Jack Rowand / ABC

Once Upon A Time Finally Tells Us The Whole Truth About David's Father

You know, that loose end you've been losing sleep over since Season 2? Oh, you weren't? You'd forgotten all about it and didn't actually care at all? Oh well, here it is anyway!

Once Upon A Time makes the case yet again that there's absolutely no reason this show should have twenty-three episodes in a season, as we simply take a break from the main plot, mostly so that we can dip into some David and Hook backstory no one cares about, and watch the two of them run around but not, frustratingly, make out. They did plant the seed of this a while back when the Evil Queen gave David that coin, and Hook's part in the flashback will no doubt come up later, so it isn't all wheel-spinning, but it still feels structurally odd, like a monster-of-the-week episode on a show that doesn't really have monsters, or weeks, and I guess contractually gave some of its sprawling cast the week off or something?

Plus even the parts that are "meaningful" feel like we've been here before. Hook has a dark past! Robin Hood steals stuff! (And he's dead, so this isn't the real Robin anyway, and maybe you should've thought about that before bringing him with you from another realm!) Regina's reformed! Everyone treats David like Emma's dad even though they're for all intents and purposes the same age and he didn't raise her! (Sorry, that one might just be me.) It's all a lot of "we get it" that feels like it could be skipped entirely.

Still, despite all that -- simply as an hour of television time -- I mostly enjoyed it. It felt more like an early OUAT episode, with a straightforward flashback to paint in more details about our characters' lives in the Enchanted Forest, a decent amount of swashbuckling, and a decenter amount of camp.

So how did it stack up by the numbers?

Once Upon A Time-ish Element Present?
F-ed Up Fairy Tales Technically not really, but I'm counting "What if being Prince Charming isn't enough?" because come on. Also David's crazy-board about his father's death includes a Post-It that just says "THE TUFFET."
Good vs. Evil, But Which Is Which? So yeah, David is having some doubts about how far is charm will get him (which: finally?). He's seeing the ghost of his father -- but is he just sleep-deprived because of the whole Snow curse thing? He chases after the truth while, in flashback, we learn that Robert actually died when he went looking for David's twin, whose adopted father King George had issued a reward for his return. Robert found him, but he didn't want to be returned, so the King had Robert killed. David confronts George (Albert) in his Storybrooke jail cell, where he cops to it all, and Killian has to talk him out of murderous vengeance. So, y'know, Prince Charming almost commits murder, Captain Hook talks him out of it, yada yada.

We also learn that even old-school Rumple had a soft spot, helping Robert find James because he too had lost a son. And Robin Hood 2.0 may not be such a good guy after all.

Family Feud Robert found James on Pleasure Island, with the help of a young, wooden Pinocchio. It turns out August had removed the pages from Henry's book with that part of his own story, because he wasn't proud of the time he spent there. After everything is seemingly resolved, he gives the pages to Killian, who recognizes the illustration and realizes that he, in fact, killed David's father, "rescuing" him from the King's guards so that he could steal their gold, and not wanting to leave any witnesses behind. That's bound to come up since he's about to propose to Emma, with David's blessing. (Side note: August hid the pages that contained not only his story but the refutation of the lie about David's dad that had been plaguing him his entire life? August is a dick.)

Also Zelena's yelling about Robin being back and her baby but no one cares.

Shut up, Henry Emma and Henry are out "on a canoeing trip" so that Killian and David can steal magic stuff from the house. Emma returns unexpectedly early, but without Henry. Maybe she finally drowned him?
True Love's Blah Blah Blah Regina accepts that Robin 2.0 isn't her Robin when he kisses her: "It was like kissing a photograph." So, the opposite.
All Magic Comes With A Price Rumple asks Robert for a hair from his head in exchange for helping him find James, but it's just so that he won't know he's being a softie.
You Can't Escape Your Fate Unless Maybe You Can Who's To Say? There's far less open talk of fate this week, but of course David can't hurt George/Albert because he'll always be Prince Charming at heart. And Killian can't escape his pirate past, no matter how much he's changed. I mean, he could probably just not tell anyone, but he didn't know.
This Show Has A Deep, Rich History All the David/James/King George stuff goes way back, of course, and it's always nice to see Alan Dale. Robin 2.0 goes after Nottingham, and calls Regina out on her hypocrisy when she tries to explain that that's not how things work in Storybrooke while they're in her vault literally standing in front of boxes containing the hearts of her enemies.
...As Long As It's Convenient Continuity over six seasons? Relatively intact. Continuity within this single episode? A total disaster. David and Killian have a big fight about how David isn't sleeping because of the curse, which may be why he's hallucinating his father, and in the very next scene Snow is awake and chatting with Regina. So they are trading places?

How did David and Killian know to ask August about Pleasure Island if those pages weren't in the book and he never talks about it? They'd have no way of knowing he was ever there.

And Robin breaks into Regina's vault to steal a box of...something evil. How many times have we heard that the vault is protected by blood magic?

The entire premise of the episode is a bit of a ret-con, what with changing the story of how Robert died, but I'll allow it, since it's plausible that his murder would have been made to look like an accident -- thus the story we've had until now.

Phrasing! The boy made of wood with an infinitely growing appendage wasn't proud of the time he spent on Pleasure Island. You do the math.
O, Canada! Once again, they somehow managed to find child actors in Vancouver without strong accents.
Wig Cop On Patrol Belle is absent this week, and the only woman in the flashback is David's mother, whose wig looked fine to me (and her appearance was very brief). Disappointing.
Drag Queen Realness Seriously, they better get a witch up in here, and soon.
Green Screen Fakeness They're definitely getting better at it, but Rumple's parlor was definitely 100% unreal. I'm not sure if they faithfully animated the Pinocchio voice actor's wooden performance faithfully, or if he was directed to match janky animation. Either way, it's rough. Wooden...get it?
It's A Small World After All Not a huge one, but Pleasure Island is from the Disney version of Pinocchio; it's the Land of Toys in the original. (I was down with Pleasure Island until a dude ladles chocolate directly into a little girl's hands. That's not efficient and it's going to get everywhere! Gross!)
9 / 15
Final Score
Once Upon A Time
Julie Taymor's Pleasure Island (would watch)
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