin to argue. Snow White wants to go because she understands this land better, but Emma insists that Henry is her son and she has to do this, so Snow let’s her go. Mulan equips Emma with poppy powder, which will put the giant to sleep. Emma pulls Mulan aside and has her promise to make sure that she will still get Snow White to Storybrooke if anything should happen while she is up there with Hook. She also wants Mulan to chop down the beanstalk if they don’t make it back in time. In the background Hook starts teasing the ladies for taking too long, playfully quipping, “Tic-Tock.” When he learns Emma will be joining him, he confesses that he was hoping it would be her. He also winks at Snow when she unties his cuffs and gives him back his hook, so let’s just establish the fact that Captain Hook is a flat-out flirt. We soon discover that Hook likes to lay it on pretty thick too, judging by how he banters with Emma on their climb up the beanstalk.
Emma keeps her guard up and stays quiet when it comes to chatting with Hook, but he “takes her silence as a challenge” and reads between the lines. He surmises by the familiar look in her eyes that she feels orphaned (just like the Lost Boys) and he wonders if she has ever been in love. Emma claims she has not been in love. She probably wonders if Hook is perceptive or if Cora simply knows too much and shared her insights with him. While their long, banter-filled climb continues, Snow White helps Aurora with a problem.
The ladies decide to sleep in shifts, but aurora refuses to sleep at all. Whenever she tries to sleep she has a terrible nightmare. She finds herself in a blood-red room with no doors or windows, suddenly the room catches on fire and she can see two eyes staring at her through the flames. Snow says it is a side effect of the sleeping curse and she had similar nightmares. Charming would wake her up in the night and he would light a candle, saying that it would catch the nightmares. Snow offers her motherly protection and urges Aurora to rest. Meanwhile, Hook and Emma make it to the top of the beanstalk.
The Giant’s castle has taken quite a beating. Hook says it was the location of the final battle in the human- giant war. Emma accidentally cuts her hand and Hook gently wraps it up, saying giants can smell the blood. He plans on waiting for the Giant to fall asleep and then they can sneak in, but Emma doesn’t want to waste their time waiting. She would rather lure the Giant out and knock him out with the poppy powder, so they can get the compass and go. As he finishes up wrapping her hand, Emma notices a tattoo on his arm and asks who Milah is. Hook merely says, “She’s gone,” but Emma puts it all together and realizes that Milah is the key to Hook’s vengeful agenda against Rumple. Hook acknowledges her perceptiveness and she admits that she might have been in love once before. Once Emma is bandaged, they quickly get to work.
Hook beckons the Giant with a boisterous bang and Emma blows the poppy powder in his face while he is distracted by Hook’s antics. As the Giants collapses into sleep, the dynamic duo head inside to find the compass. Hook is easily distracted by all the loot, but Emma tells him to hurry because they don’t know how long the powder lasts. Suddenly they stumble upon infamous Jack’s skeleton, with his sword still in hand. As Hook takes a step back, Emma quickly pulls him towards her to stop him from triggering the trip-wire. Again, he addresses this as a flirtatious moment, but she shakes it off and they get back to business. As they continue searching for the compass, hook urges Emma to “try something new” and trust him. Moments later the Giant storms him, causing the castle to quake.
Hook ends up under a pile of rubble and Emma tries reasoning with the Giant while in his grasp. She explains that she needs his help to get back to her son and the Giant should empathize with the importance of family. When the Giant puts her down, she traps him under the booby-trap cage and threateningly holds Jack’s poison-tipped sword close to his face. The Giant explains that the humans massacred the Giants, so he lost his family and he is all alone. He gives her the compass, saying, “I’m not the bad guy.” As for the magic beans, they were all destroyed and he wears the last one as a reminder that all humans are killers. He breaks through the cage and lets Emma go because she chose not to kill him when she had the chance to. He figures he owes her one, but she corrects him, saying that he owes her two favors.
Emma helps Hook out of the rubble and then cuffs him to the Giant’s castle. Emma wants to get a head start, just in case she is wrong about Hook and he can’t be trusted. Meanwhile, down below, Mulan starts chopping the beanstalk down, so Snow tackles her to the ground. Mulan says it is what Emma wanted, but Snow refuses to leave her daughter. Emma hops down from the beanstalk just in time to break up the fight. She says she got the Giant to detain Hook to give them a 10-hour head start. Snow pulls Emma aside and like a true mom, she tells Emma that the only way she will go back to Storybrooke is if they return together.
Storybrooke: “A candle? … It keeps the nightmares away.”
In our only glimpse of life in Storybrooke, we see Henry waking up to a terrible nightmare. When Charming rushes down to his side, Henry describes the exact same vision that Aurora had, except he can tell that a woman is staring back at him. Charming lights a candle and promises it will keep his nightmares at bay. What does the nightmare mean? Is it foreshadowing a fire? Are the piercing eyes in the flames Cora’s? Will there be a new villain? Could the fire be from Maleficent the dragon?
- Neal Cassady: Now Neal’s apartment décor makes more sense! The poor guy has been probably collecting things from fairytales for the past ten years. Granted, we already figured that Neal was Henry’s dad, but now we know that he is not a fairytale character, like Baelfire. It will be interesting to see what would happen if Neal comes to Storybrooke. How would Emma feel if she saw him again?
- August/Pinocchio: What was in the box? How many times did he interfere with Emma’s life to be sure she would end up in Storybrooke? It sure looks like he helped nudge Henry towards her when things needed to start moving along a year ago. Hopefully we’ll see Pinocchio in Storybrooke sometime soon. Maybe then we can get some more answers.
- Hook: Colin O’Donoghue has been a great addition to this cast. Hook presents a worthy adversary for Rumple. Both characters are villains you want to see more of and are even compelled to root for. His take on the character is paying off and is a nice modern twist to the typical, older version of the bitter middle-aged Hook we’ve all grown accustomed to. Get ready to see a lot more of the charming Hook towards the second half of the season.
- The Giant: It is a good thing we already know Jorge Garcia will reprise his role as the Giant because this appearance was very brief. It was surprising in all honesty and felt more like a little cameo. Hopefully, we will get to learn more about the Giant’s past and see what becomes of him after he releases Hook.
What did you think of “Tallahassee”?