Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 1 of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," titled "The Heart of the Truest Believer."
It's been a long four months since Greg and Tamara leapt into a portal with Henry and forced our favorite heroes and villains to mount an unlikely rescue attempt together, but was the "Once Upon a Time" season premiere worth the wait?
For the most part, this reviewer says yes -- while the mermaid-induced fight on the ship dragged on a little long, it also produced some of the episode's best lines. (Mostly courtesy of Regina, as usual: "Filet the bitch" and "You'll win her over with your rainbow kisses and unicorn stickers?" being personal favorites.)
And although some of us might have predicted the "twist" that Henry's fellow escapee was actually Peter Pan in disguise, the prolonged manipulation allowed us to see Pan's machiavellian personality firsthand, and gave Robbie Kay the chance to demonstrate his range -- both deceptively sympathetic and chillingly cold in equal measure.
It was a satisfying hour that tied up a few loose ends (sayonara, Greg and Tamara!) but mostly set a lot of pieces in place for upcoming episodes. With that in mind, here are 7 lingering questions we want answered after the premiere:
1. Can Regina, Hook and the Charming family really work together?
After their fisticuffs on the Jolly Roger, the jury's still out. Sure, a mermaid made them do it, but her spell only heightened the tensions that already existed between our mismatched band of rescuers, and there's no denying that Snow and Regina have been itching to beat the snot out of each other for some time now. Emma has declared herself de facto leader, but while her parents might be willing to abide by that decree, we're guessing Regina will have other ideas. Will she cut and run like Rumplestiltskin did, or will her love for Henry keep her on the straight and narrow?
2. Are all mermaids that mean?
Since we'll be meeting Ariel in Episode 6, we're guessing not. "Most people think of Ariel when they think of mermaids, and what they don't know is that she's surrounded by really hot-tempered mermaids," showrunner Eddy Kitsis recently told us. "In the Peter Pan book, they were only nice to Peter, and they were saucy, and we like our mermaids saucy." Although the creatures proved that they can kick ass even without feet in the premiere, it would sure be nice to get them -- or at least one of them -- on the heroes' side. The ability to call self-destructive storms at will has got to come in handy against Pan.
3. Will Emma ever see Snow and Charming as her mom and dad?
With the Charmings stuck in close quarters, it's clear that there's going to be some tough love dished out this season. Emma wasn't exactly holding her feelings back this week when she pointed out that since she's the same age as her parents, they have equal amounts of wisdom. Even worse, both sides are kind of justified in their approach -- Emma's parents are just trying to make up for lost time, but smothering Emma with empathy and optimism isn't the right way to connect with her, either. This feels like it's going to be a season-long journey, at the very least, but we have a feeling the reconnection will be worth the wait.
4. How will Neal get back to Neverland?
Last we checked, there's a distinct shortage of magic beans, and the Mad Hatter is currently off filming a superhero movie, so how will Neal make his way back to Emma? It may be tough, but at least Neal has the heroic help of Mulan, Aurora, Phillip and now Robin Hood to aid him in his quest. As The Dark One's son, it remains to be seen whether that name will be a hindrance or a help on Neal's' travels. Any guesses as to how he might make it to another land?
5. Can villains have happy endings?
This is a question that has been plaguing Hook since last season, and it looks like it might actually be tempting him towards turning over a new leaf. Perhaps being in the presence of Snow and Charming and their eternal optimism will help the villains realize that good people can live happily ever after ... or perhaps -- as we briefly saw when Charming almost acted on Regina's advice to turn the mermaid into fishsticks -- the villains and their violent tendencies will be a bad influence on our heroes. Either way, while Emma is clearly focused on finding Henry, she's obviously bringing out a softer side in our wayward pirate, and if anything has the power to transform someone's life on "OUAT," it's love ...
6. What is the significance of the doll that brought Rumplestiltskin to tears?
It takes a lot to intimidate The Dark One, let alone get him to admit fear -- but in this episode, a simple straw doll reduced the fearsome villain to tears. As Neal pointed out to Robin and Mulan, family is surprisingly important to Rumplestiltskin, so this child's toy likely has something to do with his son or another part of his family -- any guesses?
7. Why does Pan want Henry's heart?
The million dollar question this season, at least in the first 11 episodes, looks likely to be why Pan has been searching so desperately (and patiently, given that it's been many years since Bae was taken by the Lost Boys) for "the heart of the truest believer." Given that the general consensus from those who have faced him is that Pan is terrifying, we're betting it's not for anything good.
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
What did you think of the "Once" season premiere? Share your theories, predictions and lingering questions below!
For possible answers to these and many other questions about this season of "OUAT," check out our Q&A with creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis.