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Once Upon A Time, Ep. 3.04, “Nasty Habits”: Old habits are the hardest to break

Once Upon A Time, Ep. 3.04, “Nasty Habits”: Old habits are the hardest to break

Once Upon a Time, "Nasty Habits", S03E04 promotional picture

Once Upon A Time, Season 3, Episode 4: “Nasty Habits”
Written by David H. Goodman &  Robert Hull
Directed by David Boyd
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on ABC

This week Once Upon a Time pulls us in with a punch, literally. Neal breaks away from the lost boy that kidnapped him and the storyline dives right in. We find out quickly that the backstory this week will be about Rumple and Bae’s time in the Enchanted Forest.

Unlike the previous episode, this week’s Once holds to the usual structure, with one backstory and two present day storylines. Interestingly, within the first ten minutes the writers find a convenient way to take Tinkerbell out of the picture. This is just sad- Rose McIver is a welcome addition to the group and this takes away hope (for now) that we’ll delve further into Tinkerbell’s past and current development.

“Nasty Habits” is a breath of fresh air after the crammed ride that was last week’s episode. It also brings back a glimmer of delight in the form of Robert Carlyle as Rumple. The way that Carlyle handles the character in both present day and past storylines is always fascinating to watch. We get to see him dive into Rumple’s vulnerable side with this story. The emotions and conflicts that Carlyle manages to portray are exciting to watch. He pulls us in, making us feel sorry for Rumple, but angry at the same time. Carlyle is definitely one of the biggest highlights of the episode.

Once Upon a Time, "Nasty Habits", S03E04 promotional picture

The filler arc this week is our group of misfits finding out how they are going to rescue Henry. After an ultimatum by Tinkerbell, the group is led to Neal’s former living quarters. Not much really happens with this story, but towards the end of the episode there is a nice dramatic scene featuring Jennifer Morrison. She, like Carlyle, gets to show us a more vulnerable side of Emma. Morrison plays the anguish of Neal’s supposed death in a very believable fashion, letting us see that Emma is one hundred percent in love with Neal.

The main storyline revolves around Neal, Rumple, and Peter Pan basically playing a game of “hide Henry”. The storylines in both the past Enchanted Forest as well as Neverland intertwine nicely here. Robbie Kay as Peter Pan is phenomenal once again. Every time Kay is onscreen he manages to make his presence that much more known. Despite being only eighteen years old, Kay is holding his own with the big boys. Each scene that he is in he manages to take charge, forcing the Peter Pan we once knew out of our heads. The writers wanted to reinvent a Pan that would fit into this world and they, with Kay, have succeeded. Perhaps the biggest shock of all is the Pied Piper storyline in the past Enchanted Forest. Tying the Piper in with Peter Pan is a nice touch and it comes back powerfully at the end of the episode when Henry begins to hear the Piper’s song.

Several questions are left open-ended in this episode. What is going to happen to Neal? Are they going to find a way out of Neverland? Will Charming find a cure for his poison cut? What is Rumple going to do- will he still try to help save Henry or has he given up that path? Is Tinkerbell going to come back? And, of course, will they save Henry before he becomes completely consumed by Neverland?

“Nasty Habits” is definitely a step up from the crammer we had last week, with the writers and actors all on their A-game. The season is only four episodes in but we can already see that we’re headed for an epic winter finale. Hopefully they’ll stick to the original formula and not give us anymore jam-packed headaches. Until next week, sit back, relax, and try not to have too many nightmares (not dreams) about this wonderful Neverland the writers have created.

Josh Bouye