‘Once Upon A Time’ recap: Is Tinkerbell ‘Quite a Common Fairy’?

While this week’s episode is ostensibly about Tinkerbell joining the Neverland fun, it’s hardly the big excitement, if you ask me. No, Ed Kitsis and Adam Horowitz did something pretty remarkable in that [spoiler ahead; consider yourself warned]…

They (kinda) outed Mulan! Not only that, she has an unrequited crush on Aurora! If they had wanted to get really edgy, of course, Aurora would have responded in kind, but hey, this was a big step for a Disney property.

But Mulan’s big reveal doesn’t come until almost the end of the episode. Until then, it’s all about Emma and the gang walking in circles, bickering like kids on a long family road trip, and hunting for Tinkerbell.

Poor Henry seems likely to be stuck with Pan for a mighty long time, and while everyone we see seems worried that Henry is going to be won over by the Lost Boys and will never want to leave by the time Emma reaches him, I’m not so sure. Pan seems to be selling Henry on Neverland by pointing out he can stay up late, not bathe and shoot off his fingers whenever he wants. I think Henry might be more open to lots of good books and fresh-baked cookies. 

Back in Fairy Tale Land (or the part that wasn’t affected by Regina’s curse, which I like to think of as Fairy Tale Adjacent), Neal is tearing apart his dad’s magic cabinet with Mulan and Robin Hood watching nearby, waiting for someone to write them something to do. Unfortunately, Robin Hood does get called into action when his kid Roland wants to give him a hug. Spotting the kid, Neal is thrilled to have found fresh bait to bring the creepy, scary shadows to stop by! 

Unsurprisingly, Robin Hood is somewhat reluctant to let his kid be used in an admittedly wacky scheme that could result in him being eternally stuck with one of the most dangerous supernatural beings around, but eventually he bends. I’m thinking it’s a good thing Robin’s a widower, because there’s no way his wife would agree to this, even for a good cause. 

In Neverland, Regina is decidedly reluctant to follow Hook’s suggest to look for Tinkerbell, which Emma quickly realizes is all about Regina burning yet another bridge with someone who probably didn’t deserve it. Cue the flashbacks!

Regina is stomping around the castle, complaining to anyone who’ll listen (which does give us a great line from Rumple, “Roast swan… you’ll get that later,” though there’s not a real plot-driven reason for him to show up beyond driving home the point that rage is all Regina has). When poor little rich girl Regina falls from her balcony, she’s saved by Tinkerbell. Yay, Tinkerbell is in the house!

She decides that what Regina really needs is to find true love again, and so… she decides to steal some pixie dust. Apparently Tinkerbell is still in fairy training (who knew?) and the Blue Fairy doesn’t seem all that impressed with her, so Tinkerbell stupidly thinks that taking an enormous risk for Regina will pay off somehow. “You fly away from this one, Green,” the Blue Fairy says, which apparently sounds like “Blah blah blah blah, blah blah” to Tinkerbell.

So, with a sprinkle of pixie dust, Regina and Tinkerbell fly off to a bar where Regina’s true love is sitting and slugging back beers. Tinkerbell tells her to go in, then takes off, which is really a recipe for disaster. After all, Regina is wearing what appears to be a nightie, and she’s walking into a bar, and it just does not scream “lasting love” to me at all. Regina runs away without ever seeing the man with the lion tattoo’s face.

Of course, Tinkerbell gets busted for stealing pixie dust, plus she doesn’t have the grand success story that might have swayed the Blue Fairy to give her a second chance. Tinkerbell’s wings are taken away and so is her magic. This means she has to wear a really grungy shade of dark green in Neverland, so obviously she’s depressed.

She’s also very happy to get a chance to face off against Regina, who does the obvious thing — rips her heart from her chest and hands it to Tinkerbell. I will say this is yet another time that this show tosses character logic to the wind for one person in order to give another character a dramatic arc. Yes, Regina eventually makes it clear she expects Tinkerbell to do the right thing and, as well as not kill her, help the gang find Hook. Given that Regina seemed to think Tinkerbell would never, ever help her five minutes prior, this makes less than no sense. Still, while trying to talk sense to Tinkerbell, Regina admits she never talked to the man with the lion tattoo because she was afraid — she defined herself by her rage, so who would she be without it? Tinkerbell suggests happy, while Regina responds she’d just be weak. Tomato, tomahto. 

But, of course, everything works out in the end. Tinkerbell agrees to take Regina, Emma and the rest of the Scooby gang to Pan, just as long as they get her out of Neverland and take her “home.” Home is never defined, but I guess Tinkerbell figures anywhere is better than a humid forrest where she has to wear ugly clothes. 

Meanwhile, Neal’s cockamamy plan to lure a Neverland shadow to his doorstep by hanging Roland out as bait works perfectly — and when Mulan chops off the shadow’s hand so Roland escapes and Neal hitches a ride to Neverland, everyone is thrilled. Robin even invites Mulan to become a member of his Merry Men. She would… but she has to talk to a loved one first. You know, reveal her feelings. Of love. For someone. 

When she runs up to Aurora, she has so much to say! But Aurora has news, too — she and Phillip are going to have a baby! Mulan’s face freezes in an uncomfortable position, but she congratulates her friend and tells her her big news — she’s going to join the Merry Men. Aurora flutters and smiles cluelessly. 

I’m impressed that this show had the guts to throw in this storyline, given that Disney hasn’t had a lot (any?) openly gay characters in its animated films. Yes, this is live action, but there was once a time that Disney was so averse to anyone screwing with their properties this would have been considered blasphemy (and a lawsuit) and it definitely wouldn’t have made the cut at ABC. The fact that “Escape from Tomorrow” (the movie secretly and pretty illegally filmed at Disneyland) was ever released just speaks to how much has changed. Some people won’t like this, I’m sure, but I think if you’re down with the concept behind “Once Upon A Time,” you’ve got to appreciate how far the creators and writers are willing to torque tradition.

So, Neal lands in Neverland, and we’re left wondering about that mysterious man with the lion tattoo. As Tinkerbell says to Regina of her decision not to go into the bar, “You didn’t just ruin your life. You ruined his.” Guess who has a lion tattoo? Robin Hood! I love it!

But we can’t leave without a last visit to Henry, who doesn’t want to look at the scroll Peter Pan has that convinced him that a Truest Believer would come to help him convince people to believe in magic again. But look he does, and what does he see? A very good drawing of himself, which tells me that Peter Pan is quite the artist but really, proves nothing. Or does it?

Do you think we’ll see Regina meet Robin Hood someday? Were you surprised Mulan was in love with Aurora? What did you think of Neal’s plan?