Once Upon A Time, Ep. 3.01, “The Heart of the Truest Believer”: Darkness comes in the form of Peter Pan

Once Upon a Time promo pic, S03E01, "Heart of the Truest Believer"
Once Upon a Time promo pic, S03E01, "Heart of the Truest Believer"

Once Upon A Time, Season 3, Episode 1: “The Heart of the Truest Believer”
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
Directed by Ralph Hemecker
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on ABC

At the close of the second season, the writers of Once Upon a Time set our heroes (and villains) up for a nice journey to Neverland. We know, given how everything was described last season, that Neverland isn’t going to be what we grew up with and with this premiere, we are proven right. In a much more dramatic introduction than we’re used to, the third season of Once Upon a Time gets off to an intense start with the killing of Tamara and Greg mere minutes after they arrive in Neverland.

“The Heart of the Truest Believer” is full of powerful scenes and suspenseful moments. The writers do an excellent job of getting us invested into the episode right away- there’s no past Enchanted Forest storyline this week, instead jumping between our heroes in Neverland, Henry in Neverland, and Neal in the present day Enchanted Forest. Aside from the present day Enchanted Forest, the episode is extremely dark. Once Upon a Time usually has a nice balance between light and dark. If the storyline is dark in Storybrooke, then it is lighter in the past Enchanted Forest, and vice versa. Here, however, we find Neverland to be extremely dark and rather frightening. It’s a nice nod to the writers- they don’t want us visiting the happy Neverland that we grew up with and they succeed.

The cast continues to improve with each season. The intensity on the Jolly Roger when they are flying into Neverland is extremely well done. It leaves us biting our fingernails in anticipation, hoping and praying that our beloved characters would make it safely there. Each actor, from Lana Parrilla to Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas to Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue brings their A-game. In the end, the characters who have been at each others’ throats decide to actually start working together, the actors presenting this shift believably. O’Donoghue still manages to pull off his cocky Hook characteristics, Goodwin and Dallas both amplify Snow and Charming’s optimistic attitudes, and Parrilla still keeps Regina bitter and at times a bit creepy.

Once Upon a Time promo pic, S03E01, "Heart of the Truest Believer"

The special effects and the music departments both deserve shout outs here. The ferocious storm and the giant wave the CGI department created are breathtaking and the music department went the full mile in this episode. Having a great score that amplifies the emotion of each scene is important and it does not disappoint this week, contributing greatly to the edge-of-the-seat tension throughout the premiere.

Perhaps the biggest shock in the episode is, of course, the end. The entire time we are with Henry we assume that he is running away with the help of a friend- however after spiriting him away to a place where he says they will be safe, we find out this boy is actually Peter Pan. And he is not the Pan we are accustomed too. The writers, once again, outdo themselves. It will be interesting, as the season goes on, to discover why Pan is the way he is.

As they did over the past two seasons, the writers leave several questions to be answered and doors to be opened. Is Neal going to get to Neverland? Will Mulan, Philip, and Aurora help him? How are our heroes going to get home if the Jolly Roger has crashed? Will they all manage to keep their cool amongst each other? Why did Pan actually take Henry?All in all, the third season of Once Upon a Time does not disappoint. We waited all summer long for the roller coaster ride to be back up and running, and it was worth it- the writers have certainly set us up for what should be an entertaining, yet dark, season.

Joshua Bouye

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